Time for our final Boston Bruins report card — goalies.
Without a doubt, it was an interesting year for Bruins netminders. Many fans and experts expected Thomas to carry the boatload of the starts after he won the Vezina and the Bs decided to bring up rookie Tuukka Rask instead of resigning Manny Fernandez. But by year’s end Thomas was riding the pine while Rask was leading the Bruins into the playoffs. So, really, the Bruins goalie situation was on par with the rest of the team – lots of things didn’t go according to plan. After the jump, we grade Cool Hand Tuuk and Tim Thomas.
Tuukka Rask finally got the shot he had hoped to have gotten during the ’08-’09 season. He made it to the big boys league with the understanding he’d be the backup to reigning Vezina champ Tim Thomas. It sounded like a perfect plan. Let Thomas enjoy the #1 goaltender slot he earned the season before while Rask got in reps during practice and some games, and got used to the heavier workload of the NHL. The Bruins have been pretty careful with Rask in his development, not wanting another Andrew “Razor” Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen situation on their hands. However, after Thomas continued to struggle to stop pucks all season long, Julien decided to go with the whoeverwinscontinuestostart scenario meaning we found Rask taking over the #1 spot during the second half of the year. And boy did he put up some stellar numbers. In 45 games played in, Rask had a 1.97 GAA and a .931% SV (best in the NHL). He also had 5 shutouts (fifth in the league). Not bad for a rookie. In fact, he probably could’ve been a strong contender for both the Vezina and Calder Trophies had he more starts under his belt. But c’est la vie, as they say. For about as erratic and gut-wrenching Thomas’s style of netminding was this season (err… or any season for that matter), Rask was just as calm, poised and in control in net. He was technically fantastic, always seeming to be in the correct spot and able to help the defense catch a breather and control the game. He helped the Bruins claw their way back into the playoffs as the #6 seed. He also won the Bruins Seventh Player Award. Not bad for a scrawny 23-year-old.
The playoffs was a different beast for Rask, however. He was solid against the Sabres, out dueling US Olympic hero (and soon-to-be Vezina champ) Ryan Miller, including this beaut of a save:
Alas, against the Flyers Rask looked mortal and a bit gassed out. His numbers dropped. He didn’t look as sharp. Many wanted Thomas to start Game 6 and let Rask rest, but if they did that and the Bs lost (which they did anyways) we’re sure people would’ve been bitching that the team should’ve started Rask over Thomas. Hindsight is all 20-20 and when it comes to playoff hockey it becomes all speculative. “What ifs” will only make you go mad. Rask ended the playoffs with a .912% SV and 2.61 GAA. He also never stole a playoff game for the Bruins the way we all had hoped, so his playoff grade isn’t as high, but he’s still young and we’re very confident in the future of the Bruins as long as Rask is between the pipes… and as long as the Bruins don’t ruin Rask like the Habs have with Price. Final Regular Season Grade: A- Final Playoff
Season Grade: B
The 2009-2010 season was supposed to be Thomas’ year. After winning the Vezina and Jennings trophy, he was dubbed the #1 goalie for the Bruins this season. But for some reason, it just wasn’t meant to be for Timmy. He struggled a lot and his five-hole seemed to have more leaks than a BP oil rig (what, too soon?). Granted the defense in front of him was less than spectacular at times, Rask had to deal with the same inconsistencies and excelled at it. After the season was over, we found out Thomas needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. No idea when that happened during the season, so we’ll just have to assume the injury happened later in the season. Thomas ended the regular season with a 2.56 GAA and .915% SV. Nothing spectacular, but he could’ve done much worse for the Bruins. He could’ve put up Steve Mason numbers. If you take a step back, Thomas’ stats for this season hovered around his career average which begs the question: Was last year a fluke year for Thomas or was this season the fluke? It’s not an answer we’re going to get until the ’10-11 season is well underway. Some of Thomas’ highlights this year:
- Punching Hartnell during the Winter Classic instead of playing the puck
- Not letting Rask off the bench to take on Miller (though we would’ve loved to have seen Rask come out WWF style with some milkcrates)
- Saying he hoped to win 18 games in a row so his naysayers could shove it… we couldn’t find his exact quote, but it’s timeless
In all fairness to Thomas, he was very dignified in the way he handled most of the season. He didn’t bitch once about Rask taking over as the number one spot, didn’t make up excuses for his poor play (though, in one interview he said he felt like he was playing just as well as last season… few minutes earlier Julien had said Thomas wasn’t doing as well… awkward!) and seemed to be pretty supportive of Rask in general. That shows a lot of class in Thomas and we approve. And, of course, the same fans that were pressuring the Bruins to sign Thomas are the same fans asking for him to be shipped out. But a 36-year-old, post-surgery goalie with a 4-year, $20 million deal isn’t exactly enticing (though there is a sucker born every minute). He also has that pesky no-trade clause in his contract. Getting rid of Thomas is a bad idea for Rask’s development. Having a solid veteran around Rask can only help and if anyone can teach Rask something about the ups and downs of being an NHL goalie, it’s Thomas. Just the same, Thomas won’t be the backup next year. We saw Rask burnout a bit during the playoffs this year, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas and Rask split time next year like Thomas and Manny did last season. The Bruins are lucky to have two #1 goalies at their disposal. Why ruin a good thing?
Final Regular Season Grade: B-
He didn’t play a single second for the Bruins during the playoffs, so no grade there.