What Bruins Fans Should Expect Out of Jaroslav Halak
When the Boston Bruins signed free agent goalie, Jaroslav Halak, on the first day of free agency, quite a few fans were surprised. The signing of a goalie wasn’t what took fans by surprise, it was the goalie who they signed that surprised them.
Bruins fans knew that Anton Khudobin was on his way out the door based on the comments by general manager, Don Sweeney, just a few days before free agency began. Once fans heard that news, it was believed the black and gold would be searching for a legitimate backup goalie on the market like Chad Johnson, Michael Hutchinson, or Jonathan Bernier. Instead, Sweeney and the Bruins brass decided to go out and pay a bit extra for Halak, who’s spent most of his career as a fringe starter in the NHL.
So what should Bruins fans expect out of Halak over the next two seasons in Boston?
Expect the Slovakian goaltender to play a solid chunk of games and give Tuukka Rask a healthy amount of rest.
One thing that’s proven to be successful in the NHL over the last decade or so is a well rested starting goalie come playoff time. The best example of that is the 2010–11 Boston Bruins.During the 2010–11 season, Tim Thomas appeared in 57 games for the Boston Bruins. 55 of those games were starts and the other two were relief appearances. The other 27 games for the Bruins were started by Tuukka Rask, who had to be pulled just twice during the season, which isn’t bad for a backup goaltender.The key component here was that Rask gave Thomas plenty of rest throughout the season. Due to that rest Thomas was fully ready for the long haul of the playoffs and it proved to be successful when the Bruins captured the Stanley Cup in June of 2011. That Cup was largely in part to Tim Thomas’s ridiculous playoff campaign.
Since Thomas left the team prior to the 2013 season, Rask has manned the crease for the Boston Bruins. In those six seasons he’s gotten 20+ games of rest twice. During the 2013–14 campaign, Chad Johnson gave Rask 24 games of rest, and during the 2017–18 campaign Rask battled injury and internal struggles that ultimately gave him 28 games off during the season. He also got a sufficient amount of rest during the 2013 lockout shortened season, playing in 36 of 48 games. He’d have been given at least 21 games of rest had the season been 82 games. During those three seasons, the Bruins made at worst the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 2013 campaign ended just two wins shy of a Stanley Cup.
The other three seasons of Rask’s starting career saw him get much less rest. During the 2014–15 season he got just 12 games of rest. The following season he got 18 games off and the season after that he saw 17 games of rest. The 2014–15 and 2015–16 seasons saw the Bruins miss the playoffs and the 2016–17 campaign was a first round exit at the hands of the Ottawa Senators.
Now rest isn’t the only thing that helps a goalie come playoff time, but it’s an extremely important factor. Adding Halak is going to allow for that to happen for Tuukka over the next two seasons.
To me the targeted amount of games of rest for a starting goalie should be 25 games. If you can rely on your backup 25 times out of 82, your starter should be fully rested and ready to go come playoff time.
With Halak, getting sufficient rest for Rask should be no issue. As a man who has seen time as a starter throughout much of his career, the Slovak goaltender should be completely capable of carrying a backup goaltenders workload. He also will be a lot more reliable than a true backup goalie should Tuukka Rask go down with an injury. Halak many have had to choose the backup goalie route because his numbers have been a little ugly the last few seasons, but he’s been behind a weak defense in New York. With a solid Bruins defense in front of him, expect Jaroslav Halak to backstop the B’s to quite a few wins while the starter gets some much deserved rest on the bench.
Kevin Maggiore (@kevin_maggiore)