Some call it skill. Some call it hand-eye coordination.
Tim Thomas calls it luck.
“Partial luck,” said the grinning Boston Bruins goaltender, looking out over a crowd of reporters.
That self-described luck came in the form of one particular save of the 33 total Thomas made in the Bruins’ 3-1 Game 5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night, that enabled them to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Late in the third period with the Bruins clinging to a one goal lead, a point shot went wide of the Bruins goal and took a trampoline bounce off the end boards dropping right onto the stick blade of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steve Downie.
“I saw it was going wide and I was out toward the top of the crease, so I didn’t have time to get my whole body back,” explained Thomas. “With the way the new boards are now-a-days in all the arenas, you’ve got to be on your toes with the big bounces and the big bounce came out and, you know, it was just a reaction and a desperation and I’ll admit I got a little bit lucky there.”
Thomas dove back stick first towards the post in a last ditch effort to break up a shot and got his stick’s paddle down on the puck with a sure path for the back of the net.
“I was sitting on the bench and I thought it was for sure going to be a goal, those are always pretty easy tap ins, but Timmy came up with an unbelievable save,” said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who scored with four minutes remaining in the second period to give Boston a 2-1 lead.
The Bruins stumbled out of the gates as the Lightning’s Simon Gagne scored just a minute into the first period on a fast break two on one along with Steven Stamkos. The Bruins remained on their heels throughout the first frame of play being out shot, 14-4.
For Thomas, who was the difference-maker with the Bruins getting out-shot 34-20, the slow start didn’t stop him from getting settled in.
“The thought crosses your mind that, oh, I’ve got to bear down even if it’s another two-on-one, I’ve got to find a way to make the save because we can’t afford to go down 2-0. The teams are too tight and the games are too tight for that to happen, so that thought is in there,” said Thomas as he explained his mindset following the early Lightning goal.
“The second thing that happens is actually in a funny way to start to relax a little bit, and I don’t know how it works but it kind of works that way for me. I don’t want to let in an early goal, obviously, but I’ve had experience with it in the past and for some reason, sometimes it can relax me and that’s kind of the effect it had tonight.”
Thomas went on to stop the final 33 shots he saw, and in turn helped his team right the ship.
“He seems to be so calm out there, and even the last half of the game you saw some of the saves he was making and you kind of look at him and you get a sense of confidence just from the way he stands there and he’s just so poised and calm in situations like that,” said Marchand, explaining how the play of Thomas affects the whole team.
“I think that’s why he’s such a great goalie, in those big moments when you need him he’s calm and relaxed and he’s confident and that’s big for us.”
And as far as Thomas looking ahead, the Vezina candidate isn’t getting to ahead of himself.
“The is fact that we’re one win away from the Stanley Cup Finals, but that isn’t what we need to focus on and that isn’t really what I’m thinking about,” said Thomas. “We need to focus on just playing the next game as good as we can and trying to get one win and not look at it like one win gets us to the Stanley Cup Finals but just more like approach it the same way we have most of these playoffs and kind of keep it simple”