Bruins notes: Thomas to face old friends

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Bruins notes: Thomas to face old friends

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Plenty of connections between Tim Thomas, Dwayne Roloson and Marty St. Louis as the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning get ready to jump into the Eastern Conference Finals.

St. Louis sat next to Roloson at the TD Garden podium on Friday afternoon and jokingly thanked the former University of Lowell goaltender for discouraging Thomas from playing college hockey at Lowell and instead pushing the Vezina Trophy winner toward the University of Vermont where Thomas and St. Louis put on a show for four years at the Burlington campus.

Marty is one of the greatest competitors Ive ever played with and Ive ever seen play, said Thomas. You know its unfortunate that we have to play against each other. Thats the way it works out, though. I couldnt have more respect for a person as a player and as a human being than I do for Marty.

Both St. Louis and Thomas had to struggle through the minor leagues and get bounced around early in their hockey careers before developing with the Lightning and Bruins respectively and both former college teammates have remained close while getting to hang out at All-Star games and other NHL events.

But the ultra-competitive St. Louis fires up the engine for the Lightning attack, and carefully complimented his friend while also making it very clear that Tampa Bay was coming to Boston for business.

I'm proud of where Timmy has gone with his career obviously, what he did, how he battled to be where he is today. He's earned every ounce of recognition he's getting. Obviously he's on the other side right now, said St. Louis. We're both trying to get to the same place. We've talked about it a lot this week, the University of Vermont connection, whatnot. But the bottom line is we're both here to do our job and to play the best we can to help our team win. I haven't talked to Timmy or anything. We'll probably talk when we shake hands.

Roloson has undergone the same kind of battles to be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL after getting set adrift by the Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres organizations early in his pro career, and the 41-year-old espoused the benefits of experience in the arena of goaltending a market that Thomas and the Lightning goalie have cornered with 78 years between the two of them in the closest thing the Stanley Cup playoffs will have to a senior citizen matchup.

I think it's very valuable. You can be thrown into almost any situation and can look back and say, Yeah, I can relate to this, or, Yeah, I've been through this before, said Roloson of the things hes learned through 20 years of pro hockey and a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. I think when you are going through adversity, especially during playoff time, you can look back and say, Yeah, okay, don't worry about it, this is how it's going to happen, play out. You can deal with it and understand what's going to happen, not lose focus on your task at hand, and that's winning hockey games.

Similarly, 37-year-old Thomas bristles at the mention of his age as a potential detractor from his game, and instead believes like a bottle of fine wine from a Flint, Michigan vineyard that he simply gets better with age. Its hard to argue with it when the Bs goaltender set an NHL record with a .938 save percentage this season while leading the Bruins through one of the best seasons in the modern era of goaltending.

Thomas feels comfortable enough in his age to admit that Roloson was a guy he really admired when he was backing up Dominik Hasek with the Sabres, and biding his time to secure that elusive starting NHL starting spot.

Thomas and Roloson also played against each other once in college when the UVM club destroyed Rolosons Lowell team during his senior year and again in Finland during the lockout when once again Thomas team took it to Rolosons lesser European club. Through all of that Thomas kept the same warm feelings for a goalie that blazed a little bit of a trail for him over the years.

In a roundabout way, when I wasn't in the NHL, I was looking at Dwayne Roloson. He made it to the NHL, I don't know how long it took him after he got out of college, but he really had to work his way up before he got those number one jobs, he was a backup to Hasek, said Thomas. He was a backup in a couple places, had to work his way up the ladder. I saw that he was doing it. Seeing other stories like that, we were in the situation I was in, it's something that can give you hope.

There are plenty of storylines, but the inter-connected worlds of Thomas, Roloson and St. Louis could prove to be really interesting once the competitive juices start flowing a little bit in this series.

Boston's David Krejci was watching Game 7 of the Red Wings and Sharks on Thursday night, but he wasnt listening to the broadcast at the time. So he didnt hear Versus Network analyst Pierre McGuire compare the Czech Republic center favorably with Detroit pivot Pavel Datsyuk as he nearly single-handedly helped his Motown hockey to victory despite a bum wrist.

Datsyuk had an amazing postseason and has been an All-Star, Selke and Lady Byng Trophy winner during his career, and Krejci was both flattered and flabbergasted by the comparisons to the 32-year-old Russian superstar. Datsyuk has a couple of 90-point seasons and 651 career points in 662 games, and Krejci knows that the numbers and the magic puck control he has on his stick are some skills that are pretty unique for Datsyuk above and beyond everyone else.

The guys told me it. Obviously its nice, but theres only one Pavel Datsyuk, said Krejci. There is no one like him and there will never ever be anyone like him. There might be bigger guys and faster guys, but the puck skills and the moves he does theres just no one. Hes unbelievable.

I take it as a compliment. Its nice to be hear somebody say oh yeah, hes similar. But its like people back home and what they say about Jaromir Jagr. Theres only one and there will never be another one.

Fifteen of 19 skaters who have hit the ice for the Bruins in this years playoffs have a positive plusminus rating. Zdeno Chara, who led the league in plusminus during the regular season with a mark of plus-33, leads all playoff skaters with a rating of plus-11.

Courtesy of Bruins media relations maestro Eric Tosi, heres a rundown of each and every Bruins player thats won the late-80s Chalkline Bruins jacket passed out to the Bs player of the game since an April 22 game against the New Jersey Devils. The player then wears the jacket in the locker room during the media access period and hangs it in his stall until the teams next win. After the next win, he will select a different teammate to pass it along to. Here is the tally thus far:

322 vs. NJ: Milan Lucic
324 vs. MTL: Zdeno Chara
327 at PHI: Tim Thomas
329 vs. CHI: Mark Recchi
42 vs. ATL: Tuukka Rask
46 vs. NYI: Daniel Paille
49 vs. OTT: Rich Peverley

418 at MTL, Game 3: Patrice Bergeron
421 at MTL, Game 4: Michael Ryder
423 vs. MTL, Game 5: Tim Thomas
427 vs. MTL, Game 7: Nathan Horton

430 at PHI, Game 1: David Krejci
52 at PHI, Game 2: Tim Thomas
54 vs. PHI, Game 3: Dennis Seidenberg
56 vs. PHI, Game 4: Milan Lucic

Pavel Kubina was not on the ice for Tampas Friday afternoon skate at TD Garden and the big Lightning defenseman didnt make the trip with the team to Boston meaning he wont be available for Game 1 or Game 2. For a team thats already pretty shallow in terms of its defensemen depth, that just makes the picture even murkier.

There have been plenty of separated at birth guesses for Tampa Bay Lightning Dwayne Roloson as he definitely looks similar to several famous long-haired people out there, but Im going with Roloson as a Steve Nash look-a-like. The resemblance is uncanny between those two, and even better theyre both Canadian.

Guy Boucher regaled the media with his thoughtful, interesting answers to a host of questions, and continued a reverse-psychology tack when it comes to getting pucks past Bruins goalie Tim Thomas and perhaps motivating his own forwards at the same time by giving them little shot of beating the Vezina Trophy favorite. Here was Bouchers deep thought for Friday when asked about Thomas between the pipes.

"The reality is whatever we have planned for Tim Thomas he's probably going to figure it out, said Boucher. It's in our heads. Make no mistake about that.

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

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Morning Skate: Not a dry eye as Canucks draftee gets the call

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready to check out GLOW on Netflix.

*This video of a Vancouver Canucks draft pick tearing up while watching the video of his brother celebrating him getting picked is all that is right with the NHL Draft.  

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Adrian Dater has Avs first-round pick Cale Makar talking about his hockey background, and why it doesn’t matter.

*The Calgary Flames are excited about their prospects and the pieces they were able to acquire last weekend.

*The Washington Capitals have re-signed Brett Connolly for a couple of years at short money and he appears to have found a home in DC.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are still in talks with Marian Hossa about how to resolve his contract and the allergic skin condition that might have prematurely ended his hockey career.

*Will the Tampa Bay sports go through a dry spell when it comes to Hall of Fame athletes now that former Lighting forward Dave Andreychuk has been called to the Hockey Hall?

*It looks like young Pierre Luc Dubois will be put in a position to contribute with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.

*Alex Prewitt has a preview of the NHL free agency period and the stress levels that many players go through in it.

*For something completely different: This video of Drake and Will Ferrell hoop handshakes was pretty solid, and funny.

 

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

Haggerty: Jacobs may not be beloved, but he's Hall of Fame-worthy

If it was based solely on his 42 years as owner of the Boston Bruins, it might be debatable as to whether Jeremy Jacobs would have been selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The Bruins have won one championship and been to a handful of Stanley Cup Finals during Jacobs' long stewardship, of course. They also enjoyed the longest running playoff streak (29 years) in NHL history, though it began before he purchased the franchise. Altogether, the B's have won one Cup, four conference championships, two Presidents' trophies, 15 division championships, and 35 Stanley Cup playoff berths during the Jacobs Era.

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But Jacobs didn't make the Hall of Fame solely on his accomplishments with the Bruins organization. He's being inducted in the "builder” category, which is defined as "coaching, managerial or executive ability, or ability in another significant off-ice role, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his or her organization or organizations and to the game of hockey in general.”  In addition to overseeing the Bruins over the last four-plus decades, he has been a power broker at the league level for just as long.

"I am flattered to be included in with this great group of 2017 inductees, and I am humbled to be included with the legends of hockey that went before me,” said Jacobs. "Owning the Boston Bruins for 42 years has been one of the most rewarding honors of my life. I am indebted to our team's leaders and players, but most of all, to our fans, for giving me a broad and deeply appreciative perspective of the game."

The 2011 Stanley Cup victory was the overriding on-ice moment in his stewardship of the team, and the Jacobs family has had a major, altruistic impact in Boston. No one should overlook the Boston Bruins Foundation, which has touched so many lives with the $28 million that's been awarded to those in need since its inception in 1993.

Unfortunately, Jacobs will always have a reputation with a large portion of the Bruins fan base that his ownership wasn't willing to spend enough for truly competitive teams. At times he was viewed as an absentee owner living in Buffalo, overseeing the team from afar while Harry Sinden ran the operation. Those fans hold that grudge even today, despite the Bruins consistently spending to the salary cap ceiling while fielding competitive teams. They view Monday's Hall of Fame announcement as something akin to Montgomery Burns being inducted into the Springfield Hall of Fame.

Cam Neely disagrees.

"As a player, I knew of Mr. Jacobs' passion for the Bruins,” said Neely, who has served as Bruins president for nearly a decade after a Hall of Fame playing career highlighted by his years in Boston. "Over the past decade while in the front office, I have seen firsthand his dedication to winning, by consistently providing the Bruins the resources that we need to compete for Stanley Cup Championships and also his unmatched commitment to growing the game of hockey."

That commitment to hockey is a key factor in Jacobs' Hall of Fame selection.

Jacobs was unanimously voted in as chairman of the NHL Board of Governors in 2007, and he's been a major driving force in each of the last couple of oft-contentious CBA negotiations. While Jacobs clearly had a hand in the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season due to a labor dispute, and in the lockout-shortened season of 2013, those CBA negotiations ultimately led to the imposition of a salary cap and a pathway for small-market NHL teams to survive as the cost of doing hockey business continues to go up.

Without Jacobs as an often hawkish, hard-line owner, there's a chance that a team like the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators might not have been able to survive in the NHL, and it's highly doubtful they'd be able to be as competitive as they are now if teams like Toronto, New York and Chicago could outspend everybody else. So there's no denying the seismic impact that Jacobs made at the league-wide level with his leadership and commitment to growing the game, and that the NHL is better off for the battles waged in collective bargaining while he's been in a position of power.

If you polled every single Bruins fan on the street, it's unlikely he'd be a populist choice for the Hall of Fame. The lean budgetary years durinhg the playing days of Neely, Ray Bourque and others will always be part of the Spoked B history. Some will hold those grudges forever, which is part of makes us who we are as a fan base.

But faithful, rabid fans continue to stream into TD Garden, continue to spend money to support their favorite hockey team, and continue to provide the kind of support that's led to a 338-game home sellout streak. It's a sign Jacobs and Bruins ownership continue to do things very right, even if we shouldn't be scheduling any popularity contests anytime soon.