Thomas can't pull Bruins out of funk

BOSTON -- Tim Thomas is a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender this season, and the Boston Bruins netminder should receive serious consideration for the Hart Trophy too.

Being the top goaltender and MVP would certainly help Thomas cement his unique legacy in Boston, but he’s not focused on individual achievements. He has his sights on the larger prize -- the Stanley Cup.

Not since 1972 has Lord Stanley’s Cup been hoisted in Boston and if the Bruins are to give it a serious bid this season, goaltending will be the key.

With only 11 games remaining in the regular season, the Bruins are atop the Northeast Division and they wouldn’t be there without the stellar play of Thomas.

Unfortunately for the Bruins and Thomas, the Toronto Maple Leafs took it to the Bruins on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre, winning 5-2. Thomas allowed four goals and only made 18 saves on 22 shots. He was pulled in the second period, but was put back in for the third period. With the loss, the Bruins are 1-3-3 in the last seven games.

Bruins coach Claude Julien has stated time and again that the Bruins do not have a No. 2 goaltender because both Thomas and Tuukka Rask are top-quality netminders. In order for the Bruins to be successful, both have to be at the top of their games. While Thomas has played the majority of the games this season, Rask has been solid of late while the veteran gets a bit of a breather in preparation for the stretch run and the playoffs.

Julien told Thomas recently of the plan to get Rask more playing in order to keep him sharp and give Thomas some time to recharge his batteries. Rask has earned points in six of his last seven starts with a 5-1-1 record. Entering Saturday’s game, Thomas has served as the backup in five of the last nine games.

“I’m aware of that plan and I think it’s smart,” Thomas said this week. “I understand some circumstances, you make a big-picture plan, but then circumstances day to day may change or whatever. I’m OK with it and I don’t put too much thought into it. I’m just trying every day to keep to a level I’m happy with.”

When asked recently how his health was, Thomas gave the thumbs-up.

“Pretty good. Yup, pretty good,” he said.

Thomas has played a total of 49 games this season and says he’s not feeling any effects from his offseason hip surgery. Thomas had the procedure to repair a torn labrum in his left hip last May and after completing his rehab during the offseason, he was ahead of schedule when training camp began last September.

“For a goaltending position, they thought it would take a little bit longer,” Thomas said. “I actually felt good earlier than expected, but that doesn’t mean inside physiologically it was completely healed yet.

“I got strength and stuff back early, but then I was, for lack of a better term, quarantined and not allowed to do anything. I was doing rehab three times a day, but I started to feel good enough that I wanted to start shooting a basketball in the driveway or whatever. I really had to fight against myself to hold back.”

Good thing he fought those urges as he hasn’t had any issues or setbacks this season.

“I’m at the point where I’m not focused on the hip at all,” he said. “It’s the general maintenance that you need during the season.”

With the regular season winding down, Thomas has proven he can rebound from anything. Now it’s only a matter of how far he can take the Bruins in the playoffs.