Notes: Thomas comes up big when it matters most

191545.jpg

Notes: Thomas comes up big when it matters most

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Peter Chiarelli invoked the name Grant Fuhr at the end of the Bruins' series against Montreal, and he meant it as a great compliment.

The Bruins GMwas talking about the former Edmonton Oilers goaltender when looking at the way Tim Thomas was performing in the playoffs, praising Thomas for his Fuhr-like ability to be at his best when it mattered most. Thomas might give up a goal or two in these playoffs and he might not end with the gaudy .938 save percentage he brandished during the regular season -- but Thomas is consistently rising to the occasion at the right moments during the postseason.

This was true Tuesday night, even though on the face of it -- five goals allowed -- it wouldn't appear Thomas played a big role in the Bruins' 6-5, Game 2 victory that evened the series at 1-1.

But though his leaky defense had a lot of issues in front of him, Thomas hung in and made 36 saves for the win. And he was at his best while making 13 show-stopping saves in the third period.

He made two textbook stops against former teammate Marty St. Louis, and had Marc-Andre Bergeron snapping his stick out of frustration with another save. That one came with roughly four minutes to go, and came one period after Thomas' big breakaway stop on Ryan Malone that immediately turned into a Tyler Seguin sniper goal at the other end of the ice.Given the troubles that guys like Johnny Boychuk (minus-3) and even Zdeno Chara were having in front of Thomas on Tuesday night, the performance between the pipes was every bit as noteworthy as Seguin's scoring binge in the second period. Though it was ruled a goal given the NHL's rules that play continues on scoring chances even if a goaltender has lost his mask -- as Thomas did when he collided with Adam McQuaid in front of the net -- the image of a bloodied Thomas tracking a puck after he was drilled with a Dominic Mooreshot when his mask came off is the epitome of playoff hockey.

I think experience helps in those situations, said Thomas of hanging tough despite the high number of goals allowed. Experience helps you to learn that each time a goal goes in, youve just got to put it behind you. Youve got to start focusing on the next one. If you start thinking about the goals that just went in, its going to lead to other goals, and its not going to be helpful.

With our big second period there I knew we had a big lead going into the third period, and the plan wasnt to let them get close at all. But when it gets to be 6-4 and 6-5, when youre a younger goaltender, it might be hard for you to keep your focus."

Dennis Seidenberg was quietly brilliant as he put together a pair of assists in 31:25 of ice time and managed a great pass on David Krejcis goal in the second period. Seidenberg led all Bs in ice time, picked up an assist on Bostons first power-play goal of the series, and was consistently taking good offensive chances in the attack zone.

Hes a solid defenseman. When you look at the end of the game, we probably used him a lot because of the way the score tightened at the end, said coach Claude Julien.

Julien wasn't altogether pleased with his team's performance, as the five goals allowed would attest.

Just because we won the game tonight doesnt mean were happy with it," he said.

"I thought we did a lot of good things without Patrice Bergeron, who missed his second game because of the mild concussion he suffered in Game 4 against the Flyers. Our faceoffs were much better tonight, we played with the puck a lot more . . . In the first couple of periods we were putting a lot of pressure on them in their own end.

"But then again, I dont think anybody in that dressing room is extremely happy with our game because we got sloppy at times. And we turned pucks over and werent strong in the third period. Theres no doubt we were hanging on. And thank God time was on our side and we came up with the win . . . We didnt do a very good job in the third period, but those first wins in the playoffs in every series are always the toughest. And we got that under our belt now and hopefully we get better . . .

"So we need to regroup here, take the win for what it is in the playoffs, and know that we got to get better."A rough night for Boychuk, who was directly responsible for three of Tampa's five goals on the ice and never looked like he recovered after being slow to react on Adam Hall's first goal just 13 seconds into the game. Boychuk needs to be better against a team like Tampa that can hurt you once they get rolling.

The Lightning scored the first goal for the seventh straight game, but fell to 8-1 when scoring first in the playoffs.

Bruins center Marc Savard, who missed most of the season because of post-concussion syndrome, watched the game from a luxury box with his two sons. Bergeron sat with them for a large portion of the night.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick smiled and waved to the crowd when shown on the video screen beside girlfriend Linda Holliday.

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

Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

cp_morning_skate-.jpg

Morning Skate: Guy Boucher proves to be a man of the people

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while putting the pieces together now that the hockey season is O-V-A-H here in Boston. 
 
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Arthur takes a look at the end of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who put on a good show with their young, talented crew. 
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here is this morning’s interview with Toucher and Rich where I talked about the Bruins taking a step forward despite their season being over. 
 
-- He might look and sound like a Bond Villain, but Guy Boucher was far from it in stopping to shake hands with Senators fans at the airport after their playoff win over the B’s. 
 
-- Interesting that John Stevens is named head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, since the change isn’t expected to be a big departure from what was already going on there. 
 
-- The San Jose Sharks are all done for this season, and one wonders if GM Doug Wilson is going to have to choose between Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau moving forward. 

 -- Speaking of the Senators, PHT writer James O’Brien has Clarke MacArthur and Craig Anderson making Ottawa’s playoff victory all the more emotional

 -- For something completely different: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is coming to a theatre near you soon, and here’s a review. I’m looking forward to this one.

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

Haggerty: Cassidy should be rewarded for a job well done

BOSTON -- After the Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday, nearly every player was in agreement in identifying the turning point of the season:

The coaching change.

The B's went 18-8-1 in the regular season after Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien and rallied to make the playoffs after a late-season, four-game tailspin had them in danger of missing out for the third straight year. And despite being ravaged by injuries, they showed fight and spirit in pushing Ottawa to six games, including a road victory in a double-overtime, Game 5 thriller, before eventually succumbing in overtime, 3-2, on Sunday.

Certainly there were moments of sloppiness -- ill-timed penalties, moments when the Bruins simply couldn't bust through Ottawa's 1-3-1 trap -- but Boston's gutty playoff showing, coupled with the regular-season surge, makes it seem clear Cassidy deserves to be awarded the full-time head coaching gig. 

Several Bruins players voiced their endorsement of Cassidy on Sunday, lauding him for bringing energy, offensive thrust, and open-mindedness to using younger players. 

"The results speak for themselves," said David Backes, who played some of his best hockey in Games 5 and 6 once he was paired with center Sean Kuraly. "We were climbing uphill when [Cassidy] took over and we made our way [to the playoffs] . . . [He] certainly did a heck of a job."

And how does Cassidy -- who had gone more than 13 years since his last NHL head coaching job before replacing Julien on an interim basis, and spending the previous eight seasons at the AHL level in Providence -- feel? 

"Absolutely. 100 percent," said Cassidy, when asked if he wanted the Boston job on a permanent basis.

And if he got it, perhaps those improvements would continue.

"Maybe a full year with him, he changes a few things," said Backes.

"That will be determined going forward by management whether I continue to be the head coach, and what players will be here will [also] be determined by management," said Cassidy. "So it's a tough question to answer [on what improvements need to be made]. I think we scored some goals this year. We were good on the rush as well and the power play . . . and we were always a good forechecking team. This series took on a personality that we were going to have to score on the forecheck. 

"I thought that's why you see guys like [Noel] Acciari and Kuraly get into the lineup and really contribute. It's the strength of their game, and maybe less so from other guys that are more line rush guys. Don't forget, we had a lot of neophytes going into this series in terms of National Hockey League playoffs. So there's a learning curve for them and that's part of the growth process that we hope that, if we're sitting here next year at this time talking about advancing, that they learn something from this year. That's what every team goes through and the [David] Pastrnaks of the world, [Charlie] McAvoy . . . pick your players that are new to it, and [they] have to learn from [it]."

The decision to start Anton Khudobin in Brooklyn late in the regular season after the Bruins had lost four in a row was a turning point-type move, where Cassidy certainly pushed some buttons with No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask. And his insertion of Kuraly for Ryan Spooner in Game 5 worked on every level, and probably prolonged the series. So give him credit for both of those things along with the pumped-up offense he helped orchestrate in the final few months of the regular season. 

The Bruins won't be making any public statements or pronouncements on Monday, but one has to assume Cassidy holds the inside track on the job after guiding the team back into the playoffs for the first time in three years. Certainly there may be courtesy interviews for other candidates like Providence College coach Nate Leaman, but it's difficult to see anything else Cassidy would have to accomplish to be fit for the position. 

As Backes said himself, the results speak for themselves.