Joe Thornton

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


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.”

Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

Mike Richards

The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

“Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

  • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
  • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
  • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

… Yeah.

Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?

Coyotes exploit another lousy outing from Quick

Jonathan Quick

Despite owning two Stanley Cup rings, there are a healthy number of people who aren’t wild about Jonathan Quick.

Those people might feel validated through the Los Angeles Kings’ first two games, as he followed a rough loss to the San Jose Sharks with a true stinker against the Arizona Coyotes on Friday.

Sometimes a goalie has a bad night stats-wise, yet his team is as much to blame as anything else. You can probably pin this one on Quick, who allowed four goals on just 14 shots through the first two periods.

Things died down in the final frame, but let’s face it; slowing things down is absolutely the Coyotes’ design with a 4-1 lead (which ultimately resulted in a 4-1 win).


A soft 1-0 goal turned out to be a sign of things to come:

Many expected the Kings to roar into this second game after laying an egg in their opener. Instead, the Coyotes exploited Quick’s struggles for a confidence-booster, which included key prospect Max Domi scoring a goal and an assist.

It’s worth mentioning that Mike Smith looked downright fantastic at times, only drawing more attention to Quick’s struggles.


After a troubled summer and a failed 2014-15 season, Los Angeles was likely eager to start things off the right way.

Instead, they instead will likely focus on the fact that they merely dropped two (ugly) games.