The San Jose Sharks have three options in their series with the Los Angeles Kings: (1.) Win Game 6 on Sunday, travel to Los Angeles, win Game 7 on Tuesday, and advance to the Western Conference Final; (2.) Win Game 6 on Sunday, travel to Los Angeles, lose Game 7 on Tuesday, and shake hands at center ice while the Kings advance; (3.) Lose Game 6 on Sunday, shake hands at center ice, and watch the Kings move on.
Inside the Sharks’ locker room, there is only one option to consider, and that’s option 1. The other two options cannot be allowed. However, that state of affairs depends totally on how the Sharks perform on Sunday.
This series has been heading in this direction since the drop of the first puck on May 14th at the Staples Center. In fact, Game 5 was the mirror image of Game 4 in so many different ways. Everything that the Sharks did to the Kings in Game 4, the Kings dished right back in Game 5.
The Sharks know what they have to do. Here is a brief rundown of the challenge from an historical perspective:
- Los Angeles has a 7-1 lifetime series record when leading a series, 3 games to 2. The one loss occurred in 1968, in the team’s very first playoff series against the Minnesota North Stars. Minnesota won Game 6 at home, in overtime, and traveled to Los Angeles and won Game 7 by a 9-4 score.
- The last time that the Kings had a 3-2 series lead, they eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Round 1 with a 2-1 victory at Staples Center. The last time that they were in this situation on the road, they traveled to New Jersey for Game 6 of last season’s Final. New Jersey won, 2-1, and forced a Game 7, which L.A. won, 6-1, to take the Stanley Cup.
- When they have a chance to clinch the series, the Kings have a lifetime record of 13-10.
- San Jose has a 1-8 lifetime series record when trailing a series, 3 games to 2. The one series win occurred in 1995, when the Sharks were shut out, 5-0, by Calgary in Game 5, and followed up with wins in Game 6 and 7.
- The last time that the Sharks were down 3-2 in a series, they traveled to Anaheim for Game 6 in that 2009 series, and lost, 4-1. The last time that they were in this situation at home, it was 2001, and they lost to St. Louis, 2-1.
- When facing elimination, the Sharks have a record of 9-15, including 3 wins in the second round. The last time that they faced elimination in the Western Conference Semi-Final, they beat Detroit, 3-2, in Game 7 of the 2011 series.
- San Jose’s record in home games when down 3-2 in a series is 1-3, with the win coming in that 1995 game vs. Calgary. Darryl Sutter was behind the bench for the Sharks in the other three games against Dallas (1998), Colorado (1999), and St. Louis (2001).
What do all of the above numbers mean, beyond some interesting historical perspective? Absolutely nothing, because the Kings are defending Stanley Cup champions, and the Sharks are a different hockey team this year. All I can say is that regardless of what time they drop the puck on Sunday, it’s going to be a fantastic hockey game. Tune in.
I hate watching a Sharks game when I'm not broadcasting it with the Great Randy Hahn.
Well hate may be too strong of a word. I get stressed watching a game that I'm not broadcasting.
As fans, is this what you go through all the time?
Butterflies in the stomach the whole game? Yelling at the TV, and clapping your hands adding "c'mon boys, big power play right here!"
When we aren't broadcasting a Sharks game on Comcast Sportsnet, I seriously start to doubt the network broadcasters objectivity.
They sound like they want LA to win. Now I know that is 100% wrong. I know the commentators well. They are all good and talented people who have no stake in the outcome of the game.
However every time they mention anything positive about the Kings my mind plays tricks on me.
"Why did he say that?"
"That's the third time he mentioned Anze Kopitar is having a strong game"
"Is he President of that guys freakin fan club?"
Crazy? I know. Completely off base and clouded by my bias for the Sharks, without a doubt.
My kids think I'm nuts.
When Logan Couture scored in overtime in game 3, I jumped out of my seat and pumped my fist hard that my shoulder hurt.
When Randy and I are working a game we are focused on the job. There is a lot going on during a broadcast.
Randy is focused on calling the game. He has to keep the information flowing, from who scored from who and when not to mention the frequent promotion and drop ins.
Meanwhile, I'm watching replays from my own monitor, talking to the truck, watching for unique angles and monitoring the benches to see anything our outstanding coaching staff is doing.
Not rocket science by any means but an individual has to stay on task in order to perform it properly.
On the other hand watching and cheering for the team as my only task from the second round on makes me agitated and overwrought with emotion.
But the payoff when the good guys win seems a little sweeter.
Back in December of 2007, Joe Thornton made a “no look” backhand pass through a maze of defenders to Patrick Marleau for an amazing goal. On that night my broadcast partner Drew Remenda immediately dubbed it “The Pass”. Tuesday night in a series tying 2-1 win over Los Angeles, Joe Thornton had “The Period”.
In his 95 playoff games in a teal sweater, the Sharks captain has never had a 20 minute stretch like he did in the first period of game 4. It was like he was literally launched out onto the ice, shot out of a cannon. He was a beast. Thornton was skating circles around his opponents. His legs seemed as fresh as they’ve ever been. He controlled the puck, put it where he wanted to put it, took it away from whoever had it on the other team. His pass on Brent Burns goal was brilliant. He owned the faceoff circle. He was tenacious. Unstoppable! The Kings’ Mike Richards and his linemates had no answer for Joe Thornton. He played that first period like he was 23 instead of 33.
“He’s a hell of a leader”, said Logan Couture when asked about Thornton’s night. “I love playing with him”.
So far in the playoffs Joe Thornton has 9 points in 8 games and amazingly has been on the ice for 17 goals scored and only 1 against.
Of course the Sharks are only 6 victories into a grueling journey that requires 16 and they’re going to have to be even better than they’ve been so far if they’re to knock off the defending champions. But no matter where this goes from here, in my view, we’ve been witnessing the best playoff hockey that future Hall of Famer Joe Thornton has ever produced.
I’m Randy Hahn
Logan Couture has been the 1st star in 3 of the Sharks 5 playoff wins this year!
Last game Logan changed the energy in the HP Pavilion when he emerged from the dressing room near the end of the 2nd period to let everyone know he was fine as he did a little loop during the TV break. Everyone was watching including his coaches, teammates, the Kings players and coaches, the fans, broadcasters and anyone else associated with the game. He then went on to be the best player on the ice and score the OT winning goal.
Jonathan Quick has been the 1st star in 3 of the Kings 6 playoff wins this year!
Quick made a couple of mistakes in games 1 and 2 vs St. Louis and then stole game 3 for the Kings as they got back into the series. This version of the LA Kings relies on Quick, almost too much. While shots are not the sole indicator they do tell a story when you watch a team that doesn't have territorial edge for most of the games it has played in the playoffs, which is the case for the LA Kings. They were outshot in 4 of the 6 games vs the Blues and outshot 177 to 149 in the series. Against the Sharks the shots have been tied once and the Sharks outshot LA the other two times. The shots for the series are 106 to 78 for San Jose who looks like the better team.
The Sharks need Logan Couture as he has emerged as a superstar in this league. This season and playoffs are a bit of a coming out for him and he is handling the added attention as the pro that he is.
The Kings don't just need Quick to be amazing, they rely on it happening. He's good enough to steal a game and help propel his team to a series win as he did against the Blues.
This series is not Couture vs Quick but you sure get the impression that how they go, so goes their respective teams.
The best players and leaders make others better and that's exactly what these players are doing for their teams.
Bring on game 4, and let's see who is going to be the first star tonight.
There was a 5-on-3 situation for the Kings in the final two minutes of Game 2, and Los Angeles converted on the power play to get the win in regulation. One of the man-advantage goals was the result of a “delay over glass” penalty. In Game 3, there was an early Dan Boyle power play goal made possible by the “delay over glass” call, and then, there was a 5-on-3 power play for the Sharks that actually carried into overtime, and produced the winning goal by Logan Couture.
Couture was the hero of the night. After getting blasted by a Jeff Carter check, he hobbled off the ice and was said to be under evaluation. Then, to a tremendous ovation, he returned to action, and sent the crowd into ecstatic celebration with his game-winner in OT.
In the previous game, Anze Kopitar, top center on the Kings, was their rallying point. After going into the dressing room with an injury, he returned to the ice, and it was the Staples Center crowd on their feet with a rousing cheer for their returning hero.
What a series this has been!
For the broadcasters, there’s a unique situation with the names. It gets very interesting when Justin Braun is defending Dustin Brown, for instance, or if Mike Richards and Brad Richardson are on the ice. In that second juxtaposition, it is interesting to note that the New York Rangers have a top player, Brad Richards, who fits into this maelstrom. Thankfully, he’s not on the roster for this series, but wouldn’t it be neat if somehow, somewhere, the Rangers could get a guy named Mike Richardson for their roster?
This is getting right up there with the notion of Miroslav Satan playing for the Devils, or Martin St. Louis playing for the Blues. Of course, Dwight King plays for the Kings.
We’re looking forward to Game 4 at HP Pavilion on Tuesday. See you on the radio!
Just a quick note to start
8 of the last 9 Stanley Cup Champions failed to advance past the second round the following season.
I love the way the team responded to the series of unfortunate events that closed out Game 2.
"We can fold up and say at least we tried. Or we can say, you know what? We can win"
"It doesn't matter what I say about the last play. It happened and its over with"
..."let's move on to the next game."
Marc Edouard Vlasic
"It's not going to do me any good to whine and moan and bitch about the referees"
Wow! A team that handles adversity and sporting tough breaks without blaming somebody else for their problems. Are you watching you first round teams that got knocked out of the playoffs?
It's refreshing but more importantly it's smart, it's mature.
By not whining or complaining about a tough call or penalties you are not allowing excuses to seep into your mind.
By not whining about the delay of game penalty being the dumbest rule in hockey, which it is. The team is being accountable for their play.
A team that looks for solutions not excuses is a team that has leadership and knows that " no one ever excused their way to success."
Up until Thursday, the Sharks hadn’t faced much in the way of adversity in this Stanley Cup Playoff year, but they’ve got a whole lot of it now.
First came the news that Raffi Torres has been suspended for the remainder of the second round as a result of his “illegal” hit on Kings center Jarret Stoll in game 1. Then came the gut wrenching final minutes of a 4-3 loss to LA in game 2. After an awe inspiring four game sweep of the Vancouver Canucks, the Sharks are in an 0-2 hole. Adversity has found them.
Now we get to find out how the Sharks will handle it. They should be well prepared . It wasn’t that long ago that the team went through a terrible stretch where they won only 5 of 21 games over all of February and half of March. They weren’t looking much like a playoff bound team at all. But as we know they pulled themselves out of it, made a terrific run through the last third of the regular season, and ended up as a 6 seed. They’ve been through some very tough times together already this year and now things just got tough again.
Yes, the Game 2 loss felt like a kick in the stomach. But I really like what I’ve seen from the Sharks in these playoffs and in this series. They’ve got heart. They play hard. They battle. They don’t quit. In all honesty we haven’t always been able to say all of those things about some past Sharks playoff teams. But I believe this team is different.
There were no excuses offered by any Sharks players nor coach Todd McLellan after game 2. None from Marc Eduard Vlasic who’s untimely delay of game penalty helped fuel the Kings stunning comeback and none from captain Joe Thornton.
“They did their job. They got two at home. Now we have to go home and do our job," said Thornton.
The job at hand is to face that adversity head on. And these Sharks appear to have the heart to get the job done.
So what do the Sharks need to do to win game 2. I would say based on the quotes below play the same way they did in game 1 but with more edge, grit and desperation in the offensive zone.
Here are some telling quotes from the last few days.
Jarret Stoll - before the series discussing what the Kings need to do in this series
“There’s probably 5 or 6 guys on that team that we’ve got to neutralize, and we’ve got to shut down, get in their face, make it a very uncomfortable game for them. That’s what playoffs are all about – making it uncomfortable, taking away time and space, getting people out of their comfort zone and staying out of the box too.”
Stoll's quote is very telling and LA played that way in game 1 and were victorious. Now take a look at some of the quotes from the Sharks after game 1.
Head Coach Todd McLellan
“I spent six days reviewing the St. Louis series, and I heard a lot of the same stuff coming out of their mouths,” McLellan said. “We didn’t accomplish enough. There is a team that just played against them for six nights, and said they had a lot of chances and the goaltender made a number of saves. We can’t be that team again. We’ve got to find ways to score, and we’ve got to make it a lot harder on him.”
“Guys weren’t committed to getting in front of him (Quick), so that needs to change. They check tight. You’ve got to beat their guy out of the corner to get to the net, and we weren’t able to do that.”
“Our effort was pretty good,” Boyle said. “But, it’s probably a broken record with what St. Louis went through. I read that they felt they possibly were the better team in the series, they just weren’t scoring enough goals. We’ve got to get a little hungrier and a little dirtier and a little meaner in front of their net.”
“We feel we can play with them. After tonight, everyone in this room feels they are beatable. It's not going to be easy, obviously. They are the Stanley Cup champs, a team that has learned how to win."
Pavelski said it very well, the Sharks know they can beat the Kings but it won't be easy. I am going to re-visit my RAM Trucks 3 Keys to the Series because they were applicable in game 1, will be applicable tonight and throughout the series. This is as much a mental battle as it is a physical one.
Tight checking. Low scoring. Always someone in your face. No time or space. That's LA hockey and it's frustrating to play against and tests your moxie and patience. The Sharks have to be prepared for 60 minutes plus every night with air-tight defense first hockey that requires incredible focus and concentration.
2. Every battle counts ... a lot!
This is LA's bread and butter - they wear you down by winning battles which wears you down mentally. The Sharks match up well in this category but it will take an enormous toll every shift, every period, every game.
3. Confidence thru goaltending
When your goalie exudes confidence it reverberates throughout the lineup because the players know the last line of defense is the goalie and he has you covered if you make a mistake. Niemi vs Quick is an enticing matchup because they are the goalies who have won 2 of the last 3 Stanley Cups and they are both on top of their game right now.
One game has been played in the Western Conference Semi-Final between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings, and I’m thinking about a Yogi Berra baseball quote when trying to characterize what this series is going to be like.
“Baseball is ninety percent mental,” Yogi once quipped. “The other half is physical.”
Well, this series between the Sharks and the Kings is also going to seem one with physical prominence. It’s one where the grinding along the boards and in front of the net will also be prominent, recalling a moment last night where five skaters hammered for the puck in the San Jose defensive zone for what seemed like an eternity before it finally popped out to a Sharks stick.
But as Yogi indicated about his sport, ninety percent of the Sharks challenge in this series is probably going to be right between the ears.
All in all, the Sharks did many good things in this game, especially considering the week off. Realistically, the one place where the rust mattered over the rest was in the emotional edge, which slowly returned as the game went on. As my broadcast partner Jamie Baker noted on the radio last night, “Every battle counts.” He’s correct.
There were a lot of interesting chess matches going on between the coaches. There were quick line changes early in the game. There was a stand-off near the end of an icing before a time out was finally called. But there were physical challenges, too.
Primarily, the Sharks have to maintain their patience and their composure. They’re going to have more situations in this series where they could be frustrated by the Stanley Cup champions. But make no mistake, now that one team has a victory, this series is on, and while the chess matches will continue, the desperation, the rivalry, and the emotional edge will escalate.
We look forward to bringing all the action to you on the radio. See you on Thursday.
It’s official. The Sharks will open the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Tuesday night at 7 (PDT) in Los Angeles on NBC Sportsnet and the Sharks Radio Network. On a “pick your poison” night Sunday, when the outcome of game 7 between Detroit and Anaheim determined if it would be Chicago or the Kings, the Sharks got the defending Cup champions. And I love the matchup. What’s not to love?
If the Red Wings are the Sharks top rival thanks to all of their playoff series over the years, the Kings are rival #2. This series could change that. It’s Thornton vs Doughty, Couture vs Kopitar, Marleau vs Carter, Pavelski vs Richards, Niemi vs Quick and Torres vs ummm (any volunteers?)
And the storylines don’t end there. Kings GM Dean Lombardi and Head Coach Darryl Sutter spent many years with the Sharks. Now they go head to head with their old club in the playoffs.
The Sharks are actually the last team to beat LA in a playoff series. But don’t mistake this version of the Kings with the one that lost in 6 games two years. The personnel are much better, there’s a different coach, and oh ya, they won the Cup last June!
But then again these aren’t “those” Sharks either. So far “these” Sharks have shown to be an excellent defensive team with top-notch goaltending, solid special teams and scoring depth throughout the lineup. They also possess the kind of hunger to win a championship that the Kings enjoyed last spring.
It’s a series that has a chance to be a classic and to vault the Kings-Sharks rivalry to a whole new level. Tuesday night at 7 can’t come soon enough. Enjoy!
I’m Randy Hahn