Two weeks into the 2010-2011 season, the Boston Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League. They have opened the season with three wins and one loss. The latest victory coming this past Tuesday at Washington against a Capitals team that many have picked to win the Stanley Cup this season. The Capitals are a star studded group which many feel has more offensive fire power than any team in the NHL. Led by arguably the best player on the planet in Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps will be in Boston Thursday night for a rematch. In Tuesday’s victory, the B’s were led, offensively, by center David Krejci’s one goal and one assist performance but the one Bruin, who Ovechkin and his teammates will not want to square off against, will be goaltender Tim Thomas. He led the way for Boston with 35 saves on 36 shots. Thomas stopped all 18 shots he faced in the third period. Compared to the fact that Thomas’ teammates took a total of 21 shots on Washington netminders Michael Neuvirth and Simeon Varlamov in the entire game and you get a pretty good idea of how well Thomas played. The backstop from the University of Vermont is giving the fans and management reason to believe he is completely healed from off season hip surgery that repaired a torn labrum. The injury plagued Thomas throughout last season and hindered his ability to be the effective goaltender he was during the 2008-2009 season which was the season he was named the Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goaltender. Want more reasons to believe Tim is back? Statistically, he is second in the league with a staggering .979 save percentage. He is also ranked second in NHL with a mind blowing 0.67 goals against average and Thomas has been between the pipes for all three Boston victories.
Tuukka Rask, who was deemed the starting goalie during training camp was in the nets for Boston’s only loss, in the first game of the season, against the Phoenix Coyotes in Prague, Czech Republic. Rask played well, stopping 32 out of 37 shots, but did not receive much support from his team. Unfortunately for Rask, Thomas played an outstanding game against the Coyotes the next day and apparently has taken the reigns as the number one goaltender.
Most Bruins fans are ecstatic with Thomas’ play of late and there is a growing enthusiasm for him and the team, however, listen to Boston’s sports talk radio shows and one would think Thomas’ success is the worst thing that can happen to the black and gold. You see, there are those who are trying to stir up a “goaltender controversy” in Boston. One faction wants to see Rask re-incerted as the number one goalie. Those fans believe he should enjoy that status based on his play last season. The other fan faction feels Thomas should remain in goal until he falters in some way, shape, or form. They see him as the “hot” goalie right now, therefore, he should be the starting netminder. Almost all of the fans want to see either Thomas or Rask traded for a player or players “…who will help win a Stanley Cup.” The players, themselves, are not in favor of this ”controversy” as they see themselves playing in front of the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. Coach Claude Julien has been reported as saying that having Thomas and Rask on the team is a “good problem” to have. Members of the organization have been going on those same radio programs and are trying to dispel the notion that one goaltender must be the number one guy while the other sits on the bench. Rask, himself, was heard on the radio Wednesday saying that the so called controversy, “…sucks.”
My question is, what is wrong with having two goaltenders who are capable of being the number one guy and keeping them throughout the duration of the season? Some of you will remember the Edmonton Oilers during their very successful run of Stanley Cup victories in the early 1980s. They won two consecutive Cups with the tandem of Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog. No one in Edmonton was calling for one of those two to be traded. The New York Islanders of the late 1970s won consecutive Stanley Cups with Billy Smith and Glenn “Chico” Resch stopping the puck. Not once, was there a call from fans on Long Island for the team to ship one of them out of town.
I mentioned in a blog this past summer that a general manager once said, “…sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.” Tim Thomas was on the trading block throughout the summer but general manager, Peter Chiarelli, wisely changed his mind and decided not to pull the trigger on a deal in order to see how his award winning goaltender would rebound from a disappointing season and the surgery. Thomas is rewarding his bosses with outstanding play and keeping him in the fold just may be one of the best trades Chiarelli never made.
Topics: Alexander Ovechkin, Andy Moog, Billy Smith, Boston, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Czech Republic, David Krejci, Edmonton Oilers, Glenn "Chico" Resch, Grant Fuhr, Michael Neuvirth, New York Islanders, NHL, Peter Chiarelli, Phoenix Coyotes, Prague, Simeon Varlamov, Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, University Of Vermont, Vezina Trophy, Washington Capitals