BOSTON — In Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, Mason Raymond of the Vancouver Canucks had two chances to beat Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins at point-blank range. It was a moment in which tendencies and preconceptions are immaterial — it's two athletes matching reflexes in a chaotic instant.
Two saves later, Raymond was reminded that Thomas thrives in chaos.
"You don't see those goalies every day," said Raymond of Thomas. "And now he's throwing body-checks, right?"
Thomas has been aggressive in this series, in every sense: Challenging shooters, making sprawling saves and, in one memorable moment, sending Henrik Sedin to the ice on a hit near the crease.
In the eyes of the Canucks, he's been perhaps a little too aggressive … and they've let the NHL know about it.
Here's the Thomas play on Henrik Sedin, as a refresher:
According to the NHL rulebook, that's an illegal play: When a "goalkeeper deliberately initiates contact with an attacking player other than to establish position in the crease, or otherwise acts to make unnecessary contact with the attacking player," it's a minor penalty.
Coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the play on Wednesday, saying:
"We asked the league. Part of Thomas' way of playing is playing out of the blue paint, initiating contact, roaming out there. He seems to think that once he's out, set, makes the save, that he can go directly back in his net without having anybody behind him.
"Well, that's wrong. He's got the wrong rule on that. If we're behind him, that's our ice and we're allowed to stay there. We've talked to the NHL about that. We've talked to the NHL about him initiating contact like did on Hank. They're aware of it. Hopefully they're going to handle it."
Of course, the real issue is that the Canucks can't very well start hitting Tim Thomas, what with goaltenders being treated like an endangered species by the officials.
"He's a goalie. You can't hit the goalie," said winger Daniel Sedin. "I think he's going to get some calls.
"He's out there a long ways and as a forward you can't bump into him. The referees are going to have to look into that."
Thomas is aggressive physically, but he's also aggressive in his unorthodox goaltending style. Sometimes that's to his detriment, as evidenced by that sprawling save attempt on Alex Burrows' Game 2 OT goal.
Most of the time, however, it serves as a way to confuse opposing shooters.
"That's what makes him good," said Daniel Sedin. "He works extremely hard out there. You never know what he's going to do. But you can't worry about those things when you're out there. You just have to shoot."
How do you get one by a goalie like that?
"He challenges a lot," said Raymond. "If you can pass it by him, make a good fake, go around him, it works to your advantage. Sometimes you might score on a goal that's a bit of a missed shot.
"We have to continue to just wear him down," he said. "Do the best we can. Get pucks there. Get bodies in front of him."
Just don't let those bodies get too close to him, lest another Canuck feel the wrath of Timmy.
Thanks to Keith Mukai for the rulebook tip.