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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Five takeaways from Game 3

By James Murphy
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- There is plenty to take away from the Boston Bruins' dominating 8-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, but we'll do our best to narrow it down to the top five things we learned about this team:

1. Thornton sets the tone and the Bruins follow his lead: Shawn Thornton played his first game since Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals and immediately provided the spark head coach Claude Julien was looking for.

shawn thornton
The Bruins' physical tone was set even before the game, when Claude Julien put enforcer Shawn Thornton back on the ice.

Tyler Seguin, who had been playing instead of Thornton, was pointless in his past seven games. With the Bruins clearly lacking emotion and physicality in Games 1 and 2, Julien chose Thornton's grit and experience (he earned a Stanley Cup ring with Anaheim in 2007) over Seguin's potential to break out again, as he did in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

The move worked. Thornton had an awakening first shift, laying a thunderous hit on public enemy No. 1, Alex Burrows, and then flicking the puck at the Canucks' bench after a whistle and challenging them with some verbal jousting. That clearly got under the skin of the Canucks and woke up Thornton's teammates, who started hitting everything in sight and skating harder.

"I thought he was awesome tonight," said veteran forward Mark Recchi, who scored two goals and now has three in his past two games. "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."

Winger Milan Lucic agreed with Recchi and said he could tell Thornton was excited and ready before the game.

"Yeah he brought a lot of energy," Lucic said. "He was real excited to play when he got the call, and he's done a lot for this team in the last four years. And he brings a lot of experience, because he's been there before and he was able to bring that emotional boost."

2. The impact of Horton's injury in Game 3 and beyond: The silence in the TD Garden as Bruins winger Nathan Horton laid motionless on the ice after taking a late hit from Aaron Rome in the first period was deafening. But once the Bruins found out at the first intermission that Horton was moving all of his extremities at Massachusetts General Hospital, they rallied behind him, exploding for four goals in the second period and four more in the final frame.

"I was obviously on the ice with Nathan there, and I had looked in his eyes and you could tell he had his bell rung a bit," Lucic told the media. "But he's a tough guy, he's a warrior. He's been one of, if not our best forward throughout the playoffs. It was good to hear in the first intermission that he was doing OK and it definitely was something that he would have wanted us to step up and get that win for him."

According to Recchi, what needed to be done going forward after the hit on Horton and the first period didn't need to be said. The Bruins knew they had to go out and win one for their fallen teammate.

"It was more of, let's make sure we do this for Horty," Recchi said. "Horty has been a great teammate for us all year. Let's get this win for him tonight. He's been tremendous for us. He's such a great guy. It's tough to see him down. That was more the talk."

Assuming Horton is going to miss time, the talk now will be whether Seguin can step back in and deliver like he did when Bergeron missed the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. Recchi said he thinks the rookie can make an impact again.

Have to agree with the elder statesman because every time Seguin has been taken out of the lineup, he has answered with a big game. Seguin seems to come back motivated and ready to prove he belongs and that could very well be the Seguin we see in Game 4.

3. Thomas maintains his style and delivers another gem: It was comical to hear some reporters suggest to Tim Thomas, Julien and the Bruins that maybe Thomas should adjust his style after getting pulled out of position on the Alex Burrows overtime winner in Game 2.

Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas not only stopped 40 of 41 shots, he got into it physically by laying a hit on Henrik Sedin.

Thomas had a history-making season and has been just as good in the playoffs. He is a strong candidate for his second Vezina Trophy in three seasons and is the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Why should he change now?

Thomas was Thomas again in Game 3, making 40 saves and even got in on the physical resurgence by his teammates, laying a hit on Canucks captain Henrik Sedin early in the third period.

Thomas, however, shrugged off any feelings of vindication.

"I was happy, you know, with at least the base of how I was playing in the first two games," Thomas said. "I mean, I had a 1.5 goals-against in regulation in the first two games, so I think I'd rather listen to my goalie coach, Bob Essensa, than anything else. That wasn't the case. That's it."

His teammates say they never doubted him.

"Timmy has been great like he has been all series," defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. "He's solid, he bails us out game in and out, and it's just really nice to have him in the back there."

4. Looks like Julien and the Bruins were right about the power play: I've been just as critical of the Bruins' power play as anyone, but maybe Julien and the Bruins were right recently when they suggested the power play was getting better and wasn't as bad as many thought.

The Bruins now have three power play goals in their past two games after going 2-for-4 in Game 3. Just as the coach and players suggested, they're moving the puck around quicker and with accuracy both around the perimeter and down low.

"It's been criticized enough, the power play. I think in this series it's been pretty good," Julien said. "Just the fact that, again, when you look at where our issues were before, we had a hard time getting in the zone and had a hard time keeping the puck in. At least now we're getting in, moving the puck around. You'd like to see maybe more shots. At the same time it produced tonight, which was good."

5. When the Bruins' depth players show up they usually win: We've said here before that one of the reasons the Bruins are still on this playoff run is because they're final three lines have produced even when their top line struggles. That proved to be the case again Monday.

While top-liner David Krejci scored his league-leading 11th playoff goal in Game 3, it was the play of the guys on the other three lines that accounted for the majority of the Bruins' goals as the depth of this team paid off once again.

Recchi had two goals, Christopher Kelly scored, Michael Ryder had a goal and two assists, Brad Marchand and Daniel Paille had a goal and an assist each, Chris Kelly scored and Rich Peverley had an assist. The Bruins were getting contributions throughout their roster.

"That was great," Thomas said. "We started scoring and the floodgates opened and we just kept going and trying to score more. It was nice to see Recchi get a couple of goals, Danny Paille get a couple of goals, Chris Kelly get a goal. It was good to see the scoring spread around. It reminded me of the Montreal series where everybody was putting in goals here. That's what we're going to need the rest of the way out for us to win the Stanley Cup, we're going to need contributions from everyone."

Thomas was wrong on Paille, who had just one goal, but he was spot on about needing that kind of scoring depth the rest of the series.

James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.