Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

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Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

PITTSBURGH Tim Thomas broke some of the cardinal rules of a winning streak, but it didnt matter.

Thomas changed back to his normal goalie mask and away from his Movember Mustache mask that hes set up a charity raffle to auction off to the highest bidder and the goalie mask hed been wearing for nearly his entire November winning streak.

But none of the superstitious stuff seems to matter when youre as good as Thomas and the Bruins are right now. Thomas was solid for most of the night and spectacular when he had to be while making 45 saves en route to a 3-1 victory over the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.

Early on it was like they were more trying to be opportunistic and trying to make plays, said Thomas. Once we got ahead by a little bit they started throwing everything at the net rather than trying to make the perfect play.

Its been pretty nice to be a part of this team over the last month. There have been times when we fell out of exactly how we wanted to play, but at the same time individual guys have had big nights to bail us out.

Perfect play or puck-throwing didnt seem to matter. Thomas was stopping it either way.

For the Bs and Thomas the victory over the Pens was validation that theyre essentially in a battle with themselves to see how good they can be.

The Bruins made mistakes, of course, against a game Pittsburgh team, but they also overcame a pair of 5-on-3 Pitt power plays and a late surge by the Penguins spurred on by Matt Cookes third period goal. Thomas stopped eight shots when Pittsburgh was on the man advantage, and perhaps none was bigger than a point blank stop on Chris Kunitz without any hint of a rebound.

But Thomas never broke down, and became the first Bs goaltender to win 10 consecutive games since Andy Moog in 1993. Thomas did it all while moving to second in the NHL with a .940 save percentage in 18 games this season. Thomas trails only St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott still saving pucks at a .945 clip, but the Bs goaltender is the only one of the two puck-stoppers thats proven he can play at this level all season.

Our penalty kill guys did great and our goalie made the big save when we needed it, said Claude Julien. At the stage of the game where we killed off the 5-on-3 we could have easily let them back into it. We positioned ourselves well and didnt make it easy for them.

Thomas made key saves early on when things were still tight, and showed plenty of evidence he was in his goaltending zone while stopping a season-high 17 shots in the second period. He tracked a puck off Kunitzs stick that ricocheted off Zdeno Charas skate and seemed destined to be trouble and made a calm pad save.

Thomas gobbled up an Arron Asham one-timer from the slot on a play that developed late, and could have caught Thomas by surprise. He held the post on a bull rush by Joe Vitale late in the third period that spurred Gregory Campbell to drop the gloves protecting his franchise goaltender.

Thomas said the teams consistent excellence has allowed him to relax at points during the 15 games since the Bruins decided to dominate the NHL, and that means hes not taxing his 37-year-old body like he might have in the past.

Its been easier mentally because you have confidence your team is going to find a way to come through. Weve done it for so long that were really proving it, said Thomas. If the team isnt playing well sometime the goalie can make the mistake of putting the pressure on himself or trying to win it all by himself.

But the team playing the way it has over the last five weeks a goalie doesnt think that way. He just needs to be ready to help out if called upon.

That means Thomas should have plenty in the tank when it matters most for the Bruins, and thats an interesting proposition for a hockey team that looks better than the one he led to a Cup title through dominant play between the pipes.

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

Haggerty: From top to bottom, still no urgency from Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.

It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period. 

It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.

So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?

Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.

It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.

Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.

“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.

“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”

On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.

Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.

This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.   

So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?

If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.

“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”

Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.

The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?

Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season. 
 

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

Bruins cancel practice to 'regroup' after bad loss to Islanders

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.

The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.

“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”

While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.

“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”

The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason. 

Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.