Vezina a feather in Thomas’ cap

It wasn’t a surprise when Tim Thomas walked away with the Georges Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s best goaltender, but it was a nice reaffirmation of the Boston goalie’s fantastic season.

Thomas beat out Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, again, and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, and any other result would’ve counted as a major upset. Thomas led the league in save percentage (his .938 mark sits as the new record) and goals against average (2.00), and backstopped a Boston unit that didn’t typically blow people away with offense. In the regular season, the Bruins didn’t have a scorer ranked higher than 39 — Milan Lucic and David Krejci were tied with seven others at 62 points each. The Bruins were a team that relied heavily on defense and goaltending, and goaltending is what got them to the playoffs in the first place.

Tuukka Rask, remember, came into the season as the understood starter, with Thomas looking to play his way into the discussion or, as some wondered, into a trade. Rask had a rough opener against Phoenix in Prague, and Thomas answered back the next day with a shutout. Thomas got the next three starts and won, Rask fell to the New York Rangers in the sixth game, and Thomas was back in net with two more shootouts.

After offseason rehab from hip surgery, it was clear — the Boston net belonged to Thomas again. Was wasn’t quite as clear was how much he’d own the league.

With the win, Thomas pulled off the Bernie Parent hat trick, winning the Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies as well as the Stanley Cup in the same season. Less significant, but still kind of funny, he was also the winning goalie for the third consecutive time in the All-Star game. All that was missing was a gold medal, but he didn’t have that chance in an off-year, obviously.

The Vezina Trophy is nice, but it won’t be what Thomas is remembered for when looking back on 2010-11. This season’s legacy will be that Thomas came back from injury, validating the four-year contract that Peter Chiarelli awarded him after his first Vezina win in 2009, played out of his mind in the playoffs, and carried the Bruins to the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years.

Of the three trophies, it’s not hard to wonder which one meant the most to Thomas.

Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas poses with the Conn Smythe Trophy (L) and the Vezina Trophy at the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Damon (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

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