It's hard to find a more respected goaltender than the Boston Bruins' 37-year-old veteran Tim Thomas.
Believe it or not, going into the 2005-06 season at age 31, Thomas had four career NHL appearances. Even in that season, he was just 12-13-10 and was not able to really stand out in a disfunctional four-goalie rotation for the Bruins.
But since then, the former ninth-round draft pick's achievements have been astounding.
He has taken Boston to four straight playoff appearances, its longest streak since 1993-96. He won a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He went 36-11-7 at age 35, struggled at age 36, and then recovered for another fantastic performance, going 35-11-9, at age 37.
In the most recent of those three seasons, he broke the league record for highest save percentage in a single season—93.8 percent. And, now, Thomas has given the Bruins their first Eastern Conference title and Stanley Cup Finals appearance in over 20 years.
Despite all of those accomplishments, however, it may be the very style that has earned them all of that that will cost Thomas from winning what would be his most treasured accomplishment: the Stanley Cup.
Even with a 94.0 save percentage in the first two games of this year's Cup Finals, one goal surrendered in Game 1 and three goals surrendered in Game 2 by Thomas have been enough to sink Boston twice and dig it a 2-0 hole in the series.
Of the four total goals, one was with 18 seconds remaining in regulation. Another was 11 seconds into overtime. So why is Thomas being beaten at these crucial moments?
To us, the answer is simple; he's just playing too aggressively, too far out of his net, too close to the mass of skating players to be a reliable goalie when the pressure is really on. Indeed, aggressive goaltending is Tim Thomas; he has re-defined and re-popularized the style. Yet, nevertheless, we think he's gone too far with the strategy, as it has become simply too easy to get the puck around him at the most important moments.
Let's go back through the few goals he's given up in Games 1 and 2 and see exactly how Thomas got caught out of the crease, how Vancouver avoided him, and what Thomas can change for the rest of the series to avoid even more untimely series-changing goals.