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The handing of the torch between the two Bruins goalies may come a lot sooner than most people once thought. Tim Thomas has struggled thus far this season and his “backup” Tuukka Rask has showed that he can be the starting goalie in the NHL. Coming off a recent shutout of the Montreal Canadiens, Rask (in comparison to Thomas) actually has a winning record on the year. While the former 2009 Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goalie sits at a losing record of 13-15-7, the rookie Rask improved his record to 11-7-4 on the year with Sunday’s win.
Rask actually leads the NHL in goals against average (GAA) with 2.02 and is third in the league in save percentage at .929. Those stats are very impressive and they actually show how he’s playing this year rather than what his record is. A goalie’s record is more of an indication of how well the team is doing and only minimally reflects the player himself.
For the Bruins, Rask’s (and Thomas’) records this season will not look good no matter what because the team is still ranked dead last in goals scored per game and you can’t win games without scoring goals (unless you play for the New Jersey Devils and have Martin Brodeur between the pipes.)
I think that Head Coach Claude Julien hits it right on the head when he says that you need to start the goalie that is playing better at the time in order to win some games. That is why he has gone with Rask in the past three games and it has paid off.
“You look at the way he’s played and technically he’s been pretty sound,” Julien said in regards to Rask. “Even in the last two games he got us a point. The reason we didn’t get two points was because we didn’t do our job offensively. And he’s been good. Right now we’re at a stage where you’ve got to go with the goalie that’s playing the best. And right now he’s playing the best. We know what Tim (Thomas) can do and Tim will be there at some point, there’s no doubt. But right now I think Tuukka’s done a pretty good job.”
“First and foremost, Tuukka was phenomenal. He really, truly did steal the game,” Wheeler said. “We were up 2-0 in the second period and our team struggled a bit getting pucks in, and we turned over a lot of pucks and he made a lot of game-saving saves for us. Right there, that was where the game was won, with Tuukka being on his A-game.”
Coach Julien is absolutely right, Tuukka is playing better right now and when it comes to how the team is performing, it all starts with the goalie. When one goalie is struggling, the whole team struggles because they put so much pressure on themselves to score, and like the Bruins have done this season, they just can’t make a good shot on goal because they are trying too hard just to get the puck on net.
I wouldn’t put it in stone that Rask is the No. 1 goalie in Boston right now, but if he keeps performing as well as he has then he might very well be. Sources have said that the Bruins have been shopping Thomas before the trade deadline and that’s not surprising because of how well Rask is playing. If Thomas is dealt then Rask would easily be the No. 1 goalie in Boston.
The idea that the Bruins are looking to trade Thomas is a good indication to how much they trust Rask for the rest of the season. While the B’s might not even make the playoffs, Coach Julien would have the opportunity to play Rask on a regular basis and give him more experience along with the other young players on the team, which would be very important for next year’s team.
I know that we shouldn’t give up on this season, but if Thomas is dealt, than does the team give up on this year and start preparing for next season? It would make perfect sense.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is regretting giving Thomas a four-year extension but he might not be happy with the years and money involved in the deal. Thomas is signed through the 2012-13 season and is set to make $20 million in those four years.
Even if the Bruins are looking to move him, it might be hard to find someone who wants a 35-year-old goalie who is going to make $14 million over the next three seasons after this year. Of course, Thomas was rewarded with this contract because of how well he was playing but it appears now that he might need a little rest.
Way back in 2005 at the NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Tuukka Rask with the 21st selection overall and then traded him to the Bruins for veteran goalie Andrew Raycroft. Now, Raycroft played well when he was with the Bruins but he was by no means an elite goalie, and the same goes for his time in Toronto. He went 39-34-14 in Toronto. He played two seasons for the Leafs before he was bought out and then signed on with the Colorado Avalanche where he only played for one season.
Rask, on the other hand, is seven years younger and is a far more promising prospect than Raycroft ever was. As Raycroft has wandered around the NHL, Rask has made a very comfortable home here in Boston. Do I think the Maple Leafs regret trading him? Yes. If the trade was the other way around, I would easily regret trading him away. He has the chance to be a very special player in the league and is already showing that he is well on his way.
Although Rask has been the better goalie as of late, Tuukka still knows that Thomas is a franchise player and a well-respected goalie around the league. I am sure Rask has learned a lot from Thomas and if he has learned anything it’s that you have to be consistent.
“Me and Timmy have the same mindset every game. No matter if you get 15 shots or 30 shots, you still want to be the same,” said Rask. “Timmy showed in San Jose — he really stole [that] game for us.”