It may be time to get used to seeing the Jaroslav Halak-Daniel Vladar tandem.
Because it doesn’t sound like Tuukka Rask, who has missed all but one of the last 11 games (and failed to make it beyond the first period in his return game back on Mar. 25), is on his way back anytime soon.
“He’s here [at Warrior Ice Arena] getting some treatments,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Friday. “Just hasn’t responded as well as anybody likes.”
In other words, a return from the undisclosed injury that’s bugged him since a Mar. 7 loss to the Devils seems far from imminent. And that uncertainty undoubtedly makes it difficult for the Bruins, who are currently three points above the playoff line (and with games with hand), to map out an April slate with 17 games in 30 days.
“Sometimes when you’re given a definitive, ‘Hey, this guy is out for X amount of time or had surgery or this or that,’ then it’s a little easier to put behind you. But when it’s kind of a day-to-day thing where the player’s here getting treatment, then you ask a little more,” Cassidy said. “Tuukka is your No. 1 and you do wonder when we can expect him and we just don’t get an answer for that. So that’s what you’re up against.”
Cassidy compared Rask’s situation to that of Kevan Miller in the sense that it’s started with discomfort, treatment, and gone on without a timeline. The Bruins already learned the hard way when the 34-year-old Rask jumped back into action and lasted just one period, too, and it seems obvious that he’ll stay out of action until they’re sure they can avoid a repeat of that.
But it’s also the Bruins’ belief in their two options that may prevent them rushing Rask back before he’s truly ready.
“Am I biting my fingernails off over it? No,” Cassidy offered. “Vladdy is getting an opportunity, he’s played well. I thought he held us in the game early [Thursday]. Certainly has given us a chance to win every game he’s played and has won two of them. Jaro is as advertised to me. I think he’s played well for the most part. A couple of bad periods here. They’re over the stretch of games he’s played. I think that’s very normal. I’m comfortable whoever we put out there.”
To Cassidy’s point, the veteran Halak has been more good than bad in 2021, and his .842 high-danger save percentage currently ranks as the sixth-best among the 37 NHL goaltenders with at least 900 minutes played this season.
Vladar, meanwhile, has stopped 78-of-84 shots on goal through three starts, good for a .929 save percentage. The 6-foot-6 Vladar also saved the B’s behinds on more than one occasion Thursday night before the walls finally crumbled thanks to some porous defensive-zone play and inexcusable turnovers.
The Bruins also have much bigger problems than their goaltending situation, with the Bruins’ puck management taking a dive in recent days, while the team’s scoring prowess has been an issue since the season started.