Tim Thomas sets NHL record with .938 Save Percentage: A Little History
Tim Thomas set an NHL record in Boston’s 3-1 win over Ottawa yesterday. The Tank entered the weekend with a .9376 and proceeded to top it with a final season percentage of .938 (.93826, to be exact). That is the single best season mark ever since save percentage statistics began being recorded almost 3 decades ago in in 1983.
Thomas stopped 1,699 of 1,811 shots this season and has thereby surpassed Dominik Hasek’s record save percentage of .9366 from the 1998-99 season with the Buffalo Sabres.
“To be completely honest, I had a hard time getting it off my mind over the past week or so,” said Thomas. “But actually I mentally prepared myself yesterday not to think about that and to play. I think I’m still in that mode a little bit. It hasn’t affected me; it hasn’t set in yet. Part of that’s because we still have business to take care of [against the Devils] tomorrow.”
“He’s had a good year for us and I think deep down it seemed to matter to him…so it was important for the rest of our team to help him through it and play as best as they could. He made some great saves again tonight for us, but I think, for the rest of the team, I think they really wanted him to get that.”
As Jeff Klein points out in an interesting New York Times analysis, at age 37, if Thomas wins the Vezina Trophy this year, he will be the oldest to win the award since voting began in 1982.
Unlike today’s static goalies, who play mostly on their knees, Thomas leaps and dives, a style recalling Hasek’s, the Czech with a spine like a Slinky. Goaltenders are not taught to play that way anymore.
“When I was in college, I kind of emulated him,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t trying to play like Hasek — my style was already similar — but I saw how he was doing things, and how I could do some things easier.
“He had an influence; so did Patrick Roy, though. He was the one who basically invented this butterfly style that everyone’s playing. I didn’t get my first exposure to that till my first camp after college. So I had to learn everything at a later age.”
Late blooming is a persistent theme for Thomas. He grew up in a family struggling to make ends meet in Flint, Mich.
“We peddled fruit door to door and by the side of the road in the summer,” Thomas said.
He spent four years at the University of Vermont, where one of his teammate was Martin St. Louis; they would become only the second and third Catamounts to make the N.H.L.
But first he bounced around the minor leagues, the Swedish Elitserien and the Finnish SM-liiga. In Finland he won a title, a best goaltender award, and the M.V.P. awards as voted by the league and another by the players.
Finally in 2005-6, Thomas, at 31, won a regular job with the Bruins. He became their starter the next year and soon had established himself as the first consistently league-leading goalie Boston had had since Cecil Thompson in the 1920 and ’30s and Frankie Brimsek, who succeeded Thompson and played for the Bruins until 1949.
Thomas is also in the running for the Hart Trophy.
The only thing working against Thomas is that he will have played only 57 games, which some voters will consider insufficient for the Hart. (Source)
Whether the ultimate prize is within reach, however, remains to be seen, starting with Thursday’s home game against long-time rivals the Montreal Canadians.