Who will “B” the Number One Bruins netminder next year? How about for the next five years? In a decade?
Well, if I had any say in the SWAY, man… then the guy already wearing No. 1 would be numero uno for years to come (good on you Jeremy Swayman).
Then again, a healthy Tuukka Rask might still have plenty to say once he returns from his off-season hip surgery, as B’s General Manager Don Sweeney alluded to in his “Exit Interview” in June.
All of the above speculation and consternation (mixed in with a little prognostication, but of course) will be the focal point of a continuing summer series here at the BN’G about The Cup and the Crease in Boston.
More specifically, and perhaps importantly: can the Bruins goaltending future hold up to the rest of the league and finally push this team over the top to win The Stanley Cup?
Let’s start from the top and take a look at the men who were christened the “best B’s goaltending duo” since Andy Moog & Reggie Lemelin and who seemed destined to bring another Cup home for this now-aging B’s core in first 2018 (coulda, woulda, shoulda X one million), then again in 2019, 2020 and most recently, and disappointingly, 2021:
TUUKKA RASK & JAROSLAV HALAK
Since stats and numbers don’t lie, there’s no debate on how dynamic of a one-two punch Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak have been when it net for the Bruins (hence why we don’t need to comb them over) over the past few years.
Whether spelling each other, splitting time, or riding the “hot [glove] hand” as B’s Head Coach Bruce Cassidy likes to say, both Rask and Halak have set records for wins and winning streaks on personal and team levels (add in the playoffs as well for Rask), even earning a William Jennings Trophy in the process as the best goaltending tandem in the NHL (according to fewest goals against).
But when you stack up their statistical success against hockey’s most unfair arbiter of measurable success — health and puck luck — then Rask and Halak rank near the bottom of league praise and appreciation.
It’s no secret. Both goalies have dealt with injury issues, mental health issues, personal/family issues and most recently COVID issues at truly the most inopportune of times for the Bruins: the playoffs.
Second-guessing and blame-gaming aside, even the most fervent of Rask/Halak haters can admit to the unjust luck of unfortunate injuries, bad bounces and poor coaching/management decisions that resulted in both of these goaltenders being outmatched, if not outplayed, despite being the better men in the crease for a number of series.
But, as expected by many inside the B’s inner circle (and even those on the outside), neither may prove to be a factor in how Boston will gear up in goal to start the 2021-2022 season. The Bruins are most likely to move on from Halak as a “back-up” netminder next year after the versatile veteran lost his job to the aforementioned Mr. Swayman just as the playoffs began.
And with Tuukka Rask evidently sidelined until early 2022 at best, that means the B’s will most likely bring in an experienced goalie to balance the work load for “the youngsters” as the season begins.
According to the #NHLOffseason rumor mill on Twitter, Boston may have eyes on James Reimer, Craig Andersen and/or Peter Mrazek to potentially replace Halak and give Rask recovery time (assuming the B’s resign him) as Swayman and/or Dan Vladar share the net to begin play in 2021.
Speaking of Swayman and Vladar, stay tuned for the next installment in our The Cup and the Crease series as we take a look at the potential between-the-pipes future of the Boston Bruins and how both promising puck-stoppers could be difference-makers in the B’s quest for another Stanley Cup!