If there’s one developing story of the 2011 playoffs that isn’t getting enough attention, it’s the outstanding run by Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. It’s been a long time since the regular season’s most impressive goalie* also ranked as the best netminder of the playoffs, but Thomas is accomplishing that rare task so far.
After breaking Dominik Hasek’s single season save percentage record by establishing a 93.8 mark during the 2010-11 season, Thomas is playing almost as well in the 2011 playoffs. Thomas leads all goalies who started the majority of their games for at least two rounds with a 93.1 save percentage and is tied with Roberto Luongo for the league lead with 11 wins.
His outstanding 33-save performance during the team’s 3-1 win in Game 5 shined a bigger spotlight on his impressive playoff run, but he’s been bailing out the Bruins on many occasions during the playoffs. Boston’s defense is springing a lot of leaks against a Tampa Bay Lightning, allowing 30 shots or more in every game of the series. Yet they find themselves up 3-2 in the series because of timely scoring and often superlative netminding by Thomas.
Joe Haggerty points out that Thomas is backing up his words, even if the goalie claimed he didn’t want to give the Bolts so much bulletin board material.
“He’s a great goalie, and when you look at the great goalies of the past they have that confident swagger about them,” said Chris Kelly. “It’s not an arrogance, but a confident swagger. Timmy definitely has that. That’s part of what makes him great.”
Thomas battled his way to the NHL and now finds himself among the best goalies in the league. It’s doubtful that many goalie coaches would encourage future netminders to mimic his sprawling, unorthodox style but it manages to beguile shooters in a way that reminds many of Hasek.
When you can make saves like the one Thomas managed against Steve Downie (not to mention the many other highlight reel stops he produced during the regular season and playoffs), maybe it’s OK to have a little extra swagger.
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* – It would be surprising if Thomas didn’t win the 2010-11 Vezina Trophy.
Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has been the most difficult goalies to score against this season. Leave it to a high-level player like Leon Draisaitl to make it look this, well, “easy.”
Draisaitl scored his 13th goal of 2016-17 by capping this pretty give-and-go play with Benoit Pouliot. You can see the frustration from Dubnyk at the end of the tally, as if he was saying “How was I supposed to stop that?” (though probably with more colorful language).
Draisaitl came into Friday with five goals and three assists in his last five games, so he’s been almost unstoppable lately.
Read more about his rise here.
In his fifth NHL game, intriguing Washington Capitals prospect Jakub Vrana scored his first NHL goal (and point).
Let’s be honest, though; Evgeny Kuznetsov deserves plenty of the credit, as he sent a fantastic pass for Vrana’s tap-in tally.
See it for yourself:
Even if that was mostly Kuznetsov, Vrana has been getting his chances so far.
He generated four shots on goal in two separate occasions so far in his four games of NHL action, so maybe he was due for a chance like this.
Considering he’s just 20 years old, the Capitals could get used to Kuznetsov to Vrana.
Update: The Capitals won 4-1, and Vrana’s first goal wasn’t the only noteworthy “first.” After piling on shots, John Carlson finally scored his first goal of the season:
No one’s going to confuse Dmitry Kulikov with Jack Eichel, but the Buffalo Sabres are likely happy to have him back after a long absence, too.
The Sabres have been on an upward trend lately (5-2-2 in their last nine games), and now they get a key defenseman back against the Washington Capitals on Friday night.
Kulikov last played on Nov. 9 and hasn’t recorded a point in 12 games, making for a tough start to his stint with the Sabres. Maybe he’ll begin to get a little more traction with his new team tonight?
He’s far from the only returning Buffalo player, either, as Josh Gorges and Nicolas Deslauriers are also back in the mix. Kulikov is slated to be on the Sabres’ second pairing with Cody Franson.
Buffalo sent Brendan Guhle to the AHL to make room for these tweaks.
The Columbus Blue Jackets will be without captain Nick Foligno because of an illness on Friday, opening up an opportunity for interesting prospect Oliver Bjorkstrand.
The team tweeted out his linemates as Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak as a solid fourth line facing the Detroit Red Wings.
He failed to generate much (zero points, two shots on goal) in three games so far with Columbus this season, receiving about 25 minutes of ice time over that span.
With eight goals and 12 points in 19 AHL games so far in 2016-17, there’s the thought that he could eventually make the next step to becoming a decent contributor for the Blue Jackets.
Perhaps this will constitute his first real step in that direction?
Apparently this is a pretty abrupt situation for the 21-year-old: