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Desperate to kill penalties, San Jose adds Joe Thornton to the mix

Apr 19, 2012, 11:40 AM EST

Joe Thornton Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks have been abused by the St. Louis power play through the first three games of their opening-round series.

The Blues have scored on five of their 13 man advantage opportunities — a 60 percent clip — and went 3-for-4 at HP Pavilion in Monday’s 4-3 victory.

Generally speaking, allowing three PP goals in a payoff game (in front of your home crowd, no less) forces a head coach to make big changes.

That’s exactly what Todd McLellan has done, putting captain Joe Thornton on the PK unit for Game 4.

“It’s time,” Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m good with it.”

More, from The Merc:

With his long arms and long stick, the 6-foot-4 Thornton is the ideal soldier for the Sharks’ style of penalty kill, which relies on positioning in a four-man box and the interception (or discouragement) of cross-ice passes.

However, in Monday night’s Sharks loss in Game 3, he didn’t play a second of short-handed time during the Blues’ four power plays, three of which led to goals. McLellan tends to keep Thornton’s ice-time light during penalty-kill situations to save his legs for 5-on-5 play and power plays. During the regular season, Thornton averaged 1:03 minutes of penalty-kill time per game, lowest among the team’s top six forwards other than Ryane Clowe.

The concept is logical. But not when a team is down two games to one in a playoff series, with the biggest reason staring back at McLellan from the stat sheet. In 5-on-5 play so far, the Sharks and Blues are tied on the scoreboard, 4-4. Special teams are making the difference. The Blues have five power play goals to the Sharks’ two.

So here comes Jumbo Joe.

(Note: In this series, Jumbo has played exactly 28 seconds shorthanded.)

Thornton isn’t the only reinforcement coming to the penalty kill in Game 4. It’s expected that Michal Handzus will make his series debut and play a big role on the PK, where he averaged 1:21 per game this season.

Judging by his comments, “Zeus” has studied up on the St. Louis power play.

“They shoot the puck and have pretty strong guys,” he told CSN Bay Area. “They find a lane from the top, and we’ve got to play more as a four-man unit and block shots up top or down low.

“It is what it is, you have to outwork their five-man unit.”

  1. fruitsareedible - Apr 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    Thornton’s made huge strides in his defensive game the last handful of years and I miss McLellan throwing him on the PK with about 30 seconds left to try and gain momentum back after the penalty was over.

  2. bloggersarenotjournalists - Apr 19, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    What a bad idea
    You do not try stuff like this in the playoffs
    You had 82 regular season games for this and Joe has had a decade of showing that he is not suited for it.

    You need passion, heart and desire to be great on the PK
    And Joe is 0 for 3

    • sharks123 - Apr 19, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      You seem to be thinking about the old Joe. His game has changed a ton the last 3 years.
      Have you even seen their PK? Not doing this is the bad idea.

      • bloggersarenotjournalists - Apr 19, 2012 at 6:15 PM

        Then why was he played the LEAST amount of mins on the PK of all regular SJ forwards?
        This year

        Like I said, this should have been done during the regular season
        Not now

        And oh yes
        He is still 0 for 3

      • sharks123 - Apr 20, 2012 at 1:27 AM

        I know you think he’s 0 for 3, I actually heard you the first time. Sharks have fatal flaws and Joe isn’t one of them. I don’t care about the regular season, when the PK sucks as bad as it does you have to do something. At this point there is no great plan. It is what it is.

  3. rebel21das - Apr 19, 2012 at 4:09 PM

    Jumbo Joe’s presence needs to be made in this game tonight…..and Patty Marleau needs to wake up! Tried of just watching him skate around for the most part, but the defense needs to pull itself together and stop all the stupid rebound shots the Blues have been getting,and Neimi holds a part in that as well. Go Sharks!!!! Please pick up a W at the Tank tonight!

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