BOSTON – Tim Thomas says he isolates himself.
When he’s away from the rink, the news and sports commentary never get near him.
He just plays with his kids and spends time by the pool.
“My little boy is trying to get me to play hockey. I’m like, ‘I’m a little bit too tired, wait till this summer,’” he explained tonight.
Well, whatever he does away from the rink is obviously contributing to performing at the rink as well as anyone possibly could. Tonight in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, Thomas was again masterful in earning his third shutout of the playoffs in a 4-0 win over Vancouver at the TD Garden.
Thomas’ 38-save performance helped the Bruins even the series 2-2 heading back to Vancouver for Game 5 Friday.
That isolation has allowed Thomas to feel as though he’s in a groove for quite some time.
“I felt like that for a lot of this year, to be honest with you. I have felt so good in the Final, so far,” said the presumptive Vezina Trophy winner. “I’m just going to keep doing the same thing that I’ve been doing to try to have the same success that I’ve had.
“Just between games I try to get as much rest as I possibly can and keep my body as maintained as possible.”
He keeps his body maintained not only so he can stop pucks, but so he can defend himself when provoked by opponents. In the third period tonight, Thomas let his feisty side show with a slash to the back of Alex Burrows’ leg. Burrows then jumped at Thomas and a scrum ensued.
Thomas earned a slashing penalty. While television replays might not have shown it, Thomas says he was provoked a few times over the course of the night.
“They’d been getting the butt end of my stick actually. They did it a couple of times on the power-play in the first period also,” he explained. “I don’t know who it was; I was focused on the puck. That was like the third time that he’d hit my butt end on that power-play. On 6-on-4, we were up 4-0, the game was getting down toward the end, so I thought I’d give him a little love tap and let him know, ‘I know what you’re doing, but I’m not going to let you do it forever.’
“So that’s all that was. It was a typical battle.”
Battles are what Tim Thomas is all about, as head coach Claude Julien explained for the umpteenth time since taking over the Bruins’ bench in 2007.
“Well, it’s indicative of the way he’s had to battle to get here, number one. Anybody that knows the story of Tim Thomas, he’s taken a real bumpy road to get to the NHL,” said Julien. “He’s had so many obstacles in front of him that he’s overcome, it makes him a battler, it makes him the perfect goaltender for our organization because that’s what we are, we’re a blue-collar team that goes out and works hard and earns every inch of the ice that you can get. Tim fits well in regards to that.
“Again, the way he battles, he never quits on any pucks, even to the point where he can let a bad goal in every once in a while or a couple in a game, and you know that when the game is on the line he’s going to be standing on his head again because he battles through it.”
There weren’t any bad goals, or goals for that matter, by Vancouver against Thomas in this one. He has now allowed just five goals in four games against the league’s best offense. Whatever isolation Thomas needs to stay in this zone, he better get it before at least two of the next potential three games.