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Wednesday Night in Boston: All Tim, All the Time

Thursday, June 9, 2011, 17:16 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

I awoke this morning with just the slightest hint of a silver taste on the tip of my tongue. Not to get ahead of myself, but I feel downright optimistic now that the Stanley Cup Final is tied up. If the Bruins can win tomorrow night, which is a strong possibility given how they’ve come around after two losses to open the series against the Vancouver Canucks, they have a strong shot at winning the whole thing in Boston next week.

Tim Thomas in the 2011 playoffsMany players have brought us to this point, but front and center among them has to be goalie Tim Thomas, who notched his third shutout of these playoffs last night. Even in the two losses to Vancouver, Thomas gave up only one more goal in each game than his Canucks counterpart. Compare this to the ass-whooping Roberto Luongo took from the Bruins offense in the next two games. If this were a total-goals series, Boston would now be up 14-4.

NHL.com has an interesting story today headlined, “Canucks insist Thomas is not in their heads.” Among the ridiculous quotes contained therein from Vancouver personnel are these gems:

“I think we’re giving him too much respect to tell you the truth,” [defenseman Kevin] Bieksa said. “I don’t know why, but we just have to start testing him more because he’s leaky and pucks go through him. You’ve seen it all playoffs long. It’s too easy for him now.”

Oh, come on. You’ve thrown everything at him but the kitchen sink: 41 shots in game three, 38 in game four. If you can’t score more than once in 79 shots, the problem isn’t that you’re going easy on him. The problem that he is making it hard on you. As far as respect, ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan hints that perhaps the Canucks aren’t respecting Thomas enough. Denying something doesn’t make it go away.

“There are a few games left… We have to find a way to solve him. He’s not in our heads, but we have to find a way to solve him.” [Winger Daniel Sedin]

Interesting word choice. Talk of “solving” Thomas would suggest they’re thinking an awful lot about how to get to him, which is a good indication that he’s the one getting to them. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that it doesn’t match the rhetoric.

“His numbers are great, but he has also in the past, for whatever reason, given up quite a few goals on certain occasions,” [head coach Alain] Vigneault said. “He hasn’t done that yet. We’re maybe responsible for that. We haven’t done a good job of getting to the net, getting the screens. We’re going to talk about that and see if we can fix it.”

Good luck with that, Alain. Maybe if you worried more about your own goalie than about Claude Julien’s, you wouldn’t be returning home red-faced after back-to-back thumpings.

Despite such telling remarks, I am willing to take them at their word that Thomas isn’t “in their heads.” But if Thomas isn’t, Luongo sure is. The guy who was supposed to be rock-solid in net barely topped Thomas in games one and two, and then collapsed entirely in three and four. He allowed in last night’s game as many goals as his teammates scored in the first three games combined—and that was the better of his two embarrassing outings at the Garden. At least Tim Thomas could walk away from his losses with his head held high.

Tim Wakefield faces the YankeesMeanwhile, in that cesspool known as the Bronx, Tim Wakefield was notching his 196th career win (182nd as a Red Sox) and beating up on the New York Yankees yet again. Wake has a losing record lifetime against the MFY (12-17), but last night he was able to take advantage of the fact that they can’t get out of their own way this season when they’re facing the Sox. How hapless are the Yanks? Jon Lester, who has struggled lately, sucked wind on Tuesday night and still managed to beat them. That’s taking nothing away from Wakefield, though. Timmy has bailed out Terry Francona by stepping into the starting rotation after the injuries to John Lackey (now back from the DL) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (headed for tendon replacement surgery). His appearances in that time have been, if not always quality starts, at least good enough to give the team a fighting chance. Pretty good for a guy who, at 44, is the oldest active player in the major leagues. And to think that the Red Sox picked up him up off the Pittsburgh Pirates’ scrap heap way back in 1995.

Speaking of elder sportsmen, the Bruins have one of those as well in 43-year-old winger Mark Recchi, the NHL’s oldest player of the 2010-2011 season, who has racked up five goals and five assists in this year’s postseason, with at least another two games’ worth of opportunities left to add more. Never mind the adage about old age and treachery overcoming youth and skill; Recchi has plenty of skill to go with the age and treachery.

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