BOSTON -- On his way to capturing the 2008-09 Vezina Trophy, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas never went three games without earning his team at least two points in the standings.
Times have changed for Thomas, who after a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia at TD Garden Monday is in a 0-2-1 funk that's left him winless since Dec. 2 against Tampa Bay. Prior to that win over the Lightning, Thomas had earned a shootout win over Ottawa after giving up the weakest goal of the season in the closing seconds. Before that, he had missed six games with an undisclosed injury.
If last season was a dream for Thomas, then 2009-10 so far has been just short of a nightmare (he still has a 2.48 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage). Let's call it a season-long restless night to this point.
"I'm just trying to build every day and get better every day and trying to get back to the level I was at last season. So that's just my focus on a day-to-day basis," said Thomas.
Thomas said facing 37 shots against the Flyers helped him get in a better groove than seeing just 19 in an overtime loss Saturday on Long Island. Unfortunately for Thomas, one of those Flyers shots came off Kimmo Timonen's stick from the blue line, deflected off Blake Wheeler's glove in between the circles and eluded the netminder to his blocker side high to put the Flyers up 2-1 midway through the third period
"It was a shot, a deflection and I picked it up late," said Thomas. "From that far away you'd like to be able to find it and get it, but I wasn't able to."
The breaks just haven't gone Thomas' way. A five-goal barrage during which every bounce and mistake cost Thomas sent him to the showers early in Montreal Dec. 4 and sent him on a two-game hiatus on the bench. On Long Island, a rebound he thought he had covered squirted to an Islanders player for one goal and the winner came on what amounted to a penalty shot after a shoddy turnover at the New York blue line. On Monday, Wheeler's glove turned a routine shot into a winner.
"Sometimes you make your own breaks and sometimes those things happen. You've got to battle through it," said coach Claude Julien, who also noted that some extra work with goaltending coach Bob Essensa before the Bruins hit the road over the weekend might do the trick for Thomas. "I know he's not getting the breaks and it's mentally hard on him right now. But at the same time, if you're just going to sit there and wait for the breaks to happen, it's certainly not going to help.
"So he's going to battle through it and he's going to make sure those breaks start going his way soon."
That ultimatum would lead you to believe that if breaks -- and wins -- don't start going Thomas' way, we might start to see more of Tuukka Rask in net. The rookie has won six of his last seven outings.
Thomas knows he has to shake off his recent poor results and keep plowing ahead.
"That's the challenge, isn't it? Not to let that set you back and just keep moving forward and try to get better every day."
Dennis Wideman shut it down for the night after six shifts of the second period. Julien had no update on the blueliner's status and said the team would know more Tuesday about Wideman's undisclosed injury Forward Vladimir Sobotka scored his third goal of the season with 1:28 remaining in the second period. But he thought he had put the Bruins ahead a lot earlier when he got behind the Philadelphia defense and pushed a puck past Brian Boucher at 2:15 of the first period. However, the officials immediately waved off the goal and didn't even review the play. "He said I hit the goalie into the net," said Sobotka, who was pretty sure he had hit the puck and not Boucher The Bruins will not practice Tuesday and instead will split into groups to distribute toys they bought last week to children at Boston area hospitals.