By John Bishop, BostonBruins.com
It's funny how quickly things turn around -- just a few days ago…
a. the Bruins were said to be looking for a goalie and that their last line of defense was failing them.
b. people said that if there was not a change in net the Bruins were doomed.
c. people also said that management should move quickly to rectify the situation.
Instead, Boston General Manager Peter Chiarelli stayed pat, rolled the dice and bet on #30 -- Tim Thomas
Thomas, who just might be turning into a Boston Bruins version of Johnny Bower, the Maple Leafs goalie who himself was well into his 30's when he finally stuck in the NHL (after at least a three stints in Providence, by the way, the same as Thomas).
Just like Bower did in his 33rd year when he began his run with Toronto, Thomas continues to make believers out of many people in the NHL.
Thomas, 32, and nicknamed "Tank" because of a youthful penchant for wearing tank tops off the ice, seemed as big as a tank, recently, when he earned the NHL's 3rd star for the week ending November 19th
That week Thomas backstopped Boston to three victories, posting a 1.60 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. He 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.
Thomas finished the week by making 27 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory against the Capitals Nov. 18.
A genial fellow, Tim is quick to make a joke, and is always talking with teammates or chit chatting with writers about hockey or goaltending or his family. Thomas is generally the last to get undressed, preferring instead to relax in his equipment before moving on with his day after a practice or game.
And, as a throwback type of player, when he is not using his equipment, he is tinkering with it, trying out sticks and pads or trying to break in his own goalie gear -- like making sure his helmet is in order or perhaps trying to figure out how best to keep his lid on his head (a new chin strap was the answer).
Continuing the old school theme, Thomas is perhaps the most unassuming pro athlete in Boston and wears his love for the game, the team and the town on his Black & Gold sleeves.
Now, with a 9-5-2 record, a .910 save percentage and a 2.89 goals against average and two straight wins versus division rival Toronto, Thomas has begun to elicit praise from just about everyone.
But coming into the season and continuing through the B's lukewarm start, the scouting report on Thomas was so-so.
His TSN report card is typical:Assets: Can come up with spectacular saves from out of nowhere. Has plenty of success from the European elite leagues to fall back on. Is the consummate team player.
Flaws: Will always need to prove he can handle a heavy workload to avoid the "flash-in-the-pan" label.
Career Potential: No. 2 goaltender.
But now, what is more typical, are positive headlines.
"Thomas hitting a groove: Bruins goalie owns Leafs" and "Thomas, Bruins sweep away Leafs" and "Thomas makes 45 saves, Bruins crush Maple Leafs" and finally, "Thomas stymies Leafs" are just a sample of the praiseful rhetoric that surfaced after the recent two game series win over Toronto.
Humble as always, after the game last night, Thomas told the Toronto Sun's
Terry Koshan that "Unfortunately, I have never had the puck look like a beach ball…I wish it would. It has never looked bigger than a puck, but it has looked smaller, that's for sure."
However, the puck has been finding Thomas' pads more often than not.
After 60 NHL games, the Flint, Michigan native has a 2.82 GAA and .914 sv%.
More importantly for Bruins fans looking for a playoff run this season, Tim is 8-2-0 in his last ten and has given the Bruins a fighting chance to win most of the games in which he has appeared.
The Bruins season is finally heating up and as of this morning, going into Thursday night's game with Tampa Bay, the Bruins are only three points out of a tie for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
And now, with the "Tank" protecting the net, Boston has springtime hockey within its reach.