On your typical playoff team that features a veteran old veteran looking for his first ever the championship, the old guy is not much more than a walking feel-good story, there to positively affect the locker room and take charge with the media. As the San Jose Sharks moved through the Western Conference Playoffs, it looked like 39-year-old Joe Thornton was settling into this role. In his previous eight games before the Sharks' game over the Blues on Wednesday, Thornton had just numbered one point — an assist — and in Game 2, he looked slow and lost when Robert Bortuzzo easily burned him for the game -winner
But a change in lines from Pete DeBoer, placing Melker Karlsson on the wing with Thornton and Kevin Labanc instead of Marcus Sorensen, brought back and recharged Jumbo, as the gray-bearded Shark pounced on his opportunities to notch two goals and an assist on Logan Couture's late equalizer. The brace may have brought Thornton only halfway to that long-anticipated cock-stroking celebration, but by getting the first multi-goal playoff game of his career, it has to be a relief to prove he's not just a glorified assistant coach along for the ride.
"This is one of the greatest players of all time," DeBoer said after the game. “I know he was happy with his last game. And that's the response you get from a Hall of Fame player. We wouldn't have a chance to win without him. ”
Grandpa Thornton's pair were each a show of savvy, not skills. In both goals, he got the puck right in Jordan Binnington's foyer, and he didn't hesitate to go for the kill. In the first, he took advantage of a helpful bounce off his former tormentor Bortuzzo, and he backhanded the puck into a gap not before Binnington could process what had happened.
In the second period, he again went on an out-of-position Binnington, taking a pass from behind the net and showcasing a smooth touch off his left foot before sneaking it below the Blues' goalie.
For a Sharks team struggling to make use of its offensive depth so far this series, the assertion from Thornton that he still has goals left to give is huge, and it takes some pressure off their top-line forwards after Timo Meier and Logan Couture dominated the scoresheets in the first two games. With his bad knees sometimes struggling to carry him through this final stage of his career, nobody would have faulted Thornton if his contributions diminished as the postseason dragged on. But on Wednesday, even if it didn't look like a kid again, Thornton still managed to achieve something new.
“He's gone through ways more than a lot of people know. You're watching a guy at 39, playing as hard as he can every night. You can fault his effort and his love for the game. It's pretty inspiring. ”