With the dog days of the NHL offseason now upon us, we’re going to spend the next couple of weeks taking a deeper dive at a number of players on the Bruins’ roster (or on the cusp of a roster spot) who could make a major impact on the club’s hopes of putting together another Cup run.
Here are our previous breakdowns of B’s players this summer:
Part 1: F Danton Heinen
Part 2: F Peter Cehlarik
Part 3: F Charlie Coyle
Part 4: F Anders Bjork
Part 5: F Zach Senyshyn
Part 6: D Urho Vaakanainen
Part 7: F Sean Kuraly
Part 8: F Karson Kuhlman
Part 9: F David Backes
Next up, let’s take a look at a player that — while not a starter — figures to play a key role in Boston’s chances of putting together another deep Cup run in Jaroslav Halak.
Player: Jaroslav Halak
Age: 34 (turns 35 on May 13)
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11 / 185 pounds
2018-19 Stats: 40 games played – 22-11-4 record / 2.34 GAA / .922 save percentage
Season In Review: He may not have appeared in a single playoff game for the Bruins this past spring, but Halak’s play in net might have been one of the key reasons as to why Boston was able to make it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Signed to a two-year, $5.5-million contract back in July, Halak — primarily a starter in his NHL career — was brought in as a great insurance policy in net for Boston, giving the club one of the top backup goalies in the league and a great addition to an already stout netminder corps featuring Tuukka Rask.
While his numbers in his final season with the New York Islanders left much to be desired (20-26-6 record, 3.19 GAA, .908 save%), Halak hit the ground running in his first season with Boston and allowed the club to stay afloat during a stretch in which Rask struggled with a .901 save percentage through his first eight games.
Rask took some time to get going, but Halak was impressive in the early going — posting a 6-1-2 record with a .945 save percentage and two shutouts in his first 11 appearances. By the time the postseason began, Halak’s impressive play in net allowed Boston to keep Rask fresh for the playoff run — with the latter’s 45 games played last season ranking as his fewest since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season (36 games played).
If we only want to include a full, 82-game slate, it was Rask’s lightest stretch since both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons — where he was still a backup to Tim Thomas.
With a lower workload for Rask — and without sacrificing points when turning to their backup in net — the Bruins reaped the benefits of Halak’s addition to the roster. Before Game 7 against the Blues, Rask seemed to have a Conn Smythe Trophy all but locked up — with the netminder posting a .934 save percentage and two shutouts over 24 playoff outings.
“We wanted to build a good back-up situation. We had it last year with (Anton) Khudobin,” Bruce Cassidy said of Boston’s goaltending situation back in April. “We know Tuukka is not a 65-starts-a-year goalie. He’s just not built that way, so we have to make sure that we insulate ourselves in that area with a good solid backup. Halak was available, great guy. Good playoff resume as well. So we know we have a great tandem there, no matter which direction we go.”
Given the positive results that Halak’s addition and a lighter workload for Rask brought to the club in 2018-19, look for the Bruins to once again opt for a similar regimen for their netminders in 2019-20, with Halak tasked with the enormous responsibility of both pushing Rask in net and fighting for his own reps — while keeping Boston’s No. 1 option fresh for spring hockey.
But can he replicate such a season for the second year in a row?