Tim Thomas may have not been the most spectacular goalie on the ice tonight. That designation belonged to his Tampa Bay counterpart, 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson, who looked about half his age in stopping 37 of 38 Bruins shots.
But Thomas, who made 24 saves, was the goalie who didn't let one by him. And because of that, he's the goalie who will be playing against the Vancouver Canucks with the Stanley Cup at stake.
"This feels in incredible," said Thomas, who earned his 22d postseason win of his career. "I can use all the words everyone uses; incredible, unbelievable. We found a way to do it again. I’m sure everybody else’s blood pressure is up, ours was too but we’ve just got such great character on this team. We got it done."
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the outcome was fitting as far as his goalie is concerned.
"It’s very fitting for him to get a shutout in a game like that, because he’s been good for us all year and he’s deserving of all the good things that are happening to him," Julien said.
But Thomas had plenty of support from his defense. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg were the workhorses as usual, combining for nearly 55 minutes of ice time. Andrew Ference led the Bruins in shots (6) and was seemingly everywhere late in the third period when the Lightning was making their last stand. Johnny Boychuk bounced back from a difficult Game 6 to play what Julien said was an outstanding game.
"We played extremely well in front of him, but he still had to make some good saves, some important saves, and he made those," Julien said. "Our goal tonight was not to just rely on Timmy to win us a game, we had to do it as a team. I think our guys responded well, Timmy made the saves he had to make and we didn't make it too hard on him.
"The one thing we wanted to do was really take away their time and space." Julien said of his team's defensive approach. "We always encourage our Ds to close the gap, and if we close the gap, we took away some of their space, and by closing the gap, we’re also in really good position to throw our body around. We were disciplined in our physical play and that was important as well."
Thomas was the youngest goalie on the ice tonight. Having turned 37 last month, he is four years Roloson's junior. But his coach says that age is insignificant in Thomas's case . . . at the moment.
"I mean, he’s not getting any younger, right?," Julien said. "I think everybody knows that, I think he knows that. But one thing I can say is he’s getting better. So sometimes we talk about aging, and basically in his case, he’s getting better."