Select Page

Tim Thomas empties his mind and reacts, echoing Waite

Boston Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas makes a stop during a wild scramble sequence Monday. (Photo by Scott Slingsby)

As Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas continued his early season dominance with a 41-save shutout of the powerhouse Flyers and a 37-of-38 effort against the equally offensive Tampa Bay Lighting this week, it was again interesting to hear some of this thoughts on playing goal.

In particular it was worth noting his thought process on one of the most spectacular saves against Philadelphia. That is, he tried his best not to have one.

“You’d like to do that on every shooter,” Thomas told reporters of a glove save on Scott Hartnell’s penalty shot – after first stopping him on the breakaway that resulted in the call. “I didn’t want to over think it and think of what he might do. He took a shot low blocker (earlier). At one point, I started to think, ‘Is it going to go back there,’ and then I emptied my mind and just reacted.”

(Thomas was at it again Saturday night, making a diving glove stop against Toronto that is already being talked about as a leading Save of the Year candidate – check out the video in this week’s 3 stars).

The idea of emptying the mind and reacting was an interesting thought, especially after longtime Chicago Blackhawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite told InGoal Magazine he thought that North American goaltenders, and ones from Canada in particular, are now thinking too much about technique.

“The last five years a lot of goalies from Canada, they think too much,” Waite said. “They just want to be perfectly technically and they think they are going to be all right. They are just thinking too much on everything. And they are so predictable now, that’s the biggest problem we got. Every goalie plays the same thing, same style exactly and they are so predictable for shooters.”

Waite still stresses good technique in terms of movement, shot preparation and post-save recovery – he’s adding some structure to Marty Turco’s game – and believes it remains a key to consistency. But as he said for the in-depth InGoal feature article on why he believes there are more European and fewer North American goalies in the NHL every year, it’s now more important than ever to react and battle as well, pointing to both Turco and Thomas as great examples.

“I’ve changed a lot the way I coach the last four years,” Waite said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. I don’t care about that any more. I need a better reactor, even if it’s not very cute. If you battle, it’s important.”

Be sure to check out more of Waite’s thoughts on the increasing importance of reacting in today’s NHL.

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. Aaron

    Even though I’m only a goalie for recreational leagues, I’ve always noticed this is true. The position is ALL about reaction. Yes, good positioning and good techniques can certainly help, but the moment you start thinking about where the puck’s going to go, or where you THINK it might go, you’ve just shut off the automatic process of reaction.

    I’ve found the best games I’ve played, I shut off my mind, using it only to repeatedly play a song that I like. That gets you into a groove. Then, you just react to what’s happening in front of you. Eventually, you’ll get “into the zone” and you’ll get that feeling that nothing will get by you. If you ever feel that as a goalie, it’s a priceless feeling, because often, nothing does.

  2. Matt in Montreal

    RE: Aaron’s comment.

    That’s a good tip on keeping the mind clear – playing a song in one’s head – specially against penalty shots.

    I’d like to learn more about proper post-save recovery and rebound response.

    I’ve noticed I’m usually on my butt when a goal is scored.



  3. Matt

    This is so true. I went to the Tretiak Goalie School last year and it almost appeared as if Vlad, similar to Waite was trying to break these habits in goalies. The European goalies still use the half butterfly technique that many North Americans, especially Canadians unfortunately, have abandoned (Marty Brodeur is an exception but abuses the technique). Vlad brought me off to the side and said to me “Why you butterfly then half butterfly?” Then I quickly realized it was a better technique that gave you an extra half a second which can be crucial in big game situations. What you see from all the Quebec butterfly goalies is the requirement (from their mindset) to have to get into a perfect butterfly positions which we are shown time and time again doesn’t always work at higher levels.