Sunday, September 6, 2009

Blueland Guest Goalie: Tim Thomas

Hockey is only a few weeks away and the last few weeks I will be have posts on a few of my favorite goalies. I've saved the best (in my book) for last.

Tim Thomas is my 3rd all around favorite goalie and could very well move up to the #2 spot if he shows appreciation to the sign I'll bring for him to the game this season. I love his style of play. He is aggressive in the net and challenges the skaters. His athletic saves are spectacular. He is one of of the most entertaining goalies in the league and as the numbers through his career can attest to, he is successful.

In addition to his play on the ice, he has a fascinating story that seems to have captivated fans, myself included.

Some of the fun reasons I love Tim:

5. He played for the ECHL's Birmingham Bulls (now the Stockton Thunder and associated with the Oilers). That makes him practically a home town boy for me and there was a chance I might have seen him play a game when the Bulls came to town to play the Mobile Mystics. And, speaking of my Mystics, it seems that he must have tried out for them because he was ditched by the Mystics after four days.

4. He does yoga.

3. He stands up for his teammates. Tim was upset when he saw Ward get leveled by Andrei Kostitsyn and decided to have a discussion with Andrei about it.

2. He just seems like such a nice guy. I was so happy for him when he won the Vezina. He totally deserved it. When he talks about how devastating it was to get sent back down to the minors in this clip, I feel bad every time.

He doesn't take shit, as demonstrated by this clip. Thomas had had enough of Blake coming into his zone.

And, clip of the SEASON!

I could watch that clip 1000 times.

So let's learn about Tim.

Timothy Thomas, Jr was born on April 15, 1974 in Flint, Michigan. Flint, Michigan in the late 80s was a hard place to live. General Motors closed up several plants in Michigan and 30,000 people lost their job. This was the backdrop for Tim's youth hockey. Times were tough and Tim's parents actually hocked their wedding rings in order to pay for Tim to attend hockey school in Michigan. To make ends meet, Tim Sr. sold apples door-to-door. Tim later joined him, then took over. As inspiring as this is, Tim doesn't think anything of it. He sees nothing unusual about waking up early in the morning to buy apples from an orchard, going to classes, then selling the apples in the afternoon, going to Jr. A hockey practice, then finishing his night up by delivering pizzas. How freaking wholesome is that??

The family's work paid off and after high school in 1993, Tim headed to the University of Vermont. He was on the team with future NHLers Martin St. Louis and former Thrasher, Eric Perrin. In 1994, Tim was drafted in the 9th round (217th overall) of the NHL Entry draft by the Quebec Nordiques. Tim continued to play with the University of Vermont.

Tim played four seasons for the Catamounts and ranks first all-time amongst Vermont goalies in games played (140), wins (81), and minutes played (3950). He posted an 81-43-15 record to go with a 2.70 GAA and .924 save percentage and remains second in the NCAA Division I record book in career saves (3,950). He led the nation in save percentage in 1996 (.924) and helped the Catamounts to NCAA tournament appearances in his final two seasons, including a berth in the 1996 Frozen Four. He was a two-time NCAA East All-American.

The 1997 season was Tim's first out of college and it was a busy one, he played for 3 different teams. He played 6 games for the Birmingham Bulls of the ECHL, 1 game as a Houston Aero and played 18 games fort he HIFK of the SM-Liiga,. He played well for the HIFK posting a save percentage of .947 and leading the team to the playoffs where they defeated Ilves for the Finnish Championship.

On June 4, 1998, Thomas signed as a free agent with the Edmonton Oilers. Tim played 15 games with the Hamilton Bulldogs, but eventually found his way back to the HIFK again where he played 14 games, had a .917 save percentage and led the team to the playoffs again, but they were runners up. Then GM of IFK Helsinki in Finland said: "We probably would have won the European league if we had gotten him earlier."

The next 3 seasons saw Tim bouncing around the world:
1999-00 Detroit Vipers (IHL)
2000-01 AIK (Swedish Elite League)
2001-02 Kärpät (SM-liiga)
Tim joined the Boston Bruins organization in 2001, but chose to finish the season with Kärpät. They didn't make the playoffs, but Tim had a successful season with a .925 save percentage.

Tim reported to Boston's AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins for the 2002-03 season. He spent most of the season in Providence with an 18-12-5 record, 2.87 GAA and .906 save percentage in 35 games. He did make his NHL debut that season with the Boston Bruins on October 19 against the Edmonton Oilers, this was also his first NHL victory. Tim made thirty-one saves for the win. They beat the Oilers 4-3. Tim said:

"Yeah, I dreamed about this, even last summer," Thomas said. "I think everyone thinks about getting a chance to play in this league and you just wish there was some way to make it happen. And tonight, it did. It feels great. How could it have gone any better? I guess I could have got a shutout."
Tim spent the entire 2003-04 season with Providence, playing 43 games and putting up an impressive 1.84 GAA and a .941 save percentage.

During the 2004–05 lock out, Thomas joined Jokerit of the SM-Liiga, his fourth stint in Finland. He played in all games of the season except one, 54 games in total, and racked up a league-high .946 save percentage. He also surpassed the previous record of 13 shutouts in the league by achieving 15 shutouts during the regular season. Thomas continued to perform in the playoffs, where he played 12 games with a .938 save percentage. The team was unable to defeat Kärpät in the finals, however, and Thomas was awarded his second silver medal in the SM-Liiga. Tim was named the Most Valuable Player in the Finnish League as he led the league in wins, goals against average, games/minutes played and shutouts. He also won the Kultainen kypärä (golden helmet) which is the award given to the best player as voted by the players. He is one of two Americans to win this award (the other is Brian Raflaski) and was the first Jokerit player to win the award since Teemu Selanne.

After such a phenomenal year in Finland, you'd think he'd have some NHL offers, but no. There was no interest in 31 year old Tim. Tim says he had made his peace with the fact he probably would not "make it" in the NHL. He had a good gig going in Europe and decided to focus on that. Tim did have an NHL option in his contract though and Boston came calling. Should he go? He said it was quite a decision to leave Jokerit, but one day before the season started, he decided to go. Unfortunately after training camp he was assigned to Providence again. He said that was devastating. Poor Timmy :(

Fortunately for Tim, Boston goalies Andrew Raycroft and Hannu Toivonen suffered injuries and Tim got the call up, his first NHL call up in 3 years. Tim stepped in and took over as Boston's starting goalie. He had a 12–13–7 record, 2.77 GAA, .917 save percentage, and his first NHL shutout to complete the 2005-06 season. As a result, Thomas was awarded the Boston Bruins 7th Player Award, voted by the fans as having gone beyond expectations. In the off-season, Thomas was re-signed by the Bruins to a 3-year deal.

Andrew Raycroft was traded to Toronto during the off-season, but Tim started the 2006-07 season backing up Toivonen. Toivonen struggled and Tim was promoted back to the starting position. He posted a 30–29–4 record with a .904 save percentage. He won the 7th Player Award for the second consecutive season and became the first goalie in team history to win the award twice.

On July 1, 2007, the Bruins acquired Manny Fernandez from the Minnesota Wild and later traded Toivonen to St. Louis. For the 2007-08 season, Timmy was once again relegated to starting the season as a back up (don't they learn??). Manny went down early in the season with an injury and once again, Tim took over. Tim also appeared in his first NHL All-Star Game, replacing Martin Brodeur. During his 3rd period appearance he stopped 14 of 18 shots and was attributed the win.

Tim started the 2008-09 season with a bang becoming the first Bruins goalie to record back-to-back shut outs since Byron Dafoe in 1999. He kept shining as he was selected to his second NHL All Star appearance. This was most impressive since his name wasn't even on the ballot. Once again, they'd over looked Tim, but the fans came through and wrote him in. Tim was once again the winning goal tender in the game, winning in a shootout. On February 26, 2009 Thomas recorded his 100th NHL win, a 6-0 shutout against the Ducks.

Tim lead his Bruins to an outstanding year in which they remained in 1st place in the Eastern Conference for most of the season. They swept their rivals Montreal out of the play offs in the first round, but were eliminated in 7 games by Carolina in round 2 (stupid Canes). On June 18, 2009 Tim Thomas was awarded the Vezina Trohpy at the NHL awards. He also shared the Jennings Trophy with Manny Fernandez.

Recognize this pose? This is how Timmy stretches during EVERY game. I've seen him live 3 times and countless times on tv and I know this. This is also the position Tim was in when that excuse for an ass clown, Sean Avery, skated by and "accidentally" popped Tim in the head. Accident my ass. You know he's gonna be doing this, it's not like you can't see him. Douchetard.

It's a long way from selling apples door-to-door to winning the Vezina trophy. Tim's journey took him all over the world, but he finally made it. He never listened to his critics, but just tried to show everyone what he could do...and what he can do is stop the puck. It might not be pretty, conventional or very technical, but it gets stopped way more than it goes in.

Some of these pictures are actually from the Boston vs Philly game I went to. I didn't have many good action shots from the two times the Bruins came to Atlanta.



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