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Mike Milbury on D&H: ‘Pleasant dilemma’ for B’s with goalies 10.20.10 at 12:46 pm ET
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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.

The first topic of conversation was the Bruins’ goaltending situation. Tim Thomas has started the last three games, after Tuukka Rask appeared in the season opener.

“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.”

Read More: Mike Milbury, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Seguin
History lesson has similarities to Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask debate 10.19.10 at 12:40 pm ET
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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.

Read More: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
Tim Thomas is hip to the scene for Bruins once again 10.18.10 at 1:56 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has flashed his Vezina form, stopping 60 of 61 shots he has faced in his first two games of the season, both Bruins victories. He’s got a 0.50 goals against average that, as one would expect based on the number, is tops in the league in the young season. He also leads the league in save percentage (.984), and in sitting atop both categories he is leading two columns that Tuukka Rask finished last season tops in.

One can think plenty of things about the Bruins’ goaltending situation based on the last two games, but just don’t think that Thomas is getting ahead of himself.

“Those kind of stats are going to tough to keep the same,” Thomas said with a grin following Monday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena. “No matter what, especially at this point of the year, it’s not about stats, but it’s about getting the wins.”

And Thomas, perhaps to the surprise of some, has been in net for both of the team’s wins through the first three games. Rask started the season-opener in Prague and fell victim to a very poor night from the guys skating in front of him. As a result, and staying consistent with the team’s plan of having the goalies split time, Thomas was given the start last Sunday and ran with it, shutting out the Coyotes in a 3-0 victory.

“It feels great. It’s been a great way to start the year. Now we’re starting to get into the meat of it where it’s game after game after game after game, so you’ve got to keep it going,” Thomas said. “You pat yourself on the back for what’s been accomplished so far, but we’ve got to go right back to work.”

So what are the differences between the Thomas who has gotten off to such a hot start and the Thomas who saw Rask emerge as the starting goalie down the stretch a season ago? Well, health for one. The 36-year-old had surgery on his hip following the playoffs, which saw Rask start each game in both rounds.

Now, Thomas has been able to play at 100 percent health, something he didn’t get to do a year ago, but he’s not too fond of the notion that his hip is the only reason he’s played well to this point.

“Yes, the surgery and the hip have helped a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t like I stunk up the league last year,” Thomas said. “[However, with the surgery,] I can play a totally different game.”

Indeed, Thomas did not “stink up the league” in 2009-10. He posted a respectable 2.56 GAA, which despite ranking 16th in the league made it difficult to compile wins given that the Bruins scored an NHL-worst 2.39 goals per game. Even so, when the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round by the Flyers, there was no doubt in Thomas’ mind that he had to get the surgery, even if setbacks hovered as a possibility.

“It was so bad that [it wasn’t even a choice]. They were pretty positive right from the start, Dr. Kelly and our doctor, they were very good right from the start with a very positive outlook,” Thomas said. “Yeah, it’s not an easy recovery, it’s a four-week recovery, but they were confident that it would go well and I would be better than ever.”

Thomas did intimate that he “had some idea as to how much [the hip] was holding me back, so to speak,” but that there was no way of totally telling how things would be once he was healthy. The Bruins have to like that they’ve seen so far.

———-

Here’s a funny nugget from Thomas a few minutes after he talked about the hip: A reporter asked Thomas, who sits next to Rask in the locker room, what the similarities were between the two netminders.

“Well, we’re both-looking,” Thomas said.

Rask, sitting alone in front of his locker, smirked for a few moments before finally saying, “I like that.”

Read More: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
Thomas to start Saturday 10.16.10 at 11:56 am ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters Saturday that Tim Thomas, who is coming off a shutout in his season debut last Sunday, will be the starting goaltender when the Bruins take on the Devils on Saturday night.

Thomas, 36, made 29 saves against the Coyotes in the 3-0 victory in Prague, his 18th career shutout. Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, allowed four goals in the team’s season-opening 5-2 loss.

The game will be the Bruins first since returning from Prague, where they picked up two points in the two-game set with Phoenix. The Devils, on the other hand, have just three points in five games and lost on Friday night to the Avalanche.

Read More: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
Welcome back to Wilmington 10.13.10 at 10:28 am ET
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WILMINGTON — It sure isn’t as visually pleasing as Prague’s O2 Arena, but it’s good to be back at Ristuccia Arena for the Bruins’ first practice since returning from Europe.

Prior to the team’s 10:30 skate commencing, there was a bit of an on-ice meeting with 10 Bruins consisting of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Matt Hunwick, Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask.

Despite skating with the aforementioned first, smaller group, Ference did not skate with the team in practice. Judging by the team’s multi-colored sweaters, here are the forward lines.

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Nathan Horton

Jordan Caron – Patrice Bergeron – Blake Wheeler

Mark Recchi – Tyler Seguin – Michael Ryder/Daniel Paille

Brad Marchand  – Gregory CampbellShawn Thornton/Brian McGrattan

Dennis Seidenberg left the ice after about half an hour, so Thornton tossed a black jersey on to balance out the defense. Chara was paired with Boychuk, Hunwick was with Mark Stuart, and Thornton skated with Adam McQuaid.

Read More: Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara,
In Prague, A Fresh Start For Tim Thomas 10.10.10 at 1:37 pm ET
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PRAGUE ‘€“ In the Czech Republic’s capital city, Tim Thomas got a fresh start to the young season.

Coming off a lackluster 2009-2010 campaign, not to mention off-season hip surgery, the 36-year-old Bruins goalie put on an impressive show against Phoenix on Sunday as he stopped every puck that came his way and earned his first victory of the year.

Amid the howls of Coyotes fans and the growls of the Bruins faithful clad in black and gold, Thomas made the job look seemingly effortless ‘€“ and for nearly the entire game, it was. The Bruins defense, led by Captain Zdeno Chara, kept the pressure off Thomas and redeemed itself after allowing five goals the night before. For their part, Phoenix had just 29 shots on Thomas the entire game and worse, no goals to show for it.

Thomas could be seen lounging in the crease for much of the first two periods while most of the action was taking place across the ice. He almost looked bored, his arm resting up against the goal as his teammates took shots at Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Thomas said it wasn’t a symptom of boredom, but rather a symptom of his age.

“I’m 36,” Thomas said after the game. “That’s going to happen all the time.”

In May, the Bruins goalie underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. That, after a season in which he went 17-18 and 23-year-old hotshot Tuukka Rask seemed to garner all the praise in Boston.

It explains why Thomas was so nervous before Sunday’s game in Prague. But all things considered, it also explains why the victory felt so good.

“It’s been a long road, but it feels great to get a shutout right off the bat,” he said.

Read More: Prague, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
Bruins lose opener, 5-2 10.09.10 at 2:38 pm ET
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PRAGUE — The Bruins are, quite clearly, one of the NHL’s elite teams on paper. They did everything they could for the first two periods of Saturday’s season-opener to suggest otherwise, and the glimpses of promise they did show in the third period proved to be too little, too late. The team showed all sorts of offensive and defensive weaknesses as they dropped the opener in Prague, 5-2, to the Coyotes.

Though he did allow four goals in the game, Tuukka Rask didn’t exactly struggle, as one of Phoenix’ goals came on the flukiest of plays and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille gaffe.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS

– Matt Hunwick. To those on twitter during the game, the poor guy was the subject of about 80 percent of the tweets from either Bruins or fans, and for good reason. Beginning the game paired with Dennis Seidenberg, Hunwick was on the ice for all of the Coyotes’ first three tallies of the game, giving him a headstart on a terrible plus/minus.

Claude Julien tried to stop the bleeding by breaking up the Seidenberg/Hunwick pairing by switching out Hunwick for Mark Stuart. Even so, Seidenberg finished the game with a minus-two.

– General sloppy play was the norm from the Bruins in all three areas on Saturday. Players up and down the roster, from Hunwick, to Blake Wheeler, to Paille, to newly re-signed captain Zdeno Chara, killed chances at offensive opportunities by either squandering the puck or holding onto it too long.

– The power play was unproductive, but when a team gets shut out it’s to be expected that they didn’t produce on the man advantage. At any rate, the team went 0-3 on the power play through the first two periods (they’d later get Nathan Horton’s second goal of the game on a man advantage in the third) and gave up a couple of real scoring opportunities to the shorthanded Coyotes.

The team, as is well documented, was the worst in the league when it came to burying the biscuit (2.39 goals per game), and their power play wasn’t much better. The Bruins finished the season with a 16.6 power play percentage, good for 23rd in the NHL. The additions of Seguin and Horton should improve both categories, but there wasn’t much from the team on the night to suggest it.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS

– These are going to be a bit redundant because Nathan Horton was so clearly the Bruins’ most valuable player for the Bruins on Saturday. Here’s the separate one dedicated just to Horton: He can’t be beat from in front of the net. He missed early on in the game by firing one wide at the gloveside of Ilya Bryzgalov, but beat the Phoenix goaltender with his lethal wrist shot on the next two chances. He tried to downplay the possibility of him being a 40-goal-scorer this year, but he’s the complete package.

– The first line showed what it’s made of. In addition to Milan Lucic’s physicality and David Krejci’s craftiness (he embarrassed Adrian Aucoin early in the third period at the blueline with a move that dropped the defenseman to the ice based on pure confusion), but Nathan Horton was allowed to do what he does best: fire off a wrister from the hashmark. Lucic hit him from behind the net to set up the team’s only goal of the game at 3:33 of the game.

Gregory Campbell is going to be a difficult player for Bruins fans not to like. Following Horton’s first goal, he gave the Bruins a little more momentum in the third period by dropping the gloves with Coyotes center Vernon Fiddler. He took a bad slashing penalty with less than 10 minutes to go and his team trailing by two, but aside from that he came as advertised — a solid bottom-six forward who despite not having major strengths, has no major weaknesses.

Read More: European Trip, Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask,

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