When Boston Bruins‘ goaltender, Tuukka Rask, opted out of the Stanley Cup playoffs during round one it stunned the whole league. For the Bruins, it meant backup goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, would take over the starting spot just hours before puck drop. Even with the backup taking over, the Bruins still have a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Jaroslav Halak Gives Boston A Chance
After Rask opted out, Boston’s chances at winning the Stanley Cup took a hit. It’s no question that having the Vezina Trophy nominee in net would be the team’s first choice. But Halak is one of the most qualified players to fill the spot.
In his postseason career, Halak has a 17-18 record with a .920 save percentage and 8.4 goals saved above average. His quality start percentage is 60 percent, which is regarded as “good” and seven percent above the league average.
Halak has shown that he can perform at a high level in the postseason. This year is his first postseason appearance since 2015 where he went 3-4 with a .926 save percentage with the New York Islanders.
In his one deep playoff run with the Montreal Canadiens in 2010, Halak went 9-9 posting a .923 record in 18 games before losing in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the postseason, Halak has proven to be a formidable netminder when it matters.
Aside from the postseason, Halak has been one of the league’s best backups during his tenure in Boston. This season, Halak posted an 18-6 record with a .919 save percentage on his way to winning the William M. Jennings Trophy.
Rask opting out certainly hurt the Bruins, but Boston is one of the most equipped teams to handle such adversity. Halak has the talent, experience and team around him to lead them to a Stanley Cup.
The Issues With Halak
While Halak is capable of leading Boston to a Stanley Cup, there are certainly some problem areas. At 35-years-old, Halak does not have the stamina of Rask or other younger goalies.
With the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning having a possible two sets of back-to-back games, it drastically reduces the recovery time for the veteran.
There were just 22 hours of rest time between Games 2 and 3, and it became Boston’s worst nightmare. Halak allowed four goals on 16 shots before being pulled after 31 minutes and the team looked uninspired in the 7-1 loss.
It was Halak’s first time playing in a back-to-back in two years. To add to the fatigue issues, this is Halak’s first postseason action in five years. Halak has been solid in his backup role with Boston but has not been in a starting role since 2017-18. He may not be accustomed to a large workload at such high intensity.
In the first round, Halak was able to hold his own against the Carolina Hurricanes. Now he’s facing a juggernaut in the Lightning. His save percentage has dropped from .932 in the first round to .892 in three games against Tampa Bay.
If the Bruins manage to defeat the Lightning and move on, Halak will get closer to uncharted territory. Assuming Halak starts every game, he would be at 10 or 11 games played entering the Conference Finals. His career-high is 18 games played in one postseason.
If Boston wants to win the Stanley Cup, Jaroslav Halak will have to do things he’s never done. He will be asked to carry the largest and most intense workload of his career at 35-years-old. It’s a tall task for the veteran.
What Does It All Mean?
The Bruins aren’t down and out with Halak in the net. The goal remains the same, winning the Stanley Cup, but fan’s expectations may be hampered slightly.
It makes a challenging postseason run even tougher for the Bruins. But Halak’s history has shown he’s capable of being a postseason goalie.
Halak’s career postseason numbers improve or remain the same compared to that year’s regular season. In 2009-10, Halak’s save percentage went from .924 in the regular season to .923 in the postseason. In 2011-12 his save percentage went from .926 to .935 and in 2014-15 it went from .914 to .926.
While he’s proven his ability in the past, Halak has struggled at times this postseason. He’s allowed goals on seemingly easy saves and has made avoidable mistakes. However, he has also shown his ability to control a game and shut teams down. Halak and the Bruins are looking for more consistency all around, but they know the talent is there.
It’s going to take a team effort — that was the case regardless of the goaltender. Jaroslav Halak is facing the toughest challenge of his career in this postseason. For most teams, losing your starting goaltender during the playoffs would be catastrophic. That’s not the case for the Bruins. The difficulty increased, but winning the Stanley Cup is still a reality for the Boston Bruins.