WILMINGTON, Mass. — Bruin-on-Bruin crime is typically frowned upon, particularly during the club’s practices.
Today, however, was the exception.
Most notably, Shawn Thornton twice lost his temper. Once when he was ridden into the boards hard during a forecheck drill by Dennis Seidenberg. Thornton banged his ribs against the dasher, and in response spiked his stick over at the bench.
Later during a 2-on-2, he responded to a Johnny Boychuk blow to the face in the drill with a slash to the defenseman’s back.
Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron even let their tempers flare at one another at one point. If ever a team needed a Festivus “airing of grivances” it was this Bruins squad, and that’s exactly what those at Ristuccia Arena were greeted by.
After the near-hour-long throwdown, during which every drills was high-intensity and full of rancor, Thornton tried to chalk up his show of emotions to having a bad day. But obviously the way the Bruins have played over some stretches of recent games is wearing on him as much as anyone. In particular, Boston’s lifeless loss to Anaheim had everyone ready to go at it as though this practice could be their last.
“If we would’ve played like we practiced today, we wouldn’t have had that practice today. I know that,” Thornton said as he peeled off the tape from his socks while sitting next to Seidenberg — proving that bygones are bygones when it comes to pros.
Maybe it was disappointing to see the Bruins show more emotion and intensity in a practice than in a game 16 hours earlier. But this session might’ve been a step in the right direction.
“We were all flying and we were all focused I thought,” said center Marc Savard. “We all want this game before Christmas and we felt that we let ourselves down a little bit. Everybody likes each other in here, so we’ve just got to work together and today that’s what we did.”
Here’s an unofficial blow-by-blow of today’s practice:
•Zdeno Chara was first one on the ice 10 minutes before the start of the session. He was then joined by Johnny Boychuk, and then the rest of the players trickled out. The forwards were aligned differently than in recent games: Patrice Bergeron centering Mark Recchi and Tyler Seguin, David Krejci between Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder, Savard centering Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. The only line without a change featured Daniel Paille and Thornton flanking Gregory Campbell.
•After their warm-up skate around the rink, the Bruins worked on tape-to-tape passes on breakouts — one defenseman up to a center, the center up to a wing. Once the center’s two wings had moved up ice and shot, the center went end to end and shot, and then the D carried it up and did the same. No contact yet, but still a rapid pace.
•Time to work on the forecheck, with a forward chipping the puck deep and two forwards determined to cause a turnover below the goal line. This is where Thornton and Seidenberg had their run-in. Other bodies went flying as well, and head coach Claude Julien stopped the drill at one point to get guys to sharpen up their approach to pursuing the puck or the puck-carrier. Maybe there weren’t enough f-bombs to appease some, but nonetheless the coach had anger in his voice (and was loud enough to hear in the stands). Players not involved in the drill were forced to stand along the sides of the rink to wait their turn rather than sit on the bench. There was little down time between groups.
•Next came some intense 2-on-2 action, with the drill starting with a chase after a dump-in. This was where Thornton and Boychuk exchanged pleasantries. Even Savard and Bergeron exchanged shoves in the neutral zone after their turn was done, and Horton gave both a love tap with his stick to get them to bury the hatchet. More bodies flew in this drill than in the last five periods of game action for the Bruins.
•The one-zone, 3-on-3 battle drill was at its usual intense level. But there was definitely more of an edge, and Horton was even shaken up at one point. He sat out his turn and went to check in with the medical staff but was back in by the time the drill was over. He was fine in the dressing room once practice ended.
•After a quick primer from Julien, the Bruins concluded practice with some 3-on-2s. The drill was less physical than the prior few, but required speed and endurance.
Now comes the real test. Sure, the Bruins haven’t had much time to hold practices like this. And even if there was more down time, they wouldn’t want to beat the life out of each other every time and risk emptying the tank. But it shouldn’t take a practice like this to get more than two dozen pro athletes to at least work hard and play with emotion when two points are on the line.
We’ll see if they can carry over the intensity to a game for once and maintain it for 60 minutes once the Thrashers land at the TD Garden. Bruin-on-Thrasher crime would be much appreciated.