Locker room transformation was pregame inspiration, thanks to Thornton and Hnidy

BOSTON -- While the Boston Bruins players were back at home Friday afternoon, thinking about Game 7 of the Eastern Conference against the Tampa Bay Lightning and the possibility of advancing to the Stanley Cup finals, Boston’s sacred locker room was going through a transformation.

A rickety old wooden hand truck wheeled in five black and white and autographed pictures of former Bruins teams celebrating their Stanley Cup victories in the locker room.

The motivational idea came from veterans Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy, both of whom were healthy scratches.

“After the last game me and [Hnidy] were up trying to solve the world’s problems and we talked about bringing in some pictures that would remind the guys of where we wanted to go and about the tradition around here,” Thornton said.

It wasn’t just pictures. Two-time Stanley Cup champion and Bruins veteran Mark Recchi brought both of his rings into the room for the pregame speech. Thornton brought his, too.

The Bruins then went out and beat the Lightning 1-0 on Nathan Horton’s goal to advance to the Stanley Cup finals against the Vancouver Canucks, beginning next Wednesday in the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s unbelievable,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told ESPNBoston.com after the game. “The timing was perfect tonight. It was a really good thought and that’s what those guys are all about. Hnidy and Thorny are always getting guys ready. They’re all about team. They’re doing those and they’re not even in the lineup. I like that. This is what this team is all about and I’m pretty proud of those guys.”

There are certain rules behind closed doors. Under no circumstance can anyone step on the spoked-B logo in the middle of the room.

There are name plaques of former players that hang above each locker stall. There’s a constant reminder of the history here, but to these players it almost became second nature to glance over because they’re so used to this room. It’s like being able to walk through your home with the lights off and not bump into anything.

Well, when the current Bruins players arrived in their locker room late Friday afternoon they witnessed the transformation of the former celebrations hanging on the walls.

“When you can see a player of Bobby in the player’s lounge with a bottle of champagne in his lap, and he looks exhausted after they won, we thought bringing in a few pictures like that would help the boys see the bigger picture,” Thornton said.

It worked.

A season ago, before the Bruins lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in horrific fashion to the Philadelphia Flyers, Boston’s players watched an inspirational video that ended with the scene of Bobby Orr flying through the air after his game-winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals.

That inspiration fell short.

This season’s motivation did not.

“There’s such a great history with this team and let’s show what we’re working for and what we’re playing for,” Hnidy said. “It doesn’t hurt to have any other inspiration, anything you can pull from. We thought it would be a great idea to get some old pictures up there when Boston won the Cup. It’s great to see them celebrating and that’s what we’re playing for, so let’s show it in the room.”

As much as the new inspirational decorations served their purpose, there’s one more picture that was missing. It’s one that will serve future Bruins teams and future Bruins players: a 2010-2011 team picture with the Stanley Cup. That’s what is missing.

“It is,” Hnidy said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a great group of guys and that’s the key. Even when you’re not playing, we’re so involved and everybody really contributes. This is a big step, but it’s not the final one. We’ll enjoy this for now, but it’s back to business tomorrow.”