Tim Thomas is coming off one of the greatest goaltending seasons in NHL history.
The Boston backstop not only set a new standard for modern save percentage, he won the Vezina Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup last season. He was the top stopper by a long shot when Canadian sports network TSN released it’s top-50 player list on Tuesday. It appears the only thing Thomas has not won, according to his head coach, is the Bruins’ undisputed No.1 title.
“We have two No. 1s,” coach Claude Julien told reporters in Boston on Tuesday, adding that he planned to split time between Thomas and Tuukka Rask to start the season, and leaving open the possibility one would take over the top job as the season went on.
“They’re still, in my mind, No. 1-calibre goaltenders. But as you saw Timmy just took off and we had to ride the hot hand. Will Tuukka play a bigger role? We hope so. But it’s not going to take away from the strength of the team.”
That’s just what Thomas did early last season, roaring out of the gates after offseason surgery to repair the hip injury that had opened the door for Rask to take over the starting role the year before. But even coming off one of the best season’s in NHL history – 35 wins in 55 starts, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in the regular season and even better numbers in the playoffs – the fiercely competitive Thomas isn’t taking it for granted that the No.1 job is his, and never stopped working to get better this summer.
“There are two goalies on the team, and we don’t think of ourselves as No. 1 and No. 2,” said Thomas, who knows the Bruins attempted to trade him going into his magical last season. “If the team’s on a roll and both goalies are winning, obviously you play both goalies.”
Rask has the pedigree and the game to be an NHL starter himself, but is coming off a tough season mostly spent on the bench.
“Knowing the guy he is, it was great to see him have that success,” Rask, 24 and coming off summer knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, told the Associated Press. “I’m not used to sitting on the bench a lot and not playing. But I realized that no matter what your role is, you’ve got to be one of the guys. I learned that support is a good thing for the hockey club.”
TSN Top-50 includes Six Stoppers
As mentioned, Tim Thomas topped TSN’s top-50 list from a puck-stopping perspective. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, who also finished second to Thomas in Vezina Trophy voting last season, was next on the list at No. 28, but the debates started after that.
Carey Price, coming off a sensational season in Montreal but still with some inconsistencies in his young career, was ranked 30th, strangely four spots ahead of New York Rangers’ standout Henrik Lundqvist at 34th. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was two spots back of that at 36, while Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, who was third in Vezina voting and coming off a failed trip to the Stanley Cup final that included a pair of shutouts at home and a trio of meltdowns in Boston, was the last goaltender included with the 41st overall ranking.
Needless to say the list touched off all kinds of debates, so please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.
In the meantime, here are some other pre-season numbers to consider, courtesy of the oddsmakers in Las Vegas:
Over/Under for wins by NHL goaltenders
– Roberto Luongo is tops at 36.5
– Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller both at 35.5
– Antti Niemi, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jimmy Howard, Carey Price, Ilya Bryzgalov and Marc-Andre Fleury are all 34.5
– Tim Thomas alone at 33.5
– Pekka Rinne, Cam Ward, Jonathan Quick all at 32.5
– Jaroslav Halak and Tomas Vokoun at 30.5
– Martin Brodeur and Jonas Hiller are at 29.5
– James Reimer is 26.5
NHL Hart Memorial Trophy as the Most Valuable Player
There are no individual goaltenders listed for these odds, which have Washington sniper Alexander Ovechkin favoured at 4/1, but you can get odds for any goaltender winning the award at 11/2, which are the same odds for Steven Stamkos, who ranks second to Ovechkin.