Given the long, winding road taken by the B's Tim Thomas
to get to the NHL and the breakneck turns that have brought "The Tank" to the Stanley Cup Finals, Boston Head Coach Claude Julien was asked about his goaltender's performance in Game 7 and how rewarding it was for the 37-year-old Bruin.
|Thomas makes a save in front of Tampa Bay Lightning center Dominic Moore as Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, of Germany, defends late in the third period in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference final series, Friday, May 27, 2011, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) |
"I mean, he’s not getting any younger, right? I think everybody knows that, I think he knows that," began Julien. "But one thing I can say is he’s getting better.
"Sometimes we talk about aging, and basically in his case, he’s getting better [and the Stanley Cup Finals are] an area where I don’t think Timmy’s had an opportunity to go to.
"It means a lot to him," he said.
It obviously means a lot to Thomas, who told reporters on Friday night that the Game 7 win "feels incredible.
"I can use all the words everyone uses; incredible, unbelievable," explained Thomas. "We found a way to do it again.
"I’m sure everybody else’s blood pressure is up, ours was too but we’ve just got such great character on this team.
"We got it done," he said.
Thomas got it done during the regular season with a 35-11-9 record, a league leading 2.00 goals against average and a .938 save percentage -- stats good enough to earn the B's backstop a ticket to Los Vegas for the NHL's annual awards presentation.
As a Vezina Trophy finalist, Thomas' .983 save percentage set an NHL mark (since the league began keeping track of the stat during the 1982-83 campaign) and beat Dominik Hasek's high of .937.
It feels incredible and I can use all the words everyone uses; incredible, unbelievable. We found a way to do it again. I’m sure everybody else’s blood pressure is up, ours was too but we’ve just got such great character on this team. We got it done. - Tim Thomas
Thomas was also second in the league in shutouts with nine during the regular season and Friday night earned his second shutout of the postseason with the B's 1-0 blanking of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"Yeah, well, it was close except for we didn’t have exactly the quality chances that we had at other points during this year," said Thomas when asked if the Game 7 victory was a "perfect game" for the Bruins.
"I’m not cutting down this game whatsoever, but you asked the question about the 'perfect game,'" explained Thomas. "That was as close to a perfect game seven as you’re going to get."
But Thomas was perfect in goal and had teammates raving about his work between the pipes.
"Timmy has been really great since the start of the season," said Milan Lucic
. "His first start in Prague, we got a three-nothing victory and you just saw he wanted to make amends for having a not-so-great season last year.
"He is definitely going to win a Vezina his year. He has been our best player from the start of the year. Hats off to Timmy, playing as good as he has.
"He is just going to have to keep doing what he is doing," added Lucic.
Thomas intends to do just that, even though in the minutes following the Eastern Conference clinching win it hadn't sunk in to the goaltender that his club would be challenging for Lord Stanley's silver chalice.
"I got to give myself some time," said Thomas early Saturday morning. "I can’t speak for everyone else, I wasn’t trying to look too far ahead, I was just trying to look at today and today’s game. That’s why."
And that's probably why Thomas was able to make good on a "guarantee" that the B's would be on top of the Eastern Conference following the series with the Lightning.
"The way the question was framed, the way I took it anyway, was something to the effect of how do I see the rest of the series going and the first thing that came to my mind was I see us winning," explained Thomas of his statement post-Game 6. "That’s what I meant by that.
"Even though we won, I’m not going to step back and say yeah, I guaranteed it."
But on Friday, Thomas made good on his pledge.
"Timmy made the saves he had to make and it’s very fitting for him to get a shut-out in a game like that," said Julien. "He’s been good for us all year and he’s deserving of all the good things that are happening to him."