Thornton keeps the peace in season finale

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Thornton keeps the peace in season finale

BOSTON -- The Bruins didnt want any extracurricular activities in a regular season finale that had no meaning for either them or the Buffalo Sabres.

But Buffalo defenseman Robyn Regehr was playing like it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals during the first period anyway. The notoriously tough customer blocked five shots in the first 20 minutes and he was hacking and whacking away at Bruins players including a cross-check on Shawn Thornton.

In the perfect example of the understated role that Thornton sometimes plays on the Bs team, the Bs enforcer took it upon himself to send a message to Regehr that he was looking for all of his Bruins teammates to remain healthy for the playoffs. So Thornton dropped the gloves and floored Regehr with an overhand right to the Buffalo defensemans face.

There wasnt another incident with any Sabres players during the 4-3 shootout win.

I think it was great to see that character coming back in the last game of the season and feeling good about the way we finished heading into next week, said Patrice Bergeron. I think we are happy with it and we found a win.

Credit Thornton with some of the character and the burning deep desire they found to get the win.

Thats the kind of intimidation and order that Thornton brings to the games style when he is out on the ice in his fourth line role, and that hockey fight also just so happened to pull Thornton into a tie with Brandon Prust for the NHL lead with 20 fights this season. Thornton said it was no big deal after getting into 21 fights a few seasons ago, but the timing and message sent certainly made it a big deal.

I hadnt planned on dropping the gloves tonight. It was no big deal to me either way, but Regehr hit me a couple of times so I assumed that he had something he wanted to take care of, said Thornton. Theres no need for the cross-checks when were just trying to stay healthy and get ready for the playoffs.

Thornton made sure of that on Saturday afternoon, and now everybody leaves that game healthy looking forward to the playoffs next week.

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.