I've fallen in love with Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. As a Philadelphia Flyers fan, I'm not sure this is a normal thing. After all, Thomas is a member of the Bruins and has a chance to win the Stanley Cup in Game 7 against the Vancouver Canucks, and it's not like people from the Northeast particularly like people from other places in the Northeast.
But after watching Thomas in this postseason, I just can't help myself. He plays with an edge (just ask Henrik Sedin), he's unorthodox (obviously), he's kinda old and awkward-sized, he seems to defy the odds every time he steps on the ice and he has an infectious, genuine attitude that shines through the television screen whenever he talks. You can tell he's loving and cherishing every minute of this run at the Stanley Cup, and that's unfortunately not true for all players.
It's really, really easy to root for him, even if I can't stand the Spoked B he wears on his chest.
Thomas has already been handed the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP by literally everybody in the media, no matter the outcome in Game 7. But despite my new-found love for the Bruins goaltender, I'm not sure he should be such as the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Controversy!)
A few reasons here. For starters, the key with the Conn Smythe, unlike other MVP awards in other sports, is that it's all-encompassing for the entire postseason. Simply put, you can't ignore Thomas' poor performance in the Eastern Conference Finals. 21 goals in seven games. His first round against the Montreal Canadiens wasn't fantastic either, if you're just looking at the numbers and not his acrobatics. Not quite mediocre, but not quite Vezina-worthy either.
The thing with Thomas is that we look at his jaw-dropping ability to make the ridiculous, out-of-his-net save and that's what sticks in our memory. For that, we're able to overlook his faults, even if he can be just as average as anybody else at times. Who remembers his over-commitment to that play on Alex Burrows in Game 2, which directly led to a Bruins overtime loss, at this point? Nobody does, except maybe Thomas himself.
Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo has been horrible in three games of the Finals, but he wasn't the only reason the Canucks lost Games 3 and 4. The defense wasn't impressive in front of him, and well, you can't exactly score goals from the crease unless you're Ron Hextall.
In my eyes, he's cost his team one game in the Finals with his poor play, and that's Game 6. Thomas has cost his team just as many games, yet we're ready to crown him the Conn Smythe Trophy winner largely, it seems, because of his style, which spits in the face of everything that is the art of goaltending.
That's not to say that Tim Thomas hasn't been impressive overall in the Finals, and that's not to say Luongo has been good all series. Anybody in their right mind knows Thomas has been great, and when he wins the Vezina Trophy in Las Vegas next week, he'll have deserved every bit of it. I'm just afraid we're giving him too much credit. Has he stolen a game for his team in the Finals, after all? He's come close, but has it been enough?
The Bruins have been successful in these playoffs and in this series because they play a team game. Thomas hasn't stopped Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler from scoring -- instead, the defense has been damn good at limiting the chances of that trio. Thomas hasn't gotten the power play back on track, nor has he played the largest part in the Bruins successful penalty killing efforts in the series. He hasn't turned Brad Marchand into a feisty little machine, either.
The argument really boils down to this: At the end of the day, when looking at the Boston Bruins, can you pick one player that's really, truly the Most Valuable?
You could easily make a case for Thomas by saying if they take him away, they aren't in Game 7 on Wednesday night. (Although, Tuukka Rask is highly capable.) But you could make the same case for 30-minute-a-night Zdeno Chara or Dennis Seidenberg or hey, even Marchand or Milan Lucic or any number of players.
Somebody has to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, and I won't be complaining if it's Thomas, especially if he does steal that game for his team in Game 7. He's a worthy pick when all is said and done. But should he really be such a lock for the award?
The Stanley Cup Finals are ongoing, as the Vancouver Canucks battle the Boston Bruins. Stick with this StoryStream for complete coverage of Game 7. For coverage on the Finals, stick with our Stanley Cup Finals hub, our Canucks blog, Nucks Misconduct, and our Bruins blog, Stanley Cup of Chowder.