THN’s Take: If the Bruins go on to the Stanley Cup final, the Tim Thomas save on Steve Downie midway through the third period of Game 5 will go down as the stop of the series, maybe the playoffs.
It was underplayed at the time by CBC play-by-play man Bob Cole – although color man Garry Galley did rave about it – but it was sheer brilliance and absolute desperation on the part of Thomas. A rebound came to Downie at the side of the net with a little more than 10 minutes remaining in the third. With Thomas out of his crease and committed on the original shot, he made a diving attempt and with his paddle stopped Downie’s one-timer an inch or so from the goal line.
Boston led 2-1 at the time and were clearly on the ropes, but still hanging on. It would have been tough to fathom a Boston win if Downie scored on the play. If not for Thomas’ superb play, the Bruins would be facing elimination for Game 6 in Tampa.
The story about the game was all about goaltending. It started with Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher deciding to go against conventional wisdom and not start the goalie who got them there, namely Dwayne Roloson. Instead, the coach went with Mike Smith, who was very solid in relief of battle-weary Roloson in Game 4. He’s still just Mike Smith though, the same Mike Smith who has been virtually ice cold the past two seasons.
Easy to play armchair quarterback, isn’t it? If Smith plays well and Tampa wins, Boucher is a genius. Let’s just say it’s a good thing for Thomas that Boucher isn’t coach of the Bruins. After Thomas’ sub-par efforts in Games 1, 2 and 4, Tuukka Rask would have been playing instead.
So who does Boucher go with in Game 6 facing elimination? It would be shocking if it’s not Roloson, the primary reason the Lightning are in the third round of the playoffs. Boucher went with his gut in Game 5. He’ll go with his head in Game 6.
1. Tim Thomas – After giving up the early goal, he did everything in his power not to let the Bruins fall down by two. He made numerous key stops in the second with the score tied and the Lightning threatening. Thomas made some all-world saves in the third.
2. Patrice Bergeron – His terrific two-way play and set-up of Brad Marchand for the winner in the second period was special. He won 15 of 27 faceoffs.
3. Marc-Andre Bergeron – Vincent Lecavalier was largely invisible, Martin St-Louis didn’t have his magical touch and Sean Bergenheim left early in the game with an apparent groin injury. At least MAB was a proficient puck-mover and playmaker.
The Black Hole
Mike Smith – In a closely contested game with no obvious goats, you have to study Smith on the two shots that beat him. He had difficulty tracking the puck and was slow moving side to side. Not that he played poorly, he just wasn’t extra special in a key game.
The NHL Game Night Recap will get you caught up with all the playoff action. THN will name our Three Stars for each game and tabulate the results after each series. First Star = three points, Second Star = two points, Third Star = one point.