By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Losing Tuukka Rask this postseason already put the Bruins in a goaltending bind. Having games scheduled on back-to-back nights early in the second round playoff series made that situation a little bit more complicated.
And with Game 3 set to begin less than 24 hours after the overtime period of Game 2 concluded, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy isn’t quite sure which goaltender he’ll be sending out between the pipes as Boston hopes to take a 2-1 series lead over the Lightning.
On the one hand, Jaroslav Halak faced 40 shots — and 86 shot attempts — during Game 2. On the other hand, backup Dan Vladar has … never played in an NHL game. Sending the 23-year-old out to make his NHL debut in a playoff game against the Tampa Bay Lightning may be akin to throwing him to the wolves.
Yet after Game 2, Cassidy insisted he’s not sure what he’ll do for the 8 p.m. puck drop in Game 3.
“If you’re asking me who my starting goalie is tomorrow, I don’t know yet,” Cassidy said. “I’ll let you know tomorrow.”
Halak was one of Boston’s best players in Game 2, making 36 saves and keeping the Bruins afloat during heavy onslaughts from Tampa. In regulation, he allowed one goal on an impressive 2-on-1 rush, another on a deflection, and another after Boston defenseman Connor Clifton altered the shot of Blake Coleman on a breakaway. In overtime, Halak made three consecutive saves before a rebound eventually squirted out to Ondrej Palat, who buried the game-winner.
For his part, the 35-year-old Halak didn’t seem too stressed about the potential for an increased workload.
“I mean, I feel fine,” Halak said Tuesday night. “Obviously we just need to get a good night’s sleep and see how it’s going to go [Wednesday].”
Cassidy noted that aside from the breakaway and the game-ending scramble in front of the net, the Bruins did a good job of preventing too many opportunities from in close. That effort, combined with a solid penalty kill, has Cassidy believing that there’s a chance that Halak feels good enough to go with less than a day’s rest.
“Well if there’s 80-something attempts, then obviously he’s gotta fight to see all 80 of them. So I imagine there will be some fatigue there,” Cassidy said. “I didn’t think it was a taxing night in terms of high-danger chances by any means.”
Vladar was thrust into backup duty after Rask opted out of the NHL’s postseason to deal with a family matter. Vladar played in 25 games for the AHL Providence Bruins this year, going 14-7-1 with a .936 save percentage and 1.79 GAA.
The Lightning led the NHL in scoring during the regular season, averaging 3.47 goals per game. That number’s dipped to 2.6 goals per game in the postseason, but coming off a four-goal showing in Game 2, the Tampa offense looked like its usual potent self.
“Nobody said it’s going to be an easy series. We’re tied now, and we’re basically starting from zero now,” Halak said. “We have to forget about this one and move on, and, you know, another game tomorrow.”