So, last spring during that ignoble dive into the wrong history records, how many of you believed the reason Thomas wasn’t put in was that Julien had no confidence in Tim Thomas? I know some of you simply expected it was Julien’s well known, occasionally excessive, stubborn loyalty to a player that kept Rask in net as it kept certain skaters on the ice? I also know some of you never expected Thomas to play another game as a Bruin. I have just one question for you all now.

Are you done doubting Thomas yet? Right now, Tim Thomas has all of the Boston Bruins wins this year. He has the National Hockey league lead in goals against average, saves percentage, and shutouts. He’s just one win behind several goalies who have played more games. To top that off he’s also currently tied for the most wins for any Bruin’s goalie to start a season since the days when the NHL was about one fifth its current size. To put it in perspective, the Red Sox drought was still not old enough to vote, and Germany had yet to be split by the Iron Curtain.

At 36 years old Thomas is out playing Martin Broduer who many consider the best goalie ever, and even those less enamored of him will call a top 25 all time goalie. He’s outplaying last years Vezina winner Ryan Miller, and any other goalie you can name and scores you can’t.

Thomas has smacked down the assumption he’d spend most of the season opening the bench door for Rask and robbing the team of cap space to no good. Instead he’s walked back into the limelight by stonewalling some minor goal scoring talents like Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Semin, Daniel Alfredsson, and some guy the Bruins fans thanked during the last Leafs game. He’s employed the whirling dervish style that until Thomas ascended to a full time NHL player had been unseen since Hasek’s hayday. Its unconventional to say the least, uncomfortable for the weak of bladder (and brain) to watch, and has an elegance roughly equivalent to a demolition derby, but it is undeniably effective. Former college team mate Martin St Louis has said there is no book on Thomas and you just have to shoot well and hope for the best. If someone who’s known and played with and against Thomas for decades and who has had much better than average goal totals is convinced of Thomas’s quality, who are you to doubt it?

Peter Chiarelli has stated he wants to be proactive in addressing the pending cap crunch. For the purposes of this article trades have to make sense to all parties concerned. This means that if a player has a no trade clause, the place they might be shipped to has to be a strong playoff team, the cap numbers have to make sense and worse from the armchair GM’s position, the bodies have to line up right.

First trade, and probably the least likely situation.*

To Boston:

Conditional 3rd Round pick, 2011.

To Los Angeles:

Marco Sturm

If Marco Sturm scores more than 20 goals, or is resigned by the Kings or they win the Stanley Cup with him having played 3 or more playoff games the pick would become a 2nd round pick.

Why:

Boston, moves a loyal soldier who will probably not be resigned to a good situation.

Los Angeles, depth at left wing, secondary leadership, and someone who can step in to the penalty kill as needed.

Sturm, gets his feet wet with another organization and moves to a very good young team with stars on the rise.

To Boston:

Jeff Petry, 2nd round pick in 2012, 3rd round pick in 2011

To Edmonton:

Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille,  Matt Dalton

Why:

Boston: $3.2 Million in salary moved, and allows more grooming of late cuts like Arniel, Sauve (when he is healthy again), Colborne and others. Moves Paille before he becomes a distraction sitting on the bench as he has thus far. Two easiest guys to move on the roster that you have a shot at getting back something of similar value.

Edmonton: Size, speed, playoff experience and above all two high end penalty killers that might drag their pretty pathetic penalty kill into the realm of respectable. Both guys work hard, Wheeler has 30 goals written all over him, and might be the center that Hall needs.  Dalton is also as strong or stronger a prospect as any goaltender the Oilers have currently.

To Boston:

Ryan Suter, 1st round pick, 2nd round pick

To Nashville:

Matt Hunwick, Andrew Ference, Joe Colborne, Blake Wheeler

Why:

Boston gets an elite defenseman coming back and drops a net $2.4million

Nashville gets two first round pick forwards who are versatile enough to play all forward positions, and gives them the potential to move into the top half of the NHL’s goal for column for the first time in years.

To Boston:

Chris Stewart, 2 2nd round picks, 1 3rd

To Colorado:

Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, Michael Ryder, Matt Dalton

Why:

Boston: About six million dollars off the books, and a solid young winger.

Colorado: They’re depth at goaltending almost doesn’t exist, their penalty kill could hardly be made worse by losing an extra man each penalty.

To Boston:

Keith Yandle, Brandon Gormley, 2nd round pick

To Pheonix

David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Adam Courchaine, Andrew Ference, Jamie Arniel

Why:

Boston get’s two top four quality defensemen, loses some salary, clears up some of the log jam at center.

Phoenix gets a player who would easily be their number one center, a forward the organization was keen on enough to use a first round pick on, and gets to shore up their goaltending.

Capgeek, Hockey’s Future, and NHLNumbers used for basic background info.

*Ok so nearly all trades are unlikely in the current NHL. At least there is something in it for each team.

Mark My Words!

Tuukka Rask is done, finished, kaput! With his truly outrageous play, both this season, and against Philadelphia this spring he may be in the minors or on a team with a General Manager who has sucker painted on his forehead by the All-Star game.  Anyone who watched his most recent implosion of the season knows the “quality” of the first two goals against the New York Rangers. The Gaborik, Prospal and Drury deprived Rangers are 18th in the NHL in scoring, and Rask gave up two goals in 27 seconds like he had no control of them.

Then just compare his stats to the teams true number one goaltender. The most important one is Wins. Tim Thomas has more wins than Rask has appearances. Indeed, Thomas has more than twice the wins that Rask than that wretched backup has appearances. Then of course is the goals against average. One of the goalies has a passable percentage, the other is has a GAA so disgusting I can’t even type it out here. I will however say that it is 4.71 times larger than Thomas’s. I’ll let you figure out who that number belongs to. Of course any comparison of stats at this meaningful juncture of the season would be utterly pointless if it didn’t include reference to Sv%. As deep as we are into the season, it’s highly meaningful that Thomas has fought endlessly to entrench himself in the top two in this category, following only a goalie who has had an incredible number of starts. The fact that the other goalie is playing so many minutes and is also a rookie is impressive. Robin Lehner might earn the Hart, Vezina, and Calder this season if he can continue the pace he’s on.

On top of the play that has rarely approached ugly from the shady side, Rask has also shown vastly less maturity than could be desired off the ice. His blatant abuse of the privilege of media attention to falsely and maliciously lead them astray was reprehensible all on its own. If nothing more than a few mistaken headlines were at stake I’d be tempted to forgive the matter. But no, thousands of fantasy hockey owners were drawn into a false position due to his lies.  While it can be argued he never stated he was playing that night, he did nothing to dissuade the media who depend on truthful interviewees to best inform their readers, viewers and listeners from the belief he maliciously crafted.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words! In both actions and words Tuukka Rask has failed to live up to the extensive history of professional quality he once claimed as a legacy. That legacy has been thrown away, and he should be too.  Perhaps if we package a Toronto’s, our own and perhaps a prospect like Spooner or Suave we can get rid of him. Perhaps trading him to a team where we won’t have to worry about his play. Perhaps Vancouver can use them in their AHL affiliate and we can get Bieksa or Alberts in exchange. Or maybe Rask, Savard, and the two youngsters would be enough to woo Dallas into parting with Brad Richards. Either way there is no more controversy in Boston’s crease, not this late in the season.

Period 1:

Johnny Boychuck was slashed early in what looked like a slash from hell. He went down the tunnel for a few minutes before returning to the bench and eventually the ice.  Later Gregory Campbell would block a shot in a highly uncomfortable way and spend a few moments taking deep breaths on the bench while the Bruins killed the rest of the penalty. Sadly the return of both players to the ice probably count as the highlights for Bruins fans. Seidenberg’s tripping call lead to a goal,  and Stuart muffed a swat of the puck just before it found it’s way past Rask.

The first Bruins powerplay had me fighting off flashbacks to last season. By the end of the period, the Bruins were able to convert on a much more lively, and controlled powerplay when Patrice Bergeron fed Zdeno Chara and the Colossus of the blueline smashed one past the King of Broadway.

In the first and probably most surprising fight of the night Sean Avery jumped Mark Stuart after number 45 flattened a hapless blueshirt at the blueline. Avery got an instigator and  was not deprived of company as there would be two more fights and a total of 33 PIMs for the Rangers in the first period. The next fight was Shawn Thornton dropping the gloves and swinging uphill at Derek Boogaard. Not a flashy fight, a few good hits and then it was broken up. In the final bout of the first period Milan Lucic dropped the gloves when challenged by Brandon Prust. Again, the wimpification of the game by NHL officials saw this one ended before Lucic could warm up.

The Bruins ended the period with seconds remaining on a powerplay. 2-1 Rangers after 20.

Period Two

Breaking loose from the box Staal makes amends for his penalty by sticking a sweet shot by Rask. Ignore the hits column tonight on the score sheet, Blake Wheeler has set the physical tone for the night. He’s hit hard and often on anything wearing blue tonight. He had some impressive aggression on the penalty kill, he’s given hard hits in all three zones and hasn’t hesitated to go for the body or the puck. Hopefully we’ll see his hard work rewarded. Seidenberg touched a puck to Krejci who fed Horton for a nice goal.

A better period for the Bruins, over all but not great play. Period ended with a high sticking double major to Campbell. The Bruins have yet to score a short handed goal, despite the aggression of their penalty kill, the Rangers have yet to allow one.

Period Three

Despite some good shots, and outshooting the Rangers all night the Bruins couldn’t manage to get it done at all in the third period.  The defense was depleted by the loss of Boychuck, and the team was in a hole from the word go. The Rangers showed up wanting it more and they got it. The first ten minutes had many fans flashing back to the uglier portions of last season and even the “Uncle Dave” era.  Brad Marshand may have had the best shot of the third period, which says a lot. The Rangers went harder for the win with more shots blocked and a higher percentage of solid play. Aside from the effort level, I doubt Tortarelli will hold this game up as an example of how to win as the discipline was just about non existent in the early goings and aside from the Staal goal there wasn’t much pretty about this game.

Despite the struggles of the team early on, and the injury to Boychuck there were some less murky points to this game. Andrew Ference was very effective tonight, never giving up even on the two occasions he was beaten clean.  High end skating, solid positioning and good stick work all night. Blake Wheeler however was the Bruins unsung hero of the night, with the pressure he created on the forecheck, in the neutral zone and simply making the smart play at every opportunity.

Period One:

In the first period perhaps the premier one on one matchup in the NHL Zdeno Chara vs Alex Ovechkin was on display again. Ovi skated around intent on avenging every aspect of the loss two nights back. Zee matched the intensity shutting him down when he wasn’t throwing him down.

Of no less importance Boston’s number one goaltender Tim Thomas reminded fans why they love him, and players why he again leads the league in both GAA and Sv% with some truly jawdropping saves.

Michael Ryder scored on the powerplay. No that sentence isn’t a joke, the Bruins cashed in on a blatant tripping call to the Capitals Hendricks moments after the questionable boarding call to Ference expired. A sweet feed from Bergeron out high and Tyler Seguin led to the late period tally.

Period Two:
After two it seems the goal scoring prowess of these two teams has been reversed since last season. Jordan Caron spooning the puck past Varlemov makes the Bruins two for three on the night. If they stay half that good over the season thing are gonna look good.

The power play had good movement but its obvious its early as some of the passes are still going to space. The penalty kill is as aggresive as I’ve ever seen it. At one point all four Bruins defenders were in a row within stick reach of the wall. Effective, energetic but a bit scary to watch.

Sections 320 and 321 attempted to get a “You can’t finish!” chant going to many laughs and no luck.

3-0 after two.

Third period:
Julien did some juggling of the defensive pairs including putting Chara and Seidenberg together, Boychuck and Hunwick and Stuart and Ference. Thomas proved he was the only man who could stop him tonight. It’s great to see him feeling good again, but while he’s a better puck handler than Rask, he’s not Turco, Dipietro or Marty B.

While Chara clearly dominated the collision with Ovechkin, he didn’t do it alone. I’d be surprised if there’s a single defenseman who didn’t record a hit against number eight.

Near flawless execution by the Bruins tonight against a high speed, up tempo team.

Key points: Bergeron setting two goals on the tee.

Chara, Siedenberg, Boychuck, Stuart, Hunwick and Ference playing sharp.

Thomas playing every bit as good as his Vezina winning season.

And of course:

A fun crowd.

Met these two on my way to my seat. Yes, yes they were a little pleased to see the season start.

Also Thomas and #timmysmask led the home team out.

Most businesses lie, to themselves and to others. So the fact that the NHL does too isn’t shocking or unique except in one regard. Most businesses tell selfserving lies. The ones the NHL tells serve no purpose other than allowing them to hear their lips flap.

Let’s start with the smallest of today’s lies: The NHL is committed to the sports growth in America.
HA I say! So let me get this straight, as the baseball season is winding down in all but eight cities in America, an organization hungry for sports fans starts its season in europe where most Americans will have to skip work, church or kids sports to see the games because of the five to eight hour time zone differences. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have big rivalry games two a night for a week and a half to draw attention in the country where the majority of merchandise, advertising revenue and people who speak the NHL’s default language speak? Honestly, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees play each other the first week of every season just like clock work. AFC East teams like the Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and New England Patriots know they will see each other early. The Boston Bruin’s on the other hand don’t even have a division game until a full three weeks into their season. Instead they open the season against a Western Conference team half the hockey world expects to relocate in the next two years, and then do a tour of the Atlantic division.

Next up: A crappy way of picking a loser and winner is better than a tie, and no one (at the networks) likes overtime.

The shootout system was designed to make sure every game had a winner and loser. It succeeded, just not in the way the boffins at headquarters thought. The winners are teams who field an aggressively mediocre team with two guys who are consistent at the shootout. The losers are the good teams, the fans who get stuck watching first round slaughters, and every player that values the logo on the front. Its pure hooey that the NHL believes that people will watch seven extra two hour innings of scoreless baseball, but not watch 15-30 minutes of full tilt, balls to the wall, hard-hitting sudden death intensity.

Can anyone sound more out of touch than Wilson? Clearly this one was an empty net tap in from a foot inside the bluepaint. The answer is no. Wilson has the most hysterical (in all senses of the word) meltdown of a coach in this yet young season.

Can one goalie solidify their position? Well, Thomas allowed just one goal, again. This time to the Washington Capitals who are on pace to be held to two or less goals far more times than last year. The Capitals goal-tending duo was affected by “the flu” (The Black & Gold Flu?) and so it’s probably inconclusive so far.

Well, Bergeron not only failed to gain the score sheet, he had one of the worst faceoff nights of his career with just a 22% win percentage. Blake Wheeler snagged and assist and Matt Hunwick stuck the dagger deep into the chest of the Capitals for his first goal of the season.  Pialle is leading all returning Bruins forwards in time on pine, Stuart and Ference have continued to perform at their normal offensive rate.

Caps defense? Um… not really.  Horton may not have gotten a shot on goal, but he was still +2 with an assist. Sorry GM GM, you still have work to do. So sorry.

Egg would be a gift… the Canucks got tripled up by the Wild with no less than six of the boys from The State of Hockey lighting the lamp. Midway through the game the Sharks are halfway to a loss to a probable lottery team on the tail end of a long, grueling road trip that started about 11 time zones away. The Sharks might pull it out but there’s no reason a roster with Thornton, Heatley, Marleau, Pavelski should ever trail a roster with Eric Staal, and 19 other guys.

Today’s 5 Up

    Can any coach sound more reality deficient than Ron Wilson after a very explainable loss that had little to do with two legitimate non goals today?
    Which way do the goaltending battles within the Bruins and Capitals go? Will one or both of tonight’s starters solidify their position, whoever they are?
    Can Patrice Bergeron, Blake Wheeler, and Matt Hunwick get on the board before Daniel Paille, Andrew Ference and Mark Stuart?
    Will the Washington Capitals defense prove McFee is semi-competent by shutting down the red hot Nathan Horton?
    Which presumed playoff team will end the night with egg on their face? The Flames? The Canucks? The Sharks and their shiny new captain?