At the end of last year and in the playoffs, Tim Thomas  wasn’t smiling that much. He was in pain from not playing and from bad hip that required labrum surgery in the offseason.
Fast forward five months and you have a spry 36-year-old goalie sliding easily from post to post, stopping 38-of-39 saves in a 4-1 win over the mighty Washington Capitals  in the team’s first game of the season before a fired-up crowd at TD Garden. He is 4-0 to start the season, allowing only three goals while posting a 0.75 goals against and a .978 save percentage.
Why wouldn’t you be smiling?
“I felt good, I felt really good,” Thomas said. “My movement felt real good and maybe there was some rebounds, where there’s a different kind of on, where it just sticks to you and there’s no rebounds and stuff. I didn’t exactly have that tonight, so my D helped me out with the rebounds, but I had the movement and the speed. One of these days, you’ll have everything and one of these days I’ll play the puck the right way too.
“I think it’s been exceptional the last couple of weeks since, you know, I got back into the groove. I felt it coming in the early days of Czech and you know, it’s fun when you can move.”
Thomas even admitted he’s exceeded his own expectations in his recovery.
“For sure, and obviously, I couldn’t be happier with the way I’m feeling this far,” Thomas said. “You know, now I’ve just got to keep working hard and keep working in practice, and there’s ways that I can make it easier on myself. That will be my goal in practice.”
As for the games themselves, it was clear from the beginning he was fired up for the Capitals on Garden ice, making two key first-period saves, including one point-blank on Brooks Laich from the left circle.
“We gave them a lot to cheer about. We scored some beautiful goals, working hard. Guys did all the little things and you know, it felt good to hear it, and it also felt good to know that we really deserved it, too.”
After the way last season ended, as a clear back-up to Tuukka Rask , Thomas still doesn’t feel the need to win confidence back from coaches and teammates. He just wants to prove to himself that he is a top goalie.
“The only proving is to myself,” he said. “It’s more of getting off of the right foot at home for myself as much as it is for the fans. You know, get that confidence so when you play at home it’s a benefit to the overall team.”
To his coach, Claude Julien , who doesn’t hand out compliments like Halloween candy, Thursday was significant.
“Well, you know when a goaltender is in the zone, you want to ride him and I think the way he played in Washington the other night, coming back with him was important because, you know, they knew what they were going to face, and he didn’t give them much in Washington and I thought, you know, maybe mentally it was giving us an edge also to put him in net against them again tonight and, I mean, he proved us right,” Julien said.
“I mean, he was outstanding tonight. It was unfortunate that he lost that shutout bid, but at least he can blame himself and nobody else, right. But, so, it was, what a great job he did, and he’s been playing well. It’s fun and both of those guys are very supportive of each other and so far we’ve got a real good situation.”
Will Thomas be back in net for the Rangers on Saturday?
“So you’re trying to find out who I’m putting in next game, are you? We’ll see.”
Thomas’ good vibes apparently rubbed off on his coach.