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Doubting Thomas doesn't jibe with the facts

by Brian Duff
His save percentage is .915. That's better than Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, and Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh to name just a couple. And New Jersey's Marty Brodeur is at .916.

His goals-against average is 2.52, also in the top half of the League's netminders, also better than Fleury's and Quick's, and less than one-tenth of one goal per game behind Ranger Henrik Lundqvist and Colorado's Craig Anderson, not to mention goalies like Jaroslav Halak in Montreal, and the Senators Brian Elliott who've had praise heaped upon them in seemingly endless doses the last month or two.

Yet if you were to believe everything you've heard or read about Tim Thomas -- and his season to date -- in the past few weeks, you would be convinced that he had lost his game like Jim Carey did in 1996-97, the year after he'd won his first Vezina Trophy!

In another classic case of "build him up just to tear him down," which seems to be society's way more often than not, the heart and soul of the 2008-09 Eastern Conference regular season champion Boston Bruins is allegedly no longer capable of, or shouldn't be given the chance to, lead the B's into a playoff spot in the remaining 24 games.

Give me a break.

Is Tuukka Rask deserving of consecutive starts and more ice-time right now? Absolutely! It's in the manual -- a coach has to go with the hottest hand, especially when your team is outside of the top eight in the conference.

Will Rask ultimately supplant Thomas as the No. 1 keeper in Boston, perhaps even ahead of schedule? It may very well happen.

But none of this should obscure the facts.

Tim Thomas, of Flint, Michigan and a million-mile journey to NHL stardom -- and soon to be the proudest of U.S. Olympians -- is not, and will not go quietly into the goaltender wilderness.

Was it a gamble to sign the 35-year-old to a lucrative four-year contract extension, complete with no-trade clause reportedly for the first three years, in today's unforgiving salary cap system?


But has his game fallen off that much?

No, and for what it's worth I would add not nearly as far as fellow 2008-09 Vezina finalists Niklas Backstrom and Steve Mason. And neither of those two are playing in front of the league's worst offensive team.

Thomas could have seen this type of adversity coming when he went through an early season stretch of six games, allowing 6 goals, and emerging with just one win.

And yet the key to the last line is the word adversity. Few have stared it down to reap such a just reward as Thomas. And this latest challenge will only bring out the best in him once again.
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