|In Prague, A Fresh Start For Tim Thomas||10.10.10 at 1:37 pm ET|
PRAGUE ‘ In the Czech Republic’s capital city, Tim Thomas got a fresh start to the young season.
Coming off a lackluster 2009-2010 campaign, not to mention off-season hip surgery, the 36-year-old Bruins goalie put on an impressive show against Phoenix on Sunday as he stopped every puck that came his way and earned his first victory of the year.
Amid the howls of Coyotes fans and the growls of the Bruins faithful clad in black and gold, Thomas made the job look seemingly effortless ‘ and for nearly the entire game, it was. The Bruins defense, led by Captain Zdeno Chara, kept the pressure off Thomas and redeemed itself after allowing five goals the night before. For their part, Phoenix had just 29 shots on Thomas the entire game and worse, no goals to show for it.
Thomas could be seen lounging in the crease for much of the first two periods while most of the action was taking place across the ice. He almost looked bored, his arm resting up against the goal as his teammates took shots at Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Thomas said it wasn’t a symptom of boredom, but rather a symptom of his age.
“I’m 36,” Thomas said after the game. “That’s going to happen all the time.”
In May, the Bruins goalie underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. That, after a season in which he went 17-18 and 23-year-old hotshot Tuukka Rask seemed to garner all the praise in Boston.
It explains why Thomas was so nervous before Sunday’s game in Prague. But all things considered, it also explains why the victory felt so good.
“It’s been a long road, but it feels great to get a shutout right off the bat,” he said.
|Tim Thomas, Nathan Horton lead Bruins in shutout win||at 12:34 pm ET|
PRAGUE — The newcomers made most of the offensive noise, but it was an old face in Tim Thomas who was the story as the Bruins picked up their first win of the season, a 3-0 shutout over the Coyotes at the O2 Arena in Prague.
A night after Tuukka Rask looked impressive despite allowing four goals, Thomas got the start and recorded his 18th career shutout. Additionally, the defense looked far more responsible in shutting down any of Phoenix’ offensive attempts throughout the night.
Former third overall pick Nathan Horton picked up two more points in the game, including his third goal of the season. Rookie Tyler Seguin took a pass from Michael Ryder in the third period and converted it into a breakaway goal, the first of his NHL career.
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE BRUINS
- Nathan Horton’s first two games with the Bruins could not have gone better. After getting the primary assist on Lucic’s goal and potting one of his own from the slot in the second period, he has now been on the scoring sheet for four of the Bruins’ five goals this season.
Bruins fans shouldn’t get too carried away — Horton’s scored 30 goals in his six-year career just once — but it could be time for this writer to rethink the 33-goals he predicted for the 25-year-old. Motivation was a question for Horton while he played for the Panthers, and both he, his teammates, and management have spotted a rejuvenated player in him. It’s pretty clear at this point that the Bruins won’t need Tyler Seguin to overachieve in order to have a top pick light up the stat sheet.
Horton said prior to the game that he and his linemates continue to get more comfortable with one another with each practice and each game, but the three of them have looked terrific to this point. The dynamic between he and Lucic is something to keep an eye on, as their styles of play are very similar and the two have moved the puck to one another well to this point.
- Unforced errors and turnovers grabbed headlines following Saturday’s game, but the cautious and responsible style of play that the Bruins have become known for in recent years made its return on Sunday. The Coyotes’ offense struggled to get going for long stretches at a time, particularly in the second period, when it took Phoenix about 15 minutes to get their second shot on goal of the period.
- The new third line, with Tyler Seguin skating between Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder, looks intriguing, but not for the reason one would think. Though Seguin had his first career goal on a breakaway that once again suggested his talents as a scorer will be too much to allow him to hit too big of a rookie wall, Ryder turning the corner from a down year last season could also help the Bruins big. Ryder sent Seguin a hail mary pass on the rookie’s goal.
- That would indeed be Mr. Tim Thomas with the shutout for your Boston Bruins. Thomas wasn’t spectacular, and at times could have been caught out of position, but the bottom line was that he made timely saves. As was mentioned above, the Phoenix offense had its fair share of lulls, but Thomas was ready for the spurts of pressure when they came.
In total Thomas, made 29 saves in the game, his first win of the season and his 18th career shutout.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE BRUINS
- The defense was strong for the Bruins, but it can’t be an encouraging sign that the team has shuffled its pairings regularly throughout the first two games. Such was the case in the preseason, but it appears that Claude Julien needs to be careful with who he pairs with Matt Hunwick, who despite playing better on Sunday than he’ll probably be noticed, is a bit of a liability as he comes into his own.
|Thomas starting, lines shuffled for Bruins||at 8:40 am ET|
PRAGUE — A night after the Bruins lost their season-opening game in Prague to the Coyotes, 5-2, Claude Julien said that Tim Thomas would be starting in goal for Boston on Sunday. Tuukka Rask allowed four goals to Phoenix in Saturday’s losing effort, though one came from a flukey bounce off the boards and another came on a breakaway caused by a Daniel Paille turnover. Julien indicated that the team’s plan was to start Thomas in the second game anyway barring an overwhelming effort from Rask.
Additionally, Mark Recchi stated prior to the game that he would be playing on the third line with second overall pick Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder. Daniel Paille and Adam McQuaid are the healthy scratches.
Recchi had played on Patrice Bergeron’s line, which at one point included Seguin, throughout camp and the preseason. Rookie Jordan Caron, another former member of the second line in preseason, will return to skating with Bergeron after being scratched in the opener. Blake Wheeler will remain the second line’s other wing.
The defensive pairings remain unknown entering the game, though it’s worth noting that they were changed during Saturday’s game, with the Dennis Seidenberg-Matt Hunwick pairing dooming the team early on and eventually being separated.
|Thomas shows old self in win over Liberec HC||10.05.10 at 6:06 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Though Patrice Bergeron clogged the stat sheet with his gaudy numbers on Tuesday night (five points), it was a lower number that may have been the most positive sign for the Bruins as they crushed Liberec HC in 7-1 fashion. Tim Thomas was outstanding in net, sprawling around in his signature fashion and limiting the Czech club to one goal on the night.
Thomas came out of the gate particularly strong, stopping all 14 shots he faced in the first period. At the end of the night, Thomas, who is coming off offseason hip surgery, saw the light at the end of his recovery’s tunnel shining a little brighter than he had throughout the summer.
“I need to feel like myself, and it’s definitely coming. I’m working on it in practice, and I think it showed up in my game during this game here,” Thomas said. “… I guess when I’m playing and feeling comfortable, I’m not thinking. I actually felt way more in control than the Washington game, so I’m making steps in the right direction.”
Though coach Claude Julien agreed with the assessment that Thomas looked fluid in the victory, he also pointed to the offensive explosion and defensive stability put on display by the Bruins over the course of the night.
“When you play well in front of goaltender, it gives him confidence because all he has to do is worry about stopping the puck,” Julien said. “Our guys did a great job in front of him, and when he had to make the saves, he was there to make them. That’s what’s important, because if you’ve got your goaltender wondering if you’re going to be in the right position, then he’s second-guessing himself, and it was nice to play in front of him tonight because it gave him the confidence to make the saves he had to make.”
The Bruins’ preseason is now in the books. They will hold practices in Prague on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before opening the regular season against the Coyotes.
STITCHES FOR PAILLE
Julien said after the game that Daniel Paille received 15 stitches on his lip after getting hit in the face by either a stick or a puck in the first period. Though the coach and reporters weren’t sure exactly what him (there were no replays except on scoring plays at the arena) nothing appeared remotely serious.
|Capitals 4, Bruins 1||09.29.10 at 10:35 pm ET|
And finally, it’s off to Europe.
The 24 hours leading up to Wednesday night’s red-eye, 5 1/2-hour flight to Belfast, couldn’t have been more hectic for the Bruins.
They played Tuesday night in Washington and lost to the Capitals, 3-2, in a tense game that featured third-period rough-housing between Gregory Campbell and Alexander Ovechkin.
They hopped on a plane and had to come to Boston for the team’s annual media day Wednesday morning.
They then went home to finish up packing for a 12-day trip to Europe and came back to play the same Capitals team at TD Garden.
So it was hardly a surprise that in their final North American preseason tuneup before getting on a plane for Belfast, Ireland and their season opener on Oct. 9 in Prague, the Bruins dropped a 4-1 decision to the Capitals.
Tim Thomas saw his first action of the preseason and played all 60 minutes, allowing four goals on 24 shots. Niklas Backstrom scored the first two goals before the Capitals built their lead to 4-0 early in the third period.
Mark Recchi scored his first of the preseason midway through the third on a power play, with assists from Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder. The Bruins left immediately after the game for Logan Airport, where they caught a charter flight to Belfast. They will play an elite area team in Ireland on Oct. 3 before opening with the Phoenix Coyotes in a pair of games Oct. 9 and 10.
The Bruins finished their NHL portion of preseason with a 1-3-1 mark, while the Capitals, who did not travel superstar Alexander Ovechkin to Boston, remained perfect at 4-0-0 in preseason.
|Second period summary: Capitals 2, Bruins 0||at 8:34 pm ET|
With the second period wrapped up at the Garden, a couple of things have stood out that may be worth keeping an eye on in the Bruins’ final period of regulation before they depart for Belfast.
One thing that could easily be counted was the number of power play opportunities the Bruins had. That was four. The team applied good pressure on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby and moved the puck well for the most part, though some of their scoring opportunities were broken up by either blocked shots or one too many passes.
The number that is difficult to pinpoint is just how many times the Bruins either seemed to have beaten/fooled Holtby, tied in with how many times the Capitals netminder was badly out of position and didn’t pay for it. The team’s best opportunity of the period came when Nathan Horton fired a hard wrist shot past Holtby only to see it clank off the post.
The Capitals added a tally in the second, a Nicklas Backstrom redirect past Tim Thomas for the Washington captain’s second of the night.
Blake Wheeler collided with Holtby late in the period and immediately left the ice and walked down the tunnel, though he turned around and returned to the bench.
|First period summary: Capitals 1, Bruins 0||at 7:43 pm ET|
Tim Thomas faced six shots and stopped five as Nicklas Backstrom beat the veteran goaltender on a one-timer in front of the net midway through the period.
With teammate Tuukka Rask in sweats up in the press box halo looking on, Thomas looked solid, if not spectacular in his first preseason action this fall.
The Bruins managed just five shots on Capitals netminder Dany Sabourin.
The highlight of the period came two seconds in when Bruins center Gregory Campbell dropped the gloves with Capitals center Matt Hendricks. Just 24 hours earlier, Cambell got into it with Alexander Ovechkin as the two exchanged pleasantries at the Verizon Center.
Ovechkin cross-checked Campbell, who later came back at Ovechkin with a hard hit into the boards. The rough stuff continued and escalated in the third period.
Ovechkin didn’t make the trip so Hendricks was the stand-in and delivered the message at the earliest possible moment – the opening face-off.
As for the most anticipated talent in these parts since Joe Thornton, Tyler Seguin centered the line with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. He played 5 minutes, 13 seconds and didn’t get a shot on goal. He was on the ice for the Backstrom goal and finished the period with a -1.
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