After all, Tim Thomas was coming off playing every minute of the club's 25-game postseason run to the Cup and at 37, those old bones would need a few extra days of rest over the course of the 82-game grind of the regular season. Tuukka Rask, meanwhile, deserved some extra work to get back into the rhythm he showed when he unseated Thomas as the club's starter two years ago.
But through eight games, there's been little change to distribution of playing time in goal. Thomas has gotten the call six times so far, while Rask has been tabbed to start just twice. In a conference call with reporters Tuesday night, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli admitted he's been a bit surprised himself that Rask hasn't gotten more opportunities so far.
"You're right, we did say that," Chiarelli said when asked about the team's preseason plan to better balance the netminders' workload. "There's kind of a sense-feel way of addressing the goalies too and in fairness to Tuukka, he probably should have got another start here or there. But you see Tim and how he's playing and you want him to recapture some of the stuff that he had from last year. So I'd have to defer that one to Claude [Julien]."
Chiarelli was careful not to second guess his coach. And it is easy to understand how Julien could get caught up in looking to Thomas more and more as the Bruins try to snap out of their early-season funk.
Thomas hasn't quite matched his record-setting numbers of last season, but he hasn't been far off with a 2.15 GAA and a .926 save percentage while posting a 3-3-0 record. Rask has been solid as well with a 2.52 GAA and a .915 save percentage, but is 0-2-0 on the season.
Much like last year, Rask has been victimized by a lack of support. The Bruins have scored just one goal in the two games he's started. He kept them in a 1-0 loss to Colorado with 35 saves, and gave Boston a chance to win against Carolina before a Bruins meltdown led to a parade to the penalty box and two 5-on-3 goals padded the Hurricanes lead to 4-1.
Finding a way to get Rask back into the mix won't be easy with the Bruins next facing archrival Montreal in a key home-and-home series after this week's four-day break between games. Does Julien start Rask on Thursday at the Garden and keep Thomas idle for a full week before Saturday's game at the Bell Centre? Or does he throw Rask back into the fire at Montreal on Saturday after he hasn't played since last Tuesday?
It's a difficult dilemma for Julien, though he won't find much sympathy from his coaching counterparts. Few of them have two quality netminders like Thomas and Rask to choose from on a nightly basis. And despite Thomas getting the bulk of the work early on, Chiarelli is confident that by the end of the season the Bruins will have achieved the balance in goal they sought entering the year.
"We've had discussions on the goaltender situation," Chiarelli said. "I think you'll see in the end, I think you'll see it go into line with what we originally put out there."
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