For a 36-year-old Tim Thomas, losing a starting job is never an enjoyable experience. Being partners with a kid like Tuukka Rask, however, helped ease the pain and frustration of not playing as well.
On Tuesday, as the Bruins packed up their things for the final time this season, Thomas said he was glad to be around for the maturation of the rising star this season. He stressed that Rask didn't need much help as he made a name for himself with a brilliant stretch run and solid playoff campaign.
"I've been fortunate over the course of my career to play with many great guys as far as goaltenders go, and Tuukka ranks right up there with the best of them," Thomas said of his young partner, who went from being his understudy to taking over the No. 1 job. "He's a good person. We've been good friends throughout this whole thing and we never let that drive a wedge between us as far as our relationship."
In terms of offering leadership advice, Thomas said less was more.
"I think if anything, I helped him more by staying out of his way and not being a distraction," Thomas said. "There wasn't anything specific that I had to talk to him about."
If, at any point in the season, Rask suffered an injury or faltered, Thomas was ready to go, and he believes that he could have helped the Bruins if he had been called upon.
"I'd been actually working hard over the last couple of months to put myself in a position [where] if I were called upon, I would've been ready and could've helped the team," he said. "I think I got to that point and I was preparing myself as much as possible mentally in case I got that chance. So I wouldn't have if I didn't think there would be a chance I was called upon."