Thomas' 20-save shutout steals Kessel's show

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Thomas' 20-save shutout steals Kessel's show

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Kessel-Mania VII headlined the coming attractions before Thursday night's game between the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.

But it was Tim Thomas who stole the show with his second shutout of the season in Boston's 2-0 win over Phil Kessel's Leafs at the TD Garden.

Kessel finished the game with a game-high six shots on net, but had nothing to show for it. In seven games against his former team, Kessel has zero goals and only one assist, and after his minus-1 showing on Thursday night is a minus-7 against the B's in his career.

His reaction?

"I had some good chances tonight," said Kessel after the game. "I just couldn't bury them.

"I had chances again tonight. It's not like I didn't have chances. It just didn't go in. What can you do?"

Not much you can do with the puck on your stick and Thomas in net for the Bruins this season.

Thomas is now 5-0 with a league-leading goals-against average of 0.60. It's the best start for a Bruins goaltender since Tiny Thompson went 6-0-0 in his first six games of the 1937-38 season.

Coach Claude Julien has gone on record, several times, to say that the team doesn't have a No. 1 goalie; it has two No. 1's. But after Tuukka Rask's 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday, Thomas' 20-save performance -- which included killing off all five Toronto power plays -- in a big bounceback win for the Bruins on Thursday night, has to make Thomas the team's go-to 'tender until he begins to struggle.

Julien would never tell you that, of course. But he did have a ton of praise for the way Thomas shut down the Maple Leafs.

"Solid again," said Julien after the win. "I think we can't say enough about the way he's played. And what I liked about his game, too, is they had some shots from the point, and he did a great job of not giving up any rebounds. He kept those inside him, and I thought he did a great job at smuggling those loose pucks. He was just solid, challenging, and confident.

"I think if anything, he was as solid as can be," added Julien. "Tuukka played the game before, and you can say, well, Thomas skipped a game there, let's see how he comes out tonight. And he came out the same way he had when he played his last game. So it's great to see him do that. And again, when you've got a goaltender playing that well, it certainly gives you a great chance to win hockey games.

"In the first period, we were maybe not as good as we would have liked, but a guy like him keeps you in a game."

Thomas can't find one specific aspect of his game that's working best. But on Thursday night, his rebound prevention was as good as it's ever been.

And it needed to be that way. With Patrice Bergeron giving the Bruins a 1-0 lead with 41 seconds left in the first period, and Tyler Seguin making it 2-0 with 7:34 in the second, one measly Toronto goal could have changed the game.

It's these types of games in which shutouts are needed for the win. And that's exactly what Thomas gave the B's on Thursday.

"I feel good, it's fun to play," said Thomas. "The reality is, we had a 2-0 lead, I couldn't afford to give Toronto a goal, because I didn't want to let them think they're back in the game.

"It was easier to focus on the shutout tonight, because it was necessary for the win, I think.

"I feel, obviously, that I'm playing good," added Thomas. "The team's playing very well in front of me. They're really helping me out with rebounds, screens, blocking them out of screens. I mean, Dennis Seidenberg had as many saves as I did tonight. So that's making it very helpful."

And for Kessel-Mania?

"As far as Phil Kessel goes, we're not thinking about that," said Thomas. "We're thinking about the two points, and we needed the win. We needed to bounce back, especially after a loss, so we're not thinking of individuals like that. At least, I'm not."

Kessel probably can't say the same about Thomas.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard

Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

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Friday, July 29: Good signs in Bruins-Marchand negotiations

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while using “malarkey” in my day-to-day vocabulary as much as possible. 
 
-- Dale Tallon was promoted with the Florida Panthers to accentuate his strengths as a talent evaluator, but maintains that he still has final say on hockey decisions
 
-- PHT writer Cam Tucker has another young D-man off the board with the Wild’s Matthew Dumba signing a two year, $5.1 million deal with Minnesota
 
-- In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my take on the negotiations between Brad Marchand and the Bruins: There’s a couple of good signs at the outset of negotiations
 
-- The Arizona Coyotes are stressing the defensive side of things in a big, big way, and it appears to be part of John Chayka’s master plan

 -- Alex Pietrangelo would be a natural selection to replace David Backes as the next captain of the St. Louis Blues. 

-- A moving letter from Sens forward Bobby Ryan to his recently passed mother is up at the Players Tribune website. 

-- Chris Kreider has re-signed with the New York Rangers, and plans to get out of his head and onto the score sheet more often. 
 
-- For something completely different: Jerod Mayo will bring a new voice to Tom E. Curran’s Quick Slants program on our very own CSN network. 

 

List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

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List of Bruins prospects includes two familiar names

With decidedly Boston-sounding names and thoroughly familiar faces, given their resemblances to their ex-Bruin dads, it might have been easy to overlook Ryan Donato and Ryan Fitzgerald and focus on the truly little-known prospects at Development Camp earlier this month.

But on the ice, their brimming confidence, their offensive skills and the maturity to their all-around game was impossible to ignore.

When it was over, general manager Don Sweeney singled out Donato, who plays at Harvard, and Fitzgerald, from Boston College -- along with Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and former Boston University defenseman Matt Grzelcyk -- as players who have developed significantly.
 
“[They're] just comfortable in what they’re doing,” said Sweeney. “I mean, they’ve played at the college hockey level . . . two, three, four years with some of these kids. They’re very comfortable in their own skin and in what they do.”
 
Donato, 20, is actually coming off his first season at Harvard, where he posted 13 goals and 21 points in 32 games. He looked like he was in midseason form during Development Camp, showing off a scoring touch, skill with the puck on his stick in tight traffic, and the instincts to anticipate plays that allow him to beat defenders to spots in the offensive zone. He’s primed for a giant sophomore season with the Crimson, based on his showing at camp.
 
“Every year is a blast," said Donato, son of former Bruins forward and current Harvard coach Ted Donato. "You just come in [to development camp] with an open mindset where you soak everything up from the coaches like a sponge, and see what they say. Then I just do my best to incorporate it into my game and bring it with me to school next year.
 
“One of the things that [Bruins coaches and management] has said to me -- and it’s the same message for everybody -- is that every area of your game is an important one to develop. The thing about the NHL is that every little detail makes the difference, and that’s what I’ve been working on whether it’s my skating, or my defensive play. Every little piece of my game needs to be developed.”
 
Then there's Fitzgerald, 21, who is entering his senior season at BC after notching 24 goals and 47 points in 40 games last year in a real breakout season. The 2013 fourth-round pick showed speed and finishing ability during his Development Camp stint and clearly is close to being a finished hockey product at the collegiate level.
 
“It was good. It’s definitely a fun time being here, seeing these guys and putting the logo on,” said Fitzgerald, son of former Bruins forward Tom Fitzgerald, after his fourth Development Camp. “One thing I’m focusing on this summer is getting stronger, but it’s also about just progressing and maturing.
 
“I thought . . . last year [at BC] was a pretty good one, so I just try to build off that and roll into my senior season. [The Bruins] have told me to pretty much continue what I’m doing in school. When the time is right I’ll go ahead [and turn pro], so probably after I graduate I’ll jump on and make an impact.”
 
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t mention or give any hints that it could happen, but these days it has to give an NHL organization a bit of trepidation anytime one of their draft picks makes it all the way to their senior season. There’s always the possibility of it turning into a Jimmy Vesey-type situation if a player -- like Fitzgerald -- has a huge final year and draws enough NHL interest to forego signing with the team that drafted him for a shot at free agency in the August following his senior season.
 
It may be a moot point with Fitzgerald, a Boston kid already living a dream as a Bruins draft pick, but it’s always a possibility until he actually signs.
 
In any case, both Donato and Fitzgerald beat watching in their respective college seasons after both saw their development level take a healthy leap forward.