November 6, 2018 | 9:58am ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period
BRUINS BOASTING TWO NO.1 GOALIES?
Jaroslav Halak, goalie
BOSTON, MA -- Regardless of which sport you follow, you cannot argue that Boston sports fans had a lot going on during the month of October.
The Patriots took their customary perch atop their division in the National Football League. The Celtics proved to be one of the top five teams in the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference and baseball’s Red Sox achieved a franchise record-setting season with 108 wins before going on to become World Series champions for the fourth time since 2004.
The Bruins have tried to keep up with their sports-brethren by being in the top three in the Atlantic Division standings.
You may have heard this before, but the Black and Gold are being led by the scoring exploits of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. The defense corps has seen injuries to Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Urho Vaakanainen and Kevan Miller, but has not lost a step due to the leadership of veterans Zdeno Chara, John Moore and Steven Kampfer accompanied by the steady play from young blueliners Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo and rookie Jeremy Lauzon.
As has become expected from observers, goaltending has been a major reason for the team’s success. However, the story inside the story is that the Bruins are not relying on Tuukka Rask to be the one and only to do the job in the crease. It is becoming more and more apparent that Jaroslav Halak is earning the confidence of Boston’s coaching staff to compete with Rask for the team’s top netminding job.
“We told Jaro, ‘Listen, if you come in and play (well), we’re not going to limit your starts,’” Coach Bruce Cassidy said on Oct. 26 after Halak stopped 26 shots on his way to a shutout over the Philadelphia Flyers. “We’ll allow the competition to evolve, and he’s done a real good job.”
Until recently, Cassidy had been alternating his puck-stoppers but going into his club’s contest versus Dallas on Nov. 5, Halak had started in five of seven previous games.
“Once we went away from the original script, then you’ve got to sort of go reset it all,” Cassidy told Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub. “Usually that script changes for two reasons, an injury or performance. In this case, we believed Jaro's performance has earned him the right to have more starts.
“It’s more about (Halak’s) performance than Tuukka (Rask), to be honest with you. He’s (Halak) played really well. Gotta ride the hot hand.”
Halak was signed during the off-season to serve as Rask’s backup, but instead of the man who has donned the Bruins Spoked-B for nine seasons receiving the bulk of the playing time, Halak is getting the majority of the starts and why not? In seven contests, the native of Bratislava, Slovakia has compiled 4-1-2 record with his first lost (1-0 to Nashville) coming in his seventh game of the season. Most impressive is Halak’s League-leading save percentage of .952 and 1.45 goals against average which is also first among the League’s netminders.
Based on the numbers, it can be argued that every team in the NHL would like to have Halak stopping pucks for them and while he may be on the verge of taking over as the Bruins number one goaltender, something that is not out of the realm of possibilities, it is to be remembered that Rask has a history of being a slow-starter.
Last season, the 31-year-old’s play was inconsistent before he found his game and finished 2017-18 with a 34-14-5 record proving that - regardless of what his detractors say - Rask has the ability to overcome adversity and compete with the best in the business. There is no reason to believe this will not be the case in 2018-19.
So, does Boston have a goaltending controversy? Well, no. What Boston has, is two No.1 goaltenders.
Rask carries a 4-3-0 record this season. He entered the new NHL year with a Stanley Cup ring (2011) and has been to the Stanley Cup Final twice (2011 and 2013). He led Boston to the 2014 Presidents Trophy and in doing so won the Vezina Trophy. He also has one All-Star Game on his resume (2017). Rask has amassed a 242-140-53 career NHL record and by the way, those 242 career wins rank him 57th all-time in wins among NHL goaltenders.
Halak’s career statistics are equally notable at 236-151-50 while plying his trade for six different teams. He ranks 62nd all-time in wins. He is a William Jennings Trophy recipient (2011-12) and an NHL all-star (2015).
Over the course of this season, one man may prove to be the better of the two and take control of the crease. That is expected, but in the meantime, Cassidy and his assistant coaches have the duty of sorting out this problem and with two No.1 goaltenders in the fold, that is not a bad problem to have.