Thornton Steps Up

The book on Joe Thornton, to a certain extent, has always been that he’s not a leader. That he’s not a big game guy. There was never any denying his talent, but there were always rumblings about his impact in the locker room. I always thought most of these things were more a result of coming up in a dysfunctional Bruins organization than things that were true parts of Thornton’s character.
He settled the debate last night, leading the Sharks to a come-from-behind victory over the Flames. This comes a game after the Sharks choked up a three-goal lead. The series is now tied at two.
One thing Sharks coach Ron Wilson seems to have learned in Washington with Jaromir Jagr is that sometimes star players do need special treatment. Sometimes they need some time to find their game and make their move. Rather than screaming at Thornton to start producing, Wilson seemed pretty hands off the first three games. And the patience paid off last night.
Over in Philadelphia, the Flyers beat the Caps 6-3, in a game that included a penalty shot. Philly leads the series two games to one. Of course, since the Flyers lost defenseman Kimmo Timonen to an upper body injury, they might have trouble shutting down Alexander Ovechkin in future games (login info.). Timonen is day-to-day.
Last night’s game was the first time since the first half of the season where all of the Flyers players were clicking at the same time.
Mike Wise says the Caps need to get physical against the Flyers. But really, that’s like saying Don Quixote needed to get more physical against the windmill. It’s just much easier to say (or write) than to execute.
Jason La Canfora is recommending a goalie switch back to Ollie Kolzig in DC. And that’s not an insane short-term solution. It just sort of ruins things for the guy who’s supposed to be your new franchise goalie.
All of this advice ignores the basic fact about this series. It’s all Ovechkin. His talent was so immense, he was able to carry the Caps into the post-season. A lot of people, myself included, thought he had enough talent to get Washington past Philly. But the Flyers have gotten hot, their goalie Marty Biron has been solid, and they’ve done a great job of neutralizing Ovechkin. Until Caps coach Bruce Boudreau figures out a way to get Ovechkin some space or a way to get more balanced scoring, Washington is going to have some problems. Defenseman Mike Green, who leads the team with three playoff goals, can’t do it all himself.