Bruins Hope No Thomas, No Problem
Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe, Stanley Cup, same season. That’s what Tim Thomas did in 2011 and that’s who the Bruins will be without in 2013. In case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s Tuukka time in Boston as Tim Thomas will sit out the 2013 season to focus on “friends, family, and faith” as his June 3rd Facebook page announced to the world.
Many questions will be asked on whether or not the Bruins can be successful in this shortened season without the masked man who led them to the Stanley Cup in 2011. The Bruins and their fans hope they will be just fine without their All-Star netminder and as Jack Edwards would say in reference to starting goalie Tuukka Rask, “two U’s and two K’s, equals two points.”
There is no denying that Tuukka Rask has plenty of talent as he has been highly praised since his days playing in Providence. Revered as one of the best back-up goaltenders in the NHL, Rask has been looked at as the future of Boston netminding for several years now. He and Thomas have been a dynamic duo unmatched in the NHL, providing superior goaltending and instilling confidence in the players in front of them. Rask’s traditional butterfly goaltending style is the exact opposite of Tim Thomas’ shoot the puck and I’ll find a way to stop it mentality. Tuukka may look better in net, have better puck handling skills, have a bigger net presence, but the big question is can he win hockey games like The Tank could?
The other question mark heading into the 2013 season lies with Tuukka’s backup Anton Khudobin. The Russian-born goaltender has only appeared in a total of seven NHL games since being drafted in 2004 by the Minnesota Wild. With every game being magnified even more this year, Khudobin is going to need to prove himself and win games when called upon. Neither of these two goalies can afford to have a stretch of bad games. There is no time to try and get comfortable and “find yourself.” The teams who start off quick and put together a winning streak should be the most successful this year. Then again, we saw what the L.A. Kings did last year and that getting hot at the right time is the key to success in the NHL.
It will be interesting to see how much the Bruins use Khudobin and when they will rest Tuukka. If Tuukka has the hot hand but has played fifteen games in a row, will Claude Julien rest him or try to win as many games as possible? If it was up to me, I’d ride Rask like a zamboni and use him every game. However, the realist in me says that Rask will start approximately 38 games with Khudobin appearing in ten, barring any injuries.
Goalie injuries are the one thing the Bruins cannot afford this season. For years, the Bruins have had a security blanket other teams only dreamed of. In past years, if something were to happen to starting goalie Tim Thomas, the Bruins had Rask waiting in the wings, more than capable of being an everyday starting goalie in the NHL. We had such an excess amount of talent at the goalie position that trade rumors swirled around Rask every year near the deadline. The fact is that there are only a handful of NHL teams with two legitimate starting goaltenders like the Bruins have had. Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo in Vancouver, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliot in St. Louis, and Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron in New York. If something were to happen to Rask this year, the Bruins season would suddenly rely heavily upon Anton Khudobin. Let’s hope this is the last time we reference goalie injuries this season.
Like a lot of Bruins players, Anton Khudobin and Tuukka Rask played overseas during the lockout. Not only did they stay sharp and remain in game shape, but Tuukka posted a teriffic 1.85 goals against average and .936 save percentage for the Plzen in the Czech Extraliga. This should pay dividends and help the Bruins get off to a very important strong start this season, which begins at home against the New York Rangers on January 19.
The Bruins cannot afford to start 3-7 like they did last year, especially with two of their first three games against the Stanley Cup caliber Rangers. Perhaps even more importantly, the Bruins hope their goaltenders start off strong and confident and they don’t have to worry about Tim Thomas sitting out this season. Fans can only hope that No Thomas equals No Problem this year and they can win a Stanley Cup without the two time Vezina winning goalie. Only time will tell to see how they fare, let’s just hope its Tuukka’s time.