Under The Bleachers: Thornton & Marleau Finally Make The Stanley Cup Finals

Above: San Jose Sharks veteran Joe Thornton
Under The Bleachers: Thornton & Marleau Finally Make The Stanley Cup Finals

Selected first- and second-overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are finally going to play for the Stanley Cup as the San Jose Sharks ousted St. Louis with a 5-2 win in the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday.

It has been a long road for the San Jose veterans and the franchise as a whole, as consistent regular season success has led to endless postseason heartache. Both have endured being removed as captain and blamed for the team’s collective shortcomings. They’ve watched as various regimes have come and gone, each falling short like their predecessors, the club never managing to find the right mix to carry them into the last series of the season.

While it’s the trio of Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns leading the way offensively for San Jose during these playoffs, you can’t help but feel there is a little “Win one for the Old Guys” energy coursing through the Sharks dressing room, as the 36-year-old forwards are very much in the twilight of their terrific careers and this team knows all too well that chances like this are hard to come by.

These are the kinds of stories that make the playoffs so compelling.

Here are two guys, chosen first and second in the same draft, that have accomplished just about everything there is to do in this sport save for win the NHL’s ultimate prize. Thornton has a Hart Trophy and gold medals from the Olympics (2010), World Cup, World Championships and World Juniors; Marleau is a double Olympic gold medalist (2010, 2014) in addition to having reached the top of the podium at the World Cup and World Championships as well.

Thornton has produced at a point-per-game clip over his 18-year career and Marleau has tallied scored 481 regular season goals, topping the 15-goal plateau every year since scoring 13 in his rookie campaign. The former has been in San Jose since getting jettisoned out of Boston, where quality regular seasons and playoff failures turned him into a scapegoat, despite a string of productive years. The latter has spent his entire career with the Sharks, logging 1411 regular season games and another 159 in the playoffs.

While they haven’t reached the 20-season mark without hoisting the Cup like Ray Bourque before he got the job done in Colorado, they’re close and this could very well be their final opportunity to do so and just making it to this point after coming up short so often needs to be celebrated.

And San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer deserves a lot of praise as well. The Sharks consistently made the Playoffs under Todd McLellan, but could never reach this point, and just as he did in New Jersey, the former Kitchener Rangers bench boss has led his squad to the Promised Land in his first year on the bench.

It has been an unexpected run to the Finals for the Sharks, who finished sixth in the Western Conference and beat their division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings, in five before needing seven to dismiss the pesky Nashville Predators. Now clear of St. Louis and heading into the final string of games of the year against Pittsburgh starting Monday.

Will “Sid the Kid” and his Penguins get another one or will the San Jose Sharks and their veteran leaders finally get their first?

If I’m being honest, I kind of want to see “Jumbo Joe” and the quiet guy from Aneroid, Saskatchewan get to ride off into the sunset with a Stanley Cup victory, but either way, it should be fun.

Tags: Hockey, Joe Thornton, NHL, Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks, Stanley Cup, Stanley Cup Playoffs

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