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Thornton does it all in Bruins' win over Jets

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Thornton does it all in Bruins' win over Jets

BOSTON -- Shawn Thornton is coming off a pretty extreme week.

The Bs enforcer was the focus of discussion when anentire on-ice contingent of Vancouver Canucks -- plus a couple of ranch hands from the bench --infamously attacked him in front of Vancouver'sbench Saturday afternoon. That sequence of events led to the Canucks enjoying an inexplicable 5-on-3 advantage, on which they scored the games first goal, and infuriated the fiery Thornton.

Hewas running just as hotlater in the periodwhen Vancouver tough guy Dale Weise slinked away from Thornton after agreeing to drop the gloves for a mano-a-mano encounter.

Thornton never truly got his frustrations out against the Canucks that day. So instead the Bs energy-line forward took seethinganger and considerablerancor out on the unwitting Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night in a whirlwind second period of activity that helped lead to a 5-3 win.When it was all said and done Thornton scored on a silky smooth penalty shot goal, bludgeoned a former B's teammate in an old-fashioned donnybrook and humbled a Vancouver columnist that called him "unethical" in a postgame TV appearance on Comcast SportsNet New England. That's what you call the "Shawn Thornton Hat Trick."It started on a down note with another questionable call for illegal contact to the headto Chris Thorburn minutes into the second period. Replays showed no contact between Thorntons shoulder and the Jets forwards head, but the B's enforcer went to the box for two minutes.It was too late once the hand was raised and the whistle was blown, but the nearest official admitted shortly afterward that it was -- in fact -- a botched call against Thornton and the Bruins.

The ref admitted he had messed up the call, he apologized, said Thornton. From the angle he was at, he said he thought I made contact with his head. Mistakes happen. Obviously I wasnt happy with it, but he admitted it and hes a veteran ref, so you give him the benefit of the doubt most of the time.

But karma and Thorntons burning anger allowed for things to turn around immediately after that. A fortunate puck bounce allowed Thornton to break free into the offensive zone for a partial shorthanded breakaway immediatley upon exiting the box, and a penalty shot was called when Thornton was prevented fromsqueezingoff a sufficient scoring bid.

Thats when the real magic showed up.

Thornton admitted he was a little nervous moving infor his first career penalty shot as a professional. Hed never even been chosen for a shootout over the course of his NHL career.

So what did Thornton do?

He went to the one shootout move that Tuukka Rask knows from their shootout drills in practice.

You guys probably wont believe it, but I practice that move a bunch we do a lot of shootouts at the end of practice, said Thornton. It used to work until Tuukka knew it by heart. After they called the penalty shot I looked at Tuukka and he was shaking his head yes to try it, so why not?

He went forehand to backhand before roofing a shot under the bar, and tied the game at 2-2. He even gave the traditional Ray Bourque double fist pump following the sweet toe drag, infusing the Bruins -- and fans -- with energy that had been missing.

He made a great move, scored a nice goal, did a great job, again, tonight, standing up for himself and his team, said coach Claude Julien. He deserves a lot of credit for the way he played tonight.

We were a team that didnt show as much emotion in the first two periods, and he was capable of doing his job and doing it properly. He certainly is one of those guys that I thought had a good outing tonight.

Thornton kept it up in the second period when he laterfought one of his best friends in hockey, Mark Stuart, five minutes later. The former carpool buddies and Charlestown homeboys were among the closest of friends during theirtime together in Boston, and Thornton was genuinely upset when Stuartwas traded to Atlanta last season.

But that didnt stop the Bs tough guy from rocking Stuart with a series of uppercuts and overhand rights in a unanimous decision after Stuart had thrown him off balance during a scrum in front of the net. It was the fourth time this season that Thornton has fought a former teammate, good friend or road roommate, and its all business as usual during each and every bout.

He cleared me out in front of the net there after the whistle and I took exception to it, said Thornton. Hes a good friend of mine hes a character guy. Hes a guy that I was sad to see leave Boston, but at the same time he knew Id be pushing back. Hes the type of guy who will stand up for himself.

I just wasnt going to let him take liberties on me and I figured Id push back and we went, its as simple as that. Ill still buy him a beer after the game if I see him no hard feelings.

It was another evening that wouldnt have ended in victory if the Bruins didnt have the criminally underratedThornton. Hes one of the most dangerous fourth-line enforcers in the game when it comes to both kicking in offense and forcing the other teams to play an honest game.

He did a little bit of both in a wild middle 20 minutes en route to yet another victory for the Black and Gold over the last three months. Maybe hell even get into Claude Juliens shootout rotation going forward.

I was lobbying before about the shootout, said Thornton. Im pretty sure Tuukka will still be ahead of me.

It looks like the NHL enforcer with the decent pair of mitts is still looking for a little respect even after his golden penalty shot maneuver that helped the B's to victory.

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

How should Red Sox handle Chris Sale's pursuit of Pedro Martinez's strikeout record?

BALTIMORE — Baseball records are so precise. When to pursue them, when to value them even if minor risk is involved, is not nearly as clear cut.

The Red Sox, Chris Sale and John Farrell have stumbled upon that grey area, and it will continue to play out in the final two weeks of the regular season.

Sale reached a tremendous milestone on Wednesday night, becoming the 14th different pitcher in major league history to reach 300 strikeouts in a single season. No one else has done it in the American League this century. Clayton Kershaw was the last to get there in the National League two years ago.

“It was really fun,” Sale said of having his family on hand. “My wife, both my boys are here, my mother-in-law. Being able to run out and get a big hug from him and my wife and everybody — it was special having them here for something like this. … I’ll spend a little time with them before we head to Cincinnati.”

Now, there’s another mark ahead of Sale: Pedro Martinez’s single-season club record of 313. And the pursuit of that record is going to highlight the discussion of what matters even more.

The tug-of-war between absolute pragmatism and personal achievement was on display Wednesday, when Farrell gave ground to the latter. 

The manager was prepared for the questions after a celebratory 9-0 win over the Orioles. His pitchers threw 26 straight scoreless innings to finish off a three-game sweep of the Orioles, and the Sox had the game well in hand the whole night.

With seven innings and 99 pitches thrown and 299 strikeouts in the books, Sale went back out for the eighth inning.

If you watched it, if you saw Sale drop a 2-2 front-door slider to a hapless Ryan Flaherty for the final strikeout Sale needed and his last pitch of the night, you surely enjoyed it. Records may not be championships, but they have their own appeal in sports that’s undeniable. 

But Sale could have recorded strikeout No. 300 next time out. Surely, he would have. He needed all 111 pitches to do so Wednesday.

In this case, the difference between 299 and 300 wound up being just 12 pitches. 

It’s doubtful those 12 pitches will ruin Sale’s postseason chances, particularly considering he was throwing hard all game, touching 99 mph. 

Nonetheless, the Sox hope to play for another month, and they've been working to get Sale extra rest. So, why risk fatigue, or worse, injury?

“The two overriding factors for me,” Farrell explained, “were the pitch counts and the innings in which he was in control of throughout. Gets an extra day [for five days of rest] this next time through the rotation. All those things were brought into play in the thinking of bringing him back out.

“We know what the final out of tonight represented, him getting the 300 strikeouts. Was aware of that, and you know what, felt like he was in complete command of this game and the ability to go out and give that opportunity, he recorded it.”

If Sale makes his final two starts of the year, he’ll break Martinez's record of 313. At least, Sale should. But he might not make his projected final start, in Game No. 162, so that he’s set up for Game 1 in the Division Series.

(So, if he could do reach 314 Ks in his next start, he’d make this discussion disappear — but 14 Ks in one outing is not easy.)

When should exceptions be made to let someone get to a record? Where do you draw the line? 

Would it be reasonable to get Sale an inning or two against the Astros in Game 162 if he was a few strikeouts away, even though he may face the Astros in the Division Series?

Letting the Astros get extra looks against Sale is a different matter than Sale throwing 12 extra pitches. But neither is really a guarantee of doom. They're small risks, of varying size.

Consider that if Sale is on, he should rough up the Astros no matter what.

What's 12 pitches Wednesday for a guy who leads the majors in average pitches thrown per game? Not enough to keep Farrell from letting Sale have a go at one milestone.

Will the Sox work to put Sale in position for the next?

Records don’t usually fall into such a grey area. Outside of the steroid era, anyway.