TAMPA — Claude Julien  meant nothing personal at all by his comments but the Bruins coach was clear Tuesday that he doesn’t want his team putting everything on the shoulders of Tim Thomas  as they try to advance to the Stanley Cup  finals with a win Wednesday night in Game 6 at St. Pete Times Forum.
Clearly, that would be easy to do when Thomas was the single-biggest reason the Bruins stole Game 5 on home ice Monday night. But that’s also a good way to get pounded and wind up with a Game 7 Friday in Boston, something every Bruins fan, player and coach wants to avoid.
“You don’t want to rely on your goaltender,” Julien said. “He’s an important part of our team, and it’s nice to be able to rely on him, but you don’t want to go into the game relying on him.
“You want to do your job. And there’s going to be some games, like we said yesterday, that what’s important is a win is about finding a way. And you fall down 1-0 in the first two minutes of the game, and, you know, it’s a team that usually shuts other teams out pretty good. We stayed the course. We weren’t our best, but we stayed the course, and we found a way to get back into the game.”
Then there was the take of veteran Mark Recchi , who realizes the Bruins were extremely fortunate to ride their hot goalie to a win.
“Right off the bat, we have to be a lot better. The first period was not our hockey club. Give them credit, they came out to win and Timmy gave us that opportunity and he shut the door. We had a little tension last night and it showed in our play.
“We know we got away with one [Monday] night but at the same time, we found a way to win and the guys’ attitudes are great like that way. We’re going to have to be a lot better in Game 6 if we expect to finish this series.”
Julien agreed with Recchi’s assessment.
“You have to credit our guys for doing that. I thought as the game went on, we got a little bit better. Even the second half of the third period, first half, you had a couple of real good chances. But we did a decent job at taking away some of their desperation and then having some of our chances ourselves.
So I don’t think it’s a matter of relying on him. But it’s also nice to know that he’s a very reliable goaltender. Now it’s up to us to pick up the slack a little bit. And I think after last night we knew, even after the win that, we were a team capable of playing better. And when you win a hockey game, and you know we can play better, I think that’s a positive.”
Julien did, however, acknowledge that he would gladly enjoy seeing Thomas continue his run in the playoffs since it could be the ultimate difference in whether the Bruins end their 39-year Cup drought.
“Sure it does,” Julien said of a team’s disposition being affected by a hot goalie. “And just have to look back at every year at the Playoffs, teams that have had success have been able to rely on very good goaltenders.
We’re in Tampa right now. The year Tampa Bay won , had it not been for Khabibulin, I’m not sure they would have had a Stanley Cup, because he stood on his head in a lot of games. They were a good team. But Khabibulin was a great goaltender for them. Those are things that in the playoffs.
“You want to give them credit, but at the end of the day it’s a team thing. When you’ve got a hot goaltender, it just makes you that much better.”