Someday they might name the Bruins’ Seventh Player Award after Tim Thomas.
After all, even in years he doesn’t win the award (he’s won it twice) for the player who exceeds all expectations, he manages to shatter any projections for his performance.
Heading into this season after a year as a back-up and offseason hip surgery, the hope in most circles was that he could at least provide Tuukka Rask with some relief and maybe even get healthy enough to be traded. No one thought Thomas would produce one of the most impressive statistical seasons by a goaltender in NHL history.
By the time it was all said and done, Thomas had earned a second Vezina Trophy by setting a new single-season save percentage record and posting a 2.00 goals-against average. And he proved his big-game chops by leading the Bruins to the Stanley Cup championship with a Conn Smythe Trophy-winning postseason performance.
There’s no telling how high the expectations have to go before Thomas can exceed them. But you know he’s going to try as hard as he can, and you can never count him out.
Regular-season: 57 GP, 35-11-9, .938, 2.00
Playoffs: 25 GP, 16-9, .940, 1.98
Contract status: Signed through 2012-13 at a cap hit of $5 million
Best regular-season moment: There were a lot of great games during the season for Thomas, so I’m just going to focus on his best saves. In the regular season, nothing could top the robbery he pulled on Toronto’s Francois Beauchemin with his glove Dec. 4 at Air Canada Centre. Sadly, the Bruins lost in a shootout that night, but Thomas’ save was still one of the plays of the year.
Best playoff moment: When you think of “The Save” in terms of the Bruins’ Cup championship run, there’s only one play by Thomas that comes to mind — the stick save on Steve Downie in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay. The Bruins went up three games to two in the series after a 3-1 win.
Worst moment: Thomas was pulled twice in the regular season, but maybe — based on the importance of the game — his worst night was Game 1 of the Lightning series, which he lost 5-2. He stopped just 29 of 33 shots and Brett Clark, a defenseman, beat him with a weak backhand shot under the right arm pit. Marc-Andre Bergeron also beat him with a wrist shot that was no one’s idea of a laser.
Regular-season grade: A
Playoff grade: A-plus. There were some rocky periods for Thomas, especially against Montreal and Tampa Bay, but for Thomas to best his regular-season stats in the playoffs was amazing.
Carnac predicts … no way Thomas comes close to his 2010-11 numbers, but he’ll settle in nicely with some All-Star stats as part of the best goaltender tandem in the league with Rask.