Shawn Thornton's 7 Most Memorable Moments as a Boston Bruin
Outside of injuries and suspensions, the pending unrestricted free agent had been a lineup mainstay since arriving in 2007-08. But the Bruins are now seeking reformation on their depth units, particularly the renowned Merlot Line.
Upon announcing the decision, general manager Peter Chiarelli reminisced with reporter Caryn Switaj of the team’s website as follows:
I thought when he came here, I think his conditioning really went to the next level and he was able to form one third of maybe the best fourth line in hockey for the longest time…he scored some timely goals, he’s got some surprising skill for what role he brings and of course, he won a Cup with us and went to the Final again.
Per hockeyfights.com, Thornton dropped his mitts 110 times in the preseason, regular season and postseason while sporting Bruins attire. Many of his devotees in New England will surely underscore a few of those in their memory banks.
But as Chiarelli noted, the 36-going-on-37-year-old also demonstrated a worthwhile measure of aptitude in determining the destination of the puck. He made 2010-11 his career campaign, breaking double digits in both the goal and assist column. Overall, he amassed a 34-42-76 regular-season scoring log in his seven-year tenure with Boston.
Thornton’s quantifiable contributions were less visible in the playoffs. Nevertheless, he jutted out as a difference-maker at least once on each of the deeper runs.
With the seven-year alliance officially ending, here is a look back at seven of Thornton’s best highlights with the Bruins.
7. January 10, 2012
The Bruins were trailing the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1, when Thornton incurred the first of his team’s two overlapping penalties. After his teammates prevented the momentum from rolling over them, he made amends by reversing it.
As his jailbreak from the penalty box coincided with a clear from Boston’s zone, Thornton collected the puck and surpassed three lines uncontested. As he approached the net, he impelled Winnipeg backchecker Tobias Enstrom to take a hooking minor, which warranted a penalty shot.
Simply put, he looked nothing like a depth winger when he spooned a backhander over the right arm of netminder Ondrej Pavelec.
Five minutes later, Thornton fought Boston-turned-Winnipeg blueliner Mark Stuart, giving him two-thirds of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Although the Jets nabbed their third one-goal lead while the brawlers served their major sentences, the Bruins went on to usurp a 5-3 decision.
6. January 28, 2014
Monday’s news cements this play as Thornton’s penultimate goal as a Bruin and his last as a home player at the TD Garden.
New England puckheads can take that as a garnish on top of the sheer visual marvel of the play. Add the fact that the goaltender in question was another former Boston teammate in Tim Thomas.
As he did two years prior against Winnipeg, Thornton initiated the sequence by taking the puck on a nonstop tour from zone to zone. Three backchecking Florida Panthers hounded him to the opposite side boards, only to botch their battle for possession.
With the resultant opening, Thornton cut across the goal line and backhanded the biscuit into the upper left corner of Thomas’ cage.
With his assist against the New York Islanders the previous night, this was Thornton’s second point in as many outings. As a team, the Bruins proceeded to stamp their second straight six-goal outburst, securing a 6-2 decision.
5. February 3, 2011
Three rounds of fisticuffs delayed the hockey action when the Bruins hosted Dallas for the first time since Nov. 1, 2009. That previous meeting featured a myriad of melees, including a Thornton tussle with Krys Barch and a Boston runaway on the scoreboard en route to a 5-1 victory.
Hardly any bystanders were about to forget that game going into the February 2011 rematch. As it happened, neither did the participants.
In an unusual alignment, Thornton took the opening faceoff, while linemate Gregory Campbell lined up on the right wing. There, Campbell promptly engaged Steve Ott as an implicit means of settling a score from an incident in his Panther days.
Thornton assumed his usual position for the do-over draw. But the second drop of the puck prompted a second drop of the gloves.
Two more individual rivals revisited another grudge, as Thornton engaged Barch for the second time in as many encounters on the TD Garden pond.
A third and final fight stopped the clock at the four-second mark, but the scorekeepers had not escaped carpal-tunnel territory. Boston shattered the ice with two goals within the first 80 seconds, setting the pace for a 6-3 barnburner.
Thornton pitched in on that side of the scoresheet as well. Fast forward to the one-minute mark of the embedded video to watch his scoring play unfold.
With his homeward-bound release from the right circle-top, the Bruins raised a 4-0 upper hand with 16:01 gone in the opening frame. Thornton’s strike would stand as the decider by night’s end.
4. November 13, 2008
Early in Thornton’s second season with Boston, the Montreal Canadiens dropped in for their first visit since the preceding April.
It had been nearly seven full months since the Bruins punctuated their revival with a temporary season-saving Game 6 against the top-seeded Habs. They entered this mid-November matchup having failed to win any of their previous 12 regular-season tilts with Montreal.
Thornton was one personality on that bench who had experienced the majority of those matchups and nothing else in the rivalry. But his opportunism set a 180-degree reversal in motion early in this game.
In the third minute of regulation, Canadiens blueliner Mike Komisarek botched his attempt to lasso the puck in open ice. Thornton pounced to scoop the loose biscuit and stroll down the center lane and shovel the icebreaker through Carey Price’s five-hole.
Thornton later garnered credit for the primary assist when the Bruins raised the upper hand to 2-0. At the exact 17-minute mark, linemate Stephane Yelle polished a play that had started at center ice.
When the score spiraled out of hand two periods later, fellow second-year Bruin Milan Lucic tangled with Komisarek. That development made it mildly surprising Thornton would never complete the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
But more to the point, he had a hand in the eventual winning goal as part of a 6-1 lashing. That was the start of a combined nine-game win streak over Montreal through the rest of the regular season and a first-round playoff sweep.
3. December 23, 2010
A double dose of insurance gave Thornton a rare multi-goal performance as part of a 4-1 victory over Atlanta.
The Bruins augmented their advantage to 3-0 when Thornton finished a play he had started with a pass to Daniel Paille in neutral territory. Within 15 seconds of unleashing that feed, he was waiting along the far faceoff dot to slug home Adam McQuaid’s offering out of the corner.
Almost exactly a full period later, after the Thrashers had hit the board, he restored the three-goal difference by spooning home a backhander.
Those plays kicked ice chips over his more characteristic deed earlier in the night, namely a first-period fight with Eric Boulton. But Thornton’s overall performance also spoke to his exemplary motivation in the face of scrutiny.
Recall that Boston had dropped a wretched 3-0 decision to the Anaheim Ducks 72 hours prior. Speculation and debate as to head coach Claude Julien’s style and job security proliferated between the final siren of that game and the opening draw with Atlanta.
The Bruins made sure that hot stove hushed for the holiday break with the help of Thornton. His variety pack of scoresheet entries served to bookend the key developments in the team’s spirited bounce-back game.
That turnaround, by the way, started Boston’s first three-game winning streak since Nov. 15-18. In addition, the Bruins would not endure two regulation losses in a span of three games or fewer again for another full month.
2. May 21, 2013
Thornton’s final multipoint performance in a Bruins uniform came in a 2013 postseason game. His production within that contest constituted two of his seven career points in 86 total playoff appearances with the Spoked-Bs.
Not intriguing enough? Try the fact that he had a hand in both Boston goals as part of a 2-1 victory on the road.
Still not compelled? Thornton and the Merlot Line got rewarded for its grinding by flipping a 1-0 deficit into the aforementioned 2-1 triumph all within the third period. In so doing, they catalyzed the visiting Bruins to a commanding 3-0 series lead over the New York Rangers in their conference's semifinal series.
Thornton collaborated with Paille in setting up point-patroller Johnny Boychuk’s equalizer with 16:50 to spare in regulation. Another 13 minutes and 19 seconds elapsed before Paille converted Thornton’s feed for the deciding tally.
Four nights later, Thornton garnered another key helper as Campbell’s go-ahead goal clinched the series in Game 5. That stamped Boston’s passport to the Eastern Conference Final, where a sweep of the favored Pittsburgh Penguins secured a Stanley Cup Final berth.
1. June 6-15, 2011
When the Bruins clinched the 2011 Stanley Cup, Hockey Night In Canada sideline reporter Scott Oake made a point of speaking with Thornton. Although he went scoreless in the series, his reinsertion for Game 3 had helped to precipitate Boston’s rally from a two-games-to-none deficit.
On the heels of back-to-back one-goal defeats in Vancouver, the Bruins transfigured the makeup of the matchup with an 8-1 romp at home.
Thornton, who had not played since Game 2 of the conference final versus Tampa Bay, broke a 20-day fast from extramural engagement that night. His statistical imprint included 5:50 of ice time, 12 penalty minutes and two shots on net.
His visual statement, however, came in the form of what ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald described as a “teeth-shattering body check.” Specifically, it was a deck on Vancouver forward Alex Burrows at the 3:05 mark of the opening frame, who had absorbed another hit from Mark Recchi 10 seconds prior.
With Monday’s announcement, Matt Kalman of CBS Boston revisited that play and the way it sparked the symbiotic relationship between the Bruins and the Garden masses. In Kalman’s words:
Everything that came after that first shift and the hit on Burrows, however, was gravy. Thornton had already done his job; he woke up the Garden and the team and drew a line in the sand for the Bruins, which was what he was paid to do.
For what it’s worth, Thornton’s role elevated in each of Boston’s next three victories. He logged 9:29, 10:08 and 11:20 of ice time in Games 4, 6 and 7, respectively, averaging 15 shifts per night.
When that was over, he logged one more unofficial shift, namely his second career twirl with Lord Stanley.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.