Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game Seven

Tim Thomas travels long, bumpy road to 2011 Stanley Cup finals

There are a lot of deserving players on both sides of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Really, anyone willing to fight through 82 regular season games and 18 playoff games earned the right to be there on Wednesday in Game 1. Still, there are certain Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks whose stories are a bit less ordinary and a lot more inspiring.

For the Canucks, defenseman Sami Salo’s injury-filled career makes him an easy player to root for. The Bruins feature a solid cast of interesting characters, including 43-year-old potential Hall of Famer Mark Recchi, but the best story might be of their best player: goalie Tim Thomas.

Despite breaking club records at the University of Vermont with Martin St. Louis, Thomas took a long time to convince people that he could make his unorthodox style work at the NHL level. Take a look at all of the stops he made on his way to becoming a full-fledged starter (and eventually, an all-world goalie) with the Bruins.

(Games played for each team listed in parenthesis.)

1997-98

HIFK (Helsingin IFK)  (6 games) – Finnish league
Houston Aeros (1 game)

98-99
Hamilton Bulldogs (15)
HIFK (14)

99-00
Detroit Vipers (36)

00-01
AIK (Allmänna Idrottsklubben Ishockeyförening) (43) – Swedish league

01-02
Kärpät (32) – Finnish league

02-03
Providence Bruins (35)
Boston Bruins (4)

03-04
Providence Bruins (43)

04-05
Jokerit (54) – Finnish league

05-06
Providence Bruins (26)
Boston Bruins (38)

06-07 – current
Boston Bruins (277)

It’s amazing to think about how far Thomas has come (literally and figuratively) to get to this point. He didn’t really become the Bruins’ top goalie until he reached his 30’s and he lost his starting job to Tuukka Rask in 2009-10*, yet he keeps silencing his critics one breathtaking and terrifying save at a time. He used his unusual style to win the 08-09 Vezina Trophy and seems like an odds-on favorite to win it again this year. He continued much of that momentum in the playoffs, standing as the No. 1 reason the Bruins got this far.

Still, he faces one more big obstacle on his way to the ultimate validation that is a Stanley Cup victory: the deep, talented and rugged Vancouver Canucks. This is the toughest overall team Thomas’ Bruins could face, and if you ask many hockey people, they’ll tell you that the Canucks are a considerably stronger overall team. Yet as we’ve seen time and time again in playoff history, a red-hot goalie can change everything.

In other words: Tim Thomas will likely be asked to defy the odds starting in Game 1 on Wednesday. Something tells us he’ll be familiar with that proposition.

* Here is a video covering how Thomas bounced back from that “off year” in 09-10.

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PHT Morning Skate: Adam Henrique wants to make NHL 17 great again

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Martin Jones is a calming presence in the Sharks’ net. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Rangers should go after Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. (The Hockey News)

–Some people have pretty wild hockey tattoos. (BarDown)

–Watch the highlights of last night’s game between the Penguins and Capitals. (Top)

–A great piece on how Bruce Boudreau impacted the Ducks and Capitals. (Sportsnet)

–It should be an interesting off-season for the Anaheim Ducks. (Daily Breeze)

Adam Henrique is a funny guy. He took to Twitter to try and get himself on the cover of NHL 17:

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.