Shawn Thornton played his first game after serving his suspension against the San Jose Sharks. This is a much bigger deal than some people think as Thornton embodies what it means to be a Boston Bruin. He has a veteran presence and plays with passion and grit. It is no secret that he made a poor judgement call when he brought Brooks Orpik to the ice. Thornton should have never punched Orpik when he was in a defenseless position no matter what Orpik did earlier in the game. On one hand, it was one of the stupidest things I have seen a Bruins player do in a long time, but on the other hand, it is exactly why he is beloved in Boston.
His intention was to stand up for one of his own. Thornton is an enforcer, but he is also an energy player. The combination of Thornton and Gregory Campbell allows the Bruins to play a solid fourth line. They are defensively sound and play within the parameters of coach Claude Julien‘s system.
You could tell the Bruins missed Thornton after his first shift. His line played a very quick and smooth north to south style of hockey. If Thornton can keep his cool he is going to help the Bruins down the stretch. Thornton isn’t going to score you 20 goals, and he isn’t going to play on special teams. He is going to be a fourth-line banger. That’s his job. He may do it better than anyone else in the league, and the Bruins need Thornton to be at his best when he is on the ice. Thornton’s best asset is playing smart hockey and fighting at the right time.