The last time these two teams faced was the last time the Bruins lost a hockey game. For those not paying attention, that game was a 2-0 loss on December 8th in Boston. Florida basically cruised that game and Jose Theodore was masterful, stopped 40 saves in route to a shutout. In fact, both goalies were very good that last game as Tim Thomas stopped 28 of 29 shots. It was your classic goalie duel with the Bruins coming out on the shit end of the stick. It's not a problem though. Why? The Florida Panthers are a good hockey team.
Everyone should know this by now. They're not the Florida Panthers from 1997 to 2010. Last offseason they had to spend about $40 million to hit the cap floor so they were able to bring in some quality talent, most notably their leading goal scorer in Kris Versteeg, their second leading goal scorer Tomas Fleischmann and defenseman Brian Campbell. It also seems that Jose Theodore has rejuvenated himself in Florida while many people thought he was going to flop there when he signed. He currently sports a 2.31 GAA, a save percentage of .923 and a 13-7-4-2 record. That's pretty good when you consider that Theodore had some pretty bad years in Washington and one season in Minnesota.
Both teams have something to play for tonight. If Florida wins, they tie the Bruins in overall points at 45 and (I could be dead wrong) take over second place in the Eastern Conference. If Boston wins, they leapfrog the Flyers with 47 points overall heading into the Christmas break.
The Bruins would be well rested. They last played at home against Montreal on Monday and won 3-2. Milan Lucic hasn't played in an NHL game for almost a week due to a one game suspension for his hit on Zach Rinaldo. I think the Bruins biggest issue tonight will be who starts in net. Tuukka Rask hasn't played since December 23 where he registered his first shutout of the season on a 3-0 win over LA. Doesn't this pose an issue in terms of Rask's play?
I know Thomas is "the guy" in Boston, but Tuukka is just as good. I think the Bruins are doing them a disservice by giving Thomas the majority of the starts. If anything, it should be a 50/50 split so you can allow Thomas to be fresh when it actually matters - in the playoffs. Thomas has played in 23 games (started in 22 of them) while Tuukka was played 11 (started in 10 of them). So for every two games Thomas plays, Tuukka plays one but even that number is misleading. Thomas has played in the last three games, a 5-2 win over Ottawa, 6-o win over Philadelphia and a 3-2 win over Montreal. It was obvious that Tuukka wasn't going to play against Ottawa, as it was the second game of a back to back. Why would you play Rask against Montreal?
I'm a big Tuukka guy so I would rather see him between the pipes. I think the kid is the future goaltender for this organization and can be for the next 10 years or so. With a contract coming to an end this offseason it's entirely possible that he walks into Peter Chiarelli's office and says "no thank you" (or "Ei kiitos" in Finnish) because he can sign somewhere else and start. Yes, he's a restricted free agent which means there will be some compensation, but is it worth losing a 1A goalie because you want Tim Thomas to play for another year or two? Not in my eyes.
Look around the league. Do you know how many teams would love to have Tuukka Rask?
- Washington Capitals [Tomas Voukon UFA after this season, Michael Neuvirth has one year left on contract after this season]
- Calgary Flames [Miika Kiprusoff has 2 years at $5.833M left after this season but does not have a No Movement Clause]
- Columbus Blue Jackets [Steve Mason has 1 year at $2.9M left on contract after this season, Curtis Sanford is a UFA]
- New Jersey Devils [Martin Broduer and Johan Hedberg both UFAs after this season]
- Tampa Bay Lightning [Dwayne Roloson UFA after this season, Mathieu Garon has 1 year at $1.3M after this season]
- Edmonton Oilers [Nikolai Khabibulin has 1 year at $3.75M after this season, Devin Dubnyk is a RFA]
- Phoenix Coyotes [Mike Smith has 1 year at $2M after this season, Jason Labarbera has 1 year at $1.25M after this season]
- Dallas Stars [Kari Lehtonen has 1 year at $3.55M after this season, Andrew Raycroft UFA]
- Colorado Avalanche [Semyon Varlamov has 2 years at $2.83M after this season, JS Giguere has 1 year at $1.25M after this season]
I know this has nothing to do with the Panthers game, but I don't care. It's a good thing to talk about and hopefully get some debate going. Fire away in the comment section.
After the jump, more previewness...
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Beniot Pouliot - Chris Kelly - Jordan Caron
Danny Paille - Zach Hamill - Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid
Tuukka Rask (Fuck it, I love you Tuukka!)
Game Day Video
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