Time to stop doubting Thomas?

197881.jpg

Time to stop doubting Thomas?

By Michael Felger

When Canadiens forward Brian Gionta broke down the right wing five minutes into the second overtime on Saturday night at the Garden, the stakes couldn't have been much higher -- either for the Bruins or the man Gionta would ultimately try to beat for the game-winner.

The Bruins' latest blood-duel with Montreal was knotted at two games apiece and the next goal would not only shift the balance of the series, but help determine the future of many of the players on the B's bench, as well as those behind it.

Face it. Jobs and reputations are on the line for the Bruins this postseason. For Claude Julien, another early exit will certainly mean an exit from Boston. For the players, the questions are more subtle, but important nonetheless.

Who, for example, is Tim Thomas? We know he's been one of the best regular-season goalies in the NHL for about four years. He's about to win his second Vezina Trophy and just set a record for regular-season save percentage.

Yet his postseason career has been undistinguished. Through three playoff series -- spanning one round in 2008, which he lost, and two in 2009, which he split -- Thomas' play has been good but rarely great. Yes, he hasn't cost the Bruins many games. But he hasn't won them many, either. He's been . . . fine. And that's about it. His up-and-down play over the first four games against Montreal only encapsulated his postseason career.

So as Gionta bore down the right slot, the question hung in the air: Had he ever, truly stolen a playoff game for the Bruins? If he had, it was hard to recall.

Then Travis Moen's pass found Gionta's stick and Thomas finally, unequivocally, answered.

Thomas' sprawling save on the Gionta one-timer was perhaps his finest moment as a member of the Boston Bruins, capping what had to be the most important and clutch performance of his NHL career (44 saves). Above all, it helped give the Bruins a 3-2 series lead over the Canadiens and put them one step closer to the second round, where jobs and reputations will be on the line all over again.

And that's what makes the real takeaway from Thomas' brilliant performance on Saturday the future, not the past.

What if that game is the one that "breaks the seal" for Thomas? What if it becomes a regular occurrence and not just an aberration?

In other words, what if Thomas becomes that guy?

Then you'd have to look at the Bruins differently, wouldn't you?

So that's the question I'm asking heading into Tuesday's Game 6 in Montreal.

What's it going to be, Tim: More games like that? Or one-and-done?

E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursdays. Listen to Felger on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Friday, Dec. 9: John Scott calls it quits

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while digging the Spider-Man trailer that dropped last night. 

*John Scott has finally called it a day and announced his retirement, and apparently there’s a book of his memoirs also coming out too. I’m predicting it’s not headed for the New York Times best seller list. 

*Winter Olympics participation and the CBA negotiations for the NHL are starting to merge into giant issue.  

*Connor McDavid calls the Flyers' Brandon Manning classless for telling him on the ice that he purposefully tried to hurt him last season. Some players might also take issue with McDavid making public what another player said to him on the ice. That’s kind of a no-no for most hockey players and breaks an unwritten rule that McDavid might think he’s above given his star status. This whole thing isn’t a good look for anybody. 

*Kevin Stevens pleads guilty to federal drug charges in what’s become a pretty sad situation for the former NHL star. 

*New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is beginning to raise questions with his play, and his massive price tag. 

*Youngsters Zach Weresnki and Dylan Larkin took similar paths to the NHL, and are both considered part of the talented young generation full of hockey stars. 

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Carey Price taking a nutty on Kyle Palmieri after the player crashed into his crease last night. Price is being celebrated for sticking up for himself, but if another goalie did that to a Habs player at the Bell Centre, there would already be a warrant out for his arrest. Play it both ways, Montreal!  

*For something completely different: here’s the aforementioned new Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer that looks pretty darn good. 

 

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

Two more Pastrnak goals pull him into tie for NHL lead with Crosby

BOSTON – While the loss to the Avalanche on Thursday night was a monumental dud, it put another dazzling display on the hockey resume of David Pastrnak. 

The 20-year-old star right winger scored two more goals in the 4-2 loss at TD Garden and nearly brought the Bruins back into the game by himself before another defensive breakdown at the end of the second period doomed them. 

Instead, Pastrnak had to settle with being the proud owner of 18 goals scored in 23 games that places him in a tie with NHL superstar Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead in goals. 

The goals also showed his wide range of lethal offensive skills. On the first score, he just broke away from the Avalanche defense and managed to bury a second-effort breakaway chance after a nice Tim Schaller stretch pass off the boards. The second goal was a straight one-timer bomb from the high slot off a slick setup pass from Brad Marchand in the corner, and it had the Bruins right back into the mix after a dreadful first period. 

It wasn’t enough when the B’s defense faltered again toward the end of the second period, but it was enough for everybody to be singing Pastrnak’s praises once again following the loss. 

“He’s a game changer. The momentum is going the other way, and he has the ability to break away on any given shift and score a big goal for us. He did that tonight,” said Torey Krug. “We can’t just keep relying on the same guys to score goals. We’ve got to come up with secondary offense, and I know every other guy wants to do that. 

“Now it’s about showing that on the ice and making sure we’re doing the work and getting better and proving to ourselves. But Pasta [David Pastrnak] has been great for us so far, and we’re obviously lucky to have him.”

The 18 goals barely two months into the season are not too shabby for a kid, in his third NHL season, who just now coming into his own. He’s nearly halfway to 40 before Christmas. For Pastrnak, however, it’s about the team result and he wasn’t overly satisfied with his two goals in a losing effort. 

“I’ve said before the season that our goal is to make the playoffs and to have that experience and have the chance to win the Stanley Cup. I’m still focusing on that,” said Pastrnak, who has yet to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs in his two-plus seasons with the Black and Gold. “We have zero points from tonight’s game and we have to move on. I think our game gets better in the second and third periods, you know, and we have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”

The Bruins will undoubtedly regroup and once again count on another Pastrnak offensive explosion to help lead the way in what’s become a truly spectacular season for the youngster.