Tim Thomas understands what his job is, and it does not involve public-relations work for Roberto Luongo. Of that and not much else we can be sure as the Bruins [team stats] skate into tonight’s potential Stanley Cup elimination game at the Garden. Seldom has so much been made of so little after Luongo simply made clear that he was playing for the right team when he whined Saturday about not having heard Thomas say anything “nice” about his play. Playing goalie for a team that has produced more whine in these
finals than Ernest and Julio Gallo, Luongo’s comments seem right in line with the way the Vancouver Canucks have approached things from the start. They have played and acted (particular emphasis on the word “acted”) as if they are the Montreal Canadians of the west. They’ve taken more dives than Greg Louganis, cried wolf more often than Little Red Riding Hood, and whined louder than a rain-soaked alley cat. Having said all that, they’re also up 3-2 in the series, so they must have done something “nice.” That Thomas, in the opinion of Luongo at least, failed to make due note of that may be true, but don’t the Canucks have their own PR staff? Thomas does a lot of things for hockey, but he’s only paid to do them for the Bruins. If Luongo needs a publicist, he should call George Regan. “I guess I didn’t realize it was my job to pump his tires,” Thomas said yesterday. For a guy who claims not to be paying attention to what’s being said and written, Thomas’ reference was an aptly worded direct response to Luongo’s comments a day earlier when he said, “I have been pumping his tires ever since the series started. I haven’t heard one nice thing he had to say about me. That’s the way it is.” Well, yeah it is. You want your tires pumped, go to First Foreign Auto in Arlington; they’ll do it for free. But if you’re waiting for Tim Thomas [stats] to do it at the same time you’re trying to wrestle the Stanley Cup out of his hands you’re barking up the wrong goaltender. “I mean his whole career has been like that,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said of Thomas. “He started over in Europe, then came over here and became a star late in his career. Ever since, he’s been outstanding and proving everybody wrong, so I don’t think that (criticism) is a big deal for him. “I mean he’s been bailing us out every game, making huge saves for us. There is no reason for us to think about whether he did something wrong or right. It’s just something known for him to be great.” Apparently not always, in Luongo’s opinion. After Vancouver’s 1-0 win in Game 5 on Friday night, Luongo claimed he would have made the save Thomas did not on the contest’s only goal. It came off a rebound from the backboards that sent the puck onto the stick of Maxim Lapierre, who dumped it behind Thomas after he’d charged out more from the net than Luongo would have. “It’s not hard (the save) if you’re playing in the paint,” Luongo sniped. “It’s an easy save for me, but if you’re wandering out and aggressive like he does, that’s going to happen. He might make some saves that I won’t, but in a case like that we want to take advantage of a bounce like that and make sure we’re in a good position to bury those.” As verbal shots go it didn’t exactly rank with Mike Tyson saying after a quick knockout victory, “Lennox Lewis, I’m coming for you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah!” Luongo not only left Allah out of the Stanley Cup finals, but Thomas’ children, too. Tire pumping, or lack thereof, is far down the trash-talking food chain. That being said, in hockey there is supposed to be some sort of goalie’s union where nobody says anything disparaging about the other guy because they’re all in the puck-stopping business and it ain’t easy. Thomas noted that while at the same time dismissing Luongo’s comments about his style as something less than paramount on his mind at the moment. “I still think I’m a goaltender on the ‘union’ side,” Thomas said. “I stick with all the other goalies. In being one and knowing what it takes to perform at this level and with this amount of pressure. I understand, to a certain extent, what every other goaltender is going through. I guess that’s that. “I did hear about what he said but I don’t really want to go into that. My focus is on what I can do to help my team win going into Game 6 here. I think we’ve done a good job of focusing on the important things, which is what you can do on the ice. As a player, I think that’s your job.” In other words, Tim Thomas [stats] is not in the tire-pumping business tonight. He’s in the tire-deflating business.