BOSTON (CBS) — The best-laid plans of hockey teams and bubble environments often go awry. Tuesday night’s one-of-a-kind whirlwind proved that.
For the Boston Bruins, that madness meant waiting, and waiting … and waiting some more. Eventually, after the Lightning and Blue Jackets remain tied through four full overtime periods, the NHL pulled the plug on Game 1 between the Bruins and Hurricanes, which was supposed to be played on the same sheet of ice in Toronto.
As a result, the Bruins will play Carolina in Game 1 on Wednesday morning. Now facing a back-to-back to start the series (Game 2 is Thursday night), and with his players not exactly in midseason shape, head coach Bruce Cassidy said that the schedule change could lead to the Bruins turning to Jaroslav Halak instead of Tuukka Rask in net for Game 2.
“We do [have a goaltending plan],” Cassidy said after the postponement was announced. “We’re going to let the game play out first [Wednesday]. The good news about the back to back, there is a day and a half, not quite, there’s a 12 o’clock game and an 8 o’clock game. Little more rest. There’s no travel involved, so it may depend on the workload of Tuukka. Obviously we’ll discuss it with him.”
Cassidy also noted that while the long wait for nothing was difficult for every player, the goalies might have had the most difficult time cooling down after the postponement was made official.
“As a coach, how do you prepare your players that have been sitting around that long?” Cassidy rhetorically asked the media. “That’s a tough one to answer because you don’t go through that, especially the goaltenders. It’d be tough on Tuukka and [Petr] Mrazek for sure.
The Bruins have had the luxury of employing a starting-caliber backup since signing Halak prior to the 2018-19 season. This season, he posted an 18-6-6 record, .919 save percentage, and 2.39 GAA.
However, with Rask “unfit to participate” in the round-robin game vs the Flyers, Halak looked a little rusty, allowing four goals on 29 shots faced.
But the bubble creates unique situations, and Cassidy didn’t sound like he’d be at all hesitant to start Halak in Game 2 — thus giving Rask two full days of rest before Saturday afternoon’s Game 3. Likewise, Cassidy noted that his counterpart in this series — Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour — won’t be worried if he has to turn to his backup.
“We’re very comfortable with both goaltenders,” Cassidy said. “I’ve heard Rod say on the other side, [and] he proved it. He used both goaltenders against the Rangers. So I don’t think it’ll be an issue for him either. It’s two teams that typically use both goaltenders, so that’s a bit of a fortunate break for both teams.”
Mrazek is Carolina’s starter, after he went 2-0 with a .940 save percentage in the qualifying series win over the Rangers. James Reimer started 24 games for Carolina this year, and Brind’Amour called on the veteran netminder for the clinching Game 3 vs. New York last week. Reimer stopped 37 of the 38 shots he faced in that win.