There have been way too many low points this season for Tim Thomas. Perhaps things can turn around starting Tuesday with an off night against the Lightning in Tampa. Sunday might be the lowest. Claude Julien had no choice but to pull Thomas after a disastrous first period against the Sidney Crosby-less Penguins. The was self-inflicted on the Bruins' part. Thomas got blitzed in the first frame - giving up three goals on just 10 shots. The first goal (video here) was all Bruins' fans needed to see to know that this was going to be a long and brutal afternoon. The legendary Arron Asham took the rebound off a Shawn Thornton deflection flipped it past Thomas. About four minutes later, Thomas was blinded on a Matt Niskanen whistler that found its way through traffic and past the Bruins goalie. James Neal added a power play goal going post on Thomas with less than two minutes left in the first. 3-0 Penguins. Day over for Thomas.
Thomas has been on a brutal run lately since the injury to Tuuka Rask. Marty Turco - no, he's not the Red Sox fifth starter - tried to come to the rescue Sunday. He turned in an solid performance, stopping 20 of 22 shots and should allow the Bruins to hold their position in the standings until this regular season comes to a merciful close. He won't make things worse. There's no doubting Thomas will have to change his game if the Bruins have any hope of making an extended run in the playoffs or repeating June's Stanley Cup fete.
The question should Thomas continue to slide will be: How long does Julien wait before pulling the plug on Thomas in the playoffs? Especially after riding him into the ground during the regular season. Assuming Rask is healthy for the postseason, might a fresh, tanned, rested and ready Rask give the Bruins a needed spark? If we're to believe those who claim that the entire chemistry of the team was destroyed when Thomas found his inner Glenn Beck on Facebook and took a pass on meeting President Obama - the best move would be to sit Thomas at the start of the playoffs. If the Bruins have completely fallen apart and revolted against their goalie for his White House snub, then logic would tell us they would swear undying loyalty to his Finnish replacement. Ladies and gentlemen, the Finnish National Anthem. Meanwhile, Thomas could pack his bags and move to Finland depending on who wins the GOP nomination for president. All those who criticized Thomas for his political beliefs can take some solace in the fact that at least he never called Roberta Loungo a "slut."
Despite their public pronouncements, the Bruins are probably happy with speculation that Thomas going rogue in true Sarah Palin, game-changing fashion sank their chances for a repeat. This gives them a simple quick and tidy excuse for failure. The Bruins have been hit hard by key injuries to Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton. Their loss and the team's failure to make a major move at the trade deadline to shore up the forward spots at the trade deadline will have a lot more say in the Bruins' postseason fate than Thomas' thoughts on Obamacare. In all of Thomas' disappointing performances this season since he didn't go to the White House, the fact that he won't be voting for the current Commander in Chief has been brought up by one of the many bloggers and sportswriters who cover the team on a daily basis. And it was a subject of multiple tweets Sunday as well. Kudos to @realJackEdwards for consistently pointing out that Thomas began to wane long before the White House trip.
Here's the bottom line - the record of the Bruins since Thomas snubbed the president is the exact same as the record of the Bruins since the rest of the team went to the White House. Both events have the exact same impact on the team's play - zero.
Speaking of politics and team chemistry, the Celtics have not won any championships since they visited George W. Bush at the White House in 2008.
The same can be said for the Red Sox (last seen at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. four years ago) and for the Patriots, last seen at the White House way back in 2005. Forget "The Curse of the Bambino," Boston sports fans might be dealing with "The Curse of the W."
Considering the fact they blame Bush for just about everything, Obama's campaign in New England, our friends in the "Occupy Boston" crowd and Elizabeth Warren should have a field day with that one - assuming Warren knows when the Red Sox actually won the World Series.
But this curse doesn't end with Bush. The Celtics doubled up on curses when Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins. And the Celtics have remained stuck in mediocrity since Doc Rivers co-hosted an October fundraiser for Obama in Orlando where tickets cost between $1,500 and $38,500 apiece. That event occurred during the lockout and not the season. But we still haven't heard from anyone who condemned Thomas for being so political on Facebook say anything similar about Rivers or his fellow Democrat Ray Allen when they rightfully voice their progressive views. Ditto for Theo back in the day. Don't rip athletes for being political unless you're going to be consistent in doing so. My frustration with Thomas came with his passive-aggressive "it's not political" stance. If you're going to make your political views public, embrace the debate and engage in it with civility. You might just win someone over to your point of view.
While we're at it, let's just skip the remaining Republican debates and scrap the planned presidential debates this fall. Let Thomas and Rivers hash out the election verbally on stage and on pay-per-view from the Garden - with the money raised split between their favorite charities. It would be one helluva spectacle. (Bias alert - I give Doc an edge thanks to his world-class Marquette education and the fact that our shared presence on the MU campus in the early 1980s left him intellectually graced.)
Back to hockey and relevancy. There's no doubt something is wrong with Thomas this season. He has lost the invincibility he carried throughout the postseason last spring. Nothing could get past him last spring. Everything seems to be getting to him this spring. Making excuses about the lighting at MSG isn't going to cut it in the conference finals. Sunday's game was Thomas's ninth straight start. So there was more than a realistic chance he'd hit a wall, especially at age 37.9. It's way too early to throw him under the bus or give him the Michele Bachmann-Jimmy Fallon treatment.
The Bruins as both a team and as individuals are exhausted. Think about it. Go back all the way to May of 2010. They were blown out by the Flyers after taking a 3-0 series lead. They had the entire summer of 2010 to lose sleep over that disaster. Then they began the 2010-11 season and played testicles-to-the-wall flat out for nine months. They went seven games against Montreal, Tampa Bay and Vancouver. The drain after fighting through that and winning is unimaginable. After the parade, their "ionic" city-wide celebration and that awesome Duck Boat ride into Fenway Park on Father's Day, the Bruins embarked on a well-deserved three-month bender of drinking and metaphorical debauchery with the Stanley Cup. There are many players on this team that haven't had a breather in a long time. Even young tigers like Marchand, Krejci and Seguin or stoic veteran lions like Chara need a cat nap now and then.
The best thing for the Bruins would be to let Turco fill the calendar between now and Round 1 of the playoffs. Give Thomas just enough time to make sure he doesn't go completely off campus to join Rick Santorum on the campaign trail. Then start him fresh in the playoffs and hope that whatever magic touch he found to carry the team last year re-emerges. In case of emergency break glass and use Tuuka. It's apparent that a healthy Rask will be the Bruins' goalie of the future - with or without another Cup courtesy of Thomas.
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