By Joe Haggerty
PHILADELPHIA Tim Thomas went through a post-All-Star break lull when it appeared his heavy workload was catching up with his 36-year-old body, but that time has past for the All-Star goaltender.
Thomas had energy and spring in his legs as he executed a series of maximum effort saves in a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday night that saw the talented Broad Street Bullies come at the Bs goalie in waves. An Adam McQuaid gaffe in the defensive zone led to a Kris Versteeg first-period goal that really couldnt have been stopped by Thomas, but he was in complete lockdown mode from that point forward.
Thomas once again leads the NHL with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage, and might just have capped off his second Vezina Trophy-worthy campaign with a dominant performance against the Flyers.
Timmy has been really good for us all year. He had a little time there where he was good, but not great. People expected him to be great every night. Thats just not realistic, said coach Claude Julien. Maybe he was a little bit tired, but Timmy has been never been bad for us. Hes always been good and more so great. He looks like hes feeling really good about his game, and so do we.
He bobbled a few pucks while getting a feel in the first 20 minutes, but the Bruins goalie was on top of his game over the final 40 minutes while turning away Versteeg on a breakaway caused by a Tomas Kaberle turnover.
Then later in the period he turned away an Andrej Meszaros point-blank chance, and then barrel-rolled his way through a series of unlikely saves that started with a Jeff Carter missile. The Bruins outshot the Flyers by a 36-28 margin on the evening, but it was clear that the Boston goaltender was the one peppered with the better chances.
Thomas never blinked once, and for that he earned the 1980s Starter-esque Bruins warm-up jacket thats become a symbol given to the player of the game after a win by the rest of his teammates. The jacket was worn by Milan Lucic after his 30th goal of the season against the New Jersey Devils, and by Zdeno Chara after playing a monstrously good game against the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday night.
They were allowing me to see a lot of the shots . . . almost all of them. I think there was maybe only once where I just didnt see the shot from where it was taken, said Thomas. Were doing a lot of little things right. Were forcing those guys to take that shot just a little bit early which makes it easier for the goalie because they dont have that time to aim and pick a corner.
The jacket was actually purchased by Andrew Ference on E-bay from somebody in Vancouver for 30, and the Bs defenseman had worn it around the locker room a few times as a novelty item before it became a symbol for this years Bruins team.
Michael Ryder was scratched amid an 11-game goal-scoring drought thats seen him take only three shots in the four games. Ryder has disappeared in most offensive situations, and wasnt getting anything done on the power play over the last few weeks while the team sputtered as well.
The winger mentioned the difficulty in bouncing between three different forward lines, and the experiment putting Ryder on the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell isnt going to end well if continued.
When hes on top of his game hes skating and winning his battles to get himself scoring chances, and when hes not then hes not a very good player for us, said Julien. Its the one thing about Michael, that consistency thats going to make both him and us a better team.
There are some nights when Michael is playing well and he can be one of our better players. When hes not then it certainly takes away from our hockey club.
The Bruins clinched a playoff berth with their win over the Flyers, and also finished off the regular season with an impressive 3-0-1 record against the Eastern Conferences top dog this season.
Chris Kelly took a nasty Blair Betts leg check and Patrice Bergeron took a Johnny Boychuk slap shot off the foot, but both players managed to remain in the game to help contribute to the win over Philadelphia. Both players appeared to be okay after the game was over.