Thomas/By S. Bradley

For those hoping Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas will pull off a daily double in Las Vegas this June, there’s a bit of support for Thomas’ candidacy in the Hart Trophy race building up.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Thomas will be the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. But winning the Hart as the NHL MVP will be tougher, as the voters of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (of which I am one) tend to shy away from netminders in the MVP race. Jose Theodore from Montreal was the last goaltender to win the Hart in 2002.

Stu Hackel’s Red Light blog over at SI.com yesterday handicapped the field in the Hart race and made a strong case for Thomas, without fully endorsing him.

Hackel writes:

His GAA is 1.97, hard to do in the post-lockout era, and his save percentage is .939 (and it’s been as high as .945). If that figure holds, it would be the best ever recorded in the NHL since the stat was officially introduced in 1983-84. Dominik Hasek had the previous high of .936 in 1998-99. Goalies don’t often win the Hart, and Thomas’s workload is lessened by having Tuukka Rask backing him up. He may not reach the 60-game mark. But it’s hard to think the B’s would have had so strong a season without Thomas’s excellence.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of anti-goalie bias for Thomas to overcome. But with Sidney Crosby indefinitely shut down, the field is more wide-open than usual. Hackel also considers the candidacies of Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom and Montreal’s Carey Price. Then there are a few guys that share a couple teams, as Hackel makes an argument for Ryan Kesler, and Henrik and Daniel Sedin of Vancouver; and Tampa Bay’s tandem of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. As Hackel notes, those guys might split a lot of voters that disagree on which player is most valuable to those upper-echelon teams.

The Jennings Trophy, which Thomas and Manny Fernandez won for the Bruins in ’09 and honors the team with the fewest goals against, is within reach again this season. For Thomas to accomplish a truly great feat, however, he has to win the Hart to go along with the Vezina. It’s a long shot, but at least he’s starting to creep into some voters’ consciousness.