Tim Thomas has frustrated opponents all season long and any team going up against him obviously knows what they are getting into. Hockey’s Rodney Dangerfield has waited his entire career to get to the Stanley Cup, not just for the glory of winning sport’s greatest trophy but also perhaps as a final measure of validation to a stellar but underrated career.
On the way to the Finals Thomas had his occasional struggles but no one could deny the Bruins likely would not be where they are without their fiery goaltender. Through the first two games of the Finals Thomas played great, barring that critical overtime mistake in Game Two, but the Bruins kept shooting themselves in the foot and found themselves in a hole. When everyone began to count them out, much like everyone always counted out Thomas, Boston’s unconventional but highly effective goalie took matters into his own hands again.
In Game Three Thomas was magnificent while he team thoroughly and completed dominated in the Canucks en route to an 8-1 victory. Game Four was still a must win and with the Canucks hungry for revenge Thomas knew he was once again going to have to stand stall.
Leading up to the game Vancouver did their best to play mind games and rattle Tim Thomas. Thomas was frustrating the Canucks, letting up less goals in the series thus far than Roberto Luongo let up in Game Three alone. Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault went to the media and said he was complaining to the NHL about Thomas’ aggressive, “roaming” style. Rather than try to beat Thomas on the ice, the Canucks were apparently trying to get under his skin off the ice.
When the game started the Canucks ran Thomas multiple times, slashed at his wrists as they skated by and tried to trash talk Thomas to throw him off his game. Vancouver’s strategy seemed to be to try to get under Thomas’ skin so much that he would lose focus and concentrate more on throwing more thunderous body checks or get so angry that he would let in a couple soft goals. Apparently the Canucks still have not done their scouting report on Tim Thomas.
“I think he enjoys it. He loves to battle and loves a confrontation and loves the physical players as you saw the last couple games. So I don’t think it bothers him for the most part I guess,” Dennis Seidenberg said.
Thomas is a goalie that feeds off emotion. When players are engaging him and trying to throw him off his game that simply makes him focus more. He loves the interaction and he loves the gamesmanship, making big save after big save just to prove their tactics are not getting to him. Thomas has been so busy proving opponents wrong his entire career and he thrives on that.
“I mean you always want to try to rattle a goalie. It’s, if a goalie feels comfortable, he makes every save. So I mean it’s the same that we have. I’m sure it’s not any different from with their team, but again Timmy loves that,” Seidenberg said.
After every cheap shot, after every bump Thomas just smiled and showed the Canucks the puck that was safely in his glove. Their strategy was failing and Vancouver continued to get more and more upset. That is when Alex Burrows made the biggest mistake any person could make against Tim Thomas; he made Thomas mad.
As much as Thomas loves the interaction with opposing players, he is still a fiery personality with a big temper. As time ticked down on the clock and Thomas knew the game was safely in hand, he decided to let the Canucks know that he simply was not going to take their cheap shots lying down.
Burrows skated into the crease with Vancouver trying desperately to get anything by Thomas and Burrows slashed Thomas on the wrist yet again and turned his back to Thomas. Boston’s savior lifted his stick and swung at Burrows’ ankle, striking him as Burrows grimaced in pain. Burrows turned around to go after Thomas and was quickly sent to the ground as Boston defenders swarmed the Vancouver forward.
“…Timmy doesn’t like taking any kind of, you know, cheap shots or hits or anything like that. He’ll give it right back, especially when, you know, there’s only a minute and a half in the game and we’re up by four goals and he likes to give it back,” said Brad Marchand. “So it’s nice to see by Timmy, he’s a tough guy for the team and we don’t want to see guys taking shots at him.”
The worst thing anyone can do is to give Tim Thomas even more motivation to beat them. Thomas was already in a zone, allowing just five goals through four games this series, and heading into Friday’s showdown in Vancouver Thomas will almost certainly be even more focused and ready to demoralized the Canucks.
Thomas is riding high, shutting out the Canucks in Game Four and relishing in that fact that Vancouver is so distraught by their inability to beat him. Boston has all the momentum on their side and if Thomas keeps up this stellar play, there is no reason to think Boston will not capture the Stanley Cup.