Following the game-day skate prior to Thursday's win over Toronto, Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson praised Tim Thomas for being an "excellent" teammate at the Olympics as a backup to tournament MVP Ryan Miller.
Wilson, who coached Team USA, even pushed for Thomas to get a start soon, since he hadn't started an NHL game since Feb. 2.
"I hope to see him play in a game against us, because I don't want to go a whole year just having seen him play for 10 minutes of one game all season long," Wilson said.
In the future, Wilson may want to be more careful for what he wishes for. It was announced later on Thursday that Tuukka Rask, who had started the last seven games for the Bruins, had sustained a lower-body injury, so Thomas got the nod against Toronto.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner — who has struggled this season and found himself the subject of many trade rumors heading into Wednesday’s deadline — found his game and came up big on Thursday, making 24 saves and stopping all three Toronto shooters in a 3-2 shootout win. It was the Bruins’ first home win since the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, and it was their first win at the TD Garden since Dec. 30.
For Thomas, it was his first victory since Jan. 14, when he made 41 saves in a 2-1 shootout win at San Jose.
“I’m not going to lie, it feels really good right now,” Thomas said. “[It was] he first win I’ve had in a long time, the first win we’ve had at home in a long time and the first win we’ve had at home in a shootout in a long time. So for a number of different reasons, I feel pretty good right now.”
Thomas acknowledged that he has been down on himself through this rough patch because he felt as though he was letting his teammates down.
“I wanted to show the team they can have some confidence in me again,” Thomas said.
But when told of Thomas’ guilt and his worries that his teammates had stopped believing in him, Bruins head coach Claude Julien said Thomas was simply being too hard on himself. Julien gave Thomas a pep talk recently and let him know the team hadn't stopped believing in him.
"I told him, 'You're a Vezina Trophy winner. You don't go from being a great goaltender to a bad goaltender,'" Julien said. "We told him the whole organization is behind him, and it was nice to see him respond.'"
Thomas also admitted that the negativity from the fans and media, along with the recent trade rumors, did get to him. He wanted to prove the doubters wrong.
“There’s a lot of people who wanted me traded and were down on me,” he said. "I hope I win 20 games in a row and shove it up their you-know-what."
Thomas was then asked whether there was any truth to rumors that team management recently asked him to waive his no-trade clause.
“I don’t like to comment on those things, but I’ll just say I wasn’t too stressed as we got close to the deadline,” he said. “I was pretty sure nothing was going to happen. The media blew it way out of proportion and I was confident that nothing was going to happen.”
After Thursday's performance, maybe the doubters can regain some confidence as well.