It’s been an unusual past month or so for Tim Thomas, at least by the standards that Thomas and only few other NHL goalies hold. The pipe-protector entered Thursday having allowed 11 goals in his last four starts, including a pair of four goal outings.
Not exactly reason for panic, but a bit supbar for last year’s Conn Smythe honoree.
Thursday, in a 2-1 win over Montreal, Thomas rebounded with a fantastic first frame, providing a chance for Boston to win despite a lackluster effort.
Thomas’ timing couldn’t have been better. The Bruins were sloppy all game, especially in the first. Montreal put 16 shots at Thomas in the first, including a bundle from close to the Boston cage.
The scoring chances came in bunches. There was Max Pacioretty’s breakaway and the subsequent look from the hashes for Erik Cole on a cross-crease pass seconds later. There was the Andrei Kostitsyn point-blank look off an abysmal Dennis Seidenberg turnover.
“We turned a lot of pucks over during breakouts and gave them some pretty good scoring chances,” B’s coach Claude Julien said. “Tonight, I have to say that we didn’t play well. Not well enough. The turnovers, the sloppiness, the not getting pucks in, not being strong on the puck.”
And yet, the B’s came away from the first up 1-0, and from the game with a 2-1 win.
Of Thomas’ 18 wins this year, this may have been the one where his play was most crucial.
“They had some decent chances in the first period,” Thomas said. “They were buzzing around. I think it was important to stop that flurry and not give them any confidence heading into the rest of the game, the second and third. I was just waiting for us to take over, basically.”
The takeover never quite came, although the latter periods were cleaner defensively than the first. Montreal took just six shots on goal in the second and 12 in the third.
The lone goal was a power-play tally in the third by Yannick Weber.
“Cole did a good job of screening me,” Thomas said. “I felt like if I saw the puck tonight, there was no way they were going to score. That’s why I may have been a bit frustrated when I got scored on. I felt good and I didn’t think they were going to score.”
Thomas’ confidence came from his success during the frantic first. The creaseman allowed four goals recently to Vancouver and Dallas, disappointing efforts that both started with Thomas facing extended 5-on-3 situations.
“Instead of us being in the box, we had a good bounce and got an early goal,” Thomas said, alluding to Jordan Caron’s first period tally gifted from a bounce off the glass. “It’s just totally different.”
Thomas isn’t a believer in the old goaltending theory about more shots creating comfort for a keeper. Thursday, though, he acknowledged it made a positive difference.
“Sometimes it helps,” Thomas said. “It depends on whether they score or not. If it’s 16 shots, two or three goals, it doesn’t help a lot. It can be nice, but you know, basically, you just make whatever comes up in a game, make what you can out of it and do what you can.
“No use worrying what an ideal start would be. Even if you figure out what an ideal start is, it ain’t going to happen, not very often.”
It happened Thursday for Thomas, who fed off the frantic first and rode that momentum through to the game’s end.
“For the most part, I played more aggressive today than I have in a few days,” he said. “I was feeling strong enough and fast enough that I could be aggressive and still get back tonight.”