How to Solve Tim Thomas in the Playoffs

Last season, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup with grit, a stiffing defense, and a big weirdo in net by the name of Tim Thomas. Thomas had an incredible 1.98 GAA, .940 Save Percentage, and 4 shutouts in last year’s playoffs. In the Finals, Thomas went into beast mode, giving up only 8 goals in 7 games, giving Boston its first Stanley Cup since 1971-72. Naturally, he was the Playoffs MVP.

Well the Bruins are back to defend their title and are trying to become the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to win the Cup in back-to-back years. Standing in their way however, will be our 7th-seeded Caps, a rag-tag group of veterans, AHL’ers, and Russians that I’m pretty sure Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury still think are Eurotrash.

Unless he suffers a gruesome injury or chooses to skip out on a game because of an Obama appearance, the Capitals will have to find a way to consistently score on this Tea Partier from Flint, Michigan. And that, for them hasn’t been easy.

Timmay is a career 14-5-3 against Washington, which includes a save percentage north of .920. He’s consistently beaten the Caps in their own barn, winning 7 of 9 career games against them. While Thomas went 1-1-1 against the Capitals this year in 3 starts, he also stopped 82 of 89 Washington shots. He was nearly impenetrable, no matter how much we only want to remember his — um — poor performance in the March 29th shootout.

So on those 7 goals, how have the Caps beaten Thomas? Is there a particular place on the ice that the Caps have had more success shooting?

I’m glad you asked.

Shot Plot of Caps Goals Scored on Tim Thomas in 2012

All goals were scored in what is considered the “scoring-chance zone” by fancystat gurus like RMNB alumus Neil Greenberg.

Six of the seven goals the Capitals have scored on Thomas were at even strength and scored below the circles, within 27 feet of the net. Four of the seven goals were of the “dirty” variety — goals that were either scored off of a rebound or a deflection. And only one of the Capitals’ tallies on Thomas was an odd man break — a two-on-one goal, where Marcus Johansson one-timed an Alex Ovechkin pass home.

What’s the moral of the story? Much like their first round match-up last year with the New York Rangers, the Capitals must crash the net — and hard — to win this series.

While Washington’s superstar Sashas managed to tally a goal and four assists combined in 3 games against Thomas, it was role players like Jay Beagle (goal), Matt Hendricks (goal), Brooks Laich (goal), and Marcus Johansson (2 goals and an assist) who really carried the load.

The Capitals will need to utilize cross-ice passes and one-timers to get Thomas moving. The Caps will have to crash the crease and be desperate for rebounds. The Caps must have traffic in front. They will not beat Thomas with shots that he has a clear view of. Rarely does Thomas let in shots from the point. The Capitals cannot rely on odd-man breaks and pretty plays to score.

They must, you guessed it, play Hunter Hockey to win this series.

Video of Caps Goals on Tim Thomas in 2012

Marcus Johansson Goal on 2/5/2012

Alex Semin Goal on 3/10/2012

Matt Hendricks Goal on 3/10/2012

Jay Beagle Goal on 3/10/2012

Brooks Laich Powerplay Goal on 3/10/2012

Dennis Wideman Goal on 3/29/2012

Marcus Johansson Goal on 3/29/2012