Q. I know that you’ve probably been asked this numerous times along the way. When it comes to yourself and Dwayne, is age really a factor? Are people making a big deal about the fact that you guys are older?
TIM THOMAS: I think if age is a factor in any way, it’s actually a benefit to both of us. The experiences that we’ve been through just to get to these points in our career, they actually do help. They do help in this playoff-type atmosphere. If anything, I’d say that the age works to our advantage.
But in this case we’re so close and we’re both in the higher age category for this business that I don’t think it’s really an advantage either way.
Q. You talked about Dwayne a little bit. If it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t have ended up going to UVM, is that correct?
TIM THOMAS: When I decided where I had to go to school, UMass Lowell was one of the schools that recruited me. Dwayne Roloson was a junior who was an All-American who was returning as a senior the next year. The coach of UMass Lowell, he was up front and said they wanted me to go there, but if I went, I could either redshirt or probably play max three games. That’s ultimately why I ended up going to Vermont, because I had a chance to play right away.
Q. Your relationship with Marty, the ’96 team, the fact that you’re in the position you are now?
TIM THOMAS: Marty is one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever played with, I’ve ever even seen play. You know, it’s unfortunate that we have to play together. That’s the way it works out, though. You know, but I couldn’t have more respect for a person as a player and as a human being than I do for Marty.
Q. Tim, I’m wondering if you’re a fan or student of goaltending history. Are you familiar with guys like Johnny Bower? As someone who has been around for years and years to get to basically where you are now?
TIM THOMAS: I’m familiar with Johnny Bowers’ story. He played till he was 44. Actually he said he’d still play if they allowed him to sit in the chair when the puck is at the other end (laughter).
Those were stories that gave me hope when I was younger, when I wasn’t getting a chance at the NHL level or making it to the NHL level, that made me believe there was still a chance.
Actually in a roundabout way, when I wasn’t in the NHL, I was looking at Dwayne Roloson. He made it to the NHL, I don’t know how long it took him after he got out of college, but he really had to work his way up before he got those number one jobs, he was a backup to Hasek. He was a backup in a couple places, had to work his way up the ladder.
I saw that he was doing it. Seeing other stories like that, we were in the situation I was in, it’s something that can give you hope.
Q. Have you ever met him?
TIM THOMAS: Yes, at the Montreal All-Star Game. I have a picture of me sitting next to him in the locker room on my fridge.
Q. Tim, just wondering from a mental standpoint, when you’re on such a roll, what the eight-day break does for you and how difficult it is to get back into the mental or physical groove?
TIM THOMAS: Well, it is what it is. I had experience in my career, even probably once or twice this season, where I’ve had that eight-day break. Coming back after it, you just try to be as ready as you can. You know, you can never really tell till you get out there playing for sure exactly how you’re going to feel. You can think you’re going to pick up where you left off without a beat. Sometimes that may not be the case, but sometimes it is the case. I’m hoping for the latter. I’m hoping I can pick up right where I left off.
Q. I’m thinking your first three or four years out of UVM, Marty, too, Marty was going to Calgary and Tampa.
TIM THOMAS: He started out in Cleveland.
Q. Did the two of you have conversations, Do you think you’re going to make it, I know I’m going to make it, whatever?
TIM THOMAS: No, not really. We talked about it in college when we were playing together. But then when we were done with college, he went to Cleveland to play. Québec/Colorado owned my rights. I ended up going to Colorado. I ended up that year playing in the East Coast Hockey League, then Houston. My point being, that was pre-cellphone days, pretty much pre-Internet. At least email wasn’t that popular of a thing to do. Internet was just beginning to turn into something that you could really use.
My senior year in college, we got a 36K modem, we thought we were flying (laughter). The only times that we saw each other were in the summer. We were only speaking a little bit in the summertimes.
I’m not sure if I saw him the very first summer after our first year. Might have been a couple of years. But then when I played in Hamilton in ’99 maybe, ’98, I don’t know, we went to St. John’s for a trip, Marty was playing for St. John’s Flames. I went over to his house for dinner. We talked a little bit then.
Without saying it, I think we both thought we were just going to find a way, were going to keep kicking the can until we found a way.
Q. Tim, I know you talked a little yesterday about the time you spent in Lightning training camp in 1999. What do you remember about those weeks you spent there?
TIM THOMAS: Well, we stayed at a hotel, and they had a pool. There was a lot of little lizards around (laughter).
But, no, it was just kind of odd to attend training camp. You’re always attending training camp at the end of summer, so it’s still pretty good weather. When you attend a training camp normally, it’s turning to fall. One of the things I remember from that Tampa Bay training camp is it was so different. It was really hot. All the training camp conditions were hot and humid.
I remember I believe it was Vinny Lecavalier’s first camp and I remember that fight he got into with Stojanov. Stojanov was a tough guy. He didn’t want to fight Vinny, but Vinny kept coming after him. We discussed what a terrible situation he was in, Stojanov.
I mean, I remember stuff here and there, you know. Daren Puppa was the goalie for the Lightning at the time. Jay Feaster, it was his first year there. I remember a quick conversation I had on the plane with him, stuff like that. Nothing that really sticks out.
Q. Would you say you’ve put more emphasis on your off-season workouts as you have gotten older?
TIM THOMAS: Yes. One thing you learn in this game if you want to keep playing, at least at the highest level, as you age, the way it works is you get to take less and less time off in the summer. You have to spend more and more time preparing yourself for the season.
Last year I was preparing at the same time that I was rehabbing my hip, but it was actually very, very good training for me. Basically you can pretty much talk to any of the older players, and that’s the way it works. The key is not to let yourself ever really fall out of shape because that’s what gets hard as you get older: Once you fall out of shape, getting back into shape, getting the speed at the highest level that you need to compete against these young kids. Definitely something I’ve learned over the years.
Q. Tim, you talked a lot when you went to the Olympics about how much you appreciated, were going to enjoy it. How much with what you just said, are you appreciating this year day-to-day practices, being with the team?
TIM THOMAS: Maybe not so much practices. But you appreciate every game more. At the beginning of the season, I was very appreciative of the fact that I was still able to just play in the NHL. As it went on, I was appreciative of the fact that I could not only play in the NHL, but play in the NHL and play to a level that satisfied me.
Now that we’re in the playoffs, I’m very appreciative of the opportunity that the playoffs present. They don’t come around that often. I heard older guys say that when I was younger in my career, even in the lower-league levels, that chances to win championships don’t come around that often. You’re young, you think you’re going to have plenty of opportunities. They were trying to pass down wisdom that sometimes you don’t understand until you’ve actually walked that walk.
I walked that walk, and I realize how hard it is just to get to the Eastern Conference Final after what we’ve been over the past few years. I’m very appreciative of the fact that I’m still playing, not one of the teams watching on TV at home. I’ve done that enough.
Q. With that in mind, when did you have a sense that this team had the capability of doing something special? How much does that motivate your play?
TIM THOMAS: I think it just is something that built all year long. We would show signs of it at times early in the season. It’s a tough grind throughout the regular season where you’re not always able to play at your top level. Even during those times, we were finding ways to win games. That’s very important. We had a few comebacks during the regular season, which has served us well, because we used that in the playoffs.
So I think it was a confidence that grew throughout the year. But then you can think you know what you got. Till you get to playoffs, you don’t really know for sure what you have as a group. I think that the first round against Montréal was a testing-ground for us. We started it out right away from some adversity, getting down in the series 2-0. We started to find out what we were made of.
Come to find out, we’re made of some pretty stern stuff. We have a lot of the things that it takes to win a championship, hopefully all of them.
Q. Tim, if I’m right, I would compare your style and Roloson’s style as similar in that they’ve been adaptive. Am I right about that? Do you think that’s a product of age? Will we see the kids now who are the 25-year-old goaltenders experience the same thing?
TIM THOMAS: There are some similarities between me and Dwayne’s style. So you are right in that. They’re not obviously completely the same.
I think it’s a matter of you have to evolve to try to put yourself at the highest levels in this game. I mean, I know a little bit of Dwayne’s background. I did play against him my freshman year when we were in college, saw his style back then. Then I saw his style as it evolved on TV to the style that he had, for example, when he was with the Edmonton Oilers. Now that style has changed even more, probably as a necessity of the new NHL, which changed my style again.
I’ve been through actually a few style changes throughout my career out of necessity. Coming out of college, I had absolutely no style. But I was still was having some success at least at that level with it. My first year pro, I had to learn the basic Québec butterfly techniques just to stay in the game because I knew that I wasn’t going to make it to the next level, not because I couldn’t stop the puck doing it my way, but because I looked different than everybody else. My first Colorado camp, they drilled and drilled and drilled me on learning these Québec techniques, which at the time made it more difficult for me to save the puck. I had easier ways that I could get it done.
Once I started to practice those techniques, which I did a lot my rookie year, even when I was in Finland, I continued with the drills that I was shown. I started to learn how they could be used and applied to the game. But then a lot of those techniques are helpful, but once the equipment changed from 12 inch to 11 inch, the size of the equipment got cut down, those other techniques didn’t work as well. Some of the butterfly techniques that I had learned, you needed to play a different style – at least a guy my size, for sure.
I began to learn to play another way. It probably turned into, just like it has for me and Dwayne Roloson, a hybrid. I think the major force for the change in style in my career, and probably Dwayne’s, is necessity.
Q. Tim, what has this break been like for you mentally, physically? Was there a highlight? What was the highlight of this break for you?
TIM THOMAS: I mean, it was a good week. It’s awkward to have this week off when you’re playing in the playoffs. A part of you certainly just wants to keep going. It helped knowing that Tampa was actually in the same exact situation so that everything is going to be equal starting tomorrow. We’ve had other series where, for example a couple years ago, Carolina, they came off a long series while we’d been sitting and waiting. We started the next series, and they were in full playoff mode. It took us a while to catch up.
In this case, I used it to relax as much as I could, but not let my guard down, try to keep the edge that you need to keep so that you can get right back into it tomorrow. I think that’s all you can do.
Q. With Peverley moving to center now, you gave him some shifts there. Almost seemed at times he and Kelly were interchangeable at times being in a faceoff scenario. Was that intentional in case anything like this happened or is it because of what they brought to these moments?
COACH JULIEN: When we interchanged them quite a while ago, we wanted to see if Peverley felt more comfortable in the middle as far as his skating. It’s extremely good. Sometimes, those guys, you don’t want to limit them going up and down the wall here. Chris Kelly played the wing before, so we just interchanged them. It just seemed like a better fit at the time. Obviously it worked out.
Q. When they lengthened the attacking zones, a lot of guys began using that high middle area of the zone as a dead spot. Peverley keeps 90% of his speed in his zone entries and helps him. Is that still translating into the series the way Tampa plays? Can he still do what he did?
COACH JULIEN: We’ll have to wait and see, right? You let players play the way they need to play. You talk about team things that you want to do as a group. Individually, you have to let those guys play with their talent.
Those guys that normally do that are capable of finding the open ice. I think that’s what you’re talking about Peverley does well, he finds the open ice. He doesn’t cut through the middle because he wants to cut through the middle, but he finds the ice.
Q. Coach, we’ve been listening to players talk about what they’ve been doing with the downtime. What has it been like for you?
COACH JULIEN: I think for us we don’t have really a chance to sit back and relax. Everything we did from the time we finished was stay on top of other games, and at the same time Tampa was done before we were, so we knew who we were preparing for. We just started working from that day on.
Maybe the hours weren’t as long as they normally would be. But every day our head was in the upcoming series.
We’ve had a chance to rest, but at the same time we haven’t been taking time off as far as shutting down and saying we don’t have to think about the next series till a certain time. We’ve been pretty good.
The players are the ones that are given days off, they’re told to get away from the rink for a bit and then come back. We have to have things prepared for them.
Q. What have you been able to do at practice to try to get them back into the playoff mentality, to bring the aggression back?
COACH JULIEN: It’s been having I guess the types of practices that we wanted. Yesterday we did a lot of grinding and battling and stuff that we’re going to need to do in this series.
Today was more about flow and speed. We’ve been trying to keep our guys as sharp as we can. Part of that is making sure we prepare the practices accordingly, and the other share of it belongs to them. They got to be mentally ready to do those kinds of things and to execute well.
I think the guys have really been good about that, and they’ve done a good job.
Q. Lucic is a guy that started a little slow this season. Got stronger as it went on. Broke through with two goals in the final game. Even with this long layoff, is that something he can build on?
COACH JULIEN: Right now I like the way he’s practiced, he seems to be moving his feet well, he’s skating well. He’s making plays, shooting pucks, going into the net. To me it looks like he’s kept the same intensity and same confidence he had there in the latter state of the Philly series. I don’t see an issue.
I think right now the stakes are getting higher and higher. No reason in the world for guys to get comfortable or let their game slip.
Q. Coach, the Lightning’s third line with Moore and Bergenheim played a big role in their success. What makes them a tough matchup?
COACH JULIEN: I don’t think I’m going to start discussing matchups here.
We realize that that line has been a very good line for them. That’s part of playoff success, when you can get the contribution from different players, not always relying on the same guys that are expected to bring it to you. I think that’s the key to success. They’ve gotten that from those guys and others.
They’re not here by accident. They’re here because they belong here. When you get this far in the playoffs, teams that are here are not underdogs, they’re not anything. Teams that are here are here because they deserve to be here.
Right now we’re starting with a clean slate with no teams having won a game. What’s happened during the regular season doesn’t matter. We understand that we’re facing a team that has a lot of confidence right now, seems to have a lot of depth with scoring and with playing well. We just got to be ready to face that.
Q. Going back a couple years, there’s been a lot of talk this week comparing with what you went into facing Carolina. I was wondering what you and the coaching staff have learned and how you’ve applied it this time around?
COACH JULIEN: I think it’s what I said the other day about that, it’s important to give the guys the proper amount of rest after you’ve gone through two rounds. There’s been a lot of grind, travel, day after day after day. Rest was something we needed to do when we had the opportunity to do so with these players.
At the same time we made sure, not just physically when we practiced they were hard, but mentally we made sure we didn’t let them slip, that we kept sharp. At the same time we got some players that were here for that series that also learned as individuals you can’t let your mental approach slip either.
They were not only good at keeping it, they were also good that everybody around them kept it. I think it’s been a group effort that mentally we stayed on top of our game, on top of our focus. At the same time, the physical part of it, I don’t think too many players get out of shape at this time of year.
Q. Coach, do you have an update on Patrice Bergeron? Since it’s been a week, I didn’t know if there wer any tests he was undergoing. Any definitive results?
COACH JULIEN: I don’t know if you guys share a conference before I get here and say who is asking the question today, but I am getting that question asked every day.
I think he’s improving. He really is improving. We’re optimistic about him. As Peter said, when he was going to miss the start of the series, how much he’s going to miss, I can’t tell you right now.
He’s on the right track. When it comes to concussions, you got good news, setbacks, all kinds of things that can happen. I’m not going to stand here and change my tune every day except to say that right now, it’s going in the right direction.
Q. A lot has been made of the age of Roloson and Thomas at this point. I don’t know how much you know Roloson. What similarities or characteristics do you see perhaps in these two goaltenders that they’ve been able to make it this far despite the age when it tends to be a young person’s game?
COACH JULIEN: Well, yeah, when it comes to goaltending, I think experience is a big factor when it comes to that. You can have a good young goaltender, but if he doesn’t have experience of pressure in playoffs, you see what happens. Those guys are old enough, have enough experience, been through the grinds, the ups and downs, they’ve been able to handle it well.
Certainly physically they got to battle. As a team you try to make it as easy as possible on those guys, clearing rebounds, not giving second shots, not giving poor-angle shots, try to make their job as easy as you can.
For me, I think both of those guys battle hard. Both of those guys have had to work hard to get to where they are today. Whether one of them was battling with the minors, the NHL, then the other one was the backup, trying to work as the number one, they’ve had their share of challenges which I think has really given them an opportunity to build some character and be excitable facing these kinds of times.
I think both of them are worthy of what they’re getting: recognition. They’ve been good for their teams and they’ve played big parts in their teams being here.
Q. What have you liked about Timmy in particular the first two rounds of the playoffs?
COACH JULIEN: I think Timmy right now is in the zone. He’s very focused. When I say ‘focused,’ he’s also calm. I watched him today in practice. Very confident. That’s what it’s all about when it comes to goaltending. When a guy is feeling good about his game and confident, he can do almost anything. Tim is there right now.
Q. Kampfer, is he getting close, someone you can turn to in this series?
COACH JULIEN: As I mentioned yesterday, he’s been cleared to do contact and everything else. Right now for him it’s about conditioning. Been out for almost a month. We’re kind of ramping it up with him to help his conditioning.