Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘You never really expect to sweep a [Penguins] team with that much firepower’
|06.10.13 at 10:13 am ET|
The Bruins open the Stanley Cup finals on Wednesday in Chicago against the Blackhawks, who led the league with 77 points in the abbreviated regular season.
Thornton spent five years in the Chicago organization and made his NHL debut with the Blackhawks in the 2002-03 season, so he has some familiarity with a few of the current Blackhawks.
“I think their back end is as mobile as anybody’s in the NHL,” Thornton said. “I think that they’re a puck-possession team. If you give them their opportunities, if you turn that puck over they get going the other way in a hurry. They have some really, really crafty forwards up front also with [Patrick] Kane and [Jonathan] Toews and [Marian] Hossa. You definitely have to be careful.
“They’re similar in that way with the Penguins. But it’s kind of tough to compare them; we haven’t played against them this year. I only know from playing with those guys years back. I don’t really watch a whole lot of hockey.”
The Bruins are coming off a surprising four-game sweep of the top-seeded Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals. The B’s shut down Pittsburgh’s heralded offensive stars and limited the Penguins to two goals in four games.
“I honestly did not think we’d be able to shut those guys down for a whole series. Sweep was a little surprising, too,” Thornton said. “I liked the feeling in our room after we were up 2-0. I liked the feeling in our room after we were up 3-0 and going into Game 4. But you never really expect to sweep a team with that much firepower.”
Added Thornton: “Our D did an unbelievable job. The forwards helped out, but you’ve got to give the D and Tuukka [Rask] a lot of credit. And our penalty-killers. A lot of blocked shots. A lot of being in the right position. A lot of layers. A lot of hard work defensively. Definitely not easy. They had their chances, too. They hit a few posts and stuff like that. But I think for the most part we did as good a job as can be done against those guys.”
Rask is playing his best hockey at the right time in the Boston net.
“It doesn’t surprise me, nor does it surprise anyone in that room,” Thornton said. “He’s kind of I guess just now getting his due on how good he’s been. What was it, four years ago he was our starter, and I think he led the league in save percentage and goals against, but there wasn’t a word said about it. I think he was still on his entry-level contract and hit every bonus. But nobody talked about it. And then obviously Timmy [Thomas] took the starting role back the next year.
“We’re extremely lucky to have him. We’re aware of that.”
The Penguins appeared to get frustrated early with their lack of production and never got back on track.
“I didn’t know if it was passion playing out or if it was frustration; it’s hard to tell when you’re not in their room, to get a feeling for it,” Thornton said. “But I like the way we stuck to our game plan. We didn’t get frustrated. We were playing the way we wanted to play. In some spurts we got caught with a little bit of run and gun, and that’s not the way we like to play. For the most part we played our style of hockey and made it successful against them.”
Claude Julien is being credited with outcoaching his counterpart with the Penguins, Dan Bylsma. Thornton said Julien deserves credit, but he wouldn’t compare the two coaches.
“Claude’s been really good with us the last six years that I’ve been here,” Thornton said. “He prepares us in a way that we’re definitely ready to go against whoever it is. I don’t know what happened on the other side, I’m not sure if Bylsma made a bunch adjustments that just didn’t work or if he didn’t make adjustments. It’s really tough for me to critique another coach, nor would I. He has a tough job, too.”