2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs Goalie Throwdown: Boston Bruins Tim Thomas vs. Vancouver Canucks Robert Luongo

With Wednesday’s game over with the 1-0 last minute goal by Vancouver Canucks Raffi Torres, the Boston Bruins have their work cut out for them.  Although both offenses and defenses of both teams are solid in their own right, the Vancouver Canucks offense, at least in game 1, seemed more organized and more aggressive.  They were taking solid shots for the most part and not pulling the trigger too quickly.  Both the Bruins Tim Thomas and the Canucks Roberto Luongo were solid that night, but Thomas was constantly attacked and one simply slipped past him.

Despite all this, this is a battle of two magnificent goalies in the Stanley Cup Finals, and they are both comparable in many ways.  However, one has to have the decided edge.

Physical Statistics

Surprisingly, both of these goalies have similar physical statistics.  Boston Bruins Tim Thomas weighs in at 208 lbs. and has the height of 5’11”.   Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo weighs in at 208 lbs. and has the height of 6’3″.  Although it would appear that Luongo has the decided advantage, Thomas is slightly faster for their comparable size, although both are spasmic at times.  The edge goes to Tim Thomas and the Bruins in this matchup.

Career Statistics

The Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas originally started in 2002-2003 season but didn’t come into play as a regular starter until the 2005-2006 season.  Tim Thomas has been with the Boston Bruins for seven seasons to date.  His best season has actually been this season with a 2.00 GAA and a .938 save percentage, and he has steadily improved since 2002, with his GAA and save percentage declining his tenure as a Boston Bruin goalie. Overall, Tim Thomas has been impressive during his career.  He currently has career averages of 2.50 GAA and .922 save percentage.

On the other hand, Roberto Luongo has been in the league for eleven seasons, shared with the New York Islanders, Florida Panthers and now the Vancouver Canucks. Like Tim Thomas, his best season has been the present season.  This season he’s had a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage.  And like Tim Thomas, he’s improved for his eleven seasons in the league. Presently, Luongo has career averages of 2.53 GAA and .919 save percentage.

Between the two, Tim Thomas has been the slightly more consistent and efficient goalie than Roberto Luongo over the span of their careers.  He’s improved more than Luongo as well for a shorter amount of time in the league.  The substantive edge goes to Tim Thomas and the Bruins again.

2010-2011 Regular Season Statistics

Although it was reiterated in the previous section, it is something to reiterate again.  Bruins Tim Thomas has current regular season statistics of 2.00 GAA and .938 save percentage.  Meanwhile, Canucks Roberto Luongo has a 2.11 GAA and .928 save percentage.  Again, the edge goes to Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins although slight.

2010-2011 Post-Season Statistics

Comparing their post-seasons so far, both have played 19 games to date.  Tim Thomas has presently 2.23 GAA and .931 save percentage into the postseason; meanwhile, Roberto Luongo has a 2.17 GAA and .927 save percentage.  Luongo has a slight edge so far, but nearly both have had comparable statistics.

The Edge

After an examination of the numbers, the huge edge leans toward Tim Thomas and the Boston Bruins.  And for the winner, one of Tim Thomas’ saves against the New York Islanders on their power play:

However, the Boston Bruins defense has to stay on their toes throughout all three periods of game 2 tomorrow and each following game of the Stanley Cup finals as Raffi Torres showed with last minute score to win the game for the Vancouver Canucks.  They have the physicality to win the series, but for right now, they appear to lack the team coordination.

My Two-Cents

With neither team pulling their goalies nor rotating them like the Philadelphia Flyers did, both the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks have demonstrated more consistency overall.   Since the starting goalies or their backups wondering whether they’ll actually remain through the entire game, the Canucks and the Bruins have freed their offenses as well since they players themselves won’t feel the need to “protect” their goalie.  To me, it is also somewhat of a welcome sight as the Detroit Red Wings couldn’t progress further.  They are the New England Patriots of the NHL.  But it appears that their old tricks and older players are catching up to them, as they lack the speed and handle to dominate teams as easily as they did.

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The Philadelphia Flyers Reality Check: Getting Better But Not Quite the Best Yet

The Philadelphia Flyers lost to the Boston Bruins in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs some weeks back.  Although both rounds were admittedly crushing, overcoming the Buffalo Sabres and then falling to the Boston Bruins, the Flyers have shown significant signs of improvement over the past four years.  Despite Philadelphia becoming a winning sports town since the turn of the millennium, even the Philadelphia Flyers cannot escape the Philly playoff curse — at least not quite yet.  Heck, even the Philadelphia Eagles with their new prodigal son Michael Vick could not escape the curse as the Philadelphia Eagles fell to the Green Bay Packers this past football season.  Football…well, that’s another subject to breach whenever the lockout and legalities become resolved.

The Philadelphia Flyers as a team improved since 2007.  In 2007, two years after the NHL lockout, the Flyers placed as the sixth seed into the playoffs as they entered into the Stanley Cup playoffs.  That year, general manager Paul Holmgren made significant free agent moves, including the acquisition of Danny Briere, Joffrey Lupul, Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell and then captain of the Flyers, Jason Smith. They defeated the Washington Nationals in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with Joffrey Lupul’s power play goal.  Then they defeated the Montreal Canadiens with their dominant offense.  However, the curse would finally catch up as they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games.

In 2008, the Philadelphia Flyers moved up to the fifth seed of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and with the much-cheered Mike Richards now as the captain of the Flyers.  Unfortunately, they would face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.  Despite winning the first two games of the series, they ultimately lost to the Penguins again despite having one of the most potent offenses in the NHL.  The curse strikes again…

In 2009, things have begun to change.  John Stevens was removed as coach for the Flyers after mediocre play, and Peter Laviolette was hired to that position. Goalie Brian Boucher suffered a hand injury, and journeyman Michael Leighton took over the position.  Despite these changes and difficulties during the regular season, they placed as the seventh seed into the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Although worse in terms of standings than previous seasons, they got past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by defeating Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.  In the second round, they faced a familiar foe in the Boston Bruins. In the exchange in goalie duties between Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher, the defense remained strong for both goalies as both goalies had shutouts in this second round series.  The Philadelphia Flyers had finally overcome the Boston Bruins.  But another familiar team would show up on the Philadelphia Flyers home ice — the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals.  They defeated the Canadiens in five games and finally enter the Stanley Cup finals since 1997.  Now they faced the Chicago Blackhawks and their reputed offense. The Flyers fought and dragged the series until their sixth game as Patrick Kane scored four minutes in overtime to finally eliminate the Flyers and acquire the Stanley Cup trophy for the Chicago Blackhawks. And the curse reveals itself again…better late to the party than never…

Now it’s the 2011 playoffs, and the Flyers placed as the second seed into the playoffs and clinched the Atlantic Division title since 2003-2004.  First things first, they overcame and defeated the Buffalo Sabres as the Flyers constantly switched between Sergie Bobrovsky, Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher as goalie.  However, lightning could not strike twice as the Philadelphia Flyers faced the Boston Bruins yet again in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Unfortunately, due the Flyers inconsistencies all-around, the Boston Bruins eliminated the Flyers in the second round of the playoffs.  The Flyers lack of a mobile defense, lack of goalie consistency and perhaps lack of overall team chemistry when it was needed most were the nails in the coffin. And the curse yet again…

The Philadelphia Flyers are not as bad as Philadelphia sports fan and media make them out to be.  They have gotten steadily better, but for better or worse, the duo of the Boston Bruins and the Philly playoff curse always seemed to hinder the Flyers.  Last season and the previous season, the Flyers have demonstrated revealing inconsistencies, particularly late in the season.  Head coach Peter Laviolette should decide on a permanent goalie for the upcoming season first — whether it’s Sergie Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, Michael Leighton or whoever.  Peter Laviolette doesn’t quite have the luxury as Andy Reid does with the Philadelphia Eagles during their switch between quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick last season. With their potent offense, Laviolette has to manage injuries throughout the season and ensure that the Flyers have depth at those positions.  Lastly, the Flyers have to focus on demonstrating depth, mobility and consistency on defense.

With Game 7 tonight between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, whoever wins will face the Vancouver Canucks for the Stanley Cup finals.  With the Lightning seemingly battling against the odds, tonight’s game should be close and tight.