|With Canadiens’ elimination, Tim Thomas remains an exception to Vezina rule||05.13.15 at 5:01 pm ET|
The last time a goaltender seemed such a shoo-in for the Vezina Trophy was in 2011, when Tim Thomas turned in a record-setting regular-season performance. Similarly, Carey Price was so dominant this regular season that he is not only the favorite to win the Vezina, but the Hart Trophy as the NHL‘s most valuable player.
First, Price will have some down time in the month and a half between now and the NHL Awards. His season and the Canadiens’ season is done after being eliminated by the Lightning Tuesday night in Tampa.
Prior to the 2011 postseason, we took a look at whether having that season’s Vezina-winner meant raising the Cup. The answer then was no, and the fact that Thomas and the Bruins went on to win it all that year proved to be more the exception than the rule.
Since the league adopted the current criteria for the Vezina in the 1981-82 season (it used to go the starting goalie for the team with the fewest goals against), only four Vezina-winners have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in the same season: Billy Smith (1982 Islanders), Grant Fuhr (1988 Oilers), Martin Brodeur (2003 Devils) and Thomas (2011 Bruins).
As the following graphic shows, it’s actually relatively common for Vezina winners to end up with a longer offseasons than expected, as their teams are typically bounced in one of the first two rounds. Here are how the teams of Vezina-winners have fared in the postseason since 2000:
Notable there is that only three Vezina-winning goalies have even reached the conference finals since the 1999-2000 season, as Dominik Hasek and the Sabres won the Eastern Conference finals in 1999 before falling to the Stars in the Cup finals.
Price was not the reason the Canadiens were eliminated, but his .920 save percentage over 12 postseason games was a far cry from his league-best .933 clip in the regular season. What ultimately doomed Montreal was Michel Therrien’s anti-possession system, a lack of offensive depth and, though it hasn’t deterred past champions, a woefully unproductive power play.
With that, the league’s best goaltender can now hit the links, as they often can this time of year. Vezina-winners’ lack of postseason success confirms the single biggest fact about the Stanley Cup playoffs: It’s not about who has the best players, but whose players are at their best for the most critical two months.
|Tim Thomas gets a new teammate in Roberto Luongo and immediately ‘pumps his tires’||03.04.14 at 11:59 pm ET|
Tim Thomas couldn’t resist.
The opportunity to make a joke about the goaltender who was the butt of all Boston jokes in 2011 fell right in his lap when Roberto Luongo was traded from Vancouver to Florida on Tuesday, hours before the Wednesday 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.
“I did have one good line that probably somebody else has already thought of: It looked like [Panthers GM] Dale [Tallon] went kicking some tires and found one that needed pumping,” Thomas laughed.
Thomas, of course, was referring to an infamous comment Luongo made during the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.
Asked about how Thomas was carrying the Bruins on his back during the Bruins’ Cup run, Luongo famously said, “I’ve been pumping his tires ever since the series started and I haven’t heard one nice thing he had to say about me.”
Thomas replied, “I didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires.”
Now, the two goalies are teammates thanks to a surprising deal in which the Panthers acquired Luongo in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday afternoon. That wasn’t the only storyline of the trade as Luongo returns to the organization where he played from 2000-06.
For the record, Panthers GM Dale Tallon said he intends on keeping both goalies in Florida and rebuilding the franchise around them.
“It’ll be interesting, but you know what, I don’t know how things are going to work out, but assuming I’m staying in Florida, it’ll be interesting,” Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be fun.”
Thomas insisted there are no hard feelings with Luongo.
“No, not at all,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t an enemy with him even [in 2011]. I was so focused on playing and doing my job and that’s the way I was looking at it. So, yeah, we’re both pros, both been in the league a long time. I have a few more years on him, obviously, but we both have a lot of experience to bring to the team.
“Surprised, obviously, at first just like probably a lot of people who were caught off guard and didn’t see that one coming,” Thomas said. “But then I had to get ready to play the game against obviously a difficult team.”
Thomas, on a one-year deal with the Panthers, said he can get along with Luongo.
“Yeah, of course,” Thomas said. “He’s a good goalie and from everything I’ve heard about him he’s got good character. I don’t know what their plans are. I don’t really know anything at this point. I can’t say too much.”
While Tallon did say he plans on keeping both, that didn’t stop speculation that Florida would eventually trade Thomas before the deadline to a contender. Thomas was asked if he would like to be traded to a contender now that Luongo is in Florida.
“Yeah, but now I’ve got to see the situation and see what they’re thinking. I’d like to check in with Dale before I comment on anything,” Thomas said.
What does Claude Julien think of all of this from afar?
“We’ll see if that’s still the case [Wednesday},” Julien said with a wide grin. “Maybe I can comment on it [Wednesday] after the deadline. Fair enough? I know it’s a lot of tire pumping.”
According to Renaud Lavoie, the Canucks have traded Roberto Luongo to the Panthers.
‘ Renaud Lavoie (@LavoieRenaud) March 4, 2014
Luongo played five seasons in Florida before going to Vancouver, but the best storyline here is that it means he and Tim Thomas are now teammates. The showdown between the two became the central storyline in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, when the two combined for four shutouts in the seven-game series.
Luongo, who was overly complimentary of Thomas prior to the series, criticized Thomas’ style of play after Game 5 of the series. When his criticism made waves, Luongo famously said he had been pumping Thomas’ tires, while Thomas hadn’t complimented him.
“As far as Luongo goes, actually, all that did was give me confidence that his head was in the wrong place, because I was focused on stopping the puck and he was thinking about my style,” Thomas told WEEI.com the following season.
“I realized that I had an advantage over him,’ Thomas added. ‘’The challenge on my end was to keep that advantage.”
Goalie Jacob Markstrom is reportedly part of the package headed to Vancouver in the trade.
|Tim Thomas defends role in altercation with Carl Soderberg||01.28.14 at 11:04 pm ET|
Things hadn’t gone great for Tim Thomas after he had allowed six goals in what would eventually be a 6-2 Bruins win Tuesday, and they got worse when he went after Bruins forward Carl Soderberg with 3.4 seconds left over a play and could put himself in Brendan Shanahan‘s phonebook.
Soderberg was going for a rebound in front of the net his stick appeared to make contact with Thomas’ mask. Thomas didn’t like it and struck Soderberg in the head with the paddle of his stick.
“Soderberg, the play before that he did quite a hard jab and then all of the sudden the puck is up in the air, you’re catching it, and his stick is in my throat,” Thomas said after the game. “With less than a minute left in a game and they’re up by four goals, 6-2, I took exception to that.”
The idea that a player shouldn’t go for a rebound late in a blowout is preposterous, especially coming from as hard a worker as Tim Thomas. There’s no unwritten rule about players letting up in already decided games, just like there’s no unwritten rule about batter striking out in the top of the ninth inning when their team is winning.
Told of Thomas’ suggestion that there was something wrong with playing until the final whistle, Soderberg found the logic rather silly.
“We can’t stop playing just because the game has like 30 seconds left,” Soderberg said. “We have to try to score the whole way.”
Thomas has never been suspended in his career, but Tuesday’s whack at Soderberg’s head is a strong candidate to be his first.
Claude Julien agreed with Soderberg, taking no issue with the player going to the net as he usually does.
“Well Carl does that even in practice,” Julien said. “I’m not going to say he’s reckless, but he has no fear. It’s great to see a guy like that just go in there and get his nose dirty. It doesn’t matter what time of game; you tell your players to play until the final whistle, and that’s what he does.”
Soderberg said that Thomas hit him in the ear but that he was OK. He disagreed with Thomas’ assertion that he put his stick in Thomas’ throat.
“Oh, not really,” Soderberg countered. “I was just going for a rebound.”
Tuesday’s game was the first Thomas had played against the Bruins in Boston. The first question asked to him in a heavily attended postgame media scrum was whether he’d had fun in his return to the Garden.
“Well, no,” Thomas said. “I think I might’ve enjoyed myself watching the State of the Union more. No, probably not.”
|Bruins score 6 goals on Tim Thomas in rout of Panthers||at 9:38 pm ET|
Tim Thomas‘ first start back at TD Garden didn’t go like a lot of his previous ones, as he allowed six goals in a 6-2 win over the Panthers Tuesday night.
Things got heated late in the game, as Thomas hit Carl Soderberg in the head with his stick with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game after Soderberg went for a rebound up high. Thomas was assessed a high-sticking minor.
Milan Lucic had a pair of goals for the Bruins, who are 6-1-1 over their last eight games. The game was the third straight in which the B’s have scored three goals.
Lucic got the Bruins on the board by burying the rebound of a Jarome Iginla shot at 7:41 of the first. Later in the period, Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point with Lucic battling in front. Thomas tried to nab the puck with his glove, but it bounced off a body and then Thomas’ head before bouncing into the net. Though Lucic was initially credited with the goal, it was changed to Chara’s.
Lucic didn’t have to wait long to get back to 15 goals on the season, as he scored 1:46 into the second period to make it 3-0. Reilly Smith built the lead further with a power-play goal off a feed from Carl Soderberg.
Former Bruin Brad Boyes broke up Tuukka Rask‘s shutout bid with 33 seconds left in the second period. Dmitry Kulikov made it 4-2 in the third period with a power-play goal on a wrist shot from the point that beat Rask. The goal was the Panthers’ first power-play goal of 2014.
Shawn Thornton made it 5-2 with some impressive work out of the corner and a backhand bid that beat Thomas top-shelf. The goal was Thornton’s fourth goal of the season.
Chris Kelly made his return to the lineup and played the first two periods on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Thornton while Soderberg continued to center Daniel Paille and Loui Eriksson on the third line. Campbell and Kelly switched lines for the third period.
The Bruins will host the Canadiens at TD Garden Thursday in the teams’ second meeting of the season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
— Soderberg has fed Smith for a back-door power-play goal five times this season. It had been a while since the pair had connected for such a play, as the last one prior to Tuesday was on Dec. 23 in Nashville.
— Though 15 is a more round number, the Bruins now have five players with at least 14 goals (Smith, Brad Marchand, Iginla, Patrice Bergeron, Lucic) this season and six 13-goal-scorers including Chara. With 13 goals, Chara is tied with Shea Weber for the NHL lead in goals among defensemen.
— The Bruins had only scored six goals in a game once prior to this three-game stretch, and now they’ve done it three times in a row. The B’s have combined for 18 goals beginning with Saturday’s trouncing of the Flyers.
— Smith now has the team lead in goals all to himself with 18 on the season. With his goal Tuesday, he improved his current point streak to seven games (three goals, five assists for eight points). Marchand and Patrice Bergeron both saw their point streaks end at six games.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
– Tuesday’s game was the first game since Jan. 11 (seven games) that the Bruins did not score a goal with the Marchand-Bergeron-Smith trio on the ice. Smith’s goal came on the power play.
— Some fans apparently weren’t listening when it was announced the Bruins’ second goal had been credited to Chara and not Lucic. When Lucic scored early in the second, a few fans (under 10) threw their hats onto the ice for Lucic’s second goal of the game. Whoops.
|Tim Thomas set to make first start back in Boston vs. Bruins||at 12:42 pm ET|
Tim Thomas was the first goaltender off the ice in Tuesday’s morning skate, suggesting he will be in net as expected Tuesday night against the Bruins. The game will be Thomas’ second against the Bruins, but the first in Boston.
Thomas allowed three goals in the Bruins’ 3-2 win over the Panthers on Oct. 17, but he was missed the teams’ Nov. 7 meeting due to injury. On the season, Thomas is 14-14-3 this season with a .915 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average.
Given that Chad Johnson was in net Monday for the B’s, it is likely that Tuukka Rask will face Thomas Tuesday in the former Bruins goaltending tandem’s second meeting as opponents. Rask is third in the NHL with a .930 save percentage, leads the league with five shutouts and is seventh with a 2.08 GAA.
The Bruins did pay tribute to Thomas in that Nov. 7 game, showing a video and then showing Thomas, who was in the press box, on the scoreboard.
Thomas played seven seasons in the NHL for the B’s, winning the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 2009 and 2011 and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the top postseason performer in the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup championship run. He was traded to the Islanders last season, which he sat out after a rocky final season in Boston in which his refusal to attend the White House with the team drew criticism.
The B’s did not have a morning skate Tuesday, as they played Monday night in a 6-3 victory over the Islanders. Boston has now 5-1-1 over its last seven games. Chris Kelly is expected to return to the lineup for the Bruins after being out since Dec. 7 with a broken fibula.
For more Bruins coverage, visit weei.com/bruins.
|Pierre McGuire on M&M: Brad Marchand ‘running out of race track pretty fast’||11.21.13 at 2:22 pm ET|
NBC Sports hockey analyst Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Thursday afternoon to discuss the Bruins’ upcoming game against the Blues, the recent struggles of Brad Marchand, as well as other news from across the NHL.
Boston have been rolling as of late, winning six out of its last seven games. Despite the dominant run in November, some members of the Bruins have been slumping, namely Marchand. The 25-year-old winger has yet to really find his bearings so far this year, as he has seen a dip in his production (eight points in 21 games) while increasing his turnovers and penalties. Bruins coach Claude Julien‘s frustration with Marchand has become apparent over the last few days, as Marchand was demoted to the fourth line during Monday night’s 4-1 win over Carolina.
“[Marchand’s] just going through tough times right now as a player on the ice and he’s not helping himself at all,” McGuire said. “He is running out of race track pretty fast in terms of some of his decision-making.”
The Bruins will have a tough task in their next game, as they will face off against the Blues, who hold the third seed in the Western Conference with a 14-3-3 record. St. Louis, off to its best 20-game start in franchise history, has gotten a big boost from Alexander Steen, who leads the NHL with 17 goals.
“[St. Louis] learned a lot from their first-round loss to Los Angeles last year, where it was just a battle of attrition,” McGuire said. It was just unbelievably savage the entire series and obviously Steen is off to a great start. It’s the depth of their team. … they remind me so much of the Boston Bruins. They really do.The teams are so similar. … This is a great game you guys are going to have tonight. Unbelievable game.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, a former Bruin’s play is starting to attract attention, as Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas has been viewed as a possible candidate to the U.S. Olympic team. Thomas has bounced back from a poor start to post solid numbers over the last month (2.49 goals-against average, .915 save percentage in November).
“He’s definitely worked his way back into the discussion, I can tell you that right now,” McGuire said. “He’s back into the discussion, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make the team. One of the reasons why he’s back in the discussion, the injury to Jonathan Quick, who won’t be back until December, maybe even not until the middle of December. The other thing is Craig Anderson and Jimmy Howard have both been lukewarm … and Cory Schneider is sitting on the bench in New Jersey behind Martin Brodeur.”