Grade: A, Class Valedictorian.
Usually, with these grades, there's some room for debate. If I think Michael Ryder deserves a C+, I can at least see the logic with Scott giving him an A-, since Ryder was awesome in the playoffs. I might not agree, but I can at least agree to disagree. But there's no room for debate over this grade. None. Either you give Tim Thomas an A, or you're an idiot.
Tim Thomas set an all-time record for save percentage this season, which you might know as the most important statistic for a goaltender. He led the NHL in GVT, which is pretty impressive considering he played about 2/3 of a season. He followed that up by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and setting a new record for fewest goals allowed in a 7 game Stanley Cup Final. He became only the second American to win the Conn Smythe, and the oldest player to do so.
Thomas accomplished all this on a team whose approach to defense often seemed to be, "Timmy's fine back there, let's go play offense." The Bruins surrendered 32 shots per game while Thomas was in the net; only Carolina gave up more shots this year. Didn't matter. Thomas answered the bell every single time.
Not bad for a guy that many Bruins fans (myself included) were desperate to trade for another scorer last offseason.
I could wax rhapsodic and pump Thomas' tires (thanks, Roberto) all day, but this isn't supposed to be a 3000 word article. If you followed the Bruins this season, there's no need to do so. His highlight saves from the playoffs alone could fill an hour-long video, and the debate over the biggest save will rage for years: was it the double OT save on Gionta, or the stick save on Downie? (I say Downie, that was a one-a-million stop.) Thomas was the most valuable Boston Bruin in 2010-11, and the gulf between him and #2 was immense. Without Thomas, the Bruins surely don't win the Stanley Cup, and quite possibly don't get out of round 1.
A goaltender simply cannot play better than Tim Thomas did in 2010-11. If that doesn't merit an A, the fault is in your grading scale, not his play.
Finally, a hat tip to Cornelius, for providing this clip. Alas, it didn't quite fill a one hour video, like I said.
Tim Thomas's best saves of the 2011 playoffs (via dafoomie)