Joe Thornton

Lack of composure costs Sharks on end of road trip


Lack of composure costs Sharks on end of road trip

Monday night’s Sharks-Capitals game changed when Joe Thornton fought Tom Wilson. Not because the dust-up, a response to Thornton’s hit that ended T.J. Oshie’s night, gave the Capitals “momentum,” or “fired up the boys,” or whatever hockey cliche you find most fitting, but because of what came after. 

Timo Meier picked up not one, but two roughing penalties after Thornton and Wilson dropped the gloves. Barclay Goodrow caught John Carlson with a high-stick on the forecheck, and answered for it in a fight of his own. 

Brenden Dillon picked up an elbowing penalty, and then in the final five seconds of the game, a five-minute slashing penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. He may face supplemental discipline from the league for the slash, too. 

Meier told reporters (via The Athletic) that the Sharks “showed [Monday] that [they] can push back.” That may be the case, but the display undoubtedly cost the Sharks the game. 

At the time of Thornton’s fight, San Jose trailed by two goals, but controlled the pace of play. They were out-attempting the Capitals 46-39 in all situations, and 40-32 at even strength. 

Following the fight, Washington held a slight edge in five-on-five shot attempts (8-6), as San Jose effectively took themselves out of the game thanks to their parade to the penalty box. The Capitals all but sealed the game with Jakub Vrana’s power play tally while Kevin Labanc served Goodrow’s high-sticking penalty. 

Thornton’s major was set to expire with 12:46 remaining in the third period. That would have been plenty of time to possibly mount a comeback, even for the scoring-starved Sharks. 

Meier picked up his first roughing penalty 39 seconds after Thornton fought. 3:14 after his penalty expired, Goodrow went to the box. 

There’s no guarantee that the Sharks would have come back successfully, but they never even gave themselves a chance. 

It was the second straight game that lost composure cost the Sharks. At the end of the second period of Saturday’s loss to the Lightning, Thornton slashed Tyler Johnson, and Tampa Bay scored on the ensuing power play to take their first lead of the game.

They would never relinquish it. 

Hockey is an intense, high-collision sport. Emotion undoubtedly plays a role, and a vital one, as long as it’s kept in check and focused in the right direction.

In the last two games, the Sharks did not do that, and lost. It’s not the only reason behind their losing streak, and may not even be the main one. However, their lack of composure cost them in critical moments. 

The Sharks may have demonstrated they won’t get pushed around on Monday, but all they have to show for it is a loss. 

Thornton fined for slash in Lightning loss


Thornton fined for slash in Lightning loss

Joe Thornton's pockets are $5,000 lighter on Sunday, after the NHL fined the Sharks center the maximum allowable amount for slashing Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson in Saturday's loss to the Lightning. 

Thornton slashed Johnson in the waning seconds of the second period, and Tampa Bay scored on the ensuing power play in the third to take a 2-1 lead. The Lightning won, 5-3. 

This is the first time Thornton's faced discipline from the league since being suspended two games and fined nearly $80,000 for a hit on David Perron, then with the St. Louis Blues. Thornton's fine will go towards the players' emergency assistance fund, according to the Associated Press.

The key to Joe Thornton's recent scoring surge


The key to Joe Thornton's recent scoring surge

Last season was the first time since his rookie year that Joe Thornton scored less than ten goals in an 82-game season. 

It was no coincidence that his 1.03 shots per game were his lowest since his first campaign, according to Hockey Reference, and that his 2.95 shots on goal per 60 minutes in five-on-five situations were his lowest since the NHL first began tracking shot attempts in 2007-08, according to Corsica Hockey.

This season, Thornton’s just three goals away from matching his total from a season ago after scoring his fourth in Tuesday night’s win over the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s now scored two goals in his last four games, after scoring the same amount in his previous 19. 

That mark ties him with linemate Joe Pavelski, and fellow member of the over-35 club Joel Ward, for fifth on the team. How’s Thornton managed to do it? 

Simply put, he’s shooting the puck more.

Much to the delight of Sharks fans that have cried out for him to shoot whenever he has the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he’s shooting a hair over two more shots every 60 minutes of five-on-five play (5.05 iSF/60, per Corsica) than he did last year. Across all situations, he’s shooting nearly half-a-shot more per game than last year (1.49, per Hockey Reference).

The former matches his rate from 2014-15, and is the fourth-highest Thornton’s posted since 2007-08. The latter is more than Thornton’s managed in all but one of the last five seasons (2014-15; 1.68).

Thornton’s always had a good shot. Of the players that have played 200 games since Thornton entered the league, his shooting percentage (13.9 percent) is tied for 81st, ahead of players far more known for goal-scoring such as Patrick Marleau (13.4), Corey Perry (13.1), and even Pavelski (12.0). 

Those differences are miniscule, but still speak well of Thornton’s shooting ability. He’s actually shooting below his career average this season (11.4 percent), and a bit more regression to the mean would ensure Thornton surpasses the 15-goal mark, as he’s done in all but three full NHL seasons. 

The Sharks have continued to put the 38-year-old in positions to succeed coming off of significant knee injuries last spring, but his age and those injuries make his shooting turnaround all the more impressive.