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Tim Thomas not talking about matching last season 09.17.11 at 1:32 pm ET
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Last year, Tim Thomas put together one of the best seasons any goaltender has ever had. He compiled a 35-11-9 record, 2.00 goals-against average and NHL-record .938 save percentage. He collected his second Vezina Trophy and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. The only downside to all that is it sets the bar at a seemingly impossible height for this season.

“I think Tim’s biggest challenge is going to be being able to duplicate what he did last year,” Claude Julien said Friday. “If he ever comes close to doing that, we know we’re going to have a good goaltender, because his season last year was outstanding.

“He’s one of those players, like everybody else, who has to be willing to up his game. That doesn’t necessarily mean be better. Just to be as consistent as he was last year means he’s going to have to up his game, in my mind. That’s the one thing Timmy’s capable of doing when he sets his mind to it.”

After the first official practice of the season on Saturday, Thomas refused to talk about any of that just yet.

“It’s the first day of camp,” Thomas said. “You look to improve each day. I’d rather focus on the smaller picture than to get into that stuff right now.

“I’m gonna take a day off from that. It’s the first day of camp. Just enjoy it, being back on the ice with some of the elite-level hockey players in the world. Focus on that rather than thinking back to what happened last year or thinking forward to what is next year.”

Thomas acknowledged that he would obviously like to match what he did last season, but wouldn’t say any more than that.

“That’s as far as I want to go with that right now,” Thomas said. “I’m worried about getting my skates right, my equipment right. That’s more of where my mind is right now than all that other stuff.”

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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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Tim Thomas enters this season without any questions -- just a few trophies. (AP)

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.”

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Which Tuukka Rask will the Bruins see this season? 08.25.11 at 4:52 am ET
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With captains’ practices just two short weeks from commencing, WEEI.com will be looking at the questions facing the defending Stanley Cup champions in the 2011-12 season.

Tuukka Rask could see more starts in the coming season. (AP)

Up next is the question of what goaltender Tuukka Rask’s season will hold. The case of Rask is an interesting one, as he was the best statistical goalie in the league in 2009-10 before watching Tim Thomas wrest the starting job away last year. There are other factors at work as well, including the offseason knee surgery he’s coming off of and the fact that he’ll be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Speaking prior to Milan Lucic’s Rock and Jock softball game Wednesday in Lowell, Rask discussed the arthroscopic procedure he had on his left knee. The surgery required between four and five weeks recovery time, but Rask is now feeling healthy after suffering the injury midway through last season.

Could the knee be the reason as to why Rask went from having a league-best 1.97 goals against average and .931 save percentage in 2009-10 to posting a mediocre 2.67 GAA and .918 save percentage last season? He isn’t ready to say so, as he denied feeling significant discomfort in the knee.

“It actually happened in January, I tweaked it, but it didn’t stop me from playing or practicing,” Rask said. “It was just something that we saw that was better to fix, because it would have bugged [me] in the future at some point, so it was just a minor fix-up, but the recovery was a few weeks.”

Now, whether it’s through health or increased playing time, Rask has to be hoping to post better numbers this season. There is certainly something to be said for a goaltender getting in a rhythm, and Thomas’ dominance made it nearly impossible for the Bruins to give Rask the amount of time a netminder of his caliber deserves.

If it is more time between the pipes that will lead to more 2009-10-like numbers, Rask could be in luck. Yes, Thomas is unquestionably the best goaltender in the league right now, but he is also the oldest player to win the Vezina since the adaptation of its current criteria. Rask played in only 29 games last year, good for approximately 35 percent of the regular season schedule. Assuming neither player gets injured, the Bruins could go with a closer split to give each guy a chance to take control of the job a la Thomas last season. Additionally, if the two split time a little more evenly than last season, neither goaltender would run as big a risk of getting cold.

Then there’s the matter of the guys playing in front of him. The Bruins often struggled to give him whatever the hockey equivalent of run support is (he had an 11-14-2 record), and players often lamented the way they played in front of Rask following losses. If both Rask and his teammates can pick it up in games he starts this season, he could be a richer man come next summer. The guess here is that he gets upwards of 35 starts and posts a GAA somewhere in the 2.20 range.

One thing that is safe to say about Rask is that he won’t be a poor sport if he ends up spending more time on the bench. He was among the most chipper Bruins during their Cup run, wearing Nathan Horton’s helmet for fun and commonly being in the middle of Bruins’ on-ice celebrations after series wins. He said Wednesday that it’s the up-and-down nature of the last two seasons that have taught him to be a team guy no matter what.

“I mean, anything can happen, right?” Rask said of what he’s learned. “And you’ve just got to go day-by-day and no matter what, be a great teammate, because even if you’re playing or you’re not playing, you’ve still got to support the guys and be a part of the group, so that was the really big thing I learned the past two years.”

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Tim Thomas goes from amazing goalie to just a maze at 1:28 am ET
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Bruins goalie Tim Thomas probably expected plenty of attention after winning the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe trophy and Vezina trophy in the same season, but who saw this coming? Check out this picture of the “Corn Maize” at Sherman Farm in New Hampshire. The image surfaced Wednesday night, with a stick-tap to tremendous Yahoo! Sports blogger Greg Wyshynski, who worked “corny” and “amazing” into his headline.

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Roberto Luongo regrets criticizing Tim Thomas 08.18.11 at 4:10 am ET
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Roberto Luongo is used to be critiqued, but it was his criticism of another that intensified the spotlight already being shined on Vancouver goaltender in the Stanley Cup Finals. Luongo infamously said after the Canucks’ Game 5 win that he would have stopped the Maxim Lapierre goal that B’s netminder Tim Thomas allowed go give Vancouver a 1-0 win. Now, he’s saying he regrets criticizing the eventual Conn Smythe winner.

Speaking with Jean-Francois Chaumont of Radio-Canada.ca, Luongo said in French (translated by Stuart St-Amant of CanucksArmy.com) that if he could go back, he would not make the same comments about Thomas.

“Yeah, for sure,” Luongo said when asked whether he regrets his words. “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t say it. I didn’t want to create the buzz that it did. After the fifth game, I had never been so emotional and I got carried away.”

The differing styles of the technically proficient Luongo and the unorthodox Thomas made for an interesting storyline in the finals. Though Luongo was among those praising Thomas leading into the playoffs, his comments when asked about the Game 5 goal were regrettable. Thomas, whose aggressive play out of the net had yielded complaints from the Canucks for the duration of the series, was just outside of the crease as he tried to stop a shot from Kevin Bieksa at the point. When the shot missed the net wide and ricocheted off the end boards and back in front by the opposite post, Lapierre put it in before the Vezina winner could get back.

“That’s not hard if you’re playing in the paint,” Luongo said at the time. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does, that’s going to happen. He might make some saves that I won’t, but in cases like that we want to take advantage of bounces like that and make sure we’re in a good position to bury those.”

While media and fans were drawn to Luongo saying it would be “an easy save” for him, the Canucks goaltender took issue with the fact that his whole answer — in which he said Thomas could make saves he couldn’t — wasn’t being heard. In saying that at the airport the following day, Luongo took things a step further, adding that Thomas had not said anything nice about him despite that fact that he was “pumping his tires.” Thomas abstained from a war of words, but did say prior to Game 6 that he “didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires.”

In the final two games of the series, Luongo allowed six goals (he was pulled after 8:35 in Game 6), while Thomas allowed two goals, including a shutout in the Cup-clinching Game 7.

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Tim Thomas wins pair of ESPYs 07.13.11 at 9:55 pm ET
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Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas took home a pair of ESPY awards, winning the award for Best NHL Player and Best Championship Performance.

Thomas led the NHL in both goals against average (2.00) and save percentage (.938) in a Vezina-winning regular season. His save percentage set the record for the best in a single season. He then posted a playoffs-leading .940 save percentage en route to winning the Conn Smythe trophy for the most valuable player to his team in the postseason. He also posted an NHL-best 1.98 goals against average in the playoffs.

Thomas’ Vezina was the second of his career, as he also won the award in the 2008-09 season.

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Tim Thomas wins second Vezina Trophy 06.22.11 at 8:53 pm ET
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Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was named the 2010-11 recipient of the Vezina trophy, awarded to the league’s top goaltender in the regular season.

Tim Thomas has won the Vezina twice in his career. (AP)

Thomas beat Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne for the trophy, winning it for the second time in the last three years. Thomas led the NHL with a .938 save percentage and a 2.00 goals against average. His save percentage is the best in a single season since the statistic began being recorded by the league.

Thomas is now the fifth goaltender to win the Vezina multiple times since 1982, when the criteria for the distinction switched from allowing the fewest regular-season goals to being the top regular-season goaltender.

When the regular season began, Thomas was not expected to be the team’s starter. Though he had won the Vezina in 2009, hip issues and a dip in performance saw him lose the starting job to Tuukka Rask down the stretch in the 2009-10 season. Rask started each game of the 2010 postseason as the Bruins were eliminated by the Flyers in the second round.

Thomas had offseason hip surgery, and when Rask allowed four goals in the team’s season-opening 5-2 loss to the Coyotes in Prague, coach Claude Julien gave Thomas the start the next night. Thomas shut out Phoenix in that Oct. 10 contest, and never relinquished the starting job or the league lead in GAA and save percentage.

Thomas is now the first Vezina-winner since 2003 (Martin Brodeur) to win the Stanley Cup in the same season. He is the first goalie since 1975 (Bernie Parent) to win the Vezina, Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy in the same season, though at that time, the criteria for the Vezina was as listed above.

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