Sharks fans have become accustomed to the on-ice wizardry of Joe Thornton
and he is currently riding a hot streak that is among his best since arriving in San Jose. Thornton has amassed 10 points in his last four games and leads the Sharks in goals with 12.
“As of right now in the last four games, nobody in the League is better than Joe Thornton
,” said Sharks Television Analyst Drew Remenda. “It’s not just because of his scoring. He’s one of the best in facoeffs, playing physical every shift and finishing his checks. Right now, he is the best all-around player in the game.”
Just as he did in 2006-07 when he finished second in the League in scoring after a slow start (by his standards), Thornton is now tied for seventh in points and more importantly has the Sharks just two points behind Pacific Division-leading Dallas with three games in hand.
The stretch began in a shootout loss against Los Angeles on Nov 28 where San Jose fell, 3-2. “Jumbo Joe” scored the Sharks opening goal and then set up Craig Rivet in the third to tie the contest and secure at least one point for Team Teal.
Then against the Avalanche at HP Pavilion on Nov 30, Thornton scored twice to give San Jose a 2-0 lead early in the second period. When Colorado responded with a tally to close the gap to one, Thornton replied less than two minutes later by setting up Mike Grier who was heading to the net. San Jose would finish off the 3-2 victory with Thornton having a hand in all three tallies.
In the Avalanche rematch three days later in Colorado, Thornton had another banner night, helping set up the Sharks first two tallies in another 3-2 victory.
Then Thursday night Thornton exploded for another three point night and his points could not have gone better if planned in the 3-2 win in Dallas. He had the primary assist on goals by Patrick Marleau
and Jonathan Cheechoo and then scored the game-winner in the third.
The best part of that game-winner was that if it was possible, he would have been awarded the secondary assist. While skating up ice, Thornton passed the puck ahead towards Milan Michalek on the right wing. He did that so the puck would not bounce too hard off the end boards, but also to a spot where Michalek could beat his defenders to the puck. Michalek then fed the puck back to a charging Thornton in the slot. He then ripped it past goaltender Marty Turco.
“We’ve tried that a couple times,” said Michalek. “It’s worked where I got the puck, but we didn’t score before. Everyone is standing still and I’m going full speed.”
That was not even his best play of the night. His cross-ice assist to Marleau was one of the best plays in Sharks history. On the play, Thornton was skating up the half-boards and after locating Marleau far across the ice, he spun away from his defender and backhanded the puck across to Marleau in the slot. The pass was on his tape and Marleau put the puck past a diving Turco.
“The pass to Patty was unbelievable,” said Michalek.
“That pass yesterday was the best pass I’ve ever seen live,” said Remenda. “The only player I remember making passes like that is no longer in the League and it was Wayne Gretzky.”
It is just another example that Thornton can find a player anywhere on the ice.
“On the ice, you have to be ready,” said Michalek. “The pass is going to come. You have to be looking.”
It is not just passing right now as Thornton leads the Sharks in goals scored.
“He has a really good shot,” said Michalek. “Nobody expects him to shoot and he’s scoring a lot more goals.”
If he continues anywhere close to his current pace, another Art Ross Trophy (League’s leading scorer) and Hart Memorial Trophy (League MVP) might be coming his way again.
The past four games mark the first time in Sharks history they have been involved in four consecutive 3-2 games.
The Sharks will play in Phoenix Friday at 6 p.m. and the game will be available on NHL Center Ice, 98.5 KFOX FM, Sharks Radio Affiliates and SJSHARKS.com.