By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Those looking for a frame-by-frame repeat of last seasons Herculean efforts by Tim Thomas again this season might end up a little disappointed.
Thomas rewrote the record books and defied conventional wisdom in the modern NHL with one of the best goaltending seasons in the history of the league. Thomas also became the first big name goaltender to truly carry his team to Stanley Cup immortality in the last decade and in doing so began to etch his name into the pantheon of all-time great puck-stoppers through the years.
When people look back and talk about the 2010-11 season, they will reference it as the Year of Tim Thomas. No questions and no doubt about any of that.
The two-time Vezina Trophy winner has already vowed his goal is to capture the Vezina, Stanley Cup and Conn Smyth again this year with his Bruins squad. Its not impossible, but that will be some kind of feat for the Black and Gold goaltender.
While its clearly a positive that Thomas is coming off a healthy offseason filled with normal workouts, the seasoned goaltender also played a combined 82 games (regular season and playoffs) last year en route to a Cup victory. Thats a significant body of work and the most games Thomas has played in during an NHL season, and there could be a future physical price to pay.
Thomas admitted the playoff grind was more mental and emotional than physical when it came time for offseason recovery, but it remains to be seen if the long playoff journey has any fatigue effect on the Bs goaltender this season.
If anything, Im in better all-around condition than last year. At this point I dont feel the 82 games from last season, anyway, said Thomas, who nonetheless knew the exact number of games played off the top of his head. Physically I dont feel too bad. Mentally and emotionally you give so much energy that those are the harder parts to deal with.
Youre in battle mode for two months straight because thats what the playoffs are. Plus the whole season youre kind of in that mode, but it gets stepped up in the playoffs. To have it suddenly be over that was harder than the physical things . . . for me anyway.
The 82 games is no small workload and Bruins coach Claude Julien said the team will tailor playing time adjustments for Thomas and Tuukka Rask with a proper amount of rest in mind.
In other words, expect Rask to come back fully from last summers left knee meniscus surgery and expect the Finnish goalie to play significantly more than the 29 games he appeared in during a star-crossed sophomore season.
I think its pretty obvious that Tuukka has to take a bit of a bigger bite this year. Thats not a secret and dont plan on making that a secret, said Julien. Tim is a great goaltender, but Tim is a goaltender that understands that he cant play 70-plus games in the regular season. Hes had a long playoffs and I think Tim is going to be just as happy as we are to have Tuukka here and paying some of his best hockey.
I liked Rasks practice today, I thought Tuukka looked sharp and he came in great shape, so hopefully hes ready to take on that load. Well certainly make sure that we share the goaltending workload. You just want to make sure you keep your goaltenders as sharp as you can and Tim had such an outstanding year last year. Wed love to see him duplicate it, but he might be able to duplicate with some help from Tuukka by keeping him as fresh as we can.
Its got to be tempting to simply keep calling Thomas number after he set the NHL goaltender world afire by recording a .938 save percentage during the regular season, and then elevated to a .940 save percentage and a 1.98 goals against average in 25 Cup playoff games.
But it was only one year ago when everyone around the Bruins team expected Rask to be the workhorse coming out of training camp, and the 24-year-old stands ready to claim more ice time this season.
Im always ready for that. Youve just got to go day-by-day and game-by-game, but well see what happens, said Rask. Its a new season and weve all got to work even harder to prove things.
Julien is normally tight-lipped about his goaltending rotation through any given season, but its pretty telling that hes already letting everybody know the inside scoop on his plan this year. The Bruins proudly proclaimed they were choosing between a pair of No. 1 goaltenders last season, and this year theyll be living it.