Sat Jun 11 02:23pm EDT
When asked after Game 4 about being on a roll like other great goaltenders have been on in the past, Tim Thomas(notes) said, "I felt like that for a lot of this year, to be honest with you. I have felt so good in the Final so far. I'm just going to keep doing the same thing that I've been doing to, you know, try to have the same success that I've had."
That roll has been going on all season long, proven by the likelihood of him taking home his second Vezina Trophy in three years come June 22 and the fact that heading into a do-or-die Game 6 Monday night in Boston, Thomas has allowed just six goals in his last six games -- the most important games of his career.
The Vancouver Canucks' first two wins of the Stanley Cup Final were the story as the the series shifted back to Boston for Game 3, but the sub-headline was Thomas' continued brilliance in net. Each of his last four losses have been by one goal and it was Thomas who kept the Bruins in the hunt, even as their offense and power play stuttered.
The Conn Smythe Trophy is the only postseason award of the "big four" professional sports to be based on a player's performance during the entire length of the postseason and not just the final round. It's handed out for playoff consistency through a four-round, two-month grind. It's not given to a player who shows up for a week and a half's time, but even if it was, there's no debating that this year, whether or not the Bruins are successful in their Cup quest, it belongs to Tim Thomas.
Not since Jean-Sebastien Giguere(notes) won the it in 2003 for the then Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, has a losing goaltender taken home the award, and it's only happened five times since the NHL began handing it out in 1965.
Entering the Cup Final, Ryan Kesler(notes) was the favorite to win the award after riding his tremendous series against the Nashville Predators in Round 2. Roberto Luongo(notes) moved himself up the list with strong opening to the series against Boston, but the 12 goals allowed in Games 3 and 4 took him out of serious consideration, along with Kesler who hasn't scored since Game 5 against the San Jose Sharks. And you may not be able to tell Henrik and Daniel Sedin(notes) apart, but you'd be hard-pressed to be able to find them in this series so far.
Do the Canucks even have a serious Conn Smythe contender at this point?
The leader, if you had to choose one, is likely Alexandre Burrows(notes). If he scores another big goal or two to go along with his pair of series-clinchers, it could be his. And wouldn't that make for a fun photo with Commissioner Gary Bettman at center ice after Game 1's Bite-Gate?
But night after night, it's been Thomas putting himself above the rest and leading Boston to playing hockey well into June. He leads in goals-against average (2.07) and is just shy of matching his record-breaking save-percentage during the regular season (.937).
There's been no better player more valuable to his team over the course of the playoffs than Tim Thomas and he's become the poster boy for the redemption of the Boston Bruins.
Erasing the embarrassment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers last year, the Bruins quickly dispatched them in a four-game sweep in Round 2 and are two wins away from winning their first Cup since 1972. They can't afford anymore losses at this point; and if there's one reason to believe that the Bruins can win the next two games in the series, it's Thomas.
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