BOSTON — There’s one big difference for the Boston Bruins this year as they try to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.
They’ll have to do it without Tim Thomas, the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning goaltender who was the star of their 2011 championship run. The enigmatic but frequently unbeatable goalie has decided to take a year off, choosing instead to relax with his family in Colorado.
That leaves the No. 1 goaltender job in the skates of Tuukka Rask, who performed ably in the top spot in 2010 but has never been the starter for an entire season.
“We’ve always kind of had a plan, a succession plan ... for handing the reins over to him when it’s time,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said this week as the Bruins opened their abbreviated training camp after the lockout was settled. “Maybe it’s a year early from my perspective, but it’s close enough that we’re happy where he is in his development.”
Rask had a 2.05 goals-against average in 25 games as Thomas’ backup last season, a year after posting a 2.67 mark in 29 games in the 2010-11 regular season; Thomas played every second of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoff run. In 2010, when Thomas was struggling with a hip injury, Rask had a 1.97 goals-against average in a career-high 45 games before the Bruins’ collapse in the second round of the playoffs against Philadelphia.
“I think he acquitted himself quite well” that year, Chiarelli said. “I think he got fatigued a little toward the end, due to the workload, due to the pressure; maybe more so due to the mental pressure of being No. 1. So that’s a challenge that he’s going to have, but he’s gone through all the steps of development, and he’s passed them all with flying colors. He should be ready for the challenge.”