Hours before the Panthers further closed in on the Bruins for what is currently the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Shawn Thornton joined Sunday Skate to discuss his team’s odds of catching the B’s. To hear the interview, click here.
With a shootout loss to the Blues Sunday, the Panthers improved to 24-19-12, bringing them within three points of the Bruins for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have lost three straight games in what’s been a big step back for a team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season. Thornton said he figured the Panthers would push for a spot, but he didn’t think the Bruins would fall to where they have.
“Honestly, I thought they’d be in the top three right now, to be completely honest,” Thornton said of the Bruins. “I did think that we’d be pushing for a playoff spot with the players we have, especially after being here. … I thought there’d be a couple other teams we’d be chasing, not them. Who knows? There’s still  games left. There’s a lot of hockey left.”
Florida could have surpassed the B’s by now, but they were losers in two straight entering Sunday’s game. Thornton said the Panthers themselves have “found ways to shoot [themselves] in the foot” of late, saying Florida hasn’t properly ‘taken advantage of the situation’ in front of them with the Bruins losing.
The longtime Bruin, who was not brought back in the offseason and signed a two-year deal with the Panthers, said he keeps in touch with his friends on the Bruins. Asked his thoughts on why so many players have underperformed, he said he’s watched “maybe five periods” of Bruins hockey this season.
“I can’t give you a definite answer of what’s going on there,” he said. “I don’t ask about that stuff. I don’t want to know.”
Despite the Bruins’ struggles, Thornton said he doesn’t expect them to go away this season.
“I’m hoping they absolutely tank because I want to make the playoffs, but I can’t see it happening,” he said with a laugh. “I can’t see it happening with the core group of guys they have there, the goaltending. They went through a lot of injuries earlier in the season, too. When you lose your top defenseman and your top centerman, I don’t know how many teams in the league can get through that.”
Thornton said that if the Bruins and Panthers were to meet in a series, the Bruins would hold the edge in experience over the young Panthers, whose top points leaders are 22 years old or younger.
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