Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Even in OT loss Bruins' Halak stays hot enough to earn more starts

Matt Kalman
October 19, 2018 - 12:41 am

It wasn’t exactly “Khudobin Magic” but Jaroslav Halak did enough in the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime loss at Edmonton on Thursday to earn the right to be the first Bruins goaltender to make consecutive starts this season.

Halak made 19 saves on 22 shots, the last of which was Leon Draisaitl’s game-winning goal 37 seconds into overtime after Connor McDavid made a steal, gained the zone and fed the puck across the slot on a 2-on-1.

You’ll remember last November when the Bruins started a four-game road trip with a 4-2 loss at Anaheim with Tuukka Rask in net. The next night Anton Khudobin got the start and beat Los Angeles 2-1 to start a four-game winning streak before Rask got the net again.

The Bruins’ current four-game road trip started Wednesday with a 5-2 loss at Calgary, featuring Rask giving up four goals (one went into an empty net). As scheduled, Halak made the start in Edmonton. He wasn’t able to prevent a defeat, but he helped the Bruins salvage a point.

After an uneventful first period (five shots, all saved), Halak was tested more in the second.

Halak took Milan Lucic’s wrist shot in a sensitive area during a power play, but he kept the puck out. After allowing the goal that tied the score 1-1 to Kailer Yamamoto, Halak made sure Yamamoto didn’t double his goal total with a stop on a breakaway. Halak flashed the right pad to stop a McDavid partial breakaway shortly after David Pastrnak had tied the score 2-2.

Unlike Khudobin last season, Halak wasn’t playing behind a Bruins team clicking on most of its cylinders. Boston’s puck management still comes and goes, although they were cleaner with the puck than in Calgary. For the second straight game, they had a third-period power play and did nothing with it.

Against the Flames it was 58 seconds of 5-on-3 and 1:02 of 5-on-4 that went to waste at the start of the third period. Against the Oilers the Bruins went on a man-advantage with 5:23 remaining and couldn’t even get set up, let alone land a shot on net. That’s an area the Bruins will have to iron out before they hit the ice in Vancouver on Saturday.

Meanwhile coach Bruce Cassidy will have to make a decision on his goaltending. Although he acknowledged the starts were plotted out for the near future, Cassidy wouldn’t reveal what the order was beyond the two games in Alberta. The goalies have alternated starts since opening night. Cassidy was bold last year when he rode Khudobin’s hot hand and he should take a page from his own book this year.

It wasn’t just that Rask allowed four goals in Calgary on Wednesday, it was how he allowed them. Two of the goals were directly his fault. You could excuse the Johnny Gaudreau goal after the dropped rebound if 28 seconds later it wasn’t compounded by the Juuso Valimaki shot that went off Rask’s glove and into the net. Rask might need a little time off, like last season, to find his game.

Halak is 2-0-1 with a .938 save percentage. The Bruins brought him in as an unrestricted free agent to replace Khudobin, push Rask and be someone they could trust if they needed their backup to carry more of the load.

So for the second straight year the scenario is playing out. Cassidy didn’t bury Rask last year, he just rested him until he felt Khudobin’s magic was running out. Rask returned with a vengeance to help the Bruins finish second in the Eastern Conference.

Cassidy should follow the same formula right now with Halak and give him the net Saturday night.

Related: Rask’s gaffes put Bruins in too deep a hole vs. Flames

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