|Why Tim Thomas is a happy man||10.22.10 at 12:01 pm ET|
At the end of last year and in the playoffs, Tim Thomas wasn’t smiling that much. He was in pain from not playing and from bad hip that required labrum surgery in the offseason.
Fast forward five months and you have a spry 36-year-old goalie sliding easily from post to post, stopping 38-of-39 saves in a 4-1 win over the mighty Washington Capitals in the team’s first game of the season before a fired-up crowd at TD Garden. He is 4-0 to start the season, allowing only three goals while posting a 0.75 goals against and a .978 save percentage.
Why wouldn’t you be smiling?
“I felt good, I felt really good,” Thomas said. “My movement felt real good and maybe there was some rebounds, where there’s a different kind of on, where it just sticks to you and there’s no rebounds and stuff. I didn’t exactly have that tonight, so my D helped me out with the rebounds, but I had the movement and the speed. One of these days, you’ll have everything and one of these days I’ll play the puck the right way too.
“I think it’s been exceptional the last couple of weeks since, you know, I got back into the groove. I felt it coming in the early days of Czech and you know, it’s fun when you can move.”
Thomas even admitted he’s exceeded his own expectations in his recovery.
“For sure, and obviously, I couldn’t be happier with the way I’m feeling this far,” Thomas said. “You know, now I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep working in practice, and there’s ways that I can make it easier on myself. That will be my goal in practice.” Read the rest of this entry »
|The funny story behind the ‘Tuukka Rask to start’ misconception||10.21.10 at 10:41 pm ET|
Tim Thomas sat by alone after the Bruins’ morning skate, unbothered by the media, yet crowded by scribes as they gathered to talk to the guy next to him.
It was Tuukka Rask fielding all the questions after the morning skate, as he left the ice first for the Bruins, something that is generally taken as a sign that he would be the starting netminder for that night’s game. Reporters asked him of his excitement for the game, and he gave some oddly worded answers, but the writers ran with it.
‘It’s fun,’ Rask said after the skate. ‘It’s been a while since [my] last start, so it should be great.’
It’s fun? Hey, a quote’s a quote, and when it’s the answer to the “how excited are you to start tonight?” question, it’s seemingly worth something. Little did the media know that they were talking to the wrong guy.
Thomas led the Bruins out onto the ice on Thursday night as those fooled — a group including this writer — immediately realized the charade. Rask never said he was starting. All he said was that “it’s fun” and that he hadn’t started in a few games.
A grinning Rask looked both proud and amused after the 4-1 victory, half-jokingly maintaining that he was “just answering” a question, which is absolutely true. No harm, no foul — except on the media’s part. Just laughs and a red-faced Big Bad Blogger. Rask told WEEI.com a day earlier that with regard to the “goalie controversy,” he understood that writers were going to write what they were going to write. Maybe this reporter should have kept that in mind.
Thomas, meanwhile, had some time to himself as reporters hounded Rask.
“I knew [I was going to start] from yesterday, and nobody asked me this morning,” Thomas said after the game, laughing as he quipped that he “wouldn’t have told you anyways.”
Rask didn’t lie to reporters on Thursday. He didn’t say he was starting. He simply took an opportunity to prove once and for all that he isn’t worried about who gets to start each game, and what an amusing statement it was.
The Bruins held their morning skate at TD Garden as they prepare for their home opener Thursday night against the Capitals. Tuukka Rask was first off the ice, and confirmed in the locker room afterwards that he will be in net. The lines were the same as they’ve been, so here’s what to expect:
Matt Hunwick – Andrew Ference
It seems Claude Julien wanted to conceal the starting goalie’s identity, telling a reporter that “you’ll see at 7 o’clock.” If only Rask hadn’t let the cat out of the bag earlier.
“It’s fun,” Rask said after the skate. “It’s been a while since [my] last start, so it should be great.”
|Brickley: No goalie controversy||at 9:53 am ET|
NESN analyst Andy Brickley joined Dennis & Callahan to talk about the Bruins. One of the big questions surrounding the B’s is the issue of who is the No. 1 goaltender. Both Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas have staked their claims, but Thomas has been the hot goaltender in the early part of the season.
“I don’t like that word, controversy,” Brickley said. “It may be accurate, but I don’t like it. I just think it’s depth and competition to a position that’s critical to winning games.”
Brickley noted the Bruins teams he played on that featured Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin. “It has a way of sorting itself out,” Brickley said. “Maybe it’s a 60-40 split, maybe it’s 50-50, maybe it’s 70-30 because one of them outperforms the other. What you try to do ideally, is when you get to the postseason, you establish your number one guy.”
Brickley has been impressed with rookie Tyler Seguin, especially the mental part of his game. “He’ll be learning from now until his final game, whether it’s regular season or playoffs,” Brickley said. “The beautiful thing about him is his [brain.] He’s got good hockey IQ. He’s picking up things right away.”
Brickley said the Europe trip was a good thing for the Bruins because it brought them closer together as a team. As to whether they can compete for a Stanley Cup, Brickley said, “They’re in the conversation. Anything can happen in the playoffs. You saw what Montreal did last year to the top two seeds in the East and the Bruins should have capitalized on that. I say, sure. Why not?”
|Tuukka Rask doesn’t see anything controversial about Bruins’ goaltending situation||10.20.10 at 2:35 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — An even-keeled Tuukka Rask sat at his locker following the Bruins’ practice on Wednesday with the same positive attitude teammates and reporters have come to expect from the young goaltender. Though Rask hasn’t seen game action in 11 days, he knows — just as the red-hot Tim Thomas does — that getting riled up over who’s in net each night does nobody good, and each netminder will gladly take their turn as it comes.
Yet when one guy gets three turns in a row through four, that’s the big story. Tim or Tuukka? It’s grabbed headlines for over a season now, and Rask wants it known that neither he nor Thomas sees what the big deal is.
“You guys do your jobs, you write [the stories],” Rask told WEEI.com on Wednesday. “We know where we stand. We know what the deal is. Obviously you guys try to create stories and people read you and stuff, but when you talk about goalie controversy, obviously we don’t feel that way. It kind of sucks, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Rask allowed four goals on 36 shots against the Coyotes in the season-opener in Prague, a game that was a classic example as to why stats don’t tell the whole story. The Finnish netminder was solid if not better in the game, responsible for really one of Phoenix’ goals in a game in which the rest of the team admittedly went on an unforced turnover-spree.
For Rask, just as there’s no use in wondering about playing time, there is no use in making excuses. Given how poorly the likes of Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara, Matt Hunwick and Daniel Paille (who still has yet to dress following the first game), among others, Rask would have every reason to note his own positive play. Like many in the B’s locker room, he takes the “win as a team, lose as a team” mentality.
“It was just one game out of 82. That’s just one of those games where as a team we didn’t play our best,” Rask said. “Those games happen. I happened to be in the net and we lost. It’s not frustrating, it’s just something that happens every now and then. We’ve just got to focus on the next game. It’s a good thing that we won the three after that.”
Thomas and Claude Julien have both spoken to how having two very capable, if not elite (which recent statistics would surely suggest) goaltenders is the last thing anyone should make a stink over. Julien himself said on Monday that having the two is problematic for opposing teams, not the Bruins. Rask agrees.
“I think it’s a great situation. Having two goalies, and hopefully both playing well, it’s going to help the team win some hockey games. I think that’s the best situation for our hockey club.”
|Mike Milbury on D&H: ‘Pleasant dilemma’ for B’s with goalies||at 12:46 pm ET|
NESN and NBC hockey analyst Mike Milbury made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
“I’m a little surprised they went with [Thomas] three in a row given the fact that they had so much time off,” Milbury said. “Apparently they’re going to use Rask either Thursday or Saturday, but that’s a long layoff beteween starts. However, as you guys both know, it’s a pleasant dilemma to have when your goaltending is too deep. You can’t knock what Thomas has done in his three starts. He’s been terrific. Rask is going to have to wait his chance again.”
Asked if the Bruins might be showcasing Thomas for a possible trade, Milbury said, “No, I don’t think so, not at this stage. It may be a byproduct of him playing well, but I don’t think it’s intentional. I think Claude [Julien] is just going with a guy he thinks can win him a hockey game.”
Milbury said he didn’t understand the negative reaction to his comments from last week that Tyler Seguin will not be an impact player in his first season. “I was surprised, because it had nothing to do with an evaluation of Tyler Seguin as time goes on. It had to do with what is this guy going to being now,” Milbury said. “If you ask Peter Chiarelli or Cam Neely or Claude Julien, I don’t think any one of them thinks he’s going to be “an impact player” this season. I don’t think that’s the expectation. A contributor, yes, he can be. But I think it’s going to take him a couple of years [to be an impact player].”
Added Milbury: “Time will tell how good he is. But for anybody to think he should be an impact player in his first season hasn’t followed the game a lot.”
As for the Bruins’ 3-1 start, Milbury said: “I think they’ve had a pretty nice blend over the last three games of opening it up [offensively] when they’ve had to, and being able to shut it down at the same down when they’re responsible, as they usually are.”
Canucks center Rick Rypien aggressively pushed a fan on his way to the dressing room Tuesday night in Minnesota. Milbury, famous for his role in the Bruins’ brawl in the stands at Madison Square Garden in 1979, said Rypien’s actions were inexcusable, but there are things teams can do to make it a safer situation.
“Why they allow such immediate access to players is beyond me,” Milbury said, adding: “You really don’t want fans close enough so that if a guy is ticked off about something that he can react in the spur of the moment because he’s lost his cool. … Getting them away from the players as they exit and enter the arena to me seems like a pretty simple and sane idea.”
Added Milbury: I don’t know how severe the penalty will be, but they’ve got to do it. They have to keep that sanctity [where] player and fan has to be protected at all times. There’s no excuses, no matter what.”
|History lesson has similarities to Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask debate||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.