Tuukka Rask, their fortress from Finland, will not be safeguarding their cage for more than a month. Tim Thomas, their fortress from Flint, Mich., will not fully replenish his game until Marty Turco, or somebody else, has given him sufficient relief over the coming weeks.
Until a stingier version of Thomas is restored, which by all accounts will happen a little sooner than the return of a healthy Rask, the Boston Bruins’ best option to ward off opponents is to sculpt a citadel on the scoreboard. An indefinite number of upcoming games will need to be approached and played in a fashion comparable to Tuesday night’s 5-4 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thomas allowed at least three goals for the 13th time in his last 21 full-length appearances, which is not even counting his three-goal, 16-save, vain relief outing against Buffalo Feb. 8. He posted a night’s save percentage of .910 or lower for the 15th time in his last 23 twirls overall.
Thomas granted the Leafs initial 1-0 and 2-1 leads to start the night and ultimately blinked four times for the second game in a row.
But while Thomas all but inevitably brooked another big, bold blemish on his game log, the out-of-the-blue Jordan Caron laboriously charged up his second straight multipoint performance. The second-year pro had no multipoint NHL games to speak of prior to Sunday’s bout with the New York Rangers but has suddenly erupted for a 3-2-5 scoring log over his last two ventures.
Caron piloted a Boston blizzard that saw five pucks beat Toronto stopper Jonas Gustavsson even before the second intermission with 10 individual point-getters pitching in. Three of those contributors included the newfangled combination of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin, all of whom have produced in each of their four games together.
Granted, a little more can still be asked of the lines centered by Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell. Bergeron did commit three takeaways and notched an assist, but sooner or later, the newly acquired Brian Rolston will have to start making a tangible splash opposite Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Likewise, Campbell is still nursing an 18-game pointless skid, and winger Shawn Thornton could not solve Gustavsson on three registered stabs Tuesday night, giving him 25 consecutive games without a goal.
Regardless, the streaking likes of Caron and the Krejci line have themselves a foundation of conviction and a stream of carbonation to build upon. And they have given their teammates a nucleus to rally around and feed off of, which is the least that Thomas and Turco (or whoever) can request in the coming weeks.
Bruins’ general manager Peter Chiarelli himself granted that Turco’s impact will be impossible to gauge until after he scrapes the blue paint in the Boston crease. Nearly a full year removed from his last slurp of NHL action with a stint in Austria interspersed, the veteran and his new mates could be subsisting noticeably more on his heart than his aptitude.
The rest of the time, Thomas cannot be expected to start instilling an assuring vibe of stinginess at any point in the near future. Much like he did Tuesday in Toronto and Sunday in New York, the overworked 37-year-old is bound to struggle to help the Bruins preserve ties, sustain momentum and hold upper hands.
The critical difference Tuesday was that, unlike Sunday, Boston managed to usurp a lead from the Leafs. Furthermore, they augmented that advantage to a two-goal gap, a critical insurance policy that made Thomas’ fourth and final error affordable.
For the balance of the regular season, that is what the Bruins will need to keep striving for. After so many skaters have stored up their scoring, it is now time to conserve the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner and look to restore two-way normalcy after April 7.