Notes: Thomas earns NHL's second star of October


Notes: Thomas earns NHL's second star of October

By Danny Picard

WILMINGTON -- When the Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, it was Tuukka Rask who led the way in goal.

Just over six months later, Tim Thomas is Boston's go-to netminder. He's 6-0 with a 0.50 goals-against average and, after his third shutout of the season on Saturday night in Ottawa, earned the NHL's second star for the month of October.

Coach Claude Julien, as usual, hasn't tipped anyone off about his starting goaltender of choice on Wednesday night in Buffalo -- Boston's first rematch with the Sabres since last April's playoff series. But with three days off in between games, and the next set of games (after Buffalo) being back-to-back on Friday in Washington and Saturday night at the TD Garden against the St. Louis Blues, and with the B's already riding the hot goalie, it would seem to make sense to start Thomas on Wednesday in Buffalo and again on Saturday at home, with Rask getting the call on Friday.

Thomas has been getting a lot of attention because of his hot start this season, and it continued on Tuesday with the NHL naming him their second star of the month.

Dealing with all the attention isn't new to Thomas, a guy who usually does a good job of thinking before he speaks.

"I've dealt with it before, and you know, it's something that's sort of the price of doing well," said Thomas about the positive attention he's receiving in the early season. "Realistically, you do have to make sure you keep your head on straight, because when you're talking all the time, some things that come out of your mouth is too much. I prefer to think a little while longer before I talk about everything.

"But in these kind of forums," he said while untying his skates after practice, and the media huddled around his locker, "you have to answer before sometimes you really have the time to think that answer through."

Fortunately, for Thomas, all that positive attention didn't lead to negative questions on Tuesday. That's also the result, or price -- as he put it -- of doing well.

When the Bruins faced the Sabres in last year's playoffs, Buffalo was the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and the first-place team in the Northeast Division. Boston was the No. 6 seed in the East and the third-place team in the Northeast. The Bruins won that series in six games.

Now, the tables have been turned. It's the B's who are ahead of the Sabres in the standings, and instead of Ryan Miller being the hottest goalie in hockey, Thomas holds that honor through the first month of the NHL season.

The Bruins' coach reminisced, on Tuesday, about what the team learned in that playoff series.

"I don't think it was an easy series by any means," said Julien before the team left for Buffalo. "We always have some tough games against them. There's a certain style that they play, and ours makes it, for the most part, pretty close games. And it's gone back and forth.

"They've got a great goaltender, and when they're healthy, they're a team that, on the attack, is very dangerous. They really collapse and smother you in their defensive zone. So it's never an easy game against them."

Julien also talked about the possibility of instituting a "coaching challenge" in the NHL, similar to that in the NFL.

The Bruins' coach said he's keeping an open mind to the possibility of it, and pointed out a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets last January, in which Milan Lucic was called for a double-minor for high sticking a player with less than two minutes remaining in the third period, and the Blue Jackets scored on the power play to win the game.

Replays showed that the high stick wasn't Lucic's. It was a Blue Jackets player who hit his own teammate.

"I think before I give my approval on that, I'd certainly have to look at what it's all about," said Julien. "Certainly, you need structure when it comes to that. You can't keep challenging every play you think should be challenged. There's got to be some sort of filter."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.