Jaroslav Halak is expected to start for the Boston Bruins against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday, after goalie Tuukka Rask opted out of the NHL’s return to play Saturday morning.
Halak, 18-6-6 during the regular season with a 2.39 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts in 31 games (29 starts), allowed four goals on 29 shots in a 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Aug. 2, his only postseason appearance in 2020.
“[Halak] has been there, was on our ride last year,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Saturday. “He knows what this team is capable of and we’re supporting Tuukka’s decision at this point in time.”
Halak and Rask shared the William Jennings Trophy for the Bruins for fewest goals allowed this season.
In addition, David Pastrnak will be a game-time decision after the forward was unfit to play in Game 2, which Boston lost 3-2 on Thursday. Pastrnak did not participate in an optional practice Friday, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
As part of the NHL Return to Play Plan, a team is not permitted to disclose player injury or illness information.
Teams that win Game 3 after a Stanley Cup Playoff series is tied 1-1 are 215-106 (67 percent) winning a best-of-7 series.
Carolina rebounded one day after a 4-3 double-overtime loss in Game 1 in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city. Goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek each has started one game this series, with Reimer making 33 saves to win Game 2 after Mrazek made 36 in the Game 1 loss.
The Hurricanes have not announced a starting goalie for Game 3.
Here are 3 keys for Game 3:
1. Pastrnak’s health
Pastrnak tied Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals with 48 in the regular season. After Game 2, Bruins forward Brad Marchand said losing Pastrnak leaves a noticeable hole on their first line.
“There’s very few guys in the League that are as talented and skilled as [Pastrnak] is,” Marchand said. “Try to keep it a little more simple and a little more direct.”
Anders Bjork elevated from third-line right wing to right wing on the top line, where Pastrnak normally plays with center Patrice Bergeron and Marchand at left wing. That could be the case again if Pastrnak misses a second straight game.
2. Moving on without Rask
Halak will now take over the lion’s share of starts in goal for the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 35-year-old should be able to handle the increased workload; in 14 NHL seasons, he has played at least 40 games seven times, including a League career-high 59 games with the New York Islanders in 2014-15. He also started 18 of 19 games for the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 playoffs, going 9-9 with a 2.55 GAA and .923 save percentage to help the Canadiens reach the Eastern Conference Final.
Halak’s backup will be either Maxime Lagace or Dan Vladar, neither of whom played an NHL game this season. Lagace has 17 games of NHL experience, all with the Vegas Golden Knights. The 27-year-old appeared in one game with the Golden Knights last season. The 22-year-old Vladar has yet to make his NHL debut. The two shared goaltending duties with Providence of the American Hockey League this season.
3. Getting back to basics
In Game 2, the Hurricanes returned to what brought them success against the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. They chipped the puck deep and made it difficult for the Bruins to find the outlet pass. Carolina forward Teuvo Teravainen said that would need to continue in Game 3.
“Whenever we get in our game and get the pucks deep, and just get the forecheck going, we’re playing our best,” Teravainen said. “I think we’re starting to do that a little more.”
Cassidy said he noticed Boston struggling to get out of its zone. To fix that, he said the Bruins must do a better job of taking what’s given to them.
“Puck’s got to clear the zone,” Cassidy said. “Those pucks, you’ve got to find a way to live to fight another day.”
Bruins projected lineup
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Anders Bjork
Jake DeBrusk — David Krejci — Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie — Charlie Coyle — Karson Kuhlman
Joakim Nordstrom — Sean Kuraly — Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara — Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug — Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk — Connor Clifton
Scratched: Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka, Par Lindholm, Zach Senyshyn, John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, Dan Vladar, Jeremy Lauzon
Unfit to play: David Pastrnak
Hurricanes projected lineup
Warren Foegele — Sebastian Aho — Teuvo Teravainen
Andrei Svechnikov — Vincent Trocheck — Martin Necas
Brock McGinn — Jordan Staal — Justin Williams
Ryan Dzingel — Morgan Geekie — Jordan Martinook
Jaccob Slavin — Dougie Hamilton
Brady Skjei — Sami Vatanen
Trevor van Riemsdyk — Haydn Fleury
Scratched: Clark Bishop, Steven Lorentz, Max McCormick, Jake Bean, Roland McKeown, Anton Forsberg, Alex Nedeljkovic, Nino Niederreiter, Jake Gardiner
Unfit to play: Brett Pesce, Joel Edmundson
Cassidy said he is considering lineup changes but did not disclose any. … Edmundson was ruled unfit to play Game 2 for the Hurricanes. The defenseman’s status for Game 3 is uncertain.