With Rask on leave, Bruins to rely on Halak vs. Maple Leafs
BOSTON — The already jumbled Boston Bruins goaltending picture took a strange twist on Friday.
Tuukka Rask, whose ineffectiveness led to free agent signee Jaroslav Halak jumping ahead of him on the depth chart, left the team after both goalies played poorly in Thursday night’s 8-5 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden.
The Bruins issued a one-line press release that read “Effective today, Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has been granted a leave of absence relating to a personal matter.”
That took Rask away for a weekend that has the Bruins hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs in an Original Six game Saturday night and then the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday night.
General manager Don Sweeney said Rask was not dealing with an injury issue — and that he expected the absence to be one of short duration.
“Tuukka is going to take a few days to address a personal matter,” Sweeney said. “It is not health related. So I think it’s important for everybody to respect his privacy and let him deal with it for the next few days.”
“I’m not going into any details, It’s a personal issue,” Bergeron said. “Right here we’re behind him and supporting him 100 percent. All I can say is that he’s a great friend and we’re all here for him.”
Jalak, chased from Thursday’s night, is likely to start both weekend games, with coach Bruce Cassidy confirming Halak will play Saturday against the dangerous Leafs.
Speaking of Toronto, Fredrik Andersen played for the Leafs in a home game against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, making 38 saves in a 6-1 win on Hall of Fame Night. Coach Mike Babcock, whose team has won three straight to go to 11-5-0, said it will be Garret Sparks in goal in Boston.
The goalie announcement came as a bit of a surprise since Andersen owns a 10-1 record, a 2.09 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his regular-season career against the Bruins. However, he was 3-3 against Boston in last year’s playoff series, yielding six goals in the deciding seventh game. He had a 3.76 goals-against average and .896 save percentage in the series.
The Bruins went 4-2-0 against the Leafs last season at TD Garden counting the playoffs.
On Thursday night, Boston broke out of its recent scoring slump but fell to 8-5-2, including 4-4-2 in the last 10 games.
“Goaltending, obviously, neither guy was on their game, so that’s a problem,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s going to happen. Defense, I think it was as much turnovers worked against us once we started to get behind.”
Rask, who allowed the last three goals, quipped, “I was just trying to keep it under 10 — that’s what I was worried about. But yeah, you know … a loss is a loss, it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.
“It was kind of a crazy game both ways. You know, a lot of goals scored and there was — at the end it looked like everyone was napping in the crowd. It was just one of those games where there wasn’t a whole lot of action on either end — low shots and you know all of a sudden it’s 5-3, 8-5, whatever. So, yeah, weird game, but that’s entertainment and we’re just providing it.”
Halak had been leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage, falling behind Pekka Rinne in both with Thursday night’s performance. He is 4-1-2 with a 1.96 goals against and .936 save percentage — and is 8-3-4 with 2.94 goals-against average and .893 save percentage lifetime against the Leafs.
The Bruins confirmed Friday that Charlie McAvoy has been out with a concussion. He hasn’t played since Oct. 18 and had been listed as having an upper-body injury.
Saturday marks the first appearance in a Toronto uniform of John Tavares, who signed a huge free agent contract with the Maple Leafs. The Bruins were one of the teams reportedly in the hunt.
Team president Cam Neely, Sweeney and Cassidy traveled to Los Angeles and met Tavares and his agent — offering a seven-year deal.
After signing, Tavares, who scored his ninth goal of the season Friday, tweeted, “It’s time to live my childhood dream here in Toronto.”
He tweeted a picture of himself as a kid in his bed, which was outfitted entirely in Maple Leafs bedding. But you get the feeling the Boston fans don’t care about that and will let him hear it Saturday night.
Toronto’s Patrick Marleau joined former teammate Joe Thornton as the only active players with 600 assists by picking up a helper Friday night.
The Bruins recalled Jakob Forsbacka Karlson — the newest JFK in Boston — from Providence on Friday.