The San Jose Sharks have a wonderful opportunity Tuesday against Toronto.
Thanks to the Maple Leafs 3-1 win in Anaheim Monday, the Sharks are now within 4 points of the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. For the first time in a long time Anaheim has to be feeling some heat.
Back on January 15th Ducks had a 13-point lead on the second place Sharks. They looked uncatchable for the division title. At that point Anaheim had an incredible 20-0-2 record on home ice. But since then they’ve won only 4 out of 12 home games. The Sharks on the other hand have kept their collective noses to the grindstone and amassed a 12-5-1 record since January 15th, and that leads us to the opportunity.
Since last weeks trade deadline passed, the Sharks have played two of their better games of the season against Pittsburgh and Toronto. They’ve closed the gap on Anaheim and now they have a chance to turn up the temperature on their Orange County rivals.
So why is it so important to catch Anaheim for the division? Well first of all the Sharks could avoid a first round match-up with Los Angeles. The Kings appear to have returned to form and will be an extremely tough out in the opening round of the playoffs no matter who they go up against. And if the Sharks want to make a long run and get to the finals it figures they’ll probably have to go through some combination of LA, Anaheim, St. Louis, Colorado and or Chicago regardless of where they finish in the standings. Any preferable match-up you can get in the opening round and any additional home ice advantage you can grab would be for the best.
So Tuesday night the Sharks have an opportunity to build on what has been a good post Olympic run. They will face a team that played a difficult game Monday and they will face a backup goaltender. The opportunity is there. Will they make the best of that opportunity or will it be an opportunity missed? Find out tonight on Comcast Sportsnet California and on KFOX and the Sharks Radio Network with the pregame coverage beginning at 7PM PDT.
I’m Randy Hahn
The San Jose Sharks are in the midst of a most unusual stretch in their schedule. They’re playing 12 in a row against Eastern Conference opponents. It got me to thinking, has this ever happened before? The answer is no.
According to our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau, the longest streak of games ever against the East for the Sharks is seven, and it’s happened five times. In the Sharks first two seasons they were swept 7 straight during those stretches against the East and the last time it occurred, 2002, it happened twice in the same season. That year the Sharks picked up points in 4 and 5 of those games respectively.
Let’s do the math this season. Through 4 games the Sharks have wins over Columbus, Philadelphia and New Jersey and they lost in regulation in Buffalo. The remaining opponents during this unique stretch are Carolina, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Toronto, Columbus again, the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and Florida.
The Western Conference has been the dominant of the two this year and the Sharks have a formidable 15-6-2 record against Eastern teams. If they are going to make a serious run at catching the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division title the Sharks are going to have to win their remaining 2 games against Anaheim and go on a winning run against the upcoming eastern opponents beginning with the 4 game home stand that starts against the Hurricanes.
It’ll be fun finding out if the Sharks can be “Beasts Against The East” over the next 2 weeks.
I’m Randy Hahn for SJSHARKS.com
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Every NHL season is a rollercoaster ride wrapped up in a soap opera.
How do you figure the Sharks playing one of their best games on home ice all year last Saturday against Chicago followed by Monday night’s clunker against Philadelphia?
And the Sharks aren’t alone. Not long ago visiting teams feared the Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose road swing. Somebody called it the West Coast version of the Bermuda Triangle. Now the landscape has shifted a little bit. Remember when the Ducks were almost unbeatable on home ice? They went 20-0-2 before losing in regulation at Honda Center. Now all of the sudden they’ve lost three of their last five home contests and all of them in regulation. Up the freeway in Los Angeles the Kings have hit an even worse stretch. They’ve lost eight of the last nine games and a stunning 15 of 20.
The Sharks aren’t struggling anywhere near as bad as that. Shortly after losing Logan Couture they went on a six game winning streak fueled by a red-hot Joe Pavelski. But the Sharks have dropped four of their last five games and are having trouble putting the puck in the net and keeping it out of their own. And they’ve lost home games this year to Buffalo, the New York Islanders and most recently the Flyers. It figured that losing Couture along with Tomas Hertl and the rest of the injured forwards would catch up to the Sharks and it seems that it has.
But the key is keeping it in perspective. The Sharks are still solidly in a playoff spot in the Pacific Division and they’ll be rested after the Olympic break and will also be getting back Couture, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish .
There’s still plenty of hockey to be played before the Stanley Cup playoffs. It’s too early to panic and too early to plan the parade. Just keeping on riding the roller coaster, with all its thrills and occasional spills.
I’m Randy Hahn
With the Sharks winning streak now over at 6 games it’s worth noting just how impressive their run was.
In victories over Washington, Florida, Tampa Bay, Calgary, Winnipeg and Minnesota the Sharks managed to win 3 times on the road and 3 times at SAP Center. Four of the wins were by a single goal, the victory over the Capitals came in a shootout and they blanked the Panthers 3-0 while also shutting out Winnipeg 1-0. And let’s not forget how they overcame Martin St. Louis 4 goal effort for the Lightning and still found a way to win. That was also the only game during the streak in which they gave up any power play goals. In the other 5 games the penalty kill was a perfect 8 for 8.
It also bodes well for the rest of the season that the Sharks performed so well considering the lineup that Todd McLellan was forced to play due to injuries. Matt Nieto, Eriah Hayes, Backen Kearns and Alex Stalock have each appeared in less than 50 NHL games in their careers. Matt Irwin and John McCarthy are both under 100 games played. In fact if you combine all of their experience in the league it totals 251 games, less than Logan Couture’s 275. That’s impressive! But it’s also expected. Every year the Sharks carefully draft and then develop players with the expectation that at some point they will be able to make a contribution at the NHL level. All those mentioned have indeed contributed and here’s hoping another long winning streak is about to start all over again.
I’m Randy Hahn
Back on January 6, the Sharks announced that Logan Couture would have surgery for an upper body injury. He would be out for at least 2-3 weeks. At the time, the Sharks were already without forwards Tomas Hertl, Martin Havlat, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish. How could the Sharks possibly have enough offense to score three goals a night, universally recognized as the “magic number” to have a legitimate chance to win? What would LWL (life without Logan) be like?
Enter The Big Pavelski!
With Couture out of the lineup, Head Coach Todd McLellan had to hope the rest of his team would collectively make up the offensive slack in the absence of one of his better scorers, and that’s been the case. But no single player has picked up that slack in a more dominant fashion than winger/center Joe Pavelski.
Since Couture’s injury the Sharks have fashioned a 5-2 record and Pavelski has been on one of the best offensive runs of his 8-year NHL career. In those seven games he has 9 goals and an assist including his first ever hat trick. Going back to January 1 when he was named to Team USA for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games, Pavelski has 11 goals and two assists.
It’s been amazing to watch Pavelski this month, but should we really be all that surprised? Great players tend to be at their best when the pressure is on. Pavelski has come through in a big way and with six goals in his last 3 games he’s showing no signs of cooling off.
Joe Pavelski will never be “Little Joe” to me. He’s “The Big Pavelski” 100%, and he’s made LWL a lot easier to deal with.
It’s an off day on the road in Plantation, Florida for the San Jose Sharks and those of us who tag along for the ride. It’s a good day to catch up on rest (got here from Washington, DC at 3:30 a.m.), do some preparation for Thursday's tilt with the Panthers, go for a beach run in Fort Lauderdale and answer some leftover questions from Sharks fans on Twitter. Here we go.
What is your all-time favorite toppings combination for a pizza? @Rcordero1241h
I’ve tried some pretty wild ones. In Maui, there’s a joint that sells pizza with chopped clams. Back in 1990, when I did play-by-play for the World Cup in Italy, we had a pizza that had prosciutto and cheese on it with a fried egg right in the middle of the pie. It was delicious actually. I’m not sure why it is this way in Canada, but when I was a kid growing up in the Yukon it seemed like everybody’s favorite was Canadian bacon and pineapple. To this day it’s my favorite too. It must be the salty and sweet thing.
Hi. Is there an address I could send a pic I would love autographed? Marleau took a shot at my head 1 pre-skate :) @sfmariae8h
Any and all mail to players should be sent c/o: San Jose Sharks 525 West Santa Clara Street, San Jose, CA 95113. Please be patient. As you can imagine it’s quite a chore for players to keep up with fan mail and autograph requests during the NHL season.
Who would win in a fight, you or Drew Remenda? @DirtyManimal17h
There is a very simple answer to this somewhat disturbing question. Remenda. Drew is a training machine. The man works out 2 or 3 times a day. He does chin-ups on the doorframes of the broadcast booth when we’re off camera during the intermissions. There are Prada models with more body fat than my partner has. He would crush me in a few seconds. He would go all Mike Brown on me. When the dust settled I wouldn’t be day to day, I’d be season to season.
Is there a reason why you and Drew went behind Dan Boyle during his pre-game interview in Washington? #TryingToStealSpotLight ? @SharksRadar19h
This was definitely a mistake on our part. In attempting to listen in on the interview we inadvertently put ourselves in the same camera shot as one of the all time “hunkiest” Sharks players. It is truly humbling to look back at the footage. Is it wrong for me to say hunkiest? Is that a word?
Was the Dallas game when you had Laryngitis the hardest game you ever had to call? @Bay_Area_Sports12 Jan
It was definitely right up there. I woke up that morning with little to no voice. The doctor gave me a steroid shot and antibiotics and told me not to speak until game-time when I absolutely had to. It was a struggle to get the words out and probably more painful to listen to. The hardest game I ever had to call was May 17, 2006. It was game 6 of the playoff series between the Sharks and the Edmonton Oilers. I was sick that night too and losing my voice. But what made it especially tough is that when the Sharks lost the game 2-0 and lost the series 4-2, I knew that Drew would be revealing on our post game segment that he was leaving the Sharks broadcast crew for Hockey Night in Canada the next season. It was an emotional night and there were tears at the end of it. But in the end Drew realized the terrible mistake he had made and he came back!
Would you rather trade "hair" with Drew or "teeth" with @Burnzie88 ? :) @MissStephF12 Jan
Neither. I would rather trade the ability to grow facial hair with Joe Thornton. I think it would be a ground breaking Shark Byte segment to do a time lapsed photography feature of Thornton’s face. The man can grow a beard in between periods.
Keep those Tweets coming @sharkvoice.
I’m Randy Hahn
Every team in the NHL has to deal with injuries throughout the long season. The San Jose Sharks are getting their share injuries of and then some right now.
Logan Couture will undergo surgery on an upper body injury on Wednesday. He’ll join a list that already includes Tommy Wingels, Martin Havlat, Tomas Hertl, Raffi Torres and Adam Burish. If you include Tyler Kennedy who missed the three-game road trip with a nasty bout of the flu, the Sharks are playing without seven of their regular forwards.
There aren’t many teams, if any, in the NHL that can consistently score when more than half of their forwards are on the shelf. Head Coach Todd McLellan needs his core veterans like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Dan Boyle, Marc Eduard Vlasic and others to help carry the team through a difficult stretch. It’s also necessary for the depth players up from Worcester to make a difference. McLellan needs an extra block here or there, an extra hit, an extra faceoff win. He also needs his goaltending to be a little better. It’s all hands on deck until the Olympic break starting February 7 and then the Sharks ought to begin to get healthier and get players back.
There are going to be a few rocky nights over the next three weeks but the Sharks have to find a way to battle through. They have no choice. They can’t hang their heads and allow injuries to be an excuse for team performance. If they survive the next 15 games before the break and stay in the hunt for the division title, they’ll be in much better shape down the stretch heading towards the playoffs and they’ll be a better team for having battled through the adversity together.
I’m Randy Hahn
For a long time there was only one hockey tradition in my family. Whenever the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final was played, I insisted that my two sons watch the postgame handshake and the ensuing victory laps with the Cup by each victorious player. I don’t know what it is about that sequence of events but it brings me close to tears every year. It doesn’t matter which team wins or who’s on the team. I guess because I work in the business I know the sacrifice and dedication it takes to make it to the NHL and then the sacrificed and dedication it takes all over again to win a cup. It moves me, every single year, and I want to share that with my children.
Well now we have a second hockey tradition. Whenever possible, and this year it’s possible, we will watch the Winter Classic game together. My partner, the great Drew Remenda, summed it up best on our broadcast New Years Eve. The annual outdoor game on New Years Day captures the very essence of the game of hockey. Yes it’s an NHL regular season game, but the Winter Classic transcends the NHL. It’s about the sport, the roots of the sport, and the way it’s played when you’re a little tyke growing up on the Canadian prairie or on a Minnesota farm.
So on this New Years Day and everyone going forward I will be in front of a television with my sons or watching in a hotel room on the road and calling my sons to share our common experience with the Winter Classic. There’s no denying that the NHL hit a marketing home run with the outdoor game, but for many of us it means much more than TV ratings and selling tickets and apparel. The Winter Classic takes us back to why we fell in love with hockey in the first place.
Happy New Year!
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
On this Christmas Eve 2013 I want to take a moment to thank the NHL Players Association and the National Hockey League. Thank you for agreeing not to play games on December 24, 25 and 26th.
For as long as I’ve been working in the league there have never been games on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The last time the NHL played on Christmas Eve was 1972 and there haven’t been games on Christmas Day since 1971. Under the new collective bargaining agreement the holiday break is now 3 full days. I think it’s an excellent decision.
Christmas is a time for families to gather and share time together. That goes for hockey players, coaches, trainers, broadcasters, referees, arena employees and everyone else connected with working in the game. I get it that some fans would like to kick back and watch games over the holidays but the NBA pretty much has December 25th to themselves and there are inevitably already college bowl games and the occasional NFL tilt. And you can now get your hockey fix anyway watching the always-compelling World Junior Hockey Tournament that is now televised live in the US on the NHL Network.
The league has already successfully determined that New Years Day will be it’s day to shine with the Winter Classic. Why play at Christmas?
The NHL’s players especially welcome the three-day break. The regular season is a grind, especially when the schedule is compacted due to the Winter Olympic Games, as it is this year.
So enjoy your Christmas holiday whether it has spiritual significance for you or not. It’s a time to enjoy those we care about and love most. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and we’ll look forward to December 27th in Phoenix against the Desert Dogs!
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
A day in the life on the road in St. Louis:
7:30am - CST Alarm goes off that Siri set for me on iPhone. Thanks Siri.
7:31 - Locate robe.
7:32 Turn on NHL Network. Check last nights highlights
7:35 - Make coffee. Any hotel that doesn’t have a coffee machine in the room cannot become one of my favorite hotels. Ever.
8:00 - Fire up laptop and log into NHL game notes site. Game day process begins.
8:17 - Check last night's leftover calzone from “Sauce On The Side.” Still edible. Salad is not.
9:15 - Catch team bus to Scottrade Center for morning practice
9:30 - Catch up with GM Doug Wilson, Dan Rusanowsky and Drew Remenda. Nashville stories exchanged. Also discuss the question: “What would you do if you won tonight’s lottery?”.
10ish - Watch Sharks hit the ice for morning skate.
10:05 - Chat with Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. Happy 62nd birthday, fellow Edmonton native!
10:15 - Enjoy lively discussion with Blues color commentator Darren Pang and assistant coach Brad Shaw. Another Ottawa boy, Jamie Baker, joins in the fun.
11:15 - Join the media scrum to talk to Sharks coach Todd McLellan about tonight's tilt.
11:30 - Back on the bus to hotel.
11:45 - Lunch with the aforementioned Mr. Rusanowsky. French onion soup and tuna melt.
12:30pm - Back in room and more pregame prep.
2 - Gym. Would prefer outdoor run but anything under about 40 degrees turns me into a treadmill runner. Hard to believe I use to be Edmontonian.
4:30 - Bus back to arena.
4:45 - Come up with an idea for Great White Bites that was actually due this morning, write it and file it.
Still to come tonight - game vs Blues, bus to Lambert Field, charter to LAX, bus to hotel near Staples Center and check into room. It better have coffee.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com