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This year, Tim Thomas coming off history rather than surgery

09.13.11 at 2:44 am ET
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Around this time last year, it didn’t seem there many people banking on big things from Tim Thomas. The veteran goaltender was coming off both a down year and offseason hip surgery. In fact, much of the discussion regarding the Bruins’ goaltending situation was generally around how Tuukka Rask would follow up a season in which he led the NHL in both goals against average and save percentage.

What a difference a year and a shelf-worth of hardware makes.

Now, Thomas is coming off a both healthy and historic season, and rather than wondering whether he’s physically capable of being a dominant goalie — something he admitted he pondered before the hip healed — the 37 year-old can think about the coming season rather than how his body will hold up.

“Actually, I feel good,” Thomas said Monday. “I didn’t have any injuries that I had to deal with, which is pretty amazing considering the amount of games we had. Physically, it’s not even an issue, so I haven’t had to think about it. It’s nice.”

Thomas delighted season-ticket holders at Monday’s State of the Bruins when he said that he had no choice but to repeat the type of season — which was of record-breaking variety thanks to an all-time best .938 save percentage — he had a year ago.

While fans got a kick out of Thomas’ statement, the Michigan native said afterwards that holding themselves to their own standard is something the Bruins must do as they defend their championship.

“I think that goes for not just me but for the whole team,” Thomas said. “When you’ve won the Cup and you’re at the pinnacle, there’s nothing higher, so you need to shoot for it again.”

But could Thomas really repeat the type of season he put together last season? He started 55 regular-season games, beginning the process of claiming the No. 1 job with a shutout (one of nine on the season) in the second game against the Coyotes in Prague.

This time around, it’s Rask that’s all healed (he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee) and trying to get a few more starts. Thomas laughed at the idea that the No. 1 goalie discussion could come up this early, as he was asked whether his historic season left him assuming he’ll be the Bruins’ top netminder.

“It’s pretty much only a label that you guys put on it, anyways,” Thomas said. “We just consider ourselves goaltenders on the team. One of the goalies is going to get more playing time, but we’re both just teammates.”

Along with his .938 save percentage, Thomas had an NHL-best 2.00 goals against average and a 35-11-9 record in the regular season. He started each game of the postseason, narrowly surprising his regular season numbers with a .940 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average. For someone who’s welcomed the challenge of repeating such a campaign, Thomas did note that his lackluster 2009-10 season, which followed his first Vezina season, may have prepared him for learning how to follow a great year.

“I’ve had experience,” Thomas said. “I had the year after the Vezina. Coming off that was hard enough. Now, winning these, I’m starting to get some experience with dealing with success, and hopefully that helps going forward.”

Read More: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask,
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