Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
There is a perception, regardless of how true it is, that Tim Thomas is not the type of naturally gifted super-athlete that now dominates all major sports.
Steven Stamkos, LeBron James, Albert Pujols. They all emerged from the womb hammering one-timers, drilling threes and crushing middle-in fastballs 500 feet in the opposite direction.
Even though he was good enough to get a college scholarship, then become an All-American at Vermont, Thomas still had to schlub around the European and American minor leagues before somehow hooking on with the Bruins. That he will soon win his second Vezina in three years is further evidence that sticktoitiveness and good ol' fashioned hard work will make anyone great, regardless of how tragically untalented they are.
And so it's no surprise, then, that Thomas escaped Game 2's overtime loss with nary a bit of criticism flung his way. After all, it was pretty clearly Zdeno Chara's fault Alex Burrows scored the game-winner just 11 seconds into the extra period. Thomas came out to challenge the shot like he would any other, and Chara was only able to force Burrows behind the net, and failed to tackle him to the ice. Obviously, Thomas was once again blameless.
It's been more than a little amazing to watch this series, and see every commentator slobber over what a WARRIOR Tim Thomas is, while at the other end, Roberto Luongo has been quietly excellent.
(Coming Up: Sidney Crosby's agent fights back; Rangers sour on Brad Richards; why Joe Nieuwendyk blew it; Alex Burrows tastes stardom; Erik Gudbranson vs. the Panthers; the NHL in Kansas City; Winnipeg make offer to Kevin Cheveldayoff; George Parros joined Twitter; trading Alex Semn; Mark Recchi takes on his critics; Sabres surprise; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins talks options; the Blues signing spree; and Donald Brashear wins in MMA.)
He's lost one of his last eight games, allowing 16 goals on 279 shots for a .950 save percentage. But if Luongo had watched Burrows score a wraparound from four feet behind his own goal line, they'd be burning him in effigy across Canada and the U.S. right now. Take that to the bank.
Tim Thomas is the reason the Bruins are in the Stanley Cup Finals at all, and the reason either game has been even remotely close, they say. Luongo is merely a bystander as Ryan Kesler and the Sedins will their way to victory after victory, so the storylines go.
Effortlessness isn't sexy or captivating the way a seemingly epic struggle is. People wouldn't still read "Old Man and the Sea" if Santiago reeled in the marlin after a few hours and called it a day.
Luongo is uncommonly great among those in a sport littered with phenomenal athletes. He, like all the best goalies ever, was born knowing how to play every angle, and gets his glove up to snag saves with reflexes far quicker than those of mere humans. Plus, playing behind The Best Defense In Canucks History is really helping him gobble up weak the 2,000 perimeter shots they allow for sport in every game.
People tend not to notice that Roberto Luongo is great, in short, because he makes it look easy. The best ones always do. Thomas' style of play demands the viewer's constant attention to his excellence, because he's diving all over the place, coming out to the tops of the circles to challenge point shots and wriggling around like a gasping trout any time a scrum even threatens to develop within 10 feet of his crease.
A real thing that happened after Game 1: They grabbed Roberto Luongo for a postgame interview, he'd just finished turning aside all of Boston's shots, this after allowing only two goals on 56 in the series clincher against San Jose. One of the first questions out of the interviewer's mouth was something along the lines of, "How about that Timmy Thomas, huh?"
How Luongo didn't pull out a stat sheet that showed Thomas had just surrendered one goal on 34 shots; and that while good, the accomplishment was not quite on par with a 36-save shutout shows an almost limitless patience to go with his otherworldly skill.
But Luongo gets those questions, and not ones about how great he is himself, because Luongo is a super-athlete. He would likely have the same problem Ted Williams had communicating what made him so lethal at the plate. For Teddy Ballgame, it really was as simple as "See ball, hit ball."
For Luongo, knowing not where the puck is, but where it's going to be, is second nature. He's been there 64 times of 66 in two games against the Bruins. Thomas, meanwhile, makes most everything look like a mad scramble.
Witness the difference between the goals the teams scored Saturday night. Luongo allowed goals off a strong point shot and an excellent redirect. Thomas allowed goals on a shot he wasn't square to or ready for, one he probably didn't have a chance on and one for which he was behind his own red line. Luongo seems to breezily excel regardless, while Thomas giveth and taketh both, and those two must be taken equally.
One wonders what, exactly, either Luongo or Thomas will have to do to switch places in the eyes of the respectively condemning and adoring media. Will Luongo have to make a breakdancing save with the game on the line like Thomas did that one time in the All-Star Skills Competition? Will Thomas have to two-hand Zdeno Chara, shoot the puck into his own net, then celebrate as the Canucks carry around the Stanley Cup?
It doesn't make a lot of sense that in a series featuring the unequivocal two best goaltenders in the world, the one who has made just two mistakes to his opponent's four is somehow not widely considered to be having the better go of things.
Luongo, though, will probably settle for the stunning lack of credit and a 2-0 series lead.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: George Parros joined Twitter and has pretty much been great at it. "Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome! If my moustache could cry tears of joy they would be tiny drops of steel, like buckshot..." Proper grammar and everything!
Atlanta (not really) Thrashers(?): Winnipeg sold its 13,000th season ticket about 20 minutes after packages went on sale to the general public on Saturday. That is, I believe, as many people as the Thrashers drew all last season. (And by the way I'm only moving this down to "Winnipeg" in WWL after they officially announce the name change. I don't know why I decided that, but I did.)
Boston Bruins: Mark Recchi scored this beautiful goal on Saturday night, then advised anyone who didn't like his performance in the previous several playoff games that they should kiss his ass.
Buffalo Sabres: Apparently the Hockey News ranked the Sabres as the third-best franchise in the league, behind only the Red Wings and Penguins. Did you ever in your life think you'd see the Sabres listed with those two? (Follow up question: What is the Hockey News talking about?)
Calgary Flames: Newly traded-for prospect Roman Horak is "excited" to be in the Flames organization. And why not? They actually think he's good.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes' practice rink was forced to shut down after it was seized by the bank. Its owner owed $824,000 on it, or less than 10 percent of what Eric Staal makes against the cap, which will never not be funny.
Chicago Blackhawks: The True North folks have offered the general manager gig to current Chicago assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Sucks to be Rick Dudley.
Colorado Avalanche: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said he would be "very happy" to play for Colorado if he doesn't go first overall. But I don't think he'll have to worry too much about that.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets seem to have narrowed down their search for a goalie coach to either Jamie McLennan or Eli Wilson, ex of the Flames and Senators, respectively. Nothing has said "excellent goaltending" the last few years like the keepers in Calgary and Ottawa.
Dallas Stars: "Blame doesn't work in unique Brad Richards' situation." I get not being mad at Richards, but I'll never understand how Joe Nieuwendyk thought going four-and-out in the playoffs at best was preferable to getting a healthy bounty for one of the game's best playmaking centers at the deadline. It was stupid then, it's stupid now. Dallas blew it, end of story.
Detroit Red Wings: Red Wings assistant Paul MacLean recently interviewed for the Ottawa Senators' vacant head coach position. Maybe Wings fans will consider him a traitor to the organization like they do Todd McLellan.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers don't put much stock in combine performance. Or on-ice performance for that matter. Hahaha sick burn.
Florida Panthers: Hey, the Panthers still haven't signed defenseman and No. 3 pick Erik Gudbranson. I forgot about the whole kerfuffle about him getting shipped back to juniors. Seems to have done pretty well there this season too. What happened with that?
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings and Penguins are playing an exhibition game in Kansas City, and somewhere out there, Gary Bettman fainted out of sheer joy.
Minnesota Wild: Chuck Fletcher will consider anything short of trading Mikko Koivu to make the team better in the offseason. Remember, they somehow spent to the cap to finish 12th in the West.
Montreal Canadiens: The Habs started a development camp yesterday. Most teams wait until far later in the summer, but screw it, why not?
Nashville Predators: The Predators sure do love the organization's AHL head coach, and could make him an NHL assistant. Must be the last name.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils signed U of Michigan d-man Brandon Burlon, who decided to forego his final year of eligibility.
New York Islanders: The Islanders' new arena vote is officially scheduled for August 1. Let the handwringing commence.
New York Rangers: The Rangers are pulling out of the Brad Richards race? But what will all those Blueshirts fans who SWORE he would be with the team going to do now?
Ottawa Senators: The Binghamton Senators are one win away from taking the Calder Cup, the last important trophy any of those players will win until they leave the organization.
Philadelphia Flyers: Tim Thomas makes sense for the Flyers. Important update: Any Vezina winner makes sense for any team.
Phoenix Coyotes: The Ice Den, an occasional Coyotes practice site in Scottsdale, will add a third rink to its facilities because "demand for ice time is significant." Commensurate demand for Coyotes tickets? Not so much.
Pittsburgh Penguins: RDS's Mario Tremblay, himself an ex-NHLer, recently reported that Sid Crosby is considering retirement, which Crosby's agent says is not the case and in fact, never was.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks have significant cap space coming to them in the offseason, but also have about a million guys to re-sign. However, the healthy majority of their free agents also aren't the kind they're going to bend over backwards to keep, save for Devin Setoguchi (maybe) and Ian White (less likely). Bad news for you, Jamal Mayers.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues have signed a couple of RFAs in Patrik Berglund and Roman Polak, but still have a few more to go including TJ Oshie. They should give him like a billion dollars a year.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Sean Bergenheim says losing 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals was "the biggest disappointment." REALLY SEAN YOU DON'T SAY???
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are looking to package their second-round pick (39th overall) with one of the firsts they got from Philly and Boston to move up in the draft. That's a hell of a goddamn good idea.
Vancouver Canucks: It's not enough that he answered everyone's prayers in Game 2 with a stunning final six minutes to beat Miami, but now Dirk Nowitzki is shoutin' out the Canucks as well.
Washington Capitals: The Caps might be willing to move Mr. One-Year Deal Alex Semin in the offseason, which I don't think would surprise anyone.
Gold Star Award
This time of year, it gets really easy to pick both the best player and best play. Hi Alex Burrows.
Minus of the Weekend
Who was that fat guy that Donald Brashear beat the hell out of this weekend? He turtled like Steve Ott. You'll never hear his name again. Whatever it was.
Play of the Weekend
And hello again, Mr. Burrows.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "QMJHLfollower" must hate the Ducks.
What's THAT extra B for?