One could certainly make the case that regardless of what happens Wednesday night, Tim Thomas will leave Rogers Arena in possession of the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Thomas furthered his case to be the Most Valuable Player of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday night, as he stopped 36 of 38 shots as the Boston Bruins evened this best-of-seven series with a 5-2 victory against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden.
The University of Vermont product spoke with reporters after helping his club stave off elimination on home ice:
Q: You knew you were going to get this one. Any analysis of the Brad Marchand goal given your style -- if you would have stopped it?
Thomas: No, I'm not going to go there. I would prefer to focus on the fact that Marshy made a great shot and came up big for us and got that first goal that helped lead us to a victory.
Q: From the standpoint of a veteran goaltender, what does it mean to have to skate off the ice eight minutes into a Stanley Cup game and do you think there is any kind of carryover whatsoever?
Thomas: I don't know. I've been through a lot of experiences but that's not one of them. It's not something I can personally speak about. I'm not really going to comment on it because I have no personal experience in it.
Q: You've been consistent throughout the series. You're spotted a 4-goal lead. Do you change your mentality at all?
Thomas: A little bit but not a lot, because, you know, getting that fourth goal was a big goal. (It gave us a) 3-0 lead. We had bad experiences with (that) in the past, even during the regular season a couple of times this year. That was big, but I didn't want to relax because I didn't want to give them any confidence and let them feel like they were going to get back into the game.
Part of you relaxes, but part of you is like, telling yourself not to relax. It's kind of an inner battle. It's human nature and the tendency to start conserving energy starts to kick in and you have to fight against that.
Q: Is this stretch that you're having as good of a stretch as you've ever had? How does it rank in streaks that you've been on before in your career?
Thomas: Well, at this level in the NHL, you know, if you want to call it a "streak" that I've had, I've had some good run in different years and in different leagues. My first year in Finland, I won the championship there and I had a really good run. I was actually 9-0 in the playoffs and .962 save percentage or something like that, (and) then the lockout year (2004-05) in Finland.
But this is a totally different level. You're playing against the best players in the world. That was high-quality hockey in Finland, but this is a whole different ballgame.
Q: Following up on that, it was 18 years ago when you were up in Vermont and the career has been long and windy. What does all this mean to you with one game to go?
Thomas: You know, I'm very happy to be here and very happy to have this opportunity. Like Mark (Recchi) said, I'm going to try to embrace that opportunity and take the same attitude that I've taken throughout the whole playoffs. And, you know, hopefully that will get me through that one last game to get to the goal that we've been shooting for all year long.
Q: In all your years of experience, have you ever had an experience to your counterpart that Roberto Luongo is having in this series where you play so well at home and struggle on the road? Have you ever had that experience and how difficult is it to recover from if you have?
Thomas: Have I personally ever had that experience? I don't recall having that type of experience, so, again, because I haven't had that experience, I don't know what to say. Sorry.
Q: It wasn't long ago, three or four years ago when you were going into your first playoff series with Montreal and you didn't know what to expect. Can you talk about the last three years, building on -- even last year watching how it has prepared you for what's happening now?
Thomas: That was five years ago. The first, Montreal, I just did it in my head. Yeah, experience in these types of situations definitely helps. I was just thinking about last year's run the other day and how much being able to see the game from a different side really helped me. Kind of seeing the in's and out's and the way that people interact during the playoffs and, you know, the things that we were doing which gave us the success that we did have last year. Just see it go from a different side, I think that helped.
I'd never really had that opportunity in my career before. I was always on the ice and so focused with playing, so all those little things add up. I think, you know, having my first playoff series in Montreal with that type of crowd, that's helped the rest of my playoff experiences. I've experienced probably the loudest crowd in the NHL, that's what it feels like at Bell Centre. And, you know, losing Game 7 to Carolina was an experience that, you know, it helped me in the long run. Last year, seeing the playoffs from a different angle helped me, too.
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