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Matt Porter

Revisiting the Jumbo Joe Thornton nickname, and possibly his last game at the Garden

Not a regular shooter in his advancing years, Joe Thornton has yet to score on 11 shots.claus andersen/Getty Images/Getty Images

In June, Joe Thornton joked he had another five, maybe 10 years left in him.

“I got nothing else going on,” he told reporters at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas, “so we’ll see.”

There is a chance, however, Tuesday is the last time Jumbo Joe will suit up on Causeway Street, when the Sharks visit the white-hot Bruins at TD Garden (7 p.m.).

Thornton, 40, signed on for another year at $2 million, the same price and term as Zdeno Chara. Seemingly over the knee trouble that dogged him from 2016-18, he was hoping to build on a solid 16-35—51 line in 73 games last season.

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Like the Sharks (4-7-1), Thornton is off to a slow start. His rate of scoring (0.33 points per game), over a full season, would rank as his lowest since his rookie season of 1997-98 (3-4—7 in 55 games). He has four assists in 12 games. Not a regular shooter in his advancing years, he has yet to score on 11 shots.

San Jose, which ends a five-game Eastern road trip Tuesday, has taken a pounding from the Atlantic Division, losing to the Sabres (twice, once at home), Leafs and Senators, and beating the Canadiens. The Bruins have won three in a row and have taken 18 of 22 available points this season, though a team with Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns is always tough.

Last Feb. 19, a Thornton hat trick was a highlight of a wildly entertaining 6-5 overtime Bruins victory in San Jose. It was his first hat trick in eight years, a feat he punctuated on the bench by pumping both arms overhead and shouting joyously. Charlie McAvoy blasted home the winner in OT.

A three-time 30-goal scorer in his first six seasons in Boston, Thornton always preferred the setup role. Good thing, since he’s one of the most skilled passers we’ve seen (eighth all-time in assists, 1,069). When he left Boston in a deal for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau on Nov. 30, 2005, he had 454 points in 532 games as a Bruin. He has 1,028 points in 1,046 games as a Shark.

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Now about that nickname, which has followed Thornton from coast to coast. As uncovered by colleague Kevin Paul Dupont in 1997, just weeks before the Bruins drafted Thornton first overall, it came from Jumbo the Elephant. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus star of the 1880s met his end in Thornton’s hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario. There’s a statue there, or at least there was on May 11, 1997, when “Jumbo Joe” first appeared in the pages of the Boston Globe.

■  For the second week in a row, the NHL named a member of Boston’s top line as its first star of the week. Brad Marchand’s line of 3-5—8 in three games was good enough to match David Pastrnak (week ending Oct. 20). Through Sunday, three players leaguewide have had a 5-point night this year: Marchand, Pastrnak and Connor McDavid.

■  Putting Boston’s top-line dominance into further context: Pastrnak, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have combined for 23 goals this season. That’s one more than the New Jersey Devils (22) and within three of Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota.

■  Pastrnak has scored the first goal of the game five times, two ahead of the next closest (Buffalo’s Victor Olofsson and St. Louis’ Brayden Schenn).

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■  With one more game to go, Pastrnak has the record for October points by a Bruin (23), and Marchand (20) needs 1 to pass Adam Oates (20 in 1992-93) to move into second. With 1 more point, Pastrnak could become the 16th player in league history to put up 24 points in the opening month, a rare feat these days. In the last 25 years, the only player to score 24 in October was Steven Stamkos in 2017-18.

“Hopefully it continues,” Marchand said. “When we have the group that we have that’s consistently dangerous all the way through the lineup, it makes it easier on all of us to go out and play our game. I think we’re all seeing benefits from that right now.”

■  The Rangers were outplayed from the jump on Sunday, but losing Mika Zibanejad late in the first period surely didn’t help. Another turning point in the game: Brady Skjei inexplicably passing up an open look with most of the net open short side, when a goal could have cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 in the second period. Instead, Marchand scored to make it 4-1 shortly after escaping the penalty box.

■  Anything Marchand is worried about these days, in general?

“Nope,” he said. “Having fun.”


Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports.