Sharks

NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

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NHL.com snubs Sharks-Golden Knights Game 7 as best game of 2010s

NHL.com named a Game 7 ending 5-4 and involving a three-goal comeback, two division rivals and an overtime winner as the best game of the 2010s.

It just wasn't the one with the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights. 

NHL.com and NHL.com International staff members chose the Boston Bruins' Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference first-round series during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the game of the decade. In a 9:18 span, the Bruins erased a 4-1 deficit to force overtime and Patrice Bergeron scored the winner 6:05 into the extra frame. 

An epic comeback in a game between two "Original Six" rivals is, on paper, worthy of the crown. But Sharks-Golden Knights is more deserving. 

For one, San Jose and Vegas were much closer in terms of quality than Boston and Toronto. Yes, the Golden Knights jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the 2019 Western Conference first-round series and fewer standings points separated the Bruins and Maple Leafs (five) than the Sharks and Knights (eight). However, the 2013 Maple Leafs greatly benefited from the lockout-shortened 48 game schedule, making the playoffs despite being the NHL's worst puck-possession team.

The Sharks and Golden Knights, on the other hand, were both legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. Both finished the regular season in the NHL's top three in terms of shot share and shot quality. Had Vegas beaten San Jose, it's likely the expansion franchise would have played in a second Western Conference final in as many years. 

What unfolded on the ice in the third period in Boston doesn't hold a candle to the third period in San Jose last April. Then-captain Joe Pavelski's head bled as the result of a fluky collision with Golden Knights forwards Paul Stastny and Cody Eakin, leading to a highly disputed five-minute major penalty. The Sharks then matched an NHL record with four power-play goals on the non-releasable penalty, nearly blowing the roof off SAP Center. 

A 3-0 deficit turned into a 4-3 lead, but the Sharks couldn't escape regulation with a win. Then-Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant pulled goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and iced six forwards when Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-tying goal with 47 seconds remaining in the third period. That set up an overtime that lasted nearly 20 minutes before Barclay Goodrow sent San Jose to the second round, and the Sharks' win left the Golden Knights with a summer of animosity that made Vegas' decision to replace Gallant with fired San Jose coach Peter DeBoer so much more shocking. 

[RELATED: How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip]

To recap: Game 7 of Sharks-Golden Knights included one of the most controversial (or worst, if you ask Golden Knights fans) calls in NHL history, a historic power play that sent the SAP Center crowd into delirium, a game-tying goal that silenced the same crowd not even six minutes later and nearly a full period of extra hockey. 

By comparison, the twists and turns of Bruins-Maple Leafs seem rather straightforward. 

Joe Thornton showing Sharks no sign of post-trade deadline hangover

Joe Thornton showing Sharks no sign of post-trade deadline hangover

SAN JOSE -- Joe Thornton has a no movement clause in his Sharks contract but made it crystal clear last week he was willing to waive it for a chance to win his first Stanley Cup. That won’t happen here in San Jose, where a miserable season mercifully is winding down.

General manager Doug Wilson shipped three players to playoff contenders. Patrick Marleau was in that group, now gunning for a championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Thornton was not.  Jumbo's still rocking teal. 

The 40-year old future Hall-of-Famer expressed disappointment in that outcome the following day, but the sentiment didn’t last long.

Thornton’s already back to his jovial self, with no lingering grief that might impact play as the Sharks play out the string starting Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.

“That’s one guy I never worry about,” Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said Wednesday after Sharks morning skate. “I said it would’ve been nice to find the right situation and the right opportunity. He was very public with his comments about that. We support that as well and would’ve liked to see someone who has given so much to the game be rewarded.

“But, the very next day, and even today we had a conversation about it, and he said all that’s over with now and let’s get back to work. We’re all doing something we love to do. There’s no better example of that mindset than Jumbo. He always has a smile from ear to ear and loves coming to the rink every day. That’s never going to be an issue with him.”

Captain Logan Couture’s a bit torn over seeing Thornton still with the Sharks, but ultimately happy to have his friend help lead this team down the stretch.

“We’re fortunate to have him,” Couture said. “I do wish I was going to be watching him playing in a couple weeks, still on the ice with a chance to win the Stanley Cup, just because he deserves it. He’s such a great competitor and such a great guy. But I am happy he’s here, though, I wish we were headed to the playoffs.

"Unfortunately, that’s not the way it is.”

[RELATED: Wilson hopes Sharks' youngsters can help team finish on high note]

Thornton has said this won’t be his last hurrah, though his Sharks tenure might be ending soon. He’s set for unrestricted free agency after the season, with an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup atop the priority list.

That seems unlikely for a Sharks team with several upgrades and additions needed to find previous form.

The fact Thornton wants to keep playing isn't surprising to those who see him work every day.

“I’m not shocked,” Couture said. “He’s going to be 41 in July but he still has some game left. Some of these games lately, he has been one of our best players and led our team, through all the injuries, to compete in these games. He still has great hockey in him. He sees the ice as well as anyone as has life in his legs.

"It’s pretty remarkable.”

Could Joe Thornton leave Sharks for Maple Leafs in NHL free agency?

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Could Joe Thornton leave Sharks for Maple Leafs in NHL free agency?

Joe Thornton has said his 22nd NHL season won't be his "last hurrah," and the longtime Shark can sign elsewhere this summer as an unrestricted free agent. 

Thornton wasn't traded to a contender to pursue his first Stanley Cup before this week's deadline, and winning a ring will be top of mind on July 1. San Jose currently has the second-worst record in the Western Conference, so could Thornton be tempted to leave the Bay Area this summer? 

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman predicted Wednesday in his "31 Thoughts" column that the Toronto Maple Leafs "will be a factor" if Thornton decides to sign elsewhere. 

"I can’t confirm this, but I believe the Maple Leafs considered adding him now," Friedman wrote Wednesday. "Two things stopped it: 1) their decision not to make short-term fixes after the Carolina loss, and 2) are they really a legit contender if they have to go through Boston or Tampa Bay or both? ... Thornton would have eased the tension right now, but the organization wants to see how everyone top to bottom reacts and performs. Next season is a different story."

The Maple Leafs' last loss before the trade deadline came at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes and an emergency backup goalie, and the notoriously tranquil Leafs fan base and media circuit reacted about as calmly as you'd expect. Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas was a cooler head, however, opting not to make any major moves while the Leafs hang on to the Atlantic Division's last playoff spot. 

Toronto should make the Stanley Cup playoffs, but its path out of the Eastern Conference looks daunting this year and beyond. The Atlantic boasts the NHL's two best teams in the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, and both are as well-built for success in the 2021 postseason as they are this spring. Thornton could help the Leafs close the gap, but he'll turn 41 in July and can't do that by himself. 

If all goes well this offseason -- and that's still an if -- Thornton's current team would have a clearer route to a Cup. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has made it clear he intends to build a contending team for 2021. San Jose restocked its draft cupboard ahead of the trade deadline and could use that newfound ammunition to build around a core that Wilson believes in. The Pacific Division is by far the NHL's weakest, too, and the teams ahead of the Sharks all will face a salary-cap crunch of some kind this summer. The opportunity is there to get back into contention that might not have been if San Jose was in another division.

[RELATED: Marleau faces familiar foe in first game with Penguins]

Thornton, for his part, told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz that he believes in the Sharks' ability to contend next season. 

"I think we’ve seen -- maybe not to this extent -- but I think last time we missed the playoffs (in 2015), we go to the Cup final (in 2016)," Thornton told Kurz on Tuesday. "We have pieces here that are the backbone of this team, and I hope that’s the case going forward.”

Thornton is at the stage of his career where winning is more important than anything else. As long as he believes he can do that in San Jose as his career winds down, it's hard to envision anything else.