VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Tim Thomas grabbed the Conn Smythe Trophy and took it for a long skate.
The Boston Bruins goalie, maligned for his wandering ways and demoted last year as he struggled with a hip injury, was named the most valuable player of the NHL postseason on Wednesday night with a spectacular run to his first Stanley Cup title.
"It's quite an honor. I mean, the Stanley Cup is the biggest one, that's the one you're shooting for. But Conn Smythe is completely an honor," the 37-year-old goalie said after shutting out the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 to win Game 7 of the NHL finals and help the Bruins earn their first title since 1972. "I just sat down here and started to read some of the names on it. It's an honor to be mentioned in the same Maple Leaf."
Thomas held the Canucks to eight goals in seven games, posting his second shutout of the series and his fourth of the playoffs in the finale. Thomas, who set a new record for total saves in the postseason, also shut out the Canucks in Game 4 while winning all three finals games in Boston.
"Their goaltender was real tough to beat," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "The way they played in front of him was real tough to beat. We had some grade 'A' chances and we weren't able to score."
He is expected to win the Vezina Trophy next week after setting a modern record with a .938 save percentage in the regular season, eclipsing Dominik Hasek's mark.
On Wednesday, he became just the second American player to win the Conn Smythe. New York defenseman Brian Leetch was the first to win it, doing so in 1994, after the Rangers defeated the Canucks, interestingly enough, in a Game 7.
"It still hasn't kicked in, if I'm completely honest," Thomas said. "I can't believe it's over. We've had our battle meter up so high for so long, it feels like we're moving onto the next series or something."
There were few doubts regarding Thomas' Conn Smythe credentials - win or lose in Game 7 - especially after playing every minute of the postseason for Boston. In fact, he won three Game 7s - an NHL first.
"I think I went even further than I thought," Thomas said. "I never envisioned three Game 7s in one playoffs and still being able to come out on top."
Thomas has an unconventional style, often skating far out from the crease to cut down angles and hustling back to make the save. As well as he stopped the puck in the series, he is perhaps even more beloved in Boston for getting physical with the Canucks when he felt they were invading his crease.
A native of Flint, Mich., Thomas was an All-American at the University of Vermont who was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques. He played for nine teams in five leagues in three countries on two continents - winning the MVP in Finland - before coming to the Bruins for another chance in the NHL in 2005.
Thomas won the Vezina in 2009 and made the U.S. Olympic team last year, but a hip injury cost him his Bruins starting job to Tuukka Rask. He was also a backup in the Olympics to Buffalo's Ryan Miller.
But after offseason surgery, he won his NHL job back ... and isn't likely to give it up any time soon.