If you watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night, you witnessed the end of one of the greatest wire-to-wire seasons in recent sports history. Tim Thomas, the former journeyman turned unlikely All-Star goalie, capped off his superlative season by leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
The 37-year-old Michigan native regained his starting job from Tuukka Rask early in the season and put up some very impressive numbers for the Bruins in the regular season. Thomas went 35-11-9 with a paltry 2.00 goals against average and his record-setting .938 save percentage. He is a shoo-in for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the league's top regular-season goaltender, at next week's NHL awards banquet.
But Thomas somehow picked up his play in the playoffs, particularly in the most pressure-packed of situations, and was a no-brainer for the Conn Smythe Trophy that goes to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Facing elimination in four postseason games, including three Game 7s, Thomas gave up five goals in those games. And he allowed just eight goals in seven games in the Finals against the high-scoring Canucks offense.
Thomas teammate Mark Recchi agrees that it was one of the finest seasons by a goalie in NHL history.
"One of the best I've ever seen. From day one," said Recchi, the old guy who dropped a loud F-bomb on national TV when he lifted the Cup. "I've never saw that through the course of the whole year."
This brings to mind some of the other amazing wire-to-wire performances in sports history. We have seen many sparkling seasons here in Baltimore -- like Cal Ripken Jr. winning the MVP Award and leading the Orioles to the World Series in 1983 and Ray Lewis being named the AP Defensive Player of the Year and the Super Bowl XXXV MVP in the Ravens' Super 2000 season.