BostonBruins.com -- Coach Julien and his staff will head to Ottawa for this year's NHL All-Star festivities later this month, but the only superstars that the B's bench boss was thinking about were the ones in his locker room going into today's matchup between the No.2 in NHL Boston Bruins (26-10-1) and the No.3 Vancouver Canucks (25-13-3).
Thornton (left) and Marchand
Thornton Contributes More than Punches
For several games during the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup run last season, beginning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Shawn Thornton was a healthy scratch.
But when the forward returned to the lineup in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, he brought energy to the ice that had escaped the B’s in the games prior.
In a league where it’s expected that everybody on the ice contributes on both sides of the puck, Thornton looks for ways to round out his game, rather than just being an enforcer.
“I like the fact that guys have to be able to play,” Thornton said. “Personally, I worked hard for the last 15 years to be able to contribute other ways than just my fists. My lineys help me out a lot, I’m playing with two guys that are third line guys on other teams, but we’re fairly deep and I get the pleasure of playing with Soupy [Gregory Campbell] and Paisy [Daniel Paille].
It’s expected that Thornton will bring that same spark when the two teams square off Saturday, but if you ask the B's winger, he’s more excited for the test the team will see from a high-caliber Vancouver team.
“It’s a pretty emotional series, but a lot of it’s being over hyped I think,” Thornton said. “The good thing for us is it’s a good test, they’re the top team in the west. It’s like playing Detroit, like playing San Jose – it’s like playing Chicago.
"It’s a good test for our hockey club form a team we don’t see too often. I’m looking forward to the challenge more than anything.”
Of course, there will be some attention paid to the collection of all-world players who prepare for the marquee matinee matchup in the TD Garden vistors' locker room as well.
But Julien did his best to quell the supposition that today's matchup would be akin to a Game 8 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
"It’s a one game thing – it’s not a seven game series," explained Julien. "I think it’s exciting for our fans and for the fans that want to watch the game and it should be.
"They look at it as a real exciting matchup, and I’m not saying we’re not but I don’t think we're putting all our eggs in one basket as far as saying this is a must win, do or die," added Julien, who emphasized, "It’s a league game.
"We’d like to get the two points for the right reason and nothing more than that."
The right reason could certainly apply to the NHL standings, which show the New York Rangers just three points ahead (56) of the Bruins (53), who are tied with the Canucks.
As such, Julien expects a good, hard-played regular season game, despite the fact the teams present a slightly different look than last Spring.
"There’s a few players -- just like we got -- a few new faces in the lineup," said Julien, who moved past Gerry Cheevers on the B's all-time coaching wins list with his 205th victory in Boston's 9-0 win over the Flames on Thursday.
"[Vancouver's] game hasn’t changed," he said. "They had a great year last year and had a lot of success and the way they play, and they believe in the way they play, and we believe in the way we play.
"I don’t think much has changed as far as what we should be looking for, we’ll be looking for the same things we did last year when we played them and that part of their game is very identical to the one they had last year."
But some pundits expect the Canucks to up the physical ante against the Bruins, who often displayed a corporeal edge over Vancouver in last spring's series.
"Let’s put it this way, we’re not a team that ever worries about that stuff," said Julien, whose Bruins hold the league's best goals for/goals against differential (+69). "We’re built to handle that, if that comes well deal with it then but we’re certainly not preparing for that."
One of the ways the B's will maintain an all-around effort against the Canucks will be to use all four lines in all three preriods - a unique luxury perhaps best exemplified by Bruins beat cop Shawn Thornton.
Thornton, best known for his fists, also has pretty good hands on offense and a very good "stick" on defense.
"He’s a player that brings that confidence to your team at that point in the series. I thought him coming in was going to be a good thing for our hockey club," said Julien of Thornton's re-entry into 2011 playoffs. "We needed to be a little bit more emotionally involved and Thorty’s really good at that, not just in the room, but on the ice.
"We felt we needed that element at the time."
However, even if Thornton needs to assert his presence with authority, Julien doesn't expect Saturday's matchup in the Garden to degenerate into a pugilistic proving grounds.
"That’s not what our focus is on, it’s playing a solid game the way we’ve been playing all year," said Julien. "Whatever build up people or players want to make of it, we’re going out and playing the game we know we can."