This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…
In a related story, the Bruins haven’t had a reliable backup for three years running.
In 2014-15, it was Niklas Svedberg that lost the trust of then-head coach Claude Julien.
The next season, Jonas Gustavsson played well at times, but not well enough overall.
Rask, meanwhile, had to play, and play a lot. He started out in excellent form, but as the minutes piled up, his numbers began to suffer.
It got to the point in late March that Bruce Cassidy, Julien’s mid-season replacement, had to admit that Rask had been “overplayed.”
“He’s a guy that’s played a lot of hockey this year,” Cassidy said, “and he’s not a 240-pound goaltender that can handle all of the games, all of the workload every year. We know that. I’m not going to put limitations on him, but we probably overused him at the start of the year. At this time of year, it gets tougher and tougher with any player that’s been overplayed.”
Credit to Rask, who wasn’t the reason the B’s fell to Ottawa in the first round. If anything, it was all the injuries to the blue line that hurt the Bruins the most. For his part, Rask finished the playoffs with a .920 save percentage.
But with a decent backup, the B’s might’ve been able to get home-ice advantage in the playoffs. A rested Rask might’ve been even better when the games really mattered.
Next season, the Bruins are likely to start with the same tandem of Rask and Khudobin, the latter of whom still has a year left on his contract.
But if Zane McIntyre or Malcolm Subban can outplay Khudobin in the preseason, the No. 2 job could easily be taken from the veteran.
Based on his AHL numbers, McIntyre has a decent shot of doing just that. In 30 games for Providence last season, the 24-year-old had an impressive .930 save percentage.
Of course, McIntyre also got into eight NHL games last season, and his save percentage was a ghastly .858. So there’s that to consider as well.
As for Subban, his only two NHL starts have been nightmares, and his AHL numbers have actually fallen since his first two years as a pro. But there’s still a sliver of hope for the 23-year-old. One never knows when a goalie could get hot.
For the Bruins’ sake, it doesn’t really matter which goalie emerges as the backup, as long as one of them does a decent job and keeps 30-year-old Rask fresh.
Recall 2010-11 when it was Rask who played the role of reliable backup, keeping Tim Thomas fresh for his Conn Smythe Trophy-winning performance in the playoffs.
That’s what the B’s need in 2017-18 — a reliable backup. If they get one, it’ll be the first time they’ve had that in a while.
Combined, Boston’s backups went a miserable 7-11-2 last season.