Boston has been home to the NHL leader in both goals-against average and save percentage in each of the last three seasons, with Tim Thomas taking top honors in 2008-09 and 2010-11 and Tuukka Rask setting the standard in 2009-10.
But this year is the first time both goalies in the tandem have been at the top of their games at the same time, giving the Bruins arguably the top 1-2 punch in the league and the luxury to better balance the workload between the pair.
Our midseason report card turns its attention to that tandem, evaluating the club’s two netminders.
Thomas faced a mighty tall task trying to live up to expectations after his historic campaign from last year. After all, in 2010-11 he set a new record for save percentage, won his second Vezina Trophy in three years and took home the Conn Smythe while leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Thomas had been nearly as good for much of this season before stumbling in the last month.
Even with the team struggling in October, Thomas had a solid 2.14 GAA and .929 save percentage despite a 3-4-0 record. He was unbeatable in November (9-0-0, 1.76 GAA, .941 save percentage) and nearly as good in December (4-2-0, 1.97 GAA, .946 save percentage). But in January things have come apart a bit (4-3-0, 2.70 GAA, .914 save percentage). After not allowing more than three goals in any of his first 22 starts, he’s given up four or more in four of his last eight appearances. His overall numbers are still solid at 20-9-0 with his 2.12 GAA seventh in the league and his .933 save percentage fifth, but after stirring up an ongoing controversy with his boycott of the club’s White House visit on Monday this may not be the best time for Thomas to slump.
Midseason Grade: A-
Unlike Thomas, Rask had his limited struggles early and has been outstanding ever since. He was 0-3-0 with a 2.71 GAA and .906 save percentage in October, but followed with a 3-0-1, 1.92 GAA, .932 save percentage in November and an even better December (5-1-0, 0.75 GAA, .975 save percentage). He gave up a season-high four goals Tuesday against Washington in the final game before the break, but his January numbers were still strong (3-1-1, 2.33 GAA, .921 save percentage).
Just as Thomas was nearly perfect in November, Rask put together a stretch that was even more impressive, winning seven straight from Dec. 10 to Jan. 16, including a span of three shutouts in four games and allowing just one goal total in five appearances during that run. Rask is 11-5-2 overall and is second in the NHL with a 1.82 GAA and tied for the league lead with a .938 save percentage. He has outplayed Thomas over the last six weeks.
Thomas has the playoff experience and proven track record, but he could be hard-pressed to hold off Rask the rest of the way. Both should see plenty of action down the stretch to keep both fresh, but Claude Julien will have to make a choice for the playoffs and it might not be as easy as expected after last spring’s Cup run.
Midseason Grade: A
Coming Sunday: The midseason report card concludes with an evaluation of coach Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli.