Thornton gladly takes one for the team


Thornton gladly takes one for the team

WILMINGTON The biggest surprise for the Bruins in the Game 6 victory over the Capitals had to have been the inspiring play of injured center Patrice Bergeron.

But second place has to belong to Claude Julien scratching Bs enforcer Shawn Thornton to make room in the lineup for 21-year-old rookie Jordan Caron on the fourth line.

Thornton had nearly triggered a stirring comeback in Game 5: a pair of physical shifts including one bowling over Matt Hendricks and repeatedly challenging John Erskine helped swing the games momentum into a two-goal outburst for the Black and Gold.

But instead Thornton found himself in a suit eating popcorn and watching Game 6 at the Verizon Center for a couple of different reasons.

The Bruins were clearly looking for offensive spark and a little more finish right around the net a couple of areas where Caron has been a big help down the stretch of the regular season with 10 of his 15 regular season points coming in March and April. But Julien also needed a player on the fourth line that could potentially move up into a top-six forward spot if Bergeron exited the game quickly.

Instead Bergeron played close to 19 minutes of ice time and Caron registered a shot on goal in 4:56 of ice time in the Game 6 victory. So Thornton could very well be in the mix again for Game 7 after Bergeron came through perfectly on Sunday afternoon, but the Bs tough guy said he understood either way.

Nobody wants to be a healthy scratch, but at this time of year its about the bigger picture. Its about whatever it takes to get the win, said Thornton. We got the win to get us to Game 7 and thats all that matters.

Thornton was all caffeinated up and ready to go after his half-dozen cups of coffee just prior to Game 6, and was totally surprised when Julien gave him the bad news. But the Bs tough guy said hed gladly go through that exact same routine again if it meant his hockey club was advancing to the next round.

Claude and I talked about it yesterday. We had a good chat. It was what was best and I was extremely okay with it. I think people are a little surprised at how okay I was with it, said Thornton. I get scratched every year in the playoffs, so its nothing new. You could probably take my quotes from each of the last four years during the playoffs and use them instead. Its the same thing. Obviously I want to play, but its not about me at this time of year.

Having a team player as the guy that gets the playing time shaft in the playoffs is obviously the ideal situation for a hockey coach, and Julien appreciated that Thornton made a difficult decision just a little easier.

Thats what Shawn is all about and thats why hes always been appreciated. We appreciate him as a player first and foremost and as a person, but what he does when he drops the gloves is something that is part of his strength, said Julien. Sometimes a coach has to make decisions, its nothing personal, its nothing about the player its what we need for this certain game and thats all it was.

He understands that stuff; hes been through it many times, even before he came here. Hes all about the team and whatever we need to do hes going to support us. Hes as happy today as he was the day before he got pulled out of the lineup.

And Thornton will probably be even happier if his No. 22 gets called for Wednesday nights Game 7 with his hard-nosed intensity and infectious swagger always useful in do-or-die hockey scenarios.

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while ready for the Chris Sale era to begin with the Red Sox in a 1975 throwback uniform at Fenway’s opening day.

*Larry Brooks says that the New York Rangers are in “deep trouble” despite all of the goals that they’re scoring, and here’s why.

*The New York Islanders are playing with fire when it comes to John Tavares potentially leaving if they can’t find a running mate for him.

*Good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector about Kris Russell defying the analytical critics with his work for the Edmonton Oilers.

*Scary scene with the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks where Taylor Hall knocked out Philip Larsen with a hit, and then touched a brawl where the unconscious Larsen was kicked in the head a couple of times.

*Here’s some very good news about former B’s forward Craig Cunningham, who has begun communicating with his AHL teammates through Facetime calls and is alert, joking and sounding like somebody that’s starting to make a slow recovery from whatever mysterious thing caused him to collapse prior to a Roadrunners game.

*Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere has made such a splash with the Broad Street Bullies that he’s got a “Ghost Bear” beer named after him.

*For something completely different: The first trailer for "Spider Man: Homecoming" is going to be shown during Jimmy Kimmel, and it’s looking pretty cool in this snippet.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.