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Just Another Obstacle for The Tank

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
Eastern Conference goaltender Tim Thomas (30), of the Boston Bruins, stops a shot by Western Conference forward Mike Ribeiro, of the Dallas Stars, during the third period of the NHL All-Star hockey game Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Boston, MA -- The more you think about it, the less it makes sense.

Ten Eastern Conference goalies are on the NHL’s All-Star Ballot and none of them is Tim Thomas.

“I don’t know what to say about that,” said Bruins head coach Claude Julien when asked about Thomas’ omission from the ballot. “I really don’t know how it’s chosen or how it’s done.

“It’s unfortunate for him, but every time (he’s overlooked) he keeps battling.

“But you know, that’s Timmy’s story -- he’s a battler,” he said.

That said, is there any way possible, using this years numbers, last year’s numbers or a combination thereof, that Thomas is not one of the ten best goalies in the Eastern Conference?

“He’s in there every year and he does his job,” said Julien when pressed for an explanation. “That’s just the way it goes.”

Thomas was in last year’s game, willingly participated in the Skills Competition, played between the pipes in the Young Stars Game and earned a “W” in the big game.

Prior to the big game last January, Thomas spoke about what being an all-star meant to him.

“You didn’t dare think about it for so many years (because) it was just a hard enough battle to try and make it to the NHL,” he said. “Last summer, I did set a goal for myself to make the All-Star Game.

“It’s like a list of goals that you shoot for -- you might not get ‘em, but that’s one thing that I made in my mental list of goals.

“I can’t believe that it actually bore through.  Just hearing them announce me, ‘Tim has been elected to the 2008 All-Star Game,’ it’s funny even hearing it,” said Thomas.

Thomas remained realistic and gounded about the opportunity.

“You can never get comfortable and you can never relax in this game,” said the goalie.  “If you don’t keep trying to get better…you’re going to get passed by.”

“I’ve been through enough challenges, though, to where I’m not afraid of a challenge.”

This season, as of this morning, Thomas is first in save percentage (.944), second in goals against average (1.83) and is tied for second in shutouts with two.

Most recently, Thomas posted a 3-1-0 record with a 0.99 goals-against average and .970 save percentage in four games last week and two of his saves are included in the NHL's "Saves of the Week".

Clearly, Thomas is up to facing the world’s best shooters, but can he take on red tape?

“This bureaucracy stuff, I don’t waste too much time on that,” said Julien. “My job is more about taking care of the team.

“I want Tim to do well for us right now and you’ve got to hope that things fall into place.”

Julien also said that Thomas has the respect of his teammates and that, in the end, is what really matters.

“He’s just got to continue to help his team win and that should, hopefully, open some eyes,” said Coach Julien. “Last year, even though he was there because of an injury, he was still there.

“As a team we felt he deserved to be there and that’s the important thing.

“It’s not the perception from out there (that matters), but what your team and your teammates think of you,” he said.

Today, Thomas, who has proven people wrong in the past, said, “It just feeds a player’s (desire) to keep getting better.

“You don’t want to always look at it as proving people wrong, but that’s what it kind of boils down to.”

One of the best perspectives on the matter came from veteran defenseman Aaron Ward who said that he felt that many of the names on the ballot were included because of notoriety and that Tim “may find himself in a situation similar to where he was last year.

“That’s just the way things work.”

But Ward said that Thomas is in a good position to shine.

“For him, the best part is that I’d rather be the ‘ah-ha!’ guy…I like to sneak up on people with ‘ah-ha!’ moments that say, ‘Look...There he is again.”

“I would rather have those eureka moments where you feel like you defied the odds and defied expectations.

“It’s much more redeeming to do that,” said Ward.

Thomas has done that again and again. This is just another challenge to be overrun by “The Tank.”
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