Bruins

Haggerty: Thomas still proving people wrong

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Haggerty: Thomas still proving people wrong

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

PHILADELPHIA There were probably a thousand different scattered thoughts firingthrough the head of Tim Thomas as he was carving out a legendary playoff performance against the Philadelphia Flyers Monday night.

Thomas and the Bruin defense gave up a pair of goals in the first 10 minutes of a crazy, rush-filled first period, but the Bs goalie simply locked it down after his team fell behind, 2-0.

Thomas made a career-high 52 saves in all, with 32 coming in the third period and overtime as he helped Boston steal a 3-2 victory in Game Two over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

The 37-year-old goalie was certainly basking in the win and enjoying the starring role he played in a victory that his team probably didnt deserve. The Bruins certainly wouldnt have captured it if it werent for their Vezina Trophy-worthy world beater.

As the game went on, I was just trying to work hard . . . By the time the third period rolled around I was feeling really good, said Thomas. Fortunately I was feeling good at the right time because they were getting some shots and opportunities. They were keeping me busy in the third period.

But one other thought must have crept into the mind of a goalie who's had to prove people wrong at every level of his career. Perhaps Thomas was wondering whether the Flyers would be interested in him now.

It seems like years ago now, but there was a time last summer when the Bruins were exploring all their salary-cap relief options. Those choices included trading Thomas and his 5 million salary cap tag to a willing team, and people close to Thomas let it be known that Philadelphia is the place he most wanted to go.

But the Flyers werent interested in a middle-aged goaltender coming off major hip surgery and an off season during which he lost his starting job to young understudy Tuukka Rask.

One would think Flyers GM Paul Holmgren might want to rethink that strategy after watching Thomas push his record in Philadelphia to 8-0-0 against the Flyers in the regular season and playoffs.

Holmgren can't be satisfied with the Flyers' current goalie situation. Their coaching staff has made five goaltender changes in nine playoff games, including the back-and-forth yo-yo between Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky in Game Two.

Thomas certainly knows that teams like the Flyers, Capitals, Lightning and Sharks passed up chances to deal for him because, perhaps, they thought he was washed up. But the Bs All-Star goaltender has taken that disbelief and turned it into fuel.

Perhaps one of those teams will win the Stanley Cup, or perhaps Thomas will end each of their playoff seasons in the ultimate act of hockey revenge served cold on the frozen sheet. The truth in Philly, according to more than one hockey source, is that the Flyers a) were never truly interesting in taking on Thomas, and b) dont believe that a goaltender should sit so prominently on the NHL salary-cap food chain.

That certainly doesnt look like the right kind of philosophy, given whats currently going on in the creases of Bruins and Flyers.

Thomas climbed into The Zone starting in the third period, as he engineered a series of breathtaking saves against James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards (18 shots between those two players in Game 2), but he saved his best for last.

The Flyers won a faceoff deep in the Boston zone in the waning seconds of the third period, and it looked like Philly had itself a win when van Riemsdyk leveled a quick little spin-o-rama wrist shot through a screen. Somehow Thomas picked up the puck and kicked the shot away with a right leg pad save, and then got a little lucky when Daniel Briere fumbled the puck with a lot of open space near the left post.

That momentary stumble gave Dennis Seidenberg a chance to recover, and he shooed the puck away from the net and any further threats from the dangerous Flyers.

This is one of the most dangerous faceoff teams in the defensive zone when you play against them, said Thomas. Theyve got a lot of different things they can do and theyve already scored once in this series on a play like that. So I knew the face-off could be dangerous.

For just a second there it went behind a screen and I saw it just as van Riemsdyk was throwing it at the net. I saw it so late that I couldnt control the rebound, and I saw the puck go to Daniel Brieres feet. In that 1100th of a second I thought it might be over because hes one of those guys that gets them. He fumbled it just long enough for Seidenberg to get over and block one, and then I was just waiting for that buzzer. It was a relief when that buzzer happened.

Thomas knew he was both good and lucky in that flurry of action at the end of the period, but thats been the story of his career as hes created luck between the pipes through ideal positioning and expansive knowledge of the dangerous offensive players around the NHL.

Those things put Thomas in a class by himself when hes rested, motivated and feeling just a slight pang of having something to prove. That's the way he was all season as he likely earned a second career Vezina Trophy along with an NHL-record .938 save percentage.

But doing it in the playoffs is especially satisfying, since he had only a single playoff series win under his resume headed into this postseason.

Andrew Ference has always believed in Thomas, and didn't hesitate when asked when he knew it was going to be a special year for Thomas.

Training camp," said Ference.

"He hasnt missed too many nights, he added. Timmy was pretty sick. There is nobody better than him. Hes unbelievable. That third period and overtome Monday night was just a clinic. I dont even know what to say anymore.

One guy thats definitely glad a Thomas trade was never made: the guy that would have had to pull the trigger.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli walked out of the Bs dressing room postgame and breathed a sigh of relief, as if a dramatic weight had been lifted by the victory. He knew he watched his team win a game in which they were outplayed because of a scalding hot goalie. And he knows just how demoralizing that can be to a team doing everything possible to score.

Tonight Thomas was ridiculous. Hes gotten better every game, said Chiarelli. Thats one of the best goaltending performances Ive seen in a long time. Were just hoping to get more of it.

The Flyers are hoping their goaltending nightmare ends soon, but its beginning to look more and more like this might be the Year of Tim Thomas.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Morning Skate: Predators kicking it into gear

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Morning Skate: Predators kicking it into gear

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while anticpating the turkey leftovers, ready for the taking.
 
-- NHL referee Wes McCauley is at it again, this time going with a fun no-goal call after having some trouble with his microphone.
 
-- After getting humbled on Opening Night by the Bruins, the Nashville Predators are starting to get on a roll.

-- NBC Pro Hockey Talk has Kyle Turris excelling for the Predators, and Matt Duchene very much still stuck in neutral for the Ottawa Senators.

-- NHL stars go through their favorite traditions, and what they enjoy is a game that’s full of routine, superstition and tradition.
  
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Ray Ferraro says “it looks rotten” with the Edmonton Oilers as they continue to struggle out of the starting gate.
 
-- Larry Brooks goes through an all-time ranking of the general managers for the New York Rangers, and it’s an illustrious list.

-- The Vegas Golden Knights could make the playoffs in their very first season, and are absolutely far ahead of expectations for a new expansion team.
 
-- For something completely different: Wild turkeys are making a major comeback in Massachusetts after being all but extinct here.
 

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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