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Canucks are blue over Tim Thomas’ positioning, but Bruins aren’t concerned

06.02.11 at 8:02 pm ET
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Tim Thomas has made himself comfortable outside the crease. (AP)

VANCOUVER — Biting aside, one hot-button issue to emerge from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals was where Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas set up shop. The Vezina favorite drew a questionable tripping call on Alexandre Burrows in the second period of Wednesday’s game, which caused Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault to question Thomas’ positioning outside of the crease.

Following the game, Vigneault said one big difference between Thomas and Roberto Luongo, both of whom entered the series with nearly identical postseason numbers, is that his guy stays put.

“Our goaltender always plays in the blue, stays in his ice. Their goaltender is always out of the blue and comes into other people’s ice,” Vigneault said after Game 1. “We’re going to need a little bit of clarification there, especially when he’s initiating contact with our team. I’m sure we’ll be able to figure it out.”

If Vigneault needs clarification, he can simply go to Rule 69.4, which applies to contact outside the crease. Here is the part of that rule that would pertain to Wednesday’s play:

“A goalkeeper is not ‘fair game’ just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact.”

Thomas defended his ground Thursday when the subject was brought up during the Bruins’ media availability.

“Basically I have the right to go anywhere there’s open ice,” Thomas said. “If I’m set, I have a right to that ice. If I’m out of the paint and I’m set, I also have the right to get right-of-way to get back to the crease. That’s the way I understand it.”

That’s just what Thomas felt he was doing on the penalty taken by Burrows. As for the notion that the Canucks could need clarification on what he can and can’t do, Thomas pointed to how rare it is that he has drawn such a penalty. If the Canucks are worried about it happening often, they may be reading too far into things.

“I don’t think I’ve drawn that many penalties this playoffs,” Thomas said Thursday at the University of British Columbia. “Yesterday on the one on [Burrows], I went to make the first stop, then the puck was going off to the side. I was retreating back to the center of my net, felt resistance behind my leg, and I was actually just going with it. I was going to basically flip around, flip my body around, to be able to at least have a chance to stop that rebound that went to the side of the net.

“I didn’t know if it was my guy or their guy or who [tripped me]. I was backing up and there was something behind my leg. It sort of put me off balance.”

Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t see reason for concern either and figured Luongo could do the same thing if he wanted.

“If he gets a chance to challenge, he challenges,” Julien said of Thomas. “The rule is pretty clear. You’re entitled to your ice. If he steps out and he’s got that ice, he’s entitled to it. That’s what he’s done through the whole process.

“Now, we all know that goaltenders are to be protected. If you’re going to say he’s out of his crease, he’s fair game, that should be the same thing behind the net. … If he’s entitled to his ice, and he’s got it, then afterwards I don’t think people are entitled to run over those guys. If Luongo comes out of his net, he’s got his ice, it’s his, it belongs to him. The rule to me is pretty clear so I don’t see any issues there.”

Maybe Vigneault and the Bruins will have to agree to disagree, and though Thomas may have gone down a little easily on the play, the ruling seems clear enough.

Read More: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Alain Vigneault, Alexandre Burrows, Claude Julien
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