|10.19.10 at 12:40 pm ET|
The season is still young — the Bruins have played one 27th of their regular season schedule — but if somebody suggested during the thick of the “lose Tim Thomas‘ $5 million cap hit at any cost” days this summer that Thomas, and not Tuukka Rask, would be the starting goaltender in three of the Bruins’ first four games, they would have been run out of town, much like many hoped Thomas would be.
Yet through no injuries and no reason other than riding the hot hand, Thomas will indeed be between the pipes as the B’s take on Alexander Ovechkin and the offensively potent Washington Capitals on Tuesday night. When it became clearer and clearer that Thomas would not be moved in the offseason, the natural line of thinking is that the two netminders would split time, with Rask seeing a clear majority of the time for the Bruins.
Rask has done nothing wrong to this point. In fact, given how poorly the Bruins played in front of him in the season-opener, he can really only be held responsible for just one of the four goals he allowed in the 5-2 loss to the Coyotes. The plan was to split time, but when Thomas took his turn and posted a shutout in the team’s 3-0 victory the next day, it was to be expected that he’d be rewarded with the start against the Devils. He once again parlayed his reward into another start, and here we are. Four games, and three starts for Tim Thomas.
It’s always fun to dig up old stories and columns and see how they pertain to the present moment (people all over the world are likely still deleting their “Don’t settle for Seguin” columns as this is being written). Here’s one written by colleague Graig Woodburn about the goaltending situation, written days after the Flyers eliminated the Bruins in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Woodburn warned that though the season ended with Rask seemingly the man, the Bruins would be wise to hold onto Thomas — even given his high price tag — to see if an Ilya Bryzgalov/ Jean-Sebastian Giguere situation could unfold. For those who don’t remember there, here’s the story: team has award-winning veteran goaltender, rookie comes in and dethrones him, team loses in playoffs, and veteran proves his worth a season later in leading the team to a Stanley Cup.
Bryzgalov didn’t struggle in his time with the Ducks that 2007-08 season (2.55 GAA, .909 save percentage), but Giguere beat him out nonetheless as the team went on to beat the Senators in the Cup finals. The enormously big difference between the two stories is that Bryzgalov ended up being waived in November, something that quite frankly would never happen with Rask, so though the story of the Ducks’ goaltending situation serves as a history lesson, it serves as quite the drastic one.
For all intents and purposes, there’s no reason to believe Rask and Thomas don’t split time in net this season, with the 23-year-old Rask perhaps still likely seeing more time. Simply put, Rask is too good. He was the best statistical goalie last season in leading the NHL in both GAA and save percentage, yet with Thomas off to a hot start, the 36-year-old has made it very difficult for the people of Boston to set their clocks to Tuukka Time just yet. Did anybody expect this? Even to those who didn’t write Thomas off, who saw the entire city of Boston nodding in approval upon hearing that Thomas would start a third straight game in October?
Neither goalie seems to be getting too high or low based on how the starts have been divvied up, and Claude Julien said on Monday that trying to pick between the two accomplished goalies “continues to be a problem for everybody but us.”
History has proven it unwise to give up on the veteran, but who needs history? Thomas is proving it now.
|10.19.10 at 11:40 am ET|
Word out of D.C. this morning is that Tim Thomas was the first off the ice at the Bruins’ morning skate, meaning he is the likely starter between the pipes for the Bruins as they play the first of two games with the Capitals this week. Thomas is 10-4-2 in his career against the Capitals and upon hearing the stats on Monday joked that they should give him some confidence against the likes of Alexander Ovechkin.
With Thomas in goal Tuesday, he will have been the starter in three straight games after Tuukka Rask got the not in the season-opener in Prague. In two starts this season, both of which the Bruins won, Thomas has allowed just one goal — a second period tally to the Devils’ Dainius Zubrus on Saturday night — on 61 shots.
|10.18.10 at 8:31 pm ET|
Sometimes it’s hard to argue with a player’s logic. Monday was not one of those days.
After going from player to player discussing how one prepares for a player like Alexander Ovechkin, a stop by Brad Marchand‘s locker in the Bruins’ dressing room brought about a most peculiar discussion. Reporters were talking about the undersized winger and how he and Gregory Campbell go about setting up Shawn Thornton, who on Saturday notched his first goal in over a calendar year in the Bruins’ 4-1 victory over the Devils.
“I think he’s really underestimated, and we always talk about it in the [dressing] room: Just give it to Thornton, go in front of the net, and he’s going to put it in,” Marchand said as reporters laughed. “That’s what our game plan is.”
Upon his suggestion that the team would enter a game planning on feeding Thornton, who, in all fairness, did have as many shots on goal Saturday (three) as all three second-liners combined, reporters noted that such logic would apply more to the likes of Ovechkin. Fifty-goal scorer or one-goal scorer, Marchand still trusted the plan of getting it to their enforcer, and joked that the coaches agree.
“Yeah, they pulled us in and they were like, ‘Listen guys, your whole game plan is to give it to Thornton, and you guys just skate around and make him look pretty,” Marchand said.
|10.18.10 at 6:18 pm ET|
It appears that Marc Savard can start down the road of getting into playing shape for this season, as Peter Chiarelli recently told Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe that the center has passed the exertion test that he failed on the first day of training camp back on September 17.
Savard has been dealing with post-concussion syndrome symptoms since late in the summer, when the effects of the March 7 Matt Cooke hit prevented him from continuing his training.
Since he is on long-term injury reserve, Savard must miss the season’s first 10 games and 24 days, though Shinzawa writes that Savard has skated since passing the test. The test clears Savard for more physically demanding activity, including weight lifting more intense cardio work.
|10.18.10 at 3:38 pm ET|
With the Bruins playing two games against the Washington Capitals this week, they will get their first regular season look of the year at all-galaxy scorer Alexander Ovechkin. The former top overall pick has scored at least 45 goals in each of his five seasons in the NHL, including 52 as a rookie in 2005-06 and a career-high 65 in 2007-08.
How does one defend against such a talent?
“Put Z out against him,” defenseman Matt Hunwick said on Monday. Realistically, everyone — including Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Bruins defensemen, needs to keep their eyes peeled when the Moscow native is on the ice. Here’s what players throughout the locker room had to say about Ovechkin on Monday.
– “He’s like a truck. He tried to hit me a couple of times and I kind of felt it. He can score and he can also make plays. You’ve just got to be aware when he’s on the ice.”
– “We all have to be on high alert. They’ve got a lot of offense, and we’ve just got to keep it simple and move the pucks up to the forwards.”
– “He’s a lot of work. He’s energy-intensive for a goalie to play against.”
– “They’re talented up and down their lineup, but you do have to be aware of when Ovechkin is on the ice. He’s a singular threat that’s different than most of the other threats.”
– “Even if he doesn’t hardly ever get a shot, he’s still going to make it a tough night for a goalie, because you’re going to be doing movement and you’re going to have to be focusing and concentrating. You have to be in perfect position to stop his shots, because you very rarely are going to be able to make a reflex save on him. If you’re going to make a save on him, it’s going to be because you had the correct positioning.”
– “They are [a fun team to watch]. I prefer to watch them on TV, but it’s a real fun challenge.”
– “He’s someone you’ve got to be aware of. Sometimes he lurks outside of the zone when his team’s on defense, and other times he kind of gets lost. That’s always dangerous when a guy can shoot the puck like that. He only needs half a second to get it off. You always have to be aware of where he is on the ice, and for our team on the road, we have to make good line changes and try to get the matchups that we want.”
|10.18.10 at 2:20 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Perhaps the most controversial call in Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Bruins was the first-period kneeing call against Brad Marchand on a play in which he hit Dainius Zubrus. As a small guy (Marchand is 5-foot-9) the 22-year-old forward can expect tough calls each time he hits a player low, but Claude Julien said on Monday that the team felt it was a clean hit and that such calls shouldn’t shake Marchand.
“I think it’s a situation where he’s got to play his game,” Julien said. “He went in, and to us, it seemed like a clean hit. If it’s perceived another way, you’re going to get some tough calls all year long. The good part about it is that, first of all, in our minds, it was a clean hit and a tough call for him. It was up to the rest of the team to bail him out, and they did.
“I’m not going to ask him to change his style. He’s doing what he does pretty well, and that’s why he’s in our lineup right now. We’re certainly not going to look at that as a negative more than, ‘keep playing your game, and hopefully the referees make the right calls.'”
|10.18.10 at 2:07 pm ET|