By DAN VALENTI
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, June 16, 2011 ) — We got rid of our TV on Sept. 1, 2008 and haven’t looked back whatsoever. The cliches proved true: Mr. and Mrs. Planet suddenly found a whole lot more time built into the evenings of our days. She designed and installed a sewing room/art studio. We put in a “Mancave,” a secret space where ewe can conduct our fiendish-genius experiments.
CUP HAPPY — Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins holds the Stanley Cup aloft after the team's 4-0 win over Vancouver in Game Seven of the NHL Finals (Photo Courtesy of AP)
When rare occasion warrants, and The Planet wants to see a TV show, we head to a watering hole where they know our name. Thus, we did last night, to see the Biggest Game in our time as a Boston Bruins fan. And so it is, as we shake off the effects of the blonde ales that we nursed at barside that we congratulate the B’s on their great Game Seven win last night over the Vancouver Canucks, winning on foreign ice, 4-0, in a series in which the home team had yet to lose.
Boston’s other-worldly but-of-this-Planet goalie, Tim Thomas, dominated this series and last night’s game in spectacular fashion. The 37-year-old Thomas stopped everything thrown at him by the NHL’s most prolific scoring machine, stoning them with a range of saves from mundane to Houdini, from “That’s what he does” to “Did you see THAT?!?”. Thomas was not just the best goalie on The Planet; he was also the best story.
The Quebec Nordiques signed Thomas in the 9th round of the 1994 amateur draft. He spent the next nine years failing to crack an NHL roster. He bounced around the minor leagues and Europe, hanging on after most everyone else would have quit. Finally, the Bruins, needing support in the net, gave him his chance. This year, Thomas’ play — wherein he set a regular-season goal-against average which he topped in the playoffs — rewarded the franchise that believed in him with its first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Thomas: A Savant in Net
Thomas played brilliant hockey in each of the four playoff series. He became the first goalie every to win three Game Sevens in the same playoffs (vs. Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver). He ended up these playoffs with a goals against average that seems unconscious: 1.98. His .940 save percentage borders on the ludicrous, it’s that good. You could see in Game Seven last night. No matter how much the Canucks tried to storm the net, Thomas read each play in savant fashion. You could see it in his body language: he looked placid and self-contained, moving with efficiency, economy, and with the calculations of a killer.
He ended up setting a record for most saves in one playoff series, 849. He stopped 798 of those shots. In the regular season, Thomas faced 9,773 shots, stopping 9006. This came in a season that started with Thomas on the bench. Thomas, slowed last year with a hip injury, dropped to backup in support of Tuukka Rask. By year’s end, Rask was seeing as much work as the Maytag Repairman.
Cup Right There with Lombardi Trophy, and Red Sox, Celtics’ Bling
The Hub now owns Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Bruins join the New England Patriots (three Super Bowl wins since 2002), the Boston Red Sox (two World Series wins since 2004), and the Boston Celtics (the NBA title in 2008) in the ultimate winner’s circle. The win also makes Boston Title Town, USA. With the Bruins 4-0 triumph last night, Boston becomes the only city in which teams in all four major sports have won titles within a 10-year span.
Cam Neeley, former Bruins star who couldn’t bring the Cup home, said, “We still have fans that remember — barely — 1972. “And then from 1972 on, they’ve been waiting for this moment to happen. We pick up here from a story on Yahoo! Sports that captures the sense of this wait:
How did this happen? How did the Bruins go from chokers to, finally, champions? Two years in a row, they lost a Game 7 in the playoffs. Last year, they lost after blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 7 – after blowing a 3-0 lead in a second-round series with the Philadelphia Flyers. They became only the third NHL team ever to have a 3-0 series lead and lose.
And now? Now they have become the first team ever to win three Game 7s in one playoff run. Not only that, they came from behind in each of those series to do it. They faced a 2-0 deficit in the first round against theMontreal Canadiens; won in seven. They redeemed themselves by sweeping the Flyers in the second round. They faced a 1-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning; won in seven. They faced 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against the Canucks; won in seven.
Won it all.
“We lost in Game 7 two years in a row, and they learned from it. As simple as it is, they learned from it,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “If you’ve got a strong group, they’re going to get stronger, and I’ve always felt we had a strong group.”
Chiarelli sighed and smiled. The Patriots, the Red Sox, the Celtics, all recent champions. Now the Bruins, too.
“I can’t describe it,” Chiarelli said. “I mean, I still don’t believe that we’re here.”
Back to the Other Worldly Tim Thomas
Thomas will be the first to credit the defensive play in front of him, particularly Zdeno Chara’s. Thomas plays an unorthodox style in net. He likes to come out of the crease on certain plays to cut down scoring angles.
On one play last night, with a flurry of activity in front of the net in a 1-0 game, Thomas sprawled to make a save. The rebound came out to a Canuck attacker, who flipped the puck in the direction of the right hand top corner. Thomas dove to his left, getting a piece of the puck. The licorice, however, deflected off of him seemingly goal-bound — only to find the 6’9″ Chara playing goal and making the save.
In all likelihood, Thomas will go on to do something that has not been done since 1975. Barring brain freeze in the NHL, Thomas is in line to walk away with the goalie’s Triple Crown: winning the Stanley Cup, the Vezina Trophy (as the regular season’s top goalie), and the Conn Smythe Trophy (as the Finals’ MVP). He has two of the blings, and next week, he should win the Vezina.
CHECK IN LATER TODAY. WE WILL BE PRESENTING A COLONIALS’ GAME STORY AND ALSO COVERAGE OF THE TEAM’S PRESS CONFERENCE FROM WAHCONAH PARK.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE”
LOVE TO ALL