Despite Jaroslav Halak’s impressive 29-save performance in the Bruins’ 3-1 win to give them a 2-1 series lead over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, all the talk after the game was about the goalie he’s replacing.
Tuukka Rask made the stunning announcement just hours prior to Game 3 that he was leaving the bubble in Toronto and opting out of the remainder of the playoffs due to family reasons.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that his message to the team wasn’t going to change with the Vezina finalist away.
“We’re not going to change the way we’re playing no matter who’s in net,” Cassidy told reporters after Saturday’s win.
Cassidy said that he did not hear from Rask and was told by general manager Don Sweeney about Rask’s decision to leave. However, Cassidy doesn’t hold Rask’s choice to opt out over him.
“I’m sure Tuukka was proud of the team. I don’t think there’s any animosity,” Cassidy said.
If any player on the Bruins is holding animosity toward Rask, it wasn’t shown by anyone who spoke after Saturday’s game.
“Obviously our first concern is the health and safety of his family … and obviously we support Tuukka’s decision,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “We want to make sure everyone respects his privacy and want to wish his family the best.”
Patrice Bergeron, who is one of the Bruins’ alternate captains, also showed his support for Rask.
“Obviously we support [Tuukka] and we understand,” Bergeron said. “We’re thinking about him and we’re supporting that decision.
“I don’t judge anyone making that decision,” Bergeron added.
Forward Charlie Coyle, who scored one of the team’s three goals, also said he respected Rask’s decision and that the team has to step up in his absence.
“Everyone has to put a little bit more on our shoulders, but I think everybody here is capable of doing that,” Coyle said.
The goalie who had to step up Saturday also showed his respect for Rask, but is looking forward for what he can do for the team.
“There are more important things than hockey in life,” Halak said. “I respect [Tuukka’s] decision and I just want to help the team win.”
Halak has also had an impressive season himself. He went 18-6-6 in the regular season with a 2.39 goals against average and a 91.9 save percentage, helping him and Rask earn the Jennings Trophy for the team that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season.
Chara said that the team has “high confidence” in both goalies. Cassidy thinks that Halak is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
“Jaro’s a popular guy (in the locker room), they know his abilities,” Cassidy said. “Now it could be his turn to have a nice run … Maybe this is Jaro’s year. Tuukka had a great run last year, so that’s certainly something we can rally around.
“By the same token, it wasn’t going to be the end of the world to have Jaro in there. We wish Tuukka well with his family, but you know we were here to take care of business today.”
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