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Question of the Day
They simply took issue with where Thomas played.
Coach Alain Vigneault joined several Canucks in questioning Thomas’s aggressive positioning well outside his crease, complaining specifically about a tripping penalty to Alex Burrows for bumping Thomas outside the blue paint.
“If I’m set, I have a right to that ice,” Thomas said. “If I’m out of the paint and I’m set, I also have the right of way to get back to the crease. That’s the way I understand it.”
There’s no doubting Thomas, who joined Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie, is more aggressive than most. He relies on his ability to read and react to plays from his skates, rather than playing the more passive, on-the-knees butterfly style common today.
Thomas, whose style was labeled “battlefly” by teammate Patrice Bergeron, also will challenge shooters two or three feet outside his crease, and he’s willing to battle for that position because he knows his 5-foot-11 frame doesn’t take up enough space if he sits back in his net like the 6-3 Luongo.
“I just play my game,” said Thomas, who has drawn just three goaltender interference penalties in 19 playoff games _ although, like the Burrows call, not all contact might have been recorded that way. “It’s not always in the blue.”
The Canucks don’t seem to have a problem with that, as long as they aren’t penalized for being there, too. That appeared to be the case on Burrows‘ penalty, but Daniel Sedin wasn’t punished for knocking Thomas flat after a push by Boston defenseman Andrew Ference.
Ryan Kesler, who sets screens on Vancouver’s power play, continuously looked at his skates to make sure he wasn’t in the crease.
“I mean, 90 percent of his saves are outside the blue paint,” Vigneault said. “A lot of times he does initiate contact. That’s the way he plays. We’re going to look to get a little bit of clarification.”
Vigneault may not like what he finds. As Thomas suggested, Rule 69.4 states that “a goalkeeper is not ‘fair game’ just because he is outside the goal crease,” and the onus is on the attacking player not to make “unnecessary contact.”
“The rule is pretty clear. You’re entitled to your ice,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “If he steps out and he’s got that ice, he’s entitled to it. We all know goaltenders are to be protected. If you’re going to say he’s out of his crease, he’s fair game, that should be the same thing behind the net.”
Julien pointed out the rules are the same for Luongo, which is ironic because his struggles with congestion outside the crease during last year’s playoffs led in part to the Canucks changing how he plays.
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