With the afterglow of the Stadium Series game fading, it’s back to serious business for the San Jose Sharks beginning Thursday night against the visiting Detroit Red Wings. For a lot of teams the “push to the playoffs” begins after the trade deadline, which arrives next Monday. For the Sharks the push is already on.
Saturday’s loss to the Kings was disappointing but it was also damaging in the standings. With Los Angeles now on an eight game winning streak the Sharks are two points behind them for third place in the Pacific Division and LA has two games in hand. But that’s just one problem. With 68 points the Sharks are a point out of a wildcard playoff spot and depending on what Calgary does Wednesday night in New Jersey that gap could widen. With only 21 games to go the Sharks have to get back on track and get on a roll. First of all they must solve their issues on home ice. Including the game at Levi Stadium last weekend the Sharks are 14-12-5 at home. They’ve lost more than they’ve won. That has to change and it starts Thursday against the Red Wings and then Saturday against Ottawa and Monday vs. Montreal. The team has to find a way to recapture the significant home ice advantage that has been their calling card at SAP Center for the past decade.
It’s looking like the Sharks battle to make the post season will continue right through to the end of the regular season. There’s a seven game road trip looming in March and the club will have to play 10 of its final 13 games away from home. But those are worries for another day. Right now the Sharks have to start their “push to the playoffs” at the arena they made so famous for being one of the loudest in the NHL. It’s time to make some noise.
You can talk about the season series and the playoff race all you want, but after Saturday night’s game at Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara, it’s pretty clear that Northern California is Sharks Territory.
It was a celebration of hockey’s highest level in front of a capacity crowd in a state-of-the-art stadium that was decked out in Teal everywhere you looked, including the stands, which were decidedly favoring the home team. Oh, yes, there were enough numbers of Los Angeles Kings fans, decked out in the colors of their favorite team, to fill most NHL arenas. But when Brent Burns scored what proved to be the only Sharks goal of the night, I only could wonder whether the roof would have blown off if you could compress that sound into the SAP Center.
There were some interesting facts and tidbits concerning this game, and so, in the spirit of our feature on 98.5 KFOX, let’s go “Beyond the Numbers,” brought to you by SAP:
You probably are aware of the fact that this number signifies the attendance at the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday, but for those of us who have been part of this journey since October 4, 1991, that number is another sign that the dreams of one man, George Gund III, are coming true. For those of us who knew, loved, and still miss him, the one regret that we all have is that he wasn’t here to see a crowd of this magnitude celebrating his favorite sport in the heart of Silicon Valley.
If George were here, he would have probably wanted to skate on the stadium ice every chance he could get. He would have loved to play a pickup game there at 3:00 in the morning, followed by a sumptuous meal with his closest friends. He would have adored the jackets that the coaches were wearing, and would have eyed one with great longing until he somehow procured one. I can definitely see him wearing the jacket, roaming the concourse, watching all of the happiness with a sparkle in his eye and a smile from ear to ear. It’s a great image.
The attendance at Levi’s® Stadium was also a number that is nearly 6.5 times the size of the first Sharks home crowd at the Cow Palace on October 5, 1991, the night after they opened their hockey history in Vancouver. 10,888 fans jammed the Daly City arena that night, and not too many remember that San Jose’s Wayne Presley and Mike McHugh scored goals, Jarmo Myllys made 34 saves, 60 penalty minutes were called by referee Bill McCreary (only 4 of them to Link Gaetz). The final score was 5-2, Vancouver.
The 70,205 people also represents a figure that is nearly 4 times the size of the first Sharks home crowd at SAP Center on October 14, 1993, when 17,190 fans experienced NHL regular season action for the first time in downtown San Jose. Kip Miller scored the first goal in the building, but two future Hockey Hall of Famers, Al MacInnis and Joe Nieuwendyk, scored for Calgary in a 2-1 Flames win. The building has added 372 seats since then.
The attendance also equals approximately 7% of San Jose’s estimated 2014 total population of 1,000,536, a percentage that definitely rises when you include the number of people either listening on the radio, watching on television, accessing via newspapers or the internet, and generally paying close attention.
900 in 6
Believe it or not, Saturday’s Coors Light Stadium Series game was technically the 900th regular season home game in San Jose Sharks history, even though it was not played in the city of San Jose or at SAP Center.
Over the club’s history, they have played in 6 different arenas that hosted Sharks’ “home” games, four of which are in Northern California. Can you name them? Here they are:
|ARENA||LOCATION||GAMES PLAYED||W-L-OT/T||POINTS %|
|SAP Center||San Jose||814||439-259-116||.610|
|Cow Palace||Daly City||81||22-55-4||.296|
|Yoyogi Arena*||Tokyo, Japan||1||0-1-0||.000|
|Ericsson Globen*||Stockholm, Sweden||1||0-0-1||.500|
|Levi’s® Stadium||Santa Clara||1||0-1-0||.000|
|ALL-TIME HOME RECORD:||900||462-317-121||.581|
* Totals do not include Sharks “road” games played in same neutral site arena. All totals as of 2/23/15.
By the way, since we’re talking games played, Thursday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings will mark the 1,800th regular season game in Sharks history. The 900th regular season road contest will be played on Tuesday, March 3 in Vancouver.
Sticking with a similar theme, the Sharks played their 800th regular season game at SAP Center on Dec. 30 against the Canucks, and it had the distinction of being the second Sharks game to feature two penalty shots by San Jose players. Joe Pavelski hit the cross-bar in the first period, and Joe Thornton scored against Ryan Miller in the second stanza.
#4 = #7
The Sharks owe a great deal of gratitude to the San Francisco 49ers organization for their hospitality, assistance, and encouragement. It’s not always an easy thing to give up one’s home to a visitor, but they did a terrific job in making the Sharks feel at home. Everyone at the Sharks and the NHL appreciates what Jed York’s staff provided. The locker room was converted into a palatial home for the players, there were Sharks and NHL Stadium Series logos everywhere, the Sharks ice sculptures looked fantastic, and the venue certainly looked spectacular to television viewers everywhere.
Inside the Sharks locker room, things were reconfigured a bit to the standard NHL setup, which features a main locker room area, and a changing room for the players. There was plenty of room to do this, because there are twice as many players on an NFL roster as there are in the NHL. With Sharks teal banners everywhere, it really looked like home.
Trivia of the weekend: as it turned out, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s locker area was assigned to Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon.
2 + 2 = 2
After Friday’s initial practice, players, families, and other members of the hockey staff were allowed to skate once the official session ended. I’m happy to report that there were two marriage proposals on the ice at the stadium, with positive results. The funny thing, as the news floated around the office, we heard, “Norma and Carl both got engaged on the ice.” An immediate, incredulous reaction from some was, “To each other?” The answer was, of course, no, since they have had important significant others in their lives for many years. But that certainly was a moment of humor for all of us as we congratulated our friends.
10 + 11 = 21
There are 21 games remaining in the regular season, beginning with the Detroit game. The Red Wings are one of four remaining teams that the Sharks have not yet faced this season. All four as one would expect, are in the Eastern Conference. At least three of them are solidly in the playoff hunt, and a case could be mathematically made that all four could still be in the race: Montreal (1st – Atlantic and 1st – Eastern), Detroit (3rd – Atlantic), Pittsburgh (3rd – Metropolitan) and Ottawa (6th – Atlantic).
Ten of the games are in the friendly confines of SAP Center at San Jose, with six of those being against Western Conference teams. Of the remaining 11 road games, only five are in the conference, with the season finale at Staples Center in Los Angeles against the Kings.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Beyond the numbers, Levi’s® Stadium was THE place to be in Northern California on Saturday night. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard already about the night, whether it was from our friends at 98.5 KFOX and 95.7 The Game set up at Gate A to greet the throng, the amazement of some stadium staff when the vast majority of the hockey crowd stayed in their seats for the entire game (“The building was full the whole night. It looked awesome,” said one), to the GoPro camera set up to time lapse the melting of the ice sculpture, to the closeness and importance of the game itself, to how the crowd sounded after the Brent Burns goal, and to how this sets things up for the stretch drive that ends up, of course, in Los Angeles for the season finale on April 11.
It was a night to remember, and it was a privilege to be there to broadcast the action to all of you. Congratulations to the NHL, the Sharks, the Kings, the 49ers, and all of the fans who made it so special. This is clearly “Sharks Territory.”
FIVE THOUGHTS ABOUT THE SAN JOSE SHARKS
1) There are 24 games left, but just five before the NHL's trade deadline. And while this season has presented more highs and lows than most, I'm a firm believer that anything can happen, so long as you just get invited to the dance (playoffs).
2) Thing I'm looking forward to most about the outdoor Stadium Series game: Seeing 70,000 Sharks fans in one place at the same time. General theory says that's never happened before in franchise history. On the topic of that outdoor game - I was at Levi's Stadium last week to observe Dan Craig and his crew doing tremendous work to get the ice rink ready. And sure enough, shortly after the "first spray" on Friday night, they get our warmest Bay Area temperatures since summer. By the way - if you don't know of Dan Craig yet, you will by game time - he is the NHL's ice guru, who has been behind the playing surfaces for every modern outdoor game. No, he is not the same "Daniel Craig" that currently plays James Bond. But he is called "Minus 007" by co-workers... if you get it?
3) Logan Couture & Tommy Wingels have been giving remarkably honest and excellent post-game interviews lately - especially considering how the team has struggled in February. Part of it is their personality, and part of it is their comfort in established roles on the team.
4) Joe Pavelski is sitting on 31 goals, after his 4th career hat trick. And to think people said he might never repeat the career-high 41 snipes last year? He's currently on pace to exceed that number this season.
5) While there is obvious concern about the Sharks losing six of their last eight games - it's often easy to lose sight that valuable things are still occurring on the ice, with regard to the future of the franchise. Rookies like Goodrow, Karlsson, Tierney, Mueller, and Tennyson are experiencing priceless lessons and learning experiences. Not to mention Hertl is gaining repetitions at the Center position, where he will no doubt ultimately be an even more impactful player. All of this, and still - the Sharks are still in a playoff position. With room to play better, and earn a spot in the second season.
A couple of weeks ago, it was my pleasure to host a panel at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco following a sneak preview of Red Army, a film now playing in local theaters and deserving of your attention. I was captivated by the chronicle of one of the greatest eras in hockey history that is rarely spoken about, even in hockey circles, and of its amazing connection to social and political changes in the world that continue to resonate to this day.
The film, made by former Yale University hockey player and Chicago native Gabe Polsky, is part sports documentary, part historical chronicle, and part social commentary that should prove to be a fascinating piece of entertainment for anyone, regardless of whether hockey is appreciated or not. It is a story that is larger than sport.
On Monday night, during the Sharks-Calgary radio broadcast, we aired a portion of my interview with Mr. Polsky about his film. You can find a podcast of the interview here.
Usually, when you put hockey together with a dramatic story that is bigger than the sport, you think of the incredible story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid, which surely can be connected to all of these themes. However, as the title indicates, Red Army is the story of the team that lost one of those fabled games in Lake Placid – the national team of the Soviet Union – and the amazing connection between the assertion of the star players’ individuality and the historical events that saw the hammer and sickle replaced by the white, red, and blue tricolor of the Russian Federation.
In San Jose, we have an amazing connection to part of this story, as two of the featured players in the drama were integral parts of the early development of the Sharks franchise: Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov. But while these two greats are not interviewed and take a back seat in the film to the experiences of defenseman Slava Fetisov, it is the same story, the same human drama, and another example of how much respect these players deserve.
For me, the hockey story is intensely interesting, but the human story is even more fascinating. The subjugation of these elite athletes in the name of the Communist system obviously did not work in the long run. But within the dictatorial world of that system, the artists-cum-hockey players enjoyed enough freedom to express their creativity that they could not possibly have expressed in the world of politics or business. Ultimately, as human beings, they sought to gain the freedom to live the way that they wanted to, and within that sphere, the Fetisov-Larionov-Makarov rebellion against the system serves as a microcosm for the larger events happening in Russia at that time. It allows us to understand Russia and Russians better, something that is certainly necessary in these uncertain times.
This film allows us a close look at the beautiful artistry of the Central Red Army hockey team, essentially from the moment of the 1980 Olympic loss to the U.S. to the early 1990’s, when some of the greatest hockey in history was played outside the confines of the National Hockey League. It is a story about creative expression, fighting dictatorship, and ultimately being a large motivator of change in a society. That battle continues to be waged today.
There are some things that I wished were in the film that were not. As San Jose Sharks people, it would have been nice to see a bit more of the Larionov-Makarov part of this story. But they are as intimately part of it even without holding a major role in the film, which was really told from Fetisov’s point of view. That kept the film focused.
Unlike many appearances of these great players in formal interviews, the film really humanizes Fetisov, opening a window into his soul and that of his teammates. It tells of his own personal tragedies, including the loss of his brother, the damaged relationship with his best friend, and his many triumphs, which are splashed onto the screen through the clever use of graphics.
As you watch the film, you’ll be struck by its photography, its humor, and its ability to weave different areas of society into one consistent story. In that way, it is reminiscent of the film Senna, which accomplished some of that in its depiction of the 3-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna, but in many ways, this film does a more effective job of accomplishing that challenging task.
In many oppressive societies, the related areas of sport and art are the places where individuals can really be individual. It’s an area where one can escape from the bad parts of life, and live in a world where one can feel free. It’s why some of the most beautiful works in the classical repertoire were written by the likes of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, why some of the greatest theater and ballet companies have been in oppressive societies, and why, under the whim of a brutal dictator like Joseph Stalin, a creative genius like Anatoly Tarasov could build the Soviet program into a world powerhouse.
One other thing that comes out is the role of the individual within the team concept. The players on this team were not robots. They were amazing athletes who were fully invested in working together, and what they produced on the ice was pure art.
Yes, there is no “I” in team. But there is an “M,” and there is an “E,” and that spells “ME.” Within the concept of dedicating oneself to a team, the individual is still very important, and he deserves to reap the benefits of what he has produced and to be able to enjoy it without interference. That, in many ways, is what Fetisov and his teammates were fighting for, and it’s something that anyone in America can fully understand as they enjoy this terrific film.
Red Army is playing now at Camera 12 in downtown San Jose, at the Landmark Embarcadero in San Francisco, the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley, and Regency Cinemas in San Rafael. It has been acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival, and it has made a lot of people who aren’t hockey fans interested in sampling the sport. Go see it today!
Entering tonight, Todd McLellan is sitting on 299 career wins. Upon reaching 300, he will be the second-fastest head coach in NHL history to achieve the milestone. If it happens tonight - it will have taken him 513 games - all with the Sharks.
In a second, I'll tell you what a GREAT job he DOES. But first I want to tell you about the DEMANDING job he HAS.
Coaching at the NHL level is the ultimate time-consuming profession. Spending every last minute of your day thinking and working on ways to make your team better. While brushing your teeth. While at the dinner table. While on the drive to work. Coming to the rink before everyone else, and leaving long after most of the players are gone. These are the things the general public does not see. The Head Coach never gets to lace up the skates, rarely gets credit for putting the right lineup out there, but often takes the blame for what negatives happen on the ice... go figure.
I have observed Todd operate for the last 6 seasons. I know if I were in the NHL - he's the kind of coach I'd want to play for. Prepared. Intellectual. Motivational. Approachable. On or off the record, I've never had a player even hint to me, a single bad thing about McLellan. He comes from a tremendous coaching background (experience with Mike Babcock in Detroit), and quite honestly - it shows.
The Bay Area is very lucky right now to have some exceptional leaders. Look what Bruce Bochy has done with the San Francisco Giants. Or what Steve Kerr is doing with the Golden State Warriors. Bob Melvin has defied expectations with the Oakland Athletics. And when you consider the body of work by Todd McLellan's teams... they're still fighting for the ultimate prize, yes. But they also win a LOT more than they lose. No wonder he is the second-longest tenured Head Coach/Manager in the Bay Area.
I am done with the NHL shootout. It’s over. It’s dead to me.
When the league brought in the shootout following the 2004-2005 lockout I was all for it. Ties were boring and it was going to be fun to see some creativity when games went beyond five minutes of overtime. However after the Sharks record 13 round “snoozeout” against Edmonton Monday, I’ve crossed over to the other side. The longer that thing went the worse it got. A total of 26 shots were taken and only THREE goals were scored. Seriously? And it’s not like the goalies were amazing or anything. The Sharks kept shooting 5-hole on Viktor Fasth and he kept stopping them. At the other end the Oilers kept shooting glove hand high on Antti Niemi and he kept catching them. It was beyond dull. I guess it got fun for the players in the later rounds as they got to watch teammates who normally don’t get the call, attempt to score. Do you think Matt Irwin got chirped at all in the dressing room after the game?
But when you think about it the league is pretty much over the whole shootout thing too. Right off the bat they devalued a shootout win by creating the ROW column in the standings and making that the first tiebreaker. Then at the start of the season they outlawed “spin-o-rama” goals effectively taking the gimmick factor out of what was a gimmick to begin with. And then part way through this season the dry scrape was abandoned leaving the ice so poor in many rinks by the time overtime is over than even the most skilled players don’t want to deke the goalie for fear that they’ll lose the puck, not get a shot on goal and get chirped by their teammates in the dressing room later (see above).
So if the game is still tied after overtime go ahead and play 3-on-3 or 2-on-2 or flip a coin or have the captains arm wrestle at center ice. But the shootout? Kill it.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
Ever since the Stadium Series game was announced between San Jose and Los Angeles - it has never seemed tangible to me. More like a fantasy. Probably because I have (over) visualized in my head what this spectacle of an event would look and feel like, for so long. You probably have too.
Granted, February 21 has been heavily circled on my calendar. I've already seen some of the hard work and preparation in setting up for a hockey contest at Levi's Stadium. But things finally started going from fantasy to real life, when I recently saw the Epix camera crew show up for their permanent coverage right before the All-Star break.
Epix is the network that will produce "Road To The Stadium Series", which debuts tomorrow night at 7pm PST. This is the popular 4-part series which gets all-access with both the Kings and Sharks for the month leading into their showdown in Santa Clara.
During my 6 seasons of covering the Sharks for CSN, I have been granted tremendous access, and seen a lot of things that occur behind-the-curtain. Some stuff I could share, most of it I can't. Now, it's exciting to know that Sharks fans will get to enjoy a taste of that same perspective, for the first time. i guarantee you are going to love it.
For example have you ever seen Todd McLellan coaching his team, between periods? Now you will.
"The camera crew probably has more access right now to the locker room than that coaches do, right now," McLellan told me, half-joking.
The Head Coach elaborated on how the crew operates and integrates with his players: "They are experienced. They know where to be and when to be there. They know when to give the players their space and time. They can read emotions. So far it has been a good marriage."
As for the players, I can tell you that they have been just a little different when the cameras are around, both on and off the ice. Let's be honest, some of them are a lot more comfortable in front of the lens than others.
"There's a couple guys that I think really enjoy it. You can probably guess who they are," Todd said.
While the viewers clearly benefit, it's a tricky situation for the coaching staff. They don't ever want to leak trade secrets, and usually NHL teams are very protective of their inner-workings, from the standpoint of strategy.
"I'd rather just be with the group alone, to tell you the truth," McLellan said. "I feel more comfortable there. And maybe I'm a little more old school where you don't open up the room to people you're not familiar with. And you keep your emotions in check."
No matter what, you're about to see a new side of the Sharks, starting tomorrow night. Enjoy it!
- No one will argue the 2 best teams in the Pacific Division are the LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks; Cup Champs and the Ducks lead the league in points. The Sharks are a combined 6-1-1 against them and 4-4-2 against the other teams in the Pacific. I guess that’s a good thing … right?
- Speaking of the Ducks, they are 11-4-5 against the Pacific Division … all 4-regulation losses are to the Sharks.
- After the Sharks beat the LA Kings on Jan 23, Head Coach Darryl Sutter was quoted “I think they responded to their coach's challenge publically in the first period.” That tells me something I already knew, that McLellan has not lost the room … the players responded and despite their inconsistency this season they clearly still respect and play for their head coach.
- Congrats to Marty Brodeur on an amazing career. He’ll be a first ballot Hall of Famer and for good reason. Among his many records, his 125 shutouts is amazing. That’s a good career in wins for many goalies, but to have that many shutouts is simply incredible.
- With key players Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels both injured this is a huge opportunity for some young guys to step up and contribute while getting some good minutes. Let’s see who’s up to the challenge … and opportunity!
- I was a left-handed shooting natural center my entire life. My first game in the NHL I played right wing on a line with two future Hall of Famers, Joe Sakic at center and Michel Goulet on left wing (yes I was the anchor on that line). While I preferred center my first pro head coach, Robbie Ftorek, taught me to play wing which turned out to be a very good thing because it gave me a 1 in 12 chance to make the NHL instead of a 1 in 4 chance if I was just a center.
- I share that story because it’s becoming clear that Tomas Hertl seems more engaged at his natural position of center but has used the wing to adjust to the North American and NHL game. His hockey sense and ability to anticipate are great attributes for a center and while his skating improves over the next few years I think we’ll be seeing him as a centerman, which is his natural position.
- Big week ahead for our beloved Sharkies. Chicago is in town on Saturday and they are always fun to watch … great team and my favorite uniforms in the league. After Saturday the Sharks next 5 games are, in order: Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Carolina and Calgary. The team needs to beat the Edmonton’s and Carolina’s and the other 3 games could really help solidify a top 3 playoff position if they Sharks can get on a roll and win all 3. The time in now, and the Sharks should feel very good about themselves after big home wins against LA and Anaheim.
With the rest of the Sharks season set to resume Thursday there are so many questions that will be answered over the next 10 weeks. Questions like...
Is it a foregone conclusion that Anaheim will win the Pacific Division or can a team like the Sharks still put together a run to try and catch them?
How many more Hall of Famers will Joe Thornton pass on the NHL all-time points and assists lists before the end of the season?
Are the LA Kings about to shake their inconsistent ways and make a run up the standings as they attempt to defend their championship?
Will Patrick Marleau regain the scoring touch that has earned him the reputation of being one of the Sharks most reliable goal scorers over the last decade and a half?
Can the Nashville Predators hold off Chicago and St. Louis for the Central Division title?
Can Joe Pavelski repeat his 41 goal season and possibly take a run at 50?
Will the Sharks-Kings Stadium Series game at Levi's Stadium next month be the "iconic" game in Bay Area hockey history?
Will Brent Burns win the defenseman scoring race?
Will the Sharks final game of the season April 11 against the Kings decide which team makes the post season and which misses?
Lots of questions with all the answers about to be revealed! Enjoy the rest of the hockey season and the push to the playoffs!