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Destiny unbound

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  May 3, 2011 10:26 AM

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You almost want them to lose tomorrow night, don't you?

It was exactly one year ago that the Boston Bruins found themselves in an identical situation to the one they are in today. Up 2-0. On the Philadelphia Flyers. In the Eastern Conference semifinals. En route to a Cinco de Mayo Game 3 victory.

And then.

It completely baffles me how, after what we witnessed last May, some radio talk show hosts this morning were looking ahead to either the Capitals or Lightning. These are the same buffoons, mind you, who have whittled down their brilliant analysis to the game of hockey to "luck." Tell Tim Thomas the game is about luck and then ask him how easy everything has come for him in his career. He might have a thing or two to tell you.

The Bruins are once again on the verge of a 3-0 series lead, which should have every one of their fans scared bleepless, right? After all, ghosts and curses still persist with one team in town, the one of the four major sports that has not seen a trophy - a big one - over the longest stretch of time. Only Bruins fans can freak out over the prospect of a 3-0 lead - in a series or in a game.

And yet, there's reason for quiet confidence thanks to a goalie who had a game for the ages last night.

I remember watching Thomas play in the ECAC playoffs in 1996, when he made 32 dazzling saves against Lake Superior State for the University of Vermont. It was the best I had ever seen him play, a game etched in memory for the way Thomas kept his team afloat, single-handedly leading them to victory and on to the Frozen Four, where he was arguably even better in losing.

But last night. That was Tim Thomas' best game. Ever. 

Clearly, that's not a bold statement, but what Thomas, the once and future Vezina winner, showed last night was something special. He single-handedly won the game. That was the kind of game that trophy dreams - big ones - are made of.

I mean, no disrespect to future Hall of Famer Ovechkin, er, JVR, but this was the clearly THE story of last night's game. Somebody might want to let Versus know. 

Fifty-two saves. Fifty-two. The worst thing that can be said about the night is that the defense playing in front of him was a solid joke other than one Dennis Seidenberg. Maybe Zdeno Chara ought to try a Dr. Pepper. Something. Anything.

If the Bruins are going to win this thing, and by "thing" I mean Lord Stanley's Cup, the reason will be because Thomas led them there. Simply put, he needs to raise his game to a level that his sometimes anemically-scoring teammates can piggyback on. That's precisely what he did last night. And those sort of performances are what Cup-winning goaltenders are made of.

What emerged from last night's victory is a confidence level not reached after Saturday's win, nor in the previous series against Montreal. Suddenly, Bruins fans can look to the struggles of Vancouver and Detroit, and think, "Hey, why not?" The Cup is up for grabs and it's wide open. Why not? And the Bruins have the best goaltender in the game playing better than he ever has in his hard-fought career.

Why. Not?

Thomas has never had the luxury of assuming anything to reach the point he has with the Bruins. There's little reason why we should assume anything because of a 2-0 lead.

But the way he's playing, Thomas sort of makes you wonder. Doesn't he?

So does the lack of a power play, but we'll save that discussion for a rainy day.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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