That's got to be pretty disconcerting if you're the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, but it is the reality after a very mediocre first period that saw him give up three goals to put a team that doesn't score in a deep, deep hole. Some guy named Marty Brodeur is at the other end of the ice...heard of him?
So, while Claude Julien may have benched Thomas to wake up the team, I think the switch speaks more to the confidence the coach has in Tuukka Rask than anything else.
I've loved Rask's game and potential for a long time-- I took one look at the guy (First in the '05, '06 and '07 WJC games and then later thanks to Finnish friends who sent me DVDs of his games for Ilves Tampere) and simply saw a player with the most raw talent, athleticism and upside than any goalie I had ever seen in Boston's system. Ever. That's right-- I said ever. (Or at least in the three decades I've been following the team.)
But even I didn't think he'd be this good this fast for the Bruins.
I refuse to slam Peter Chiarelli as others have for signing Thomas to the contract he did a year ago. He didn't have a crystal ball, and Thomas was well on his way to a Vezina Trophy while Rask had a grand total of five games of NHL experience coming into this season. Hey, it's Boston-- I get it. People complain and write revisionist history all the time, but the fact is- had Chiarelli let Thomas walk on the open market, there would have been an unbelievable hue and cry as people wielding pitchforks would have tried to burn the TD Garden down. Sure- there's no shortage of folks who will say now that they KNEW Rask would be a stud right away, Thomas was a bum and yadda-yadda-yadda. Yeah, sure. Wink-wink, nod-nod.
But even I didn't have the kind of faith in Rask to emerge as a big-time NHL gamer this season the way he has. And, I think it ultimately spells the end of Thomas' tenure in Boston. I think the Bruins veteran is too proud not to waive his no-trade clause here in the summer and will try to go elsewhere to recapture his mojo. Problem is-- he's 36 next month and chances are that Chiarelli will have to sacrifice a Vezina-worthy return in order to unload the contract assuming the team even wants to trade him (and of course that the B's GM can find any takers). Perhaps Chiarelli can find a way to add an extra high pick or two in the 2010 draft for Thomas, or a decent prospect. But, the going will be tough.
Still, Thomas has been a good trooper and it's a shame to see some fans turn on him like they have. It's the nature of pro sports, but loyalty should be a two-way street. The anti-Thomas contingent may just be pragmatic about it, and that's fair I suppose. His contract for Boston is now an albatross, and Chiarelli will have to figure out how to create some flexibility for the team. Thomas is probably a good place to start, assuming he's willing to accept a trade without hamstringing his GM in the process.
Seeing Thomas sitting on the bench in the second and third periods tonight sure seems to be the writing on the wall for me. This is simply something that has happened with too much regularity this season after he was lights-out last year.
So, it may be one more sign that he's on the way out. But, there is much to be determined before that happens. Or, should I say if or when it does.