Thomas responds to Luongo's verbal barbs

191542.jpg

Thomas responds to Luongo's verbal barbs

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs

BOSTON Tim Thomas finally got to voice his response on Sunday afternoon to Vancouver Canuck Roberto Luongos strange plea for compliments and tire-pumping.

Luongo seemed to feel like Thomas hadnt duly complimented his Vancouver counterpart through the series, and that misplaced sentiment came after Luongo stridently stated that he could have stopped the game-winning goal in Game 5 that Thomas couldnt make a play on.

On Luongo saying he would have stopped Maxim Lapierres goal, the 37-year-old Bruins goalie took the high road saying that he didnt want to get into it while stressing that he was focused on what I can do to help my team win going into Game 6. There was the slightest hint of a stress on the my team portion of Thomas statement.

But the likely Vezina Trophy winner couldnt resist responding to Luongos bizarre assertion that the Canucks' puck-stopper has pumped the tires of the Bs goaltender throughout the series and in turn Thomas has said nothing nice about him.

I guess I didnt realize it was my job to pump his tires, said Thomas to a barrel of laughter from the crowd. I guess I have to apologize for that.

I stick with all of the other goalies in being one and knowing what it takes to perform at this level and with this amount of pressure. I understand to a certain extent what every other goalie is going through.Luongo responded later in the afternoon with the contention that he was never trying to be negative in his original answer about the Lapierre goal, and that the ensuing media frenzy has been the ultimate misunderstanding of innocent intentions. Most aren't buying it despite the Vancouver goalie's protestations."Listen, I know we're in the Stanley Cup Final and everything is under the microscope and going to get blown out of proportion," said Luongo. "Obviously my whole comment I don't think was a negative comment if you take the whole comment."But at the end of the day, I'm one win away from winning a Stanley Cup. That's all I really care about now. All the other stuff is noise to me and doesn't really affect what's going to take place for me tomorrow night. To be honest with you, I don't really care."The more Luongo opines about things he has no business addressing and states how much he truly doesn't care about somebody "pumping his tires," the more a guy like William Shakespeare would say the Vancouver netminder "doth protest way too much." The bottom line for Luongo: improving on a TD Garden scene that's been a house of horrors as he allowed 12 goals in two games that amounted to a lot more than "a couple of bad bounces" as he attempted to spin it for the media. The bottom line for Thomas: he has a chance to remain hot and make sure people will be pumping his Stanley Cup Final tires for a long time to come.When the puck drops on Monday night for Game 6, it will be with all of the hue and cry in the rear view mirror and everyone focused on the actual goaltending play that started kick-started the entire flap in the first place.

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

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford 

More to come. . . 

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. 

Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season. 

There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand. 

And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.

All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),

So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?

Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week. 

To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.

But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward. 

The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed. 

David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.

It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce. 

To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.

There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in  2008-09).

All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .

Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.

Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets. 

Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.