Once again, it's "what if?" in spring time for captain Joe Thornton and his San Jose Sharks. (Getty Images)
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• After watching a series in which the home team won every game, Tim Kawakami wonders what might have been if only if the Sharks hadn't lost their last regular-season game.
• This may have been Joe Thornton's last chance to get the Sharks over the hump. Not that he was bad last night, but once again, he failed to be an impact player when his team needed him most. Sometimes a reputation is deserved, isn't it?
• It doesn't quite have the ring of Rocket or Cyclone, but Kings forward Justin Williams may have to get used to this as his new nickname after his two goals led Los Angeles to victory on Tuesday night.
• The spectacular is again the norm for Jonathan Quick, writes Helene Elliot. Looks like he's on track for a second consecutive Conn Smythe, doesn't it?
• "If we were trying to be a little trite, we could say we've gone from the Golden Seals to a Golden Era," said Gary Bettman of the state of hockey in California. Totally spontaneously, no doubt.
• The difference in the series? Antti Niemijust wasn't as good as Quick. That's a tough standard, but at this time of year, it's all that matters.
• When the final horn blows tonight, will the Blackhawks be heralded for having the indomitable spirit of a champion ... or for choking away what should have been the greatest season in franchise history?
• Two Original Six franchises locked in a Game 7 duel? That's heaven for hockey fans, writes Rick Telander. Personally, I think heaven is a $10 lower bowl seat and dollar beer night, but we all have our own visions of perfection.
• The ice is going to be lousy at the United Center in the wake of a Rolling Stones gig (no, this story isn't from 1978), but the Hawks pride themselves on being good when the ice is bad.
• If there's a lesson for the Red Wings in the Sharks' loss, it's this: being good won't be good enough. Detroit needs greatness from Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to advance.
• Here's what Dr. Michael Babcock, team psychologist for the Red Wings has to tell his charges ahead of Game 7.
• The showdown between Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron could determine Pittsburgh's fate against the Bruins.
• Get ready for plenty of complaints about the start times of the Eastern Conference Final games. Hey, if you think this is bad, wait until people realize that both Game 7s could be played on the same day if both the East and the West go the distance.
• Jaromir Jagrblah, blah, blah. Me, I don't want to hear another word about how hard the guy works or how great he was until he does something more than protect the puck along the boards. Right now, he looks like the worst trade decision of Peter Chiarelli's career.
• Bring on the Penguinsand the grudges, writes Steve Buckley. Given all that's gone on in the past when these two teams have met, there's plenty of bad blood for young and old to enjoy!
• Do the Avs have the guts to trade away the No. 1 pick? That it's even being asked says something about the new direction the organization is taking.
• Credit the arrival of Patrick Roy for that. The veteran goalie won over even the most jaded observers with his impassioned introduction as the team's coach on Tuesday.
• With new ownership on the horizon in Phoenix (yes, we know), Coyotes GM Don Maloney can finally go about re-signing coach Dave Tippett to an extension in earnest.
• With Claude Noel entering the final year of his contract, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff can't afford to dither. Either extend his current deal or let him go, says Gary Lawless. Given the inconsistencies of the Jets these past two seasons, don't be surprised if he's sent packing.
• If prospective Vancouver coach Dallas Eakins ever needs his tires pumped, here's the guy to do it.