SAN JOSE –- Believe him or not, Joe Thornton said he didn’t know he was the NHL’s scoring leader after the Sharks' first three games before I told him on Friday morning.
Really, Joe? No idea?
“I didn’t, but now I know,” he said, not very convincingly.
Regardless, Thornton, with a goal and eight assists, has a single point more than linemate Patrick Marleau (6g, 2a) and the Sabres’ Thomas Vanek, who posted five points in his first game.
Of his eight assists, five have been the primary assist, including some real beauties. Thornton’s blind, backhanded pass from behind the net to Marleau’s tape in Calgary was as good as it gets. So was his hesitation move on Thursday against Phoenix, when he slid the puck to an open Marleau in the slot for an easy goal after he got goaltender Jason LaBarbera to lean the wrong way.
There are a few reasons that it shouldn't be surprising to see Thornton is at the top of the scoring list, not the least of which is, well, he’s still Joe Thornton – one of the best passers in the history the NHL.
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But, there’s more. Thornton entered the shortened season in game shape after 33 games in the Swiss league (with 36 points), and he said on Friday that he generally feels better in the second half of the season, which is where we would be had the NHL started on time in October.
“I always feel pretty good in the second half of the season,” he said. “I feel like it’s the second half.”
“I feel in really, really good shape. I feel comfortable when I have the puck.”
He also led the league in scoring coming out of the last lockout, posting 125 points with the Bruins and Sharks in 2005-06.
Is there any correlation there?
“Well last lockout [in 2004-05] we didn’t play that year, so it’s a little bit different. I don’t know, maybe,” he said. “It’s an early start and it’s nice to be productive early, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Thornton’s production steadily improved during the 2011-12 season. He had 23 points in his first 27 games, and in the final 48 games posted 47 points. He had at least a point in 24 of the Sharks’ final 35 games as they struggled to make it into the postseason.
It was his production on the power play that really picked up, though. The Sharks’ captain had just six points (1g, 5a) on the man advantage through the first 36 games, and has already equaled that total in three games, also with a goal and five assists.
“We’ve only got 45 [games] to go, so it kind of feels like the first half is gone. The second half seems to be good to me, for whatever reason.”