By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins may not have a true goaltending controversy fully developed just yet, but behind another strong outing in a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, Bruins netminder Jaroslav Halak is doing his best to will one into existence.
Getting the start in the Black and Gold crease for the third time in the last four games, the 33-year-old was his normal stout self in Boston’s crease, and came up with countless saves early, including a few dazzlers with the Bruins at a disadvantage.
And after what was a sleepy opening frame from both sides, the Bruins finally provided Halak with support in the middle frame behind goals from Zdeno Chara and a power-play strike from winger Jake DeBrusk.
Created off a forced turnover, Chara’s goal, his second of the year, moved the 6-foot-9 B’s captain ahead of New Jersey Devils icon Scott Stevens and into a tie with Mark Howe for 21st all-time on the league’s career goals by a defenseman list, with 197.
Smelling blood, DeBrusk’s insurance marker came just 4:23 after the Chara strike, and without a Philly defender having any sort of interest in moving the second-year NHLer out from in front of goaltender Brian Elliott.
Halak’s strong performance continued on into the third period, and featured some saves that left Philly forwards absolutely breathless, from a power-play stop on a Jakub Voracek one-timer that left Voracek looking skyward in amazement to a Claude Giroux chance gloved by Halak that sent Giroux into a full-ice lean-and-sigh back to the Philadelphia bench.
And with 22.9 seconds left, it was Chara that sealed the deal with an empty-net dagger.
This game also came with another strong outing from Boston’s penalty kill, which successfully killed all three penalties against, and with another game featuring production from a power-play unit that slump its way through Western Canada.
But the story of this game is obviously Halak.
In what’s been a completely even split of playing time in the Boston crease, Halak has emerged as a hot starter, and finished his night with 26 saves on 26 shots thrown his way. With that performance, Halak’s 2018-19 save percentage jumped from a lethal .933 to a staggering .945. And what can’t be lost in all of this either, is that Halak has done his job to a T, with the Bruins grabbing points in all of Halak’s starts to date this year (they’ve nabbed eight of a possible 10, to be exact).
Or, in other words, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Cassidy to take the net away from his “backup.”
The Bruins will look to extend their win streak to three games on Saturday when the Montreal Canadiens come to town.
Cassidy, for what it’s worth, has already committed to giving that start to B’s starter Tuukka Rask.
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.