On Monday, the NHL conducted a conference call with Sharks center Joe Thornton. Below is a full transcript of the call:
Q. Do you think teams will put a shadow on you or Jonathan Cheechoo?
JOE THORNTON: I have no idea. Or Patrick Marleau. You know, I really don't know. I don't know how they're going to play us. We'll find out I guess on Friday or Saturday. I'm not sure how they're going to play us.
Q. You would normally expect -- you didn't see much of it in the regular season, but maybe you saw the other team's best defensemen, you didn't necessarily see a line against you.
JOE THORNTON: You'd see a little bit. You'd see teams trying to line up the defensive line against us, obviously their top two defensemen. We're used to playing against the best lines anyways.
Q. Could you talk about just what has created the chemistry between you and Jonathan in two-thirds of the season here? Seems like you've been playing together 10 years by now.
JOE THORNTON: Well, I think it pretty much comes down to I like to pass and he likes to score. I love setting him up. He has a knack of just scoring goals. He has a great shot. He's always in good scoring positions. Works very, very hard. He works on his game every day. You just love playing with a guy like that.
Q. Do you expect to see a lot of Brendan Witt here in the coming playoff series?
JOE THORNTON: Yeah, probably. I'm not sure who his D partner is. Yeah, I assume I'll see a little bit of him. It's going to be a fun series. They're a good team. It's going to be a very fast-skating probably seven-game series.
Q. Looking back on it, what do you think of the trade in retrospect? Has it gone even better than you expected?
JOE THORNTON: Thinking of the trade, yeah, I'm glad they sent me out here to play with Cheech and the Sharks. They just treat me real nice out here. I love northern California. Yeah, I just couldn't ask for a better place to go play.
Q. Are there any hard feelings left over from your time with the Bruins?
JOE THORNTON: Oh, zero. The only hard feeling I had was that night, and after that you get over it and move on. Absolutely none.
Q. You've had this wonderful run down there. A possible Hart Trophy is being tossed around in several circles. When it comes to the voters, the writers, do you think being out in the west, you're sort of at a disadvantage in the voting because most of the voters reside in the east?
JOE THORNTON: I really haven't thought about it, to be honest with you. I know our games start at 10:30 eastern time. Yeah, I think the writers, they know what they're talking about. They see the stats in the paper every day and the Internet. There's no reason to say they're biased.
Q. As a player, is the Hart Trophy the top one or is the Pearson Trophy the top one?
JOE THORNTON: I really never thought about it. But obviously they're two great awards. One obviously by the writers and one obviously by the players. They're both special.
Q. Could you describe what you perceive to be the difference in the quality of play or the intensity level in the west versus the east?
JOE THORNTON: Well, personally, I like being a Shark, we're just really, really aggressive. We play real aggressive. We play an up-tempo game. We're very, very fast. I think that might be a little different than in the east where they're bigger people out in the east. I'm not sure if they play the up-tempo game like we do out here. But it's still hockey. It's all the same.
Q. With the league's new rules, the game obviously has become more wide open, free flowing during the season. Your thoughts on that and how will those new rules affect play in the playoffs, in the past being more defensive minded?
JOE THORNTON: First of all, yeah, I think the referee's have done a great job. It's definitely helped out the hockey game to watch. I love watching games. I watch hockey games every night now. It's much better to be a part of the game, too. I really think the refs are really going to call the stuff in the playoffs. I think that's what they've told all the players, at least, they're really going to crack down. It's just going to be like the regular season. I think you’ve got to take their word on that.
Q. Do you feel now that you've had a year under your belt under the new rules, are there any further changes you'd like to see made or is the game in a good place right now?
JOE THORNTON: I think it's awesome. Like I said, the refs call everything. They said they're going to call the new rule changes. With no red lines, the shootouts, I think it's become an awesome game. I thought it was awesome before. I think it's even better now. I think if they keep it like this, it's a great game to watch, a great game to play.
Q. Talk about the Hart Trophy, yourself and Jaromir Jagr. In your opinion, what makes him such a dynamic player? Everybody is talking about the difference in Jaromir this year. Did you notice a difference in his game this season?
JOE THORNTON: I always thought he's been the best player in the league all year long. He's just so patient, just so strong, a deadly shot. I love watching him play. I've watched a lot of his games on Center Ice Package. Obviously, I played against him a lot in the east - obviously not this year, but in the past. I've always thought he was a great player. His track record shows he's one of the best players of all time. He's a great, great player.
Q. Having played part of the year in the east, part of the year in the west, have you ever seen a season where it seems like the Stanley Cup tournament is so wide open? It's almost like there's 16 teams that have a shot at winning it.
JOE THORNTON: That's the truth. Anybody that's in this year has a good shot at winning. I don't think there's one team you can pick and say, this team's going to win it all. Any team has a good shot at it. I think you're going to see a lot of first-round upsets like you usually do. I think there might be a surprise team out west here that might win the Cup.
Q. Could you talk about what the Sharks have done especially well as of late to get this eight-game winning streak and getting ready for the playoffs here?
JOE THORNTON: We've just been getting real good goaltending. I think that's the one thing we've been getting is awesome goaltending. We've been playing real good defensively, taking care of our end, which ultimately leads to good scoring opportunities. That's probably the biggest thing we've been doing in this eight-game winning streak, is just cleaning up our end a little bit.
Q. I know you've only played against the Predators once since the trade. What are your impressions in general of Nashville's team?
JOE THORNTON: Yeah, when we played against them, it was a pretty fun game to be part of it. They're a real quick team, a lot of fun to play against, a lot of skill obviously with Kariya, Sullivan. They went down with Vokoun, but I think Mason has been playing real well. They have got a real good team.
Q. With assists, you're kind of like Wayne Gretzky now closing in on a hundred assists. Is that by design? Are people letting you go up the ice, you find somebody who is in the open?
JOE THORNTON: You just got to give it to the right people. That's what I've been doing. It seems like everybody I pass to right now is scoring goals. I really can't take all the credit for that. Everybody has been playing so well, it's been helping me out tremendously.
Q. Would it be nice if you could shoot more or do you consciously not shoot?
JOE THORNTON: No, yeah, my father every day tells me to shoot more. Phil Esposito tells me to shoot more every day, too. I have, to. I realize that. As I get older, it will be more part of my game, shooting more.
Q. When you got traded, I was thinking he has an older cousin out there, Scott Thornton. He's about eight years older than you. I noticed he went off to Belleville when you were nine. What do you remember growing up with Scott and over the years what sort of advice, blazing that path before you, how much did that help?
JOE THORNTON: He always played hockey with my older brother Alex. I saw a little bit of him playing. Then when he went to Belleville, my parents brought me a Belleville Bulls jersey with his number on the back. I watched him a little bit in Junior. Then he got drafted to Toronto third overall. I was a huge Toronto fan. That was a huge thrill for me. I've watched his career all the way through when he went to Montréal, Edmonton, now out here. Yeah, just pretty much stay positive. He saw my tough years, my first and second year. Just said to stay positive, you're a good player, things will work out. It's always nice to play with him, being real close to him out here in San Jose.
Q. Talking about how wide open it is in the playoffs, seems like there's never been a year like this with the goaltending being so inexperienced. How does that affect you as a shooter? You don't see a lot of Stanley Cup-hardened goalies in the playoffs.
JOE THORNTON: I saw that the other day, out west there's not too many goalies other than Kiprusoff that have too much playoff experience. I'm not sure how much you think about it. Obviously you want to shoot as much as you can, drive the net as much as you can. We'll have to see how it all pans out. I'm not sure who's going to fare better, the goalies with the experience or the goalies without any that just come in and make history on their own.