Last June at this time, we were talking about the miraculous season Jonathan Toews had for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only did he help deliver Chicago their first Stanley Cup in 49 years and win the Conn Smythe Trophy, but Toews was a main part to Canada’s gold medal-winning team.
One year later, Tim Thomas has stolen the show in similar fashion.
The well-liked and well-spoken 37-year-old backstop etched his name into Bruins lore with his great performances throughout a Stanley Cup run that ended a 39-year drought for the Original Six franchise. In 25 playoff games, Thomas posted a 1.98 goals-against average and four shutouts, carrying his team for a good portion of the time.
It gets even better.
Thomas further rose to the occasion in the Cup final, limiting the high-powered Vancouver Canucks to eight goals in seven games. In the series he had a 1.15 goals-against, .967 save percentage and two shutouts. After a 4-0 shutout in Wednesday’s Game 7, Thomas received the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the MVP of the playoffs.
“He was on top of his game from start to finish,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Thomas after Game 7, “and especially in this final round. He was outstanding every game. I know everybody expected him to have an average game at some point. Never came. He was in the zone, focused, never let anything rattle him and never questioned his style of play.”
It is already well-known that, if he wins the Vezina Trophy next week, Thomas would become the first goalie in 36 years to win the Vezina, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in the same season.
En route to winning his first Cup, Thomas set an NHL record for the most saves by a goaltender in a single postseason and Cup final series. He was also the first goalie to lead his team to three Game 7 victories in a postseason that ended in celebration, and the first to post a shutout on the road in Game 7 of the Cup final. All of this comes on the heels of his record-setting regular season, where he exceeded Dominik Hasek’s all-time save percentage mark.
“Winning the Stanley Cup is huge,” said Thomas after Wednesday’s win. “It's the biggest accomplishment of my career thus far. But everybody knows in this game that you have to continuously prove yourself. I'm sure if I were to, for example, start out the season bad next year that I probably, with the Cup, would have bought myself a little bit of leeway, but it won't last forever unless I turn my game around.”
Thomas, who had off-season hip surgery last summer that jeopardized his effectiveness in net, was the best goaltender of this 2010-11 season from wire-to-wire.
The season started with a shutout of Phoenix in Czech Republic, which was followed by a near-perfect October (6-0, 0.50 GAA). As the season went on, when people expected him to fall back to earth and relinquish the starting job to Tuukka Rask, it never happened.
When you combine Thomas’ regular season and playoff statistics, it’s pretty remarkable. In 82 games total, he came away with 51 wins, a 1.99 goals-against average, .939 save percentage and 13 shutouts. Not bad for a 37-year-old goalie that most thought was washed up and over the hill a year ago.
The Flint, Michigan, native’s road to the NHL is well-documented and would turn into a pretty good novel one day. This latest chapter was something to behold.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.