|Claude Giroux and the Flyers took the banner as a ‘slap in the face’||10.07.11 at 2:08 am ET|
Claude Giroux is one of the holdovers from the Flyers team that was dispatched by the Bruins and then dismantled in the summer. These Flyers who traded captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have been remade. But Giroux was on that team last spring and he remembered how it felt last May when the Bruins sent them packing.
He also watched as the Bruins used that four-game sweep as a springboard to the Stanley Cup title they celebrated Thursday night with a banner-raising ceremony.
“Coming to a game here, especially the first game of the season when they are raising the banner, it’s a slap in the face and its motivation for a little payback even though it’s the first game of the season,” Giroux said. “It’s good for our ego and everybody was ready to go tonight.”
Giroux put his money where he mouth was by scoring a power play goal with less than two minutes left in the first. That was followed a minute late by a goal from Jakub Voracek. On Giroux’s goal it was another newcomer who played a big role – Jaromir Jagr – who fed a speeding Giroux down the slot.
“Yeah I think that he saw that I had speed,” Giroux said. “I don’t really remember what happened, it happened so quick. I made the inside move and I was able to beat that defenseman and take it to the net.”
It’s just one game but the Bruins’ sweep in May netted a lot of change in Philly, including Ilya Bryzgalov, the new $30 million goalie for the Flyers. And for one night, it paid off for Philly.
“I mean everyone was pretty excited and nervous and it turned out great,” Giroux said. “Obviously Bryz had the key saves at the end to make sure we got that win.”
Those saves on Nathan Horton and David Krejci were just the kind of game-stoppers Bruins fans remember Tim Thomas making last spring en route to the Stanley Cup title.
|Inside the Locker Room: Opening Night||at 12:14 am ET|
Tim Thomas, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron react to the pregame ceremonies and the team’s opening night loss.
|Bruins plan to let Tim Thomas play entire game Friday||09.23.11 at 2:21 pm ET|
After giving Tuukka Rask the entire game on Wednesday, Bruins coach Claude Julien said his plan for Friday is to let reigning Vezina winner Tim Thomas play the entire 60 minutes Friday against the Islanders.
“I think the goal is to do that, but I said the same thing to Tuukka, that we can talk between periods and if you feel good, you keep going,” Julien said. “I think it gives them an opportunity to get their game shape back, but at the same time, if they happen to feel a little bit of fatigue and stuff like that, you certainly don’t want to get those guys injured.”
Rask made 34 saves on 36 shots in Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Senators.
|Tim Thomas not talking about matching last season||09.17.11 at 1:32 pm ET|
Last year, Tim Thomas put together one of the best seasons any goaltender has ever had. He compiled a 35-11-9 record, 2.00 goals-against average and NHL-record .938 save percentage. He collected his second Vezina Trophy and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The only downside to all that is it sets the bar at a seemingly impossible height for this season.
“I think Tim’s biggest challenge is going to be being able to duplicate what he did last year,” Claude Julien said Friday. “If he ever comes close to doing that, we know we’re going to have a good goaltender, because his season last year was outstanding.
“He’s one of those players, like everybody else, who has to be willing to up his game. That doesn’t necessarily mean be better. Just to be as consistent as he was last year means he’s going to have to up his game, in my mind. That’s the one thing Timmy’s capable of doing when he sets his mind to it.”
After the first official practice of the season on Saturday, Thomas refused to talk about any of that just yet.
“It’s the first day of camp,” Thomas said. “You look to improve each day. I’d rather focus on the smaller picture than to get into that stuff right now.
“I’m gonna take a day off from that. It’s the first day of camp. Just enjoy it, being back on the ice with some of the elite-level hockey players in the world. Focus on that rather than thinking back to what happened last year or thinking forward to what is next year.”
Thomas acknowledged that he would obviously like to match what he did last season, but wouldn’t say any more than that.
“That’s as far as I want to go with that right now,” Thomas said. “I’m worried about getting my skates right, my equipment right. That’s more of where my mind is right now than all that other stuff.”
|This year, Tim Thomas coming off history rather than surgery||09.13.11 at 2:44 am ET|
Around this time last year, it didn’t seem there many people banking on big things from Tim Thomas. The veteran goaltender was coming off both a down year and offseason hip surgery. In fact, much of the discussion regarding the Bruins’ goaltending situation was generally around how Tuukka Rask would follow up a season in which he led the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage.
What a difference a year and a shelf-worth of hardware makes.
Now, Thomas is coming off a both healthy and historic season, and rather than wondering whether he’s physically capable of being a dominant goalie — something he admitted he pondered before the hip healed — the 37 year-old can think about the coming season rather than how his body will hold up.
“Actually, I feel good,” Thomas said Monday. “I didn’t have any injuries that I had to deal with, which is pretty amazing considering the amount of games we had. Physically, it’s not even an issue, so I haven’t had to think about it. It’s nice.”
Thomas delighted season-ticket holders at Monday’s State of the Bruins when he said that he had no choice but to repeat the type of season — which was of record-breaking variety thanks to an all-time best .938 save percentage — he had a year ago.
While fans got a kick out of Thomas’ statement, the Michigan native said afterwards that holding themselves to their own standard is something the Bruins must do as they defend their championship.
“I think that goes for not just me but for the whole team,” Thomas said. “When you’ve won the Cup and you’re at the pinnacle, there’s nothing higher, so you need to shoot for it again.”
But could Thomas really repeat the type of season he put together last season? He started 55 regular-season games, beginning the process of claiming the No. 1 job with a shutout (one of nine on the season) in the second game against the Coyotes in Prague.
This time around, it’s Rask that’s all healed (he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee) and trying to get a few more starts. Thomas laughed at the idea that the No. 1 goalie discussion could come up this early, as he was asked whether his historic season left him assuming he’ll be the Bruins’ top netminder.
“It’s pretty much only a label that you guys put on it, anyways,” Thomas said. “We just consider ourselves goaltenders on the team. One of the goalies is going to get more playing time, but we’re both just teammates.”
Along with his .938 save percentage, Thomas had an NHL-best 2.00 goals against average and a 35-11-9 record in the regular season. He started each game of the postseason, narrowly surprising his regular season numbers with a .940 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average. For someone who’s welcomed the challenge of repeating such a campaign, Thomas did note that his lackluster 2009-10 season, which followed his first Vezina season, may have prepared him for learning how to follow a great year.
“I’ve had experience,” Thomas said. “I had the year after the Vezina. Coming off that was hard enough. Now, winning these, I’m starting to get some experience with dealing with success, and hopefully that helps going forward.”
|Which Tuukka Rask will the Bruins see this season?||08.25.11 at 4:52 am ET|
With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2011-12 season.
Up next is the question of what goaltender Tuukka Rask’s season will hold. The case of Rask is an interesting one, as he was the best statistical goalie in the league in 2009-10 before watching Tim Thomas wrest the starting job away last year. There are other factors at work as well, including the offseason knee surgery he’s coming off of and the fact that he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end.
Speaking prior to Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game Wednesday in Lowell, Rask discussed the arthroscopic procedure he had on his left knee. The surgery required between four and five weeks recovery time, but Rask is now feeling healthy after suffering the injury midway through last season.
Could the knee be the reason as to why Rask went from having a league-best 1.97 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 2009-10 to posting a mediocre 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage last season? He isn’t ready to say so, as he denied feeling significant discomfort in the knee.
“It actually happened in January, I tweaked it, but it didn’t stop me from playing or practicing,” Rask said. “It was just something that we saw that was better to fix, because it would have bugged [me] in the future at some point, so it was just a minor fix-up, but the recovery was a few weeks.”
Now, whether it’s through health or increased playing time, Rask has to be hoping to post better numbers this season. There is certainly something to be said for a goaltender getting in a rhythm, and Thomas’ dominance made it nearly impossible for the Bruins to give Rask the amount of time a netminder of his caliber deserves.
If it is more time between the pipes that will lead to more 2009-10-like numbers, Rask could be in luck. Yes, Thomas is unquestionably the best goaltender in the league right now, but he is also the oldest player to win the Vezina since the adaptation of its current criteria. Rask played in only 29 games last year, good for approximately 35 percent of the regular season schedule. Assuming neither player gets injured, the Bruins could go with a closer split to give each guy a chance to take control of the job a la Thomas last season. Additionally, if the two split time a little more evenly than last season, neither goaltender would run as big a risk of getting cold.
Then there’s the matter of the guys playing in front of him. The Bruins often struggled to give him whatever the hockey equivalent of run support is (he had an 11-14-2 record), and players often lamented the way they played in front of Rask following losses. If both Rask and his teammates can pick it up in games he starts this season, he could be a richer man come next summer. The guess here is that he gets upwards of 35 starts and posts a GAA somewhere in the 2.20 range.
One thing that is safe to say about Rask is that he won’t be a poor sport if he ends up spending more time on the bench. He was among the most chipper Bruins during their Cup run, wearing Nathan Horton’s helmet for fun and commonly being in the middle of Bruins’ on-ice celebrations after series wins. He said Wednesday that it’s the up-and-down nature of the last two seasons that have taught him to be a team guy no matter what.
“I mean, anything can happen, right?” Rask said of what he’s learned. “And you’ve just got to go day-by-day and no matter what, be a great teammate, because even if you’re playing or you’re not playing, you’ve still got to support the guys and be a part of the group, so that was the really big thing I learned the past two years.”
|Tim Thomas goes from amazing goalie to just a maze||at 1:28 am ET|
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas probably expected plenty of attention after winning the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe trophy and Vezina trophy in the same season, but who saw this coming? Check out this picture of the “Corn Maize” at Sherman Farm in New Hampshire. The image surfaced Wednesday night, with a stick-tap to tremendous Yahoo! Sports blogger Greg Wyshynski, who worked “corny” and “amazing” into his headline.
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