Boston Bruins

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.

Czarnik trying not to be 'the forgotten man' in Bruins camp


Czarnik trying not to be 'the forgotten man' in Bruins camp

BOSTON – With all of the talk about young forward prospects Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk, it would seem that Austin Czarnik wants to serve a reminder that he can play a little hockey too.

For the second year in a row, the 24-year-old diminutive forward is putting together a strong start to his training camp with a multi-point performance in a 4-2 exhibition victory over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Czarnik finished with a penalty-shot goal, two points and tied for the team-lead with four shots on net while playing with the energy, skating aggressiveness and in-your-face attitude that he’s going to need for NHL success. He also made his point that there are more than just a couple of young forwards in camp who can potentially help in Boston this winter.

“He was very good. I think the forgotten man, maybe, he was thinking [a bit] because we’ve talked about a lot of young guys. He’s still a young guy, and wants to make his mark and push for a job on the team,” coach Bruce Cassidy said of Czarnik, who posted five goals and 13 points in 49 games for the Bruins last season. “I thought he looked real good tonight. He won a lot of pucks. He’s always going to make plays in space, that’s his game. He won a lot of pucks and did a lot of little things well.”

It was Czarnik who really helped put the game away in the second period when he sped past a pair of defenders and forced them into hauling him down for a penalty shot with the B’s already up, 2-0. Czarnik patiently slowed his penalty-shot attempt before ripping one past Petr Mrazek’s glove hand in what ended up being the game-winning goal. Czarnik was in the middle of things again in the third on the insurance marker as he engineered a 3-on-1 rush before expertly feeding to Teddy Purcell for the sizzled one-timer.

Czarnik was downplaying the idea that he’s been overlooked in camp but show there was a strong need to remind the B’s organization how he can potentially help them as a fast, aggressive, pesky little center that can also make some plays.

“I’m not going to worry about [getting overlooked]. It’s part of life, you know it’s happened a lot? I’m not going to worry about that,” said Czarnik, who similarly won a job with the Bruins after a strong initial training camp last season. I’m just going to worry about myself and just try to do the right thing every single time and show them what I can do.

“I need to be an energy guy. There’s a lot of young talent now, you know, on the power play and everything now, so I need to try to create energy on the penalty kill and the fore-check. So that’s what my main focus is going to be.”

The energy really is the key to Czarnik’s long-term hopes with the Bruins and, consequently, the rest of the NHL. If he can play with the same skating legs, high energy and rapid pace that he’s consistently shown in preseasons, then there’s no reason to think he can’t help the Bruins. But there were far too many lulls in Czarnik’s rookie NHL season where the skating game wasn’t good enough, there wasn’t enough bite to his fore-check and there just weren’t enough plays being made on the ice.

Clearly, Czarnik is trying to change that impression in this camp with the B’s, but that could prove to be a much more difficult task with so many more quality forwards now battling for a few jobs on the roster in Boston. 


Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise


Morning Skate: Sorry, Shaughnessy but young B's are on the rise

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating that Brad Marchand is willing to say something is “an absolute joke.” There are not enough candid players in the NHL like good, ol' No. 63.

*So FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dan Shaughnessy writes that the Bruins are “a lowly number four nowadays” in the power rankings of the big four Boston sports teams. Certainly, Danny is technically correct in saying that the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics are ahead of the Bruins in terms of the Boston pro sports zeitgeist and that they dominate the sports conversation.

But Shaughnessy points to the Bruins doing nothing to improve themselves last summer as some kind of reason behind their low position among the other Boston sports franchises, and that’s not really a factor. The problem right now is that the Bruins are extremely young and still a couple of years away from returning to true Stanley Cup contention as a result. 
Once Charlie McAvoy is a few years into his career, some of the other Bruins prospects are in the NHL for good and Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask are still at the back end of their prime, the Bruins will once again be a Cup contender that’s pushing their way back into the championship conversation that commands the attention of the Boston fan.

Would Shaughnessy have been more satisfied with the Bruins if they spent bad money on a big free-agent contract as they did with Matt Beleskey and David Backes in back-to-back years, or if they traded premium prospect Brandon Carlo for hired gun Matt Duchene? That would be the kind of “big splash” move that a bad management group would make to appease the casual fans that don’t truly understand what the B’s are going with their draft-and-development plan.

This Bruins outfit is still a playoff team while they’re building back to that Cup-worthy level. They were playing a much more exciting, entertaining brand of hockey once Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien last winter. This isn’t a lowly team unworthy of the fans’ attention, or more importantly their sports dollar. This is much more about the all-time greatness of the New England Patriots, the deserved excitement for a Celtics team that is truly going for it after being in the Bruins current “building it back up” phase for the past few years and a playoff-level Red Sox team that really has no competition in the summertime.

This isn’t about what the Bruins aren’t doing right now. This is about what the Patriots and Celtics, and to a lesser degree the Red Sox, are doing right now. It's as simple as that in a local sports landscape that’s cyclical and constantly in motion.  

*What a great Facetime hit here from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ray Ferraro with Jay and Dan now that they’re thankfully back to their rightful home in Canada. The technical difficulties really make the whole thing come together.  

*Congrats to Jonathan Drouin for making a commitment to the city of Montreal that goes well beyond being a player for the Canadiens.

*Lots of prayers and well-wishes to Hingham, Mass., native and New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle after his stunning cancer diagnosis. Anybody that knows the Boyle family knows how courageous they are, and how much love and support that Brian will have at a time when he’s going to need every bit of it. I also included a link to a New York Post Q&A with Boyle where he talks a bit about his father’s miraculous battle with cancer as well.   

 *John Chayka is trying to bring with him a new chapter to the history of the Arizona Coyotes, but it’s seemingly always an uphill battle there.

*Nobody should have any problems with the contract extension handed out to Mikko Koivu by the Minnesota Wild.

*For something completely different: Are we seriously living in a world where the Juggalos are marching for their rights?