There’s no doubt that Western Canada agrees with Tim Thomas.
So the question over these three days off between games at Calgary and Vancouver for the Bruins’ brass is: how do we divvy up the next couple games between Thomas and Tuukka Rask.
After a week off, Thomas returned to action Tuesday night and nearly shut out the Flames. He finished with 28 saves on 29 shots in the 3-1 victory. For his career, Thomas has now played five road games against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in his career. He is 4-1-0 with a .956 save percentage.
In his only previous visit to Vancouver, Saturday’s opponent, Thomas blanked the Canucks on 31 shots. He shut them out a second time at TD Garden.
The last time Thomas visited Edmonton, who the Bruins play Sunday, he pitched a 27-save shutout, which was a follow-up to his 31-save, victorious NHL debut Oct. 19, 2002. Overall, Thomas’ record against the Oilers reads 3-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against avearage.
In a slightly smaller sample, Rask is 1-0-1 vs. Edmonton and Vancouver — with a 2-0 win over the Oilers Oct. 31, 2009 and a 3-2 shootout loss to the Canucks in Boston last February 6.
If Rask doesn’t play over the weekend but instead makes his next start Tuesday at Ottawa, he’ll have gone 10 days without game action and the groove he started to settle into with back-to-back wins over the New York Islanders and Senators last week could be lost. But with Thomas’ numbers out west, it could be hard to sit him.
These are the types of difficult decisions head coach Claude Julien says he relishes because they’re proof his team is deep. There’s almost no wrong answer, unless Rask drops the ball in his next appearance, whether it’s over the weekend or Tuesday in Ottawa. The choice between goaltender 1 and 1A has been hanging over the Bruins all season, but it has increased importance now with just 22 games left and the stretch run officially here.