(Photo Credit: NESN.com)
By: Jamie Gatlin | Follow Me On Twitter: @JamieGatlin1217
Throughout every season teams face adversity in a variety of ways. For the Bruins, their first test came following a humiliating opening night defeat. Starter Tuukka Rask was pulled after allowing five goals on 19 shots. Jaroslav Halak did better in relief but still allowed two goals as the Capitals went on to win 7-0. This caused concern regarding the Bruins goalies; however, their last four games have been very different.
Following opening night, the Bruins played the Buffalo Sabres the next day. Back-to-backs are not easy for any team especially after getting blown out the night before. This did not faze the Bruins as they arrived in Buffalo prepared to bounce back. Halak got his first career start in a Bruins uniform and was nothing short of spectacular stopping all 32 shots he faced. The Bruins played like a completely different team. He was nearly as impressive Thursday night stopping 25 of the 26 shots on net in the Bruins victory over Edmonton. This has raised expectations on Rask only five games into the season.
Rask, however, got his shot at redemption in the Bruins home opener. He stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced. Of those goals, one was nearly impossible to stop as Rask was being screened by six players. He controlled his rebounds and received a better effort from the Bruins defenseman in front of him. Against Detroit yesterday afternoon he built on that performance. He stopped 32 of the 34 shots on net in the Bruins 8-2 victory. That is how the Bruins will need their franchise goalie to play this season. The last four games have shown how good this tandem can be moving forward.
Furthermore, five games are too small of a sample size to make any significant changes. Last year showed Rask will have to go through a prolonged slump before he loses his role as the Bruins’ No. 1 goalie. What the Bruins need from Halak is what he has shown early on. A steady veteran who can give the Bruins a chance to win when called upon. If he can do that, then he will most likely appear in about 25 games this season. That will only improve his play after appearing in 50-plus games for only the third time in his career last season for the Islanders.
However, it gives the Bruins comfort knowing he can handle that workload. Halak’s veteran presence was one of the reasons the Bruins signed him. His numbers last season were not the best partly due to the defense in front of him. With the Bruins that will only improve especially as the season continues. Even with those factors, the expectations are high for Halak due to his predecessor.
Last season Anton Khodobin was a more than capable backup for the Bruins, but he signed with Dallas in free agency. His performance allowed the Bruins to rest Rask, which improved his play. Early on Halak has shown that he can do that as well. He will push Rask to be his best which the Bruins backups have failed to do in recent years. Through five games it appears as if the Bruins goaltending will not be an area of concern but an area of strength.