Tag Archives: Tim Thomas

West Coast Trip: Part 2 – Sharks

The three and a half hours of sleep I received before work this morning were well worth it — Around 1:30 a.m. (on the East coast), big Zdeno Chara bore down San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and unleashed his 105 M.P.H. cannon from 20 feet out.

Zdeno Chara's shootout goal at HP Pavillion

Chara’s lone goal in the shootout completed a 65+ minute effort for the Black and Gold last night in San Jose and gave the Bruins a 2-1 victory at the HP Pavillion.

From the opening puck drop, Boston was able to match the Sharks intensity as both teams traded scoring chances and engaged each other physically. Noteworthy last night was the performance of Milan Lucic who stood out in the 1st last night with two very strong plays: one, a big hit along the side boards in the defensive zone, and later he did a great job of controlling the puck in the offensive zone up against the boards. He was able to put a good deal of pressure and torque on that injured ankle, which is great news. Even from a few thousand miles away, I could see a desperation, an energy, and a willingness to do anything to win that has been lacking from Boston’s play for the better part of this season. Key injuries to key players have caused Bruin players to rely not on skill, but on sheer determination. When Mark Recchi is your top-line Center, you know it’s gonna be a grind-em-out type of evening. That’s precisely what I saw.

Perhaps Boston’s exemplary effort was rewarded with a little luck; over the past week, I’ve been saying that the Bruins will need opportunistic offense and A+ goaltending. They received both last night. Daniel Paille capitalized on a San Jose turnover when his rebound bounced in off of Shark D-man Dan Boyle in the 1st and Tim Thomas had a very strong game and was as competitive as I’ve seen him all season; even though he was twice aided by the goalpost. Of his 41 saves last night, probably five could be considered difficult, which is a credit to the defensive system installed by Head Coach Claude Julien and his staff. Boston did a good (not great) job of clearing the front of the net and keeping the Sharks shooters to the outside. I will say that Boston did an above average job of clogging up passing lanes on everyone except Joe Thornton who, like Marc Savard, can thread the needle with the best of them.

All in all, last night was the most exciting win for this team since the Winter Classic. I only hope they can sustain that effort and intensity. Boston goes for win number two on this road trip tomorrow afternoon in Los Angeles. I will be able to catch the first two periods on my laptop during my layover in Denver. I’ll post periodically during my week vacation in Arizona. Go Coyotes!

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West Coast Trip: Part 1 – Ducks

Jonas Hiller and the Ducks celebrateWhat a frustrating game last night.

As I mentioned in my last post, the Bruins are severely undermanned (not in quantity, but quality) and will need to be extremely opportunistic in order to win games. The inconsistency in the lines and the minor league call-ups on defense mean that the Bruins will invariably give up more opportunities than they generate, and when those chances come around, the Bruins NEED to bury them.

Overall, Boston had a strong game last night against a strong Anaheim team, but were just unable to put the puck in the net when they had to. Michael Ryder hit his 15,000th post this year and David Krejci was robbed in the crease — both in the 3rd. Games like last nights emphatically highlight the need on this team for a proven goal scorer who is actually producing goals at this time. Ryder is considered by some to be a “proven” goal scorer but hasn’t touched 30 goals for nearly four years.

Having said that, Boston just needs to focus on staying in playoff position until their injured stars return. I think that the Olympic break will do this team a world of good, since they have no real momentum that would be in jeopardy of dissolving at this point in time. They just need to heal up for the post-season.

Tonight, it’s off to San Jose to face Joe Thornton and the Sharks.

Perennially amongst the leagues elite (regular season) teams, tonight’s game should be a much tougher task than the one the Bruins left behind in Anaheim. Tim Thomas is slated to get the start. Dennis Wideman is day-to-day with Can’t-Hit-The-Net-itis — but seriously, he hurt his leg blocking a shot last night.

The only way to win tonight is to outhit and outwork San Jose, especially in front of the goaltenders, on both ends of the ice.

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End of Semester Musings – Tuukka Time (again)

I can only blame my sporadic updates on the end-of-semester crunch, which I am happy to report, is over. In order to re-kindle my creative juices, I felt like going on a bit of a rant about a few players who are stepping up this season:

Patrice Bergeron has finally become the player that we all knew he could be; strong on his skates, smart with the puck, always makes the right play, and when he feels like it, can flat out run people over. The Bruins have won three of the past five games, and Patrice Bergeron has had a least a point in all three (1-5=6; he did not record a point in the two losses to MTL and NYI). At face value his overall stats don’t grab you, but Patrice is bringing an attitude and determination that I haven’t seen from him since his pre-concussion days. Look for him to continue to be the offensive leader on this team (along with Savard).

From offense to defense —

It’s safe to say that it’s officially Tuukka Time here in Boston. His .932 save percentage and 1.97 Goals Against Average rank him 2nd and 3rd in the league respectively. With all the great moves the Bruins made this offseason, (yes, I loved the Kessel move) the only contract I am questioning is the one gifted to Tim Thomas. Sure, Thomas is a man that deserves a break and has probably earned the money simply because he’s been through so much to reach this point, but from a business standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense….I’m rambling; back to Rask: I’ve been to ten or so games so far this year and Rask has probably played in half of them and I can tell you that Rask is truly a sight to behold. The one thing that sticks out to me every game is how calm he is when the storm around the net is at is most fierce. His side to side movement is incredibly fluid and he almost never loses sight of the puck and it’s for that reason that he is able to direct nearly every rebound away from the front of the net.
Rask was slated for no more than 25 games this season, however a “lower body injury” to Thomas (purportedly a broken hand suffered after the OT loss to Pitt…wall punch???) has caused the young netminder to play in 14 games to this point. With more than 50 games remaining, I would expect Rask to play in at least 20, giving him closer to 35 starts (in the pre-season I predicted Rask would see as many as 30 starts). First Toronto gave us Rask for Raycroft and now, with their draft picks in our back pocket, Kessel and the Leafs are in last place, making it more likely that the Bruins will have a top 5 pick in the next draft. From now on, whenever Peter Chiarelli sees “Burke, Brian” on his caller-ID, he’ll pick it up on the first ring.

On the whole, the Bruins are finally playing better, more consistent hockey.  The incredible struggles they underwent during October are behind them and they’re back in the top third of the Eastern Conference where they belong.

HOT: Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, Michael Ryder (he’s going to score five goals in the next eight games…just wait)

NOT: Tim Thomas, Dennis Wideman (always and forever), Blake Wheeler (three goals since Nov. 1)

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Bruins Week in Review — 10/25/09

Bergeron_RyderThe Boston Bruins faced their toughest test of the season this past week. With Milan Lucic and Marc Savard sidelined for the next month, and Chuck Kobasew gone to Minnesota via trade, the Bruins relied on some new faces, and saw the resurgence of an old one.

Being forced to face adversity this early in the season can only serve to help Boston down the road…provided they can win these games.

Over the past three games, the Bruins have shown a great deal of heart and determination — although they have had their share of mistakes, perhaps caused by all the new faces, the boys in black collected 5 out of a possible 6 points,including an improbable shootout victory Saturday night in Ottawa.

This win comes on the tail end of a win in Nashville and a shootout loss to Philadelphia, continuing Boston’s win,loss,win start to the 2009/10 season.

Last season, the Bruins cruised to a comfortable 116 point showing, never having to face serious adversity. Now, with Kessel in Toronto and Lucic and Savard injured, last year’s top line is gone, forcing the remainder of the squad to elevate their game.

One member of the Black and Gold who has picked up his play is Patrice Bergeron. His T.O.I has increased from less than 16 minutes against Phoenix (Lucic’s last game) to 21:01 on Saturday night. He has an unimpressive 2 points over that span, but the effort, intensity and confidence that Bruins scouts saw in him is finally back. Bergeron knows that they spotlight is now on him, and he is not shrinking.

For all of the criticism that the Bruins have been taking (I’ve been giving my fair share) thus far this season, they are only 2 points shy of where they were at this time last year. That’s not to say that these are the same old Bruins:  To date, the biggest concern for this team continues to be special teams, which not only failed to score a power play goal, but allowed its 3rd shorthanded goal of the season. Sheesh!

They simply need to get better in this department. First of all, STOP DUMPING THE PUCK IN! Carry it into the zone with speed, please.

Never fear, Claude Julien is here. Boston’s special teams will improve.

I always find myself getting to end of my articles without mentioning Tim Thomas. How dare I!?Senators Bruins Hockey

He was simply stellar this week. Making a number of key saves and giving the Bruins not just a chance to win games, but giving them the confidence to do so.  After the Bruins came back to take the lead against Nashville, Thomas shut out the Predators and after a day off on Friday, came out with his most complete effort thus far. He was in true Vezina form when he robbed Daniel Alfredsson.

The next month will be a true test of character for the Boston Bruins. They’re being forced to play tough, grinding hockey, which will only benefit them come April.

HOT: Daniel Paille – You have to love his tenacity and hockey sense. He’s very creative with the puck and never gives up. A definite upgrade over Kobasew.

NOT: Dennis Wideman – Boy, when he’s bad, he’s REALLY BAD. A number of turnovers tonight (well, every night really) and just looked lost. To Providence, perhaps?

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Bruins Week in Review — 10/18/09

Bruins Coyotes Hockey

Boston left reeling in the desert.

OK – It’s time to panic.

The Bruins completed another lackluster week on Saturday night with a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. Yes, the Phoenix Coyotes.

Boston once again appeared to have found its form one night earlier when they stormed into Dallas and claimed a 3-0 victory on Friday.The Bruins were very solid in all areas of their game and did an outstanding job of using body contact to free up the puck as well as utilizing short tape-to-tape passes as a means of jump starting the transition game. Boston showed maximum effort, which is key to their success.

Tim Thomas had an important Continue reading

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Is it Tuuka Time?

Tuuka Rask

Tuuka Rask

First off, apologies for the long hiatus – I’ve been swamped with school and internship responsibilities; but I’m sure you don’t really care. Anyways, moving on…

As good as Tim Thomas is, he is not getting any younger.

Even though Thomas was signed to a 4-year extension, don’t think it means that he will be shouldering the goaltending duties alone. Look for 22 year-old Tuuka Rask to spell Thomas to the tune for 25-30 games this year. In fact, I would say that Boston needs Rask now more than ever. Allowing Rask to have see significant game action during a time when Boston is playing high quality hockey takes a lot of pressure off of the young goaltender; it’s not as if the success or failure of the team rests with him as it has with Thomas ever since he pulled on the Spoked-B.

Tuuka Rask was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005 and was traded to Boston in 2006 for, ahem, Andrew Raycroft (another Brian Burke blunder I have been graciously informed that former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. was responsible for this trade.) Rask has only played five NHL games (3-1-1) and I’d say that Boston came out the victor in that deal.

Rask has spent the past two seasons with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence where he did a great job of adjusting to the North American style of play which is certainly more physical, with more traffic in front of the net. Rask surprised the coaching staff during last year’s training camp when he seriously challenged Manny Fernandez for the back-up job.  In my opinion, he was ready last year. However, Boston’s brass had not expected him to progress so quickly so they signed Fernandez and felt compelled to play him.

In all likelihood, Thomas will not see more than 60 regular season games over the duration of his contract. This leaves the door open for Rask to show that he truly belongs at the NHL level.

Rask is yet unproven; however from seeing his play thus-far (including a 1-0 shutout victory vs. the Rangers last season), he looks to provide Boston with quality goaltending for the foreseeable future.

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Why Boston loves Tim Thomas:

He wins. Period.

Most sportswriters in the Boston area will try and draw parallels between the blue-collared spirit of Boston’s people and the yeoman’s journey undertaken by Tim Thomas to reach the NHL; I think it’s more basic than that. He’s just a winner and doesn’t shy away from anyone.

When Thomas decked Andrei Kostitsyn last January (see above video) and played vigilante against perennial pest Sean Avery on April 4,he forever Continue reading

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