New year, same dynamic goaltending pattern.
Tuukka Rask kicked off the year with a stellar outing in Dallas on opening night. His partner-in-crime, Jaroslav Halak, took the reigns in Arizona two nights later.
The Bruins only lit the lamp three times in their first two games, including once Saturday night in a desert goaltending duel featuring Halak and Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper. Brad Marchand scored the lone tally and Halak provided a clinic with his 35-save outing in Boston’s 1-0 victory at Gila River Arena.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins improved to 2-0 on the young season.
Halak picked up where Rask left off.
At training camp, Bruce Cassidy stated that he’d likely start Halak a little more often during the early portion of the 2019-20 campaign. The tandem worked so well last year as Halak earned 37 starts compared to Rask’s 45. The lesser workload no doubt helped Rask’s focus during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.
The fourth-year Boston bench boss won’t be deviating from this anytime soon, especially after the first two games.
Rask backstopped the Bruins to a 2-1 victory against Tyler Seguin and company after bailing out his teammates during the second and third periods in Dallas. Halak, facing a Coyotes squad that added former Bruins Phil Kessel and Carl Soderberg this off-season, stymied Arizona all night long.
“Both guys have been excellent,” Cassidy told NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley postgame. “I think knew that coming in. Both had a really good preseason, [both] finished really strong last year…two good goalies and two good pros. We’ve needed it.”
Great stop down the other end of the ice by Jaroslav Halak. Denies Clayton Keller to keep it a 1-0 game. pic.twitter.com/c0MCuLZKk2— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 6, 2019
Halak had some help along the way during his busy night. Both Par Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy made stellar backchecks on Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller (both firing a game-high five shots on goal) to keep the Coyotes off the scoreboard.
Through two games, Rask and Halak are already showing why they’re the best goalie duo in the National Hockey League.
The top line slowly returned to form.
Boston’s dynamic trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak were held in check on opening night. Some of it was due to rust and some was due to the Stars tilting the ice in their favor in the second half of Thursday’s season opener.
They weren’t too sharp on Saturday, either. But Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak all battled on as each landed three shots on net against Kuemper.
And they have something to build on following Marchand’s tally on the heels of Patrice Bergeron winning a puck battle along the boards.
Brad Marchand with his first goal of the season.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) October 6, 2019
1-0 Boston. pic.twitter.com/ntnGUdgES6
Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak each found their strides as the game progressed, but were hardly in mid-season form.
“We still didn’t play the way we can,” Marchand admitted to reporters postgame. “It’s early in the year. We’re a little rusty. We’re going to be better than what we’ve been, all the way around. This wasn’t our best game, but we won and that’s all that matters.”
The Bruins are still searching for a full 60.
Just think, the Bruins are 2-0 on their season-opening four-game road trip and they didn’t put together a consistent effort from start to finish. They only netted three goals in Dallas and Arizona as they dealt with some makeshift lines outside of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak.
All four lines haven’t gelled cohesively yet. But it’s not for a lack of effort. Lindholm and Brett Ritchie — who scored Boston’s first goal of the season — are still getting acclimated to a new home after signing with the Bruins in the off-season. David Krejci just returned to the lineup after missing Game 1 with a lower-body injury.
So yes, there were some moving parts in Cassidy’s lineup to start the road trip. But the low shot totals and the frequent shorthanded chances allowed by the power play units provide areas of concern.
The consistent goaltending and defensive effort bailed the Bruins out in the first two games. They’ll need to click in every facet as the trip continues into Vegas Tuesday night before rounding out their swing in Colorado two nights later.
“We just need to keep it going,” Halak said. “We have two more tough games before we come home and we just need to keep improving before we get home.”