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Catching Up...

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins

Like many of you, I woke up with a headache -- a serious headache.

But to my surprise, there were hints of light through the gloom, especially after I started catching up with the newspapers from the last several days.

Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald had this to say this morning:

It’s time to start thinking about Tim Thomas [stats] as an NHL All-Star

The Bruins [team stats] goalie lost a tough 5-4 overtime decision to the Blue Jackets last night, dropping his record to 16-8-1-2. Those numbers include three big victories last week, a showing that yesterday earned Thomas the NHL’s No. 1 star honor for the week. Beating Ottawa, Vancouver and Montreal, the 32-year-old stopped 94-of-98 shots (.959) and posted a 1.33 goals-against average.

Thomas was not among the top eight Eastern Conference goalies in the latest balloting for next month’s NHL All-Star Game in Dallas, but he richly deserves a spot on the squad. One obvious pick is New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur. Montreal’s Cristobal Huet also is a strong candidate. After that, why not Thomas, who has been the B’s MVP?

It’s what everyone around here was thinking; it is just nice to see it in print.

On December 25th, Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe wrote, that despite the Bruins slow start, Thomas has backboned a Boston resurgence:

With the Bruins now on the verge of slipping into playoff territory in the Eastern Conference, all of that seems ancient history. Also put to rest has been the issue of finding a No. 1 goalie…"To keep playing as much as I have can start you on a roll, so to speak," he said. "Getting in that rhythm can be a big help, and I think that’s part of what has happened here, too."

Thomas, if he were to remain coach Dave Lewis’ top choice the rest of the year, looks as if he would have a reasonable chance of winning 40 games this season. The last time a Boston goalie reached that plateau: 1982-83, when Pete Peeters went 40-11-19 and won the Vezina Trophy. The closest to 40 since then was Andy Moog in 1992-93, when he went 37-14-3.

Pete Hartt of the Times Argus in Vermont explained recently that Thomas was not sure that he would ever get a shot in the big time:

The truth is, to some extent, he had given up — not on hockey — but on NHL hockey.

"I never gave up thinking I could play," the 32-year old Thomas said. "I always planned on playing until I was 37 — I don’t know why I chose that age — and I thought I could do that in Europe. I had made peace with the fact that I would never get to the NHL. Finland is a great place to play hockey."

Thomas, after going through frustration over feeling like he was not getting a chance, spent the 2004-2005 season in Finland playing arguably the best hockey of his career. In 54 games he allowed just 86 goals and shut out opposing teams 15 times.

Last season, Thomas opted to return to North America one more time and signed a contract with the Bruins’ Providence farm team in the AHL. It was his sixth go-’round in the AHL or IHL and the previous three had resulted in a total of four NHL games.

It became a great decision when fate intervened and Thomas took advantage…Thomas, enjoying a solid season in Providence, came up and never looked back. He played in 38 of the team’s final 41 games, finished with an 11-12-10 record and 2.76 goals against average, won the team’s Seventh Player Award and established himself as a crowd favorite and the team’s No. 1 goaltender.

"It was an opportunity, but it took two guys getting hurt at the same time," Thomas said. "I want it to be like Lou Gehrig going into the game, and never coming out. Now that I am here, I want to stay. I was not thinking about a new contract. I was thinking about how it was going to be my last hurrah, and I was going to enjoy every minute and let it all hang out. Why not show them I was good enough?"

Thomas has done more than show us he is good enough; he has become the backbone of a team that is now in playoff contention -- despite the tough game in Columbus.

All of this has not gone unnoticed by the league, in general.

The National Hockey League announced yesterday that Thomas was named the league’s “First Star” for the week ending December 24.

Thomas backstopped the Bruins to three victories last week, posted a 1.33 goals-against average and .959 save percentage, and stopped 94 of 98 shots.

Thomas began the week in style when he made 35 saves as Boston defeated the Senators 7-2 on Dec. 19 in Ottawa.

Just two nights later, Thomas recorded 39 saves in a 2-0 victory over Vancouver at the TD Banknorth Garden on December 21 - his first shutout of the season and second of his NHL career. In the shutout, Thomas turned in a stellar third-period performance against the Canucks, turning aside all 14 shots he faced in the final frame.

Finally, Thomas completed the week by making 20 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on December 23, improving his season record to 16-8-2 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

This is the second time this season that Thomas has been named a “Star of the Week” by the NHL.

He was named the “Third Star” for his play during the week ending November 19 when he backstopped Boston to three victories, posting a 1.60 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.

Thomas made 33 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts in a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals Nov. 15 and stopped 24 of 25 shots in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 16. He finished the week by making 27 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory against the Capitals Nov. 18.
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