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Goaltenders: The Sacred Cow?

AMERICA! F*CK YA! Tim Thomas gives Twin 1 (or 2?) a piece of American pie in the face.
AMERICA! F*CK YA! Tim Thomas gives Twin 1 (or 2?) a piece of American pie in the face.

After watching Game 3 and Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, I think we all can agree - Tim Thomas is one bad ass motha...shut yo mouth.

I'm not talking about him giving up one goal in the two games or the inhuman goaltending. I mean, the way he put the beat down on Twin 1 in game 3 and again on Alex "Bite Me" Burrows in game 4. I LOVED IT. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was a Southie (not sure what that means-- I got it from The Departed) goalie from some beer league by the way he was brawling. That is one nasty Ginger you don't want to mess with. A goalie's crease is his domain. Those who dare to crash it (Corey...) will suffer the consequences - should the goalie be angry enough to fight back with more than just a stick to the ribs.

One of my favorite Ducks-related memories is the day after Thanksgiving game in 2009. JS Giguere was starting versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Five rows up from the ice, I could see Dustin Byfuglien's big butt constantly getting in Jiggy's way. By the third period, Jiggy had had enough. After giving a nasty cross check to the skater, Jiggy ripped off his mask and went chest to chest in a very one-sided shoving match with Big Buff. Jiggy was sticking his chin out, daring Byfuglien to take a shot. At that moment, Jiggy was invincible, because he knew had the law on his side.

Byfuglien couldn't take a swing at Jiggy for the mere fact that Jiggy is a goalie, and goalies are to be protected - no matter what. Robby, incidents like those of Tim Thomas and JS Giguere are few and far between. Are the current rules in place sufficient to protect the team's most important player on the ice, or does it set a dangerous precedent for goalie on skater violence going unpunished?

While you may think Tim Thomas is a bad ass, I think he's just as ass. If I was a Bruins fan, this kind of crap would drive me insane. Thomas' style, while great for media exposure and headlines, can lead to dire consequences. And it's not just this series. Anyone remember last year's Winter Classic? Yeah, that would be the one where Thomas was busy checking a Flyer while the puck slid into the back of the net. But I digress.

I think the rules, as they are written, amount to diplomatic immunity on the ice. In other words, goalies can act tough and start trouble, knowing full well that their actions will go unpunished. This would be like some guy goading someone into a fight when he knows he has five friends ready to stand up for him. It can lead to a false bravado that is better understood as outright cowardice.

I'm not sure what the repercussions of Thomas' actions will be, but he's probably done a major disservice to goalies league-wide. I imagine this scenario will play out in one of two ways: A depth forward (*cough Jarko Ruutu *cough) takes a serious run at a goalie and injures them or a similar forward takes a run at the team's star player (since the goalie is untouchable).

I'm sort of at a loss at determining the best way to resolve these kinds of acts. On the one hand, goalies should be protected. They're handling rocketing pucks coming from bizarre angles, and if someone decides to target them, they really have nowhere to go and no means to defend themselves. On the other hand, if goalies are going to unilaterally abuse their status as a sacred cow, they should be severely punished. I'm not saying this means someone gets to take a free shot, but I am saying that there should be a major penalty and/or a suspension for actions like those of Tim Thomas over the past two games. It severely damages the integrity of the game to allow one player on the ice to take free shots at another without fear of retribution. Just as the league sent an overkill message to Rome for his hit on Horton, they should do the same to Thomas in this situation (though I'm not holding my breath).

Ultimately, I would love to see someone in the media with the stones to get frank responses from other goalies in the league. I'd be willing to bet that there are those who are unhappy with the door Thomas has opened in these playoffs.

Robby, you ignorant slut.

The passion displayed by Thomas does nothing more than energize the team. Perhaps, if Roberto Luongo displayed the same kind of heated intensity when Milan Lucic is driving the net, the Vancouver Canucks would respond. Lord knows that they aren't responding when their best player is beat up by a goalie. Now is that because of the Sacred Cow that is Thomas or because they lack the balls to take a stand up for Twin 1?

Suspending Thomas for his actions is incredibly too harsh. Burrows and Twin 1 weren't injured on the play. Maybe give Thomas 2 minutes for Roughing or Reverse Goalie Interference or something, but don't remove him from the most important series of his career. Even if this was to happen in the regular season, it hardly warrants a suspension, let alone a penalty. The Bruins didn't gain any sort of advantage because of Thomas' actions. If this were to backfire, and he gets scored on, then it's his blame to accept.

To alter the rule that protects the goaltender would set off a series of other issues. Since the action of the game primarily takes place in front of the net, would one of the officials be required to watch the goalie at all times? How do you determine if it's retaliation instead of just protecting his crease or getting run into by a skater? Too many gray areas.

Perhaps in Robby's World, he's brought back the "no one in the crease when scoring" rule (remember that, Dallas and Buffalo?). You can only assume this would take away from tempting the goalie into retaliation...and goals. ZZzzzzz. Sorry, I fell asleep at the thought.

Just because Thomas is the one to push the rule doesn't mean he speaks for all goalies. He's just a smart one that uses this rule to his advantage.