Thornton gets warm reception, closure in Boston

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Thornton gets warm reception, closure in Boston

BOSTON -- Joe Thornton might have finally gotten his closure with the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

The former No. 1 overall pick of the Bruins never wanted to leave Boston when he was dealt away to San Jose during the 2005-06 season, and he never got his chance to say goodbye to the team, the fans or the city.

Amid a hotly contested 4-2 win for the Sharks that included a trademark Thornton assist on Joe Pavelskis goal in the first period, the Bruins and TD Garden folks honored Jumbo Joe with a video presentation commemorating his 1,000th game played in the NHL on Friday night against the New Jersey Devils. The Bs played a series of video clips from Thorntons best moments with the Bruins to Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix, and the Garden crowd followed with a long, embracing ovation for the former franchise center.

Thornton was never able to win in Boston and he probably never should have been the Bs captain as a young player, but Jumbo Joe was always a happy-go-lucky skater that nobody could truly hold a grudge against.

Thornton gave a wave, a salute with his gloved hand and a thumbs up when the camera centered on him amid the applause, and voiced his appreciation for the welcoming applause after the win.

It was great. Obviously this is where it all started, Thornton said. They gave me my chance, and I love coming back to this city. Ive still got so many friends here and theyre still part of my life.

Jumbo Joe and the Sharks have now won each of the last three trips back to Boston over the last three years, but the 6-foot-4 playmaking pivot couldn't put his finger on why his team has had so much success against the Bruins.

It just seems every time we play here, theyre a real talented team that plays defense first. I think when youve got good defensive teams going toe-to-toe, it seems to be a good game, Thornton said. Theyve got some good offensive players as well. It just always seems to be one-goal games and pretty exciting games, too.

It was a fairly run-of-the-mill night for Thornton on the ice with the assist and zero shots on net in nearly 19 minutes of play. And while everything else might fade away, the ovation and that final moment of closure with the fans he grew up trying to please might just stick with Jumbo Joe for a while.

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

It sounds like Claude Julien has reached a breaking point with a fragile, inconsistent group of Bruins players who have lost four games in a row at a critical point in the season.

The Bruins dropped a 5-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon, and completely fell apart in the final period after Tuukka Rask was lifted because of migraine issues in the middle of the game. It was a typical Bruins effort, in which there weren’t enough scoring chances despite 45 shots on net -- largely from the perimeter -- and the defense totally unraveled in the third period once the Penguins got their offense going.

After the loss, the embattled Julien challenged his players, saying they weren’t providing enough across the board . . . which has largely been the case for the last two months as the Bruins have stagnated as a team.

“If you look at some of the mistakes we made, it’s a team that just got unraveled there in the third period,” he told reporters after the game. “With the opportunities that we had, we don’t capitalize on them. You always give the goaltender on the other side some (Matt Murray) credit. He was good tonight but at the same time, if you’re going to win hockey games, you’ve got to find ways to get [shots] through to him.

"It’s frustrating. There are a lot of guys that, right now, aren’t giving us enough, and this is a team that I think needs all 20 guys going in order to win. We don’t have enough talent to think that we can get away with a mediocre game, so this is where it’s important for our guys to understand that and it’s important to have 20 guys that want to go. It’s okay to have talent, but you’ve got to compete. For others, you’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to be willing to do the things that are not fun to do but are going to help your hockey club. It’s too bad because I think the players we expect a lot out of every night are certainly battling every night, but we need more than that . . .

“When you’ve lost three, now four in a row, it sets in. We’ve got to find a way to turn this around and start going back to the drawing board with our guys respecting what they need to do and be patient enough to give it time to turn around. When I say patience I don’t mean we need to do it in the next week. We need to do it next game but we need to respect what we’ve done well and when we’re in our game and within our structure we’ve had success but in order to be within the structure, you’ve got to be willing to want to do those things. Right now, we don’t have everybody and it just takes one guy not to want to do his job and it throws everybody else off. We have to look at personnel that way, and say that if we need to replace some guys, and we need to be patient with others, I want guys that care and want guys that want to come in and give it their all every night. We need more of that, and we don’t have enough right now.”

It remains to be seen what, or who, Julien is referring to when he mentioned personnel during his postgame comments, but it’s clear he's well aware the effort hasn’t been consistently good enough over the last two months.
 
The Bruins have dropped to third in the Atlantic Division, with the Maple Leafs just a point behind them while holding a whopping six games in hand. Even struggling teams like the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes have caught up to the B’s in the playoff race, while holding games in hand.

The B’s are in big, big trouble at this point in the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with games against an improving Red Wings club and the dominant Penguins prior to a much-needed break recess for the All-Star break.