Last year, when goaltender Tim Thomas made plans for a late January, family vacation, he had to reschedule when he was named –– last-minute –– to the Eastern conference All-Star team. This year, as any good goaltender should, he saw a few moves in advance.
“I didn't plan anything this year just in case,” he said. “Was just going to kind of take it as it went.”
Thomas, named to the Eastern Conference team for the Jan. 25 All-Star Game, said his selection this year does not necessarily mean he has improved, but that he’s finally been recognized.
“It isn't like I've appeared out of nowhere,” he said. “The whole time I was hiding in plain sight.”
Thomas, a two-time college All-American, and former Finnish-hockey champion, says his .933 save percentage and 2.08 goals-against average should prove, without doubt, that he has always been a top-notch contender.
“In my mind, it isn't like I'm playing better than I played in my whole career. It's kind of me continuing,” he said. “Now, do I think I've gotten a little bit better in the past few years, of course. But I've tried to get better every year in my career.”
Despite the impressive 17-4-3 record, Thomas attributes much of that success to the team, and the defense, he has played behind for the past two years.
"Well, not just the defense, but at forward we've had incredible depth," he added. "When people have gone down, other people have gotten the chance and they've stepped up and did a great job.
"I mean, as a team I think we're fortunate those guys have stepped up and been able to play such key roles. I think that's a credit to Matt Hunwick and Shane Hnidy, and Matt Lashoff has gotten his chance."
Thomas didn't have to wait to be an injury replacement. Perhaps because he was a leader amongst the fan write-in's after being left off the ballot, the Bruins goalie was added earlier.
“Last year I was kind of a replacement [for the All-Star team], so this one is nice because I was picked outright,” he said. “But second of all, you know, when you can go there and you're the team that everyone's looking up to this year, that everybody's chasing, it definitely gives you a little bit of inner confidence."
He also attributed a lot of his winning to head coach Claude Julien for setting up some of the best systems and zoning strategy in hockey as well as the newly recalled players from the AHL.
"Last year, he just comes in and he lets everybody know what they're supposed to be doing," said Thomas. "It sounds like such a simple thing, but it's overlooked. You'd be surprised at how many systems there are, hockey systems, where the players really don't know what they're supposed to be doing.
"He's made that very clear, what it is that each individual on the ice is supposed to be doing.
"That makes it much easier for a goaltender," he said.
With excellent coaching staff and an excellent supporting defense, Thomas is sure he has a better shot than most to post the good numbers all season long.
“Something may happen to where it doesn't always work out as planned and then we have to improvise,” he warned. “[But] knowing in my zone on the ice where all of my guys are supposed to be, it helps out a goalie. I know kind of where most of the chances are going to be coming from.”
And that will be good when the men of the Black & Gold face off for the 57th All-Star Game in Montreal.
“Last year I think I was a little bit nervous. I had a great time, enjoyed myself. But I was a little bit nervous being on that stage,” he said. “I think this year I'll enjoy it probably even more because I think I'll be able to relax a little bit more, soak it in a little bit better.”
The Bruins take the ice tonight at the TD Banknorth Garden against the Montreal Canadiens at 7 p.m. EST. This year’s All-Star Game is being held on Sunday, January 25 at the Bell Centre in Montreal at 6:00 p.m. ET (National TV: VERSUS).