--Tim Thomas winning the fan vote among goalies for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game as confirmation of what everybody in the hockey world already agrees upon, according to Bruins coach Claude Julien
"It shows that he's got some recognition around the League and people see him as the great goaltender that he is," Julien said Wednesday from Prudential Center. "At one point we have to get past the fact that he was the unknown and he's come from nowhere. He did, but that's in the past."
Thomas won with 626,540 votes, finishing ahead of Toronto's James Reimer
by more than 120,000 votes in the NHL All-Star Fan Balloting, presented by Sirius XM, to guarantee a spot in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
Goalie - BOS
GAA: 1.90 | SVP: 0.940
Provided he stays healthy, Thomas will be making his fourth consecutive appearance in the All-Star Game (2008, 2009, 2011), and he'll be looking for his fourth straight victory, as well. There was no All-Star game in 2010 because of the Winter Olympics.
But, this is not merely a legacy vote. He has the statistics to back up his candidacy again this year.
Thomas is among the top-five in the League in goals-against average (1.90) and save percentage (.940). His 17 wins rank No. 5 in the NHL, which is even more remarkable when you consider 21 goalies have more starts than his 24.
"I think it does matter to him," Boston captain Zdeno Chara
told NHL.com when asked if winning the fan vote is important to Thomas. "He cares about things like that. He cares about fans. I don't want to say he's a guy that is always tracking the votes, but it's a nice feeling when you see you're getting support from fans. It's something you acknowledge and you appreciate, and I'm sure he does appreciate it."
Thomas has fans both inside and outside his own dressing room. One of his biggest supporters is Martin Brodeur
, the League's all-time leader in wins and shutouts, who himself has appeared in 10 All-Star Games, including six-straight from 1996-2001.
Brodeur put Thomas in an exclusive category of current goalies of which he considers himself a fan. The only other three he mentioned were Montreal's Carey Price
, Nashville's Pekka Rinne
, and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist
"I like (Thomas') personality and demeanor about everything," Brodeur told NHL.com. "It's a game and it shows that he's having fun playing it."
Brodeur most admires Thomas' style. He said the Bruins' goalie is close to being a re-incarnation of Dominik Hasek
because his unconventional style -- one that Brodeur finds so compelling and exciting to watch -- still allows Thomas to come up with the saves that seem so impossible to make.
"Good goalies that battle the way he battles, they do things with a purpose," Brodeur said. "With Dominik Hasek
, for years people were wondering how is he doing it and thinking he's going to crack, but with these goalies it's how well they see the puck. Sometimes he puts himself in a position to make awkward saves, but one thing is his head is always in a good place and he's always looking at the puck. He finds the puck well through traffic and he finds ways to stop it because he's a pretty athletic guy, really mobile. If you put another goalie in there, a goalie that is boxy or a butterfly goalie, he wouldn't be able to play the way Tim plays. He plays that way because he's capable.
"That competitiveness and battle, for me, that's what I enjoy because I had to go face to face with Dominik for years. Timmy is in that same vein."
According to Julien, winning hasn't changed Thomas either.
"If it would have changed him you would have seen it by now," Julien said. "A guy who has changed wouldn't care."
Instead, Thomas, who won the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy and his second Vezina Trophy last season, is again displaying a work ethic and attitude that is more befitting of a goalie still trying to prove himself in the NHL.
"I've told him many times that I don't think you have to put in your mind that you have to prove anything, but proving certain things and trying to accomplish certain things is what makes him a great goaltender, and you can't take that away from him," Julien said. "You let him prepare himself the way he feels is necessary for him to have success, and in his mind he always has to prove certain things.
"You don't have to convince me. I've seen it and I've been around him for years. He is a great goaltender."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl