The Beginning of an Era; It's Tuukka's Time

Ryan DohertyContributor IMarch 20, 2010

After Thursday's 3-0 beat down at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a lot of Bruins fans jumped from the bandwagon...some for good.

It was the most hyped Bruins game of the season, rivaling even the Winter Classic. Tickets were being scalped for twice as much as a Celtics-Cavaliers and even Celtics-Lakers games.

With Bruins fever in the air once again, it seemed that the black and gold could save face in an otherwise disappointing season. The fans had placed a fictional bounty on the head of Matt Cooke, and were willing to pay long into the night for multiple acts of violence towards the newest Boston villain.

Cooke was the most hated cheap-shot artist in Boston since Ulf Samuelsson, and Daniel Day-Lewis might as well have starred in the game, as fans were expecting blood.

Things started off well enough, with Matt Cooke throwing down with Shawn Thornton. Thornton took the decision, and the crowd was pumped for what they thought would be the start of something more.

Long story short, the something more with Cooke never came, and the Bruins got blanked 3-0. The loss left a sour taste in people's mouths, and has a lot of people tuning out the Bruins for Red Sox Spring training.

With a dozen games to go, Boston will continue to fight for a playoff spot, but at the same time will look towards their future. Tuukka Rask has been the goaltender of choice for coach Claude Julien since February, and look for that to continue down the stretch.

After last season's Vezina trophy winning season, people expected Tim Thomas to carry much of the load in the 2009-2010 campaign. Well, things change, and last season's best goaltender was being out played by a 22- (now 23) year-old goalie of the future.

Rask has been nothing short of spectacular, posting the league's best goals against average (GAA) at 2.12, and second best save percentage at .928%.

While Thomas hasn't been awful, carrying the 16th best GAA at 2.57, he has been mediocre, and mediocre just doesn't cut it when you're carrying a $5 million cap hit and are the reigning Vezina trophy winner. Here are how the two keepers match-up.

Goalie Min GAA W L OT SO Sv%
Tim Thomas: 2291 2.57 15 17 8 4 .914
Tuukka Rask: 1984 2.12 16 10 4 3 .928

The numbers speak for themselves, and Rask gives the Bruins the best chance to win. The question has been asked, who will start for Boston if the make the playoffs? The answer is simple, it will be Rask.

With Rask being appointed the starter going forward, the Bruins have to ask what are they going to do with Tim Thomas. The answer is: try and shop him this off-season.

Thomas' name was thrown around at the trade deadline to contenders like Washington and Chicago, although nothing occurred. However, in the off-season teams have a lot more room to deal with, and will be more aggressive trying to nab a goalie like Thomas.

Thomas will make $6 million next season, but that goes down to $5 million in 2011-12 and then $3 million in 2012-13. It is not the worst deal in the world for a guy that still has some game left in the tank.

Teams that could possibly be interested in Thomas include the Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Washington Capitals.

Thomas does have a no trade clause in his contract, however, and can block any trade. Thomas would likely waive his no trade to play in Detroit. Thomas, of course, grew up in Michigan, and would love to play in hockey town.

That being said, a trade will be very difficult for the Bruins to work out. A trade, however, will likely be a priority for Peter Chiarelli, seeing as how Boston will have a lot of holes to fill and cap room is limited.

It looks as if the Thomas era is over in Boston, and it sure was a dandy of a ride. With the tank being out-played, it is time to usher in a new era for the stretch run.

It's Tuukka time, and it may be for many years to come.