Sure, it’s just one game, but seeing Tim Thomas get pulled in the first period after allowing three New Jersey Devils goals makes me think that the Boston Bruins should suck it up and make young goalie Tuukka Rask their true No. 1 goalie down the stretch. No doubt about it, this isn’t the ideal situation, but considering their paper-thin lead over the Rangers, sometimes you have to do what makes you uncomfortable.
When Thomas signed a four year, $20 million extension during his Vezina trophy winning season, my biggest criticisms had to with the unorthodox goalie’s age. I thought: sure, he’s playing great right now, but goalies age like boxed wine (he’ll turn 36 on April 15). If Thomas flops (uh, in the wrong direction, that is) during this contract, the Bruins can’t get rid of his cap hit with a buyout. In other words, he needs to appear to be a franchise goalie to someone even if the Bruins are no longer convinced. So Boston isn’t crazy for giving Thomas a long leash.
Now, all that “big picture” talk might be hasty. It’s not as if the Bruins’ only question is goaltending, being that they’ve struggled mightily to score goals. It’s quite possible that Thomas can rebound to his once-elite form next season or even figure it out as the year closes out.
But, honestly, the Bruins don’t have much time to explore the studio space. Taking a look at the numbers from NBC sports, Rask bests Thomas in just about every relevant goalie category (stat nerds and sportswriters, for once, can stop exchanging angry e-mails and faxes!).
Tuukka Rask: 32 games played, 15-9, 2.14 GAA, .927 save percentage and 4 shutouts
Tim Thomas: 39 games played, 15-16, 2.51 GAA, .916 save percentage and 3 shutouts
Perhaps the league learned how to exploit Thomas thanks to another year of tape on the unusual goalie. Maybe he’s struggling to live up to his Vezina trophy and fancy new contract. Or, maybe, Rask’s stoic Finnish goaltending is a better fit for the grind-it-out style the Bruins seem forced to play.
Either way, it seems to me at least, that they should give Rask most of the starts and worry about the longer term future later. What do you think, though? Should the Bruins stay the course or give Rask the No.1 job?