PHILADELPHIA – If Tim Thomas is human, he’s not letting on.
“By the time the third period rolled around I was starting to feel really good,” Thomas inexplicably said tonight after his 52 saves sent the Bruins back to Boston with a 2-0 series lead on Philadelphia.
“Fortunately I was feeling good at the right time because they got some shots and some opportunities and kept me busy for the third period.”
Feeling good in the third and overtime? Some shots? Some opportunities? The Flyers not only fired 54 shots on Thomas in their 3-2 overtime loss at the Wells Fargo Center in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series, but also fired 23 shots that were blocked and 12 that went wide. As for the ones Thomas had to handle, he had to come up big 32 times over the course of the third period and 14:00 of overtime.
The superlatives were flying around the Bruins’ dressing room more than rolled up used tape and smelly socks toward the hamper. Every Bruins player was raving about the play of Thomas, who on a night when there was only one game on the Stanley Cup playoff schedule, sent a message to not just the league but the world that they were as stupid as could be for not trying to trade for him last summer when he was available.
One Bruins player that was overjoyed with Thomas’ play harkened back to when it wasn’t that fun to see the puck-stopper stand on his head.
“He always seemed to play like that when I was in Ottawa because we never seemed to beat him,” said center Chris Kelly, remembering back to Thomas’ well-documented career domination of the Senators. “Maybe not quite like that, but you can’t say enough about Timmy.”
You’re not supposed to be better at 37 than most goalies in their 20s. You’re definitely not supposed to be on the verge of your second Vezina Trophy in three years at that age, especially when you’re coming off a major hip operation and basically stopped playing from March of the previous season until this campaign’s training camp.
That’s the Tim Thomas Story and it’s turning from a fairy tale to an Oscar-worthy drama. Once counted out as NHL-caliber goaltender, now he’s a multi-time All-Star. Just a week ago he looked as though he was going to be part of another playoff disappointment in Bruins history. Now he’s standing 10 victories away from the Stanley Cup.
To Brad Marchand, this Thomas run is a comedy.
“You can almost laugh at it. It’s unbelievable,” the rookie forward said. “It’s almost unfair that we have Timmy [Thomas] back there for us. He just made so many great saves tonight. They could have easily dominated that game and they did for the most part. The saves he was making were unbelievable. You could see the crowd every time they were coming down, the chances they were getting. It’s great to have him back there; he is playing unbelievable right now.”
To recount just a few of Thomas’ great saves wouldn’t do his performance justice. All you need to know is that well-spoken defenseman Andrew Ference could barely put the save-a-palooza into words.
“Tonight was special, he was incredible. That third period on was a clinic; I don’t even know what to say anymore, he is just unbelievable,” said Ference.
Make up your own term to describe Thomas. Here he’ll just be known as super-human … at least until he tops his Game 2 performance.