Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tim Thomas and Jaroslav Halak making things Tough on Shooters

What's the toughest thing to do in the NHL right now? Is it getting a puck past Tim Thomas? Or it could be turning on the red light behind Jaroslav Halak?

Who's better? That could be answered (at least for now) Saturday in Boston, where the two could be at opposite ends of the ice when Halak and the Blues come to TD Garden for a game against Thomas and the Bruins.

It's hard to argue with the performance of either goaltender so far

Thomas already has made history by becoming the first Boston goaltender to start the season by going 7-0-0 -- he outdid Tiny Thompson, who started 6-0-0 in 1937-38 before playing to a pair of ties. More amazing is the fact that Thomas didn't even begin the season as the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender. Tuukka Rask took away Thomas' starting job last season and got the opening-day start against Phoenix. But after Rask surrendered four goals in a 5-2 loss, Thomas got the call in Game 2, responded with a 3-0 victory and has spent the next four weeks looking like Jacques Plante, Glenn Hall, Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur rolled into one.

Consider this: Thomas didn't allow as many as two goals in a game until Wednesday, when Buffalo got a pair in Boston's 5-2 victory. The second-period power-play goal by the Sabres' Drew Stafford was the first man-advantage goal allowed by Thomas all season. In all, he's surrendered just five goals -- giving him a goals-against average of 0.72. He's faced 220 shots and stopped 215, a .977 save percentage (Rask led the NHL last season at .931).

Were it not for Thomas, Halak might well be the talk of the NHL.

Halak was a playoff hero for Montreal this past spring, but with Carey Price also in the fold, the Canadiens opted to send Halak to St. Louis. All he's done is go 7-1-1 in his first eight games with the Blues, including 6-0-0 at home, while putting up a 1.53 GAA and a .940 save percentage (14 goals allowed on 232 shots). He's second to Thomas among starting goaltenders in GAA, third in save percentage. The two are even with seven wins and a League-leading three shutouts.

Home cooking -- Perhaps the biggest difference Halak has made to the Blues is their play at home. The Blues are 6-0-0 at Scottrade Center this season, and Halak has been in goal for all six games -- including two shutouts. The Blues needed to win their last six home games last season just to finish at 18-18-5.

The 12 consecutive home wins (including last season) is a franchise record. The 6-0-0 mark at the beginning of the current season leaves the Blues five short of Chicago's record of 11 consecutive home victories at the start of a season, set in 1963-64.

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