Tim Thomas, "The Tank Engine," Fuels Boston Bruins' Playoff Hopes

Mark St JeanContributor IApril 15, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - MARCH 29: Goalkeeper Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wachovia Center on March 29, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

As a long suffering Boston Bruins fan, I can certainly appreciate good goaltending when I see it, and the Bruins haven't had any in a long, long time.

The last real good, clutch goaltender the B's have had in my opinion, was Reggie Lemelin.

Some people might say, "What about Moog or Dafoe?"

But in the previous sentence I excluded both those players when I said good and clutch.

Andy Moog was a very good goaltender except when called upon to make a game-saving stop. His best years were in Edmonton behind Grant Fuhr—and Fuhr was the guy they called upon in big games.

Dafoe just wasn't in that many big games, and for the most part the team was on a steady decline when he was around.

Enter Tim Thomas. An afterthought by the Bruins (he was Andrew Raycroft's backup in 2004-2005 season) and every other team in the NHL, this man has become the backbone of one of this years best teams, and arguably the league's best goaltender and an MVP candidate. He places in the top three in every statistical category for goaltenders that count, except shutouts.

He has played in every big game this team has played in for the past three seasons, and on most nights has gotten the win. He has become not only a fan favorite but a guy everyone can relate to and appreciate because of his struggle to get any kind of respect or acclaim from most every so-called expert who continually pass him over for such big names as Brodeur, Ward, Miller, etc.

Laughably, his name wasn't even on the All-Star ballot, even though he was chosen as an All-Star last year, and was leading the Bruins to the best record in the East in the first half of this season.

Night after night he brings his unique (some say lack of) style to the Bruins net. He probably most closely replicates Dom Hasek's style of goaltending, a hybrid of butterfly and stand up, and is extremely effective at taking away angles and stopping unseen pucks by being positionally sound.

He is also very good at killing big rebounds and getting in position for second and third stops on rebounds that do occur. He is a physical goalie, not afraid to mix it up in the crease with pests who try to screen shots by interfering, aka Sean Avery and his ilk.

And his competitive nature has brought him more than a few penalties by taking matters into his own hands when his defense has trouble clearing the front of the net.

Bottom line: The Bruins would be nowhere near the top of the NHL's list of playoff contenders without Tim Thomas.