The Bruins are up 2-1 in the first playoff series of the postseason against the Washington Capitals. In all three games so far, goalie Tim Thomas has kept it close, giving his team a chance to win. He gets ACE Player of the Week for his consistent stellar postseason play that extends to last season’s big Stanley Cup Win.
In the first game, the Bruins won 1-0 after a grueling battle that headed into overtime. Center Chris Kelley scored the winning goal, but it was Thomas who blocked all 17 pucks shot at him and kept the Capitals from getting on the board.
The next game, Washington came back to win 2-1. Capitals’ left wing Troy Brouwer scored in the second period with a wrist shot, but the Bruins’ left wing Benoit Pouliot tied it up in the third period with a backhanded goal. Thomas blocked 37 shots throughout the rest of the game, going into double overtime, but was unable to stave off Capitals’ center Nicklas Backstrom’s slap shot in second overtime. Backstrom, will have to sit out Game 4 due to hit cross-checking against the Bruins’ forward Rich Peverley in Game 3.
The Bruins won Game 3, 4-3 in the first game in Washington. The Capitals scored a goal-a-period in the game, getting on the board first with left wing Alexander Semin’s slap shot. The Bruins were scoreless during the first period, but came out in the second to score two. One, a slaps hot from Peverley, and the second, a backhanded shot from left wing Daniel Paille. Thomas allowed a second goal to Capitals’ star left wing Alex Ovechkin who made a slap shot. In the third period, the Bruins took the lead with a wrist shot goal from right wing Brian Rolston. Capitals’ center Brooks Laich tied it up again with a wrist shot of his own off Thomas. With just under two minutes left in the game, captain defenseman Zdeno Chara had a tip-in to take the 4-3 lead. Thomas prevented the Capitals from tying and got the win. Washington had 32 shots on goal, but Thomas saved 29 of them and kept the score close.
Game 4 will be played in Washington on Thursday April 19. The Bruins rely heavily on Thomas in these fairly low-scoring, close games, and he has delivered. This is unsurprising after watching him play throughout the season and his postseason history, particularly last year.
The left-handed goaltender from Michigan played four seasons with his college team, The University of Vermont from 1993-1997. Thomas played in East Coast Hockey League for a short time after graduating before joining the International Hockey League. In 1998, he signed with the Edmonton Oilers and played in the AHL. He joined the Bruins in 2001, but finished off the season in Europe.
Thomas started out in the AHL from the Bruins during the 2002-03 season for Providence. He made his debut that year and in four games, had a 3-1 record for the Bruins. His first win came against his former team, the Oilers.
During the NHL Lockout of 2004-05, Thomas played in Finland where he had played before. In 54 games, he had a .946 save percentage with 15 shutouts, a new record for the league. Though the team lost in the finals, Thomas received high honors, winning the Lasse Oksanen Trophy, which means he was the league’s “best player.”
Though he had signed with the Finnish team for the 2005-06 season, the Bruins used their option on him and signed Thomas for another year. He started off in Providence again, but due to injuries to both Bruins’ goaltenders, Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen, he was called up as a starter. His record that season was 12-13-7 with a .917 save percentage. After the season ended, the fans voted him “the Boston Bruins’ 7th Player Award” winner and the team signed him to a three-year deal.
Raycroft was traded to the Maple Leafs, but Thomas played second to Toivonen to start the 2006-07 season. Thomas took over and by the end of the season, his record was 30-29-4 with a .904 save percentage. Once again he won the 7th Player Award.
The Bruins traded for goalie Manny Fernandez in the summer of 2007, but he injured himself early on in the season and Thomas was called on to fill the starting role once again. This time, he made the All-Star team as a replacement and ended up getting a win for his third period play.
In the next season, 2008-09, Thomas had a repeat performance in the All-Star game and got win number 100 in the NHL against the Anaheim Ducks. Thomas signed a four-year extension and led the team to their first Conference title since 2001-02. The Bruins beat the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs, but were beat by the Hurricanes in the next series. Thomas was awarded the Vezina Trophy at the end of the season.
The 2009-10 season saw Thomas lose his starting role to Tuukka Rask, who played in all of the playoff games. The Bruins fell to the Philadelphia Flyers four games in a row, even after winning the first three games of the series. Thomas was named to the All-Star game that season and got the win, three in a row for him.
During the 2010-11 off-season, Thomas had hip surgery, but came back to have a stellar season. That season, he broke the save percentage record with a score of .938, won the Vezina Trophy, and led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup Championship since 1972. Versus the Canucks in the series, Thomas played all seven games and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP.
The Bruins and their fans are hoping Thomas can continue his success in postseason play.