BOSTON — Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas finally got a chance tonight to explain himself for the comments he made down in Tampa that were translated by some sensationalists as a guarantee Boston would win the Eastern Conference Final.
Of course if he keeps playing the way he did in Game 5 of the series, the Bruins are going to back up his would-be guarantee.
Thomas made 33 saves in a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay at the TD Garden, including a spectacular stick save in the third period that will be on the highlight reels across the land for years to come.
The Bruins now lead the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 Wednesday night.
With Boston protecting just a one-goal lead, Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer shot the puck intentionally wide off the end glass. The rebound went to Steve Downie parked at the left post for what looked like a definite goal — that is until Thomas stuck out his stick and rejected the shot.
“First I want to say that my recollection might not be exactly what the video is, that’s happened on a couple of goals lately … the way I remember it, you know, it got out to the point and there was a couple of different sets of screens,” recalled Thomas. “There was one set of our forwards and their guy up top and one set of their guys and our guy down closer to me. So I saw him getting ready to take the shot but I couldn’t see the puck and that’s probably why he had to shoot wide.
“Our guy was taking away the shooting lanes but I picked it up as it was somewhere about half way to me. But I saw it was going wide and I was out toward the top of the crease so I didn’t have time to get my whole body back.
“With the way the new boards are now a days in all the arenas, you got to be on your toes with the big bounces and the big bounce came out and, you know, it was just a reaction and a desperation and I’ll admit I got a little bit lucky there.”
The Garden erupted after the save and the subsequent stop on the other end by Tampa’s Mike Smith on Zdeno Chara. Smith’s save brought a whistle and a chance for everyone to gasp at the replay of Thomas’ play.
“Well sometimes I’m so focused that I don’t even actually hear the crowd even if it’s at home and even after a big save because I’m just thinking, or I’m so focused,” he said. “I was focused tonight, but for some reason I actually heard the crowd and I paid attention to it and I was very appreciative of the cheering and the loudness and it gave me, in this case, it have me a little boost of energy to help me make it through the rest of the third period.”
Now back to the “guarantee.” Thomas was asked after Boston’s Game 4 loss Saturday how the rest of this series was going to go. Of course, he said the Bruins were going to win. That was all a number of desperate media types needed to run with the guarantee storyline, even though anyone that covers Thomas regularly knows he would never be so bold. His qualifying statements after saying the Bruins would win — something along the lines of “I can’t tell game to game” what’s going to happen — pretty much softened any chance it was a guarantee right off the bat.
Thomas explained that after the game:
“Well there was no guarantee. The way the question was framed was more to the effect of how do I see the rest of the series going. In my mind I was thinking about it how I visualize [and] of course I’m going to visualize us winning the series. I’m not going to sit there and visualize us losing. So that was that. But, because it was blown out of proportion, yeah there was a little bit more pressure but I tried to ignore it as best as I could and try to play the game and what matters is what you do on the ice, not the other stuff.”
Thomas did everything possible to get the Bruins a win and now he’s one victory away from a guaranteed trip to the the Stanley Cup Final.