Tim Thomas continued his historic start to the season with another spectacular outing, this time blanking the Senators as the Bruins opened a three-game road trip with a 4-0 win in Ottawa on Saturday night.
The Senators outshot Boston 29-24, but these days it doesn't much matter how many shots an opponent puts on the Bruin goal as long as Thomas is in net. He turned aside all 29 of those bids to improve to 6-0-0 on the season, matching Tiny Thompson's franchise record for most consecutive wins to start a season.
But not even Thompson was putting up zeros like this back in 1937-38. In Thomas' six starts so far this year, he's allowed a total of three goals. He's posted three shutouts and allowed a single goal in each of the other three games. And one of those goals he allowed came as a result of his own giveaway, as Washington's Jason Chimera flipped the puck into an empty net after intercepting Thomas' pass attempt.
Thomas has now stopped 182 of the 185 shots he's faced this season, good for an astounding .984 save percentage and a microscopic 0.50 goals-against average.
"It's nice to get off to a start like this, that's for sure," said Thomas modestly after the game.
"The team played really good in front of me," added Thomas. "My D did an incredible job. [Dennis] Seidenberg the last couple of games has played awesome, blocking shots left and right. And it's not just him, everybody's played awesome. That's making my job easier."
Thomas did get plenty of help. The defense stopped nearly as many shots as Thomas, as the Bruins had 27 blocked shots as a team. Most of those came from the blueliners, as all six defensemen had at least one and the unit combined for 19. Seidenberg led the way with a game-high six for the second straight game, while Adam McQuaid chipped in five in just his second game of the season.
Seidenberg's blocks were part of a strong overall effort, as he added an assist in 21:58 of ice-time, and even dropped the gloves with Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil in an unexpected bout in the closing minutes.
But Thomas was once again the biggest story of the night, coming up with key stops whenever needed. That was especially true early when it was still a close game, and Thomas repeatedly thwarted Ottawa sniper Alex Kovalev.
Amazingly, Thomas didn't feel at his best in this effort, but credited his improved technique for getting him through the game.
"It helped a lot tonight," said Thomas. "To be quite honest with you, my legs weren't as fresh as they've been in some of the other games. That's where technique really helps you out on nights like this where maybe you're not moving as well as other nights, even though I'm still moving pretty good, just not as well as the other nights. So being in position is very helpful."
Any lack of quickness would come as a surprise to the Senators, who were once again stymied by Thomas. The Bruins netminder now has five of his 20 career shutouts against the Senators. Thomas doesn't just pick on Ottawa though. He seems to relish playing against every Canadian team, as 12 of his career shutouts are against teams from north of the border.
Then again, this year he's not allowing many goals anywhere, as he now has posted shutouts in three separate countries — blanking Phoenix in Prague, Toronto in Boston and the Senators in Ottawa.
"We're doing a good job keeping teams on the outside, and when there's a big shot to be taken, there's a big save there by Timmy," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "He's doing an outstanding job for us."
Thomas got all the support he needed with a pair of goals from Boston's red-hot top line and two more strikes from a pair of teenaged rookies.
David Krejci started the scoring when he capitalized on an Ottawa turnover in front of net, and he later sprang linemate Milan Lucic in on a breakaway for Boston's third goal.
In between, 18-year-old Tyler Seguin scored in his second straight game with a power-play strike as he used his speed to get behind the defense and tapped in a centering feed from Mark Recchi. Jordan Caron, who won't turn 20 until Tuesday, closed out the scoring with a breakaway of his own, taking a long outlet pass from Patrice Bergeron and finishing the chance with a nifty forehand move at the left post.
"[Seguin] went to the net, which is a great thing," said Recchi. "We had a great setup. I beat the guy wide and I just waited for him to get by their defenseman and it worked out great. That's good when he's driving the net like that. It's a big thing. And Jordan made a great move too. It was a great pass by Bergie, but he had to make a heck of a move to score there."
Those two goals by the rookies came after Julien shuffled the lines, putting Reechi back with Bergeron and Caron, while Blake Wheeler joined Seguin and Michael Ryder. Seguin and Recchi still saw time together on the power play, but the new even-strength combinations clicked well.
The Bruins end October with an impressive 6-2-0 mark, but after a light month of games due to their European excursion at the start of the season, the schedule really picks up with 14 games on tap in November. That slate begins in Buffalo on Wednesday in a rematch from last year's playoffs, and the Bruins are determined to continue their current roll going as their schedule gets busier.
"We have to keep pushing," said Recchi. "We're trying to grow an identity here as a hockey team that's very hard to play against. We're 4-0 on the road. We're basically 2-1 at home [not counting the loss to Phoenix in Prague when the Bruins were designated the 'home' team]. We're trying to build something special here. It's a long haul. We know that, but games like this are a good sign and we have to keep it up."