While the talk this summer has largely been about most of the Boston Bruins team returning intact for next season, there is obviously one large exception in goaltender Tim Thomas.
The 38-year-old Bruins goalie is walking away from the team to spend time reconnecting with friends, faith and family out in Colorado this year, and so the goaltending duties will fall to twenty-something puck-stoppers in Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. It wont be easy to replace a goaltender in Thomas that was the single biggest individual reason that Boston won the Cup when he nabbed the Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy during an epic run through the playoffs.
But Claude Julien was asked about the four-time All-Star goaltenders decision to forego the Bruins and the NHL this season an action Thomas has never quite confirmed in any of his cagey Facebook posts and referenced his teams endless ability to roll with adversity and absent players.
The Bruins have been without Marc Savard for the better part of two years and were able to win a Stanley Cup without their playmaking center. They made the playoffs in Juliens first season without the services of a concussed Patrice Bergeron.
Theres a precedent there for this current edition of Black and Gold players to power through missing players.
We lost a guy by the name of Marc Savard, who led our team in scoring every year. We were able to adapt. I see the absence of Thomas as a same kind of a challenge, said Julien. Theres no doubt, nobodys going to deny what Tims done here for our hockey club over the years, but weve mentioned that Tuukka is a very capable goaltender
It certainly helps the Bruins as well when a longtime prospect and goalie of the future like Rask is waiting in the wings, and the Bruins just hope he seizes the opportunity with a healthy, consistent season.
Rask has got his opportunity to showcase himself this year and I think when I saw Khudobin play -- whether it was training camp or whether it was when he was with us that game in Ottawa -- you can see a goaltender who has not only improved, but he has matured, said Julien. I honestly have a lot of confidence in our goaltending. Weve also drafted and signed a few goaltenders as well. I think our depth is there. I dont really see that as an issue. I have the confidence in what I have for goalies in front of me right now.
Rask and Khudobin have over 100 combined games of NHL experience as they ready to be Bostons goaltending tandem next season, so there should be some level of confidence in them. Rask even led the league in goals against average and save percentage three seasons ago with the Bruins.
So there are reasons for optimism, but theyll both have to prove it next season while filling up the gaping hole left by a guy that put together one of the greatest seasons of all-time two years ago.