Notes: Thomas in the zone for Game 6

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Notes: Thomas in the zone for Game 6

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON While many of the players from the Bruins and Canucks will be dreaming up their ultimate Stanley Cup scenario with the oversized chalice finally in the house for what might be the Canucks' championship clincher in Game 6, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas will have his mind in a far away place.

Like the frozen ponds of hardscrabble Flint, Michigan in the 1980s, where Thomas grew up playing hockey outside with his buddies and developing that famous competitive streak that still courses through his veins.

The 37-year-old goaltender has allowed only six goals in five Stanley Cup Final games, and is sporting one of the lowest goals against average in Cup Finals history despite his team being down 3-2 in the series. He says one of the keys to his success is putting his mind back to the same place he was mentally while playing against the neighborhood kids in Michigan before the sun went down every day in the winter.

Thomas was asked how he manages to focus with millions and millions of hockey fans watching his every move, and he quickly replied that those millions are the first thing he eliminates every time he straps on the equipment. There wasnt any pressure on Thomas as a young kid learning how to play the goalie position, and the wide smile on his face in the third period of Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning told you he was feeling no pressure whatsoever with his teams fate on the line.

There are only 12 players out on the ice at any given time, max, and the ice surface is the same size, said Thomas, who leads all NHL playoff goalies with the 2.07 goals against average and a .937 save percentage. There is only one puck in play at all times and I think you just focus on the nuances of the game.

You dont pretend that the fans arent there, but it shouldnt matter whether you have a packed building or youre playing in an empty rink. Youre focus is on the game and playing the game. You try to get the same focus that you had as a kid when you were out playing on the pond, and youre really just enjoying the game. If you approach it like that it can be really fun.

Thats got to be one of the really scary propositions for the Canucks headed into a potential Game 6 buzz saw after they were pounded 12-1 in the last two games at TD Garden. Vancouver will be dealing with some very real pressure hoping to avoid a Game 7 scenario where anything could happen. On top of it all, Thomas is dominating the postseason just as thoroughly as he did the regular season as the best goaltender in the NHL this season.

Coach Claude Julien surveyed his goaltender and the rest of his players in the room leading up to their biggest game of the season their last game of the year at TD Garden regardless of what happens and felt like the Bruins would adapt the same attitude as Thomas.

I dont think anybody in that dressing room is panicking, said Julien. Were focused. We understand the situation. When youve been through it quite a few times, you certainly know how to deal with it a lot better. Weve certainly been through it enough.

The Bruins have won 9 of their last 10 at TD Garden in the playoffs after struggling on home ice during the regular season, and Julien said that its largely the result of a very the team playing some good hockey in Boston during March and April.

Right near the end of the year we were pleased with our road record, but we talked about establishing ourselves as a better home team, said Julien. That was the last month-and-a-half or so. We started doing that the regular home season and weve carried that into the playoffs. So if there is a good time to be good at home, its certainly tomorrow. We intend to keep that streak going.

Shane Hnidy was noticeably physical with Tyler Seguin in the corners during battle drills at Sunday practice, and prompted more than one animated response from the 19-year-old as the players battled during a drill below the blue line. Seguin recognized after practice that the 35-year-old veteran defenseman was simply trying to get a little more fight out of the young forward.

Its one of those veteran tricks that you learn from out there, I guess, said Seguin when asked what it was all about.

Bruins pest Brad Marchand and close to half of the Bruins were sporting Nose Face Killah T-shirts provided by Barstool Sports after practice on Sunday, and Marchand wore his during an NBC interview that aired on Sunday afternoon.

Thomas was presented with an interesting nugget of information during the media availability on Sunday afternoon: Thomas and Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Dryden have both graduated from college hockey and worked this deeply into a Stanley Cup Final appearance after their collegiate careers.

Its an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ken Dryden, said Thomas. He played at Cornell, the same league that I played college hockey at UVM. When I was in college I remember looking at what hed accomplished and his stats. Those were stats that I was gunning for to try and reach in college he had such a good collegiate career.

I read his book either when I was in college or the year after I was out of college and gained some insight from that. I would like to hope I can finish it off and get the Cup just like he did too.

The smirk couldnt have been any plainer on Patrice Bergerons face when he was asked about Roberto Luongos complaints that he hasnt been complimented by Tim Thomas during the Stanley Cup Final series while the Canucks goaltender has pumped his tires on numerous times.

The answer was very neutral, of course, but the message behind the message couldnt have been any clearer: The Bruins are pretty amused at the daily soap opera that has become Luongo putting his foot in his mouth.

Im trying to stay out of that, said Bergeron. Im not the guy thats going to give you much juice right now. Im worrying about myself and Im worrying about the Bruins.

Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic comprised the forward spots down low on Bostons first power play unit during Sunday practice, and both Michael Ryder and Seguin split time operating off the half-wall with Mark Recchi and Rich Peverley manning the other two units. Dennis Seidenberg and Tomas Kaberle were the first defensemen points on the top power play unit, and Zdeno Chara and Andrew Ference manned the second unit.

Ryan Kesler didnt practice with the Canucks as he continues to be hampered by unspecified injury. The Vancouver Province is listing the problem as a groin strain, but whatever it is has truly slowed down to one assist and a minus-3 in five games along with whopping 33 penalty minutes worth of frustration. The injury appeared to be aggravated after Johnny Boychuk hit Kesler in Game 2.

Hes fine, said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. Thats all. Keep it day-to-day.

The Bruins have been the Stanley Cup Finals 17 times, but have never played a Game 7.

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

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.