I will be honest with you.
During the regular season, if the situation presented itself, I did not believe the Bruins could win a Stanley Cup with Jaroslav Halak as the team’s starting goalie.
As the Bruins entered the bubble and began round-robin play, if the situation presented itself, I did not believe the Bruins could win a Stanley Cup with Jaroslav Halak as the team’s starting goalie.
And even when Tuukka Rask left the Toronto bubble, and the situation finally did present itself, I still did not believe the Bruins could win a Stanley Cup with Jaroslav Halak as the team’s starting goalie.
But now, after his performance in Game 5 against the Hurricanes last series, and his performance Sunday night in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, I see it now, I was wrong.
The Bruins can
win a Stanley Cup with Jaroslav Halak as the team’s starting goalie.
“Yeah, we see our game dip – they had a push. They’re a good team, they’re going to push. We had a heck of a first I thought and then, yeah, they’re not going to sit back. When they come, they have their chances. Jaro is there to shut the door on a number of good chances to keep us ahead,” said Charlie Coyle who scored the Bruins first of three goals in a 3-2 victory in Game 1.
“Could be a totally different game. But we have to help him out as much as we can. We also have so much confidence in him. He’s a great goalie, he’s been huge for us and that’s what we need from him. When they slip in there and we break down a little bit, he’s there to shut the door.”
Halak is, and has been, the perfect backup to Tuukka Rask, giving the Bruins everything they could ask for as a backup goalie.
But now, with the situation they’re in, they’re asking Halak for more than they’ve ever asked before.
They’re asking for Halak to backstop them to a Stanley Cup, something Rask came one-win shy of a season ago.
In asking Halak to help lead them to a Stanley Cup, the veteran goalie will need nights like he had in Game 1 and specifically periods like he had in the second period of Sunday’s 3-2 victory.
“Yeah I mean he was dominant that period,” Cassidy said of Halak’s 18-save second period.
“The other two goals, I think one went in off Charlie [McAvoy], the other one had eyes, so they certainly got a couple of fortunate ones, but boy did he make some saves in the second where they probably deserved better. I thought both goalies did their job. We just happened to be one save better.”
While Halak certainly has looked shaky at times since taking over for Rask, on Sunday in Game 1, he looked ready to captain the Bruins ship, even in times where they were battling through rough seas.
As Halak and the Bruins continue this journey, the seas ahead will continue to be rough. The Lightning have way too much firepower to allow the Bruins smooth sailing through the rest of the series.
“He’s an unbelievable goaltender. A lot of experience, he’s been in the league for a while. Great guy and works really hard every single practice,” said Pastrnak. “He’s been really good for us and we just have to help him out a little more too.”
Halak made 35 saves in total, allowing a pair of third period goals to Victor Hedman. As Cassidy mentioned, one of Hedman’s tallies had eyes, swimming it’s way through traffic and past Halak. The second a deflection off of McAvoy on a shot Halak was in perfect position to stop.
According to Natural Stat Trick
the Lightning had 12 high danger scoring chances for. Halak stopped all 12.
The 37 shots on goal Halak saw on Sunday was the most rubber he’s seen in his five bubble playoff games to date.
Halak should expect more of the same moving forward as the Lightning try and calculate ways to get more pucks by him.
Based off Cooper’s comments, it sounds like they think they’re figured out a way.
“I think there’s a reason he’s been in this league for so long is he can stop pucks. But in saying that, you look at when you create traffic, you take eyes away, stuff like that happens. And I know one nicked off McAvoy, one he didn’t see, so taking eyes ways is big,” said Cooper. “But the big thing is we got to take eyes away and we just probably didn't do that as well as we could have.”
It sounds like the traffic in front of Halak is about to look similar to I-93 during rush hour. But as long as Halak continues to give the Bruins opportunities to win hockey games as he done, the Bruins asks of him will be met.