Boston Bruins Preview: Bruins look to recover from a first-round playoff exit without Thomas
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 12:08
The Boston Bruins’ most important off-season transaction ultimately was a decision that team personnel did not even make. Goalie Tim Thomas decided not to play in the upcoming season, a move that will ultimately determine whether the Bruins improve upon their first-round exit in the playoffs last year.
Thomas, the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner during the Bruins’ 2010-2011 Stanley Cup winning season, announced in June that he would forgo his $3 million salary this year for personal reasons.
“At the age of 38, I believe it is time to put my time and energies into those areas and relationships that I have neglected,” Thomas said. “That is why at this time I feel the most important thing I can do in my life is to reconnect with the three F’s. Friends, Family and especially Faith.”
While Thomas’ latest decision to back Chick Fil-A amidst its gay marriage controversy has caused great debate among Bruins faithful, the pressure is now on goalie Tuukka Rask to make fans forget about Thomas’ success as a Bruin.
Rask started all of the team’s playoff games in the 2009-2010 season and led the league with a 1.97 goals-against average during Thomas’ recovery from a lingering hip injury. However, Rask’s past two seasons have not compared to his breakout year in 2010. While he has ranked among the top second-string goalies in the league in the past two years, Rask’s performances often never seemed to be enough. However, he is showing promising signs. After going 11-14-2 with a 2.67 GAA in 2010-2011, Rask rebounded last season and recorded a record of 11-8-3 and a 2.05 GAA.
The Bruins, trusting that Rask is bound to end his slump, signed the 25-year-old goalie to a one-year $3.5 million extension.
“He’s a calm, poised goaltender—you see a little bit of the fiery temper here and there and I don’t mind that—you generally speaking he’s a goalie who is composed,” Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli said. “He’s technically very good and athletic at the same time. I don’t have any reason to think that he’s not going to emerge as the No. 1 for years to come.”
Goalie Anton Khudobin, who started and won his only game for the Bruins last year, will be the primary backup to Rask in the net for the Bruins.
Although much of the coverage this off-season has focused on the men between the pipes, fans should be satisfied that the Bruins kept much of the team’s nucleus intact with the re-signing of several key supporting players. Forward Chris Kelley received a four-year deal worth $12 million and opposing forward Gregory Campbell signed a contact worth $4.8 million over the next three years. Forward Daniel Paille also signed a three-year deal, valued at roughly $1.3 million per year.
Chiarelli moved forward Benoit Pouliot, who scored 16 goals for the Bruins last year, to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for forward Michael Ouelett and a fifth-round pick in the National Hockey League entry draft, which was used to draft forward Seth Griffith. Ouelett has not appeared in an NHL game since the 2008-2009 season, but he has exhibited potential during his stint with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League, scoring 16 goals and recording 15 assists.
The Bruins also traded for and signed Chris Bourque, the son of Bruins’ Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, to a $1.1 million deal.
With nearly their entire starting roster intact and a goalie that has the potential to be one of the top netminders in the league, the Bruins have the talent to contend for a second Stanley Cup in three seasons. However, as hockey always does, the season hangs on the shoulders of the goalie. If Rask fails to meet expectations, Chiarelli might have to call the man who is focusing on the F’s instead of the X’s and O’s.