Heading in to Monday night’s finale against Los Angeles at HP Pavilion at 7:30pm, the biggest question raised on Sunday was whether the regulars would get their normal time.
With their victory over the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Saturday afternoon, the Sharks punched their ticket to Nashville , rattling off eight consecutive victories, and secured the fifth spot in the Western Conference.The contest featured sizzling performances from Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton, catapulting each into the league lead in goals and points past New York Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr.
With a national television watching Monday’s tilt against the Kings live on OLN, fans will not be short-changed.Ron Wilson dispelled any idea of sitting the pair knowing that a piece of Sharks history can be created.
Cheechoo currently stands at 56 goals, which paces the league and Jagr by two goals.Thornton pulled out to a three-point lead in the Art Ross Trophy race over Jagr with his 125-points.Should either player finish on top of the league, they would become the first Shark to pace the NHL in either category for a single season.
“If you are in that position and have a chance, you go for it,” stated Wilson .“And it is not going to affect our team at all.We’ve clinched, we want to win.Obviously if those guys have big nights we stand a good chance at winning the game.”
Looking back at Saturday’s game, Wilson limited the top-line of Cheechoo, Thornton and Nils Ekman, as each played under their season average.But the trio responded to utilization, racking up five goals and 10 points in the process.
“We didn’t play them a ridiculous amount of minutes,” analyzed Wilson .“If you ask them, they’ll say that it doesn’t matter to them and maybe it doesn’t.But you never know when you get to something of this magnitude.”
The magnitude of Thornton ’s achievements have already been well-documented.He became just the 11th player in the history of the NHL to reach 90 assists.With four assists in his last game, he can reach an exclusive club that only includes Orr, Gretzky and Lemieux.
While Thornton tries to nestle up to that select group, Cheechoo knows the feeling already.With his fifth hat trick of the season on Satuday, he became the first player to record five or more hat tricks in a season since Mario Lemieux had six in 1995-96.
With the linemates looking to close out the season strong and hold on to their grasp of league supremacy, it will be interesting to watch Tuesday’s game featuring New York and Ottawa .A big game in the Eastern Conference, Jaromir Jagr will know where he has to get and the ability to make a run.
“I know Jaromir Jagr well and I know he is capable of producing a super human effort,” said Wilson .
MORE REASON TO WATCH ON MONDAY
Monday night will mark the final game for legendary left winger Luc Robitaille.In 1,430 NHL games, the gritty and determined forward has produced 1,394 points.He will embark upon his retirement following the game against the Sharks.
Ron Wilson appreciates and respects what Robitaille has done in this game.It is his hope that the fans of San Jose give him a warm send-off.
“Pay respect to Luc Robitaille, the greatest left wing of our time,” Wilson said.“He scored like a maniac for a long period of time.”
Barry Melrose recently made the comparison of Jonathan Cheechoo to Robitaille.The two each have a distinct skating style and a nose for the back of the net.But the Sharks bench boss doesn’t think the comparisons are fair: yet.
“Cheech has a long way to go to get to that,” guarded Wilson .“But eventually we may be able to say that.”