Tim Thomas Always Plays Well North of the Border, Looking to Extend Shutout Streak Against Vancouver

Tim Thomas Always Plays Well North of the Border, Looking to Extend Shutout Streak Against VancouverTim Thomas is about as proud an American as you'll find, but the 2010 U.S. Olympian seems to save his best performances for the good people of Western Canada.

The Bruins goalie has been pretty darn good against just about every opponent, especially this year. He leads the NHL with a 1.99 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage and seven shutouts to go along with a 27-8-6 record.

But against the three NHL franchises located in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, Thomas' numbers are even more astounding. In eight games against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, Thomas is 7-1-0 with a 0.99 GAA, .969 save percentage and five shutouts.

He came within 2:33 of making it six shutouts in eight games on Tuesday when Flames forward Curtis Glencross scored a power-play goal, forcing Thomas had to settle for a 3-1 win in Calgary. In fact, of the seven goals Thomas has allowed in the eight games against the Flames, Oilers and Canucks, four have come on the power play.

While the results are hard to argue, Thomas insists he doesn't make any special adjustments or have any extra motivation to these Western Canadian clashes.

"I just approach them the same as I do any other road game," Thomas said before the Bruins departed on their Western swing. "Whether it was Calgary, New York or Montreal, I approach them the same way. If I seem to have extra success [out West] I don't think it's because of my approach, it's just because that's the way it's worked out."

But things have worked out well for Thomas out West. He made his NHL debut for the Bruins in Edmonton on Oct. 19, 2002, stopping 31 shots in a 4-3 win against the organization he had once been a part of when he played for Edmonton's AHL affiliate in Hamilton in 1998-99.

In 2006-07, Thomas blanked Vancouver 2-0 with a 39-save outing on Dec. 21 and shut out the Oilers 3-0 with 32 saves on Feb. 13. In 2008, Thomas enjoyed quite a run through the West in late October, blanking Edmonton and Vancouver by identical 1-0 scores on back-to-back nights. Thomas made 27 saves as the Bruins beat the Oilers in overtime on Dennis Wideman's goal 3:18 into the extra session on Oct. 27 and another 31 saves as Michael Ryder's first-period goal stood up as the only score the following night in Vancouver.

Calgary handed Thomas his only blemish, as the Bruins fell 3-2 on Oct. 30, 2008 despite his 35 saves. However, the Bruins netminder avenged that with a 31-save shutout of the Flames in the Garden on March 27, 2010 and again with Tuesday's win.

The Canucks are yet to put a single blemish on Thomas' record, as he's stopped all 70 shots he's faced in a pair of wins over Vancouver, but a third shutout on Saturday won't be easy. The Canucks lead the league with 207 goals, averaging 3.31 a game. They also boast the NHL's most potent power play, converting at a 25.1-percent clip.

So, consider this a matchup of the unstoppable force against the immovable object.
Interestingly, for all his success out West, Thomas wouldn't object to literally being an immovable object, as the long flights to the western provinces aren't his favorite part of the schedule. 

"To be honest I don't look forward to that extra travel," Thomas said. "I just don't like the plane time and sitting on the runways waiting to take off. The airports are always a half an hour away from the rinks, at least."

Considering the numbers Thomas puts up against the Canucks, Oilers and Flames, a few extra hours of travel seems like a small price to pay. 

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