November 1, 2010

Thomas named NHL's First Star of the Week

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins netminder Tim Thomas. (Getty)

Thanks to back-to-back shutouts over Northeast Division foes, the NHL has named Bruins netminder Tim Thomas as the First Star of the Week.

 Thomas stonewalled the Maple Leafs at TD Garden on Thursday night, blanking Toronto by stopping all 20 shots he faced.  In Ottawa on Saturday, the former Vezina Trophy winner continued his spectacular start to the 2010-11 campaign with 29 saves in a 4-0 victory over the Senators.

 Thomas edged out two worthy competitors for the honor. Former Bruin Joe Thornton had three goals and five assists in just two games for the Sharks, while Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith had one goal and six assists in three tilts for the Blackhawks.

 His performance throughout the month of October should make him the favorite for Player of the Month honors as well.

 "That's not up to me to decide, right?" Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

 "I mean, certainly he's made a case for himself. We're definitely happy to see him play that way every night. It gives us a chance to win and we know how important goaltending is in this league."

 As would be expected, Julien is still confident that -- with both Thomas and Tuukka Rask -- the B's boast the best goaltending tandem in the NHL.

 "Well it's early in the season," the coach said. "I can't say I've been around and watched every team. Obviously we feel great about our situation with those goaltenders.

 "I think I've been saying that since day one. I almost feel like we've had to prove it, but that's what this game is all about: showing that you do have strong goaltending. We know we've got it in both guys."

 Even at the age of 50, Julien believes Thomas' early-season accomplishments are unlike anything he's ever seen.

 "Not of this nature here," Julien said, when asked if he'd ever witnessed a start quite like this.  

 "We're talking about 0.50, and that's pretty special I think. It's just  a matter of riding it. It's as simple as that. Hopefully you see a goaltender keep doing that for you as long as he can. It's a long year and when those situations come about, you take advantage of it."

 Julien says it's no surprise to see the veteran netminder brimming with confidence, much the way he was during the 2008-09 season when he captured the Vezina Trophy.

 "Well you can see confidence," he said. "There's no doubt when you play the way you are right now, you're pretty confident. Confidence creates excitement and I think you're seeing that in Tim. He was like that a few years ago. He was a real good goaltender for us and he won the Vezina Trophy.

The B's bench boss knows Thomas is set on proving that his struggles in 2009-10 were an aberration.

"For some reason, he had a tough year last year and all the sudden it's about doubting whether he can play goal again," Julien said. 

"You can have a lot of good years, and the minute you have a bad one, people start doubting you. I think all he's doing right now is he's showing everyone that he's the real deal, and that what he's been before last year is what Tim Thomas is all about."