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Ference injured, won’t return to game

04.04.09 at 2:00 pm ET
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Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was injured in the second period of this afternoon’s game, the the Boston Bruins just announced that he won’t be returning to this afternoon’s game against the Rangers.

Bruins still holding on a one-goal advantage

04.04.09 at 1:09 pm ET
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17:56: Apparently the new contract has given Tim Thomas a lot more confidence to venture out and play the puck as he narrowly avoided insult and injury when Rangers and Bruins skaters came crashing just outside the right corner at the same time. Thomas was able to recover and there was no harm on the play, but it did show the really uncertain area of Thomas’ game. He’s improved, but he’ll never be the surest puckhandler in the world.

No antics from Sean Avery as of yet.

13:00: On cue Avery started pulling the stunt with Thomas where he tries to block the goalie’s view in front of the net. Then after the shift was over, the Bruins Faithful delivered a pretty strong chant of “Avery (Sounds like stinks, but isn’t stinks)”

11:14: Weird blue line tip by Chris Drury that ended up gaining steam as it sped in on Tim Thomas. It handcuffed the B’s goalie a bit, but he was able to block it with his body.

9:48: Great save by Thomas on an odd man rush by Avery and Ryan Callahan that ended with Thomas slapping away Callahan’s strong bid with his glove as he split down into the Thomas version of the butterfly.

6:51: Dismissive flip of the glove by Thomas on an Avery wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. He’s looked sharp on what’s essentially turned into Tim Thomas Day here at the Garden.

There isn’t a great of urgency being shown by the New York Rangers this afternoon. Surprising given where they are in the playoff standings.

3:48: Great goaltending play by Lundqvist during a Boston flurry in front of the net. He managed to get a piece of Stephane Yelle’s wraparound bid, and then blocked a wide open Dennis Wideman blast from the right faceoff circle when Yelle zipped the rebound back through the open slot area.

1:14: Tim Thomas is playing big in the nets today, the broken record theme for the afternoon. Scott Gomez found Wade Redden taking a B-line for the net after hopping over the boards, but Thomas absorbed the puck amid heavy traffic in front of the net.

00:01.9: There’s some juicy Rangers/Bruins pre-playoff action. Chara smashes Avery into the boards by the penalty boxes, and then Avery goes down in a heap with no penalty called. Paul Mara comes calling for Chara and there’s some extended pushing-and-shoving between Chara, Mara and Shane Hnidy, who took issue with Mara getting involved. Penalties to both Mara and Chara as a result. Should be an entertaining third period.

The Bruins are still leading the Rangers by a tight 1-0 score after two full periods at the Garden.

Big Wheels gives the Bruins a 1-0 lead

04.04.09 at 12:21 pm ET
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16:06: Paul Mara is in the penalty box at the Garden. This must be a flashback to to the Dave Lewis Error. B’s get the first PP opportunity against the eighth-seeded Rangers, who would face the Bruins if the playoffs started today.

13:38: A pair of near-missed for the Bruins as Ryder just missed on a tip in front of the net earlier, and Chuck Kobasew couldn’t get any wood on a Milan Lucic pass sliding in front of the crease. Good pressure by the Bruins, and no Sean Avery antics as of yet.

With a break in the action: during a pregame awards ceremony, Marc Savard won the Dufresne Trophy as the best Bruins player on home ice this season, Milan Lucic won the Eddie Shore Award given by the Gallery Gods, Aaron Ward won the John P. Buczyk Award for greatest charitable contributions, and Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard respectively won the Bruins Three Stars Awards.

10:56: Don’t look know, but Blake Wheeler is heating up again. Wheeler broke up the right side, but then slowed things down and passed the puck. Eventually it came back to him at the right point and Wheeler ripped a slap shot that passed right through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads. Goal number 21 for Wheeler, with assists to Axelsson and Wideman.

6:15: Good defense by Mara to break up a potential 2-on-1 with Wheeler and Marc Savard. Wheeler again came bombing down the right side after a great cross-ice breakout from Savard, and attempted to get the puck back to his center. Mara stretched out and broke things up though.

4:45: Markus Naslund picked up a loose puck at Zdeno Chara’s feet in front of the Boston net, wheeled around the towering D-man and got a free shot at Thomas. The B’s goaltender moved right along with Naslund across the crease and smothered the shot quickly.

1:58: Great example of Matt Hunwick making something happen. The young defenseman carried the puck deep into othe right corner, quickly spinned off a defender and then whistled a pass toward the net with Milan Lucic battling for position in front. The puck deflected off Lundqvist’s stick and bounced away toward the corner.

Michael Ryder closed out the period by missing high on a breakaway bid in the closing seconds.

The Bruins have taken a 1-0 lead on the Rangers after one full period of play at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Today is a day to celebrate the greatness of Tim Thomas

04.04.09 at 12:09 pm ET
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There was a great deal of talk about persevering, unorthodox goaltending and his age — he’ll be 35 year of age in a matter of weeks — but Saturday morning was clearly the exact right moment to celebrate the classic American success story that is Tim Thomas.

The B’s goaltender was the son of a salesman growing up in hardscrabble Flint, Michigan — a guy that was never handed anything during his entire career and was taught work ethic and stick-to-itiveness by his parents. Not at the University of Vermont where he became an All-American goaltender, and not later on in the nine stops along his minor league/European odyssey that included stints in both the Finnish and Swedish Elite Leagues along with traditional minor league stops like the ECHL and the defunct Colonial Hockey League. 

It’s about a goaltender that’s fit well within the long, storied tradition of Bruins goaltenders from Tiny Thompson to Andy Moog and Pete Peeters. After recently watching the Original Six History of the Bruins DVD and being reintroduced to so many great B’s goalies from the past, it was clear that Thomas is now up in that pantheon with the rest of the Black and Gold puckstopping legends. The fact that he didn’t crack the NHL until after the age of 30 will just another part of his legendary story.

Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli admitted that he had a bit of a preconceived idea about Thomas’ ultimate ceiling in terms of talent prior to coming to Boston, but that changed when he saw the netminder’s high-wire acrobatic act between the pipes on a nightly basis. Instead of grading out a goalie that was constantly out of position and seemed to always be scrambling for a recovery, he saw an incredible athlete that could just flat out perform his No. 1 duty guarding the B’s cage: stop the puck.

“When we talk about the Tim Thomas story, we talk about perseverance over a long period of time, we talk about a long journey, and we talk about an unorthodox , hybrid style,” said Chiarelli. “But what sometimes gets lost is his uncanny ability to stop the puck. That’s why we’ve extended him.”

That second impression culminated in a four-year contract for a reported $20 million that Thomas made official on Friday, and talked about along with Chiarelli — the man that was playing point during the long negotiations — on Saturday morning prior to the Bruins/Rangers tilt.

Chiarelli admitted that Thomas’ age (he’ll turn 39 in the final days of the four-year pact) was a consideration, but that two things mitigated his status as a bit of a middle-aged goalie: there are many goalies still close to their puck-stopping primes in their mid-to-late 30’s and Thomas is relatively fresh after not entering the NHL grind until he had already crossed the 30 years-old threshold. In Chiarelli’s eyes, paying all those dues in Europe and the minors are now benefitting the “Tank.”

“I’m very happy to be staying in Boston for the next four years,” said Thomas, who is leading the NHL in Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.11 and a save percentage of .932 and putting the finishing touches on a Vezina Trophy-worthy season. “With free agency potentially coming up this summer, you think about whether you’d rather play somewhere else or you’d rather stay in Boston. After weighing things over and over, the answer always kept coming back to ‘Boston’.

“I’m very happy that this is done, and I think I’ve done a really good job of just concentrating on hockey throughout the year, even knowing that we’ve had our talks off and on,” added Thomas, who then went out and tossed his 12th career NHL shutout against the Rangers later on Saturday afternoon. “This gives me a 100 percent chance to just focus on hockey and leave the rest of the stuff (behind).”

Chiarelli said that the team faces some difficult decisions to make over the summer when Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Matt Hunwick are all restricted free agents and P.J. Axelsson also finds his contract up. There’s a near certainty that at least one big contract will need to be moved in the summer months amid an uncertain salary cap situation, and Chiarelli didn’t shy away from that part of his managerial duties. There could be a painful trade or two coming down the line because of the salary cap situation, but that’s another story for another day.

Yesterday was about Thomas.

“This is our job,” said Chiarelli. “We have to figure out the puzzle, we have to make decisions. I’d like to sign everyone, but we have to make decisions over the summer and look at the performance of our players. Then we do the math.

“We’ve been doing the math ever since I’ve come here and that’s a large part of the job,” added the B’s decision-maker. “What is important to the organization is that we have terrific goaltending for a long time, and sometimes you have to put side the math — not completely — and make the decisions like we did with Tim.”

Thomas will continue answering all the questions that dog him when the playoffs begin in a matter of weeks, but yesterday was one of those few days when the B’s goalie could kick up his skates and have a little pride at a moment that proved he has truly arrived.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli, Tim Thomas,

Thomas: The answer kept coming back Boston

04.04.09 at 9:53 am ET
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The Bruins made it official on Saturday morning by announcing a four-year contract extension for goaltender Tim Thomas, worth a reported $20 million.

“I’m very happy to be staying in Boston for the next four years knowing that with free agency coming up potentially this summer, you have to think about would you rather go somewhere else or would you rather stay in Boston and after thinking things over, the answer kept coming back, Boston,” Thomas said.

The news conference was held at TD Banknorth Garden, some four hours before Boston’s scheduled matinee with the New York Rangers. If the Bruins win, they clinch the number one seed in the Eastern Conference for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.

More from Thomas, as he expressed satisfaction while wanting to maintain focus on the season.

“To a certain extent there is,” Thomas said of the satisfaction factor. “To another extent, we’re in the middle of the season, we have a game at one o’clock today so I haven’t really let it sink in. To a certain extent, I’m just going to focus on day-by-day and game-by-game who we’re playing. I think that’s the way to approach this.

“I don’t this is anytime to sit back and pat yourself too much on the back. I think it’s more, ‘Hey, we have a lot more to accomplish that we could accomplish this year.’ And I’m looking forward to making a push at achieving those accomplishments,” he added.

General manager Peter Chiarelli decided to invest a reported $20 million over four years in his goaltender, who
could wind up winning the Vezina Trophy for top netminder in the league.

‘€œWhat sometimes gets lost in the translation is the uncanny ability to stop the puck,” Chiarelli said of Thomas’ 2.11 goals against and .932 save percentage this season, both of which lead the NHL. “And Tim has shown that with all the other things and that’€™s why we’€™ve extended him for a long time and we’€™re excited to have him on board.

‘€œWhen we talk about the Tim Thomas story, we talk about perseverance over a long period time, we talk about a long journey and we talk about an unorthodox and hybrid style, so to speak.’€

Part of the journey for Thomas includes sacrifice, like giving back half of his signing bonus or $75,000 to the Edmonton Oilers back in 1998 so he could play in Europe, before returning to the NHL and the Bruins for the 2002-03 season.

“That’s a good investment, though,” chimed in Chiarelli. “The rate of return on that is pretty good.”

Read More: Boston Bruins, NHL, Tim Thomas,

Bruins announce Thomas contract, Saturday press conference

04.03.09 at 5:44 pm ET
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The Boston Bruins officially announced the signing of Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas to a multi-year contract this afternoon, and both Thomas and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli will hold a 10 a.m. press conference at the TD Banknorth Garden prior to the Bruins/Rangers afternoon game.

Multiple hockey sources confirmed that the deal is at least three years in length, and will pay the 35-year-old an Average Annual Value (AAV) of $5 million. The Boston Globe reported on Friday that it’s a four-year contract worth a total of $20 million for Thomas. The two-time All-Star goalie is currently the league leader in both Goals Against Average (2.11) and Save Percentage (.932), and is a favorite for the Vezina Trophy. He established a new career high in wins with 33 and has helped lead the Bruins to their first 50-win season since 1992-93.

Thomas’ first words about the new deal are expected to come on Comcast SportsNet’s Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight as the B’s goalie will be a guest with Mike Felger and Gary Tanguay on the early 6:30 p.m. edition of the Friday show.

Read More: Gary Tanguay, Mike Felger, Tim Thomas,

A good day for Thomas, but what about the B’s?

04.03.09 at 10:04 am ET
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So Tim Thomas is now in the fold for four more years at roughly $5 million per season.

It’s certainly more than justified on several levels after two straight All-Star seasons and a likely Vezina Trophy-worthy piece of work this winter that’s primed the Killer B’s for a run at the Cup. The 34-year-old goaltender is, after all, a rousing success story after kicking around anonymous hockey spots like the unforgettable Detroit Vipers of the IHL and Karpat in the Finnish Elite League.  Thomas spent more than five years riding buses and team-hopping before finally getting his “shot” with a Boston Bruins club that wasn’t much more than a pile of hockey wreckage in 2005-06. Thomas flourished amid a generally lousy situation, though, and he hasn’t looked back while entertaining Bruins Nation with his athletic, unyielding , original style between the pipes. Thomas is a blue collar Flint, Michigan product through and through, and he fits the Big, Bad B’s mold to a ‘T’.

But there’s obviously a big “but” in there, and we ain’t talkin’ the Larry Fitzgerald kind either.

In the brave new salary cap world of the NHL it is dangerous to dole out big cap numbers to players based primarily on past performance rather than future yield, and Thomas is approaching his 35th birthday this month. That seems to have been the impetus behind the deal, as inking it before his April 15 birthday allows the Bruins to potentially buy out the pact if Thomas suffers a serious decline in performance over the next three seasons — or suffers a chronic injury that saps away at his ability to function as the franchise-type goaltender he’s now being paid to be.

Many “hockey pundits”, myself included, thought that something in the $3-4 million range was reasonable and good value for a soon-to-be 35-year netminder that’s finally found a home — and a payday — after essentially serving as the posterboy for the “Have Pads, Will Travel” set over the last decade.  But a three-year deal in the $5 mill per annum range blows that “good value” figure out of the water, and puts Thomas in some pretty rarefied air within the world of goaltenders. Thomas will have to continue performing at an elite level until he’s 38 years-old to “earn” the cap hit.

Thomas is now much more than a simple rousing underdog story after packing up and moving into the same neighborhood as puckstopping elite like 32-year-old Mikka Kiprusoff ($5.8 per year), 33-year-old Marty Turco ($5.7 per year). 32-year-old Tomas Vokoun ($5.7 per year), 36-year-old Martin Brodeur ($5.2 per year) and 33-year-old Evgeny Nabokov ($5.3 per year). All perennial All-Star goaltenders in their thirties, and all of them without highly-paid, touted backups like Tuukka Rask  waiting in the wings. $5 million goalies don’t need highly paid backups and certainly don’t split time with their understudy, and a hockey team really can’t function fiscally with two moneybag netminders clogging up the cash flow.

So while Thomas now has the fiscal security and job guarantee that he’s never before enjoyed in his multi-uniformed hockey career, the contact extension raises as many questions as it does answers with regard to the post-playoff run Bruins of next year.

Thomas and Manny Fernandez combined to earn roughly $5.3 million this season as a goaltending duo, and it was expected that the B’s might be able to save and scrimp on their goaltending account going forward with so many pivotal contract questions heading into the offseason. The current $56.7 salary cap is expected to decrease by more than $2 million next season, and now the Bruins potentially have as much as $8 million plus tied up into goaltenders next season if both Thomas and Rask ($3.25 million if he hits all contract bonuses) are suited up in Spoked B sweaters and on the books.

Simply put, you can’t sink that kind of money into goaltending and then hope to sign restricted free agents like Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Matt Hunwick — and keep the current Cup-worthy team intact for another run at it again next season.

Something has to give.

This is why Phil Kessel’s name was mentioned in trade discussions prior to the March trade deadline, and this is why you’ll hear some shocking names — those of Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew most assuredly — available this summer before salary cap hell commences over the next two seasons. It’s also why you may hear Rask’s name enter the trade talk fray with restricted free agency approaching after next season, and the B’s now making a pretty ironclad commitment to Thomas.

It’s not a given that — given the salary cap climate and the current state of both the American and Canadian economy — Thomas would have received a three-year, $5 million plus offer out on the open market — a place where it appears that a market correction may be in the offing as it was in the world of baseball this offseason. If the B’s had waited until this summer, it’s possible that they could have saved themselves as much as a million on the all-important salary cap hit.

Instead the Bruins locked in the Tank and have chosen their franchise goaltender for the foreseeable future. The question now is: What is the team around him going to look like beginning next season follwing this spring’s blissful playoff run?

It ultimately might not be an answer that Bruins Nation wants to hear.

Read More: David Krejci, Phil Kessel, Tim Thomas,
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