Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Thomas still giving Bruins his best

Categories: Boston Bruins, VAN vs. BOS, Vancouver Canucks

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Tim Thomas was at his goaltending best in Game 1. (Nick Didlick/Getty Images) Tim Thomas was at his goaltending best in Game 1. (Nick Didlick/Getty Images)
If there is one player who won't be asked to improve his series-opening performance for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, it's Boston goalie Tim Thomas.

Like he was for most of the season, the puckstopper was his team's best player. Roberto Luongo may have earned the shutout in Game 1 for the Canucks, but he didn't have to face as many high-quality scoring chances as his counterpart.

Thomas was at his best in the third period. In the opening minute, he turned back Alex Burrows. At 2:12, Thomas charged out of his crease to get his glove on Maxim Lapierre's uncontested shot.

At 5:01, Thomas made his best save of the night. Jannik Hansen scooted past Boston's Adam McQuaid for a breakaway, but Thomas stood tall and turned back Hansen's attempt.

Thomas's backward momentum was taking him toward the net, but the netminder slammed his glove over the puck to keep it from crossing the goal line. McQuaid knocked off the net to freeze the play.

"Timmy made the great saves when he had to," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "For two periods, I was pretty pleased. But the third period, they were the better team and ended up scoring that goal."

Last season, the rage among general managers was thrift in goal. The Stanley Cup Final featured Michael Leighton against Antti Niemi -- two goalies, at the time, who could hardly be considered marquee names.

They were paid appropriate to their experience. The theory was that by allocating their cap dollars toward skaters, GMs could assemble deep, talented rosters that could minimize a goalie's importance.

This year, the Thomas-Luongo matchup swings back to the importance of elite goaltending. Thomas carries a $5 million US annual cap hit. Luongo earns an average of $5.33 million annually.

"That was one of those theories thrown out there last year that I didn't think would stand up to the test of time very long," Thomas said. "I think this year's proved it. With both teams getting into the final, the goaltending had a lot to do with it."

Improvement expected from Boychuk

Johnny Boychuk, the Bruins' right-side second-pairing defenceman, was credited with eight hits in Game 1, most of any player. Boychuk was also involved in the game-deciding goal when he tried to land his ninth hit.

When Kevin Bieksa sent a clearing pass off the boards, Boychuk saw the puck coming off the wall. Ryan Kesler was also pursuing the puck. In hindsight, Boychuk should have played it safe and sat back to give the Bruins two defencemen in position. But Boychuk chased the play and tried to either get a piece of the puck or of Kesler.

He missed with both.

"I saw Boychuk trying to step up on me," Kesler said. "I just tried to chip it by him and stay onside."

Kesler won the race, then spotted Jannik Hansen rolling the boards and streaking toward the slot. Hansen slid the puck over to Raffi Torres for the game's only goal.

"If you asked him, he probably knows that he could have played that last goal a lot better," Julien said. "We all know that. But we need to move on right now."

Chara remains down low

During practice today at the University of British Columbia, Zdeno Chara continued to serve as the net-front presence on the power play. Chara was down low on the first unit, which included Tomas Kaberle, Dennis Seidenberg, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton.

"The toughest part is when you get a big guy who's in your sightlines when the puck is on the other team's stick," Luongo said. "It makes your job a lot harder to fight through screens, which wastes a lot of energy.

"Obviously Big Z is really big. It's a bit tougher for me to see him around than usual because of his size. It makes it a little bit harder. It was a bit of an adjustment after the first power play in the first game."