Haggerty: Thomas on his way to another Vezina

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Haggerty: Thomas on his way to another Vezina

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Tim Thomas always knows the odds and the percentages when hes on the ice measuring angles and making mental calculations about what certain players will do to attack him.

He knows what kinds of sticks each player uses, what the tendencies are of the best players in the other uniforms, and the best ways to keep the puck out of the back of his own net. Thats why he leads the NHL with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage, and is well on the way to his second Vezina Trophy in the last three seasons with the Bruins.

Thomas also surely knows that there have been only three Vezina Trophy winners who have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the award criteria changed prior to the 1982 season (Billy Smith, Grant Fuhr, Martin Brodeur), but that would only add fuel to the fire for the 36-year-old goalie. Hell do his best to be fourth once the playoffs begin in a few weeks, because Thomas essentially locked down the playoff starter role -- and the Vezina -- with a 32-save effort in a 3-0 win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Thomas said his head is basically empty of anything but the task at hand when he heads out onto the ice, and thats an ideal spot to be in.

Oh yes, its scary sometimes. Im in one of those good places and now the challenge is to keep it there. We really werent scrambly, and position-wise we were very good tonight said Thomas, gleeful at having a clutter-free brain at this point in the season. The shutouts are not that big of a deal. Obviously theyre nice. But its more about the win.

"Having said that, shutouts are nice, Im obviously pulling for them towards the end of the game if I can. But I mean, I think guys should be focused on winning, making sure that we win rather than the shutout.

Thomas was excellent in the first half of the game in what was shaping up as a goaltender battle with Chicago rookie Corey Crawford. He stopped Marian Hossa in the first period on a backhanded bid near the post, and somehow kicked away a Jonathan Toews chance in the second period.

It didnt matter whether it was a point-blank rebound chance or a steamed shot from the point outside the hash marks, Thomas stopped them all the same and made it a personal four-game winning streak.

Plenty of credit goes to the defense in front of Thomas; the B's defense corps has stepped it up in the shot-blocking department, is paying close attention to not screening the goaltender, and is clearing pucks in front of the net. Perhaps even more valuable than that, the defensemen are bumping offensive attackers away from their happy spots on the offense. They made a clinic out of it Tuesday night, keeping Patrick Kane to a quiet three shots.

I played with Kane a few times and played with him at the Olympics, said Thomas. Hes got a really good shot, but he only takes it if hes in the spots where he feels comfortable taking them. We wouldnt let him get into those spots tonight. He floated a couple out toward the net and past it, but he wasnt taking his shot to score because we were keeping him away from the net.

But beyond the defensive efforts and the team playing well in front of him, Thomas has been something special to behold since the beginning of the season. Mark Recchi said he first noticed something special from that first night in Liberec when the Bruins played their exhibition game against the Czech Republic and the 36-year-old has never stopped since that point.

While it was apparent that Thomas had a brief spell of fatigue along with the rest of his teammates in portions of January and February, he is back on his game with only six starts to go until the postseason.

Dont even bother to tell coach Claude Julien that Thomas looked tired at any point, however. Hes not having it, and a perusal of the numbers makes it difficult to argue with him.

You know its amazing, hes been great for us all year and then the minute he only becomes good, everybody talks about him being in a slump, said Julien. I dont think hes ever been bad for us this year. Hes been good sometimes, but hes been great most of the time.

But giving him a little bit of rest and then he fine-tuned himself again, and after a little bit of rest hes back to where he was most of the year. So that was our plan and that was part of it.

Thomas is 4-0-0 against the Devils, Canadiens, Flyers and Blackhawks all with world class offensive players ready to inflict major damage on a lesser goaltender and has a 0.50 goals against average and a .983 save percentage over those four games.

Thursdays shutout of the Blackhawks was Thomas' career-best ninth of the season, and the second within the last week.

Hes been playing like we need him to be playing, and thats why hes a Vezina Trophy candidate again this season, said Johnny Boychuk. Hes been making key saves at the right times, and thats why were in some of these games. Thats what good teams have: a really top level goaltender.

Thomas knows that many of the recent Stanley Cup champions havent boasted elite goaltending, though Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Ward are all pretty accomplished netminders in their own right. But once again the odds are stacked against Thomas as he attempts to win both the Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup and perhaps even the Hart Trophy for good measure in the same memorable season.

But the odds dont bother Thomas a whit. If they did, he wouldnt be defying all of them in the first place with his career in Boston.

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

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

Bean: The (incorrect) case for the Bruins signing Kevin Shattenkirk

The Bruins should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. They really shouldn’t. 

Yet they might. Pierre McGuire said on TSN Radio Tuesday that his guess is that Shattenkirk, arguably the best free agent defenseman on the market, will end up in Boston.

It is remarkable how universally against a Shattenkirk megadeal B’s fans have seemingly been. A Twitter poll with over 3,600 votes this month had Bruins fans preferring Boston sign 40-year-old Zdeno Chara to a two-year, $8 million extension than the 28-year-old  Shattenkirk to a seven-year, $45.5 million deal. 

That is obviously the correct conclusion, but considering how hard the false “Chara is old and bad” garbage is pushed in this town, it’s telling that 64 percent would rather he stick around than the team build the defense around Shattenkirk. 

Of course, Shattenkirk is not a bad player just because he’s been overrated in recent seasons. He’s a decent second-pairing defender and strong power play asset who can be penciled in for 40 points a year. The Bruins already have that in Torey Krug, and he makes less than Shattenkirk figures to command. Shattenkirk is also a righty who plays on the right, which is not a need for the Bruins, whereas Krug is a left shot who plays both sides. 

Add in the Bruins’ cap situation due to some bad contracts and they why of Shattenkirk would be a bad signing doesn’t need to be re-hashed. By this point, the explanation’s been given a few times in a few different places. 

So what would the Bruins’ actual case for signing Shattenkirk be? 

TO KEEP IT MOVING 

Last season was encouraging for Bruins fans because it saw them reach the playoffs for the first time in three years while also seeing young talent emerge. Yet they still only made the playoffs by two points, something of which Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are undoubtedly aware. 

So for all the good signs, this could be a fringe playoff team again if more improvements aren’t made, and missing the playoffs for the second time in three years would mark a step back in the eyes of ownership, perhaps putting jobs in danger. It would be a shame if money were spent irresponsibly for the sake of saving jobs, but Shattenkirk would definitely make the Bruins better next season, even if it crippled them financially down the road. 

TO PULL A CHIARELLIAN FREE AGENT SWITCHEROO

With McAvoy set to be a top-pairing player and Brandon Carlo a good second-pairing option, the Bruins do not have a need for a highly paid right-shot defender. That doesn’t mean they don’t have needs elsewhere. 

Last offseason, Peter Chiarelli made the controversial move of trading Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings on the planet. He did it to get Adam Larsson to help build Edmonton’s blue line up, then he went out and signed Milan Lucic in free agency to replace Hall. 

If the Bruins truly have designs on adding Shattenkirk, perhaps they could have something similar in mind: Trade someone like Carlo for either a left-shot defenseman or a left wing, then replace Carlo with Shattenkirk. 

This would still not be financially palatable, however. When the Oilers traded Hall for Larsson, they swapped a player with a $6 million cap hit for a player with a $4.16 million cap hit and replaced the original player (Hall) with a player in Lucic who carried a $6 million cap hit. So essentially they netted one player for an additional $4.16 million. 

Carlo is on his entry level contract, so unless the Bruins traded him for a player on an entry-level deal, they’d be spending a lot of money in any maneuver that involved replacing him with Shattenkirk. 

TO GO ALL-IN ON POST-CLAUDE LIFE

Claude Julien’s detractors lamented his affinity for responsibility. They loved it when Bruce Cassidy was more open to trading chances. 

Well, you like trading chances? Shattenkirk’s your guy. He’s a good skater, a good offensive player and a sub-par defender. You put Krug, Shattenkirk and McAvoy as three of your four top-four defenseman and you’ll be a long way from the days of Chara, Seidenberg and Boychuk, for better or worse. 

BUT, KEEP IN MIND . . . 

They for sure should not sign Kevin Shattenkirk. 

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Morning Skate: What does trading a first-rounder get you now?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while wishing that Gordon Hayward and Paul George were already in Boston, like, yesterday.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Elliotte Freidman gives his 30 thoughts for the week, including the trade value of a first-round pick right now.

*It could that non-unrestricted free agents steal all of the thunder on July 1 with massive contract extensions a la Connor McDavid.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Detroit Red Wings taking potential fliers on a number of veteran D-men that are out on the free market.

*With free agency right around the corner, the legendary Stan Fischler details the sad end to Bobby Orr’s career in Boston, where he was lied to about the offer extended to him and ended up playing things out with the Chicago Blackhawks in a way that it shouldn’t have gone. The sight of Orr in a Blackhawks sweater is one of the real all-time NHL oddities out there.

*The NCAA is eying college hockey expansion in NHL markets, including the University of Illinois and Pitt, and, from what I’ve been told, perhaps UNLV and maybe even Vanderbilt. This is a great thing for amateur hockey players and anybody that can’t get enough of the game.  

*Ex-Senators defenseman Marc Methot holds no ill will toward the Sens after being dealt from Vegas to the Dallas Stars following his selection in the expansion draft.

*Josh Ho-Sang shares his wisdom to Islanders prospects as a 21-year-old somebody that’s gone through the ups and downs of being in their shoes.

*As we referenced above, Connor McDavid is closing in on a massive contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers that will probably make him the highest paid player in the NHL.

*For something completely different: My heart goes out to this Roslindale family fighting through a situation with a child who has a life-threatening disorder. They have a Go-Fund-Me page, so please give if you can.