BOSTON - Tim Thomas won the Vezina Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup last season—everything he could, it seems, except the job as the Boston Bruins' No. 1 goalie.
"We have two No. 1s," Bruins coach Claude Julien said Tuesday as the team met with the media two days before it opens the season and its title defence.
Julien said he will start the season with Thomas and Tuukka Rask sharing time as the starter, but the coach left open the possibility that one would run off with the job as Thomas did last season with a dominating performance that earned him honours as the playoff MVP and the NHL's top goaltender.
"There are two goalies on the team, and we don't think of ourselves as No. 1 and No. 2," Thomas said. "If the team's on a roll and both goalies are winning, obviously you play both goalies."
Thomas had been the Bruins' top goalie to start the 2009 season—earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team—but a bad hip hindered him the second half of the year, and by the time the playoffs came around, Rask had inherited the starting job. Thomas didn't play at all in the post-season, when the Bruins collapsed against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Bruins tried to trade Thomas in the off-season, but they were glad they kept him. Rask struggled down the stretch while Thomas got stronger, cruising to 35 wins in 55 starts, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage that is a modern record. He was even better in the playoffs, with a 1.98 goals-against and a .940 save percentage that improved to .967 in the Stanley Cup finals.
Thomas had four shutouts in the playoffs, two against the Vancouver Canucks as the Bruins won their first NHL championship since 1972. Rask didn't play in the post-season.
"It was great to watch him play," Rask said. "Knowing the guy he is, it was great to see him have that success."
But it was also a tough year for Rask, 24, who even as the playoffs started had been expected to—at the very least—compete with Thomas for playing time.
"I'm not used to sitting on the bench a lot and not playing," he said. "But I realized that no matter what your role is, you've got to be one of the guys. I learned that support is a good thing for the hockey club."
Rask had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee in the off-season and pronounced himself ready to play. Thomas is expected to play the opener against the Flyers on Thursday, though Julien doesn't announce the starting goalie in advance.
"They're still, in my mind, No. 1-calibre goaltenders. But as you saw Timmy just took off and we had to ride the hot hand," Julien said. "Will Tuukka play a bigger role? We hope so. But it's not going to take away from the strength of the team."
Rask said he is ready.
"You always approach a season the same way: you have to be ready to play a lot," Rask said. "We're privileged to have two good goalies."
Whoever is in the net, it will be an emotional night for the Bruins as they raise their sixth championship banner above the TD Garden ice. At media day on Tuesday, new banners were in place to replace the previous five, with each banner now bearing the logo that the team wore in the year it was won.
The Bruins also trotted out the Stanley Cup—newly engraved with the names of last season's roster on it—for a news conference with state officials and fans. On Tuesday night 505 members of the organization received their championship rings in a ceremony at a downtown Boston hotel.
There are more than 300 diamonds in the ring, which features diamond set images of the Bruins' logo and the Stanley Cup. The logo and Cup are surrounded by six diamonds representing the six Stanley Cup championships the organization has won; the words "Stanley Cup" and "Champions" surround the crest.
The players' name and sweater number are featured on one of the shoulders of the ring, while the years the Bruins won the Cup and another depiction of the Cup reside on the other shoulder.
"It's something very special and to have something like that," centre Patrice Bergeron said. "First of all, it's a dream come true to win a Stanley Cup. But to actually have a ring, it's amazing."
All of last year's players who are still with the team, plus Michael Ryder, Mark Recchi and Shane Hnidy attended the event.
"It came out better than I thought it could be," forward Brad Marchand said.