The Blues (7-1-2) are tied with Columbus atop the Central Division - ahead of reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago and perennial power Detroit - and Halak is a big reason why. He’s 7-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average, and has won five straight starts with three shutouts to tie Thomas for the league lead.
All of Halak’s whitewashes have come over the last four games. The latest was Thursday, when he turned away 25 shots in a 2-0 win over San Jose.
“You want to keep your cool for all 60 minutes, and that’s what I’m trying to do,” said Halak, who also blanked Pittsburgh and Nashville in consecutive starts late last month.
Last season with Northeast rival Montreal, Halak was 2-1-0 with a 1.85 GAA against Boston. He’s 5-3-0 with a 1.99 GAA and two shutouts in eight career starts versus the Bruins.
While Halak has been very good, Thomas has been even better, but he needs to bounce back from his worst start of 2010-11.
Thomas had been 7-0-0 with a 0.72 GAA entering Friday’s game against Washington. However, the 2009 Vezina Trophy winner - who closed October with back-to-back shutouts of division foes Ottawa and Toronto - allowed three second-period goals and was replaced by Tuukka Rask(notes) to start the third.
Thomas avoided his first loss after Boston rallied with goals from Michael Ryder(notes), Nathan Horton(notes) and Shawn Thornton(notes), but Rask surrendered the tie-breaking goal with 6:35 to play and Boston (7-3-0) went on to lose 5-3.
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the decision to pull Thomas was no reflection on the league’s second star for October.
“Coach came and talked to me after the second period and told me what his thoughts were. And I said I understand and I agree,” said Thomas, whose GAA rose to 1.05.
Thomas hasn’t fared well against the Blues, going 0-1-2 with a 2.86 GAA. He allowed shootout goals to T.J. Oshie(notes) and former Bruin Brad Boyes(notes) during the most recent matchup in Boston, a 5-4 loss Jan. 19, 2009.
Oshie leads the Blues this season with nine assists and 10 points.
St. Louis has won eight of its last 10 against Boston, including four in a row at TD Garden. The Blues, though, are 1-1-2 this season on the road, where they play six of their next seven over 11 days.