Not all great sports rivalries are rooted in rich history.
In fact, we’re seeing one blossom before our very eyes this spring as the San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights go head-to-head in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive spring.
So far, the clash of these Western Conference heavyweights has featured all the ingredients of an excellent NHL rivalry: lots of goals, plenty of contact, fists flying and, thanks to Sharks veteran Joe Thornton and Golden Knights tough guy Ryan Reaves, some top-notch trash talk.
Thornton set the tone when he delivered a high hit on Vegas’ Tomas Nosek in Game 3 and then backed up his actions with quite the statement:
“Honestly, I thought I barely touched him. He came right back. It’s just one of those plays,” Thornton said after the game, a 6-3 Vegas win to take a 2-1 series lead. “I think my son hits me like that six times a day, it’s just a weird position he put himself in. That’s all.”
The hit caused quite a stir — and will cause the 39-year-old forward to miss one game with a suspension — as did the all-out brawl between Evander Kane and Reaves in the same game.
On Monday, when asked for his thoughts on his Kane’s fight against Reaves, Thornton had high praise for his teammate and threw a little verbal jab at Reaves in the process:
“For a 30-goal scorer, boy he looked good in that fight,” Thornton said of Kane. “He looked like Brett Hull fighting Ryan.
“It was just tough to see Ryan go down like that versus a 30-goal scorer,” he said, smiling, “but hopefully he’ll have better luck next time.”
Jumbo taking shots at Reaves after the fight with Kane pic.twitter.com/nLnOB2X153
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) April 15, 2019
Reaves, of course, caught wind of Thornton’s words and lobbed some pretty hilarious shots back at his opponent later on Monday.
.@GoldenKnights' Ryan Reaves was asked if he heard the comments made by @SanJoseSharks' Joe Thornton after Sunday night's game… Here's what he had to say #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/CLJea94Qbc
— Las Vegas RJ (@reviewjournal) April 15, 2019
“I’ve got a buddy with a grandpa who’s going through the same thing,” Reaves told reporters. “He can’t really see very well because he’s getting old. Get some glasses or something. I don’t know. If he gets suspended, it’s going to be hard for him to see up top [from the press box].”
Of course, there is a bit of history to this rivalry — about as much history as you can get with a franchise in its second year of existence — as the clubs ran into one another in the second round of last year’s post-season. The Golden Knights, as you’ll recall, won that series 4-2 on their way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Game 4, which is shaping up to be another wild one, is set for Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET./ 7:30 p.m. PT in Vegas.