Haggerty: Thomas on his way to another Vezina


Haggerty: Thomas on his way to another Vezina

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON Tim Thomas always knows the odds and the percentages when hes on the ice measuring angles and making mental calculations about what certain players will do to attack him.

He knows what kinds of sticks each player uses, what the tendencies are of the best players in the other uniforms, and the best ways to keep the puck out of the back of his own net. Thats why he leads the NHL with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage, and is well on the way to his second Vezina Trophy in the last three seasons with the Bruins.

Thomas also surely knows that there have been only three Vezina Trophy winners who have gone on to win the Stanley Cup since the award criteria changed prior to the 1982 season (Billy Smith, Grant Fuhr, Martin Brodeur), but that would only add fuel to the fire for the 36-year-old goalie. Hell do his best to be fourth once the playoffs begin in a few weeks, because Thomas essentially locked down the playoff starter role -- and the Vezina -- with a 32-save effort in a 3-0 win over the Blackhawks on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

Thomas said his head is basically empty of anything but the task at hand when he heads out onto the ice, and thats an ideal spot to be in.

Oh yes, its scary sometimes. Im in one of those good places and now the challenge is to keep it there. We really werent scrambly, and position-wise we were very good tonight said Thomas, gleeful at having a clutter-free brain at this point in the season. The shutouts are not that big of a deal. Obviously theyre nice. But its more about the win.

"Having said that, shutouts are nice, Im obviously pulling for them towards the end of the game if I can. But I mean, I think guys should be focused on winning, making sure that we win rather than the shutout.

Thomas was excellent in the first half of the game in what was shaping up as a goaltender battle with Chicago rookie Corey Crawford. He stopped Marian Hossa in the first period on a backhanded bid near the post, and somehow kicked away a Jonathan Toews chance in the second period.

It didnt matter whether it was a point-blank rebound chance or a steamed shot from the point outside the hash marks, Thomas stopped them all the same and made it a personal four-game winning streak.

Plenty of credit goes to the defense in front of Thomas; the B's defense corps has stepped it up in the shot-blocking department, is paying close attention to not screening the goaltender, and is clearing pucks in front of the net. Perhaps even more valuable than that, the defensemen are bumping offensive attackers away from their happy spots on the offense. They made a clinic out of it Tuesday night, keeping Patrick Kane to a quiet three shots.

I played with Kane a few times and played with him at the Olympics, said Thomas. Hes got a really good shot, but he only takes it if hes in the spots where he feels comfortable taking them. We wouldnt let him get into those spots tonight. He floated a couple out toward the net and past it, but he wasnt taking his shot to score because we were keeping him away from the net.

But beyond the defensive efforts and the team playing well in front of him, Thomas has been something special to behold since the beginning of the season. Mark Recchi said he first noticed something special from that first night in Liberec when the Bruins played their exhibition game against the Czech Republic and the 36-year-old has never stopped since that point.

While it was apparent that Thomas had a brief spell of fatigue along with the rest of his teammates in portions of January and February, he is back on his game with only six starts to go until the postseason.

Dont even bother to tell coach Claude Julien that Thomas looked tired at any point, however. Hes not having it, and a perusal of the numbers makes it difficult to argue with him.

You know its amazing, hes been great for us all year and then the minute he only becomes good, everybody talks about him being in a slump, said Julien. I dont think hes ever been bad for us this year. Hes been good sometimes, but hes been great most of the time.

But giving him a little bit of rest and then he fine-tuned himself again, and after a little bit of rest hes back to where he was most of the year. So that was our plan and that was part of it.

Thomas is 4-0-0 against the Devils, Canadiens, Flyers and Blackhawks all with world class offensive players ready to inflict major damage on a lesser goaltender and has a 0.50 goals against average and a .983 save percentage over those four games.

Thursdays shutout of the Blackhawks was Thomas' career-best ninth of the season, and the second within the last week.

Hes been playing like we need him to be playing, and thats why hes a Vezina Trophy candidate again this season, said Johnny Boychuk. Hes been making key saves at the right times, and thats why were in some of these games. Thats what good teams have: a really top level goaltender.

Thomas knows that many of the recent Stanley Cup champions havent boasted elite goaltending, though Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Ward are all pretty accomplished netminders in their own right. But once again the odds are stacked against Thomas as he attempts to win both the Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup and perhaps even the Hart Trophy for good measure in the same memorable season.

But the odds dont bother Thomas a whit. If they did, he wouldnt be defying all of them in the first place with his career in Boston.

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

Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"


Krug: My play is "not something I'm proud of at the moment"

BOSTON -- Torey Krug has plenty of legitimate reasons why he might be getting out of the gate slowly this season.

Krug is still ahead of his initially scheduled return from major shoulder surgery on a torn labrum last spring, and has spent the last couple of games playing his “off” side on a defense pairing with Joe Morrow. It was passable on Thursday night in the win over the New Jersey Devils, but Krug wasn’t much good at all while finishing with a -3 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden on Saturday night.

Krug was beaten in a race to the puck for a key shorthanded goal by Montreal speedster Paul Byron in the third period, and the B’s defenseman was a part of the group that allowed an insurance goal to the Habs that effectively iced the game. Krug also had five of his seven shot attempts blocked on the evening, and is still struggling to get his points through in what used to be a very effective weapon for the Black and Gold.

Clearly Krug looks like he’s still feeling his way back to full form coming back from the shoulder issues, but he wasn’t biting on that excuse after the loss to the Habs.

"There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift,” said Krug. “It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.

“I have no consistency to my game at all. I make a good play and the next shift it’s a poor play. It’s not something I’m proud of at the moment, but I’ll work through it. I always have. There’s always times during the season when you play poorly and you have to work through it. Unfortunately for me it’s the start of the season, but I’ll get back to a place where my teammates can’t count on me every time I jump over the boards."

With zero points in five games, the link is also obvious between the power play’s struggles and Krug’s erratic play out of the starting gate this season. Claude Julien didn’t specifically address Krug by name, but said there is plenty of blame to go around after another in a long line of home losses to the Canadiens.

“We just lost a game here, so now we’re trying to pick on players. We lost this game tonight because we didn’t play well enough. We made mistakes that were too costly, and when you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have [Carey] Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team,” said Julien. “So we needed to be better. I think overall, in a lot of those areas where we, like I said, we shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes. We can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens.”

The Bruins also can’t afford to go too much longer this season without Krug returning to form given his standing within a Boston back end that isn’t exactly flush with puck-moving defensemen.

Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again


Talking Points: Price a problem for Bruins once again

BOSTON -- GOLD STAR: The Bruins have a very hard time beating Carey Price, and that was proven once again on Saturday night in Boston. The best chances for the B’s probably came earlier in the game with Ryan Spooner getting a couple of quality scoring chances in the early going, and Price making a very solid stop on a spinning David Pastrnak surprise shot from the high slot through traffic in the closing seconds of the second period. In total, Price made only 19 saves but didn’t give in when the Bruins really needed a mistake to open the door and let them back in. It certainly won’t go down as Price’s best, but it was another great example of why the Montreal netminder is so important to the success of his Canadiens team.

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug had a rough night in 22:29 of ice time. He was on the ice for three goals against, he had five of his shots blocked throughout the game and he was beaten in a race to the puck by Paul Byron for a shorthanded goal during a key sequence in the third period. Krug was also on the ice for the crucial final goal scored by Torey Mitchell when both the D-man and David Krejci were prime culprits in the play developing as it did. It’s certainly not helping Krug that he’s playing on his “off” side with Joe Morrow right now, and that he’s doing all of this while also still ahead of when he was supposed to return from major offseason shoulder surgery. Krug has been “okay” through the season’s first two weeks, but he wasn’t good at all on Saturday night in the loss to Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a decent first period and played to a 2-2 draw in the third period, so it was the “terrible” second period, in the words of Claude Julien, which ended up sinking the Black and Gold’s battleship. The B’s made plenty of mistakes in managing the puck, had some very long shifts on the ice where they couldn’t get an easy change and started making mental mistakes as a result of the overextended shifts. That turned into some very soft defense on Montreal’s first goal of the game, and a bad decision by John-Michael Liles to pinch with skilled guys Alex Radulov and Phillip Danault ready to make the Bruins pay at the other end of the ice. The second period was Boston’s bugaboo plenty of times last season, and it was again on Saturday night vs. the Habs.

HONORABLE MENTION: It’s tough to pick out players from the losing side that really stood out, but Dominic Moore certainly deserves some consideration for the way things have started out for him in Boston. He and Tim Schaller executed a beauty of a give-and-go before Moore finished with a flourish against Carey Price, and that goal gives the fourth line center a pair of goals in his first five games with the B’s. Moore finished with the goal and four shot attempts in 13:02 of ice time along with 6-of-12 face-off wins, and earned a take-down, along with an extra two minutes, for grabbing Alexei Emelin in a headlock and driving him into the ice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2-8-1 -- the Bruins overall record against the Canadiens in their last 11 meetings, and that doesn’t include nine straight home losses to the Habs dating back to 2012.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no consistency in my game for whatever reason. I've gotta make sure I'm working to get better, so that my teammates can count on me every single shift. It’s not there right now, and I’ll take the blame for that. I’ve just got to work through it.” -- Torey Krug, who struggled with a minus-3 rating in Saturday’s loss to the Canadiens.