Commentary

Bruins breathe easy backed by Thomas

Vezina Trophy finalist leads Boston past Flyers in Game 1

Updated: May 1, 2011, 12:10 AM ET
By Joe McDonald | ESPNBoston.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The Boston Bruins received numerous contributions from many players in their 7-3 thrashing of the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.

The Bruins' David Krejci scored two goals and added two assists, while teammate Brad Marchand contributed two goals and one assist. Assistant captain Patrice Bergeron chipped in with three assists.

While the media scrums were focusing on those three players in the locker room after the game, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas stood at his stall all by himself and actually thought he might sneak away before any questions were fired in his direction like one-timers from the slot.

After all, he thought, in a 7-3 win, why would anyone want to talk to him?

It's simple: The Bruins will win this series because of goaltending.

[+] EnlargeTim Thomas
Rob Christy/US PresswireTim Thomas put together yet another great playoff game Saturday, with 31 saves for the Bruins.

Thomas made 31 saves in Game 1, while Boston pummeled Philadelphia netminder Brian Boucher and ran him from the game in the waning minutes of the second period after the Bruins gained a 5-1 lead.

"It wasn't a good afternoon," Boucher said. "It seemed like any opportunities they got, they were able to cash in on some plays. So, it's not a good afternoon, but we move on and get ready for Game 2."

The Bruins were ready, and it was clear Thomas was more comfortable and calm in Game 1 of this series than he was in the first couple of games against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. He was guessing right and pucks were finding him against the Flyers on Saturday, which is always a formula for success during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bruins coach Claude Julien pointed out that while Thomas didn't appear too comfortable in the first couple of games against the Canadiens, his game has improved and he's getting better at the right time.

"Tonight, obviously, he was very comfortable from the get-go," Julien said. "That's just Timmy getting better and better as these playoffs move forward. He's been a good goaltender for us all year, and maybe what you saw early in that first round was not indicative [how he can play], like the rest of our team."

It was clear Thomas, a finalist this season for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie, was a lot more poised against the Flyers, and maybe that has something to do with the fact he's enjoyed success against Philadelphia in the past, especially this season. Heading into this series, he was 3-0-1 against the Flyers this season, but he's not focused on his past accomplishments.

"It's the playoffs and you've got to find a way to get it done," Thomas said. "Even though you say, 'I play so well against the Flyers,' it doesn't matter. Each game, you've got to do it again. What you've done in the past doesn't matter because next game starts zero to zero."

It's that philosophy that will help him succeed in this series.

"Tank was great again," Bergeron said of Thomas. "I feel like I'm always repeating myself about him, but every time he steps out there, he makes those big saves and gives us that confidence."

With the game knotted 1-1 in the first period, Thomas made some timely saves, which gave his teammates plenty of confidence, as they were able to capitalize on the other end of the ice.

"He was big," said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "He was very focused. He was very poised and he saw the puck well. Like always, he was great. He definitely looks confident right now."

Once the Bruins increased their lead, it was clear Boston had the superior goaltending in Game 1. Even though Boston gave its goaltender a cushion, Thomas never came out of his comfort zone.

"That was a good game, and you don't usually have those types of leads in the playoffs," Thomas said. "It was nice. We didn't have that lead the whole game, though. It was still a playoff game and Philly is known for their comebacks, even within games, so you have to be on your toes."

Thomas was on his toes and it didn't go unnoticed despite all the other contributions the Bruins received. The Flyers have used three goaltenders in the playoffs, so their goaltending situation continues to be a work in progress.

There's no questioning Boston's goalie, and he's the reason the Bruins could have a chance to advance deep into the playoffs.

"You can jump on his back and he'll carry the load," said Bergeron. "It's nice to see that, and he's been great."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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