BOSTON -- Tim Thomas had braced for every possible reaction from his home fans.
Tuesday night marked his first game back in Boston following the controversial decision to skip out on the White House ceremony for the Bruins last week, and Thomas said he had mentally prepared for soul-crushing booing or goose bumps-inducing cheers.
He thought they would cheer given the hockey job that Thomas has helped provide Bruins fans with over his seven plus seasons in Black and Gold.
I was pretty certain it would be a good reaction, said Thomas. But having said all that I didnt take it for granted. I was mentally prepared either way.
Well, all that mental preparation along with the unavoidable media hue and cry for more than a week was much ado about nothing when the Bruins fandom clapped and cheered for their longtime Black and Gold goaltender in a moment of need.
Lucky for Thomas, the Bruins fan base cares a great deal more about stopping pucks than where the governments buck stops.
It was a respectful greeting from the sellout TD Garden crowd when Tim Thomas name was announced as the starting goaltender prior to puck-drop against the Ottawa Senators. There werent any standing ovations of support or soul-crushing waves of negativity; instead it was business as usual, with the kind of political apathy youd expect from a crowd of sports fans.
Thats why there wasnt a boo or hiss in the house even when Thomas seemed a bit off his game against an Ottawa Senators team hell-bent on making an impression on the Northeast Division-leading Bruins.
I didnt see an ovation; I just saw them cheering him, said coach Claude Julien. Everybody was probably waiting to see what the reaction was going to be, so it was pretty clear that they still respect him for his hockey skills. They certainly are not holding anything against him for his political beliefs.
The positive feedback for the Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner should put the finishing touches on last weeks White House incident, and finally, mercifully allow the Bs goaltender to again focus on the business of minding his net.
Thomas said the warm reception from Bruins Nation made him want to win the game for them all the much more, and both the Bs goaltender and his teammates eventually came through with a 4-3 decision over the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden.
I was happy to hear the reception from the fans. It was just good to hear, you know? I wanted to get them a win real bad, said Thomas, who made a perfect seven saves in the third period to help shepherd his club to victory. When we got down there in the second I didnt know if wed be able to pull it off, but we found a way again.
The Bruins found a way by finally waking up in the third period with goals from Brad Marchand and Dennis Seidenberg while coming from behind against Ottawa, and the team appreciated the fan reaction to Thomas. The Bruins team to a man only cares whether Thomas is stopping pucks at a record pace as he was last season, and the fan base is much the same way.
Thomas is the best goaltender in the world, and that means he provides the difference between winning and losing. Thats why an overwhelming 38 percent of Hockey News readers tops in the survey -- picked Tim Thomas as their goaltender of choice for a Game 7 playoff start that absolutely had to be won.
Sure, he kicked up a rebound to Colin Greening that turned into an Ottawa goal, and Thomas wasnt able to stop a Kyle Turris hot-shot from the left face-off circle after a Daniel Alfredsson cross-ice pass had him sliding from left-to-right in a desperate attempt to smother it. The Glenn Beck-sized demons could have crept into Thomas head at that point, down by a couple of goals in his first game out of the All-Star break, but the Bs goaltender said the same thing that hes uttered many times over the years: Im not going out like that.
Instead Thomas locked things in and his fellow American goaltending counterpart on the other side of the ice, Craig Anderson, let a 90-foot Dennis Seidenberg shot from the center-ice circle trickle through his pads.
I was very glad. Our goal is to win hockey games. It doesnt matter what happened last week, said Seidenberg. Those are his views. Our goal is still the same as his, and thats winning hockey games. None of that White House stuff matters to us at all.
So now the trade rumors involving Thomas have been debunked and the team has moved on from the politically-motivated Obama incident. Thomas isnt going anywhere this season, and his team will need him to produce something special again down the stretch if the Bruins hope to win another Stanley Cup.
His owner is behind him. His teammates are behind him. Team management is behind him. An entire Bruins fan base is behind him. They certainly dont all agree with Thomas political beliefs, but they do all worship at the altar of wins and losses each and every week.
The positive TD Garden reception served as the final chapter of the Skipping out on the White House for Dummies book thats now been successfully written by Thomas, and its officially time for everybody not-named Obama to move on. Player and team both displayed just how easy that could be today.