WILMINGTON, Mass. -- While the Boston Bruins have done their best to downplay their rematch of the Stanley Cup finals with the Vancouver Canucks Saturday afternoon, there are sure to be plenty of memories of that classic series flowing on both sides.
The two teams will face off Saturday for the first time since June 15, when the Bruins won Game 7 at Vancouver for their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. For Bruins winger and resident tough guy Shawn Thornton, Game 3 of that series will always remain as one of the best memories of his career.
With the Bruins losing two one-goal games in Vancouver to fall behind in the series 2-0, coach Claude Julien felt his team needed an emotional boost. He figured that Thornton -- a leader on the bench and in the locker room who prides himself on physical play and defending his teammates -- was the man for the job. Thornton, who won a Stanley Cup in 2007 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks, waited patiently as Julien tried to get some offensive spark from Tyler Seguin, who had exploded for six points in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals while filling in for Patrice Bergeron. But Seguin didn't register a point in the next seven games. So Julien, after watching his team get verbally and physically pushed around by the Canucks in Games 1 and 2, thought Thornton would bring the physical and emotional presence the Bruins needed at that point.
"He's a player that brings that confidence to your team and at that point in the series I thought him coming in was going to be a good thing for our hockey club," Julien said. "We needed to be a little bit more emotionally involved and Thorty's really good at doing that, not just in the room but on the ice and we felt we needed that element at the time just like we felt we needed the other element to get us through the other part of the series. It was a decision that we made as a group and we thought it was a good time to bring him in."
Thornton remembers the frustration he felt watching his teammates lose two close games while they got liberties taken on them, specifically when Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows bit Bruins alternate captain Patrice Bergeron's finger in a scrum during Game 1, and again when Burrows taunted the Bruins in Game 2 by biting his glove.
Thornton knew that if given the chance he could make the Canucks think twice about such antics and bring some experience to the lineup from his finals appearance with Anaheim.
"I wanted to play. I felt that with the experience I had in the finals that maybe I could bring some added value," Thornton said of what many of his teammates considered a pivotal moment in the finals. "When I was told I would be coming back in after we lost the first two, I was pretty excited for sure. Nobody likes watching hockey for sure, especially me.
"I take pride in defending my teammates whether it's in that situation or any situation. For me not to be out there when any liberties are taken at any time, I kind of take it on a little bit of a personal level, I guess."
Thornton wasted no time making his presence felt when he laid a thunderous hit on his first shift and sent the TD Garden crowd into raucous ovation.
"Probably too much. Maybe a little too excited," Thornton joked when asked how much adrenaline was flowing through him on his first shift of Game 3. "I remember it was a good dump-up by one of our defensemen and it gave me an opportunity to finish a check on the forecheck and obviously the crowd responded. The crowd here has been unbelievable to me my whole career here but I think I got pretty close to a standing ovation on the way off after that shift and that was a pretty special thing for me."
Following that Bruins 8-1 victory to cut the Canucks' series lead in half, former teammate and now retired Mark Recchi had this to say about Thornton:
"I thought he was awesome tonight. He has a physical, veteran presence. He's won a Cup before. He knows what it takes. He's a great leader in the dressing room. He's a big guy that can skate well. He gets in on the forecheck. He's a presence, and that's important. When you have a big, physical team on the other side like that, you know you got to match that. Thorty came in and played a heck of a game for us. It was nice to see."
What was also nice to see was the way Thornton and his teammates rallied around Nathan Horton's concussion from an Aaron Rome hit in the first period of that game. Thornton and other team leaders told the Bruins they needed to atone for the hit on Horton with a win and that's just what they did.
"A lot of guys when in to check on [Horton] and we're a pretty tight-knit group because we have been since Prague and the start of last year," Thornton said. "Anytime we see that happen to a teammate, we're the type of guys that we try to rally around each other and do it for each other instead of letting it get us down."
The Bruins would go on to win every home game in that series and then take Game 7 in Vancouver to win the Cup. Despite having won it before, Thornton treasures that Cup win and the moment he entered the series even more.
"I said it all along, the first time I won it, it was very special because it was the first time I ever won it and I never thought I'd win a Stanley Cup," Thornton said. "But this time I was more involved and it's a good feeling to have, not to just be a spoke on the wheel but to be a big part of it was amazing. I know how my teammates feel about me because they tell me all the time how much they respect the job I do. That never goes unnoticed by them and that means a lot to me."