Doubting Thomas: Do the Boston Bruins Have a Goalie Controversy?

Adam MacDonald@adammacdoAnalyst IIOctober 21, 2010

Four games in, it appears Tuukka Rask (left) will have to fight Tim Thomas to be the starting goalie this year.
Four games in, it appears Tuukka Rask (left) will have to fight Tim Thomas to be the starting goalie this year.Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

The eyeball test. For years, it has been the lifeblood of sports debates.

Two people disagree about which player had a better season. One person backs up his argument with stats. The other has the fabled eyeball test.

The statistics may say that player X had more goals, assists and a far superior plus/minus. However, the eyeball test says that Player Y was better. There’s no science or logic to it. You just feel that way about a player.

Before the season, if you had asked who was the Bruins number one goaltender, most people would have said Tuukka Rask. Some would have said Tim Thomas, pointing to his 2009 Vezina Trophy and the fact that no team would have a $5 million backup goalie, but the majority would have been of the opinion that the man who started every playoff game last year was at the top of the depth chart.

Four games have been played this year. Since both goaltenders were always going to start a game in Prague, it comes as no surprise that one goalie has started three games of those four game.

What is a surprise is that Thomas, not Rask, is the one who has played the last three games. He’s also played well, saving 95 of 97 shots and leading the team on their three-game winning streak.

Then you consider that Rask has said that he will start tonight against Washington and it looks as if the Bruins have a brewing controversy. That’s what the eyeball test would have you believe.

But, perhaps they do not. Perhaps, everything is just as it should be.

Rask let in four goals in the first game of the season. His defense played terribly and he was at fault for only one of the goals, but he still let in four.

Tim Thomas comes in the next day and has a shutout. He gets the next start against the New Jersey Devils and concedes just one goal. On Tuesday, he was between the pipes, on the road, against the Capitals. He was stellar again, holding the Alexander Ovechkin-led Caps to just one goal.

Thomas has played excellently. If Rask does play tonight, the main reason will be that he hasn’t played in 10 days and the 36-year old Thomas is only months removed from hip surgery.

Rask’s playing against the Capitals tonight is not due to his being the better goalie. Unless he has a brilliant game in the Bruins’ home opener, the fact remains, he’s not the best goaltender on the team.

Tim Thomas is playing better. If Claude Julien is riding the hot hand with the veteran, he’s doing the right thing. The most important thing is to win games and, for the moment, there’s nothing wrong with having a platoon at goaltender.

The Bruins are in a fortuitous position. Both Thomas and Rask would be starters on several teams in the NHL. At times, that can be a curse. Right now, however, it’s a blessing.

The fact is, if this is the biggest talking point on the team, things are going pretty well for the B’s.