fb-pixel Skip to main content

Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, and where the Bruins go from here

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Michael Dwyer/AP

A few thoughts, shots, and a quick skate around the rink following the Bruins’ 4-1 win Sunday night over the Golden Knights at the Garden.

■   Tuukka Rask, granted a leave of absence Friday, likely will meet Monday with coach Bruce Cassidy. It’s a day off for the Black and Gold, and the two will reassess Rask’s situation, one that required a break from the blocker-and-glove beat.

We aren’t expected to know the outcome of that meeting until Tuesday morning, if then, when the Bruins will reconvene their workouts in Brighton prior to setting off on a four-city tour that begins Wednesday night in Denver.


This much is certain: Jaroslav Halak, fresh off back-to-back weekend wins (two goals allowed) over Toronto and Vegas, is now comfortably and obviously the club’s No. 1 tender.

Hockey being hockey, comfortable and obvious could change a dozen shots and three soft goals into the game in Denver, at which time Dan Vladar (Rask’s roster plugger over the weekend) could be the new kid on the blocker beat.

Rumors over the weekend ran rampant as to why Rask, 457 regular-season appearances on his résumé, requested a leave of absence. Surprisingly, at least as of late Monday morning, none of those rumors linked him to Elvis, a Kardashian, Area 51, or Russian interference. But, wait, it’s early, there’s still time for a Stonehenge link before the charter goes wheels up Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Halak already has made about five more appearances (11 total) than Cassidy and crew had him pegged for going into the new season. Certainly no one expected him to be in the cage for the weekend back-to-backs.

“I felt fine,” he said, following the 37-save effort Sunday night. “I got a great sleep [following the 40-save performance vs. the Leafs] . . . so why not?”


Even if Rask is back on the beat and perhaps even practicing Tuesday, Cassidy has no option but to go with Halak’s hot hand against the Avalanche, who have had a decent (8-6-3) start. Keeping to conventional wisdom — not necessarily a wise practice thus far — Cassidy then likely would split the chores in the back-to-backs Friday and Saturday against the Stars and Coyotes.

“We’ve seen it from Day 1,” said Cassidy, reviewing Halak’s work to date. “We knew he was a good goaltender. I couldn’t sit here and tell you he’d be leading the league in save percent, goals against, or whatever he is, first or second.

“We knew he’d be solid. So he’s certainly exceeded expectations, and it’s what’s required right now. Guys are confident in front of him. I’m happy for him. He’s a hard-working guy and he’s had good success in this league.”

Cassidy summed it up: “Keep on goin’, Jaro.”

Those key numbers for Halak, who is now 6-1-0: .945 save percentage and 1.77 GAA. Both are first overall for tenders who’ve made 10 appearances.

■   Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, summoned from AHL Providence, played in both weekend games and didn’t look out of place as the No. 3 center. Which isn’t to say he had a commanding presence, but rarely is that the case for a third-line pivot.

He logged 30 shifts and 22:29 over the two nights, centering Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork. After winning six of nine faceoffs vs. Toronto, he followed by losing six of seven against Vegas. The ex-BU standout did not attempt a single shot on net. His linies landed five of eight, including Heinen knocking home only his second goal of the season.


Related: Bruins want Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson to turn it loose

“I’m going to guess he’s hungry to be here and stay,” said Cassidy. “It’s kind of the second go-round. He had a quick indoctrination here against Washington a couple of years ago . . . one game.

“At some point, the switch has to go off, ‘OK, here’s what I need to do.’ He’s doing what we’ve asked him to do and he’s playing to his strength. He’s got a way to go. Puck battles could be better. But I like the progress we’ve seen out of him.

“All we are asking is be an engaged player and we’ll walk you through the rest.”

■   David Pastrnak went a bountiful 4-2—6 with a total of 10 shots over the two games and now leads the league with 16 goals.

At this rate, “Pasta” will have his first Rocket Richard Trophy wrapped up by Christmas.

One slight change in No. 88’s operandi in recent games: He is operating closer to the net.

He’s made his bacon thus far by wiring in many of his 110 career goals on one-timers, typically from various points in the left circle, and that’s going to remain his signature move.


But in both games over weekend, Pastrnak was hunting more around the top of the crease and in the short-range slot area. Not only should he find more puck luck in those areas, it will open up options for Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (6 goals/36 shots).

The Pastrnak-Bergeron-Marchand combo now has 68 points through 17 games.

Easy math: a 328 Gross Domestic Point rate. That’s better than a 40 percent bump over their 228 GDP of last season.

■   Nothing much changed for David Backes in his new role as the No. 4 right winger, working with Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly. He posted identical 13:41 TOI in each of the two games and he did manage to squeeze off four shots and won 7 of 12 drops.

The big boy is trying. No one can doubt that.

But the look from high above ice level is that his execution speed is off, perhaps due in part to his early-season concussion. Yes, he is making big money (two more years at $6 million per), but he is 0-0—0 after a dozen games.

Cassidy at least might consider not going with him in both games of back-to-backs. Allow him an extra day off and see if that helps.

■   Ryan Donato, now five games into remedial goal-scoring school, potted a pair Sunday for Providence. He is now 3-1—4 in his five games with the WannaBs.


He needed to get his touch back, first to keep his confidence from crashing, and he also needed to improve his battle level, along the wall and for open-ice contested pucks.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.