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Fernandez playing the good goalie role

Manny Fernandez [1] finally got to throw on the pads and show what he could do between the pipes last weekend — a just and karmic hockey reward after biding his time watching goaltender partner Tim Thomas [2] take the lead dog role. Thomas has been the protoypical hot ‘tender for the Bruins over their first 14 games with a 5-2-2 record, .944 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average.

Arms were justifiably raised and write-in campaigns were hatched when Thomas wasn’t listed among the top 10 goaltenders on the NHL’s Eastern Conference All-Star ballot, but part of the reason may have been Fernandez’s presence. 

The 34-year-old was expected to split time with Thomas out of the gate and executed a solid 32-save example of his graceful butterfly technique in Saturday night’s solid 3-1 win over Buffalo. It wasn’t easy like Sunday morning for Fernandez to sit back and watch Thomas ascend into a starring role for Boston’s hockey production, but he knew his opportunity wasn’t far away.

Instead he’s been supportive of Thomas at a time when some players might downward spiral in the wrong direction of selfishness and “me” attitude while spitting out questions about playing time or “roles” on a team headed in the right direction. But Fernandez rose above all that, and realizes — as many around the NHL have — that each team needs two quality goalies to survive an 82 game season and then have the their “chosen one” fresh and ready to go heading in the Stanley Cup [3] playoffs.

His partner in the crease has greatly appreciated Fernandez’s patience.

“[Manny] has been great,” said Thomas. “For the last year-and-a-half he’s been nothing but a class act. A lot of times when you’re not playing you have a tendency to draw attention to yourself and he hasn’t been like that at all.

“He hasn’t been throwing out the negative vibes at all, and that’s been great,” added Thomas. [Not playing] is very hard…harder I think than the amount of happiness you have when you’re playing well, you know. It’s really hard to be selfless in those situations. 

Thus far Thomas and Fernandez’s playing time has broken down into roughly a 65/35 percentage split, but facing a stretch of 10 games between now and November 29 should mean enough ice time for both masked men.

“One guy gets to play and one guy doesn’t…that’s how it goes in the game of hockey,” said Fernandez, who is 3-1-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.57 goals against average in five games thus far. “Things could go a million ways, so I don’t want to think too much [about it]. My wife always tells me, ‘€˜Try to keep things simple. Every day is a new day.’€™ So I just get by one day and look forward to the next.”

‘€œThat’€™s as simple as it gets now. I’€™ve just got to focus, take every day as a challenge and try to move forward. I want to be here for the team regardless of whether I’€™m playing or not playing,” added Fernandez. “I don’€™t want to be the guy that sits in the corner just miserable. I want to be the guy who brings laughter or whatever, who tries hard in practice to help make the guys better, and go from there.’€

A big factor in easng the situation for Fernandez was coach Claude Julien’s up-front attitude with both goaltenders and their split of the net duties when addressing it prior to the season’s start — a stance that allowed for both goalies to play until one skated forward, excelled and seized control of the job.

“I’ve never thought of Claude as a guy that [misleads],” said Fernandez. “He’s pretty straightforward and tells it how it is. He told us both at the beginning of the year that it was going to be this way and I didn’t expect anything less. I’ve always been one that’s said that Timmy was amazing last year, and he’s earned his spot and earned his playing time.

“This year he’s been tremendous for us and we all stick together,” added Fernandez. “So my job is to practice hard and be as ready as possible.” 

Day Off

Shawn Thornton [4], Shane Hnidy and Stehane Yelle were all missing from practice Monday afternoon, with Yelle nursing a minor issue and Hnidy still recovering from a lower body injury that’ caused him to miss two games. The bruising Thornton wasn’t with the team this afternoon, but was tending to funeral services for his grandmother in Ontario.

Quiet day otherwise at Bruins practice with the team working on four-on-four drills in anticipation of some overtime games potentially coming up against some stiff competition over the next three weeks — including the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers, the Red Wings and two each against the Sabres and Canadiens.

The biggest thing masquerading as news was the rave reviews that Aaron Ward [5] gave the AC/DC concert at the TD Banknorth Garden [6] last night. Ward, Milan Lucic [7], Stephane Yelle, Shane Hnidy, Marco Sturm [8], Mark Stuart [9], Dennis Wideman [10] and Chuck Kobasew [11] (quite ed. note to the Boston Herald’s intrepid Inside Track ladies, the man is French-Canadian but his name isn’t Stephanie Yelle) all took in the “Back in Black” band on Sunday night, and Ward was blown away by the Rock and Roll vets still running around the stage like teenagers.

I also took in the show Sunday night and can attest that Angus is still rocking out — even if my nitpicking girlfriend pointed out his “old man legs” while he hopped around like a rabid musician on stage and did the signature ‘Angus Shuffle’ while wielding a screaming guitar 30 feet above the stage. Good stuff. They didn’t play “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” or “It’s a Long Way to the Top”, but all in all a good show — and I can say that I saw AC/DC at least once in my lifetime.