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Why Tim Thomas vs. James van Riemsdyk is the best show in this series

05.04.11 at 11:15 am ET

One player nearly evened the series by himself. The other put on perhaps the best pressure goaltending performance of these Stanley Cup playoffs.

James van Riemsdyk had to settle for scoring twice and watching his Flyers fall into another 2-0 hole against the Bruins while dominating every shift he was on the ice.

Tim Thomas saved 52 of 54 shots, including all 10 in overtime, as he single-handedly made sure van Riemsdyk and the Flyers came to Boston in another desperate situation.

Tonight, the two of them will be asked by their teammates to keep it up in this Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Looking back at Game 2, there were several moments that could have put an entirely different perspective on Game 3 tonight. If JVR beats Thomas with six minutes remaining in regulation on a break in on net, the Flyers win. If JVR beats Thomas on a phenomenal shot off a faceoff with just over four seconds remaining in regulation, the Flyers win. If Thomas doesn’t make a save on Philly’s No. 21 on a clean look from the left circle 10 minutes into OT, the Flyers win.

Thomas was ready for every possible scenario on Monday, including that dramatic end of regulation, which also saw Danny Briere miss by a hair of putting Thomas’ save on van Riemsdyk into the net for the game-winner.

‘€œThis is one of the most dangerous faceoff teams in the offensive zone or our defensive zone that we play against,” Thomas said. “They have a lot of different things that they do. They actually already scored once this series in the first game on a play. So I knew even with a few seconds left that the faceoff could be dangerous.

“The way it worked out it came off the faceoff and for just a second there it went behind a screen for me and I found it just as the guy was throwing the first shot to the net but I saw it so late that I couldn’€™t control the rebound. I saw the rebound go over to Danny Briere’€™s feet and in that one hundredth of a second I thought it might be over because he’€™s one of those guys that gets them and you know. He fumbled it for just a second, just long enough for Seidenberg to dive over and block one. I was still waiting for that buzzer and I don’€™t know if by the time it hit me if the buzzer had gone off or not but it was relief when the buzzer happened.’€

“He was, by far, the star of the game,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of his goalie in the afterglow of Monday’s win. “He made some outstanding saves, especially when they started coming at us. He had some unbelievable scoring chances, and he stood tall. He made some great saves. If it was not for Timmy, we might not be standing here with a win, but that is what goaltenders do for you in playoffs. That is what you like to see, in order to certainly build some confidence on your team. When you know that the goaltender is there to bail you out, it certainly builds a lot of confidence, and Tim has given us that.’€

And to think there was as time in Games 1 and 2 of the Canadiens’ series when Thomas’ mettle and ability to come up big in the biggest moments came up for debate.

‘€œFirst, I didn’€™t read the criticism thank goodness,” Thomas said with a smile. “I kept myself away from that because we didn’€™t win and we weren’€™t happy with the results for the first two games but I didn’€™t think I played that bad. I mean they scored goals early but they scored some pretty good goals. Even in Game 3, I was battling pretty hard and I think even though I let in three goals by that time we called the timeout in the third period.

“I think I started to at least let Montreal know that they were really going to have to work for any goal that they got from then on out. So I don’€™t know if anything necessarily changed completely. The way the team played in front of me has changed in that goalies are always very team dependent and I think that’€™s what you’€™re seeing more than anything.’€

Van Riemsdyk has a goal in five straight playoff games and put eight shots on Thomas, marking the fifth game of the playoffs he’s had eight or more shots on goal. He had never posted more than seven shots in a game in his two-year career before this playoff season.

‘€œA loss is a loss this time of the year,’€ van Riemsdyk said after the Game 2 loss to the B’s. ‘€œYou kind of think about those chances you had that you couldn’€™t bury. I’€™ll just have to just bear down next time and put them in the net. I had a lot of chances and probably won’€™t be able to sleep well tonight thinking about some of those I missed. It’€™s tough but we’€™ll get right back at it for Game 3 and we’€™ll be ready to go.’€

‘€œI thought that as you’€™re watching him, he was constantly using his size, speed, and just really taking charge of the game,’€ added his coach Peter Laviolette. ‘€œIt was such a good night for him. It makes you anxious to see his future unfold. Tonight he was an impact player. I thought it was the most dominating performance that I have seen from a player.’€

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, James Van Riemsdyk
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