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.
“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.
* – It would be surprising if Thomas didn’t win the 2010-11 Vezina Trophy.