To say that Joe Thornton
, Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek have been on fire is an understatement. San Jose’s top line has simply dominated its competition, scoring at will and leading a Sharks (46-25-4, 96 points) surge that has pulled the team within two points of the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks (43-19-12, 98 points).
Over the past ten games – a stretch that has seen the Sharks earn 18 out of a potential 20 points (8-0-2 record) – Thornton, Cheechoo and Michalek have posted a combined 51 points (18-33=51). The three players have scored 18 of the Sharks past 38 goals, combined for five of the eight game-winning goals and have also combined for an incredible plus-51 player rating.
“Our line is doing a great job of cycling and fighting for the puck,” said Cheechoo after Thursday night’s win. “I like the way our line is made up right now. Joe [Thornton] makes some great passes, so it makes it pretty easy.”
Cheechoo netted his second hat trick of the season, the seventh of his career, and added an assist in San Jose’s 5-1 hammering of the Thrashers on Thursday. Coupled with his two goals in Chicago on Wednesday night, Cheechoo has scored five goals in his past two games and eight goals in his past ten.
“We’ve got three guys that are good at getting pucks along the boards and we’ve been winning the battles,” said Cheechoo.
Michalek has been a welcome addition to the left wing on the top line, a position that Head Coach Ron Wilson has constantly rotated this season, using a variety of players in an effort to find the right fit. Mark Bell, Patrick Rissmiller, Mike Grier, Patrick Marleau
, Ryane Clowe
and most recently Bill Guerin all spent time on Thornton and Cheechoo’s line. But arguably, nobody has fit in better on that top unit than Michalek.
“I bring speed, Joe brings the pass and Jonathan is the shooter," said Michalek,
With his goal and two assists, Michalek extended his scoring streak to six games, posting 14 points (5-9=14) in that span. The speedy winger has tallied the past two game-winning goals for the Sharks to give him eight on the season, one behind Marleau’s team-leading nine.
Like Cheechoo and Michalek, Thornton has been brilliant over his past ten games. Thornton has collected 20 points (4-16=20) in his past ten contests and is playing his best hockey of the season. In his first full season in San Jose, Thornton has become the first player in Sharks franchise history to eclipse the 100-point plateau.
Thornton, who has moved into sole possession of second place in the NHL’s scoring title race, now sits just six points back of leader Sidney Crosby with eight games remaining.
ALL GOOD THINGS…
An innocent looking poke check snapped an interesting streak on Thursday night in Atlanta. With just under three minutes remaining in the second period, Joe Thornton
danced into the Thrashers zone with the puck before it was eased off his stick by a poke check. Christian Ehrhoff gathered the puck and instantly found Jonathan Cheechoo who one-timed the pass into the net for his seventh career hat trick.
While it appeared on instant replay that the puck had not changed possession from the Sharks to the Thrashers, the officials deemed otherwise and Ehrhoff was credited with the lone assist on Cheechoo’s goal. This snapped Thornton’s streak of assisting on consecutive goals scored by Cheechoo at 15 dating back to Jan. 13.
With the game well in hand, Guerin took just one shift in the third period, choosing instead to rest what he described as a bit of a sore groin.
“It’s just a sore groin,” said Guerin after the game. “It’s been sore for a while now, so we’re just resting it.”