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POSTED ON Monday, 01.13.2014 / 9:00 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

With the San Jose Sharks in our nation’s capital, it’s always interesting to hear the perspectives of the American citizens on the team’s roster, especially as they consider some free time after practice at the Verizon Center today.

Whether it’s Joe Pavelski’s special memories of visiting the Library of Congress and national archives, where he saw some historically significant items, or whether it’s Justin Braun’s anticipation of strolling to the Lincoln Memorial, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of patriotism and good fortune that we are either Americans or simply living and working in the United States. It is, indeed, our good fortune to be doing so.

But as we reflect by the Reflecting Pool, it’s also important to note that the Verizon Center is a memorable place for a couple of Sharks who played the biggest game of their lives there before they ever thought seriously about donning an NHL uniform.

It was April 11, 2009, and the NCAA Frozen Four hockey tournament was being played at the Verizon Center. In the national semi-finals two nights earlier, Boston University defeated Vermont, 5-4, and Miami University defeated Bemidji State, 4-1, to earn the way to the championship game. B.U. trailed, 4-3, in its game, before scoring two goals in 1:13 midway through the third period to advance, with the winning goal scored by future Nashville Predator Colin Wilson. Miami had rolled through Bemidji on the strength of a two-goal, one-assist performance by future San Jose Shark Tommy Wingels.

But now, it was for all the marbles. 18,512 college hockey fans jammed into the Verizon Center, hoping for a night to really remember, and what they got was an incredible game with a crazy ending that provided some evidence why holding a two-goal lead is “the worst lead in hockey.”

After the teams exchanged goals in the first two periods, Wingels put Miami in front, 2-1, with 7:29 to play. Trent Vogelhuber made it a 3-1 Miami lead with 4:08 to play, and with one minute to play, it appeared as if Miami’s longstanding quest to win the national championship was about to happen.

But on the other side of the ice, Boston University was refusing to fold its hand, and with one minute to play, they had goaltender Kieran Millan on the bench for an extra attacker. It was time for the crazy ending.

Current Anaheim Ducks center Nick Bonino, who had been drafted 173rd overall by the Sharks in 2007, was on the ice, and along with Brandon Yip, now playing in the Phoenix organization, got the puck to Zach Cohen for an extra-attacker goal with 59 seconds to play. Miami still led, 3-2.

Forty-three seconds later, with the extra attacker on the ice, Bonino tied the game, 3-3, on passes from Matt Gilroy, currently playing in Florida, and Chris Higgins, who is currently playing in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Instead of a handshake at the end of regulation, the national championship game was headed to overtime.

In overtime, Boston University would complete its incredible comeback, with Colby Cohen notching the winning goal at the 11:47 mark. The assists went to Kevin Shattenkirk, now playing for the St. Louis Blues, and Chris Connolly, currently splitting time between Tampere, Finland and Iserlohn, Germany. Boston University had won its fifth national championship, and the NCAA championship game had gone into overtime for the 13th time in history.

Fast-forward a couple of years later to February 13, 2012, back at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. The Sharks were playing the Capitals in NHL action on this occasion, and Wingels was back in the building for the first time.

As it turned out, the hotel rooming list had Wingels coincidentally put together with John McCarthy. As many know, McCarthy was a co-captain of the winning team from Commonwealth Avenue, and was named “Unsung Hero” of that particular Boston University team by his school.

Well, in the game played on that night, the roommates and teammates were on the winning side. On the strength of a two-goal, two-assist performance by U.S. Olympian Joe Pavelski, and two more goals from Canadian Olympian Patrick Marleau, not to mention three assists from Joe Thornton, and 39 saves from Thomas Greiss, the Sharks took a 5-1 lead with 12:57 to play, and held on to win, 5-3. Alex Ovechkin played 26:45 that game, and was held off the scoresheet by the Sharks netminder, despite putting 6 shots on goal.

Fast-forward to the present. The Sharks are back at Verizon Center for practice, and I’m reading an account of an exciting college game played at Madison Square Garden this past weekend between Yale and Harvard in front of 15,524 spectators and won by Yale, 5-1. It reminded me of the old ECAC Holiday Hockey Festival, also played at Madison Square Garden and featuring my alma mater, St. Lawrence University, in many of the games played between 1962 and 1977.

I have three unrelated thoughts:

  1. The Sharks are looking for inspiring performances on this road trip, and here, at the site of one of their most memorable moments, it would be really great to see Wingels and McCarthy pick up some points in a Sharks victory against the Capitals on Tuesday.
  2. Given that Hockey East plays its championship tournament at TD Garden, I’d like to see if the rival ECAC could somehow schedule its championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Now, there’s nothing wrong with Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, where the tournament is currently held and where my alma mater played in another NCAA championship game that went to overtime. But to have TD Garden host one Eastern college championship and Madison Square Garden the other would be great for the sport, excellent cooperation with the NHL arenas, and an enhancement of the Eastern league rivalries.
  3. Given the appearance of the NCAA Frozen Four in NHL buildings, including Washington, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see it come to SAP Center at San Jose? Over the years, there has been definite interest, but so far, it hasn’t happened. Attention, NCAA: it would be a great success in Silicon Valley if it came to pass.

Now, it’s back to the Reflecting Pool to reflect some more, as Tuesday’s game awaits. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 01.06.2014 / 8:03 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

PROVINCIAL OLYMPIC TEAMS: A NEW PARLOR (PARLOUR) GAME

Following a spectacular 3-2 victory in Chicago, a great goaltending performance by Alex Stalock, some pressure goals by Jason Demers and Brent Burns, a shootout performance worthy of note from Stalock, Logan Couture, and Joe Pavelski, the San Jose Sharks headed to the airport to brave what they’re calling a “polar vortex” that has enveloped much of the nation’s midsection.

In the midst of the travel to Nashville, and the warm confines of the hotel, the news of Olympic team announcements has started to trickle out, with the big news coming tomorrow with Team Canada. Of course, I have been hoping that all of the Sharks who are still candidates for Olympic play will be selected by their respective nations. The parlor game (or, “parlour game,” as it may be spelled) of picking your version of each country’s team has become a fierce sport in many homes.

But for some reason, while pondering the entire topic, I suddenly started thinking about one of the greatest soccer stars in history, George Best, and wondered how his situation would apply to hockey.

Best was one of the most dynamic soccer players ever to lace on boots. He dazzled fans the world over, first with Manchester United, then with a variety of other teams, including the original version of the San Jose Earthquakes. For his highlight goal in a Quakes uniform, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8wGN5uDaVg

But Best never was able to play on world soccer’s greatest stage, the FIFA World Cup. The reason is due to the way that the teams were assembled, by country. While Great Britain and its larger umbrella, the United Kingdom, produces many of the most successful soccer programs anywhere, FIFA splits teams up into sides from England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Since Best was from Northern Ireland, he played for that side a number of times in attempts to qualify for the World Cup, but given the depth of overall players there, his teams never made it to the tournament.

With the Olympics coming up, and more specifically, with Team Canada about to be named, I wondered just how competitive things would be if Canada were split up into smaller groups, similar to that of Great Britain (ok, the UK). What would it be like if teams from Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, etc. were fielded for the Olympics?

Canada is deep enough to consider such a scenario. In the United States, we have growing pockets of state representation, but not nearly enough to field 50 separate teams. But an attempt to do so for Canada is pretty interesting.

Ontario and Quebec, of course, would have many of the same selection difficulties as Canada itself, but consider how a team from Manitoba might be from the goal out, with NHL and AHL players available for selection:

James Reimer

Chet Pickard (Ok City)

Calvin Pickard (Lake Erie)

Duncan Keith - Michael Stone

Travis Hamonic – Justin Falk

Aaron Rome – Dylan McIlrath (Hartford)

Joel Edmundson (Chicago) –Colby Robak (San Ant.)

Dustin Penner – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Sharp

Ryan Garbutt – Cody Eakin – Eric Fehr

Cody McLeod – Travis Zajac – Colton Orr

Frazer McLaren – Dale Weise – Ryan Reaves

IR

LW Alexander Steen

C Ryan White

LW Matt Calvert

Also Under Consideration

D Drew Bagnall (Roch.)

D Corbin Baldwin (Iowa)

D Brett Skinner (Rockford)

D Chay Genoway (Hershey)

Yes, they’d be better if the injured guys were healthy, and they’d rely heavily on Duncan Keith and Michael Stone to log lots of minutes on defense. But it would be interesting to see how these guys would represent their province, wouldn’t it?

Then, consider Team Nova Scotia. It would likely have Joey MacDonald in goal, and although he’s no Roberto Luongo, he has NHL experience, including this year. They’d have some pretty top quality guys up front in Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, James Sheppard, Brad Marchand, and Alex Killorn, and they’d have some grinding toughness in Eric Boulton and Zach Sill. But the number of NHL level players from Nova Scotia is lower than that of the larger provinces, so would their fate go the way of George Best if they had to qualify for the Olympics?

I think I’ve come across another parlor (or, perhaps I should spell it “parlour”) game. Have at it, folks!

UNRELATED NOTE: Tuesday not only places the Sharks in Nashville for an important road game against the Predators. It also marks the anniversary of the loss of Katie Moore, wife of former Sharks center Dominic Moore. Take a moment to remember those who have left us, and see what Dominic is doing to remember his wife by going to www.katiemoore.org.

See you on the radio! I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 12.30.2013 / 1:00 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

What a long, strange trip it’s been, and what a great story for San Jose Sharks center Bracken Kearns.

On Sunday, December 29, 2013, Kearns scored his first NHL goal and first NHL point after swooping into the slot on a timely shift change. Andrew Desjardins and Tyler Kennedy had developed a 2-on-1 opportunity that was thwarted at first by defenseman Hampus Lindholm. But Desjardins persevered, and got the puck back behind the net, slipped a pass through Nick Bonino to the front of the net.

Kearns was there, and he banged it past Frederik Andersen for the moment that was celebrated by former Sharks captain Owen Nolan on Twitter with this aptly stated message:

The trip to this moment that every young man dreams of has been long and arduous for Kearns. Even though some of it has been in an airplane, much of it has also been rolling on the highways of North America, traveling from city to city, chasing that very dream. Let’s take a seemingly simple trip along the criss-cross path that brought Kearns to this moment:

  • The journey begins at the University of Calgary, where Kearns played for the Dinos for four years.
  • Undrafted, Kearns begins his pro odyssey with the ECHL’s Toledo Storm at the Toledo Sports Arena in 2005, a legendary building that inspired the progressive rock band Yes to write “Our Song,” after a concert that saw the in-arena temperature rise to 126 degrees Fahrenheit. Listen here. Distance traveled: 1,847 miles.
  • At the end of the 2005-06 season, Kearns had his first contact with the Sharks organization, playing in 1 game for Roy Sommer and the Cleveland Barons, a 180 mile trip from Toledo.
  • From there, the next stop was Milwaukee, playing for the AHL’s Admirals. Distance traveled: 435 miles.
  • After one season in Milwaukee, Kearns split the next campaign going back and forth from Norfolk, VA to Reading, PA, and then, back to Norfolk. Distance traveled: 600 miles.
  • From there, it was on to Rockford, IL, and the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. Distance traveled: 971 miles.
  • Next, Kearns hooked up with the Florida Panthers organization in 2010-11. His next move was from Rockford to San Antonio, TX. Distance traveled: 1193 miles.
  • At the age of 30, after one full season in San Antonio, his first NHL dream came true, when he skated in 5 games with the Panthers after a recall from the AHL. Distance traveled from San Antonio to Sunrise, FL: 1356 miles. Back to San Antonio: another 1356 miles.
  • But after that season, Kearns was a free agent. He signed with San Jose, the organization that gave him his first AHL opportunity. But this time, the destination was Worcester, MA, 2000 miles from San Antonio.
  • After scoring 21 goals in Worcester and some solid reports filed out West, Kearns received an NHL call again. He flew to San Jose to play in 1 regular season game. We’ll credit him with driving miles: 3093 more on the odometer.
  • With the Sharks dealing with some injuries and needing certain roles filled, Kearns played in all 7 games of the taxing series against the Los Angeles Kings, further gaining the trust of the coaching staff. He now has more games played in Stanley Cup playoff competition than in the regular season, and still has 0 points.
  • It’s back to Worcester for the 2013-14 NHL season after a good training camp in California. Distance traveled: 3093 miles.
  • In mid-October, Kearns is recalled to Dallas, where the Sharks are playing the Stars. He plays 10:10, and is featured on a line with Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard. Distance traveled: 1733 miles. Back to Worcester: another 1733 miles.
  • While Kearns was scoring 5-13-18 in 27 games for Worcester this season, injuries were mounting in San Jose. Raffi Torres and Adam Burish weren’t ready, Martin Havlat got banged up, and Tomas Hertl went down with a knee injury. The phone rang again in Worcester Sharks coach Roy Sommer’s office. The call is for Kearns. Distance traveled: 3093 miles.
  • That fast-forwards us to the present. Kearns played in his 8th career regular season game in the NHL, and his 3rd for the Sharks. The moment arrives. He scores his first NHL goal, and is one of the stars of the game in a huge win against the top-rated Anaheim Ducks.

Kearns scored his first goal at the tender age of 32 years, 231 days, making him the oldest Shark to score his first NHL goal in a San Jose uniform. The old record holder was Jay Leach, who scored his first and only NHL goal at the age of 30 years, 190 days.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot: the total distance traveled between cities, not including road trips, was 22,683 hard miles for Bracken Kearns, a still-young 32-year-old who is usually first on the ice and last off. There are still many miles to go for him, but let’s savor the moment after all of the years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication. It’s a great story.

I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 12.16.2013 / 11:18 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

We are at the 33-game mark of the season, grinding our way through the schedule to the Olympic break in February. But just because it’s the grind stage, and time and space are at a premium, it doesn’t indicate that nothing significant or interesting is happening. To the contrary, over the course of the last few games, a lot of interesting things have happened, including the achievement of several milestones, equaling a club record, and finding ways to make the score 2-0 for or against. Here are a few of those instances:

  • For the last seven consecutive games, the Sharks have either led or trailed 2-0 in the game in what I believe is an unprecedented such stretch in club history. They have led 2-0 four times, with a 2-1-1 record, and trailed 0-2 three times, with a 0-3-0 standing. That adds up to a 2-4-1 overall record in those games.
  • In the seven games, the Sharks have been outscored 8-16 (-8) when skating 5-on-5. Of the eight goals scored, four have been by defensemen and four by forwards. No Shark has scored more than one 5-on-5 goal in this stretch.
  • The Sharks have scored 1 empty-net goal in Toronto, and have allowed two empty-netters in Carolina and in Minnesota.
  • With the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, the Sharks have scored two goals in this stretch. In both cases, the goals were scored by Patrick Marleau, and in both cases, the Sharks lost the game (at Minnesota and at Nashville). Against the New York Islanders, Kyle Okposo’s extra-skater goal forced overtime, and the Sharks wound up losing the game in a shootout.
  • Since the 2005-06 season, when the shootout came into being, the Sharks have recorded a 168-9-10 record when taking a 2-0 lead or better in a game, including a 13-1-2 record this season. They have not lost more than one such game in regulation in a season for the past five straight years, so that means this year’s regulation loss at Carolina on December 6th constitutes San Jose’s budgeted allotment for the year.
  • When down 0-2 or worse in a game, the Sharks are 22-91-14 since the 2005-06 season. This year, they are 0-3-0 so far, and are 0-13-1 in this situation since April 7, 2012, when they trailed 0-2 vs. Los Angeles, and came back to win 3-2 in overtime on a Dan Boyle goal.
  • Speaking of winning games in overtime, Sharks hockey has had a defenseman score the game winner in the last 3 regular season games that they’ve won. Since that LA game in 2012, the other winners have come from Brad Stuart (at CGY on Nov. 12th) and Boyle (at VAN on Nov. 14th).
  • At Nashville on Saturday, Antti Niemi played in his 200th game wearing a Sharks uniform. Niemi is only the second Sharks goaltender to play in that many games. Evgeni Nabokov played in 563 games over his San Jose career.
  • Also at Nashville on Saturday, Patrick Marleau tied a club record when he recorded seven shots on goal in the third period. It’s only the third time in franchise history that such a total has been recorded in one frame, tying the mark originally set by Joe Pavelski on 11/4/08 vs. Minnesota, and equaled by Dany Heatley on 12/3/09 vs. St. Louis. Marleau is the only Shark to record 7 shots on net in a single period on the road.

Those are some of the interesting things that have happened recently. Looking ahead, we have a couple of other milestones on the horizon:

  • Joe Thornton is one point away from becoming the second player in Sharks history to score 700 points in a San Jose uniform. With one assist at Nashville, the captain has 167-532-699 while wearing Teal, and his next point will put him in an exclusive club with Marleau, who has 893 points in his Sharks career.
  • Marleau will also play in his 1,199th game in St. Louis on Tuesday, and is scheduled to reach his milestone 1,200th game in Los Angeles on Thursday.
  • Continuing on the milestone horizon, Logan Couture has 99 career goals, 98 career assists, and 197 career points. Since scoring his last goal into an empty net at Toronto on December 3rd, Logan has played in 6 games, had 2 assists, and has put 28 shots on goal in those contests. As of this writing, he’s second among NHL forwards with 40 blocked shots, and as my broadcast partner Jamie Baker has pointed out, he’s playing “ice bag hockey.” The milestones will come soon for Couture.
  • With his recent forays at opposing goaltenders, Couture is 7th in the NHL with 126 shots, and Marleau is right behind in 8th with 124.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “And so, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” That classic phrase sounds fitting for this challenging portion of the NHL season.

I’m Dan Rusanowsky for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Tuesday, 12.03.2013 / 9:00 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

As the San Jose Sharks hit the road for a challenging 4-game trip to Toronto, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Minnesota, here are a couple of thoughts about the recently-completed 5-game home stand, featuring a sweep of all the opponents:

  • San Jose outscored the opposition 18-10 (+8), and had 2 additional shootout game-deciding goals vs. Los Angeles and Anaheim.
  •  Here are the top scorers on the home stand:
Rank
Player
GP
G
A
PTS
+/-
1T
JOE THORNTON
5
2
5
7
+2
1T
LOGAN COUTURE
5
1
6
7
+6
3
BRENT BURNS
5
4
2
6
+3
4
PATRICK MARLEAU
5
2
3
5
+5
5T
TOMMY WINGELS
5
3
0
3
+4
5T
TOMAS HERTL
5
1
2
3
+3
5T
MARTIN HAVLAT
5
1
2
3
+2
5T
TYLER KENNEDY
5
1
2
3
+1
5T
JOE PAVELSKI
5
1
2
3
-1
5T
JUSTIN BRAUN
5
0
3
3
+7
 
  • Goaltending was also strong:
 
Rank
Player
GP
W
L
T
SO
SV%
GAAVG
1
ANTTI NIEMI
5
5
0
0
0
.934
1.94
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • 5-on-5 play saw the Sharks score 12 goals and allow only 3, for a differential of +9.
  • Because of the St. Louis game, San Jose was 0-2 (-2) in 4-on-4 skating situations.
  • Special teams had a more mixed result:
    • The Sharks went 2-for-20 on the power play (10.0%) with 0 short-handed goals allowed. They had 0 power play goals in 4 of the 5 games on the home stand.
    • By contrast, San Jose’s opponents went 1-for-16 on the power play, giving the Sharks a 93.7% penalty-killing percentage, and scored 1 short-handed goal.
    • The Sharks did not allow a power-play goal in 4 of the 5 games on the home stand.
    • Patrick Marleau’s short-handed goal was the 15th of his career. With that goal, Marleau passed Owen Nolan and Marco Sturm into first place all time on the Sharks’ short-handed goals scored list.
    • Going into the upcoming road trip, the Sharks have killed 14 straight penalties and have 1 short-handed goal during that time.

We are all looking forward to a challenging and exciting road trip. On Tuesday, San Jose will face the Maple Leafs in Toronto, the center of the English speaking hockey universe. Then, they travel to Pittsburgh for a visit with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, move on to Raleigh and then to St. Paul, Minnesota. We’ll guide you through it, so see you on the radio. I’m Dan Rusanowsky for sjsharks.com.

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POSTED ON Monday, 11.25.2013 / 3:16 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites
On some nights, you grind it out to victory, and the San Jose Sharks did just that against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night. Sharks Hockey really had to earn it against a Devils team that just wouldn’t go away. It was a special night for a variety of reasons.

While the score was a tight 2-1 favoring the home team, setting things up for a monumentally challenging week against Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Anaheim, I’d like to offer a tip of the hat to a couple of future Hall of Famers who showed their stuff at SAP Center this past Saturday:

We’ve taken players like Martin Brodeur and Jaromir Jagr for granted, because they’ve been so good for so long and it’s almost considered as constant as the sun rising each morning that we’ll see them on a National Hockey League team, plying their trade with top-level excellence. On Saturday, fans were entertained with another solid performance from these two players, who have 2,647 games of experience between them. They continue to defy the march of time, so let us count the ways:
  • Jagr had a quieter night with 0 shots on goal, but he had two opportunities toward the net, one of which was blocked and the other which missed the net. He played 19:54, and certainly was noticeable every time he was on the ice. By my memory, he wasn’t on the ice for any significant period against Tomas Hertl, and that was the only thing that was mildly disappointing about the evening.
  • Earlier in the week, Jagr had just scored his 690th career goal in Los Angeles. That tied his former linemate and mentor Mario Lemieux for 9th all-time. The goal was his 121st game-winner, which tied Gordie Howe for 1st all-time. So, kudos to the Sharks defense for working well against JJ in this game.
  • Jagr has 2 Stanley Cup championships, 5 Art Ross Trophies, and 1 Hart Trophy to his credit. He’s tied for 8th all-time with 1706 points.
  • The game featured three of top four active Czech-born scorers: Jagr, Patrick Elias, and Martin Havlat. Elias was blaming himself when a bobbled play gave Havlat a chance to assist on Tyler Kennedy’s game-winning goal, but the second most prolific Czech scorer of all-time picked up his 941st career point when he scored on the power play in the third period. That made a game of it.
  • Brodeur absolutely robbed Logan Couture with a tremendous second-period glove save that makes us all think that he still has several years to go in his Hall of Fame career.
  • Brodeur has more games played (1233) and more wins (676) and shutouts (123) than anyone. He’s one of only 6 goalies to play more than 900 games (Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Ed Belfour,Curtis Joseph, and Glenn Hall). He has 4 Vezina Trophies, 3 Stanley Cups, 3 goals, 42 assists, and at 41 years of age, most recently had consecutive shutouts at Philadelphia and at home against Nashville.
  • Incredibly, Brodeur has played in more Stanley Cup playoff games (205) than the Sharks (174) have. That includes 24 games in 2012, when the Devils made it to the Final and lost to the Kings. San Jose hopes to catch up over the next two postseasons, but Brodeur will do his best to stay ahead.
  • It was heartwarming to hear the crowd really applaud Brodeur when he was named one of the stars of the evening. As always, Sharks fans show their class.

Meanwhile, the “showcase” segment of the season is now over and the Sharks are moving into “the grind,” which is the way that we describe Games 20-50. The grind begins this week, with an incredible set of challenging games within a very short span of time: Los Angeles on Wednesday, St. Louis on Friday afternoon, and Anaheim on Saturday night. Three games in four days. Oh, yes, there is a lot for a hockey fan to be thankful for. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
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POSTED ON Monday, 11.18.2013 / 11:27 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

We’ve seen a variety of interesting travel stories over the years of San Jose Sharks history, including some memorable plane flights, interminable flight delays, and inclement weather tales. Some of the best have included: waiting until a playoff game ended in triple overtime to find out which way to fly, only to be delayed overnight by fog; being the last plane allowed to land in an airport due to snow, making it to the hotel, only to have the game cancelled because of the weather; having a delay of over 12 hours because the proper equipment was not available to change a tire on the aircraft; and so on.

But on the recent “criss-cross road trip” that started in Winnipeg and ended in Chicago, Sharks Hockey had another memorable run that has to go down in the logbook. Now, my broadcast partner Jamie Baker already mapped out the 5-game trip with a diagram that had so many crossing dotted lines, it looked like Gerry Cheevers’ old goalie mask. But here is a 10-step outline of one portion of that map, the trip between Edmonton and Chicago for the final stop on the trip:

  1. The game was originally scheduled at 7:00. After the game, the plan was to bus to the airport, clear customs in Edmonton, and fly to Chicago. That sounds simple, but….
  2. For Canadian TV purposes, the game was changed to an 8:00 Mountain Time faceoff, necessitating a later takeoff time from Edmonton International Airport.
  3. On Friday night, a snowstorm swooped into Alberta. Normally, the 35 kilometer trip from Rexall Place to the airport takes about 33 minutes. However, the storm slowed our path by about 15 minutes, in addition to the later hour due to the change of game time.
  4. While clearing customs in Edmonton is a good idea, a computer malfunction slowed the procedure for a number of minutes.
  5. Because of the snowstorm, once the team boarded the plane, another 15 minutes or so was added to the takeoff time. Why? The plane had to taxi to another part of the airport to be de-iced.
  6. Finally, takeoff occurred, approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes after the (later) game had ended.
  7. Flying from Edmonton to Chicago takes about the same time as flying home to San Jose. In addition, you have to add an hour because we were moving forward from the Mountain to the Central Time Zone.
  8. Once the plane landed, in this case at O’Hare International Airport, it was fortunate to note that there was lighter traffic due to the fact that it was a Saturday. However, the 18 mile trip takes about 27 minutes.
  9. It certainly was a weary group that checked into the hotel at approximately 6:20 a.m. Central Time on Saturday and some much-needed sleep.
  10. On Sunday, tornado warnings and major storms engulfed the Chicagoland area. At nearby Soldier Field, the NFL Bears game was actually delayed and the stadium evacuated when the storm raged in. Instead of being able to have the Formula One United States Grand Prix in the background of my hotel room, I had storm coverage instead. Fortunately, it all was over in a flash, and there were no other incidents other than the 5-1 loss in Chicago, followed by the late night flight home to San Jose.

All in all, the “criss-cross road trip” will be remembered for a 3-1-1 record, and a lot of travel stories. But the final 48 hours of the trip was one for the books. It’s great to be home! For sjsharks.com, I’m Dan Rusanowsky.

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POSTED ON Monday, 11.04.2013 / 8:46 AM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

Mirco Mueller, the Sharks top draft pick, was born and raised in Switzerland, and his country is beginning to make more of an impression on the National Hockey League as the years go on.

As of today, there are seven Swiss skaters playing in the NHL, and the Sharks have faced three teams with Swiss natives on the roster: Vancouver (Yannick Weber), Calgary (Sven Baertschi and Reto Berra), and Montreal (Raphael Diaz).

Virtually all of the Swiss natives have come into the NHL since the 2000-01 season, when Reto Von Arx (Chicago), Thomas Ziegler (Tampa Bay), and Michel Riesen (Edmonton) all had cups of coffee at the big league barista. But there are two others (Hnat Domenichelli and Paul DiPietro) who are listed as Swiss by the NHL website, but who were born and raised in Canada, later gained Swiss citizenship, and played for the Swiss Olympic team. These two started their careers earlier, as did Simon Wheeldon, who was born in Vancouver, played briefly in the NHL in the late 1980’s, moved to Austria, played for the Austrian Olympic team, but who is listed as Swiss on the NHL website.

Berra is the most recent Swiss story. The goaltender made his NHL debut a memorable one, with a 42 save performance in a 3-2 overtime win against Chicago on Sunday night, and he’s the sixth goalie who was born in Switzerland to make it to the NHL.

For our final gaze at Switzerland’s contributions to the NHL, the goaltending leader is Jonas Hiller of Anaheim, who has 139 career wins and 26 shutouts. The points leader is Philadelphia’s Marc Streit, who has 292 points as of this writing.

But in San Jose, the Swiss focus is on Mueller, who currently plays for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL under coach Kevin Constantine. So far, in 15 games, Mueller is one of the leaders on the defense, and has 1-5-6 totals.

As with the case with California born-and-raised players, we’re starting to see the influence of other places, such as Switzerland. It’s an important and developing story about the growth of the NHL around the world.

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POSTED ON Monday, 10.28.2013 / 7:32 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

On the flight home from Ottawa, it’s time to reflect on what has been a most eventful road trip for San Jose Sharks hockey. On this trip, the team found out a lot about itself and virtually all of it remains a very exciting sign for the prospects for the season.

Let’s look at the most important things that the Sharks found out about themselves on this little trip to the Eastern Time Zone. All of what they found relate to one word, “response,” and more specifically, “response to a variety of challenges by outstanding teams.”

It all began in Detroit, where the Sharks and their perpetual shooting gallery was met by the coach’s video preparations on the opposite side of the ice. Yes, the Detroit staff was ready for the Sharks, and what ensued was an intellectually-based chess match between Todd McLellan and Mike Babcock, a goaltending duel between Antti Niemi and Jimmy Howard, warm, soft, slow ice conditions, an irregularity in the Motor City, and a 65:00 of intense hockey where the Sharks were held to just 27 shots on goal and where Detroit mustered only 24.

Both goaltenders made some crucial stops, but none was more important than the one that Niemi made on Todd Bertuzzi in the shootout. With Logan Couture having just scored, all Niemi needed to do was stop the puck to get the win and when he was able to lift his right pad upward just enough to get Bertuzzi’s formidable attempt, the look on Bertuzzi’s face was priceless and the Sharks got out of town with two points in the standings.

On to Boston, San Jose simply dominated the action for, conservatively speaking, 59:30 of the 60:00. They outshot Boston 39-17 for the game, and forged ahead against the Bruins. But victory wasn’t to be: late in the second period, Jarome Iginla found a way to deflect one past Niemi for his first Bruins goal, and then, with 0.8 seconds left in the game, a David Krejci deflection of an Adam McQuaid shot from the point got past Niemi, and the Sharks lost for the first time in Boston since the Joe Thornton trade.

The question on everyone’s mind after that loss was, “How were the Sharks going to respond?” Their next matchup was in Montreal, on Saturday night, in front of an entire province and nation (on CBC television). All they did was skate with the speedy Canadiens stride for stride. They got a brilliant performance in all three zones from Logan Couture, who scored twice. The Quebec natives, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers, had terrific nights, and Niemi was solid again as the Sharks won, 2-0, only their third win ever in Montreal, and first in 11 years.

But what happened in the final three minutes of that game was truly incredible. Against a solid team, the Sharks made it impossible for the Canadiens to pull goaltender Carey Price in the third period. Montreal simply couldn’t get far enough up ice to do it. In the third period, the Sharks played essentially three lines and used Joe Thornton with James Sheppard and John McCarthy, who did an outstanding job when called upon to play great defensive hockey. With Vlasic and Justin Braun shutting things down, the Sharks simply put on a clinic that was incredibly impressive.

The very next day, San Jose had everything working against them: an afternoon start against a team that was rested and ostensibly motivated, given a 50-shot performance by the Sharks against them at SAP Center just a few weeks before. The Sharks were going with Alex Stalock in net for the first time, giving Niemi a game off after 11 straight starts.

What happened wasn’t the prettiest of games, but the Sharks also chose to show how it would respond to a satisfying, successful night. They didn’t have their legs, which was understandable, but Stalock had a great first NHL start with 38 saves, including 16 in the first period when the Sens really were going for the kill.

San Jose found out after the warmup that Matt Nieto was not going to be able to play, and although that looks like a short-term situation, it changed the plans for the evening. But Andrew Desjardins and James Sheppard came up with their first goals of the season, Tomas Hertl ended a goal-scoring drought, the Sharks scored in the opening 1:30 of the first and 3rd periods, Tommy Wingels scored a shorthanded goal, and Joe Pavelski finished off the Sens with a deflection on a give-and-go with Justin Braun, who continues to be mighty impressive.

All in all, the Sharks are showing that they are up for virtually any challenge, and every member of the team is making a contribution and commitment to the cause.

Now, it’s on to Los Angeles to finish the trip. The challenges will continue to mount, but so will the excitement.

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POSTED ON Monday, 10.14.2013 / 3:00 PM
By Dan Rusanowsky - Sharks Broadcaster / Great White Bites

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.

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SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 21 12 4 5 58 53 29
2 NSH 20 13 5 2 57 42 28
3 CGY 22 13 7 2 71 61 28
4 STL 20 13 6 1 53 41 27
5 VAN 20 13 6 1 61 60 27
6 LAK 21 11 6 4 57 49 26
7 CHI 20 12 7 1 62 40 25
8 SJS 23 10 9 4 62 64 24
9 WPG 21 10 8 3 43 47 23
10 MIN 19 11 8 0 54 43 22
11 DAL 21 8 9 4 61 72 20
12 ARI 21 9 10 2 53 65 20
13 COL 21 7 9 5 53 67 19
14 EDM 21 6 13 2 49 74 14

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Thornton 23 7 13 1 20
J. Pavelski 23 9 10 3 19
L. Couture 23 8 11 0 19
B. Burns 23 7 12 -7 19
P. Marleau 23 6 12 -4 18
T. Wingels 23 6 5 -3 11
T. Hertl 23 4 6 -1 10
M. Nieto 22 1 6 -1 7
J. Braun 23 0 7 8 7
M. Vlasic 23 2 4 10 6
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 2 2 1 .925 2.38
A. Niemi 7 6 3 .915 2.58
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