Bruins Can’t Risk Rask Over Thomas

If one were to look at the NHL and the Boston Bruins this season, having never watched a single game, knowing and seeing only the statistics, they would ask why Tim Thomas is still considered the starter over Tuukka Rask. They may also ask  how a 12-year-old Finish girl makes it in the NHL, but then upon closer review, would be forced to retract that line of questioning and realize that though still young in his own right, Rask is a 22-year-old man. I use the term man loosely however, not just because I was one of the observers who made the mistake mentioned above, but because 22 represents inexperience, especially at the helm of Nation Hockey League team, and represents immaturity, however mature your skills as a goaltender may be. As a backup starter to Tim Thomas this year, in his rookie season as a full timer, he is dwarfing the numbers put up by last years Vezina Trophy winner. Rask has 10 wins in 18 starts where Thomas has only 13 wins in 33 starts, however he maintains an above average goals against and save percentage. Rask trumps these above average numbers however, yet again, by ranking 3rd in the NHL with a 2.19 GAA and a .924 SV%. For those fair weather hockey fans throughout New England, concerned more about their Patriots and Red Sox and Celtics, do not be fooled by simple statistics. Statistics are the wool the NHL uses to pull over the eyes of the less in tuned to the ways of the ice, the throw of a punch, and the intricacy of a stick check or a penalty kill. The NHL picks and chooses who its poster children will be and yes I said children to form a cliché as well as a pun, criticizing not the skill of Crosby and Ovechkin, so heavily in the spot light, but their leadership capabilities and maturity levels.

Tuukka Rask will not be ready as a starter in the NHL until mid-way through next season, and even then it should not be enough and will not be enough to overthrow Thomas. If Tim can keep up his compete level and continue to stand on his head while the defense in front of him falls to injuries and blown expectations, they will all but be compelled to nurse from the breast feedings of leadership and intensity he provides whenever he is asked to play. Rask, however, is special. He will be better than Raycroft “was” and he is better than Hannu Toivonen and John Grahame ever were. I believe Rask will stay in Boston to begin what should be a long career, and I believe this will happen at the beginning of the 2011/12 season, after some carefully thought out “platooning” and goaltending by committee. Even Thomas “platooned” for a while, up and down between Boston and Providence from the 02/03 season to the 05/06 season. Once he was ready however, though older than your average rookie goaltender, he became the first great goalie the Bruins had seen since they parted ways with Byron Dafoe in 01/02. Raycroft had a great 03/04 season, don’t get me wrong, and won the Calder Trophy that year, for rookie of the year, but he wasn’t a great goalie, and he did not last within this organization. On June 24th, 2006, Andrew Raycroft was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for unproven rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask. This is not coincidence. It is simply a testament to new way of thinking, and avoidance of the current Bruins organization to repeat the mistakes of their past. Thomas beat out Manny Fernandez last year, and he beat out, if there was a question, Alex Auld the year before. Even in the face of adversity, even with the statistics making a valid but loaded case for themselves, do not doubt Tim Thomas as the leader of this team. Tuukka Rask will have to wait out the storm and bide his time, because ladies and gentlemen the Bruins are struggling to stay above water, and assigning or assuming Rask as the starter or anything but the backup, is throwing him off the ship without a life preserver.

Facts:

*Jaroslav Halak, back up for the Montreal Canadiens for the last three seasons, two of which were spent behind Carey Price, recently made his case, on a team struggling this year equivalently to the Bruins, to jump from back up to declared starter. Struggles breed hasty and at most times wrong decisions. Look for Montreal to struggle even worse, for the remainder of this season.

*Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin Gerber, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Chris Osgood, Marc Andre Fleury; Last five goalies ridden by their teams into Stanley Cup victories, Osgood doing so after earning and keeping the right to start every game in the playoffs after Dominik Hasek lost 2 out of the first 4 in the 2007-08 season, proving that goaltending by committee does not win you a Stanley Cup, especially in the new look NHL, where winning and losing streaks define a team’s season.

“On Janurary 1st, 2010, Tim Thomas was named a starter on the U.S Winter Olympic Hockey Team. Tim Thomas is 35 years old.

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