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Battle of the Backstops

by Hannah Becker / Boston Bruins – Don’t be surprised if tonight’s Boston vs. Nashville score doesn’t quite reach past a goal or two per team. 

Nashville and Boston rank second and third respectively in team goals against average, and host two of the best goaltenders in the NHL.

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas (30) dives to block a shot on goal by New York Islanders' Michael Grabner (40) of Austria during the second period of an NHL hockey game Friday, March 11, 2011, in Uniondale, N.Y. Grabner scored in the third period as the Islanders won 4-2. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
The Bruins Tim Thomas boasts the best goals against average (2.03) and save percentage (.938) in the league. Thomas also adds a 29-9-8 record with seven shutouts to his Vezina Resume.

While Thomas leads the league, Nashville’s Pekka Rinne is close behind.

Rinne is second to Thomas in goals against average (2.09) and save percentage (.929). Thomas also trumps him in record and shutouts.

Rinne enters tonight’s game with a 25-20-8 record and six shutouts.

“First of all he’s a big goaltender, he takes a lot of space in the net and I think he’s very athletic, covers the net very well,” Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said of Rinne.

“What I’ve seen for him beyond I’ve like and I know for a fact he’s kept them in a lot of games and had made some saves, as our goaltender has done for us.

“I know that he’s been one of those goaltenders who has really helped hem through some tough times. “

As far as goaltending goes, Julien believes it has become a more of a factor in the overall records and performance of a team.

“Goaltenders are becoming more and more important in today’s game as far as being the guys deciding whether your team wins or not.” Julien said.

Boston, however, doesn’t seem to have any issues in-between the pipes. Unless, of course, you consider choosing which standout goaltender to play each night an issue.

In addition to Vezina candidate Thomas, the B’s also have a roster spot for Tuukka Rask.

Although the wins have been harder to come by far Rask -- he’s 10-12-1 in 24 games -- he still holds a 2.69 GAA and a .919 save percentage.

Rask’s latest win came with a 3-2 shootout victory against Columbus on Tuesday night, in which he made 34 saves and stopped all three Blue Jacket’s shootout attempts.

“We have a good goaltender who has been good for us all year, who’s needed some rest. At the same time, you don’t really want to let him get rusty but you balance things out. The other guy is starting to play better and better all the time so you want to keep him going,” Julien said.

In order to give his team the best possibly opportunity of winning each night, Julien wants to make sure the right Bruin is between the pipes.

Making this decision, Julien says, is not easy, which is why he consults Bruins goaltending coach Bob Essensa.

“You end up making those decisions based on that, but I’ve always had discussions with our goaltending coach, Bob Essensa, and have also had some talks with our goaltenders and the one thing we’ve done is make sure everyone is understanding what we’re trying to do here,” Julien said.

“Trying to make sure we’re all on the same page and it’s good sometimes to get input from them as well and that’s how we’ve handled those situations.

“As long as you have good goaltenders I guess at the end of the day you can’t go wrong.”
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