BOSTON – In the “attacking sportswriters department,” Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas hasn’t stacked up to future Hall-of-Famer Dominik Hasek … yet.
But today Boston’s puck-stopper managed to best the former Buffalo Sabres star in a much more important category – the ever-important statistic of save percentage.
Thomas, who already was ahead of Hasek’s record-setting pace of 1998-99 (.9366) at the start of play today, stopped 31 of 32 shots in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over Ottawa at TD Garden. Thomas, who’s scheduled to get off for the regular-season finale in New Jersey tomorrow, finished up with a save percentage of .9382.
“Yeah, well that’s great. That’s awesome,” said Thomas, who should be the runaway winner of his second Vezina Trophy in three years. “But there’s one more game. We have to, as a team, we have to focus on taking care of business tomorrow and I’m part of that. And so I’ll really, I’ll reflect on it really once the season’s over a little bit more than I am right now.”
Thomas said that Hasek was one of the players he looked up to when he was in college and Hasek was leading the Sabres to the ’99 Stanley Cup final in the midst of winning the Vezina six times in eight years (he also won the Hart in ’97 and ’98). The common thread between the two goaltenders is an unorthodox style, even if both have played the position differently from one another.
Thomas hopes to differ from Hasek one other way. It took Hasek until 2002, the year after his last Vezina, to finally win the Cup. Thomas will now try to be the first goalie since New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur in ’03 to win the Vezina and the Cup.
With starts in six of the Bruins’ last seven games, Thomas feels ready for the start of Boston’s postseason adventure.
“I think tonight helped. … I mean that was the goal of playing this weekend, was to get ready for the playoffs,” said Thomas, who will lead the league this season with his save percentage and his goals-against average of 2.00. “We didn’t want too long of a break. It was next Thursday [the start of the playoffs]. Me and Claude talked it over. It was actually my decision to play and it was, I won’t say I didn’t end up putting any pressure on myself, but I will say that it was probably the best thing for the team and for myself going forward to get ready for the playoffs.”
With his 57th appearance, Thomas tied his NHL career high. However, he hasn’t been overworked because of the reliable play of back-up Tuukka Rask. The Finnish second-year NHLer proved extra reliable after today’s win when he retrieved the game puck for Thomas. That puck will undoubtedly find its place in Thomas’ trophy case along with the Vezinas, the ’08-09 Jennings and assorted other booty he has accumulated over the 14 years of his pro hockey career.
That one big trophy that would complete his collection, however, requires him to play at the same level he’s played well into June and continue to post Hasek-like numbers.