Saving Shots…Or His Career

Rask Takes Leave of Absence, Backup Goalie Halak Starting Games


Bill Marquardt, with permission

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Maria Wood, Staff Writer

If you’ve been following Boston Bruins Hockey recently, then you’ve probably seen or heard that backup goalie Jaroslav Halak has been starting most games. On Friday, November 9th, Boston starting goalie Tuukka Rask took an indefinite leave of absence, leaving fans across Boston puzzled.

The Bruins picked him up from the Toronto Maple Leafs back in June 2006 for the 2007 season. He was backup to (now retired) goaltender Tim Thomas, who led the B’s to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. Following Thomas’s trade to the Florida Panthers, Rask became the starter in 2013. In 2014, Rask won the Vezina Trophy following his 2013-14 season with a goals-against average* (GAA) of 2.04.

Now, some fans argue that the longtime starter hasn’t been playing at the top of his game lately. This season he is 4-4-0, with a career record of 242-141-53. Rask’s current GAA is 3.05. That isn’t stellar compared to other goalies in the NHL, and it pales in comparison to Halak’s GAA of 1.77.

Jaroslav Halak was drafted to the Montreal Canadians in 2006, and played backup goalie to Carey Price until being traded to the St. Louis Blues in 2010. He then got traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2014. There, he dressed for one game, but never played. In 2014, he was traded to the New York Islanders, and played as starting goalie until completing his contract in New York.

Halak signed with the Bruins this past July, and has been playing backup to Rask until recently.

Now, some fans argue that the longtime starter hasn’t been playing at the top of his game lately.

— Maria Wood

This isn’t the first time Rask has had an inconsistent start to his season, either. After seeing multiple losses to teams like Buffalo and Vancouver, Boston fans knew something was up with their netminder. Perhaps the greatest shock to Bruins Nation was when head coach Bruce Cassidy pulled Rask last season during Game 5 vs. Toronto and put Anton Khudobin in net, even after the score was 4-1.

The weight of Bruins losses can’t always be thrown on goalies, though. The entire team, including wingers, centers, and defense, needs to contribute to ensure the best game possible. Judging how Rask comes out of his slumps, he and the team already know how to fix things up.

Outside of the Bruins organization, Rask’s weaker performance and very sudden leave of absence are making people question his future with the team. However, everyone will get their answers. Rask is returning to the ice to start as soon as Friday, November 16th. Halak is more likely to start the game before that, as Rask needs practice to get back into the swing of things. His reason for the leave of absence was to “fix issues at home”.

So, what exactly does Tuukka Rask’s future look like here in Boston? No one knows for sure, but there’s hope that he’ll break free of the inconsistency streak and start posting better stats.

*Author’s Note: GAA= The average amount of goals allowed by a goaltender per game