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At the crux of the question at hand is of course Joe Thornton, who has more than a few critics in many circles for his postseason shortcomings. While many will defend the Sharks' best player, others are not as forgiving for the Sharks captain.
Let’s be brutally honest here, Joe hasn’t exactly been the model leader in a locker room that’s had voids in that role. Rebuffing reporters and showing a lack of urgency after the Sharks went down 2-0 against Anaheim in 2009. Slipping out of the back door and avoiding reporters altogether after going down three games to one in Game 4.
Giving vague answers and dodging harder questions are all very valid points for the anti-Joe Thornton fans.
Despite all those facts, there is still evidence to support that Joe Thornton is ready to finally take the next step.
Many forget he’s tasted postseason success early in his career, nearly managing a point a game until his 2003-2004 disaster.
In the Bruins 1998-1999 series against the Hurricanes, Joe worked a patented give-and-go with Anson Carter for the double-overtime winner. Joe would finish off the Hurricanes in Game 6 scoring the series-clinching goal, and recorded another goal against Hasek before the Bruins were eliminated.
Joe’s performance that postseason, nine points in 11 playoff games catapulted him into his first All-Star Game the next year. Although the Bruins would miss the playoffs for two consecutive years due to a porous defense and organizational instability, Joe continued to make strides in his game.
The Bruins would return to the playoffs in 2001-2002 but the Montreal Canadiens exposed the lackluster defense in the first round. Joe would still go on to record two goals, four assists in six games as the Bruins were ousted.
The Bruins would again return to the playoffs the following year only to be ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils. The big brusing line of Knuble, Murray and Thornton that had terrorized during the regular season was too slow, too bruising to pierce the Devils and their neutral zone trap.
Fans blamed Thornton despite being tied defenseman Dan McGillis for the team lead in points (3) for the series.
A broken rib would render Thornton completely ineffective the following year, as Joe would get skunked in the best-of-seven series against Montreal.
Joe Thornton found his game again last year as the Sharks would rebound from bad breaks, unlucky bounces and with the odds stacked against them. Joe's play would lead the Sharks organization to make Thornton the eighth full-time captain in the franchise's history.
Although he hasn’t had his “moment” yet as the captain of the San Jose Sharks, who knows the inner workings of the locker room?
It wasn’t so long ago that many whispered the same things about another number 19, who was captain of a Red Wings team who kept failing in the playoffs.
Yes I am talking about Stevie Y, who had to endure heartbreak after heartbreak until he finally won the Cup at age 32. Joe Thornton is currently 30, and you can very easily argue that Yzerman at that time was just as much the playoff “choker” that Thornton is today.
Common sense will tell you that the Sharks are of course a legitimate threat to the Western Conference and NHL playoffs. Many people will tell you that the Sharks are nothing more than a paper tiger, and pose no real threat to win the Cup.
I won't make a prediction, but I will just say don't be surprised if the Sharks will carry Lord Stanley's Cup down West Santa Clara in June.
What do you think?