Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

The story of Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask’s first four games of the season is a simple yet complicated one: The 31-year-old (lightning rod for everything) has made as many stellar saves as he’s given up horrific goals in Boston’s crease.

It’s broken out how you’d expect, with a 2-2-0 record for Rask, and with No. 40 looking geared up for another slow start.

Just look at Wednesday’s loss in Calgary as the latest example.

Rask came through with countless stops early, but he also let the game get out of hand with two absolutely terrible goals within a 48-second span. And even though he came through with big stops on a Johnny Gaudreau breakaway and then a Sean Monahan chance on a Calgary power-play chance late in the game, it really didn’t matter, as the Bruins were already in too deep of a hole to climb out of at that point in the game. It was somewhat similar to the Opening Night loss in DC. That said, Rask has had also come through with two relatively sound games this season, both on home ice, and both against dreadful teams.

Now, for all the panic that tends to come with every Rask goal against, it’s worth mentioning that this is not uncommon.

In three of the last four seasons, Rask has finished the month of October with a save percentage under .900 and goals against average higher than 2.80. Currently, Rask is paced for what would be his fourth season in five years with such numbers, though these would undoubtedly be his worst, with an .875 save percentage and 4.08 goals against average. Of course, it may be worth mentioning that over 23 percent of the all-situation shots Rask has faced this season have been of the high-danger variety. That relatively ugly 23 percent is the highest percentage of Rask’s last five years in Boston, and currently stands as the 12th-highest percentage among all NHL goaltenders with at least 200 minutes of time on ice this season.

TUUKKA RASK’S LAST FIVE OCTOBERS

  • 2018: 2-2-0 record, .875 save percentage, 4.08 goals against average.
  • 2017: 1-3-2 record, .896 save percentage, 2.93 goals against average.
  • 2016: 4-0-0 record, .958 save percentage, 1.25 goals against average.
  • 2015: 3-3-1 record, .889 save percentage, 3.29 goals against average.
  • 2014: 4-4-0 record, .899 save percentage, 2.82 goals against average.

But no matter the quality of the chances that have been thrown on net, it’s no secret that the Black and Gold’s $7 million man has not been good enough — or consistent enough, at the very least — out of the gate yet again.

The good news for the 4-2-0 B’s is that Jaroslav Halak is playing the role of 2017 Anton Khudobin, and has more than picked up Rask’s slack, with a perfect 2-0-0 record along with a .961 save percentage and 1.18 goals against average to start the season. Not that this is a reactionary move on the part of the Bruins, either, but it’s Halak that gets the call tonight in Edmonton.

This is something that’s worth watching, too, especially as the Bruins continue their four-game road swing through Canada.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy noted that the plan for the first two games of this trip that was centered around giving Rask the game in Calgary and Halak the game in Edmonton, but did not reveal any plans for beyond that game. In other words, he was likely positioning himself to start the more successful goaltender, especially if the trip got off to the wrong kind of start.

And if Halak succeeds in Edmonton with similar numbers to what he’s posted out of the gate, Cassidy is going to feel more compelled to ride the hot hand — again, especially on the road — than he is getting his No. 1 goaltender on track.

Cassidy’s desires here are going to be extremely interesting to watch unfold, as well, as he’s never had a backup to Rask that’s as gifted or accomplished as the 33-year-old Halak. Nor has he ever been in a situation where his team had so many obvious points needed to get banked away early, as the B’s have one of the league’s more favorable schedules through November (while their brutal finish sees 18 of their final 28 games come against teams that qualified for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs).

If there’s anything you can take comfort in, it’s that Rask has posted a 23-15-2 record and .920 save percentage over his last four Novembers, meaning that the turnaround is likely to come in just a few weeks. But it will be curious to see just how many cracks he gets at turning it around before November officially hits and turns it from a goal to a legitimate need for the Bruins.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. He has also been a voting member of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association since 2013. 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? Follow him on Twitter¬†@_TyAnderson.