Bruins' playoff goalie tandem should be Tuukka Rask, Jeremy Swayman

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Bruins' playoff goalie tandem must be Rask, Swayman originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

If it wasn't already clear, Tuesday night's overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils made it obvious that the Boston Bruins' goalie tandem for the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs must be Tuukka Rask and Jeremy Swayman.

B's netminder Jaroslav Halak made his first start since April 3 against the Devils and gave up four goals. The Bruins didn't play amazing in front of him, but it was no doubt a frustrating loss for Halak, and he showed it after Pavel Zacha scored the OT winner for the Devils.

Halak slammed his stick against the post and then again along the boards at the bench. He kicked over a stool inside the bench area before finally heading down the tunnel toward the locker room.

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The Bruins haven't officially announced their goalie duo for Game 1 of the first round, but it would be pretty surprising if it wasn't Rask and the rookie Swayman. Halak's frustration Tuesday night probably was a sign that he knows what's coming.

It's unfortunate for Halak. He missed a good chunk of April because he was in the NHL's COVID-19 protocols, and that allowed Swayman to step in and show his talent. He took advantage of the opportunity, posting a 6-2-0 record with a .942 save percentage and a 1.62 GAA to this point.

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Halak has been a very good backup since joining the B's before the 2018-19 campaign. He hasn't played better than Swayman in 2021, though. Halak has a 9-6-4 record with a .905 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA.

The debate over whether Swayman or Halak should be Rask's backup in the playoffs goes beyond stats, though.

Halak is an unrestricted free agent in the summer. He's also 35 years old. The Bruins have two younger and capable netminders to replace him as the backup in Swayman and Dan Vladar. Installing either one of them as the backup instead of Halak would save Boston valuable salary cap space next season.

Swayman is the future in net. He should be the backup in the playoffs and, depending on what happens with Rask in the offseason -- he's also a UFA -- the former University of Maine goalie could be the starter in the near future.

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Simply, if the Bruins expect Swayman to play a large role in their near and long term future, then it makes sense to give him at least the backup role to begin the playoffs. And, who knows, maybe he might see some action throughout the postseason if Rask is dealing with an injury or just fails to perform at a high level.

If Rask is out of the lineup at any point in the playoffs, it would behoove the Bruins to see how Swayman handles the situation by giving him a start in that high-pressure environment. We've already seen what Halak can do as a playoff starter. He's been good in that role throughout his career, but he won't be carrying a team to the Stanley Cup Final.

Swayman might never reach that level, either, but the Bruins should at least attempt to find out if the opportunity arises.