Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien laid down the gauntlet after his team’s meeting Monday, the morning after its lackluster effort in its Game 2 loss to Carolina.
“I think our fourth line, it was all about work ethic (Sunday) night. And they worked hard. They forechecked, they finished their checks, they created some opportunities. And had we had the rest of the guys with that same sort of focus, we would’ve had, probably, better results.”
When asked about Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle, the two mainstays of the fourth line, in particular, Julien continued:
“You switch a guy here or there, and overall, that’s their role, they know that. You hope that your other lines can inspire themselves by them when they’re out there coming back after a good shift, you’d like to have a follow-up.”
There’s no telling how the Bruins’ other three trios will respond in tomorrow night’s pivotal Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Hurricanes in Raleigh or beyond. But there’s never any question about the effort the Bruins will get from Yelle, Thornton and the winger of the day (most recently P.J. Axelsson).
“That’s our role; that’s our job,” Yelle said today after the club’s pre-departure practice in Wilmington, Mass. “To show up every night and create some energy if we can. And hopefully we’ll chip in with some more goals down the road.”
Said Thornton: “As far as the hard work part goes, if we’re not working hard, we’re not in the lineup. We’re going to give an effort every night.”
In the Bruins’ lineup, most of the centers and right wingers have been paired for the entire season. That’s allowed chemistry to build between the duos, and Thornton and Yelle — while not as gifted offensively — have benefitted from that.
“He’s always in the right position. I know that sometimes, even without seeing him, I can throw the puck to where he’s supposed to be and he’s there,” Thornton said. “When you play with someone for whatever it was, 70 games, you start to feel each other out, you know where each other’s going to be, and that helps.”
Although they didn’t now one another before this season, Thornton and Yelle were actually in camp with Colorado a lot of years ago. Thornton, an Oshawa native, also remembered Yelle from the center’s days with the Generals of the OHL.
“I thought he was like 40. I’m surprised he’s only a few years older than me because I thought I was 10 (back then),” joked Thornton, who is 31 to Yelle’s 34.
While Julien was pleased with the fourth line’s effort (Yelle says it’s OK to call them the fourth line), Yelle and Thornton weren’t satisified just putting the heat on the opponent. They want some goal-scoring glory to go with the energy.
“As far as getting chances and stuff, we have to start burying some of them too. We can’t be relying on the same guys every night,” said Thornton, who chipped in with a career-high six goals in the regular season. “We did get some chances last game and that’s up to us to get those chances and put them in the back of the net because just working hard and cycling and cycling, it’s all fine and dandy. But if you’re not putting the puck in the back of the net, you’re not accomplishing as much as probably you could be and we’re not taking as much pressure off the big guys as we could be.”
That’s the attitude you’d expect from guys like Thornton and Yelle. They’re never satisified. And if you think back, you probably can’t find a game all season that featured anything less than a 100-percent effort from both players.
“We are, as players, where we’re at because of our work ethic. You can’t take any nights off. Sometimes it doesn’t go as you plan on, but I think if you work hard every night things should go your way,” Yelle said.
They’re teammates appreciate their approach.
“They come to battle every night. They’re warriors,” said winger Michael Ryder. “When you have guys like that jumping out there on the ice and going to bat for you, they’re competing, it gives guys on the bench and the whole team a little jump.”
In an effort to bounce back from their first postseason loss, the Bruins must take their cue from Yelle and Thornton — no more nights off.