Commentary

Tim Thomas keeps on ticking

Despite heavy workload, Bruins goalie remains focused as playoffs approach

Updated: March 30, 2012, 3:00 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Tim Thomas sports some serious hardware, and the reigning Stanley Cup, Vezina and Conn Smythe winner is focused on keeping all three trophies under lock and key for the foreseeable future.

With his usual partner, Boston Bruins backup goalie Tuukka Rask, still sidelined with a groin/abdominal injury, it would be a huge understatement to say that Thomas has played a lot of late. He has appeared in 17 of the past 18 games (14 starts), posting an 8-7-1 record. After losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at TD Garden, he's 4-1-1 in his past six, while posting a 1.63 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

[+] EnlargeBrooks Laich and Tim Thomas
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireTim Thomas has held up well down the stretch, but he couldn't stop Brooks Laich and the Capitals, who handed Thomas his first shootout loss of the season.

Thursday's game was Thomas' 57th of the season, the third time in his Bruins career he has reached that mark. His career-high is 66 games during the 2006-07 season.

The workload does not bother him at all. He's the type of goalie who plays better the more he plays. There have been games this season when fatigue was clearly a factor for Thomas, which is understandable given how well he played in all 25 playoff games last spring before hoisting the Stanley Cup on June 15 in Vancouver.

Now, with only five games remaining in the regular season and the Bruins needing only one point to clinch a playoff berth, Thomas is staying focused despite his taxing schedule.

"It's fine," he said after Thursday's game. "I'm not even putting a thought into it. I'm just playing and trying to get ready for the playoffs."

A season ago, Thomas played three of the final five games of the regular season, while Rask played the other two.

"To be completely honest, I don't remember this time of the year last year," Thomas said Thursday. "It's so overshadowed by what happened in the playoffs that I don't remember the scenarios or situations going down to the final week last year."

It's a safe bet Thomas won't play all five remaining games this season. Marty Turco will likely get the nod, too.

"I haven't thought about it, one way or another," Thomas said. "That's how little of an issue it is, as far as how I feel physically on the ice. I can play them all, or we can split it up. It doesn't really matter to me. I'm basically the employee, they tell me to play and I play. That's the way I approach it. I don't want the coach's job, it's not very fun."

Thomas finished with 21 saves against the Capitals on Thursday, and entered with a perfect 6-0 record in shootouts this season, but Washington finally got to him.

The Capitals' first shooter, Matt Hendricks, completely fooled Thomas in an unlikely fashion, and scored.

"I bit on his fake shot and then I'm heel-picked. It was ugly," Thomas said.

Fortunately, teammate Tyler Seguin scored on his attempt to tie the shootout at 1-1. Then Washington's Alex Ovechkin could not beat Thomas.

"We've faced each other in shootout-type situations at the All-Star Games a lot, and he hasn't had a lot of success. He changed it up on me today," Thomas said. "He did a good move and I got lucky. It actually hit off the blade of my stick or else I think it would have gone in. It went right off the tip, by the blade."

The Bruins' Patrice Bergeron followed with a goal and Boston had a 2-1 lead in the shootout. All Thomas needed to do was stop the Capitals' Alexander Semin in order to give the Bruins the win and a playoff berth.

But Semin scored to tie it, before teammate Brooks Laich scored in the fourth round to give Washington the win.

"I was very surprised because I thought I won the game on Semin's, to be honest with you," Thomas said. "Where he got the shot off from, 98 percent of the time the guy's going to miss the net from there. If he didn't have that funky curve, he couldn't do what he did."

After 65 minutes plus a shootout, Thomas did not look or sound weary after the game. He knows once the Bruins finally clinch a postseason berth, it's officially time to defend the team's Stanley Cup title.

The experience from a year ago remains fresh in his memory and he realizes how well he has to play in order for the Bruins to repeat as champions.

"He's made some big saves and he's playing well," said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. "He's making the saves we're expecting him to, so it's good. He looks like himself."

He looks like someone who's ready to restock his trophy case.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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