NHL History: Tim Thomas and the Top 10 All-or-Nothing Goaltenders

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NHL History: Tim Thomas and the Top 10 All-or-Nothing Goaltenders
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Tim Thomas has shown throughout his career, as well as throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, that he can make the stand on your head big stop that saves the game for his team. Many of these puck-stopping highlights have even saved his team’s season.

The “all or nothing” style of play of Thomas can be so much fun to watch, or like we saw just 11 seconds into overtime during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, it can cause ulcers and cost his team a game.

Now there was a lot of blame to be placed on the Alex Burrows OT winner. First, there was the turnover by Andrew Ference immediately after the faceoff win in the neutral zone.

Then, Bruins All-Star defenseman and team Captain, Zdeno Chara simply failed to make a play to stop Burrows. As a defenseman, you are taught to take a penalty before allowing an obvious goal. Especially a game winner in the Stanley Cup finals.

However, it was the initial unnecessary lunge by Thomas towards Burrows, which forced the Chara mishap. Nonetheless, Chara should have had his goalies back and the fact that Burrows skated around the net gave him time to make the play or commit the penalty.

Thomas, who turned 37 year old between losses against the Montreal Canadiens in Games 1 and 2 during this year's opening round playoff series, has had a career that encompasses how Game 2 was played and finished.

Thomas has been up, and Thomas has been down. This, along with his age (37 at present) is perhaps the reason his style is what it is

Analysts are at a loss to describe his actual playing style between the pipes. He plays on his feet, on his back, on his side and even on his head.

On several occasions throughout his career in Boston, most notably during the 2009-10 season, Thomas has struggled but has found a way to rebound to become good and great again.

More than once Thomas has been relegated to back up a Bruins goalie that was expected to remain the starter. There was Andrew Raycroft,  Hannu Toivonen and Manny Fernandez.

As recently as the start of this season, Thomas was slated to back up 23-year-old B’s netminder Tuuka Rask. He played in two less games last season than Rask, and with Thomas having major surgery on his left hip during last offseason, it was just a foregone conclusion that he was going to be the backup.

A quote from the Boston Herald during All-Star festivities in January sums it up.

Herald Reporter Stephen Harris wrote, “Let’s be real here. As this season approached, did anyone actually believe that Thomas, who wasn’t 100 percent recovered from what was especially major surgery for a goalie, could take the B’s No. 1 job back from Tuuka Rask?”

Not only did the former Vermont Catamount, who still hold school records for goalies in games played (140), wins (81), and saves (3,950), become the Bruins starter again, but he is expected to win his second Vezina trophy in two weeks as the NHL’s best goalie this season. 

Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie during the 2008-09 season, was 35-11-9 this past season with a save percentage of .938, which broke the 12-year-old record of .937 held by the Dominator, Dominik Hasek.

Aside from being a lock to win his second Vezina at the NHL postseason awards in two weeks, Thomas will also receive his second William Jennings Memorial trophy for having the top goals against average in the NHL this past season.

Thomas allowed just two goals per game this year and won his first Jennings trophy during the same year he collected his first Vezina.

When you consider his age, Thomas has more than made the most of his brief NHL career.

This may also help explain his overly aggressive style of play that was brought into question following the Bruins Game 2 loss to Vancouver.

Thomas plays like every game could be his last.

Goalies must be patient at times and know where their help is coming from. While Thomas has proven he can be patient off the ice, waiting his turn in Bean Town proves that he is not always patient on the ice.

It is not uncommon during a Bruins game to look up and see Boston’s net empty while Thomas scrambles to get back to his crease. In the process, he could make a highlight reel save, or he could get beat like a rented mule.

This all or nothing style wins big games and unfortunately, as we saw in Game 2, can sometimes lose bigger ones.

The following list is composed of goalies that gave their all most of the time, but sometimes produced nothing. Some of these goalies are still searching for their all, and some of these goalies gave nothing before producing their best.

Some of these goalies played behind teams that simply couldn't reward them for their efforts.

Here is a list of 10 of the most all-or-nothing goalies in the history on the NHL.

I tried to include goalies that most of us have seen play. As always please comment and include any goalie you feel I may have left off the list. Thanks for reading.

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