BOSTON (CBS) – This is the first in a three-part series grading the Bruins at the All-Star Break.
The Boston Bruins’ party line almost since Tuukka Rask graduated from the AHL to the NHL on a full-time basis in the 2009-10 season has been that they enjoy a goaltending tandem featuring a No. 1 and a No. 1A.
But not before this season was that claim 100-percent true. Now it is, with the leader in the clubhouse to be the No. 1 in that scenario seemingly changing from one week to the next.
As the All-Star break approached, Rask was clearly playing better than Tim Thomas (the latter’s off-ice trials and tribulations aside). However, both were among the league leaders in the major goaltending statistical categories and there was no reason to believe that a determination on a starter for the playoffs would be made before April.
While a few challengers might’ve emerged around the league as this season unfolded, the Bruins still lay claim to the best goaltending tandem in the NHL in terms of performance and intangibles. Here are my mid-term grades for Boston’s netminders:
Up until the last week before the All-Star break, Rask was leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. He’s still sharing the save percentage lead with St. Louis’ Brian Elliott with a remarkable .938 and his 1.82 GAA is Vezina Trophy-worthy as well. Most important, the Bruins started playing better in front of Rask this season after a disappointing sophomore season. Rask went 11-2-2 after a 0-3-0 start to the season.
No one was expecting Thomas to match his record-breaking production of a season ago. Still, if a 38-year-old goaltender on a winning team can finish with a .933 save percentage and 2.12 GAA, it’s hard to keep that guy from repeating as the Vezina winner. Of course, playing time could become more difficult for Thomas to come by in the post-break portion of the season because of Rask’s emergence.
Thomas enjoyed a 10-game winning streak at one point this season. But he allowed 18 goals over his final four starts before heading to Ottawa to join the All-Stars. I almost dropped him one more grade because of the White House incident – not because of politics but because of the possibility he wrecked a little of Boston’s vaunted team chemistry. We won’t know the results of that, however, until the rest of this season unfolds.
Coming Thursday: The Defensemen