Joe Thornton's nickname is "Jumbo," and he's more than lived up to it during the regular season. But that hasn't been the case in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- until this year.
Thornton is the biggest reason the San Jose Sharks are relaxing at home today, waiting to see who they'll play in the Western Conference Finals. Thornton had 3 goals and 8 points in five games as the Sharks polished off the Detroit Red Wings in the Western semis. He scored the winning goal in Game 2, set up Patrick Marleau for the overtime winner in Game 3 and again for the series-winner in Saturday's 2-1 victory in Game 5.
Thornton already has matched his career playoff highs with 3 goals and 11 points while getting to the third round of the playoffs for the first time.
Five up -- Five players who've been hot:
Johan Franzen -- The Wings are done for the season, but not because of any failings by Franzen. He set a team record by getting at least one point in all 12 of Detroit's playoff games and had the best individual performance of the postseason by scoring 4 goals and adding a pair of assists for a 6-point night in Detroit's Game 4 win against the Sharks.
Jonathan Toews -- Chicago's captain leads all players in scoring during the playoffs with 19 points, including 11 in five games against Vancouver. He had the Hawks' only goal Sunday after getting a hat trick and adding a pair of assists in Game 4.
Dustin Byfuglien -- "Big Buff" has made life miserable for the Vancouver Canucks, especially in Game 3, when he burned them for his first three goals of the playoffs.
Mark Recchi -- Talk about an oldie but goodie: At 42, Recchi has 6 goals and 9 points in Boston's 10 playoff games, including a goal in Game 3 and two more in Game 4.
Marc-Andre Fleury -- Fleury is coming off his best week of the playoffs, allowing just four goals in three games to help Pittsburgh move within one victory of its third-consecutive trip to the conference finals. He shut out Montreal in Game 3 and lost a second shutout bid on Mike Cammalleri's sixth-attacker goal in a 2-1 victory in Game 5.
Five down -- Five players who are struggling:
Manny Malhotra -- After scoring 14 goals in the regular season and connecting in San Jose's first playoff game, Malhotra has gone cold. He hasn't produced a point since Game 2 against Colorado and didn't have a shot in the Sharks' last two games against Detroit.
Brian Boucher -- The magic touch Boucher showed in leading Philadelphia past New Jersey in the first round is gone. He's struggled against Boston, losing the first three games and allowing the Bruins to tie Game 4 in the final minute before Philadelphia won in overtime.
Ryan Kesler -- Vancouver's No. 2 center has all but disappeared against Chicago. He hasn't scored a goal in the series and hasn't had a point in the last three games. The Canucks can't win without some production from Kesler to take heat off their top line.
Roberto Luongo -- After shutting down Chicago in the series opener, Vancouver's captain allowed 15 goals in the next three games -- all losses. He did rebound to keep the Canucks in the series with a 4-1 win Sunday night, after allowing 11 goals on 68 shots in Games 3 and 4.
Alexei Ponikarovsky -- Pittsburgh acquired Ponikarovsky at the trade deadline to boost its offense. That hasn't been happening in the playoffs. Ponikarovsky has gone three games without a point and seven without a goal -- and was a healthy scratch in Game 5 against Montreal.
Injuries, news and notes
Out -- Boston lost center David Krejci for the rest of the playoffs with a dislocated right wrist sustained in Game 3. He had surgery last week and is expected to be back for training camp. The Bruins also lost defenseman Adam McQuaid with a lower-body injury that kept him out of Game 4. … Philadelphia forward Daniel Carcillo didn't play most of the third period Friday due to an apparent knee injury and sat out Sunday's practice. … Montreal defenseman Hall Gill left Saturday's game with a lower-body injury and may not be able to play in Game 6. … Vancouver defenseman Sami Salo was taken to the hospital after taking a shot in the midsection Sunday night.
Returning -- The Philadelphia Flyers were more than happy to get forward Simon Gagne back Friday -- he scored in overtime despite having two screws in his broken right big toe. … Pittsburgh forward Bill Guerin returned Saturday after missing two games with an undisclosed injury. Another forward, Michael Rupp, was back for Game 5 after sitting out the previous game with an undisclosed injury. Center Jordan Staal returned Thursday after missing two games with a sliced tendon in his foot that required surgery. … Boston defenseman Mark Stuart (finger) returned Friday after missing more than five weeks. … Vancouver forward Ryan Johnson returned for Game 3 against Chicago after missing a month with a broken foot.
Still out -- Montreal defenseman Jaroslav Spacek has yet to play in the Canadiens' series against Pittsburgh due to an illness. The Habs' best defenseman, Andrei Markov, hasn't played since early in Game 1 of the series after tearing a knee ligament. … Detroit forward Patrick Eaves didn't play in the last four games against San Jose due to an elbow injury.
Non-playoff teams -- New Jersey defenseman Anssi Salmela may need knee surgery after an injury sustained while playing for Finland at the World Championships. Devils forward Jay Pandolfo had shoulder surgery.
The week ahead -- The second round of the playoffs will conclude this week, with the conference finals likely to start by the weekend.
Games to watch
Philadelphia at Boston (May 10, 7 p.m. ET, TSN2) -- The Bruins nearly eliminated the Flyers Friday, rallying twice before losing in overtime. They'll try again -- this time before a full house at the TD Garden.
Pittsburgh at Montreal (May 10, 7 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) -- The Penguins have gotten all they can handle from the pesky Canadiens, but they'll try to end Montreal's season away from home -- where they've won four of five games so far in the postseason.
Chicago at Vancouver (May 11, 9:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS) -- The Hawks can't be happy about having to trek back to Western Canada, even though they routed the Canucks at GM Place in Games 3 and 4 before missing a chance to close out the series by losing Game 5 at home.