Bruins-Flyers Preview

Tim Thomas was invisible in last year’s playoffs, never called

on to stop a Flyers’ comeback that knocked Boston out of the

Eastern Conference semifinals.

Only an injury could keep Thomas out of Boston’s net this

postseason.

Thomas rebounded from offseason hip surgery and won 35 games,

had nine shutouts and is one of three finalists for the Vezina

Trophy, given to the NHL’s top goalie every year.

He’s played every minute of Boston’s postseason run – an envious

stat for a Flyers team that has used net roulette throughout the

playoffs.

Game 2 is Monday in Philadelphia.

Thomas had 31 saves in Boston’s 7-3 Game 1 win over Philadelphia

in this year’s East semis and gives the Bruins the durability and

stability needed to make a deep postseason run.

”He was very comfortable from the start,” Boston coach Claude

Julien said. ”But that is just Tim getting better and better as

these playoffs move forward.”

The Bruins are counting on his improvement to advance to the

conference finals a year after they blew a 3-0 lead against the

Flyers. Thomas, a 2010 U.S. Olympian, was a bystander when the

Bruins suffered their meltdown.

It was a big bump in the career path for one of the top goalies

in the NHL.

Thomas won the Vezina two years ago and signed a five-year

contract extension in spring 2009. But he slumped to a 17-18-8

record with a 2.56 goals-against average and .915 save percentage

last season and lost his job to Tuukka Rask.

Thomas played in just three of Boston’s final 12 regular-season

games and didn’t make a playoff appearance.

Rask was in net for all seven games of last year’s series with

the Flyers, when Boston became the third NHL to blow a 3-0

best-of-seven series lead and fail to advance.

Thomas intends to finish the job this season.

”We’re pretty fortunate to have Timmy, and even Tuukka there,”

Bruins center Brad Marchand said Sunday. ”We have a great duo. But

at playoff time, it’s so tough because a goalie can get hot at any

time.”

Thomas’ defensemen were stout in front of him in Game 1, and

Thomas wasn’t forced into any spectacular saves. Boston’s 5-1 lead

was cut to 5-3 before the Bruins scored two late goals to turn it

into a romp.

”You usually do not have those type of leads in the playoffs so

it was nice, but we didn’t have that lead all game,” Thomas said.

”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 allowed five goals in the first two games of the

first-round series against Montreal, both losses. When he settled

down, so did the Bruins, who eliminated Montreal in seven

games.

”What you saw early in the first round was not indicative, like

the rest of our team, (of us) when we made uncharacteristic

mistakes,” Julien said.

Julien never wavered on his No. 1 starter.

The Flyers have been stymied in finding the answer to the most

valuable position on the ice.

Brian Boucher allowed five goals and some soft rebounds before

he was replaced in Game 1. The Flyers made their fourth goalie

change in eight playoff games, a staggering number for a team that

spent a chunk of the season leading the Eastern Conference.

Boucher has been the goat as a starter and a star reliever – he

won two games off the bench versus the Sabres.

He’s wants that Game 2 start.

”I will prepare the same way I do every day and we will see

what happens,” Boucher said Sunday. ”I think there are only so

many times you can make a change before you run out of nine

lives.”

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette declined to reveal his Game 2

starter.

Boucher said Laviolette has reasons other than ineffectiveness

for benching the goalie.

”It’s always a wakeup call for the team,” Boucher said. ”You

always seem to get a bit of a boost after there’s a goalie change.

I think that’s why coaches are so apt to do that. That seems to be

one of the last things they can do, as opposed to yelling at the

guys or calling a timeout.”

Laviolette would love to have a No. 1 guy and stick with him.

Consider, Phillies starting pitchers have three complete games, one

less than the Flyers’ goalies have in the postseason. The Flyers

also failed to earn a shutout this season.

Sergei Bobrovsky was no better in limited action, allowing two

goals on 10 shots.

Bobrovsky won the No. 1 spot to open the postseason after a

28-win rookie season. He lost Game 1 to Buffalo 1-0, then was

lifted for Boucher in Game 2 after he allowed three goals on seven

shots. That was the last anyone saw of the goalie known as Bob the

remainder of the series.

Because of Philadelphia’s goalie woes, the Flyers are in a

familiar spot playing from behind in a series.

Last year’s comeback against the Bruins put them in the record

book. They trailed Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals 2-0 before

losing in six games. In the first round, Buffalo led 1-0 and 3-2,

forcing the Flyers to win the final two games.

”I don’t know what it is,” center Danny Briere said. ”The

past couple of years it seems we need adversity to start playing

better. This needs to be an eye-opener because we’ll be done in a

hurry if we keep playing that way.”