VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Tim Thomas grabbed the Conn Smythe Trophy and went for another wander around the ice. A few moments later, he did it again with the Stanley Cup.
The Boston Bruins goalie has been maligned for his meandering style in the crease, and he was demoted last year while struggling with a hip injury, but he’s on top of hockey now.
Thomas was named the most valuable player of the NHL postseason on Wednesday night after carrying the Boston Bruins on a spectacular run to his first Stanley Cup title.
“It’s quite an honor. I mean, the Stanley Cup is the biggest one, that’s the one you’re shooting for. But Conn Smythe is completely an honor,” the 37-year-old goalie said after shutting out the Vancouver Canucks 4-0 to win Game 7 of the NHL finals, helping the Bruins earn their first title since 1972.
Thomas held the Canucks to eight goals in seven games, posting his second shutout of the series and his fourth of the playoffs in the finale. Thomas, who set a new record for total saves in the postseason, also shut out the Canucks in Game 4 while winning all three finals games in Boston.
He stopped an incredible 238 of the Canucks’ 246 shots in the finals for a .967 save percentage. That’s even better than his .940 mark and 1.98 goals-against average for the entire postseason.
“I’ve had some good ones, Marty Brodeur and others, but Tim Thomas, in these playoffs, just totally dominated,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “That’s the sign of a great goaltender. He was in the zone, he was focused, never let anything rattle him. …What’s happened to him now, so deserving.”
Tim Thomas On The Ice After Game 7
Thomas began to appreciate the place he’s earned in history when he finally got a good look at his maple leaf-festooned trophy.
“I just sat down here and started to read some of the names on it, and it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same maple leaf,” Thomas said. “Patrick (Roy), Ron Hextall, Ken Dryden, those are the three goalies that I can see on this side facing me. It’s amazing.”
Thomas is expected to win his second Vezina Trophy next week after setting a modern record with a .938 save percentage in the regular season, eclipsing Dominik Hasek’s mark.
On Wednesday, he became just the second American player to win the Conn Smythe. New York defenseman Brian Leetch was the first to win it, doing so in 1994, after the Rangers defeated the Canucks, interestingly enough, in a Game 7.
“It still hasn’t kicked in, if I’m completely honest,” Thomas said. “I can’t believe it’s over. We’ve had our battle meter up so high for so long; it feels like we’re moving onto the next series or something.”
There were few doubts regarding Thomas’ Conn Smythe credentials — win or lose in Game 7 — especially after playing every minute of the postseason for Boston. In fact, he won three Game 7s — an NHL first.
Thomas has an unconventional style, often skating far out from the crease to cut down angles and hustling back to make the save. As well as he stopped the puck in the series, he is perhaps even more beloved in Boston for getting physical with the Canucks when he felt they were invading his crease. When he wasn’t punching Alex Burrows in the head or cross checking Henrik Sedin to the ice, he easily won his showdown with Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, who indirectly criticized Thomas’ unorthodox style after Game 5 before complaining that Thomas never said anything nice about him.
It’s tough to talk when you’re drinking from the Stanley Cup.
A native of Flint, Mich., Thomas was an All-American at the University of Vermont who was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques. He played for nine teams in five leagues in three countries on two continents — winning the MVP in Finland — before coming to the Bruins for another chance in the NHL in 2005.
“I didn’t want to think about the NHL, because it seemed like it was so far away,” Thomas said of his odyssey through the minors and Europe. “But having said that, I was happy playing where I was playing. I was playing in a very good league, and I had a lot of good friends over there. I’m very happy that I made the decision to come back. It was a tough decision at the time, but it paid off in the long run.”
Thomas won the Vezina in 2009 and made the U.S. Olympic team last year, but a hip injury cost him his Bruins starting job to Tuukka Rask, who started for Boston throughout last season’s playoffs. He was also a backup in the Olympics to Buffalo’s Ryan Miller.
But after offseason surgery, he won his NHL job back, and he isn’t likely to give it up any time soon.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)