The way this season has gone for Tim Thomas, even when he doesn't win the game, he wins the admiration of teammates and opponents alike.
Such was the case this past Saturday when Thomas and his Boston Bruins played the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre -- although the Leafs claimed a 3-2 shootout victory, Thomas prolonged the game to that stage with an unbelievable diving glove stop on Francois Beauchemin in overtime, a sure-fire candidate for save of the year.
"I didn't have time to move my whole body," Thomas said. "I was diving and I was able to pick up the puck and follow it into my glove."
It was one of 38 saves Thomas made in the game, following a 37-save performance in an 8-1 thrashing of the Tampa Bay Lightning and a flawless 41-stop performance in a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers. He is throwing around big stats along with his body on practically every save.
The big stop on the Leaf's Beauchemin is a perfect example of how Thomas never gives up on a shot--even if he is far (really far) on the other side of the crease.
And this wasn't just a hot week for Thomas so much as it was the continuation of what has been a Vezina Trophy-caliber season -- he goes into Tuesday's game against the Sabres with a 13-2-2 record, and League-best 1.46 goals-against average and .956 save percentage.
Even when the Bruins are having a bit of an off night, as was the case Saturday, the veteran goaltender makes sure they don't come away empty-handed.
"If not for Timmy Thomas there's certainly no way the game goes even to overtime or to a shootout, because he made some unbelievable saves," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said Saturday night. "He was huge tonight."
Of course, the names Thomas and Vezina have been uttered in the same breath before -- he won the 2009 trophy after posting a career-high 36 wins. But he ended last season on the bench, supplanted by Tuukka Rask. While he sat, Thomas remained as tough mentally as he has been for shooters to solve on the ice, and the perseverance seems to have paid off. He's once again the undisputed No. 1 goalie in Boston.
"He looks really good," Rask said of Thomas. "He doesn't have any holes in him. He looks really tightly packed there. He's reading the pass and it looks really simple -- that's what he wants. It's good that he's healthy and back on the level where he knows he can be."
At age 36, Thomas has played 18 of the Bruins' 25 games, putting him on pace for 59 games, which would be the second-highest of his career. Thomas, though, isn't concerning himself with the number of games he plays, just continuing to give the Bruins a chance night in and night out, as he's done to this point.
"I just come and if I'm told I get the nod than I'm happy," he said back in October. "There is work for both of us and I just want to do the best that I can so I can earn as much of that work that I can."
Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.
— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL