March 31, 2011

Thomas, B's have bounced back since hitting 'rock bottom' in Toronto

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins goalie Tim Thomas. (Getty)

BOSTON-- While it certainly seems longer than just 12 days ago, one of the Bruins lowest points in the season came the last time they clashed with the opponent they're set to take on this evening.

The Black and Gold got walloped 5-2 at the Air Canada Center by the Maple Leafs on Mar. 19, giving them their sixth loss in just seven games.

 Since then, however, the B's have reeled off four wins in their last five tilts and will look to continue their winning ways tonight against a Leafs' squad that has won the last two meetings between the two clubs.

 "Well they've played some good games against us, and I don't think we've played as well as we could have," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "This league, it's tight top to bottom. A lot of the games depend on who shows up that night. For whatever reason against Toronto this year, there were a few games where we weren't there and they were feeling it."

Thomas allowed four goals in that drubbing less than two weeks ago, as coach Claude Julien elected to replace him midway through the second period with Boston trailing 4-1. The 36-year-old veteran said the difficult setback has already been erased from his memory.

"It's easy enough to do, right?" Thomas said of putting the loss behind him. "I've played every team in the league and you're going to have games like that. I had some fluke luck. That's basically what that boiled down to, so it's easy to forget."

The Bruins surefire Vezina candidate, however, did have one positive aspect of the tilt to reflect on. Having not made a start in eight days heading into that night, Thomas was admittedly rusty and it showed in the first half of the game.

But he and Julien decided it'd be best for him to return for the third period. Thomas blanked the Leafs in the final frame and got a bit of confidence back after a tough stretch of hockey.

"I definitely think it helped," he said of coming back into the game. "I hadn't played in a while and I needed to get back in a rhythm, just to battle through it. I think it definitely helped going into the New Jersey game."

Including that game against the Devils, Thomas is now 4-0-0 since taking the loss in Toronto, a stretch in which he's allowed just two goals.

So was that decisive loss used as a springboard by both Thomas and the team as a whole, and perhaps the ultimate sign that they needed to dramatically turn things around down the stretch?

"Well we had a few games in there that could have been considered the rock bottom," said Thomas. "Toronto you can call the rock bottom because we bounced back the next game. I think we were kind of scraping along rock bottom for a while there.

"I don't know if it was that game or what, but we seemed to snap out of it and we played a totally different game. I hope we can continue that for the rest of the year."