You’ve heard about getting all dressed up but having no place to go.
Well, there are nights out on the ice when Shawn Thornton’s temper gets pushed over the edge, but he has no one to go – in a fight that is.
After he returned from a two-game absence caused by a John Scott blow behind his ear and a concussion, it took Thornton nine games to finally get a fight. It wasn’t for a lack of trying.
“I was fine with it. But I obviously hear a little bit of the whispers, guys [in the media] saying ‘what’s wrong with him? He hasn’t fought since he got knocked out. Blah, blah, blah,’” Thornton recently told The Bruins Blog days after his fight drought ended with a bout against Washington’s John Erskine March 5.
“I wasn’t really concerned. Other than that Rangers game, there was no real a need for it. We’ve been up by a goal or two pretty much every game, and then it was third periods we lost it. It usually doesn’t happen then anyway. It’s just circumstance, I guess.”
Thornton attempted to find a partner with the Bruins down 2-0 to the Rangers Feb. 12 in his second game back after the injury. But he couldn’t get a fight – a fact he understood because he’d been on the other side of that situation hundreds of times. He also failed to get anyone with Montreal to drop the gloves despite several invitations.
Fighting takes a level of excitement and adrenaline that can be hard to contain, so an outlet’s needed when for that unrequited desire to throw punches. However, Thornton doesn’t let his search for a fight distract from his main task at hand when he and his linemates are thrown a shift by coach Claude Julien.
“That’s why you just try to finish your checks, I guess,” he said.
“Sometimes [it can drive you nuts], but I really try not to put too much thought into it,” he continued. “I try to focus on playing. Fights are usually the easy part for me. It’s the contributing in other ways that’s the tougher part. So I really try to put all my focus into that and the fighting kind of takes cares of itself.”
Thornton tied with Brandon Prust for the league lead with 20 fighting majors last season, so it’s not like he won’t get in his fair share of bouts in a season. He had one nine-game stretch and one of seven games last season without testing his knuckles against an opponent’s face. Since he battled Erskine, he’s already dropped the gloves again (vs. Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo Saturday).
It’s also tougher for Thornton right now that he’s averaging just 6:33 of ice time, down almost three minutes per game from last season. In addition to the two games he missed with the concussion, he was also a healthy scratch March 2 vs. Tampa Bay.
The Bruins are so reliant on Thornton and their fourth line to do more than be tough, that maybe a few fewer bouts (relative to the shortened schedule), a few fewer minutes on the ice and a couple games off will pay off in even more energy come playoff time. After all, Thornton’s been putting his head on the line at the professional level of hockey for more than a decade and a half. He’s 35, but who knows how old that is in fighter’s years.
And, as everyone knows, Thornton always comes back from an absence, with the aggressiveness of bee attacking honey-covered picnickers.
“I was pissed that I was sitting. But that’s what makes me a professional, I think,” Thornton said. “But we won. I know they wanted to get [Jay Pandolfo] into a game, he hadn’t played in a while. So I understand the reasoning. Like I said, we win, that’s the most important thing.
“I prefer if it wasn’t me that came out, but it was my turn, so all you can do is respond in the right way when you come back, I guess.”
Thornton’s responded exactly how you’d expect. As far as the time off keeping him fresh for the postseason, he says, “Let’s hope.”