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Tuukka Rask has ‘no doubt’ Tim Thomas will be successful with Panthers 09.18.13 at 5:53 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask thinks Tim Thomas will be successful in Florida. (AP)

Tuukka Rask thinks Tim Thomas will be successful in Florida. (AP)

With the Panthers brining in Tim Thomas to give 23-year-old Jacob Markstrom a seasoned veteran from whom to learn, Tuukka Rask knows from experience that it could be a very good idea.

Thomas and Rask played three seasons together, with Thomas starting most of the games before taking last season off and opening the door for Rask to step in as the No. 1 goalie — a position he held late in the 2009-10 season before Thomas put up a Vezina season and took the B’s to a Stanley Cup championship a year later.

“He’s a great worker; he works hard every day, so I think that’s the part where younger goalies should take from him,” Rask said of Thomas. “Markstrom’s been around for a couple years, but I think he probably still wants to learn something new out of a veteran goalie, and Timmy is a good example of that. He works hard every day and makes you work harder every day. That’s what I got out of it and I think that’s what every goalie with Timmy will get out of it.”

Thomas is on a professional tryout with the Panthers, so he is not on their roster. If they like what they see and give him a deal, the Bruins could see Thomas back in town on Nov. 7.

“That’d be a media debacle going on if that happened,” Rask said. “I was happy to see him come back. I wasn’t going to be surprised if this happened, and it did. I’m hoping that he’s going to make the team and get a good contract and get a good year out of it.”

Given that he is 39 and didn’t play last season, there is certainly question as to whether Thomas can be anything close to the guy who turned in a record-setting 2010-11 season and followed with a strong 2011-12 season, his most recent. Yet if anyone can do it, Rask believes his former teammate can.

“Absolutely,” Rask said. “I don’t know too many goalies at this level who have done that to compare, but definitely if he wants to be good, he will be good. There’s no doubt about that. I don’t think it’s too big of an issue to take a year off and come back. I’m sure he kept himself sharp somehow and maybe saw some pucks. It’s not going to be that big of a deal to come back, but he’s definitely the guy to make it happen if somebody will.”

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Tim Thomas speaks: ‘I needed a break’ 09.17.13 at 4:14 pm ET
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Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas

Speaking to the media for the first time since deciding to take last season off, former Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who is currently on a professional tryout with the Panthers, said he simply “needed a break” last season and that not playing was the “right decision” for both him and his family.

Thomas, now 39, still had one year and $3 million in salary left on his contract last season, but he elected to sit out and was traded to the Islanders mid-season. He did not play for the Islanders, who had only traded for him so they could use his $5 million cap hit to get above the salary floor.

“I got tired and I needed a break,” Thomas said Tuesday of his decision. “Now I’m energized and I’m looking forward to it. I feel great.”

Regarding his decision to not play his final season in Boston, Thomas expressed no negative feelings. He also added that he was “so proud” of his former teammates during their run to the Stanley Cup finals in June, and that watching them inspired him to return to the NHL.

“My time in Boston was great,” he said. “I was very fortunate to have the type of personal and team success there, great teammates.”

As for his decision to not attend the White House in 2012 to meet the President the year after he led the B’s to a Stanley Cup victory, Thomas did not elaborate on what he said at the time, which was that political differences led to him skipping the trip in controversial fashion.

“I didn’t want to lie and say I was sick,” Thomas said. “I thought I gave, from my viewpoint, a very honest assessment of the situation.”

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Tim Thomas agrees to PTO with Panthers 09.16.13 at 4:08 pm ET
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Former Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has accepted a professional tryout with the Panthers and will practice with the team Tuesday, the team announced on Monday.

Thomas, 39, has played every game of his NHL career with the Bruins, though he was traded to the Islanders last season after he decided to take the year off for personal reasons. A two-time Vezina winner, Thomas led the B’s to a Stanley Cup championship in 2011 and won the Conn Smythe in the process.

In 378 games, Thomas is 196-121-45 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.48 goals-against average.

For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Report: Tim Thomas nearing decision on return to NHL 09.10.13 at 1:15 pm ET
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According to ESPN’s Craig Custance, former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is nearing a decision on where he will play this coming season. Thomas took last season off for personal reasons and was traded to the Islanders for a conditional pick that did not vest since he did not play.

 

It’s been a strange summer for Thomas, who turned 39 in May. He became a free agent at the expiration of his deal in July, but did not express his intentions to play in 2013-14 until the first day of free agency (which he did through then-agent Bill Zito).

Then, after Zito negotiated an eight-year, $56 million contract for Tuukka Rask, Zito left his agency (Acme Sports) to become the assistant general manager of the Blue Jackets. Thomas is now represented by Markus Lehto of Acme Sports. Lehto has denied that Thomas will sign with a team on Tuesday.

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Tim Thomas considering return to NHL 07.01.13 at 6:23 pm ET
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Tim Thomas

Agent Bill Zito tweeted Monday that Tim Thomas, his client, will look to see if there is an opportunity for him to play in the NHL next season.

Thomas, 39, sat out the final year of his contract to focus on “friends, family and faith” and was traded to the Islanders during the season so the Islanders could reach the cap floor with his $5 million cap hit. Even before the season started, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said he expected Thomas to try to play in 2013-14, and it appears that will be the case. Because the Islanders did not suspend his contract, Thomas will become an unrestricted free agent when free agency opens.

Tweeted Zito: Tim Thomas has asked me to explore possible options for next season.

In 378 career regular season NHL games, Thomas had a 196-121-45 record with a 2.48 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and 31 shutouts. His best season came in Boston’s Stanley Cup winning season, when he set an NHL record with a .938 save percentage. He went on to post a .940 save percentage and 1.98 GAA with four shutouts in the playoffs to earn the Conn Smythe trophy.

For more on the Bruins, visit weei.com/bruins.

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Don Cherry on D&C: Bruins will win Cup; Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin ‘a loser’ 06.17.13 at 9:26 am ET
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Don Cherry

Don Cherry joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning, and the CBC Hockey Night in Canada analyst said he is sticking with his pick of the Bruins to win it all against the Blackhawks.

“They are going to win the Cup,” Cherry said point-blank. “I picked Boston all the way through.”

“It’s funny how the Bruins can turn it on like that,” he added, referencing the Bruins seemingly flipping a switch in the middle of Game 2 Saturday night. “It was like how it was against Toronto [in Game 7]. ‘Oh, 4-1? We’re going to turn it on for about 15 minutes.’ And that’s what they did in the overtime. If Chicago plays like they did in the overtime, it’s not going to go long.”

Part of that, the former Bruins coach said, was the result of the B’s consistently physical play, particularly after the first period.

“A few [Blackhawks] guys are hearing footsteps … and the defense gets rid of the puck early,” Cherry said. “Instead of taking their time a little, they know guys like [Milan] Lucic are coming, that little shot’s coming, and they get rid of the puck early.”

Cherry acknowledged that both goalies, Tuukka Rask and Corey Crawford, have been playing superbly, and he doesn’t expect any blowouts in either direction.

Cherry heaped praise on Rask in particular, even giving him the edge over Tim Thomas’ performance during the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup run.

“Timmy Thomas did play great — I’m not putting him down — but Rask is unbelievable,” Cherry said. “He is in a zone right now.”

Cherry also spoke highly of Tyler Seguin, saying he fully expects the young forward to start producing more soon. The key is giving Seguin, in the form of ice time and confidence, the opportunity to succeed. Now that that is starting to happen again, the puck should start to fall.

“When you don’t play, you’re not going to be anything,” Cherry said. “He was taken off the line when [Jaromir] Jagr came. How would I handle him? I’d play him to death. And when you play him to death, he’d come through for you.”

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Read More: Brad Marchand, Don Cherry, Evgeni Malkin, Tim Thomas
Claude Julien: Tuukka Rask ‘just as good’ as Tim Thomas in 2011 Cup run 06.16.13 at 3:18 pm ET
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Tuukka Rask spoke Sunday in front of his locker about the secret to his success so far. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The comparison has been obvious since the second round of this Bruins playoff run.

Is Tuukka Rask as good as Tim Thomas in 2011 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup on the strength of one of the best goaltending performances in Stanley Cup history?

In the eyes of Bruins coach Claude Julien, there’s no doubt.

“I think it’s just as good, no doubt,” Julien said of Rask, who is now 13-5 in the playoffs, a 1.73 goals against and a .944 save percentage. All of those numbers better the performance of Thomas when he won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP. “Tim has been a great goaltender for us. When you lose a guy like that, there’s always that fear that you’re not going to be able to replace him.

“Tuukka’s done an outstanding job. To me, he’s been as much of a contributor to our team as Tim was two years ago.”

Rask gave his take on Sunday morning.

“For myself, that was the best I’ve ever seen, obviously,” Rask said of Thomas’ 16-9 record, with a 1.98 GAA and a .940 save percentage in the 2011 playoffs. “I’d never been that deep in the playoffs before and for me, as a spectator, that was the best stretch of goaltending I’d ever seen.”

The only area where Thomas has Rask beat right now is in shutouts (4-2), that and a Conn Smythe trophy, for now.

Rask did admit one thing Sunday – this is the best goaltending he’s played in his career.

“Probably, yeah,” Rask said.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup, 2013 Stanley Cup, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks
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