Jaroslav Halak will be back in Boston for the 2020/2021 season. The Bruins inked the 34 year old goaltender on a 1 year extension worth $2.25 Million.
Halak has been with the Bruins since the 2018/2019 capamagin. Over his two seasons in Boston Halak has put up a .921 save percentage and a goals against average of 2.36.
With Tuukka Rask being the primary goaltender, Halak has fit in spectacularly as the second option. However, calling him backup does not really tell the whole story.
Since Halak has joined the team, head coach Bruce Cassidy has enjoyed the benefit of almost having two starting goaltenders during the regular season. Rask started 45 games and played in 46 last season. Before the corona-virus pandemic shut down the NHL season temporarily, Rask was one a similar pace this season. He started and appeared in 41 games.
Halak in 2019 started 37 games and played in 40. This season he started 29 and appeared in 31. With the Bruins season being suspended after their 70th contest, Halak would have started about seven of the remaining games, depending on how close Tampa Bay was to catching Boston.
The Bruins made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last year in large part because of Rask’s play. Rask was rested and ready to go for the postseason because of Halak’s ability to spot him so often.
Throughout Rask’s career, he generally plays better in the postseason when he plays less regular season games.
Rask’s regular season games played and postseason save percentage by season since 2013 (the first year after Tim Thomas left):
2013: 36 games played, .940. (leader for the postseason)
2014: 58 games played, .928.
2017: 65 games played, .920.
2018: 54 games played, .903.
2019: 46 games played, .934.
Outside of the 2018 playoffs, Rask’s postseason play improves when he appears in fewer regular season games. Now there are other factors to his postseason performances as well, including Bruins personal, injuries, opponents, luck, coincidence.
However, the takeaway here is that in four of his five postseasons since becoming a full time starter, Rask has had better postseasons when he enjoys more off nights during the 82 game grind.
That is why Halak’s signing is such a key move by Sweeney and the Bruins organization. They can continue to almost equally split the time both goaltenders spend in between the pipes. The Bruins are desperately searching for another cup with this group.
Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci do not have too many more years playing at this high of a level. There are a lot of young players on the roster on the verge of heftier contracts. This core does not have many more years together.
Halak being able to spot Rask throughout the regular season will only better Boston’s chances of raising the cup next spring.
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