The Best Bruin To Ever Wear The Number One

(Photo Credit: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully become a long and very entertaining series of articles. I am going to look at the best Bruin’s player to wear each number throughout the organization’s long and storied history. I will be skipping the retired numbers because it’s pretty self-explanatory who the best Bruin to don each of those revered numbers was.

Just to get it out of the way, in case anyone has forgotten, these are the current retired numbers in Boston:

#2 – Eddie Shore, #3 – Lionel Hitchman, #4 – Bobby Orr, #5 – Dit Clapper, #7 – Phil Esposito, #8 – Cam Neely, #9 – John Bucyk, #15 – Milt Schmidt, #16 – Rick Middleton, #24 – Terry O’Reilly, #77 – Ray Bourque.

Eleven numbers may seem like a lot, but it still leaves us 88 more to contemplate.

The best place to start this series, numerically anyway, is pretty obvious, and that would be with the number one. Generally speaking, the number one is worn in the NHL by goaltenders, and the greatest players to ever sport that number in B’s history were no exception. In an organization that has been around as long as the Bruins have, you would think that the competition would be pretty fierce? Normally, that would be a safe assumption. Unfortunately, in the case of the number one, the competition IS fierce, but it’s not for first place, it’s for third. That said, there is still a worthy discussion to be had for the runner-ups.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Bruins have two goalies that played their careers primarily in the 1930s and 1940s that have without question locked up the first and second spots as the greatest B’s players to ever wear the number One. Those two guys are Cecil “Tiny” Thompson and Frank “Mr. Zero” Brimsek. While it is difficult to compare players across different eras, these two players were able to pile up more than enough wins and hardware to leave no doubt that they were the top dogs in this contest.

Thompson was the preeminent goaltender of the 1930s. During that decade (and in 1928-29,) he played in 468 games for the Bruins, had a GAA of 1.99 (Save Percentage was not a stat yet), and a whopping 74 shutouts. He won 252 games for Boston, and both his games played and win totals are 2nd all-time for the B’s. They were 1st until recently being eclipsed by Tuukka Rask. In addition to those impressive numbers, Tiny won a Cup in 1929, had four All-Star game appearances, and four Vezina Trophies on his resume. In that era, the Vezina was given to the goalie whose team allowed the fewest amount of regular-season goals. This was no slight as Thompson was largely responsible for that. In 1936 he became the first goalie in NHL history to record an assist in a game. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. For my money, he is the best player to wear number one for the Bruins.

Frank Brimsek played for the Bruins from 1938-1948. Somewhat ironically, it was Brimsek that forced out and took over for Thompson in 1938. Tiny suffered an eye injury, and Brimsek played so well in his stead that the Bruins dealt Thompson to Detroit in November of 1938. It would mark the beginning of an impressive nine-year run in the Boston goal. Brimsek would suit up for 444 games (tied for 3rd on the B’s all-time list), winning 230 with 35 shutouts. During that time, he would also win two Stanley Cups and two Vezina Trophies, along with being named to the All-Star team eight times.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Brimsek earned his famous “Mr. Zero” nickname after recording six shutouts in his first eight games and setting a league record for consecutive scoreless minutes in the process. Brimsek was born in Eveleth, Minnesota, which is notable because he was one of very few Americans in the NHL in the 1940s. The United States Hockey Hall of Fame was established in Brimsek’s hometown in 1973, and he was part of the original group of 25 to be inducted. In addition, an award given to the best senior high school goalie in the state of Minnesota is named after him. He joined Tiny Thompson in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966 and is a close second to him for best Bruin to ever wear the number one.

There are a number of other goalies that have worn the number one for the Bruins over the years. Some have been goalies that made their fame with other teams and wore it briefly for the Black and Gold. Guys like Terry Sawchuk, Rogie Vachon, and Marty Turco fall into this category. While they were great netminders, they were not in Boston long enough to warrant consideration.

The next trio of goalies I considered were all players that fell short of third place for one reason or another, whether it be lack of tenure or performance. Andrew Raycroft had good numbers with Boston (2.62 GAA, .908 Save %), but he only played 108 games and had a losing record before being traded to TOR for Tuukka Rask. Pete Peeters played 171 games in Boston and had 91 wins, but his stats were not great (3.00 GAA, .883 SP), and he had more games and years in a Flyers uniform than a B’s sweater. Last but not least was Reggie Lemelin, who, while he was in Boston, was beloved by the fans for his “fist pump” celebration after games. In six years in Boston, he played in 182 games, had 92 wins, but the numbers were average. His GAA was 3.09, and his save percentage came in at .884. All three of these players were good, but not good enough for the top three.

(Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Third place for the best to wear the number one in Boston came down to two goalies in my estimation, Eddie Johnston and Gilles Gilbert. Readers younger than myself are probably much more familiar with Gilbert than Johnston, who played primarily in the ’60s for the B’s. Gilbert was known for being on the losing end to Philly and later Montreal in the ’70s under Don Cherry.

While Johnston might be lesser-known to today’s Bruins fans, he has a very respectable resume. He played in Boston from 1962 thru 1973, amassing 444 games for the B’s (tied for 3rd all-time with Brimsek), winning 182, with a GAA of 3.22 and a .900 Save Percentage. He was the starter before Gerry Cheevers established himself and backed “Cheesy” up in the late 1960s and early ’70s. His numbers were very comparable to Cheevers,’ and he actually played in more games for the Bruins. He was also a key contributor on both Stanley Cup teams, playing 37 games in 1970 and 38 games in 1972. Despite these solid stats, Johnston may be more well-known as a successful coach and GM for the Penguins in the 1980’s and 90’s?

Last but not least, is Gilles Gilbert, the acrobatic French-Canadian goalie with the memorable flow. He played in Boston from 1974-1980, totaling 277 games for the B’s, winning 155 of them. His GAA was 2.95, and he had a save percentage of .890 over that time. I remember Gilbert as being a key component in net for the highly effective “Lunch Pail AC” teams. Despite their success in the regular season, those teams came up short in the playoffs. Unfortunately, my most lasting memory of Gilbert will be of him falling to the ice after he gave up Guy Lafleur’s game-tying goal as time was running out in Game Seven of the 1979 Stanley Cup Semifinals. That goal is not the reason I am going with Eddie Johnston as the third-best to wear number one for the Bruins…but it didn’t help either.

So, there you have it, the three best players to wear the number one for the Bruins are Tiny Thompson in first, followed by Frank Brimsek as a close second, and Eddie Johnston as a distant third. I hope you enjoyed this look back in B’s history. Next up on the agenda is the number six, where there should be a lot more debate for the title.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Would Bruins Consider A “Playoff Split” for Rask, Halak?

Image result for bruce cassidy tuukka rask halak(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @00EvanMichael

The “Playoff Split.”

It could easily be a bowling term for leaving the 7-10 on the lane during the PBA Open. And as you may remember from FOX NHL Saturday, “bowling would be better if it were hockey”–or vice versa for those bunch of jerks in Carolina (just kidding).

However, in the recent words of Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, it’s more like 10-7–at least from here on out for No.’s 40 & 41 for the Black N’ Gold:

But, what does all this mean for mid-April, when the real NHL season starts up and your starting goaltender needs to be penciled in for the playoffs? Should the B’s take advantage of Tuukka Rask’s “lightest [number of games played] total since 2012-13” as intrepid BSJ reporter Conor Ryan referenced? Or, should the team & management hearken back to the days of yore (not to be confused w/ another B’s blogger the Days of Y’Orr) when BOTH goalies shared the second season workload aka the “Playoff Split” ala Andy Moog & Réjean “Reggie” Lemelin…two of the finest crease keepers to ever wear the spoked-B (and IMHHO my lifetime’s best B’s tandem until this year’s performances of monsieurs Rask & Halak, respectively)?

It would be hard to argue against the numbers, which certainly do indicate and project that the Bruins would be best served to play both goalies–as they have been all season long–throughout what we all hope & expect is a long playoff run. Sure, there’s a lot of evidence supporting the “You Go With Your Number One” argument in the playoffs no matter what, and even a bit of recent B’s history where that worked out quite nicely. But, how ’bout if you have TWO Number Ones, just like the B’s do now and did back then when Mooger & Reggie literally owned the Jennings Trophy?

If you think about it (or just look it up–although I prefer using my puck head), between the time the Lemelin/Moog tandem was between the pipes and the current Rask/Halak pairing of now, the Bruins really haven’t had two goalies that were capable of, or that they trusted, to split a season’s worth of games so evenly & so successfully. Yes, Tim Thomas & Manny Fernandez joined the prestigious Jennings company of Lemelin & Moog during the epic 2008-09 B’s season, but in all fairness to Fernandez, he really didn’t play that much compared to TT. Heck, for about decade, the B’s had a revolving door in the crease where 4, 5, even 6 goalies got starts (I’m talking about YOU Bill Ranford, Rob Tallas, Jim Carey, Scott Bailey, Tim Cheveldae & Paxton Schafer of the league-worst ’96-’97 season)!

So, knowing the numbers & knowing the history, doesn’t it make sense for Cassidy to take advantage of the rarefied air–I mean ice–surrounding his dynamic duo in net and perhaps plan for a duality of options when it comes to who starts for the playoffs? I mean, outside of the aforementioned Thomas standing on his head in 2011 in every round, especially the Cup Finals, the B’s haven’t fared the best in recent playoff play when they’ve tried to rely on “just the starter.”

Related image(Photo Credit: Boston Sports Journal)

Of course, I remember how Rask nearly accomplished the same in 2013 (were it not for :78 seconds of ‘Hawky’ hell in Game 6). And yes, I also realize my favorite B’s tandem of all-time lost both of the Stanley Cup series they shared games in (but let’s be honest… NO ONE was beating the Oilers in those days, Boston Garden electricity bills included).

But, hardly any NHL team or franchise ever gets the chance to prep for the post season with two elite goaltenders simultaneously boosting each other’s play while inspiring the offense in front of them to score & find ways to win. And your 16-game point streak Boston Bruins have that chance — Tampa be damned (with Lightning!) — this year. It’s now up to the B’s to decide how to make the most of it. Sure, a lot can happen between now and April 15th. But if all goes according to plan, then I sure hope to see both Rask & Halak making playoff appearances this year.

I’d settle for 10-7. Heck, make it a 7-10… as long they’re wins! After all, since sixteen is the magic number, this is a “Playoff Split” well worth picking up.

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Happy (Gilmore) Halloween, Bruins Fans!

 

IMG_8616(Photo Credit: Evan Michael)

By: Evan Michael  |  Follow Me On Twitter @EVAN007onTV

As a Bruins hockey fan, as a Halloween costume fanatic, and as someone with a comedy movie fandom… you won’t find me “Happier” than when I’m supporting all things Happy Gilmore (and B’s) for the sporting holiday season.

That’s why I paid tribute to my favorite team and one of my favorite genre flics at two very fitting October events — the Tiny Putters Golf League Spooktational Tourney (above) and the Costumed Karaoke Comedy Hour (below).

Sure, I stayed until the night closed in (and thankfully wasn’t Exiled, wink wink nod nod) but I was truly in my Happy place, just like Pasta winging it with Bergy & Marchy. Or the entire B’s team when visiting the Boston Children’s Hospital, as the players annually do each Halloween season:

So, in honor of the Bruins recognition, support and appreciation for what a costume can do to put a smile on someone’s face, especially someone who may be in need of it most, we should all put on our Bruins jerseys to literally and figuratively “be Happy” this Halloween season (or Gerry Cheevers or Reggie Lemelin depending on the jersey). Hec (Fowler), people are even doing it all throughout Vancouver aka enemy territory!

And you can definitely count on me smiling after that just like you can definitely count on Mr. Larson waiting for Shooter McGavin in the parking lot after the Tour Championship. He wanted to wear the Gold Jacket. Thankfully, we get to wear Black AND GOLD this Fall holiday season.

Happy (Gilmore) Halloween, Bruins Fans!