WILMINGTON, Mass. — With a healthy Tim Thomas playing like his Vezina-winning self from two years ago and Tuukka Rask coming off a spectacular rookie season, the Bruins find themselves with a bit of a dilemma.
But as far as Bruins coach Claude Julien is concerned, having to make a tough choice on whom to start in goal each game is anything but a problem.
"All I can say is that it seems to be a problem and continues to be a problem for everybody but us," said Julien after practice at Ristuccia Arena on Monday. "As I mentioned before, it's an asset. It's a great situation to be in. You've got two good goaltenders and with three games this week there's a real good possibility you'll see both of them. That's where I'll leave it."
Thomas is off to a 2-0-0 start with a 0.50 GAA and a .980 save percentage, having stopped 60 of the 61 shots he's faced while starting the last two games. Rask allowed four goals in his only appearance in the season opener, but is coming off a season in which he unseated Thomas as Boston's starter and finished first in the league with a 1.97 GAA and a .931 save percentage.
The Bruins will need both to perform this season, starting this week as Boston faces powerhouse Washington in a home-and-home series before welcoming the Rangers to the Garden on Saturday.
And if there were any fears that a budding goaltending controversy could disrupt the Bruins' locker room chemistry, Thomas and Rask have made it clear there's no tension in their relationship as they compete for playing time.
When asked about the similarities between the two men, Thomas immediately answered, "We're both good looking."
"I like that," added Rask from one stall over in the Bruins' dressing room.
"We're both fairly relaxed for goaltenders," continued Thomas. "Off the ice, we're pretty easygoing. [With] me having played in Finland, there's enough in common that we can talk about Finland sometimes. But he's well-educated enough on America that we can talk about America, too. There's an age difference and a body composition difference, but other than that there's a lot we have in common."
One of the main things they share is the ability to not let success go to their heads. That includes Thomas' fast start this season.
"You can pat yourself on the back for what's been accomplished so far, but you've got to go right back to work," said Thomas, who knows he isn't likely to keep his GAA and save percentage at their current microscopic levels.
"Those kind of stats are going to be tough to keep now matter what," said Thomas. "It's not about stats. It's about getting wins."
Thomas credits much of his improvement to being healthy again after undergoing offseason hip surgery to repair a torn labrum that plagued him much of last year. It was a serious procedure to undergo, but Thomas felt he had no real choice about having the surgery.
"It was so bad that [I had to do it]," said Thomas. "And they were pretty positive right from the start. [The doctors] had a very positive outlook. It's not an easy recovery. It's a four-month recovery, but they were confident it would go well and I would be better than ever."
So far this season, Thomas has been better than ever, and Julien will gladly take the tough decisions that come from having two goalies capable of being No. 1 netminders.
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