Thomas, Bruins stymie Senators
OTTAWA — It is entirely appropriate, given how torrid Tim Thomas has been to date, that the Bruins’ puck-stopping phenom now has the power to take goals off the scoreboard.
At 7:27 of last night’s second period at Scotiabank Place, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson was celebrating what appeared to be his team-leading seventh goal of the season. After Thomas had kicked out a Nick Foligno shot, Alfredsson had banked home the rebound to make it a 1-1 game.
So he thought.
Alfredsson’s smile disappeared after the goal was waved off. It was ruled that Mike Fisher had interfered with Thomas in the crease, preventing the goalie from pushing to his left to get in front of Alfredsson’s shot.
“I at least would have had a shot at it,’’ Thomas said of stopping Alfredsson’s attempt had he not gotten tied up with Fisher. “I tried to push over right away and got stuck. Then I did a second push and got stuck with my head. I didn’t even get to dive over until the third [push]. And I didn’t have the power behind the dive that I would have had because he was in the way. If you watch the replay, I immediately pointed at him. Even to me, it’s usually not that obvious. Sometimes I get interfered with and I don’t even know. This one was blatant enough that I knew I was interfered with.’’
By the end of the night, what was seemingly a tie game (David Krejci scored the opening goal at 4:32 of the first after a Chris Phillips giveaway) had exploded into a 4-0 Bruins’ beatdown. The visitors made the Senators look like a junior team, especially in the third when they limited Ottawa to five shots.
In the middle frame, Tyler Seguin scored his second goal in two games. After Brian Elliott foiled Nathan Horton on one breakaway, Milan Lucic showed the veteran how it was done by burying his own breakaway bid later on the same shift. Jordan Caron capped the win with his own one-on-zero bid in the third period.
In hindsight, it was a four-goal decision that didn’t even seem that close.
“We’re trying to grow an identity,’’ Mark Recchi said. “These games are continually that process. In the third period especially, when we really tightened down, we didn’t give them anything, really. Timmy was great. But we played the right way in the third. We played smart. We got pucks deep. We made it hard for them. We turned over a lot of pucks on them. That’s an important sign. We’re 4-0 on the road. We’re growing an identity, and that’s going to be one. We want to be a hard team to play against. A team that’s consistent as well. Eight games so far, it’s pretty good.’’
Right now, it’s challenging to determine what, if anything, will derail the Black-and-Gold locomotive. Last year, one of the trouble spots was the team’s flickering emotional engagement. The disinterest led to far too many ho-hum efforts and losses to teams with inferior talent.
So far, the Bruins have laid only one egg, which came in the season-opening 5-2 loss to Phoenix. Since then, there hasn’t been much for Julien and his staff to question. The fourth line has been arguably the most consistent unit. Horton, Lucic, and Krejci have become a go-to top threesome. Zdeno Chara is back to his 2008-09 shutdown presence.
And of course, there’s Thomas.
With his sixth straight victory, Thomas tied the mark set by Tiny Thompson in 1937-38 for the longest winning streak by a Boston goalie to open a season. Thomas has three shutouts, which could easily be four had it not been for a brain-cramp giveaway that led to a Jason Chimera goal Oct. 21. The numbers are outrageous: 6-0-0, 0.50 goals-against average, .984 save percentage.
Thomas isn’t just the sharpest goalie in the league. Right now, he’s the NHL’s best player.
Scary part: It might not be a hot streak. It may just be everyday life.
“That’s what I’m planning on,’’ said Thomas (29 saves). “It’s hockey. Things are funny. I’m not going to win every game. I’m certainly going to try. That’s what the team does every night. I’ve had two shutouts in a row. To be honest, I haven’t felt bad, don’t get me wrong. But I haven’t felt as good the last two games as I did in Games 3 and 4 against the Washington Capitals. I didn’t feel bad. But if you can struggle through those times when you maybe don’t feel your best — and there’s probably other guys on the team, too — you’re not always going to feel your best every night. But as a team collectively, if you can bring the effort you need to get the wins, that would help me achieve [staying hot].’’