BOSTON — Over the course of their first season together with the Bruins, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton have become good friends and the club’s on-ice version of the “Bash Brothers” as two thirds of Boston’s fourth line for most of this season.
The return to health of Patrice Bergeron, and the emergence as a legitimate offensive threat of rookie Tyler Seguin, left Campbell without Thornton from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final until Monday night’s Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Quite frankly, watching Campbell play without Thornton was like watching Bud Abbott try to recite “Who’s on First” by himself — lame. The reunion of Thornton and Campbell contributed to the center’s outstanding all-around performance in the Bruins’ 8-1 win that cut Vancouver’s series lead to 2-1.
Campbell logged a playoff-high 15:41 of ice time, including 7:36 of even-strength time, which exceeded his total time from both Game 1 and 2. He recorded four hits and was plus-1.
So all he needed was Thornton back on his right wing to look like the solid two-way player he was in the regular season, right?
“I’m sure he’d like me to say that,” quipped Campbell during today’s off-day media availability at Boston University’s Case Gym.
Sure enough, when asked about Campbell’s big game Thornton had this to say:
“We’ve been playing together all year. So obviously he can’t really do it without me,” joked Thornton. “It’s all me.”
In all seriousness, the Bruins killed all eight of the Canucks’ power plays, which was a tribute to Campbell among all the penalty-killers. And that, combined with Thornton’s return to the lineup, got the veteran goin.
“A big part of my game is penalty kill,” said Campbell. “We certainly had a lot of that last night. It gets me into the game. I think that’s an area where I’ve been able to contribute in these playoffs. It’s an area that I really take a lot of pride in. So I was involved a lot in that area.
“But having Shawn back, I’m obviously familiar. I played 95 percent of mygames with him this year, and on the same line. So we play well together and it was nice to have him back.”
Thornton also gave a more-serious answer.
“Soupy, I think last night he also got a little more ice time too. Everybody talks about the opportunities people get and I think he was strictly just used as a penalty-killer for the first two games,” said Thornton. “And he did an unbelievable job of killing penalties. So he did his job. Last night we got a little bit more ice time 5-on-5 and a chance to be a little more effective, I guess.”
Combined with a monstrous performance by Daniel Paille — one goal, one assist, plus-2, five hits — the Bruins not only had their fourth-line going, they had it playing up to the its effective best, a sight maybe not visible since the Philadelphia series. The Bruins needed a lift from its best energy players in the aftermath of the spark Manny Malhotra’s return to the lineup gave Vancouver in Game 2 and the injury to Nathan Horton that could’ve devastated the Bruins physically and emotionally.
“All of those guys were tremendous for us,” said head coach Claude Julien. “You saw Dan Paille on penalty kill, the chances he created, the goal he scored. Soupy was, again, just as good, especially in other areas. I mentioned last night that shot he blocked from [Sami] Salo just going down. Those guys have been like that for us all year.
“I know in the playoffs it’s changed a little bit. Their ice time diminished a little bit. But not last night. They stepped up and were ready to go, good team players, understanding their roles, and ready at any time.”
Horton’s injury makes it doubtful Julien will be breaking up the Paille-Campbell-Thornton combination the rest of the series. So we won’t have to find out if it’s Thornton that makes Campbell better, the other way around or if they could thrive without one another.