Reaching Their Goal: Thomas-Rask duo may be best ever


Reaching Their Goal: Thomas-Rask duo may be best ever

GLENDALE, Ariz. All the ingredients are there: The layered and disciplined overall defensive concept. The selfless individuals who are dedicated to team defense. And two goalies with elite skills.
It can be no surprise, therefore, that -- with all those factors in place -- the Bruins have the best goaltending tandem in the National Hockey League.
Now . . . and maybe ever.
Rarely do you see two goaltending partners near the top of the statistical categories, but Tuukka Rask (.945) and Tim Thomas (.943) sit at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in save percentage in the NHL, and are Nos. 1 (Rask, 1.61) and 3 (Thomas, 1.84) in goals-against average. It goes without saying, naturally, that the Bruins are leading the NHL in goals-against average (1.81), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (6).
"You havent seen many goalie tandems that have those kinds of numbers," said coach Claude Julien.
Actually, you havent seen any goalie tandems have those kind of numbers until Thomas and Rask.
Ive never been a part of anything like this," said forward Chris Kelly, who joined the B's from Ottawa at last year's trade deadline. "You know whoever plays . . . is going to be outstanding. Its huge for us.
Kelly noticed the difference as soon as he changed sweaters.
"Even when I got here in practice, it was a lot different than where I came from," he said. "These guys dont want to get scored on even in practice when its a second rebound or something like that.
No wonder, then, that the B's goalies seem to lead the league in another category: Getting into opponents' heads.
Timmy seemed to win every time we played the Bruins," Kelly remembered of his days with the Senators. "Its nice to be on the other side. "
Nor is this a one-year phenomenon. The B's team save percentage of .930 last season was the best in the NHL in the last 10 years, and it's even better this season. This year's team GAA is also well ahead of the 2.02 totaled by both the New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur) and Philadelphia Flyers (Roman Cechmanek, Robert Esche) in 2002-03, which was the lowest of the last decade.
It is really a unique circumstance to have two goalies on the same team that are such good goalies, said Thomas. Its a luxury that probably nobody else has in the league has, and or has had in such a long time. Its a strong tandem.
Thomas is quick to say its the best goaltending duo hes been a part of in his 14-year pro hockey career, and that includes a partnership with Manny Fernandez that won a Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed in 2008-09. That was Thomas first Vezina Trophy-worthy season.
I enjoyed playing with Manny, so I dont want to say anything thats going to undercut that, said Thomas. But as far as being physically talented and at the peak of our games, this is the best goaltending tandem Ive been a part of, for sure.
Rask has been so good that hes allowed Thomas to enjoy 11 days off between his last pre-Christmas start, against the Montreal Canadiens, and his next appearance, which will come Saturday night against the Dallas Stars. That kind of holiday vacation will keep Thomas fresh for the stretch run and the playoffs, and hes the rare goalie who seems to never gather rust coming off such a long layoff.
The Bruins planned all along to rest Thomas -- who played in 82 games during the regular season and playoffs last year - more often his season. Rask has made it possible with the level of play hes reaching. In fact, this is the first time both goalies have performed at their peak individual levels and demonstrated just how good they can be together.
Two years ago Thomas was hampered by hip issues and slightly off his game while Rask led the NHL in save percentage and goals against average. Last season Thomas had set the NHL mark for save percentage and reclaimed his throne as the best goaltender in the world, while Rask struggled to gain comfort with life as a baseball-hat-wearing backup.
This year? They're both at their peaks, and -- because of that -- so are the Bruins.
Never was that more apparent than in early December, when titanic defenseman Zdeno Chara missed two games because of a knee injury, Thomas and Rask stopped 88 out of 90 shots faced and kept the Bs afloat without their most irreplaceable skater.
Thomas and Rask give the Bruins exactly what theyll need when they play 25 of their final 41 games on the road. Theyre the biggest reason the Bruins have achieved the kind of insane consistency thats allowed them to cobble together a 21-2-1 record since Nov. 1.
They'll have to keep it up for another six months and then it will be a matter for NHL historians to debate. But Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are making a strong statement that they're a goaltending force the league has never before seen.

Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team


Thursday, Oct. 27: Chara top D-man on All-Graybeard team

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while saying RIP Vine but not really feeling it since it’s a rabbit hole I never really delved down into. 

*Down Goes Brown celebrates the “NHL’s old guys”, and yes, that means a gratuitous shout out to Zdeno Chara as the top defenseman on the All-Graybeard squad. 

*Hampus Lindholm has signed a long term deal with the Anaheim Ducks, so now that deal leaves everybody to wonder who is leaving the Anaheim roster in the eventual salary cap crunch. It will be interesting to see if this hastens any Cam Fowler trade talk as far as the Bruins are concerned because it looks like they need the help.  

*Pro Hockey Talk has the Oilers off to their best start since the Wayne Gretzky Era and people in Edmonton finally getting to see the hockey they’ve been waiting for over the past few years. 

*In honor of the Halloween season that we’re in, here are a few cool and scary goalie masks with a bit of spooky flair. 

*Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is confident that his young team is going to rebound after a rough start to the season. 

*Speaking of creative uniforms, it’s a most wonderful time of the year for hockey when they bust out their Oktoberfest sweaters. 

*For something completely different: this matchup of Peanuts and Stranger Things hits all the right notes for fans of both. 


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?


Goalie update: Tuukka Rask dealing with hamstring AND groin injury?

While the good news is that it doesn’t appear that Tuukka Rask is dealing with a knee injury, there are still some significant muscular issues to work with concerning his left leg. 

According to former Bruins defenseman and NHL analyst Aaron Ward on CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast, the Bruins franchise goaltender has been dealing with a hamstring issue that’s also become a hamstring and groin issue as he tried to play through in the first week of the season. Rask clearly tweaked something in his left leg opening night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, missed the Saturday night loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and then appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils. 

According to Ward, it’s hamstring and groin issues for Rask as the Bruins attempt to survive without him while potentially working toward a possible return for the Finnish netminder this weekend vs. the Red Wings. Rask hasn’t skated with the Bruins since finishing out the 2-1 win over the Devils last Thursday night, and tweaking the problematic left leg in the process. 

“What I was told is that it was left leg, and that at first it was hamstring and now it’s possibly hamstring and groin,” said Ward to CSN Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty on the Great American Hockey Show podcast. “You’re always concerned when you’re a goalie and it’s your legs, right? It’s the push-off. The crazy part was watching it on video where the shoot came from the left side and went wide, and the next time he injures it shot comes from the same spot, misses it wide and [Rask] is in the exact same position wincing.

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“I think [the Bruins] are smart rather than trying to play a guy that’s 90, 80 or 70 percent, whatever it is, to just get it over with. Endure the short term pain to get the greater gain, and that’s having Rask in there. There’s no greater endorsement to keep him out than seeing the [bad losses without him] because you need a healthy Tuukka to let the rest of the team settle.”

It’s been disastrous without Rask, of course, as the Bruins have allowed 11 goals in back-to-back losses to the Wild and Rangers with rookies Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre between the pipes, and Anton Khudobin out for three weeks while sporting a cast on his right hand in the last B’s game at TD Garden. 

Meanwhile, Rask (3-0-0, 1.67 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage) is trying to heal and time it perfectly so he returns once he’s past the danger of potentially blowing out the muscles in his left leg and making the situation even worse than it already might be. 

Ward also discusses his relationship with "Toucher & Rich" and the "Cuts for a Cause" charitable event that he helped start.