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Thomas tops the NHL but not the definitive No.1 in Boston

Thomas tops the NHL but not the definitive No.1 in Boston
Boston Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas is back in Vaughn pads after trying Chis Piku equipment in preseason, but knows his hold on the Bruins' No.1 job can be precarious. (Scott Slingsby file photo)

Tim Thomas is coming off one of the greatest goaltending seasons in NHL history.

The Boston backstop not only set a new standard for modern save percentage, he won the Vezina Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup last season. He was the top stopper by a long shot when Canadian sports network TSN released it’s top-50 player list on Tuesday. It appears the only thing Thomas has not won, according to his head coach, is the Bruins’ undisputed No.1 title.

“We have two No. 1s,” coach Claude Julien told reporters in Boston on Tuesday, adding that he planned to split time between Thomas and Tuukka Rask to start the season, and leaving open the possibility one would take over the top job as the season went on.

“They’re still, in my mind, No. 1-calibre goaltenders. But as you saw Timmy just took off and we had to ride the hot hand. Will Tuukka play a bigger role? We hope so. But it’s not going to take away from the strength of the team.”

That’s just what Thomas did early last season, roaring out of the gates after offseason surgery to repair the hip injury that had opened the door for Rask to take over the starting role the year before. But even coming off one of the best season’s in NHL history – 35 wins in 55 starts, a 2.00 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage  in the regular season and even better numbers in the playoffs – the fiercely competitive Thomas isn’t taking it for granted that the No.1 job is his, and never stopped working to get better this summer.

“There are two goalies on the team, and we don’t think of ourselves as No. 1 and No. 2,” said Thomas, who knows the Bruins attempted to trade him going into his magical last season. “If the team’s on a roll and both goalies are winning, obviously you play both goalies.”

Rask has the pedigree and the game to be an NHL starter himself, but is coming off a tough season mostly spent on the bench.

“Knowing the guy he is, it was great to see him have that success,” Rask, 24 and coming off summer knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, told the Associated Press. “I’m not used to sitting on the bench a lot and not playing. But I realized that no matter what your role is, you’ve got to be one of the guys. I learned that support is a good thing for the hockey club.”

TSN Top-50 includes Six Stoppers

As mentioned, Tim Thomas topped TSN’s top-50 list from a puck-stopping perspective. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, who also finished second to Thomas in Vezina Trophy voting last season, was next on the list at No. 28, but the debates started after that.

Carey Price, coming off a sensational season in Montreal but still with some inconsistencies in his young career, was ranked 30th, strangely four spots ahead of New York Rangers’ standout Henrik Lundqvist at 34th. Buffalo’s Ryan Miller was two spots back of that at 36, while Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, who was third in Vezina voting and coming off a failed trip to the Stanley Cup final that included a pair of shutouts at home and a trio of meltdowns in Boston, was the last goaltender included with the 41st overall ranking.

Needless to say the list touched off all kinds of debates, so please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

In the meantime, here are some other pre-season numbers to consider, courtesy of the oddsmakers in Las Vegas:

Over/Under for wins by NHL goaltenders

Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo

Roberto Luongo has the highest win total for over/under betting despite being sixth on the TSN top-50 list. (InGoal File Photo)

– Roberto Luongo is tops at 36.5

– Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller both at 35.5

– Antti Niemi, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jimmy Howard, Carey Price, Ilya Bryzgalov and Marc-Andre Fleury are all 34.5

– Tim Thomas alone at 33.5

– Pekka Rinne, Cam Ward, Jonathan Quick all at 32.5

– Jaroslav Halak and Tomas Vokoun at 30.5

– Martin Brodeur and Jonas Hiller are at 29.5

– James Reimer is 26.5

NHL Hart Memorial Trophy as the Most Valuable  Player

There are no individual goaltenders listed for these odds, which have Washington sniper Alexander Ovechkin favoured at 4/1, but you can get odds for any goaltender winning the award at 11/2, which are the same odds for Steven Stamkos, who ranks second to Ovechkin.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.


  1. Matt in Montreal

    Carey has a well-deserved position amongst the leading goalies – not solely because of his excellent play between the pipes – but because without him, we wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

    Don’t forget, this is a Canadiens team with only one 50 point point player (Plekanec 57) and NO 30 goal scorers (Gionta comes close at 29, but he is small company with only 3 total 20+ goal scorers).

    Simply put, without Carey Price there’s not much to hope for as a Habs fan*.

    *The same can be said for Lundy who shares the same talent btwn the pipes and in front of him.

  2. TheGoalieGuru

    If you are going to determine that Tim Thomas had one of the greatest goaltending seasons ever please be sure to mention ALL OF THE STATS that brought you to that conclusion. Save percentage ONLY, does not determine how good or bad a goalie was.

    Yes he lead the league in save percentage but, a few big buts, would include that he was one of the WORST starting goalies in shootout save percentage. He only stopped 10 of 19 shots for a terrible .526 save percentage and his win loss record was 1 win and 5 losses in the shootout. Shouldn’t the so called best goalie in the league lead in this department since it is a one on one battle and it is where a goalie needs all skill sets to be successful, meaning no defense and defensive systems there to protect him. Goalies need to rely on footwork, save techniques, speed, gap control, positioning, etc.

    Also, he was ranked 20th in penalty kill save percentage, or very, very, average. Goalies that had better PK save percentages than Thomas include Schneider, Theodore, Ward, Anderson, Johnson, Varlamov, to name a few. Boston was short handed the 4th fewest times which helps a goalie stats as well.

    So, he had the best five on five save percentage. How would other goalies have faired with that Boston defense and defensive systems that include some guy named Chara. How would Vokoun faired on Boston and Thomas on Florida if they swithced roles last season? Vokoun allowed only 2 goals on 13 shots in the shootout for a save percentage of .846. Vokoun lead all number one goalies in penalty kill save percentage last season with a stellar .925 save percentage!

    Again I ask, if Vokoun was on Boston and Thomas on Florida what happens? So who was the better goalie last season Vokoun or Thomas? Vokoun had Garrison, Weaver, Kulikov, McCabe, and Allen. Big deal!

    Thomas was average last season on a good team! Vokoun was good on an average team. But the goalie and hockey world always finds a way to pick the winning goalie as the best and not the best goalie all around!

    Just sayin’!