So much has changed in the past six months.
Back in late April, it was the Sabres atop the Northeast Division in the final standings and the Bruins scraping just to make the playoffs. But the B’s turned the tables in the first round of the playoffs and have maintained an edge over Buffalo one month into the new season.
The Bruins enter tonight’s first meeting in Buffalo leading the last-place Sabres (3-7-2) by four standings points.
“That’s always one of the toughest buildings in the league to play in, and I don’t care if they’re struggling. They’ll be ready to play,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien told the media yesterday.
The main reason for the Bruins’ regular-season resurgence is another significant change since April.
Back then, it was goalie Tuuka Rask leading the playoff charge. Now, it’s the unconscious Tim Thomas making a major impact in goal.
Thomas, who is 6-0 with an 0.50 goals-against average, was named the NHL’s second star for October, behind only Lightning forward Steve Stamkos. Besides GAA, Thomas leads all backstops with a .984 save percentage and three shutouts.
Thomas is the first Bruins goaltender to start the season 6-0-0 since Hockey Hall of Famer Cecil “Tiny” Thompson in 1937-38. He rides a two-game shutout streak into tonight’s game, blanking Ottawa and Toronto last week to earn NHL first star honors for the week ending Sunday.
“I’ve dealt with it before, and you know, it’s something that’s sort of the price of doing well,” Thomas said yesteday of his recent accolades, coming after a disappointing, injury-plagued 2010 season.
“Realistically, you do have to make sure you keep your head on straight.”