Welcome back to Boston Tim Thomas! The highlight of the night was when your name was announced to the ‘Empire March’ and 17,565 people cheered your name. You may not wear the Black and Gold anymore (or likely ever again), but there are millions of us who will adore you for what you did for the Bruins and Boston during the 2011 Stanley Cup run. After the cheering subsided, things sort of went down hill for you. The Panthers are still a young team. Their playstyle is similar to the Pittsburgh Penguins ( just with twice the talent and only half the inclination to cripple the opposing team.)
We all know the Bruins love that dirty water, but whatever they’ve been drinking these last three games must be radioactive. The Bruins opened up with a fusillade early, and spent a healthy amount of time in the attacking zone that first period. Milan Lucic scored on one knee, and Zdeno Chara Fed Ex’d that second goal through Thomas, Lucic, and a few Panthers to get it to a 2-0 lead at the end of the first.
“I actually felt very comfortable at the beginning of the game” said Thomas postgame. “And then all of a sudden the first goal kind of gets you on your heels; a turnover there and then … kind of misplay by me on the second goal there. Knuckle puck from Zdeno [Chara] where I tried to reach around and grab it and it went off my glove. That wasn’t a good sign.”
The second was more of the same, even with the Bruins doing their traditional second period mistakes. Lucic scored again, and a few fans at the Garden that didn’t hear them award the second first period goal to Chara and began launching hats on the ice. The Bruins still came on strong to get another goal (via Reilly Smith) on Thomas, and things looked bleak for the Panthers. The Bruins did allow two goals by Florida, one late in the second, and then early in the third. While it briefly gave the Panthers hope, the Bruins went back to work and silenced those hopes.
The attacks continued. Shawn Thornton put one in on Thomas in the third. Somewhere between Thornton almost apologizing to Timmy, and the TD Garden alternately chanting ‘Thornton’ and ‘Thomas’ it just went bleak for him. An unassisted David Krejci goal (the end of a three point night for him) sealed the fate of the Panthers, and the Bruins went back to back to back with a six pack showing in net.
Tim Thomas’s numbers took a bit of a hit tonight. He’s now a 14-15-3, with a discomforting 2.75 goals against average. His save percentage is still decent at .912 as he crossed the thousand save threshold tonight.
On the other side, Tuukka Rask was solid in net. Tuukka went 28 for 30 (.933%) and his record went up to 24-12-3. The power play goal was unfortunate, but his goals against is still 2.07, and that’s still excellent.
In the last seconds the game, the Bruins were rushing the net in an attempt to get a seventh goal. Here is Tim Thomas having a little Tuukka Tantrum on Carl Soderberg. The way the Department of Player Safety has been lately, as the player hit in the neck was not Matt Cooke, there may be a fine or a possible one or two game suspension for that last second shenanigans.
In the end, while we will always love Timmy for 2011, it’s beyond clear that Tuukka Rask has become the better goaltender in the NHL.