Sometimes, a change of seasons brings forth a change of perspective, and with two straight Sharks losses on their current road trip, it is heartening to know that spring is here.
Spring begins on the occasion of the vernal equinox, when days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and where the Sun rises due East and sets due West. It marks increasing daylight, the end of hibernation, the return of green pastures and flowery landscapes, and a general rebirth.
Today in Edmonton, there isn’t much sign of spring, as the temperatures will rise to about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, wind, and a 50% chance of snow later in the evening. In other words, it’s hockey weather.
Today, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is slated to skate in his 500th career game. He’s one of several “home grown” Sharks who have reached that point in his career with the team. That includes Scott Hannan, Marcus Ragnarsson, and Mike Rathje. He is the youngest to do so, at 25 years (plus 355 days) of age, and he’s the kind of player who will continue to excel for years to come.
It’s interesting to note that Vlasic is only the 11th player to skate in 500 games in a Sharks uniform. Along with Rathje (671 games), Ragnarsson (519), and Hannan (508), there are seven additional players who have accomplished the feat: Patrick Marleau (1145), Joe Thornton (573), Owen Nolan (568), Evgeni Nabokov (563), Marco Sturm (553), Mike Ricci (529), and Jeff Friesen (512). That’s a pretty distinguished group of Sharks!
Douglas Murray is scheduled to skate in his 450th Sharks/NHL game tonight, but he will have to wait until next season to get to 500 because of the shortened schedule. Brad Stuart will play in his 406th Sharks game (his first 377 were with San Jose before beginning his “Great Circle Route” around the NHL via Boston, Calgary, Los Angeles, and Detroit before returning to the Sharks this year).
With the beginning of spring, the newly achieved milestones, and some hard work, the Sharks are hoping for rebirth in the win column on this road trip. If that happens, it couldn’t be on a more symbolic day: the first day of spring.
I had the pleasure of spending St. Patrick's Day here in Anaheim with one of the great Sharks players of all time Owen Nolan. Even though he's retired as a player the passion for the game of hockey remains for Owen. He's still at that stage where watching NHL games as a fan is difficult because he would much rather be out there on the ice. But the great tradeoff is the time he can now devote to his family and his Sportsman 360 television show.
Owen was as fierce a competitor on the ice as the Sharks have ever had. He was passionate, skilled, tough, fiery and mean. And when the Sharks weren't playing well "Buster" wasn't in a very good mood. As the Sharks try to bounce back from the disappointment of Saturday night's loss in Los Angeles they need to bring some of Owen Nolan's attributes to the ice against the Ducks tonight.
I'm Randy Hahn
Drew and I were reminiscing on the flight home from St Louis about our 93/94 team. That team wasn't the biggest, fastest or most skilled but man did we battle, compete and play for each other, not to mention we got unreal goaltending from Arturs "The Wall" Irbe.
Drew was an assistant coach and a big part of that team. I was a 3rd line player and a big part of that team. And that's the thing, teams with character and chemistry get contributions from everyone and everyone buys in and knows their role.
We started that year 0-8-1. No one outside of the players and coaches thought we would do what we did by making the playoffs and upsetting the Red Wings.
The 2013 Sharks team is big, skilled and while they might not be the fastest team in the league they compete and are hard to play against. The coaching tandem of McLellan, Robinson, Johnson, Woodcroft and Heimlich is top notch.
Maybe this team has seen a pro-longed rough patch that will help them come together and develop a chemistry that leads to special things happening. I don't know but I am looking forward to watching how the second half of this truncated season plays out.
Drew and I can just cheer these guys on but we would both love to see this group get that special feeling - it doesn't happen often and its fun to reminisce about years later.
Go Sharks, BEAT LA!
A lot of people these days say, “Isn’t the Internet great?” The wonders of the World Wide Web never cease to amaze us, and that includes those of us who follow the world of hockey. Recently, I stumbled over a hockey blog that linked to something that I had seen some time ago on YouTube, and I thought that I would share it with you today.
Back in the 1950’s, hockey was not generally on television. Hockey Night in Canada had only added the orthicon tube to its program delivery, having been exclusively a radio affair in its earliest years. But in the United States, hockey was virtually nonexistent on TV and was looking for unique ways to market itself.
It’s really interesting to go back to November 19, 1957, to see one of those efforts. Believe it or not, Montreal Canadiens superstar Jean Béliveau appeared on “To Tell the Truth,” which happened to be one of my favorite programs when I was growing up. This is an earlier edition of the same program where legendary imposter Frank Abagnale, Jr. made such an impression on me approximately 20 years later. Let’s watch:
Can you imagine a New York based, nationally televised program actually putting Wayne Gretzky on the air in the prime of his career and not expecting someone to recognize him? Had I been on this Earth and sitting next to Kitty Carlisle on that night, I would have had to disqualify myself, because Le Gros Bill is immediately recognizable in his Montreal Canadiens uniform (or, “costume,” as Miss Carlisle described it charmingly).
As you watch this wonderful look back in NHL marketing history, note that Béliveau is not wearing his famous number 4, but number 22. One of the other contestants is wearing number 4. As it turns out, one of the other contestants is also a CBC television director.
A couple of other notes: Ching Johnson was a great, domineering defenseman for the New York Rangers in the 1930’s. Here is a famous pose:
What a wonderful look back at history. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?
In case you haven’t noticed the Sharks have been on the road a lot lately. And guess what? The Sharks are going to be on the road a lot going forward.
We’re not quite halfway through March and the team has travelled to Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado and St. Louis. After tomorrow’s brief pit stop at home to host the Kings, the Sharks go to LA on Friday to kick off a 5 game 11-day trip with stops in Anaheim, Edmonton, Minnesota and finally back to Anaheim.
The payoff will come late in the month and into April when the Sharks have a 7 game home stand. However as I write this, the Sharks have dropped to 9th place in the West with 28 points and a road record of 4-7-2. It goes without saying that this upcoming road trip will be BIG.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Time to unpack so that I can pack.
I’m Randy Hahn
Can you imagine the NFL season being 32 games in 68 days? That's the equivalent of this short season where teams are playing 48 intense, pressure filled games in 99 days.
Anyone who expects the players to be at their best for that many games in such a short time period with all the travel has never seen a game played at ice level --- or played in a short NHL season before. It's fast, it's physical and the bumps and bruises add up.
The Sharks have laid an egg twice this year - in Columbus and in Calgary, otherwise they have competed in every game. In Columbus they looked mentally unprepared to battle - it happens!. In Calgary they were working hard but they had no legs and couldn't get to the places their brains told them to go to, it happens! Playing the night before and traveling on game day is not an excuse, it's an explanation.
We are exactly at the halfway point of this truncated (love that word by the way) season. The Sharks are truly a half is glass full, glass is half empty team depending on how you want to analyze them.
Stingy defense with great goaltending or a team that can't score? The Sharks are currently in 7th place, 2 points out of 4th and 6 points away from 15th. The schedule gets even tougher the last month and a half and it will be a wild ride to the finish.
This short season sure beats the non-season in 2004/05. I can't wait to get the 2nd half of this season going and the opponent is perfect, the St. Louis Blues, the team who knocked the Sharks out of the playoffs last year.
Tonight should be a good game and then it's back to back with our SoCal rivals and the defending Stanley Cup Champions - what a great week for hockey.
Patrick Marleau became the 88th player in NHL history to reach 400 goals in his career, but only the 30th ever to record his first 400 goals with one team. Of course, he’s the first Shark to score all 400 goals in a San Jose uniform.
That is a tremendous accomplishment, and he deserves many congratulations for it. But beyond that, it is equally impressive how he did it.
You see, Patrick’s 400th goal won’t be on a “play to tell your grandchildren about.” It wasn’t as the result of a major deke on a goaltender, a blazing dash up the ice, or that quick release of a heavy shot that we have known Marleau to take.
No, Patrick Marleau’s 400th goal came as the result of hard work, intelligent positioning, and, yes, a quick reaction with his stick. It was a deflection of a Justin Braun shot, with Joe Pavelski setting up traffic in front of Semyon Varlamov, that did the trick.
You may or may not remember that Patrick’s first NHL goal, scored at America West Arena on October 19, 1997, was also in the slot on a very quick reaction in front of the net. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the years: if you go to the hard working areas, you’re going to get chances, but you have to have the presence of mind and the quick hands that Patrick Marleau has to do it 400 times or more in the NHL.
In a unique twist, Patrick seems to like scoring big milestone goals against Russian born goaltenders. His first goal in Phoenix was scored on Nikolai Khabibulin, and his 400th came against Semyon Varlamov last night in Colorado.
What’s most gratifying is how well Patrick is playing in all areas of the game this season. The bodycheck that he threw against St. Louis captain David Backes on Saturday is a case in point. He’s doing everything that he can in all three zones of the ice to help his team win.
Congratulations on the milestone, Patrick. We look forward to celebrating more with you.
Hockey is a weird game.
I can't ice the puck unless my team is serving a penalty for breaking the rules.
I have to stay in the penalty box for 2 minutes for a rule infraction unless the other team scores. Then I'm let out for good behavior, or the officials feel sorry for me.
I can't shoot the puck over the glass if I'm in the defensive zone but I can shoot it over the glass if I'm in the neutral zone or offensive zone.
I can glove the puck forward to a teammate in the defensive zone (but not back off a face-off)
but I can't in any of the other zones.
However I can kick a puck to anyone anywhere on the ice but I can't kick it into the net. Well I can as long as I don't really kick the puck, I can angle it, direct it even nudge it..that's OK.
Like I said weird.
We’ve pretty much reached the halfway point of the season so the “Halfway NHL Award Winners” lists are hitting the web and the airways. Yesterday, ESPN NHL columnist Scott Burnside gave his halfway Vezina Trophy to the Sharks Antti Niemi. The Vezina Trophy is annually awarded to the NHL’s best goaltender as determined by a vote of the leagues general managers.
It’s a given that Niemi has been the Sharks team MVP up to this point. Going into Saturday’s game against St. Louis he had a 10-4-4 record with a 1.83 goals against average and .935 save percentage. His one shutout came in a shootout loss to Phoenix.
In a season when the Sharks have often struggled to score goals, Niemi has kept them in game after game. He has allowed 2 or fewer goals in 13 of the 18 games he’s started. With a little more offensive support he would likely be leading the league in victories.
If the Sharks can find a way to improve their offense and get to that “magical” third goal, on a game-to-game basis, Niemi’s excellent goaltending should serve them well in nailing down a playoff spot.
- I like the new proposed re-alignment from the Sharks standpoint. In their division are 3 teams from Canada; Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. These cities are all hockey hotbeds and fun to visit, not to mention some good rivalries. Makes for a great road trip for any hockey fan looking to see Sharks hockey on the road.
- The Sharks and Blues both have 26 points, with the Sharks having 1 game in hand. Makes for an awesome matchup on Saturday at 1pm at HP Pavilion. This will be an intense, physical game and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Sharks respond after the loss in Calgary, not to mention these two teams meet again on Tuesday in St. Louis.
- After the game the Sharks hit the road for Colorado where they play on Sunday and start a span of 7 games out of the next 8 on the road. We knew this tough schedule would be a grind and it is.
- Hard to believe that we are almost as the halfway mark (24 games) for the season. Even more incredible is the fact Chicago has played 24 games, or half their season, and still has not lost in regulation.
- Parity is great for the fans but the coaches are all scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get even the slightest edge to help them gain some ground in the standings.
Enjoy the games this weekend!