Claude Julien, Bruins Must Stick With Tim Thomas, Who’s on Best Stretch of Career

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Claude Julien, Bruins Must Stick With Tim Thomas, Who's on Best Stretch of Career Tim Thomas proved on Thursday night that he makes a pretty lousy defenseman.

Aside from that, you'd be hard-pressed to find any flaws in his game through his first four games of the year.

The 36-year-old netminder has exceeded expectations of fans, coaches and critics, most recently with a 38-save performance against Washington — last year's most potent offense. Five months removed from hip surgery, Thomas has looked like an entirely new man.

"You know," he said after his fourth victory of the young season, "it's fun when you can move."

It's been just as fun to watch.

Thomas was nearly flawless on Thursday night, only giving up a goal when he tried to get fancy with a breakout pass that was intercepted by Jason Chimera and easily deposited into the temporarily vacated net. He moved effortlessly from side to side and was in great position throughout the night, and he essentially stood on his head in the opening minutes of the game. Thomas withstood a barrage of shots in the first period, stopping 13 shots (including two on Washington power plays) and keeping the game scoreless. Michael Ryder scored with less than 30 seconds left in the period, and the Bruins would never trail.

The game could have easily been 2-0 in favor of Washington early on, but thanks to Thomas, it wasn't.

Part of that was due to stymying Alex Ovechkin, who entered Tuesday night with eight points in five games. Thomas held Ovechkin scoreless for two straight games — something that happened just once last year (excluding games that were technically consecutive but were actually broken up by the Olympic break). That's also despite 13 shots from the winger, who averaged 106 points per season.

By the end of the night on Thursday, the Bruins improved to 4-1-0, with Thomas a perfect 4-0-0 with a 0.75 goals-against average and .978 save percentage. And by the end of the night, head coach Claude Julien's job was made that much easier.

Quite simply, he has to stick with Tim Thomas as his starting goaltender.

Obviously, that comes with its downsides. It's never good to sit a goalie — in this case, Tuukka Rask — for two weeks (or longer), and it's especially difficult when that goalie is 23 years old and is coming off a season in which he led the league in GAA and save percentage.

But Tuukka will get his chances. It's a long season, and while sitting on the end of the bench isn't ideal, it likely won't be all that long before Rask is riding his own hot streak. Right now, though, Tim Thomas is putting together something special, and the Bruins have no choice but to go along for the ride.

Thomas' four-game stretch is the best such run of his career. That includes the 2008-09 Vezina season, when he finished the year with a 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage. Here's a look, in chronological order, at some of the only four-game stretches that come close:

Oct. 10-21, 2010 (current)
4-0-0, 133 saves on 136 shots (.978), 0.75 GAA, 1 SO

Nov. 3-5, 2009
1-1-2, 99 saves on 102 shots (.971), 0.72 GAA, 2 SO

Dec. 27, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010
113 saves on 118 shots (.958), 1.25 GAA

Feb. 17-26, 2009
117 saves on 121 shots (.967), 1.00 GAA, 1 SO

Jan. 10-17, 2009
131 saves on 136 shots (.963), 1.26 GAA

Oct. 10-25, 2007
115 saves on 120 shots (.958), 1.26 GAA

Jan. 30-Feb.5, 2006
127 saves on 132 shots (.862), 1.23 GAA, 1 SO

Thomas, for his part, isn't looking at the big picture — not yet at least.

"I don't expect anything," he said Thursday night. "I take it on a day-to-day basis and you know, just take it from there. I'm hoping that this isn't just a hot streak, but that this is me now."

Maybe he really isn't expecting very much, but at the very least, he should be expecting another start on Saturday against the Rangers … just as long as he promises to tone down the dangerous passes.

"I got hungry for an assist and I just got greedy," he said of the rare miscue. "I should've played and just kept it simple."

While Thomas knows he must keep it simple, so too does Julien. That doesn't mean the coach is showing his cards.

"So you're trying to find out who I‘m putting in next game, are you?" the coach asked the media on Thursday night, before adding a cryptic, "We'll see."

Barring something crazy, we'll see Thomas.

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