Bruins

Inspired by his critics, Thomas dominates

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Inspired by his critics, Thomas dominates

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Nobody on the Bruins wanted to hear the media criticize Tim Thomas game after their Game 2 overtime loss.

At least, thats what they told the media on Sunday, a day before Game 3.

Everybody in the Boston organization knows what type of player and person Thomas is. They know that the only reason hes carried his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, while making a strong case for his second Vezina Trophy in three years at the age of 37, mind you is because he thrives on a me-vs.-the-world mentality.

Thomas is one of the best goaltenders in the National Hockey League in this late stage of his career because he enjoys proving people wrong.

So when the media asked him on Monday if he felt he needed to change his style after the way he lunged out of the net in overtime on Saturday night in Vancouver Thomas was respectfully blunt.

I have a pretty good idea of how to play goalie, he said. Im not going to be taking suggestions or advice at this time. So Im just going to keep playing the way I have.

Thomas had a chip on his shoulder. As well he should have.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said it was ridiculous that Thomas style was even being questioned.

Maybe it was ridiculous. But the Bruins can say what they want. They know how Thomas plays when hes being questioned, and the criticism was pouring down on Causeway Street entering Monday nights Game 3.

As they probably expected, Thomas responded by making 40 saves in an 8-1 win in Game 3 at the TD Garden.

And afterwards, the Bruins goaltender still carried that chip on his shoulder.

I was happy with at least the base of how I was playing in the first two games, said Thomas. I mean, I had a 1.5 goals-against in regulation the first two games, so I think Id rather listen my goalie coach Bob Essensa over anything else.

Thomas did seem more like a stay-at-home goaltender on Monday than he did during Alex Burrows rush down the left wing 11 seconds into overtime of Game 2. But that wasnt because he changed anything about his style. His defense did a much better job of not letting those breakdowns happen, making sure that the chances Vancouver had werent all coming from breakaways down the wing.

He had a reason tonight to stay in his net, said Julien after the Game 3 win. I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them on the outside. We didnt give them those opportunities, coming with lots of speed and shooting and doing things they did in the other games. So I think Timmy just adjusted to the game.

Thats why we talked about Timmys game. He didnt change his style. Lets not get this wrong here. He just played the way he had to play. Tonight was a night where he could stay in his net a little bit more. Theres going to be nights when he has to come out and challenge, and thats the way he is.

The one goal Thomas allowed was off the stick of Jannik Hansen, with 6:07 left to play in the game. It was a one-timer from the left post that Thomas had no chance on, which cut Bostons lead to 5-1.

Other than that, Thomas was at his best in Game 3. And he needed to be, because the Canucks had eight power plays. And as it always goes, your goaltender is your best penalty killer.

That first period was very tight. It was a close game, and even through the second, there were some really good chances for the Canucks, said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. The amount of power plays they had tonight, your goalie is big in those kind of games. He showed up huge.

And the Bruins know that all the criticisms and suggestions about Thomas style that came up after Game 2, will only make him better.

Hes going to beat to his own drum, no matter what anybody says, said Ference after Game 3. I mean, that definitely brought a smile to a few guys in this locker room, to hear that suggestion.

And for good reason.

Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

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Grzelcyk happy to be back w/ B's and confident in his game

BRIGHTON, Mass – It had to be a bitter pill for Matt Grzelcyk to be sent back down to the AHL after playing solidly for the Bruins earlier this season. 

The 23-year-old Charlestown native was excellent playing in place of Torey Krug in Boston’s opening night win over the Nashville Predators, but his stay didn’t last very long. The former Boston University standout was back in the minor leagues shortly afterward once Krug returned from his fractured jaw a little earlier than expected. Now Krug is again banged up again with an upper body injury, and Grzelcyk has been called up to fill in for Krug during Wednesday night’s pre-Thanksgiving road game in New Jersey against the Devils.

Once again it will be about a focus on puck-moving and power play for Grzelcyk, who is the closest thing that the Bruins have to the smaller, skilled Krug in their minor-league system. 

“I was happy with how things went before I got sent to Providence, so I’m just going to try to do the things that I was doing well before I got sent down. Mentally knowing that I can play at the NHL level [is huge], and just going through the experience was positive,” said Grzelcyk. “Mentally my first year I think I was a little too nervous and tentatively with my play, and that’s not me at all when I’m at my best. I’m confident with the puck, and confident with my speed and ability. It was just about going out and doing it on the ice.”

Grzelcyk was okay down in Providence with four assists and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, but he’s been patiently waiting for another NHL call since logging 12:11 of solid puck-moving ice time in his lone appearance for Boston this season. Now he’ll get it in a likely pairing with Kevan Miller against the New Jersey Devils

“He’s a puck-mover. He’s quick. He can get up the ice and support the rush, and he’s a good distributor,” said Cassidy of Grzelcyk. “There are a lot of natural similarities to Torey [Krug] because of their physical makeup, but they are similar [players] with Torey at this level being a bit more significant offensive player. Whether it’s in [Grzelcyk] or not time will tell, but we believe it is and we just need to get it out of him.”

Grzelcyk will get a chance to show that offensive wrinkle and more when he suits up against the New Jersey Devils for his second game of the season after paying his dues with the P-Bruins overt the last month. 

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

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Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

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