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Canucks insist Thomas is not in their heads

Thursday, 06.09.2011 / 1:10 AM / 2011 Stanley Cup Final - Canucks v Bruins

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

BOSTON -- Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa was asked after Wednesday's loss if the Canucks are thinking too much about where Tim Thomas is setting up to challenge shots rather than simply beat him by sending waves of bodies to the crease.
 
He took his answer in a telling direction.
 
"I think we're giving him too much respect to tell you the truth," Bieksa said. "I don't know why, but we just have to start testing him more because he's leaky and pucks go through him. You've seen it all playoffs long. It's too easy for him now."
 
The Canucks will try to tell you that Thomas is not in their heads and that they're not thinking too much about him. But, if Bieksa believes that he and his teammates are giving Thomas too much respect, doesn't that mean they are losing the mental game against Boston's star goalie?
 
The stats suggest they are.
 
Thomas made 37 saves for a 4-0 victory in Game 4. He made 40 saves in an 8-1 win in Game 3. He has allowed only five goals against 145 shots in the Stanley Cup Final. That's good for a .966 save percentage and 1.26 goals-against average.
 
Boston pulled even in the series with Wednesday's win, but they've outscored the Canucks, 14-5.
 
"Not at all," Daniel Sedin said when he was asked if Thomas is in the Canucks' heads. "There are a few games left. There is nothing like that going on. We have to find a way to solve him. He's not in our heads, but we have to find a way to solve him."
 
Ok, then why did Daniel Sedin bring up Thomas in almost every single one of his answers following Game 4?
 
"We made a few mistakes and it cost us obviously, but we created a lot of chances and Thomas right now is playing well," Daniel said when he was asked specifically about mistakes the Canucks made deep in their defensive zone, which is almost 200 feet from Thomas.
 
"We played a little bit better, but we have to find a way to solve Thomas," he said when asked about the failing power play, which went 0-for-14 in Boston and is 1-for-22 in the Final.
 
"I thought we had a really good first period and had a lot of chances, but Thomas is standing on his head and he's winning games for them right now," Daniel said when after being asked about what went wrong Wednesday.
 
So Thomas' non-traditional style is making it doubly difficult on the Canucks, but they still seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time before, during and after games focusing on the goalie's positioning and aggressiveness. It's a practice that may be misguided.
 
Thomas bodychecked Henrik Sedin in Game 3, prompting the Canucks to talk to the NHL about the goalie initiating contact outside of his blue paint and Thomas feeling he should be allowed to return to the crease unimpeded.
 
Wednesday night, Thomas got in a hard slash to the back of Alex Burrows' leg after the Canucks' winger sent Thomas' stick pinwheeling out of his hands. Burrows came back with a cross check and the two of them got into a quick scrap.
 
Burrows was called for cross checking, Thomas for slashing. No one knows if the League is going to receive another query.
 
"He plays his own style and he's playing it well right now," is about all Vigneault would say when he was asked about Thomas' play and behavior after Game 4.
 
So how do the Canucks rock Thomas off his game? Bieksa said they have to get to the net, which isn't easy against Thomas because of how far out the Bruins goalie plays.
 
"You can keep him in the paint," Bieksa said matter-of-factly. "If you're standing in front of him and he wants to come out and challenge, he's got to go around you. You need to establish position."
 
If they can get there and keep Thomas back, the Canucks believe they will gain the upper hand.
 
"I think he gives up a lot of rebounds, but right now we're not getting to those rebounds," Henrik Sedin said. "If you get to those rebounds like we saw Tampa did and Philly for that matter and Montreal, you're going to get those goals. Right now we're not getting to the rebounds."
 
Bieksa thinks he knows why. It's a respect thing, and the Canucks are giving too much of it to Thomas.
 
"His numbers are great, but he has also in the past, for whatever reason, given up quite a few goals on certain occasions," Vigneault said. "He hasn't done that yet. We're maybe responsible for that. We haven't done a good job of getting to the net, getting the screens. We're going to talk about that and see if we can fix it."
 
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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