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.

Sunday, Jan. 22: Jimmy Vesey's rookie wall

Sunday, Jan. 22: Jimmy Vesey's rookie wall

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter for taking part in the Women’s March on Saturday.

*The day-to-day NHL grind may be getting to Jimmy Vesey a bit, and causing him to hit a bit of a rookie wall after his Harvard career.

*Alex Radulov has gone from being an NHL headache to being an impact playmaker for the Canadiens in a quick pivot for the Russian player.

*Melrose native Conor Sheary seems to have found a home for himself on the Pittsburgh Penguins skating on a line with a guy named Sidney Crosby.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are always looking to improve, and they’ve reportedly kicked the tires on Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar with Detroit.

*St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is nearing another coaching milestone in what’s been a long, distinguished career behind the bench.

*P.K. Subban is slowly approaching a return to the Nashville Predators lineup from injury, and the Preds need him as soon as possible.

*For something completely different: Greg Poppovich hits the nail on the head here, and it never ceases to amaze me that he’s such a smart, well-versed human being.


Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Saturday, Jan. 21: McKenzie on Julien's job security

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter participating in today’s Women’s March.

*This is from a few days ago, but Bob McKenzie weighing in on the prospects for Claude Julien and his job security is always worth checking out.  

*The New York Rangers have themselves a rookie named Pavel that’s doing a pretty darned good job for the Blueshirts.

*What should the St. Louis Blues do with Kevin Shattenkirk as the trade deadline approaches and the seven-year, $49 million contract waiting for him in free agency is pretty daunting?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Allen has a list of underperforming NHL stars, including Jamie Benn and Jonathan Toews, that may have been impacted by the World Cup of Hockey. Certainly Patrice Bergeron could have made this list as well.

*Blackhawks backup goalie Scott Darling may be earning some more playing time after the way he performed against the Bruins, according to Pro Hockey Talk.

*Good news with Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson set to return to the team in a couple of weeks after tending to his wife in a battle against cancer.

*The struggles of Anthony Duclair with the Arizona Coyotes mirror the team’s issues this season as well. It’s interesting that Duclair has popped up in trade rumors with the Desert Dogs this season.

*For something completely different: the final Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman is going to be extremely emotional with its characters.