Thomas/By S. Bradley

It’s hard to tell if he’s trying to butter up Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas or psyche up his own goaltender Dwayne Roloson prior to the Boston-Tampa Bay Eastern Conference final series.

But today Lightning coach Guy Boucher had some overly complimentary words for Thomas after his team practiced.

The Lightning bench boss, who holds a degree in Sports Psychology, got his team back on the ice at the St. Pete Times Forum today after a couple days off in the aftermath of Tampa Bay’s sweep of Washington. Several times in his post-practice media briefing, Boucher referred to the Lightning’s ability to solve Thomas as the No. 1 key to his team emerging victorious from the best-of-seven series that will start later this week.

“I think in the end I think we’ve got the same enigma – nobody can beat this guy,” he said. “So we’re no different. It’s going to be extremely difficult and he’s shown that he was the best throughout the regular season and now in the playoffs he’s shown the same. So there’s consistency there. So I don’t plan on him giving us any freebies whatsoever and I think it’s going to be low-scoring games.”

Boucher and his coaching staff have been dissecting the video to see if they can find Thomas’ Achilles heel. At least publicly, the coach says he’s having a hard time finding the weakness.

“There’s clichés. But I think every goaltender’s got his strengths and his weaknesses. He doesn’t have many weaknesses,” he said. “But he’s got a certain look. He’s got his own look and he’s built his own system of playing. And it’s certainly served him very well. I guess it’s making everybody scratch their heads about what to do, including myself.

“They’ve had success because the team plays well defensively, but also because he’s outstanding too. I think it’s very well-documented. We’re not bringing up anything that nobody knows. But it is a major worry. It is something that nobody could do in the first rounds and we’re going to be in the same boat as everybody.”

Of course, the Lightning aren’t wanting for goaltending with Roloson between the pipes. He leads all playoff goaltenders with a 2.01 goals-against average and .941 save percentage. Thomas’ GAA stands at 2.03 and his save percentage is .937.

Boucher’s obviously not worried about putting Thomas on too high a pedestal that his shooters get put at a mental disadvantage.

“We could play amazing and he could stone us,” the coach gushed. “We expect him to be what he is: outstanding.”

So in Boucher’s eyes, Thomas a standard to live up to as high as the degree of difficulty the Lightning’s shooters are going to have to overcome.