Notes: Thomas shrugs off domination of Canucks

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Notes: Thomas shrugs off domination of Canucks

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Tim Thomas has enjoyed the best regular season in the NHL's modern era of goaltending, stolen games for the Bruins during their playoff run, and journeyed deeper into the postseason than ever before.

And now, believe it or not, things are looking up.

The Canucks may have a high-powered offense, ready to strike at any time, but Thomas has owned them in his career. In three regular-season games against Vancouver, Thomas has stopped 97 out of 98 shots for a .990 save percentage. He has a perfect 3-0 record and boasts a pair of shutouts against the lineup featuring the NHLs wonder twins: Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Thats as close to utter domination as a goaltender will ever achieve over one team, and it provides an interesting little sidelight heading into the Finals.

Thomas backstopped the Bs to a 3-1 win over the Canucks at Rogers Arena in February during their seven-game winning streak, and continued an impressive string of dominance against one of the NHLs best teams over the last five years.

As one might expect, Thomas isn't buying into any of the hype. After all, the regular-season games against the Canucks are one-shot deals during the season without the gravity of the playoffs.

The factors involved dont exactly give the proper reading on what will happen once playoff intensity and a chance at the Stanley Cup entered into the mix.

It really has no relevance," Thomas said. "Its kind of like, why did I have pretty good success against Ottawa? . . . . You know theres no rhyme or reason to it, it just happens to be the way its worked out.

There is no use dwelling on the success youve had before . . . What success you can have moving forward here over the next couple of games is whats going to be important.

Certainly, though, there's confidence in that he's enjoyed success against Vancouver and tasted victory in their building a pair of things that not every Eastern Conference netminder can say.

I havent thought about it that much, said insisted. I played against this team this year once. The other two times Ive played against Vancouver, its not even worth really comparing because they were a different team and we were a different team. I know the one game that we did win this season, it wasnt an easy game, and basically we had a one-goal lead for, you know most of the time.

I think we ended up getting a two-goal lead near the end. But it was a very tight game, so you can take a little bit of confidence that you won that one game. But it only goes so far.

Thomas might take a little confidence from the fact hes utterly confounded the Canucks during his head-turning run in Boston.

But you certainly wont hear him guaranteeing anything this time around.

Approximately 1,000 fans showed up at TD Garden Monday afternoon to cheer the Bruins as they departed via bus for their flight to Vancouver. Johnny Boychuk, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton stopped to sign autographs for fans, shake hands and take in the send off from adoring fans on their way out of Boston.

Thornton skated with the Rich PeverleyGregory CampbellDaniel Paille line during practice, and donned a gold jersey in the process. Coach Claude Julien anticipated the question about Thorntons switch in practice, and said it amounted to a few more reps for the Bs enforcer after sitting out the entire Tampa Bay Lightning series.

Well, I knew that question was going to come up and I even said it before practice, Julien said. I said, Four golds, somebody is going to ask me about it.

"They dont get the same amount of ice time those others do. And with Thornton not having played, I think it was important for them to get a regular turn at practice. I wouldnt read more into it than it was.

Peverley spent time skating with the Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron line, and alternated reps with Mark Recchi as hes done in the last few games.

Julien said he's seen the Stanley Cup during trips to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but never had his picture taken with it.

All I said is, the day that I even get a picture or touch it will be the day Ive earned it, said Julien. Thats been my philosophy throughout my career as a coach.

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

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.