Thornton gladly takes one for the team

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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.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.