Thomas shows Bruins the way back


Thomas shows Bruins the way back

Tim Thomas needed a change after getting going through one of the worst stretches of his NHL career in March.

In truth the Bruins needed plenty of changes headed into Saturday afternoons tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers, and chief among them was Thomas turning his game around. The 37-year-old was playing in his 12th straight game while attempting to snap his teams four game losing streak, so the chances for an energetic performance between the pipes seemed remote.

The 4.06 goals against average and .846 save percentage in his first nine appearances in the month of March were difficult to comprehend when placed next to Thomas name and normally pristine statistics.

But Thomas performances against the Flyers have always been good throughout his career, and the goalie opted to change out his pads and stick after hitting rock-bottom giving up six goals against the Florida Panthers earlier in the week. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner said there were concrete reasons behind changing out his equipment rather than simple superstition, but whatever the reason it worked in a 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers at TD Garden.

I think the win was very important, we needed that immensely. We needed to show up and have a good game at home. Things havent been going our way. Thats a polite way of saying it lately, said Thomas. To battle out tonight and come up with a good, solid strong game at home and pull out with two points, is hopefully very big for us moving down the road.

Claude Julien was reluctant to single out anyone in a solid team victory for the Bruins, but he did acknowledge that his All-Star goaltender finally appears to be on the right track.

Tim was no different than everybody else. He really did a great job. I thought he was tracking the puck well, he was making the saves he had to, and like I said, both goals were tip-ins, so certainly not his fault, said Julien. To a man, today, we were better. We did a better job in front of him, which allowed him to be better, and like I said, he made the save when he had to, to win us the game against the guy whos pretty good, normally, in the shootout. So, right now, we have to look at the positive and work like that.

Thomas had been arguably the NHLs worst goaltender during the month of March, but he turned it around for one day with 27 saves against the Flyers in an encouraging sign that hes turning the corner. While the Bruins scored a couple of goals early in the game to really seize control of the momentum, the victory was much more about a stouter defensive performance and a revitalized goaltender.

Recently Thomas had struggled to lock things down when it was time to make the key save in the game, but it was back to vintage Conn Smythe Thomas against the Flyers. With the Bruins sitting on a 1-0 lead early in the first period and the hockey club still in a very fragile place, it was Thomas that shrugged away a Jaromir Jagr breakaway chance when the Czech Republic living legend had just jumped out of the penalty box. The stop was a momentum-turning stop and the Bruins followed up with Tyler Seguins 25th goal of the season to give Boston a lead they needed every bit of as the game unfolded.

I am not trusting the bounces right now. Thats natural I think, said Thomas. But the breakaway save on Jagr, it did help to boost my confidence more than it already was.

The only shots to beat Thomas Saturday afternoon were a pair of tipped pucks from Philadelphia attackers pacing the price in front of the net, and neither score could be blamed on the goaltender. But he was again on top of his game at the end of the third period when the Flyers launched 12 shots on net in a furious attempt to land two points in regulation, and Thomas was able to turn away a Claude Giroux bid in the final seconds prior to overtime.

Best of all was Thomas adjustment in the shootout that allowed him to improve to 6-0 this season. He played deeper in his net while being beaten by Claude Giroux and Matt Read during the first two shooters in the extra session, and then changed on the fly for Daniel Briere.

Thomas jumped way out of the crease to challenge Briere, threw off his momentum and secured the two points when he made the only stop of the shootout. Thats the kind of gambling adjustment Thomas can make when the old confidence is flowing through his body, and it appears that its coming back.

My plan going into the shootout was to go out and play the other guys like Jagr on the breakaway. But that didnt work, but it was great to see our guys keep going in, said Thomas. After the second one, I kind of changed up what I do and I came way out to Danny Briere, I think I went all the way out to the hash marks to try and give him a different look and try to make him think what the heck hes doing.

This wasnt the Thomas questioning himself and what was going on around him that had no answers following the teams fourth straight loss to Florida. Instead this was a Thomas that had figured a few things out and now has a plan of attack with different equipment and a composite stick. The Bruins have 11 games remaining on their schedule and Thomas is likely to play nearly all of them with Boston in the middle of a battle to retain their No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference.

The prospect looks a lot brighter for Thomas coming off a winning performance against Flyers thats given everybody on the roster a moment to breathe. Perhaps thats all goaltender and team needed to get things cranking again in the right direction.

Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez


Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

BOSTON -- The cherub stays.

There's no way Rafael Devers is headed back to Triple-A before the homestand starts Friday, right, Dave Dombrowski? Not for the newly acquired Eduardo Nunez, who's a fine player but has nowhere near the offensive upside of Devers, the 20-year-old phenom you just rushed to the big leagues.


You probably weren't really considering sending Devers straight back, were you now, Dave? Sometime in the 3 o'clock hour Eastern time on Wednesday morning (after a 13-inning, 6-5 loss to the Mariners), you did tell reporters in Seattle that you would need to sit down with manager John Farrell to figure out the plan at third base from here.

Likely, you're just making sure your ducks are in a row. That Nunez himself has a chance to shake hands with you, and gets to hear straight from you what he'll be doing.

That's fair. But let's be doubly sure we're on the same page.

As long as something else doesn't happen between now and then -- no other trades for third basemen, no injuries -- Devers must at least platoon at third unless he shows he can't handle it. Nunez bats right, Devers left.

But it wouldn't be crazy to let Devers have the bulk of the playing time, either, and use Nunez to spell Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. Or simply have him come off the bench.

Devers didn't look overmatched in his very first big-league game Tuesday night. On the contrary, he was patient at the plate, drawing the walk that started a sixth-inning rally against Felix Hernandez. (King Felix is quite the draw for a someone making his major-league debut, we should note.) He looked like a happy kid, and sounded like one after the game.

"For me it's just going out there and playing my brand of baseball and having fun out there," Devers told reporters through translator Daveson Perez. "That's what I was trying to do and I think I did that."

Devers finished 0-for-4 with a pair of walks, one strikeout and a run scored. He didn't make any errors and looked smooth and quick, his athleticism shining through some baby fat.

Dombrowski spoke during the last homestand about the lack of league-norm production at third base. Nunez can bring that, if nothing more. He is, at a position that's had no certainty, some form of certainty. A stable piece that can help out around the infield and has valuable versatility.

But Nunez is not what the Sox need most: A bopper.

Devers has pop. The chances he blossoms this year are not in his favor because he is the youngest player in the majors. But it would be a most strange and almost cruel choice to call the kid up for two days and then decide you don't need him because of Nunez, who entered Tuesday with the same OPS as Mitch Moreland (.745).

If you're the glass-is-half-full-type, the first four-game losing streak of the season for the Red Sox was numbed by a third-base situation that's been upgraded twofold. Let's assume the Sox know how to best deploy the two from here -- in the big leagues together, until shown a reason to change course.