The Bruins didn't have the fondest memories of Philadelphia as they entered Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night. Thought they couldn't erase what happened last May, a shutout victory over one of the Eastern Conference's top teams had to have been the best salve they could have hoped for.
Tim Thomas turned in what was arguably his best start of the season, stopping 41 shots and a buzzing Flyers offense that was truly relentless to lead the B's 3-0 win (for a complete recap, click here). Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin led the offensive charge with first-period goals, while Milan Lucic, whose play led to Bergeron's unassisted goal, added his 11th of the season on an empty netter late in the third period.
It was just about as big a win as the Bruins could get. Sure, they wanted to avenge a humiliating playoff collapse, but more than anything they just needed a win. That's what they got, and they did it against a team that is tied for the second-most points in the NHL (34).
It would seem the Flyers would be the opponent of choice if the Bruins wanted to shake a 5-6-2 slump with a big team victory. The question remains how they'll follow it up on Thursday, as they have Steven Stamkos and the Lightning waiting for them in Boston.
The Bruins have had home games the night after a road game three times this season, all of which came in November. They're 1-1-1 in those games, the most recent of which was a 4-0 win over the Panthers on Nov. 18.
Here's the Hat Trick:
THOMAS COULD REACH GIANT SHUTOUT TOTAL
It's crazy to think that -- assuming he gets the start on Thursday -- Tim Thomas, a former Vezina winner, will have the opportunity to set a career-high in shutouts… on Dec. 2. That's the type of season it's been for Thomas. Just when you think he's come back to earth, he goes out and silences a top-five offense.
The Bruins were the better team overall on Wednesday night, but the Flyers and Thomas deserve credit for how the game started. Philadelphia came out hard and gave Thomas all he could handle on the first shift, and, much like the rest of the night, he left them frustrated.
With Thomas continuing to lead the league in the three big stats for goalies -- goals against average, save percentage and shutouts -- he's putting together personal bests while also on pace to reach numbers rare for goaltenders. The shutout category in particular stands out.
If Thomas were to continue to start and blank teams as often as he has to this point, he would find himself with 18 shutouts at season's end. An excessive extrapolation? But of course. Still, he stands a good chance of notching the most shutouts by a goalie in a season post-lockout.
Steve Mason (2008-09), Henrik Lundqvist (2007-08) and Mikka Kiprusoff (2005-06) each had 10 shutout seasons, but Martin Brodeur's 12 shutouts in 2006-07 stands as the number to beat. For those wondering, George Hainsworth holds the single-season record with 22, a number he reached for the Canadiens in the 1928-29 season in just 44 games.
SEGUIN SHOULDN'T BUDGE
The idea that Tyler Seguin could take a break from the Bruins to go play in the World Juniors Championships is an interesting one for salary cap purposes. If Marco Sturm is ready to return late in the month, they could activate him and get a test of how well his knee holds up in real game situations without having to make some monster cap-saving move.
Yet with Seguin's goal on Wednesday night, the 18-year-old gave the latest reminder of his ability to go YouTube on opposing goaltenders. Michael Ryder's cool pass to him on a 2-on-1 in the first led to him sending a quick wrister top-shelf on Sergei Bobrovsky for his fifth goal of the season.
If Seguin did play in the tournament, he would be one of the big guns and would probably score more over in Buffalo (the site of the WJC) than he would with the Bruins from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. Still, that can't really be too much of a confidence-booster for the 18-year-old, and it wouldn't teach him anything he doesn't already know.
Seguin knows he can score. He knows that, unlike last year, Team Canada would love to have him. Judging by his recent comments about his dream to help a team win a Stanley Cup, what he wants is to spend as little time away from the NHL as possible, regardless of how little ice time he gets on the B's at times. If Sturm's return matches up with the WJC, it might be an avenue worth exploring for the Bruins, but it would not be a win-win.
The penalty kill was bad last Friday, but it wasn't as dreadful as the Hurricanes' 3-for-3 day on the power play would suggest. As a result, the numbers were looking pretty awful for the Bruins entering the night -- they had allowed power play goals on four of their last six penalties -- and on Wednesday they helped repair the stats of a unit that had ranked among the league's best throughout the season.
The Flyers entered the game 12th in the league with a 17.1 power play percentage, before Thomas and the Bruins held them to an 0-for-4 mark. The Bruins are now fifth in the league with an 86.9 penalty kill percentage.
It could have been 0-for-5 (or 1-for-5), were it not for a penalty shot that was issued to Scott Hartnell. After Hartnell left the penalty box from a slashing call (Thomas received one as well, as he took umbrage to Hartnell's persistence after a play), Andrew Ference hooked him on a breakaway. Thomas stopped the penalty shot, seeing to it that both Hartnell's stats and his face took a hit Wednesday.