x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Thomas getting better with age in goal for Boston

Having only reached the NHL at the age of 30, the goaltender has not looked back since and shows no signs of faltering for the Boston Bruins at the age of 37.

Tim Thomas, centre, has been on impressive form in goal this season for the Boston Bruins.
Tim Thomas, centre, has been on impressive form in goal this season for the Boston Bruins.

Tim Thomas, the Boston Bruins goaltender, had a remarkable season in 2010/11.

At the ripe old age of 36, he won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the play-off MVP and the Stanley Cup.

The veteran stopper went 35-11-9 with a 2.00 goals-against average.Especially impressive was his .938 save percentage. It is one thing to post a save percentage in the .940 range for a week or a month, but to do it for a full season was virtually unprecedented.

This season, despite Boston's slow start in October - when they sank to the depths of the Eastern Conference - Thomas and the rest of the Bruins rebounded and have been almost unbeatable since Halloween.

Boston's offence has been prolific and productive, racking up nearly five goals per game since the start of November. And as hard as it is to believe, Thomas may be playing even better than last season. He is 13-5-0 this term, a stellar record that was boosted by a 10-game winning streak from November 1 to December 5.

Thomas' red-hot run came to an end in a 2-0 shutout loss against Florida last week, a game in which the Bruins goalie surrendered just one goal from 29 shots.

Meanwhile, Thomas boasts a 1.83 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, numbers that are superior to last season's assault on the record book. And, yes, he is 37 years old now. Not bad for a guy who was drafted 217th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994. He spent more than a decade toiling in the minors and in European leagues before finally getting his chance at the NHL in 2005/06 as a 30-year-old back-up.

Thomas, an unorthodox goalie who flops around and likes to challenge shooters rather than sit back and play positionally, needed a long time to convince NHL executives that he could be a reliable No 1 netminder. But once he got an opportunity, he grabbed it. And if recent history is any indicator, his best years might actually be ahead of him.

His superlative season of 2010/11 came after a bad season in 2009/10, when injuries and poor play cost him his starting position. Tuukka Rask was the goalie-in-waiting with a first-round draft pedigree, and he took over the job in Boston.

To his credit, Rask was solid for the Bruins in 2009/10. But Thomas wasted little time wresting back his job last season, and he has not relinquished it.

sports@thenational.ae