They are both world-class goaltenders with the statistics to back it up, but when it comes to the Stanley Cup puck stoppers, both the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins should have Handle with Care stickers nearby.
While both Roberto Luongo of the Canucks and Tim Thomas of the Bruins are Vézina Trophy finalists, awarded to the NHL's top goaltender, neither has been bulletproof during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Thomas has allowed four goals or more in five of 18 games this postseason, while Luongo was benched during a first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks after surrendering 10 goals in a little more than 60 minutes.
On some nights, Luongo and Thomas are rocks. On others, not so much.
What isn't in much dispute, though, is that goaltending will be central to determining a winner between the top two defensive teams in the NHL.
"Goalies are the biggest factor in the game, and especially in the playoffs," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said.
No Canucks player, not even the Sedin twins or Ryan Kesler, plays in a brighter spotlight than Luongo, whose every misstep brings about critics. Even in a low-scoring, second-round series against the Nashville Predators, Luongo looked fallible, allowing odd goals from behind the goal line.
Then there is Thomas, who began the Eastern Conference final by allowing nine goals over two games, and needed a five-goal period from his teammates to earn a split before the series headed to Tampa. Last year, Thomas lost his starting job in the playoffs, and was replaced by young upstart Tuukka Rask.
"Nobody in the world would have thought this a year ago today," 37-year-old Thomas said following a 1-0 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 last Friday. "I think there are a lot of people thinking I was over the hill. I knew it wasn't true. I put in a lot of work last summer, and it's amazing, the year I've had. I've been blessed."
This year, Thomas set an NHL record for save percentage in a season (.9381) and is a favourite to take home the Vézina. He's not that far off in the playoffs (.929), and neither is Luongo (.922). Both goalies have goals-against averages of 2.29, and two shutouts.