tuukka_rask_auto_cardThere are more benefits to the Bruins splitting the goaltending assignments this week on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, than there are reasons to play Tuukka Rask in both ends.

As of this afternoon, coach Claude Julien was classifying his goaltender choice as a “game-time decision.” Rask skipped the optional morning skate at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, but coach Claude Julien gave the Maple Leafs’ 2005 first-round pick the nod.

And there’s every reason to start Rask in Toronto because for his career in front of the bankers and lawyers Rask is 7-2 with a .952 save percentage and 1.55 goals-against average in 11 games played, including playoffs.

When Rask gets in front of the rowdy would-be rioters at Bell Centre, though, we all know how average he becomes in net. For his career in Montreal, including playoffs, Rask has a 4-8 record with a 2.33 GAA and .918 save percentage.

In the second halves of back-to-backs last season, none of which were in Montreal (although one first half was), Rask had an impressive 4-0 record with a .930 save percentage in five games. His first halves, though, featured a .942 save percentage.

This season, the two back-to-backs have humbled Rask. He’s played to a .925 save percentage in the first halves and .851 in the second games.

Here are the two biggest reasons to split these next two games up:

At this stage of the season, it’d be wise for the Bruins to get Niklas Svedberg enough work so that they know they’ll be able to trust him in the stretch run. Svedberg hasn’t played since Oct. 30 in Buffalo, so if he doesn’t get a game in Canada this week he’ll have gone more than two weeks without playing in a game. And that game he played was against Buffalo, so does that really count as a NHL test? Playing Montreal would really give him a feel for what it’s like to be a NHL goaltender and give the Bruins a greater measure of his makeup.

Second is the whole battle between Rask, the Canadiens and the ghosts of the Bell Centre. Obviously Julien and the Bruins have faith in Rask to beat anyone on any night. But it’s time to stop allowing the Habs to up their confidence level against one of the best goaltenders in the league during the regular season. The Canadiens clearly have the book on Rask, in addition to their knack for getting the fortuitous bounces. The last time they faced the Bruins with someone else starting in goal was Feb. 15, 2012, when Tim Thomas beat Montreal in a shootout.

Keeping Rask away from Montreal wouldn’t be a statement against Rask’s abilities, it would be a way to throw the Canadiens off at least a tad and maybe gain a psychological edge for an inevitable best-of-seven meeting in the spring. It worked out for the Rangers last season. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist hadn’t played at Bell Centre since Jan. 15, 2012 when he started Game 1 there in the Eastern Conference Final in May. Lundqvist had lost six of seven starts in Montreal before the Rangers started keeping him out of games there. Lundqvist responded on the biggest stage with wins in the first two games of that series, which the Rangers went on to win.

There’s no shame in keeping Rask away from the Bell Centre, especially with a viable replacement available in Svedberg and plenty of other games for Rask to play and win. The benefits might not be seen until next spring, but they’re worth working toward.