Team USA: Miller Not Thomas Inspiring Hope

Thomas falling well below expectations for Team USA

Last night’s  Sabres-Bruins tilt told you all you need to know about Team USA’s goalie situation.
Tim Thomas started the season with a great shot to be the starting goaltender for Team USA and through mid-November was neck and neck with Ryan Miller. But Thomas, like most of his Bruins teammates, stumbled through the season as Ryan Miller lit up the league over in Buffalo and Ron Wilson’s decision quickly went from cloudy to slap you in the face obvious. Thomas, once again in his career, was getting snubbed. But for the first time he failed to respond.

Enter Tuukka Rask, the Bruins rookie netminder. Rask was completely snubbed from Team Finland. He’s not even third string. But unlike Thomas, Rask is playing like he has something to prove. He is playing like he should be Boston’s #1 and playing like he wants to start in the Olympics.

In a crucial match-up Tuesday night against the Sabres coach Claude Julien turned to Rask, not Thomas, to go up against Ryan Miller. Rask responded with a career high 43 saves, out dueling Team USA’s goalie and sending Boston to their second win in a row as Thomas watched from the bench. At a critical point in the season, when Boston desperately needed to reverse their fortunes, Tuukka Rask was between the pipes.

Thomas has been pulled in two of his last five starts in favor of Rask and posted a sub .900 save percentage in three of those last five starts, hardly numbers indicative of a former Vezina winner or a goaltender whom Team USA should rest their gold medal hopes.

Miller has struggled lately as well, losing four in a row and perhaps starting to show some fatigue from starting 50+ games. However more often than not Miller has made the big saves when his team needed him the most and has a habit of stealing victories his team has no right winning.

Team USA's gold medal hopes will have the spotlight on Ryan Miller

Those types of performances have been few and far between for Tim Thomas. He had a spectacular showing against San Jose on January 14th, making 41 saves in a shootout victory for Boston. Ten days later he would let up four goals on 15 shots to the lowly Carolina Hurricanes.

Thomas has a habit of letting in soft goals this season. Not once or twice, but consistently. He has let in critical goals at times when he team needed him to make the big save, but Thomas just keeps coming up empty.

Rask’s resume is small and perhaps reminiscent of infamous Bruins goaltender Andrew Raycroft. Perhaps Rask is just having beginner’s luck and would not be able to handle the full time starter’s role. But Rask has been there when his team has needed him. Thomas, on the other hand, has shown a five hole so wide Zdeno Chara could slide through it.

And it is for that very reason that when Team USA begins play and needs a big time goalie in a big time moment Ryan Miller will get the call. Tim Thomas has fought for respect his whole career, but has laid down in the face of adversity this season. He will simply be a spectator as Ryan Miller and his timely saves give Team USA their best shot at gold.

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