Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Even after second Halak shutout, Bruins’ Cassidy not ready to commit to one goalie

Matt Kalman
October 25, 2018 - 11:34 pm

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy could see the goalie-controversy mongers coming for him.

Jaroslav Halak had just produced his second shutout of the season and lowered his season’s goals-against average to 1.43 in the Bruins’ 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden on Thursday.

Halak, as Cassidy noted, was making a start as the Bruins scheduled earlier in the season. In fact, Halak’s start in Vancouver last Saturday was the only that broke with the originally planned pattern through the season's first 10 games. Tuukka Rask, who has a 3.38 GAA, is scheduled to make the start in Boston’s next game on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens.

When the question was asked in the postgame press conference if there will ever be a time when goaltender starts are distributed based purely on merit rather than by a preordained schedule, Cassidy threw the vultures some red meat. But he wouldn’t let them tear apart the entire carcass and instead committed to sticking to the schedule for the foreseeable future.

“It could, absolutely. We do that at the start of the year, we’ve done it here for years. And we’ve just worked Tuukka’s starts in because he’s been the No. 1,” Cassidy said. “But if Jaro’s able to push him and eventually take the job, if and when that happens, then we’ll look at that. Then we’re going to try to keep it as balanced as possible early on and then, as I said, if one separates himself from the other, like every other position here, we’ve allowed that to evolve.”

Halak has played great to start the season and his .945 save percentage should drop a lot of jaws. He’s also had some fortunate bounces, including a couple posts against the Flyers and a couple posts against the Canucks. Rask has had his share of luck as well, as we saw in Ottawa, where Brandon Carlo had to bail out the goaltender twice Tuesday with saves that went above and beyond the usual assignment of a defenseman.

Rask proved last season that he can shake off the effects of a rocky start and become the type of No. 1 goaltender the Bruins expect him to be and pay him for. After his mid-November benching in favor of Anton Khudobin last season, Rask went on a tear and finished the season with a .917 save percentage and 2.36 GAA.

No one has ever said that Rask doesn’t need someone to push him, and no one has ever said he doesn’t need a goaltending partner to take a significant portion of the workload. But more likely than not, as the track record has shown, Rask will make the Bruins’ decision for them in his favor. If Halak’s play doesn’t push Rask enough, Cassidy’s words about there being a somewhat open competition should reach Rask’s ears and get him back on track.

Rask was shaky at times but made 38 saves on 39 shots against the Senators. The Bruins are benefiting from their two goaltenders playing a game of “can you top this” and, as Cassidy also pointed out, the Bruins are paying a premium for their goaltending ($9.75 million).

And as important as Halak’s performance has been this season, his attitude will continue to be as vital. He said all the right things when asked after the win against the Flyers if he would like to just keep starting since he’s playing so well.

“I don’t make these decisions. I just take it day by day,” Halak said. “I was happy to get a call tonight and play a game and obviously getting the win, that’s always great. But we can enjoy it and then Saturday it’s a new challenge.”

Both goaltenders have accepted the challenge. There's now a goalie 1 and 1A competition and it's far from over.