By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask has been here long enough to know how it goes.
After all, Rask has been traded out of Boston in about a dozen columns and heard calls centered around stripping him of his starting gig about six dozen times during his 11-year run with the Bruins. In actuality, however, Rask has only truly lost his job on one occasion, and that was when Tim Thomas decided to put the entire 2010-11 season on his back en route to a Stanley Cup. Rask came close — if only for a moment, really — to losing his gig last year when backup Anton Khudobin rattled off consecutive starts in late November. Rask ultimately seized back control of his starting gig, however, with a .923 save percentage (fourth-best in NHL over that span) and wins in all but nine of his final 40 starts of the regular season.
But if veteran netminder Jaroslav Halak performs the way the Bruins are paying him to over the next two years (only the Montreal Canadiens pay more for their goaltending tandem than the Bruins do now thanks to Halak’s $2.75 million cap hit sitting behind Rask’s $7 million per year salary), Rask knows more calls for his job will be coming his way.
“There’s always a competitive situation,” Rask, participating in Shawn Thornton’s annual Putts and Punches golf tournament, told the Boston Herald on Monday. “And I’m sure you guys will try to create something out of it, too, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Though he posted just 20 wins and a .908 save percentage in 52 decisions with the Islanders last season, and while he’s not a legitimate threat to Rask’s starting gig, Halak comes to the Bruins with considerable starter experience from his time with the Canadiens, Blues, and Isles. And with the hope that he can at least replicate Khudobin’s success under Bruce Cassidy.
That’s a sneaky tall order for the 33-year-old Halak, to be honest, as it was under Cassidy that Khudobin played the best hockey of his Boston career, with a 22-7-7 record and .915 save percentage in 39 games over a season and a half of action behind Rask.
No matter Halak’s stauts in 2018, it’s something that essentially has to happen for the Bruins, though, if they’re going to seriously and successfully manage Rask’s workload the way they were able to last year. (Rask finished the year with a solid 53 starts, which was right in the sweet spot of the Bruins’ early-season projections for Rask’s regular-season workload limit.)
“Last year was the first year where we set up a plan and stuck with it, so I think that benefited everybody,” Rask told the Herald. “We finished the year disappointing, but having the meetings and talking to the coaches and managers, I felt fresh and I had a lot of energy left in me, and I think that’s a great sign. It’s what we want to have and this year is not going to be any different.”
Meaning the first ‘Trade Rask’ column of the 2018 season should come after about three straight Halak victories in November.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.