There was no doubt Tim Thomas would win the Conn Smythe Trophy after his stellar performance in the Stanley Cup Final, wrapping up with a 37 save shutout in Wednesday’s game seven win over the Vancouver Canucks. He’s a deserving winner and has turned in a memorable playoffs, but it’s not something we should really be surprised at: he’s been doing this all season long.
As the regular season came to a close, there was no doubt in my mind who the Vezina Trophy winner should be. And while the playoffs do not factor into that decision, anyone who gave their vote to Thomas had their feeling confirmed, with a solid postseason run capped off by an incredible seven game run in the Final. So why shouldn’t we be surprised?
The usual goaltending stats tell the story well enough: a league leading 2.00 goals against and a league record .938 save percentage in 57 games played during the regular season. But when you look a little deeper, those stats become even more eye popping.
Watching a guy stop almost 95% of his shots at even strength is not normal, and that’s exactly what Tim Thomas did this past season, posting a stupid .947 ES save percentage. No one touched that number. Nobody. Next best was Roberto Luongo at .934 while Pekka Rinne finished at .932.
While Thomas got some help from the team in front of him, which was as stingy as they come in the Eastern Conference, it’s not like he’s only a product of his envirmonment. Both Rinne and Luongo played in front of very stingy teams as well and couldn’t post numbers anywhere close to those of Thomas. And seeing him play in person the one time this season at the Saddledome, it was very clear that what Thomas does is no fluke. It may not be conventional and it may not be taught in most goalie schools, but it’s effective and by design.
To sum it all up, the thing that cements Tim Thomas’s 2010-11 campaign as one of the best in the history of the NHL is a comparison to the last guy who was in that same realm. Dominik Hasek won back to back Hart Trophy’s to finish off the 20th century, and remains the most freakishly gifted goaltender to ever play the game in most minds. His 1997-98 and 1998-99 years were incredible, and he really was that damn good. His ES save percentages? .946 and .946 respectively.
It’s a different game in a different era, I know…but Tim Thomas enters the same conversation as the greats who have played this game. His regular season was incredible, which is why his incredible postseason capped off by a Stanley Cup isn’t surprising. Not one bit.