Goalies and Boston – A Love / Hate Story


February 5, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Bruins goalie

Tim Thomas

(30) stands on the ice against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t heard the news already, Tim Thomas was traded to the New York Islanders for a conditional 2nd round draft pick (2014 or 15).

When I first heard of the trade I was a little shocked it was the Islanders he was going to, I was for certain he’d be going to the Colorado Avalanche for J.S Giguere or even a draft pick from them, but no; Thomas went to Long Island. The trade did however bring back a rush of goalie related memories from my time as a young bruins fan in the early 2000’s. Jeff Hackett, Steve Shields, Byron Dafoe , John Grahame, Andrew Raycroft, and Felix Potvin are some of the more “memorable” names of the goalies who have come through Boston.

The Boston Bruins have had goaltending issues as far back as the Andy Moog to Dallas trade in 1993. The Bruins acquired Jon Casey, the goalie who Mario scored probably one of, if not, the most famous goal of his career on. Casey didn’t do bad in Boston in the regular season, he posted 30-15-9 with a 2.88 GAA and .881 SV%. The playoffs however would be a different story, he would only play 11 games in the playoffs going 5-6-0 while his back up Vincent Riendeau played 2 games going 1-1. The Bruins beat the Canadiens in 7 but lost to Jersey in 6 in the Semi-Finals. That Semi-Finals loss would be the last semi-finals the Bruins would play in for 5 years.

Following Jon Casey’s signing with St. Louis in 1994, The Bruins fell back on the undrafted Blaine Lacher (known better as Let Em’ In Lacher.). Lacher posted 19-11-2 in his rookie campaign in the shortened 94-95 season. The Bruins were eliminated in 5 games by the New Jersey Devils. Lacher was given the starting job the following season however the playoff loss from the previous season hit Lacher hard and he would never play as well as he did again.

The 1995-96 season saw the Bruins rotate between 5 different goalies. Lacher , Robbie Tallas, Craig Billington, Scott Bailey (who Pavel Bure scored his famous short handed breakaway goal on) and previous Bruin and former Oiler Bill Randford. Randford would become the main goalie of the 95-96 season going 21-12-4. The playoffs again would fall short, as Randford could not reclaim his former Oiler glory. The Bruins were eliminated in 5 games by the eventual Stanley Cup Finalists the Florida Panthers.. and we all know what happened to them.

1996-97 would be one of the most disastrous years for Boston in terms of goaltending. Randford began his own Lacher-esque downward spiral and again the Bruins rotated goalies Tallas and Bailey once again played and the Bruins added Paxton Schafer , Tim Cheveldae, and Dorchester-native and Vezina winner Jim Carey. The Bruins would not make the playoffs and were slapped with the worst record in the league. Carey who was seen to give the Bruins hope in 96-97 never played the same as he did in Washington in 1995-96. Many saw it as him being lazy after winning the Vezina, others thought maybe the pressure, whatever the case may have been, the goaltending disaster in Boston after 1996-97 would usher in one of the most memorable faces for Bruins fans of the late 90s and early 2000s. No not Joe Thornton or Sergei Samsonov.. but a 1989 2nd round draft pick from Washington, Byron Dafoe.
Byron Dafoe single-handedly carried the Boston Bruins on his back for 1997-98 and 1998-99. His play was more than phenomenal in both seasons. The 1997-98 playoffs would be a little shakey for Byron as they the Bruins lost to the Capitals in 6 games, but they did put up one hell of a fight with two 2OT games. Byron would continue his success right into 1998-99, 32-23-11 a 1.99 GAA and a .926 SV% and also 10 shutouts. DaFoe would lead the Bruins into the playoffs as the 6th seed as they dumped the Canes in a memorable six game series, and it took the super human goal tending of Dominik Hasek to best Byron and the Bruins in the second round. When all looked hopeful for Boston after 1998-99 tragedy struck Byron Dafoe. After having his knee crushed by Donald Brashear he wouldn’t return to form for the remained of the 1999-2000 season. The Bruins failed to make the playoffs in 1999-2000 and Byron began an up hill climb in 2000-01, the Bruins finished just 1 point out of 8th place. But despite this, Byron was continuing to return to form and he would for the 2001-02 season. The Boston Bruins would win the Eastern Conference in the regular season and Byron looked hot as ever. However an 8th place Montreal team would do in Boston in 6 games being lead by José Théodore.

It was after that 2002 playoff exit that Boston would never be able to reclaim goaltending glory. Byron DaFoe was left to free agency and claimed by the Atlanta Trashers where he would never be able to re-capture his former glory. The Bruins would again be stuck rotating goaltenders, with faces that include Jeff Hackett (acquired in a three-way trade that sent Kyle McLaren to San Jose) , Steve Shields, John Grahame, and two Providence call ups in Andrew Raycroft.. and Tim Thomas.

Jeff Hackett and Shields were left to free agency and Grahame was traded to Tampa for a draft pick. This left the Bruins with Andrew Raycroft and Tim Thomas. Thomas was left for Providence and the Bruins signed former all-star and Leafs goaltender Felix Potvin. Raycroft would start the 2003-04 season with Potvin as the back up. Raycroft would go on to win the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year with a 29-18-9 record. Potvin would put up 12-8-6 during his time as back up. The Bruins went into the 2004 Playoffs with their hot rookie goaltender facing the 7th Seeded Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins chose  to put a rookie goaltender into the playoffs while they had the veteran playoff performer in Felix Potvin benched. However things did look good for the team, the Bruins went up 3-1 in the series after an overtime Game 4 win in Montreal. When the series came back to Boston however the Bruins dropped their lead and the Canadiens won 3 straight games to eliminate the Bruins. Potvin would go to free agency and retire, while Raycroft continued for the team through the 2005-06 season as the Bruins failed to make the playoffs. Raycroft was traded for Tuukka Rask and the rest.. is history.