There were many times during his time with the Bruins that Tim Thomas stood on his head and bailed the team out on an off-night by playing out of his mind. It’s one of the reasons he was one of the best goalies in the NHL at one point.
The now ex-Bruin, who probably has pretty strong feelings about bailouts of a different kind, bailed out his former team once more Thursday night to an extent. Thomas was actually very good in his first start against his former team, but it was one soft goal he allowed in the final minute that allowed the Bruins to beat the Panthers 3-2.
The Bruins certainly came out and tested the man who was as responsible as anyone for the 2011 Stanley Cup win. Boston played a pretty strong first period, dominating puck possession and putting 15 shots on goal. Two of those shots got by the goaltender. The first was a stop Thomas should have made as Daniel Paille picked the short side over the goalie’s right shoulder. The second goal, however, Thomas didn’t stand much of a chance. Dougie Hamilton‘s power-play goal was blasted from the point, and while Thomas got used to seeing Zdeno Chara in front of him during their time together in Boston, it wasn’t quite like he saw it Thursday. The Bruins captain screened Thomas to help set up the goal.
From there, though, Thomas showed signs of being the goalie he was when he still donned the Black and Gold. He went on to stop 23 of the next 24 shots he faced, but it was that one miss — on the final shot he faced — that is likely going to gnaw at Thomas a little bit. Reilly Smith picked a great time to score his first goal as a Bruin as he just flipped a backhanded shot on net from the left slot that trickled through Thomas’ pads.
“Changeup,” Thomas commented after the game. “The way his stick was angled, the puck wasn’t laying exactly flat. I though he was going high blocker with it, but it was just enough to get me to move my stick out of the way and start taking away that upper blocker. That was a tough one.”
What makes it even tougher, of course, is the fact that the Panthers were in a good position to pick up at least a point, perhaps even more. The Bruins played well in the first, no doubt, but from there, it wasn’t pretty. The Bruins have struggled to capitalize offensive chances so far this season and that continued aside from the first period Thursday. After the power-play strike in the first, the man-advantage struggled with a potentially game-clinching double-minor power play in the third.
But luckily for the Bruins, Thomas was there to bail them out again. That might be all it takes to jump-start an offense that could certainly use a shot in the arm right now.
The story, of course, was Thomas. If you take away the first and third goals he gave up, he would have been absolutely fantastic. That goes without saying probably, but he still stopped 37 of the 40 shots he faced. It was his first start since returning from a groin injury and when you add that to the fact that he was playing the Bruins for the first time, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see him struggle. He played well, though, and you have to think he’s ready to move on.
“It certainly was different playing against guys you played with for so long,” Thomas said. “I certainly tried to approach it just like any other game. Having said that, it was a big game for me coming back after a while and facing your team for the first time there’s always a lot of to-do around it. I was a little bit nervous today ut not too bad. I tried to approach it like any other game.”
Assuming the Panthers don’t win the Stanley Cup and go on the White House trip that comes with it, Thomas should be able to fly under the radar for quite some time, which is just the way he likes it. At least until Nov. 7. That’s when Thomas and the Panthers come to Boston for what should be a very interesting reunion.