NHL Playoffs 2011: Why Tim Thomas Is the Key for the Boston Bruins

Brian DeCandiaContributor IIMay 13, 2011

BOSTON, MA - MAY 06:  Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins defends the net against Mike Richards #18 of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 6, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeated the Flyers 5-1 to sweep the series four games to none.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Boston Bruins have shown that they can adapt to any style of play this playoff run. The Montreal Canadiens' quick-paced play was the alter ego to the Bruins' rough-and-tough style. Catching the Bruins off guard, Montreal took a quick 2-0 lead. As the story goes, Tim Thomas caught fire, and the B's took the series in seven. 

After the complete domination of the Philadelphia Flyers, sending them packing in four, the Bruins are determined to do the same against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston was 3-1 against the Lightning during the regular season, 3-0 with Thomas in net. But as Boston fans know, regular season records don't mean anything in the playoffs. 

Unlike the NBA, the NHL requires one key factor to win a championship—a hot netminder. Tim Thomas is just that. Coming into this series, he is playing arguably the best goaltending in the NHL. Unfortunately for the Bruins, the other goalie playing his best is Tampa Bay's, Dwayne Roloson.

The only difference between these two goalies is Roloson has recently become hot, and Thomas has been producing the whole season. Thomas led the league with a 2.00 goals-against average. He set a record with a .938 save percentage, leap frogging the previous mark of .937 set by Dominik Hasek with the Buffalo Sabres. Thomas also posted nine shutouts this season. 

Thomas has posted nearly identical statistics in the playoffs. He has a 2.03 goals-against average and a  .937 save percentage this postseason, making life tough for Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The Bruins will no doubt have a tough matchup against the Lightning, but with the 37-year-old Thomas between the pipes, the Bruins have the slight edge. 

Prediction: Bruins in seven.