BOSTON — Winger Shawn Thornton didn’t hit the scoresheet, but he made as big an impact during the Boston Bruins’ 6-0 win over Anaheim tonight at TD Banknorth Garden as multi-goal scorers Michael Ryder and Chuck Kobasew and shutout goaltender Tim Thomas.
For 17 shifts and 11:57 of ice time, Thornton was hard work and grit personified — as he has been almost every night the last few months for the Bruins. He made his biggest splash by standing up to 6-foot-5, 231-pound George Parros after the Ducks thug blindsided Bruins center Marc Savard along the glass.
“He finished his hit on Savvy. I really didn’t see if it was dirty or clean. I know he’s a pretty honest player so I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. But you know Savvy’s laying there and that’s my job to address that,” said the 6-2, 217-pound Thornton, who scored a takedown at the end of a lengthy, even bout.
“I just get the mitts off and hope for the best, I guess,” he continued. “I don’t really have a game plan going in. I didn’t really think about it before the game. I’ve seen him fight before a lot and he’s a big strong man … he does a good job against all the big guys, so I knew I’d have my hands full that’s for sure.”
The fight with Parros made the most noise, but Thornton’s sustained forecheck and ability to create opportunities with linemates Byron Bitz and Stephane Yelle was ever-present, as it has been since the trio was formed when Bitz was called up from Providence (AHL) in early January. Bruins head coach Claude Julien likes to say that Thornton is a better hockey player than he gets credit for. Thornton has a tough time accepting praise or believing the hype, but he knows he’s earned the accolades.
“It’s definitely been a long road, a lot of improving. I know my first few years, I wouldn’t have been able to play in this league,” he told TheBruinsBlog.net not too long ago.
One coach that had faith in Thornton before Julien was Ducks bench boss Randy Carlyle, who had Thornton during the Stanley Cup-winning season of 2006-07. Although the Ducks let Thornton leave after that campaign to sign a three-year deal with the Bruins, Carlyle could see that Thornton had a lot to offer.
“Thornty played for our group and was a real nice addition,” Carlyle said before his team’s loss. “For Shawn Thornton, our expectations were for him to continue to grow as a player and that’s what he’s done for the Boston Bruins.
“Again, he’s not a real complicated guy, it’s going to be straight lines, he’s going to play physical, he’s going to defend his teammates, he’s going to get in on the forecheck. And I think that he’s really evolved into that type of player in the last two years. Specifically with us, his contribution did not go unnoticed. And Shawn Thornton was able to take advantage of the economics of the game, finally find himself some comfort zone and it looks like he’s found a home in Boston.”
The kind words won’t do much to change Thornton. He’ll just stick to his favorite philsophy of playing hockey.
“My job is to show up and work hard every night. If not, it’s a job that I can easily lose. And I’ve been there before and lost it, so … It’s not like I’m thinking about showing up and having my best game every night. I just have to show up and be consistent every night. Hard work is easy to control so that’s all I try to think about.”