Since the emergence of Tim Thomas the Boston Bruins have had enjoyed an exceptional level of play between the pipes. After a bizarre retirement, Thomas yielded the crease to super-talented prospect Tuukka Rask. In 2013, Rask led the Bruins to the brink of another Stanley Cup, and after signing a monster extension this offseason, it seems as though the Bruins have found their franchise goalie.
Say what you want about how Peter Chiarelli, but there is no doubt that he has a tremendous eye ability to spot talent in net. On top of a top-five goaltender in Rask, Boston has reigning AHL goalie of the year Niklas Svedberg, first-round draft pick Malcolm Subban, and offseason acquisition Chad Johnson. Top to bottom, the organizations' situation in net is as strong as it has been in the history of the franchise heading into the coming season.
1) Starter: Tuukka Rask
After going back and fourth with Thomas Thomas early in his career, Tuukka Rask is now officially the man. Not only does the Finnish native own the job, but he now has the resume and contract to prove it. Last season, Rask carried a heavy portion of the regular season load, and should have been nominated for the as a Vezina trophy finalist.
The 2013 playoffs was really Tuukka's coming out party, as the 26 year-old led the Bruins to the cusp of their second championship in three seasons. This year Rask will face a full season workload (compared to last year's lockout shortened campaign), and it will be important for him to provide the same type of consistency he did last year.
The only two minor concerns surrounding Rask are his contract and the Olympics. Sometimes giving a goalie that many years and that much money (8-years $56 million) can create a sense of complacency, but Rask is a fiery competitor (he allegedly broke sticks after a bad practice outing in camp) and should have a desire to be the main man in net for another Bruins championship.
Rask will also potentially be the starter for Finland in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This is something that NHL general manager's (especially ones with franchise goalies) have fretted about, and understandably so. Goalies such as Ryan Miller, Mike Richter, and even Martin Brodeur have faded as a result of a taxing workload in the Olympics, so the Games do bear keeping an eye on.
2) Backup: Chad Johnson
Along with Riley Smith, this was the biggest surprise of training camp. Johnson was acquired via free-agency, and was although he was expected to compete for the Bruins backup job, he was something of an underdog heading into camp.
In his career the Calgary native has played for the Rangers and Coyotes, but spent the majority of his time playing in the AHL. At this point in his career the 27 year-old will be a career backup at best, and even though he has a one-way contract, the pressure will be on the journeyman to provide quality starts in relief of Tuukka Rask, all while trying to hold off up and comer Niklas Svedberg.
3) Providence: Niklas Svedberg, Malcolm Subban
After GM Peter Chiarelli made Subban untouchable in the Jarome Iginla trade last season, it is clear that the first round pick is a big part of the Bruins future in net. That being said, it is unlikely Subban will see any significant action at the NHL level this season after an up and down preseason.
The same cannot be said for youngster Niklas Svedberg. We've already mentioned the German's 2013 AHL campaign, but it bears repeating that Svedberg was a strong favorite to assume the Bruins backup role. Given the need to rest Tuukka Rask, the task is an important one, and if Chad Johnson can't provide quality play on Tuukka's nights off, we still could be seeing Svedberg getting a call up sooner rather than later.
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