Who knows? Human nature being what it is, maybe the sordid memory of the Great Collapse will swirl through the heads of some of the Bruins and create doubt during their conference semifinal rematch against the Flyers, which begins Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena. But at least the Bruins can take comfort in the fact their most important player, Thomas, was not among the guilty.
"I know we'll be asked about it a lot, and I'll be asked about it a lot, but it's a new year," Thomas said after Nathan Horton's overtime goal gave the Bruins a 4-3, Game 7 victory over Montreal on Wednesday night. "We have some different players than we had last year. We have a little different dynamic. Obviously, I'll be playing this year, so it'll definitely be different for me."
The Bruins turned to Rask last season because Thomas had a subpar season that was largely attributed to a hip problem. But now the 37-year-old Thomas, nicknamed the Tank because of his squat stature, is back in Vezina Trophy form. Following a season in which he went 35-11-9 with an NHL best 2.00 goals-against average, nine shutouts and a .938 save percentage that broke Dominik Hasek's record of .937, Thomas is a favorite to win his second Vezina in three years.
He will be the biggest difference the Flyers will see in the Bruins.
"He never quits on a puck," said Keith Jones, a studio analyst for Versus. "His recovery for rebounds is the best in the league. He's lightning quick, and he's feisty. I think he'll win the Vezina."
In the first round, the Flyers survived the reigning Vezina Trophy winner when they defeated Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres in seven games. Thomas was Miller's backup for Team USA in last year's Vancouver Olympics. So within four months, Thomas was a spectator for two epic series.
But Thomas' season was clearly superior to Miller's, and it was his 34 saves that were crucial as Boston won a Game 7 for the first time since 1994.
"It's a completely different style of goalie than we had to face in the first round," said Danny Briere, who leads the Flyers with six playoff goals. "Ryan Miller is big and always in great position. With Tim Thomas - smaller guy, never stops competing on any puck, can be all over the place. Sometimes tough to read because you don't know what he's going to do. He's very animated and doesn't like to be scored on."
Briere anticipates the Flyers will have a tough time unnerving Thomas.
"I don't know if we can do that," he said. "When it's a young guy, it's one thing. Tim Thomas has enough experience to know how to use that to his advantage."
Thomas is also among the league's best in making big saves at key junctures. Case in point: He held off the Bruins' longtime nemesis, Montreal, in three overtime wins. Boston came back to win a series after losing the first two games for the first time in club history. They'd lost the previous 26 series in which they'd dropped the first two games.
The Flyers know what they're up against in Thomas. In the four regular-season games between the two teams, Thomas beat them three times, including a shutout, and had one overtime loss. He faced 137 shots and allowed eight goals, five in one game. His save percentage against the Flyers was .942.
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or email@example.com.