Haggerty: Thomas quickly puts 'awful' game in past


Haggerty: Thomas quickly puts 'awful' game in past

KANATA, Ontario It appears that a Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner can still have his cage rattled.

Tim Thomas wasnt too thrilled with getting pulled from a tied game against the Columbus Blue Jackets heading into the third period last weekend, and he was determined to answer strongly in his next shot between the Bruins pipes.

I let in three goals. It was awful, said Thomas while dripping with a healthy dose ofsarcasm. In the back of your head youre like I dont want to let in three goals and be gone after two periods. I want to finish the game.

Its an uncomfortable feeling because youre not used to being in that situation.

The chance Thomas had been waiting for arrived Wednesday night in a Scotiabank Place setting where Thomas has dominated throughout his career, and he did that once again while stopping 47 shots en route to a 5-2 victory for the Bruins over the Senators.

The victory pushed Thomas and the Bs to the top of the Eastern Conference standings for the first time this season, and speaks to the reigning Cup champs simply winning through anything.

Watching Tuukka Rask replace him in the third periodto make 11 saves in the relief victory against Columbus definitely left an impression with the B's netminder, and he'd been waiting for his next chance to shine.Thomas was impenetrable through a game where the Bs were outplayed with Zdeno Chara missing, and held the fort in the first period when the Senators fired 13 shots on him. It started within the first 30 seconds of the game when the Sens attacked Boston off the opening faceoff, and Colin Greening fired on net in the ultimate wakeup call for a snoozing Bs bunch and their waiting goalie.

The shot came from the slot area thats normally Bostons no-fly zone when Chara is logging his 25 minutes of ice time, but it was wide open for business withthe Bruins scrambled to get their bearings. They never really did throughout the 60 minutes despite ending up with two points.

Luckily Thomas kicked out his left pad and knocked the puck away from harms way, and set a tone Ottawa would have to earn any offense coming its way. That ultimately got discouraging for the Senswhen defensemanErik Karlsson couldnt find a way through while firing slap shots from the far points. Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Chris Neil all worked in tight around the cage, butcouldnt shovel anything past Thomas near the left and right posts aside from a meaningless Spezza score in the third period among Thomas' 21 saves. Just the fact that the Sens were able to bully their way to the net and squeeze off 49 shots was something that left Claude Julien displeased following the teams third straight victory. There are too many soft spots without their 6-foot-9 stopper. Unfortunately that will be a way of life until Chara finds his way back into the lineup.

I was joking with the players that Zee is not that good that hes going to cut down the shots against by 28 or 25 shots," said Julien. "Were certainly a much better team than they were Wednesday. Were missing him because he plays big minutes against big players, but right now we just have to look at our game. This has got to do with every single one of our players letting their game slip.

As a team were going through a bit of a challenge right now and I dont think its because of injuries. I dont think were executing and I dont think were battling as much as we should be. Part of it is that our emotions arent as good as they were when we were going well. We need to pick up our game here."

So how does a hockey team pull out a game where it was outplayed, outshot and generally outhustled by its opponent?

A couple of nice individual efforts fromguys like Andrew Ference and Daniel Paille went a long way for the Bs, but nobody was shying away from giving Thomas credit for holding things together early in the game while Boston rediscovered its groove. The high number of shots and genuine scoring chances for Ottawa immediately drew Thomas into the game, and left him answering questions about his career dominance of the Senators organization. Thomas has 11 career wins at Scotiabank Place -- the most in any road arena during his career -- a save percentage approaching .950 and three shutouts at the home of the Senators.To say going to Ottawa puts him in his happy place is no understatement.

Thomas smiled and acknowledged the stats concerning the Senators. But thehumble goalie alsopointed out Wednesday nights effort had more to do with the fact he and his team havebeen pretty damned good this season. The Bs goaltender has improved to 14-5 on the season and is second behind St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott with a .940 save percentage that allowed him tojump back ahead of fellow B'sgoalie Tuukka Rask in their see-saw statistical battle.

Thomas insisted that its no magical formula when he walks into Scotiabank Place, and there were no mystical hockey powers at work when he turned away 10 shots in the final frenziedtwo minutes of action. The Sens made their last-minute rush, but they werent good enough attempting to get through Thomas.

Im 12-1 in my last 13 games. Its not necessarily Ottawa and its not Canada. I get asked this a lot. The team is finding ways to win right now, said Thomas. Whether were playing the best hockey we want to be playing or not, it might not be the case. But were finding ways to win and were having stretches where were playing good hockey.

I feel pretty good. But, for example, I felt better in the playoffs last year than the way I feel right now. Thats the way it should be, but I cant really compare much to last year at this point.

Thomas should feel good. Just as Tuukka Rask should feel good too. The Bruins are showing just three months into the season that theyve got the most dominant goaltending duo going in the NHL right now, and they're pushing each other.

Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins


Heinen beginning to look like a keeper for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it’s still early in the careers of all the young Bruins rookies making their way this season, it sure looks like 22-year-old Danton Heinen is among the B’s youngsters that are here to stay. The former University of Denver standout didn’t make the cut at the end of training camp this season and he failed early last year when it was clear he wasn’t ready during an eight-game audition with the big club.

But Heinen continued to look ready while scoring a pair of goals and three points in the three games on a pivotal road trip through California last week, and is now tied for fifth on the Bruins in points despite missing four games in the AHL. In all, Heinen has four goals and 10 points along with a plus-4 rating in 15 games this season, and is on pace for a really strong 21 goals and 52 points in his first full year.

This has been a really nice step forward for Heinen after being a point-per-game player for Providence during their playoff run last spring.


“Last year’s playoff did a lot for him. When I saw him playing there, he was a different player than when he’d left [Boston],” said Bruce Cassidy. “There was a willingness to stay in the battle and his growth when it comes to winning pucks…you’ve seen it here. A lot of the things he’s down well are his second and third efforts on the puck where last year I thought he was pushed off the puck pretty easily [at the NHL level].”

There could be a period when his offense slows down or some other part of his game drags his minutes down, but right now he looks like he’s well on his way to establishing himself in a key role with the Black and Gold. The difference has been Heinen increasing his speed and also adding a little more tenacity to the skill and offense package that he was always bringing to the table.  

“I don’t want to say that because when we get our guys healthy then we’ll see where we’re at,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked if Heinen was a keeper at the NHL level at this point. “But I think he’s certainly shown he’s a much more consistent player than he was last year. He’s probably a bit ahead of the other younger guys because he has gone through a bit of it [at the pro level]. The fact that he’s been able to play in a lot of different situations, play left or right wing, and moved up in the lineup while being very effective with [Sean] Kuraly and [Tim] Schaller down in the lineup, as a coach it’s to have a guy like that who can move around and fit in a lot of different places.

“So he’s certainly helped himself [to stay in the NHL]. I think it’s too early to say if he’s here for good, but I don’t envision him leaving [Boston] anytime soon with the way that he’s played.”

Only time and consistently good play will allow the playmaking Heinen to truly lock up his spot on the NHL roster, but it’s increasingly difficult to envision any scenario where the fifth-round pick isn’t playing an increasingly important role for the Bruins. 


Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis


Bruins' Backes returns to ice after surgery for diverticulitis

BRIGHTON -- In a development that was certainly much sooner than originally anticipated, David Backes has returned to the ice just a matter of weeks after having 10 inches of colon removed during surgery for diverticulitis. It remains to be seen how gradual a process it will be for the 33-year-old to actually return to game action given his original timetable for recovery was eight weeks following the early November procedure, but it seems like it might end up being ahead of the two months Backes was initially expected to be sidelined. 

For his part, Backes was happy to be back skating with his teammates and pushing his recovering body after feeling pretty sluggish for the first few days following surgery. He confirmed he’d been skating for a couple of days while the team was on the West Coast, but Monday was his first team doing anything post-surgery with the rest of the team. 

“It’s good to be back with the guys and to be around the room, and to have seen the kind of resiliency that these guys showed on the road trip. The back half of the road trip was impressive,” said Backes, who has an assist in five games with the Bruins before succumbing to the surgery. “To be on the ice and moving around after sitting around doing nothing for too long where you don’t think you’re going to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels good. 

“The doc’s advice is that if it doesn’t hurt then I can keep moving forward and add more of a workload on, so that’s the update for today. It’s still non-contact, but we’ll keep moving along and hopefully I’ll be back doing what I love to do on a regular basis. I haven’t been notified that the timeline has changed at all, so I’m just going to keep putting in the work. The more I seem to do the work the better it is, and I seem to be able to do a little more each day. So those are all positive signs.”

For the Bruins it’s clearly a morale booster to see the big power forward back doing regular hockey activities, and serving notice that he’ll be bringing his size, strength, leadership and physicality back to a B’s team that definitely needs him. Clearly the return of another high-end forward would also immensely help a Bruins team that’s still very undermanned up front, but it would appear there will be some other B’s forwards getting back prior to Backes. 

Brad Marchand and Ryan Spooner appear poised to return to full practice on Tuesday with a possible return to the lineup not too far beyond that after all three injured forwards took part in Monday’s optional skate at Warrior Ice Arena.