Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

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Thomas gets his 10th straight with 45-save gem

PITTSBURGH Tim Thomas broke some of the cardinal rules of a winning streak, but it didnt matter.

Thomas changed back to his normal goalie mask and away from his Movember Mustache mask that hes set up a charity raffle to auction off to the highest bidder and the goalie mask hed been wearing for nearly his entire November winning streak.

But none of the superstitious stuff seems to matter when youre as good as Thomas and the Bruins are right now. Thomas was solid for most of the night and spectacular when he had to be while making 45 saves en route to a 3-1 victory over the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.

Early on it was like they were more trying to be opportunistic and trying to make plays, said Thomas. Once we got ahead by a little bit they started throwing everything at the net rather than trying to make the perfect play.

Its been pretty nice to be a part of this team over the last month. There have been times when we fell out of exactly how we wanted to play, but at the same time individual guys have had big nights to bail us out.

Perfect play or puck-throwing didnt seem to matter. Thomas was stopping it either way.

For the Bs and Thomas the victory over the Pens was validation that theyre essentially in a battle with themselves to see how good they can be.

The Bruins made mistakes, of course, against a game Pittsburgh team, but they also overcame a pair of 5-on-3 Pitt power plays and a late surge by the Penguins spurred on by Matt Cookes third period goal. Thomas stopped eight shots when Pittsburgh was on the man advantage, and perhaps none was bigger than a point blank stop on Chris Kunitz without any hint of a rebound.

But Thomas never broke down, and became the first Bs goaltender to win 10 consecutive games since Andy Moog in 1993. Thomas did it all while moving to second in the NHL with a .940 save percentage in 18 games this season. Thomas trails only St. Louis Blues goaltender Brian Elliott still saving pucks at a .945 clip, but the Bs goaltender is the only one of the two puck-stoppers thats proven he can play at this level all season.

Our penalty kill guys did great and our goalie made the big save when we needed it, said Claude Julien. At the stage of the game where we killed off the 5-on-3 we could have easily let them back into it. We positioned ourselves well and didnt make it easy for them.

Thomas made key saves early on when things were still tight, and showed plenty of evidence he was in his goaltending zone while stopping a season-high 17 shots in the second period. He tracked a puck off Kunitzs stick that ricocheted off Zdeno Charas skate and seemed destined to be trouble and made a calm pad save.

Thomas gobbled up an Arron Asham one-timer from the slot on a play that developed late, and could have caught Thomas by surprise. He held the post on a bull rush by Joe Vitale late in the third period that spurred Gregory Campbell to drop the gloves protecting his franchise goaltender.

Thomas said the teams consistent excellence has allowed him to relax at points during the 15 games since the Bruins decided to dominate the NHL, and that means hes not taxing his 37-year-old body like he might have in the past.

Its been easier mentally because you have confidence your team is going to find a way to come through. Weve done it for so long that were really proving it, said Thomas. If the team isnt playing well sometime the goalie can make the mistake of putting the pressure on himself or trying to win it all by himself.

But the team playing the way it has over the last five weeks a goalie doesnt think that way. He just needs to be ready to help out if called upon.

That means Thomas should have plenty in the tank when it matters most for the Bruins, and thats an interesting proposition for a hockey team that looks better than the one he led to a Cup title through dominant play between the pipes.

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.