February 9, 2011

Thornton, B's look to turn season series with Habs around

Bruins winger Shawn Thornton camps out in front of Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. (Getty)

BOSTON -- In a rivalry that spans nearly a century of hockey, it's only natural that both the Canadiens and Bruins have gone through stretches of dominance against one another.

 Despite the fact that both squads have qualified for the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, that distinct edge has continuously changed hands.

 "They're a good team," Shawn Thornton said when asked why Boston is 0-3 against their archrival in 2010-11. "They've had our number so far this year and hopefully we can turn it around tonight."

 After only securing a point in a whopping eight games against Montreal in 2007-08, the B's rebounded the following season by winning five of six games in the season series. Since then, however, the Habs have won eight of their last nine clashes.

 "I guess it's a little weird," Thornton said. "It's such a cliche, but we just focus on each game. It's all about tonight right now."

 The last setback came in early January in a visit to the Bell Centre. The B's held a 2-0 lead late, only to suffer a last-minute meltdown en route to a 3-2 loss in overtime.

 "The last game in there we definitely could have won," said Thornton. "We had a couple breakdowns and they ended up pulling it out late. It's a long season and we've got three more games to do some damage control."

 Games against the Canadiens are, understandably, usually emotional affairs. Regardless of who their opponent is, Thornton believes that level of intensity almost always bodes well for the Black and Gold.

 "It doesn't matter who we're playing," he said. "I think we're a better team when we're emotionally engaged and physical. It's not always about fighting. Sometimes fights just happen. It's about having  a little bit of a burr, a little bit of an edge."

 Still, there's no denying how much animosity the two clubs share for one another.

 "I'm sure there's people on our team that rub them the wrong way too," Thornton said when asked about the Habs always having a catalyst to spark a little hate. "It's a big rivalry. It's one of the biggest rivalry in sports. I like that stuff. I like that people are hated on both sides. I hope there's guys over there that can't stand me. It's the way it should be."

 Thornton also enjoys the battle for supremacy in the Northeast Division, as the Bruins will enter tonight's game just two points up on Montreal with a game in hand.

 "Any in-division game is a big game," Thornton said when asked how important the head-to-head matchups are. "They've been playing well too; they keep winning, they keep finding a way. We're playing well, but it's not frustrating. It's a good race. I like the competition."

So there's no chance of Thornton and the B's not taking the challenge presented by the Canadiens seriously, right?

 "Of course," he said. "They're a couple points behind us. I hope people take us seriously too. They've beat us three times this year so you have to take them seriously."