The Sharks are 5-0-0. Tomas Hertl has 7 goals. Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle are flying. Antti Niemi is looking solid in goal. It’s an easy league, eh?
The answer, of course, is no, and the Sharks are not acting as if the answer is yes. They will get a significant test this week. They’ll travel to St. Louis and Dallas in the next chapter of the 82 chapter book that is the 2013-14 NHL season. They’ll face the team that sent them home early in the spring of 2012. They’ll face the team that sent them home early in the spring of 2008, 2000, and 1998.
No, the lineups are not the same as they were in those years, not by a long shot. But the memories linger as life lessons, ones that this edition of the San Jose Sharks are determined to learn from in their quest to conquer the challenge of the Stanley Cup.
What we’ve seen so far from the season is a great combination of size, skill, speed, and depth, not to mention goaltending. It’s a group that has been prepared very well for the challenge. But the coaches will be the first to say that it’s only Chapters 6 and 7 of an 82 chapter book, with hopes of an extended four-chapter epilogue that will bring joy and glory to all those who follow this great sport.
I think that everyone is looking forward to St. Louis. The Blues are an excellent team that has been building toward its own parabolic trajectory of Cup contention. St. Louis has opened its season a perfect 4-0-0 for the first time in its history. Its top line, currently comprised of David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and Alex Steen, plays extremely well in all three zones, and the amazing thing is they have yet to trail in a game this season.
Of course, the Sharks had that exact situation against Ottawa on Saturday, and they not only embraced the challenge, they blasted through it with a determination that produced a power play goal by Patrick Marleau in the second period, a 23 shot barrage in the third, and a play by Joe Thornton to Brent Burns that was as powerful as it was artistic in its significance.
It’s fortunate that Coach Todd McLellan feels that rookie Tomas Hertl will be available on Tuesday. The 19-year-old is really lighting up the League, and yes, he’s going to get lots of attention, both physical and psychological. Similarly, a young player like Matt Nieto will be challenged to reach a new competitive level from each squad looking to be the best.
Isn’t life grand? We look forward to calling the action this week on the radio for you.
Last night the San Jose Sharks began the road portion of their 2013-14 season in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. It was brought to my attention recently that the Sharks will log a league-high 57,000+ miles this season.
The team will make 57 flights, 114 takeoffs and landings. All in all the Sharks will spend approximately 150 hours in the air. That would translate into four work weeks for the average 9 to 5 worker. Don’t feel too bad for them as they fly on a charter with meals, internet access and an overhead compartment filled with DVDs.
This season, San Jose will visit 29 cities. Including home games, the Sharks will play 47 games in the Pacific time zone, 11 games in the Mountain, eight in the Central and 16 in the Eastern zone.
Due to so much travel the Sharks get the fewest practice days in the league. This means the practices they do have are important and must be quality sessions. It is essential that the players have a good diet and maintain a high fitness level.
Such a schedule can have up sides. There is plenty of time for the team to bond over meals, movies, PlayStation and good natured teasing. In the past, all but veteran players had roommates on the road. But the new collective bargaining agreement means everyone gets their own room. There is sacrifice… time away from family and friends and the toll it can take on both body and mind. It’s little wonder that home teams enjoy a home ice advantage. Last and by no means least is the Sharks equipment staff. These dedicated gentlemen work insane hours and are often working while the players and coaches are sleeping.
Sometimes it feels like being part of a rock band. The players are the stars and everyone else are the roadies.”
Well, you don’t see that every night!
That just might be the understatement of the season. What Sharks 19-year-old rookie forward Tomas Hertl did at SAP Center on Tuesday was nothing short of incredible. He scored his first National Hockey League hat trick in only his third game and then added a fourth goal that just might hold up as the NHL goal of the year.
Who saw any of this coming? Who saw the Sharks fall behind the NY Rangers 1-0 in the first period and then score six unanswered goals and eventually win by a 9-2 final tally? And who could have even imagined the fourth Hertl goal? Tomas Hertl, that’s who! At full speed he cut in front of the Ranger net, put his stick between his legs and roofed a shot off the crossbar and behind helpless New York goaltender Martin Biron. Henrick Lundqvist, the Rangers Vezina Trophy winning starter could only watch from the bench after leaving the game when Hertl made it 4-1 with his first goal of the night.
And then there was Hertl’s mother and girlfriend visiting him from his native Prague in the Czech republic. The tears they shed when he scored his third goal and the joy they witnessed all around them when he stunned the sold out arena with a “one for the ages” fourth goal.
Lost somewhat were so many other outstanding performances like Joe Pavelski and Jason Demers three assist nights, the 14 different Sharks players who had points in the game, and 20-year-old Matt Nieto, the first ever California born player drafted by the Sharks who scored his first NHL goal and also finished with a three point night.
It’s one of those games we will all never forget. Not the skill, not the brilliance, not the tears of joy.
Like I’ve said countless times over the years, the best thing about being a broadcaster in the NHL is that every time I go to work I don’t know what I’m going to see. What we saw Tuesday night was a game, and a performance for the ages.
I’m Randy Hahn
A Breakdown of Tomas Hertl's First Career Goal
Tomas Hertl’s first two NHL goals were expressive displays of talent, energy and élan that have everyone excited about his rookie season, and his future. After two games, he has two goals and one assist, and his seemingly endless smiles of joy are spreading through the locker room and the city.
Of course, there are many mountains for Hertl to climb, and there will be many challenges along the way, as there were for Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and Joe Thornton before him. However, how he spent his first weekend was an excellent, and unique start to what is hopefully a long and prosperous NHL career.
Let’s not forget the fact that Hertl was 19 years and 327 days old when he put together his first two-goal game. He did it against Mike Smith, one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and his two goals showcased different talents. On his first one, after a rough Phoenix line change, he got the puck from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and split the defense, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Derek Morris, who was just coming on the ice to replace Zbynek Michalek. He went to the backhand, deked, and slipped the puck right through Smith.
On his second goal, Hertl was on the ice with the Sharks second power play unit. He used strength, savvy, and stick position to get in front, and neatly tipped a Matt Irwin shot past Smith, showing that he can perform offensively in tight quarters against some pretty solid players.
Moreover, Tomas, who pronounces his first name “TOE-mash,” with that slightly lilting, subtle “sh” at the end, backchecked hard and kept to his responsibilities in both ends of the ice. It’s been a good start, and it is going to be fun to watch him deal with the challenges that are sure to come.
For those who are wondering, there are several other teenagers who have recorded 2-goal games in Sharks history, as noted by our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau via Uncle Darin Stephens:
Patrick Marleau, as many remember, was just 18 when he played in his first NHL regular season season. He had a two-goal night on November 18, 1997 against Anaheim, with Guy Hebert in goal. He was 18 years and 64 days old.
Marleau had two other multi-goal games as a teenager. On January 21,1999, he picked up a pair against goaltender Bob Essensa of Edmonton in a game that was long enough ago to have a 3-3 final result. In an interesting twist, Pat Falloon, Mike Grier and Bill Guerin, either ex- or soon-to-be Sharks, played in the game for the Edmontonians.
Marleau’s other teenaged two-goaler took place on March 17, 1999 against Florida, who had current Phoenix goalie coach Sean Burke in net. Ray Whitney, Alex Hicks, and Bill Lindsay, who all wore the Sharks uniform, were playing for F-L-A, as was Bret Hedican, now covering Sharks hockey for the CSN-California TV team.
It was Falloon who was the first teenager in Sharks history to score 2 goals in a game, and he did it on the road in Edmonton, on November 29, 1991 at the age of 19 years, 68 days. In another tie game, 4-4, Falloon scored his pair against Bill Ranford, who had won the Stanley Cup the year before with the Oilers. Future Sharks Vincent Damphousse and Joe Murphy played for the Oilers in that game.
But the current teenaged king of the multi-goal games for Sharks hockey is Jeff Friesen, who edged Marleau’s 3 gems by turning the trick 4 times, twice at the age of 18 and twice at 19. Included in that is the only hat trick scored by a Sharks teenager to date, on March 20, 1996, on the road in Winnipeg. In a 7-1 Sharks win, Friesen had Nikolai Khabibulin (6 GA) and Dominic Roussel (1 GA) tending net for the Jets. Rookie Shane Doan, now the Coyotes captain, was playing for Winnipeg in that game, as was a man who had worn Sharks teal, Craig Janney.
I’m sure that Tomas Hertl’s recent accomplishment has stirred a few memories, but the most exciting thing to note is that even better things lie ahead.
There’s hockey in the air. The days are getting shorter, trees are changing and the sound of skates and ice have come to an arena near you. Each new season brings a fresh canvas. Veterans look to add a new, better chapter to their career. Young players work hard to make their team, and they work harder to stick. Those with new contracts look to earn their money, those in the final year of their deals are playing for a new one.
Coaches have their systems in place. They’ve used training camp to separate the prospects from the pretenders. Teaching never takes a break.
The Sharks arena has a new name…the SAP Center at San Jose. The popcorn is popped, the concourse is bright and shiny. The ice is in, the JumboTron is warmed up.
The fans have their ticket in hand. A new pair of Sharks jerseys are being broken in. The team store stocked and ready. Street banners with Sharks player faces welcome the new season.
The equipment and medical staff are ready to go. Sticks, gloves and pads ready to do their duty. The television cameras and crew are looking forward to a great season. Dan Rusanowsky, Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda, Jamie Baker, Brodie Brazil and Bret Hedican have done their homework. The Club and concession stands are ready to open. Parking attendants and blue coat ushers have had their meetings and greet fans with a smile.
Kids wearing jerseys press their nose to the glass during player warm ups. Fans have their signs. The coaches have made their speeches…the players are geared toward victory. The Referee drops the puck to begin a new 82-game season. Every team believes they can win the Cup.
Enjoy the season!
The fires of the fighting in hockey debate were fanned on opening night when George Parros of the Montreal Canadiens fell to the ice face first and was knocked unconscious.
Parros was not hit with a punch. At the time he was in a scrap with Colton Orr. Parros went to throw a punch as Orr was already falling to the ice, Parros missed and his momentum carried him to the ice as his hands were tied up with Orr. Face...meet ice.
So here it comes again. We all expected it but just not this early in the season.
It is a debate that happens very season and it is a debate that has largely initiated by the sports media, in print or as I can tell you from experience radio talk show hosts. If you want to get the phones ringing, just say, " Fighting in Hockey....".
"Hi, Line one".
One of the arguments to keep fighting in hockey is, its always been part of the game. It's always been in the game therefore it belongs is an appeal to antiquity that is a fallacious argument.
Everything evolves including hockey. The game from year to year has changed with new rules and style of play.
The game used to be played 9 on 9.
Goalies weren't allowed to fall to the ice to make a save.
A player couldn't carry the puck over his own blue line, he had to pass it.
Tradition doesn't make something right.
OK on to argument two.
I've never seen the fans walk out during a fight. That is absolutely true. The NHL knows this and until the fans start walking out or stop buying tickets you won't see the league put "Ban Fighting" on the top of it's "To Do" list.
Argument number three is the most compelling argument. In a player poll, February 2012, 98% of the NHLPA said fighting should not be banned.
These are the guys who are out there very night, who understand the risks and don't seem to care. So why should we?
Mind you out of those 98% I wonder how many of them fight on a regular basis.
I would wager that most are more than happy to watch Parros and Orr duke it out night after night but are more Phil Kessel than John Scott.
Every sport and every league , heck life is full of hypocrisy. When it comes to fighting, and the eagerness to make the game safer for players from visors to the much hyped crackdown on head shots, the NHL looks downright silly.
Yup we're going to suspend you 5 games for cracking a guy on the jaw with a shoulder in a split second reaction but you'll only have to sit in the penalty box for five minutes if you drop your gloves and punch your opponent repeatedly in the face.
Yeah that makes total sense.
I have gone back and forth on fighting in hockey. I used to like it, I used to be a regular in dropping the gloves playing Sr. hockey back home. I believed it was needed.
That changed as I got older and when Don Sanderson a 21 year old playing for the Whitby Dunlops in Ontario died in a fight when he fell and his head struck the ice.
What more does anyone need to know to fight against fighting.
However my anti fighting stance was met with hostility from almost every level of the game. Coaches, Managers, colleagues, fans and players. Now my concern for the players has turned to apathy.
I am indifferent to the noise. However I am not to the future. I believe that with the way the game is going. With the players getting bigger and stronger that one day there will be a catastrophic ending to another fight in the NHL.
Then the entire league will react but in most reactions it will come too late for somebody.
There’s so much to look forward to this NHL season. For starters it’ll be a full 82 game season. There will be a Winter Classic outdoor, in fact there will be six outdoor games around the league. And it will be an Olympic season with the hockey’s best players gathering in Sochi, Russia in February for a couple of weeks while the NHL takes a break.
For Sharks fans there’s plenty to be excited about too. Will the team pick up where it left off in last years playoffs with a high tempo, north-south game? Will Logan Couture continue his ascension to hockey stardom? Can Antti Niemi follow up his best statistical regular season ever with an ever better one? How will Tomas Hertl hold up through a full game season and playoffs?
But let’s not forget what ought to be one of the true joys for all Sharks fans for the next 7+ months: Watching Joe Thornton play hockey night in and night out.
Let’s face it. From time to time we take Joe Thornton for granted. Ever since he came to San Jose in 2005 in the biggest trade in franchise history, “Jumbo” Joe has rarely disappointed. He is the captain of the team, he is arguably the best player the team has ever had and he is certainly going to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
With over 1100 career points, Joe will most likely crack the top 50 of all-time in that category this season. With a healthy year he could catch and pass Bobby Hull in 48th. His 787 career assists put him 33rd. Soon he will pass the likes of Peter Stastny, Guy Lafleur, Jari Kurri and Mike Modano. He’s realistically got a good shot at catching the immortal Alex Delvecchio (25th all-time) by the end of this year.
For my money he is the best passer in the NHL. At 34 years of age Joe still skates extremely well. He works his but off virtually every shift. He dominates play 5 on 5 and on the power play. His first period in Game 3 last spring against LA in the playoffs was the best hockey I’ve ever seen him play.
Enjoy watching the future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton this season. Here’s hoping he’s around here well beyond this year. But one thing is certain he won’t be around forever.
The two worst days, lockouts not included, of the year in hockey (NHL) have been yesterday and today. That's because it's finalize the roster day, which means you have to let the last cuts know they didn't make the team.
I will put it very bluntly from someone who has been there: It's not fun being so close to the NHL and getting cut! It happened to me my first three years in pro hockey, and the sting got worse every year because I was that much closer.
And, I sat across from good people, their eyes told me it wasn't a fun day for them either. This is the human side, and very compelling side, of sports.
So to all the guys who came that close, awesome job in camp. Good luck and keep working for that dream.
The photo below is a snapshot of my hockey journey, starting at St. Lawrence University in 1985 before retiring in 1999 after 10 years of pro hockey. In the snapshot is 3 consecutive years of getting cut during training camp for the Quebec Nordiques (now I'm aging myself by mentioning Quebec City ... I hope the beautiful city gets a team in the NHL someday.)
Jamie Baker (@Bakes_Jamie13)