During Game 4 the San Jose Sharks got quite a scare when captain Joe Thornton took a crushing hit from Canucks agitator Raffi Torres. Torres put Thornton down on the ice with a big, open ice hit in the third period that caused Thornton to go down to the ice awkwardly.
Thornton did get up right away, but he skated to the bench and headed to the locker room with what appeared to be an upper body injury and did not play the rest of the game.
After the game, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said that he’d update Thornton’s condition as soon as they knew something leaving most to assume that Thornton’s chances of playing in Game 5 could be in peril. Thornton decided to answer that speculation on his own declaring just how healthy he is and whether or not he’s going to play in Game 5.
But a text message to Thornton several hours later did get this response when he was asked the chances he’d be ready to play in Game 5 on Tuesday night.
“100 percent,” he wrote to my Mercury News colleague Mark Emmons. “It’s playoffs, got to play through everything.”
Playing injured in the playoffs isn’t unknown territory for Thornton. During the 2004 playoffs with the Bruins, Thornton played through torn rib cartilage. In that seven game series loss to Montreal, Thornton scored zero points and was made into a playoff pariah in Boston for his no-show. Of course, as it was going on the fans didn’t know if he was hurt as his injury wasn’t revealed until the Bruins were bounced out.
Even in spite of the injury revelation, fans held it strongly against Thornton for not doing anything to help the Bruins win that series. When the NHL resumed play after the lockout in 2004-2005, the 05-06 season saw Thornton get traded to San Jose where he went on to become the NHL MVP that season.
With the Sharks now down 3-1 in this series and Thornton playing well, will Sharks fans give Jumbo Joe the same treatment should they end up eliminated for the second straight year in the Western Conference finals? We’d certainly hope not as Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been their two most consistent players in this series.
If there are fingers to be pointed for an early exit, they can be pointed at guys like Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi who have been invisible all series. Even Joe Pavelski hasn’t been the hero he was in the previous rounds. Getting improved production from those three would help the Sharks immensely. With Thornton potentially playing all banged up, they’re going to need it or else the Sharks season is ending sooner than they’d hoped.