Stanley Cup final: Canucks stew over Thomas' style, goalie interference penalties
Vancouver Canucks left wing Mason Raymond carries sticks as he arrives at practice for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals, Friday, June 3, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canucks host the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the best-of-seven games series on tonight. The Canucks lead 1-0.
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks were not surprised by Boston goalie Tim Thomas' outstanding play Wednesday night in the opener of the Stanley Cup final.
They simply took issue with where Thomas played.
Coach Alain Vigneault joined several Canucks in questioning Thomas' aggressive positioning well outside his crease, complaining specifically about a tripping penalty to Alex Burrows for bumping Thomas outside the blue paint.
But, as Thomas and Bruins coach Claude Julien pointed out ahead of Game 2 tonight, the goalie's right to stop the puck unimpeded is not limited to the crease.
"I have the right to go anywhere there's open ice," said Thomas, who made 33 saves -- many spectacular -- before Raffi Torres scored Game 1's only goal with 18.5 seconds to play.
"If I'm set, I have a right to that ice. If I'm out of the paint and I'm set, I also have the right of way to get back to the crease. That's the way I understand it."
There's no doubting Thomas, who joined Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie, is more aggressive than most. He relies on his ability to read and react to plays from his skates, rather than playing the more passive, on-the-knees butterfly style common today.
Thomas, whose style was labeled "battlefly" by teammate Patrice Bergeron, also will challenge shooters two or three feet outside his crease, and he is willing to battle for that position because he knows his 5-foot-11 frame does not take up enough space if he sits back in his net like the 6-3 Luongo.
"I just play my game," said Thomas, who has drawn just three goaltender-interference penalties in 19 playoff games -- although, like the Burrows call, not all contact might have been recorded that way. "It's not always in the blue."
The Canucks do not seem to have a problem with that, as long as they are not penalized for being there, too. Ryan Kesler, who sets screens on Vancouver's power play, continuously looked at his skates to make sure he was not in the crease.
"I mean, 90 percent of his saves are outside the blue paint," Vigneault said Friday. "A lot of times, he does initiate contact. That's the way he plays. We're going to look to get a little bit of clarification."
Vigneault may not like what he finds.
As Thomas suggested, Rule 69.4 states that "a goalkeeper is not 'fair game' just because he is outside the goal crease," and the onus is on the attacking player not to make "unnecessary contact."
"The rule is pretty clear. You're entitled to your ice," Julien said.
"If he steps out and he's got that ice, he's entitled to it. We all know goaltenders are to be protected. If you're going to say he's out of his crease, he's fair game, that should be the same thing behind the net."
Julien pointed out the rules are the same for Luongo, which is ironic because his struggles with congestion outside the crease in the playoffs last season led, in part, to the Canucks changing how he plays.
Under new goalie coach Roland Melanson, Luongo is deeper in his net now, which shortens the distances he has to move his size-13 skates and keeps him out of traffic.
"Roberto played sort of the same way [as Thomas] last year," Vigneault said of the positioning. "We got in trouble because of that. We fixed that this year."
As for Thomas's tendency to charge out of his net, the Canucks believe they can target it for goals. His challenge on Jannik Hansen left Torres with an empty net driving backdoor for the winning goal Wednesday.
• Game 2: Boston Bruins vs. Vancouver Canucks, 8 p.m.
• Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia.
• TV: WPXI.
• Series: Canucks lead, 1-0.
First Published June 4, 2011 12:00 am