Thomas, Chara plan to stay course, prevail
The man has worked between the pipes long enough by now that he figures that one untimely decision doesn’t mean he should sign up for his own Saugus camp next month to take a refresher course. “I have a pretty good idea of how to play goalie,’’ Tim Thomas said yesterday after the Bruins had returned home from Saturday night’s wrenching 3-2 overtime loss to Vancouver. “I’m not going to be taking suggestions or advice at this time. I’m just going to keep playing the way I have.’’
His teammates may be in an 0-2 hole in the Stanley Cup Final entering tonight’s first Garden date but Thomas still is going to be in the crease, as he has been for every minute of the playoffs, and his defensemen won’t change their approach.
“We play the same way in front of Timmy for as long as I’ve been here,’’ said captain Zdeno Chara, who is used to Thomas venturing out where the wild things are. “And he’s got his own style, and I don’t think anything is wrong with it. It’s been really successful for him. As we all know, he’s probably one of the best, if not the best, goaltender in the league. So I don’t see why we should change the way we play or why he should change the way he plays.’’
The Bruins build their game from the goal outward, meaning that Thomas and Chara are at the tip of the pyramid. It just so happened that the Canucks’ Alex Burrows went around Chara, found that Thomas had been caught in no-man’s land, and popped the puck into the open net after just 11 seconds of extra play.
It happened so quickly that the players on the Boston bench were stunned. “I bent over to take a sip of water,’’ said defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “I heard a loud bang [Andrew Ference’s pass banking off the boards] and then I look up and the play was heading the other way. It was kind of weird. Not the weirdest play I’ve ever seen, but definitely weird.’’
Not weird enough, though, to have Claude Julien change goalies tonight or to have Thomas, who has saved 93 percent of the 670 shots he has seen this postseason, rework his style. “To me, he’s a Vezina Trophy winner,’’ the coach said. “We are here right now because of his contribution, which has been really good. For us to be sitting here having to answer those kind of questions is ridiculous to me.’’
The way Julien saw it, the Canucks grabbed the victory because Bruins turnovers and lax puck management allowed the hosts to seize the momentum late in the third period. Ference’s miscue after Patrice Bergeron had won the opening faceoff in OT led to the chain reaction that switched on the red light behind Thomas. “There were so many breakdowns on that play, it’s tough to blame one guy,’’ said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.
What the Bruins understand is that they’re up against a Vancouver squad that is skilled and speedy and that pounces on any miscalculation. Boston made one with 18.5 seconds to play in regulation in Game 1 and another 11 seconds into OT in Game 2 and both were fatal. “You have to put it behind you, obviously,’’ said Thomas. “I think I’ve actually done that. I’ve already started to prepare for tomorrow. I just have to. Not just me, but the whole team has to put it behind them and show up ready to play the best they’re capable of.’’
Those two killer goals aside, the Boston defense has performed creditably enough in the Cup Final, conceding only four goals, one of them on the power play. The Canadiens scored 17 in their series and the Lightning tallied 10 in the first two games on Causeway Street.
So Julien isn’t about to start fiddling with a system that has the Bruins playing for the championship for the first time since 1990. Thomas, who has 63 stops in the series, again will start in the cage. “Yesterday he made some unbelievable saves to keep us in the game,’’ said Julien. And Chara will keep logging more than 28 minutes a night.
“Where we are right now, we have to look at it this way — he’s got all summer long to rest,’’ said the coach, who has been working Seidenberg every bit as long on the blue line. “We’re in a fight here for the Stanley Cup. He’s capable of taking it. We feel he is. If he wasn’t, we wouldn’t be giving it to him.’’
The painful nature of the losses likely has made Boston’s situation appear more desperate than it is. “They scored the winning goals within 20 seconds of the end and the start of a period,’’ said Boychuk. “We’re not down and out. We’ve played two close games.’’
The Bruins were in an 0-2 hole to Montreal after two home games and still won in seven, with the same goaltender leading the way. “It does give you some consolation to know that you’ve done it before,’’ said Thomas. “But you know, having said that, tomorrow it will be time to stop talking about it. It will be time to start doing it. Tomorrow is a big game for us.’’
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.