By Brian Willwerth
It was the save of the game.
It was the save of the series.
It was the save of the playoffs.
It may even turn out to be the save of the season.
I’m talking about Tim Thomas’ miraculous stop midway through the third period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals that everyone’s still buzzing about. Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie appeared to have an open net after he picked up the puck to Thomas’ right. But when he shot, Thomas somehow, someway managed to keep the puck from going across the goal line. It doesn’t matter how many times you look at the replay; you can watch it 1,000 times and still say to yourself, “how did he stop that?”
After allowing a goal just over a minute into the game, he turned aside every shot the Bolts threw at him. In a game where the Bruins were outplayed for much of the night, aside from a stretch in the second period where the home team scored twice, you could easily argue that Thomas stole a victory for Boston in Game 5.
Thomas is the main reason the Bruins are now one win away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 21-years. He’s one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, along with Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Pekka Rinne of Nashville. But someone needs to have his/her head examined if Thomas does not take home the award. He finished the regular season leading the NHL in save percentage (.938) and goals against average (2.00). His impressive play has continued in the postseason. Yes, he’s given up at least four goals in three of the five-playoff games against the Lightning and a few of those points could even be qualified as “soft.” Yet it seems for every goal he allows, he makes about five of those “you’ve got to be kidding me!” kind of saves to make up for it.
He has kept the Bruins in a countless number of games all year. He has been the story on a team whose postseason power play more resembles a power failure.
Can Thomas keep up this pace for five more Bruins’ victories? We shall see. But based on how he’s performed so far, I wouldn’t bet against it. Thomas may win the Vezina Trophy. But he wants something much bigger.
He wants the Cup.