Scratch won’t bug Thornton
He sat out Game 6 but stays ready to go
WILMINGTON - Shawn Thornton was fine with the message. He joked, however, that he didn’t care for the timing.
Thornton had just completed his pregame warm-up routine prior to Game 6. But after he ducked into the dressing room, Bruins coach Claude Julien gave him the news that no player wants to hear. With his team facing elimination, Thornton would have to watch the game instead of playing in it.
“I don’t give a [expletive] this time of year,’’ Thornton said of being scratched. “Whatever helps the team.
“Me and Claude had a good talk about it. It was a decision that was made. I fully support it.
“It’s not about me at this time of year. It’s about wins and losses. I joked that I wish he would have told me before I had my six coffees and two Sudafeds. It’s tough to watch a game when I get that wired.
“I was OK with it. Whatever it takes.’’
Thornton is no stranger to being scratched in the playoffs. Last year, he was in suit and tie for the last five games of the Eastern Conference final and was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final.
In Game 6 against the Capitals Sunday, Thornton was scratched for the first time in this year’s postseason. Julien wasn’t sure how much Patrice Bergeron (undisclosed injury) would be able to contribute.
If Bergeron had to exit early, Rich Peverley would have to shift from right wing to center. The Bruins would then need a second-line right wing to replace Peverley.
The Bruins determined that Jordan Caron would be a better candidate to skate with Peverley and Brad Marchand. It became a moot point when Bergeron played the entire game and fulfilled all his responsibilities save for taking draws faceoffs (all except one, a critical third-period defensive-zone draw).
Caron made his playoff debut on the fourth line, in Thornton’s usual spot alongside Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell.
“It was great,’’ Caron said. “I was waiting for that from the start of the playoffs. It was fun to get that tap on the shoulder, get out there and play.’’
In Tuesday’s practice, with Bergeron being held off the ice, Peverley centered Marchand and Caron. Thornton was in his regular fourth-line spot. Assuming Bergeron’s condition hasn’t worsened, it will be a tough call for Julien on whether to dress Thornton or Caron as the 12th forward Wednesday night in Game 7.
Caron can play a fourth-line role, kill penalties, and move up to the second line if something happens to Bergeron. Thornton has playoff experience and the ability to change momentum with his physical and emotional presence. In Game 5, Thornton helped initiate a two-goal rally by thumping Matt Hendricks and challenging John Erskine. The Bruins scored on each of the next two shifts.
“I’ll stay ready for when I’m called upon,’’ Thornton said. “Whether it’s the next game or whenever it may be. If it’s not next game, then I’ll do whatever I can to support my teammates.’’
The Capitals have been wary of creating a top-heavy first line. For most of the series, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have been skating on different lines, keeping the Bruins from training their defensive efforts on shutting down one primary threesome.
That may change in Game 7.
Late in the third period of Game 6, Washington coach Dale Hunter reunited Ovechkin and Backstrom. They connected on the game-tying goal at 15:08. Backstrom won a faceoff against Peverley and pulled the puck back to Ovechkin.
After kicking the puck to his stick, Ovechkin whipped a shot through a Dennis Seidenberg screen that sailed past Tim Thomas.
If the two play together again, it would couple the club’s best finisher with its most dynamic disher.
“They know each other very well,’’ Seidenberg said. “It’s a pretty big 1-2 punch. One guy’s a very smart player. He seems to find him everywhere on the ice. The other guy’s very powerful and very explosive offensively.’’
Throughout the series, Ovechkin and Backstrom have played together on the power play.
They have also hit the ice together on the first shift following a successful Washington penalty kill.
During the regular season, Backstrom often served as Ovechkin’s center. At times, former coach Bruce Boudreau rolled out a power threesome of Backstrom between Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
The Capitals’ concern is how Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara - with assistance from Marchand, Bergeron, and Peverley - might shut down an Ovechkin-Backstrom pair. It would leave the Capitals lacking in offense from their other three lines.
“One of those guys is a real good playmaker. The other guy’s a pretty dangerous player one-on-one and can be an explosive player,’’ Julien said. “It’s just a coach on the other side trying to utilize his assets as best he can.’’
Washington would have to rely on secondary scorers such as Semin, Brooks Laich, and Marcus Johansson to elevate their offensive games.
Look for Mottau
Mike Mottau practiced on the third defensive pairing alongside Greg Zanon. It’s a good bet that Mottau will be in the Game 7 lineup. He replaced Joe Corvo in Game 6. Mottau was on the ice for Washington’s first goal - a Mike Green shot that went in off Zanon’s leg. “Mike’s given us exactly what we’ve asked from him from Day 1,’’ Julien said. “He’s come in and been a very reliable defenseman.’’ Corvo practiced on the fourth pairing with Andrew Bodnarchuk . . . Adam McQuaid (eye/head) will miss his seventh straight game. If the Bruins advance, McQuaid’s status is unknown for the second round . . . Game 7 will be NESN’s final broadcast of the season regardless of the outcome. NBC has exclusive rights for the rest of the playoffs.