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Surgery has allowed Thomas to get back to form

by Mike G. Morreale
What a difference a year makes.

It was almost 12 months ago that Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip -- seven days after Thomas served as the backup goalie while the Philadelphia Flyers became the third team in NHL history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and end the Bruins' season.

Dr. Bryan T. Kelly, who repaired David Krejci's hip last June, performed the procedure May 21 at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

It was a turning point for the 37-year-old goalie.

"I suppose it is amazing to think where I was a year ago, but I really haven't taken too much time to really focus on how different it is this year," Thomas said. "I'm still too busy putting all my focus and energy into trying to accomplish more.

"After surgery, I did wonder how it would affect the way I played, but when I got to playing and realized how good the hip was, it actually allowed me to play the way that I wanted to. So, really, I didn't have to change a thing … I actually had to change even less than when I was playing with the injury, so it put me in a spot where I could just play and that has certainly added to my success this year."

On Saturday, Thomas will earn a personal-best 12th start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring, with a confidence and swagger he never dreamed possible. However, his 8-3 record, 2.03 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 11 starts for Boston in the playoffs are making believers out of everyone.

After yielding just seven goals on 149 shots during a four-game sweep of the Flyers in the second round, Thomas and his teammates can focus their attention on the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Eastern Conference Finals, which start Saturday with Game 1 at Boston's TD Garden (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

"A lot of the stuff I've accomplished this year are goals that I had set for myself last summer (after surgery)," Thomas said. "One goal was to be a Vezina Trophy finalist. And one dream I had was about raising the Stanley Cup over my head. So I'm not surprised because they're goals I set for myself. I understand why other people were surprised (with my season), but I didn't surprise myself."

He earned his spot as a Vezina finalist by going 35-11-9 and setting a League-record with a .938 save percentage. He also led all goaltenders in goals-against average (2.00) and ranked second with nine shutouts.

Indeed, those were pretty lofty goals.

"You can make goals, but you never know if you'll be able to accomplish them," Thomas said. "I was probably the only one thinking that it was something that was at least a possibility."

Thomas admitted sitting and watching Tuukka Rask start all 13 playoff games for the Bruins last season was a learning experience.

"It was a totally different perspective, being on the bench," Thomas said. "It also increased my hunger to want to play in the playoffs and realize what a gift and opportunity it is to be in the NHL playoffs, competing at the highest level for the Stanley Cup.

"I had a positive outlook during the Flyers series last season, but then had to have surgery and you're never sure how that's going to turn out."

Obviously, it's turned out pretty good.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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