Bruins

Chiarelli admits to have taken calls on Thomas

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Chiarelli admits to have taken calls on Thomas

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON Sometimes the trades that you dont make are the best ones when a general manager looks back in the all-powerful omniscience of 2020 hindsight.

Thats certainly the case for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and the Boston Bruins after watching 37-year-old Tim Thomas firm his place in the pantheon of Bruins greats with one of the best goaltending seasons in the history of the NHL.

The Bs goalie was great from his first appearance of the regular season, and broke through with an epic postseason performance after never finding the secret sauce during his previous Game 7 experiences.

A .940 save percentage, a 1.98 goals against average, four shutouts, and a 16-9 overall record following a Vezina Trophy-winning season mean that years from now people will refer to 2010-11 as The Year of Tim Thomas.

But it almost didnt happen that way for Boston, or for the goalie that went into training camp with a snow white set of goalie pads and a white mask free of all Bruins logos that revealed a few hard feelings headed into the season.

That can happen when a player is dangled on the trade market as a necessary evil due to salary cap issues, and it pushed Thomas into prove people wrong mode headed into this year. Thats always a good place for Thomas to be once hed gotten over the initial vexation at being involved in trade whispers.

Chiarelli admitted on Friday morning hed taken phone calls about Tim Thomas, and sources indicated then to CSNNE.com that the most seriously interested parties were Washington and Philadelphia. The Bruins and Flyers had casually discussed a deal involving Thomas to the Flyers while the goalie was recovering from hip surgery after losing his playoff starting role to a younger goaltending model in Tuukka Rask.

But the two teams couldnt agree on fair trade value for Thomas (the Bruins wanted Jeff Carter, and the Flyers were only willing to unload Simon Gagne), though Philadelphia was the place Thomas wanted to be if he was going to be moved.

The bottom line through all of it, though, was that Thomas wanted to remain in Boston where he could reclaim his job. Thomas desire to stay in New England was the constant, and at the core was proving to everyone he was worth the 5 million salary cap tag that certainly wasnt helping the team financially.

He did that and then some in setting the NHL-record for save percentage during the regular season on his way to an expected second career Vezina Trophy and then ruled the playoffs in a way an elite goaltender truly hasnt done since Martin Brodeur during his New Jersey Devils prime.

So how heavily was Chiarelli breathing a sigh of relief that Thomas was never traded, and how close did the NHLs best running rags-to-riches come to playing in another sweater?

Not really (close)," Chiarelli. "If you can recall at the time there was a kind of a mutual agreement between myself and Tim Thomas and Bill Zito to explore a trade on the premise that Tim does not want to leave Boston. Thats really where it ended. Its really where it ended.

"There were some calls in that and they kept him in the loop at all times. He kept stressing he didnt want to leave. And I said I know. . . lets just look at this very briefly. I know there are a lot of stories that flowed from it, but I cant stress enough the fact that Tim never wanted to leave. I wouldnt be doing my job if I at least didnt look at some things, and I did. You go through those things on a number of fronts with a number of players. You just field stuff. You look at them and you talk to other teams. At the end of the day you make the decision yay or nay. And here it was nay. It was an easy nay.

One would think it will be an even easier nay for a triple crown goaltender coming off the first Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup winning season since Bernie Parents run with Broad Street Bullies in Philly.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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