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02-07-2013, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Alaskanice View Post
Thornton. It would appear that EVERYBODY, fans, reporters, coaches and probably his family has gone blue in the face about him shooting more. No doubt he's heard it time and again. It would seem he's just "built" that way. When he succeeds at his passes, they're often the brilliant kind. Hard to complain about that.
I find it rather easy to complain about that.

It's actually a major part of what makes him rather easy to shut down in the playoffs.

Oh yes, he is extremely talented and gifted as a passer. Of that there is no doubt. But he makes himself so much easier to defend against by making himself so one-dimensional. Especially when he stands still and tries to make the same passes from the same spots (behind the net or along half-boards) every single time.

Now, even with that level of predictability, is he still talented enough to make brilliant passes to open teammates in prime scoring areas? Often times, yes. Against Edmonton's or Colorado's porous defense and shaky goaltending? Absolutely. Against a tired Coyotes team playing its second of back-to-back road games, and 3rd in 4 nights? Of course. Against a banged up Canucks defense missing one or two of its top blue-liners? Sure.

But when you get into the postseason, when you're playing against one of the top 2 or 3 defenses/goaltenders in the conference, when the opposition has a full week or more to devote to focusing just on shutting down Thornton and the top line/PP (a level of focus and PK/defensive strategizing that you just apply to 4 different opponents in 6 nights).....then Joe's brilliant passes suddenly magically cease to be as effective. Against tighter, tougher, more skilled, better prepared defenses, Thornton isn't able to get those same passes to the same places just on talent alone.

So the top line scoring suffers. And the PP unit suffers. Year after year after year. Because opposing defenses adapt to the Sharks in the playoffs. Joe Thornton would do very well if he adapted his own play to take advantage of what the opposing playoff teams are giving him (in particular, a clear skating lane to walk right up to the net). But he doesn't adapt. He refuses to adapt. So in the end, his stubbornness hurts the team.

Given the choice between walking in uncontested and shooting on a goal with an out-of-position goalie or trying to fire a pass through triple coverage, Joe Thornton will always choose the much lower percentage play of passing to a triple-covered teammate. Such a low-percentage play is just always plain bad decision.

Of course, low-percentage plays are not NO-percentage plays, so they will still work occasionally (which only serves to validate and reward his poor choices, thus encouraging him to keep try them again). And of course Joe Thornton is so tremendously talented enough that he can connect on and get away with a lot more of his bad on-ice decisions than pretty much anybody else. At least during the regular season against inferior defenses. In the playoffs, against top-tier defenses, against better prepared defenses, he gets away with it a lot less.....and the team pays for those bad decisions.

It may be true that he is just "built that way," but I find that is an empty excuse.....or at least that "the way he is built" explains some of his postseason struggles.

At least, that's what I've observed of him over the years.

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