Just A Thought
@ESPN_Burnside: The Boston Bruins whipped the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2 Sunday night with a lineup depleted by injury and potential suspension. And if the league has any gumption -- and, oh, how many times have we wondered that aloud? -- the Bruins will be a long time without Shawn Thornton. We have had all kinds of time for Thornton over the years, and people forget that until the rugged winger reappeared in the Boston lineup in the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins were done like dinner against Vancouver. For us, he has embodied the kind of player who is a palatable alternative to the so-called pure fighter who does nothing else but punch other like players in the face. But to watch him hunt down Brooks Orpik on Saturday night and throw the unsuspecting Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman to the ice and then punch him at least twice while Orpik lay on the ice, sending Orpik off the ice on a stretcher and then to the hospital, it turned our stomach. And it should turn the stomach of Brendan Shanahan, even though the Bruins moaned that Orpik's hit earlier on Loui Eriksson earlier was "borderline." That hit was shoulder to chest and was not whistled as a penalty, even though Eriksson left the game and wasn't in the lineup Sunday. That Thornton pursued his own form of justice is exactly the kind of play that should be dealt with quickly and harshly. In short, the Bruins will have to get used to playing without Thornton for the next month or so.
@CraigCustance: That road trip could have gone better for San Jose. The Wild beat the Sharks on Sunday despite managing just 13 shots, leaning heavily on Josh Harding, who turned in another outstanding home start. San Jose surprisingly limps home after being bested in three of four road games to start December. The most concerning thing? The power play has been nonexistent. An 0-for-4 performance against the Wild means San Jose has converted just one power-play goal in its past five games, a span in which it has had 18 opportunities. They Sharks dropped to 17.6 percent on the season, surprising considering the offensive talent they have at their disposal. Factor in an average penalty kill (82.1 percent), and special teams might be the issue that trips up one of the league's best even-strength teams.
@Real_ESPNLeBrun: The Vancouver Canucks are 2-0-0 on what one organizational source considered a huge home trip before the season even began. Sunday's win over Colorado was another big step in making the Western race include the Canucks in the conversation. Specifically in the NHL's top division, the Pacific, the Canucks are hanging in there thanks to four straight wins overall. It's a critical win streak at a time when people questioned if the Canucks could hang in the race. Answer: They intend to.
@KatieStrangESPN: Speaking of the rough stuff, the Rangers seemed to be lacking the requisite sandpaper and snarl needed even to hang tough in an underwhelming Metropolitan Division matchup against the Washington Capitals on Sunday night. The Rangers showed little fight or fire in an uninspired 4-1 loss to the Caps, and grit has to be a concern moving forward. Consider this: 5-foot-7 Norwegian winger Mats Zuccarello was the one who got up in Alex Ovechkin's grill after No. 8's hard hit on veteran center Brad Richards. Again, that's 5-foot-7 Mats Zuccarello. Both Chris Kreider and Rick Nash showed some feistiness too, but should this really be a task for the team's skill players? Without Derek Dorsett in the lineup, the Rangers lack toughness and moxie. Gone are the days of the supremely effective Brandon Prust, and so too is the winning record as the Rangers are stuck in neutral at 15-15-1. I'm not suggesting the Rangers employ a heavyweight enforcer a la the days of John Scott, but extra physicality on the ice night in and night out wouldn't hurt, either.
Quote Me On That
"It's always my job, I guess, to defend my teammates, but I've prided myself for a long time to stay within the lines. It's hard for me to talk about right now. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I'm sure I'll be criticized, but it's true."
-- Bruins' Shawn Thornton after sucker-punching the Penguins' Brooks Orpik
"I'm not going to comment on that, obviously never like to see anything like that. Thought the confrontation was over after, you know, he asked him to fight a few times and kept going after him."
-- Penguins' James Neal
"We don't want to go out and make everything look pretty."
-- Wild's Matt Cooke
• Canucks: on 4-game winning streak (matches season-high)
• Avalanche: 6-6-0 in last 12 games after 14-2-0 start
• Bruins: 12-3-1 in last 16 games (won last 2)
• Capitals: 4-1-0 in last 5 games (won last 2)
• Wild: 3-1-0 in last 4 games (were 0-3-1 in previous 4 games)
• Blues: 1st regulation loss in last 10 home games (8-1-1)
• Ducks: 3-0-2 in last 5 games (won last 2)
• Bruins: Scored 2 goals in final 1:29 of 3rd period
• Stars: 1st win in last 7 games vs Flyers
• More from ESPN Stats & Information »