Inspired by his critics, Thomas dominates

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Inspired by his critics, Thomas dominates

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Nobody on the Bruins wanted to hear the media criticize Tim Thomas game after their Game 2 overtime loss.

At least, thats what they told the media on Sunday, a day before Game 3.

Everybody in the Boston organization knows what type of player and person Thomas is. They know that the only reason hes carried his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, while making a strong case for his second Vezina Trophy in three years at the age of 37, mind you is because he thrives on a me-vs.-the-world mentality.

Thomas is one of the best goaltenders in the National Hockey League in this late stage of his career because he enjoys proving people wrong.

So when the media asked him on Monday if he felt he needed to change his style after the way he lunged out of the net in overtime on Saturday night in Vancouver Thomas was respectfully blunt.

I have a pretty good idea of how to play goalie, he said. Im not going to be taking suggestions or advice at this time. So Im just going to keep playing the way I have.

Thomas had a chip on his shoulder. As well he should have.

Bruins coach Claude Julien said it was ridiculous that Thomas style was even being questioned.

Maybe it was ridiculous. But the Bruins can say what they want. They know how Thomas plays when hes being questioned, and the criticism was pouring down on Causeway Street entering Monday nights Game 3.

As they probably expected, Thomas responded by making 40 saves in an 8-1 win in Game 3 at the TD Garden.

And afterwards, the Bruins goaltender still carried that chip on his shoulder.

I was happy with at least the base of how I was playing in the first two games, said Thomas. I mean, I had a 1.5 goals-against in regulation the first two games, so I think Id rather listen my goalie coach Bob Essensa over anything else.

Thomas did seem more like a stay-at-home goaltender on Monday than he did during Alex Burrows rush down the left wing 11 seconds into overtime of Game 2. But that wasnt because he changed anything about his style. His defense did a much better job of not letting those breakdowns happen, making sure that the chances Vancouver had werent all coming from breakaways down the wing.

He had a reason tonight to stay in his net, said Julien after the Game 3 win. I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them on the outside. We didnt give them those opportunities, coming with lots of speed and shooting and doing things they did in the other games. So I think Timmy just adjusted to the game.

Thats why we talked about Timmys game. He didnt change his style. Lets not get this wrong here. He just played the way he had to play. Tonight was a night where he could stay in his net a little bit more. Theres going to be nights when he has to come out and challenge, and thats the way he is.

The one goal Thomas allowed was off the stick of Jannik Hansen, with 6:07 left to play in the game. It was a one-timer from the left post that Thomas had no chance on, which cut Bostons lead to 5-1.

Other than that, Thomas was at his best in Game 3. And he needed to be, because the Canucks had eight power plays. And as it always goes, your goaltender is your best penalty killer.

That first period was very tight. It was a close game, and even through the second, there were some really good chances for the Canucks, said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. The amount of power plays they had tonight, your goalie is big in those kind of games. He showed up huge.

And the Bruins know that all the criticisms and suggestions about Thomas style that came up after Game 2, will only make him better.

Hes going to beat to his own drum, no matter what anybody says, said Ference after Game 3. I mean, that definitely brought a smile to a few guys in this locker room, to hear that suggestion.

And for good reason.

Danny Picard is onTwitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.