|Bruins goalie Tim Thomas dropped the gloves with Canadiens netminder Carey Price in a game at TD Garden in February. (Getty)|
WILMINGTON -- Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is certainly amped up that the playoffs are finally here, but for now, the veteran netminder plans on tackling each day as it comes.
"Of course it's exciting heading into the playoffs, but it's one day at a time," Thomas said. "You don't want to be like the kid on the night before Christmas, getting too anxious. Come Thursday at 7 o'clock, that's the time to be ready."
The Black and Gold will commence the 2011 playoffs at that very hour when they welcome the Montreal Canadiens to TD Garden, adding yet another chapter to their historic rivalry.
It will mark the third time in four postseasons that the two Original Six squads have clashed. Thankfully for the Bruins, the first two tilts will be here in Boston.
"Well we should use that to our advantage because we're at home and in more comfortable turf," Thomas said of his team's home-ice advantage in the series. "If the roles were reversed, I'd still like to think that we could come out on top and be able to deal with having the first two games up in Montreal. But, we don't have to deal with that."
They will eventually, however, as -- at the very least -- Games 3 and 4 will take place at the Bell Centre. Despite all of the pandemonium, the deafening crowd and the undeniable intimidation factor it presents, Thomas believes that past experience should behoove the Bruins when the series shifts 300 miles north.
"Well playing in Montreal, we have quite a few players that have played in playoffs series up there," said Thomas. "I think that'll help so we can have our focus in the right place as far as getting the job done on the ice, rather than getting caught up. It's a very energetic atmosphere. It's very loud and the Bell Centre is kind of a unique arena. But, I think that experience will help us."
As for the fierce nature of the rivalry, Thomas doesn't expect all of the hatred to fully dissipate but, as far as he's concerned, the mission would have remained the same no matter who Boston's opponent was in the first round.
"It doesn't matter who you're playing at this time of the year," he said. "Whether it's the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Tampa Bay Lightning or the Montreal Canadiens, that's the team you have to beat to move on and get to your ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
"You're not going to win the Stanley Cup by fluke or because you got a lucky draw. You're going to have to earn it, and it just so happens that the team we're going to have to earn it against in this first-round series is Montreal."
Nearly every athlete talks about raising his game up come playoff time, finding that extra gear and going above and beyond what he's ever been capable of before.
Don't count Thomas among them.
Following a sensational season, one in which he's all but guaranteed to be rewarded with the Vezina Trophy for, wasting any time figuring out how he could possibly improve would simply lead to him over-thinking situations, something that could prove to be a distraction.
"I don't think I should," he said. "I think I should try to play the way I've played for majority of the year. Hopefully I don't have to raise my level. I've just got to keep playing the way that I have."
Should he be able to keep playing the way he has over the past six months, this upcoming series against the Canadiens might be a distant memory by the time the Bruins are finished playing postseason hockey.