It’s hard not to be inspired watching the 2014 NHL playoffs, which many consider to be the best playoffs in years, many years meaning in decades. The passion and parity of this year's playoffs has been off the charts amazing and another reason why hockey is the ultimate team sport.
I decided to look up the meaning of inspiration and here is the definition from the World English Dictionary:
Inspiration -- noun
- stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to do special or unusual activity
- the state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused
- someone or something that causes this state
- an idea or action resulting from such a state
So let’s talk about inspiration from a leadership standpoint because great leaders inspire others to be stimulated, aroused and do special things, like go above and beyond when it matters most.
Here are examples from the four teams that played the Conference Finals.
PK Subban is all about inspiration and was the emotional leader for Montreal as they beat the top-seeded Bruins in the 2nd round before falling to the Rangers in the Conference Finals.
How about Toews and Kane from the Blackhawks? They are all about inspiring others. The Blackhawks have won 2 Stanley Cups in the last 4 seasons and a lot of the reason has to do with their inspirational leaders. The way the Hawks battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to the Kings and taking game 7 to overtime was beyond impressive and it started with the inspiration from its leaders.
The LA Kings get inspiration from the likes of Doughty, Williams, Quick, Kopitar and Brown as they have an unrelenting ability to inspire and a ‘refuse to lose’ attitude. The Kings have won three straight game 7’s on the road, for the first time in NHL history, and have done so against great teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago. Their leaders inspire others to be better and it’s why they are in the Stanley Cup Finals.
And last but not least the NY Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist is all about inspiring his teammates to be better, but the circumstances that have followed Dominic Moore and Marty St. Louis are taking inspirational leading to a higher power. Could the Rangers be a team of destiny because of the inspiration from their leaders?
The NHL playoffs are all about passion and inspiration. It’s been great theater so far and the Stanley Cup Finals promises to continue the trend of amazing hockey.
What a treat it is to be a hockey fan right now!
I don’t think that there is anyone who believes that the NHL’s conference final series are “over,” but everyone must agree that the hockey that is being played is absolutely spectacular.
The sight of Martin St. Louis taking advantage of an opportunity and scoring a superbly placed OT game-winner for the New York Rangers against Montreal certainly was inspirational for Gotham hockey fans.
Meanwhile, in the LA-Chicago series, the Blackhawks made it close the night before, but the Los Angeles Kings got a big goal from Drew Doughty in the third period and took a 2-1 series lead in their 4-3 victory.
One of the interesting notes about the Kings and the Rangers is that they’re the only teams in the NHL with 50 or more post-season games played in the last three seasons. As of today, here are the top 10 post-season teams in that time span, arranged by winning percentage:
|1||LOS ANGELES||55||35||20||0.636||150||109||9||8||1||0.889||Won Stanley Cup|
|2||CHICAGO||44||27||17||0.614||119||103||7||6||1||0.857||Won Stanley Cup|
|4||NEW JERSEY||24||14||10||0.583||60||58||4||3||1||0.75||Lost Final|
|5||PHOENIX||16||9||7||0.563||37||35||3||2||1||0.667||Lost Conference Final|
|6||N.Y. RANGERS||50||26||24||0.52||118||107||7||5||2||0.714||Conference Final|
|7||ANAHEIM||20||10||10||0.5||56||55||3||1||2||0.333||Lost Round 2|
|9||NASHVILLE||10||5||5||0.5||22||21||2||1||1||0.5||Lost Round 2|
|10||PITTSBURGH||34||17||17||0.5||110||103||6||3||3||0.5||Lost Conference Final|
It really is amazing to note that both Los Angeles and New York are playing fresh hockey, even though they’ve endured so many grueling games over these past three playoff campaigns. They each have played in more than 50 post-season contests in that time span. Chicago has also played in 44 playoff games, while the Canadiens have 20. San Jose, by the way, has played in 23 playoff games, 8th most in the NHL since the 2011-12 season.
The remaining teams are all strong in goal. With Carey Price out the Canadiens have been going with Dustin Tokarski, who won the Memorial Cup in 2008 and MVP honors with Spokane, won the World Junior Tournament for Canada in 2009, and added the Calder Cup championship in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals to his resume. Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford have Stanley Cup championships, and are looking for another, while Henrik Lundqvist is an elite netminder looking for his first Stanley Cup crown.
All four teams have excellent defensemen who are firmly in the prime of their NHL careers. All have been doing an admirable job in both ends of the rink. When considering this position, think Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Ryan McDonagh, and P.K. Subban.
Up front, each team is configured slightly differently, but even though the road has been grueling, players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Thomas Vanek, and Lars Eller have been making tremendous offensive contributions.
The role players, as is usually the case with teams that advance this far, are all significant with the four clubs.
Here is a tip of the hat to the NHL and the clubs still competing for the Stanley Cup. It’s been quite an amazing ride for them. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
Many fine players have passed through the San Jose Sharks dressing room over the past two plus decades. Igor Larionov was the first former Shark to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Ed Belfour later joined him. Mike Vernon and Bernie Nicholls still have a solid case to get in. Joe Thornton will certainly be a HOFer some day and Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov will no doubt get consideration too. But in my view there has never been as iconic of a player in the history of the franchise as Teemu Selanne.
Selanne played his last NHL game last week when Anaheim was eliminated from the playoffs by Los Angeles. His career was outstanding. Selanne broke into the league with the Winnipeg Jets and shocked the world with a record 76-goal rookie season. It’s a record that still stands today and it earned him the Calder Trophy. After that all he did was consistently produce. Over his 21-year career Selanne scored 684 goals and recorded 1457 points. His 255 power play goals are the third most ever. His 110 game winning goals are the third most ever. He had 22 hat tricks.
Has any former Shark received more accolades than Teemu Selanne? Along with his Calder award he also won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy for leading the NHL in goals. He went to the All Star Game 10 times, captured four Olympic Medals for his native Finland and then capped it all with a Stanley Cup championship in Anaheim in 2007.
Regrettably Selanne’s time in San Jose was short. He played 176 games over parts of three seasons scoring 64 goals and 131 points. In his 18-playoff games in teal he had five goals and 10 points. But Selanne had knee trouble before and during his time as a Shark and he was never really the electrifying player that he was in other places.
But make no mistake that Selanne was a special player and person with the Sharks. On the ice he was a top scorer and playmaker. Off the ice he was a tremendous citizen who connected with the fans and touched many lives in San Jose and the Bay Area through the charitable work that he and his wife Sirpa always made a priority. And what an inspiration he has always been. The only time I’ve ever seen Selanne without a smile on his face was after losing a game.
Teemu Selanne is a bona fide, slam-dunk, no doubt about it, first ballot Hockey Hall of Famer. We were blessed to have him in San Jose for those three years and it will be a long time before we ever see a player of his caliber. Congratulations to “The Finnish Flash” on a remarkable career!
Best of Seven
Whoever came up with the best of seven game format to determine playoff winner should be knighted. The twists and turns, the constant give and take and the tension created by seven games is simply wonderful. Home ice can be huge in any NHL Playoff series but it’s not everything. If the lower seaded club wins one of their first two games on the road, it changes everything.
Click here to learn more about the trends of a best of seven visit.
This past week Sharks GM Doug Wilson appeared on a conference call with members of the media. There was little doubt about Wilson’s emotions a full two weeks after the LA Kings eliminated the Sharks. Doug said he was unhappy with the result, but more ticked about the surrendering of a 3-0 series. It was only the 4th time in NHL history a team had won the first three of a series, only to lose the next four.
Look for a major facelift of the Sharks roster come training camp in September. Two initial changes were announced during the media call. Winger Martin Havlat, despite a year remaining on his contract, will not be back. Havlat was brought to the San Jose camp to add skill and his high-powered offensive style. But Marty struggled to remain healthy and when he was at 100% he failed to provide any grit or fire, both prerequisites to any effective NHLer. Also Wilson announced that veteran defender Dan Boyle would not be offered a new contract. Two main reasons came into play with that decision. First, Boyle will be 38-years-old come opening night next October. Second, the Sharks were not interested in offering a multi-year deal. San Jose wants to get younger and grittier, especially on the blueline. While Boyle was ‘devastated’ by the news, he wasn’t surprised. Boyle will become a free agent on July 1 and he certainly will find a home for the 2014-15 season.
During his six seasons in teal, Boyle was the definition of a ‘gamer’. He’ll long be remembered by Sharks fans as a smart, skilled, play-making d-man. He was a true professional both on and off the ice. I will always remember his tireless skating and clever moves to get the puck up the ice.
These two moves will free up some cap space which will give San Jose more flexibility going forward. Stay tuned.
Former Sharks Success
As a Sharks follower, it was especially tough to see the rival Kings topple San Jose’s playoff dreams, but there are those in San Jose and around the league that were quietly pleased to see success come the way of former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter and ex-GM Dean Lombardi. Both are dedicated hockey men and they contributed greatly to the Sharks success going back to the mid 1990’s.
Playoff Bracket Format
The NHL’s new bracket-style playoff format will take time to establish it's goal of enhancing rivalries. It was tough to see either the Kings or Sharks get knocked out in round one, but it did allow for all-California series in Rounds 1 and 2. Those matchups will stoke the fires for next years’ regular season contests and undoubtedly for future playoff seasons.
Hockey in Seattle
It was quietly reported recently that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a stop in Seattle to speak with city leaders. Both parties are interested in prospect of bringing the NHL to the Emerald City. Time will tell, but a new arena is in the plans, and there is interest in local ownership for an NHL club. It must be noted that the Seattle market loves the NBA and is very interested in replacing their Sonics which was relocated to Oklahoma City. Can Seattle support both the NBA and the NHL? With the right ownership, and strong corporate support, the answer is a bold ‘absolutely!’.
Enjoy the exciting Stanley Cup Final Four.
Notes from the first round…
Last night at Staples Center the Kings beat the Sharks 6-3 forcing a game 5 in San Jose this Saturday. The Kings made a statement to everyone involved that they will not go down without a fight. The Sharks also made it clear that they will not back down from anyone. With the game essentially decided the 2 California teams found a way to make the final moments of game 4 get chippy. Game 5 seems to be set to be a memorable classic playoff battle.
Despite the San Jose being up 3 games to one in their series, the Sharks-Kings rivalry is alive and well. With three playoff meetings in the past 4 seasons there are plenty of bragging rights authored by each California club.
The Sharks captain, Joe Thornton, scored the game 6 and series winner in 2011. Last season the Kings/Sharks series ‘deux’ went the 7-game distance, only to see the Kings capture the deciding game in LA. Both teams brought their solid franchise core to this spring’s 1st round matchup.
In many ways these teams mirror one another. LA and San Jose both have excellent coaches. The Kings Darryl Sutter plays it ‘old-school’. He’s a no nonsense guy who demands unwavering discipline and effort. Anything less and Sutter will find a way to get his group re-engaged. The Sharks bench boss, Todd McLellan is not afraid to lay down the law either, but his style is to stress details and create an environment of responsibility. Players know they are responsible to their team and their teammates. Todd’s staff spends considerable time breaking down tape, to ensure each player is prepared and provided with best information possible. Both coaches are genius at making adjustments during the game. Lastly both are winners. Sutter led the Kings to NHL royalty status by capturing the Stanley in 2012 while McLellan was part of the coaching staff in Detroit that led the Wings to the 2008 Cup.
The Kings Cup squad was built around a great puck-moving D-man (Drew Daughty) and a corps of forwarded who combine skill, speed and work ethic (Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards). The Sharks long run as an NHL power has been anchored by future hall-of-famer Joe Thornton, franchise icon Patrick Marleau and a combination of young and experienced impact players. Both clubs have consistently restocked their rosters via the NHL draft.
Regardless of the outcome the Sharks-Kings rivalry is set up for years to come. Both GMs, Doug Wilson of the Sharks and Dean Lombardi of the Kings know what it takes to assemble a competitive NHL squad. Like great chess masters they can look into the future and anticipate the dynamics of their organization.
It’s been fun to watch these two emerging hockey markets grow and embrace the west coast game, especially those matchups with feature the Sharks, Kings and the Powerful Anaheim Ducks. These games are some of the most anticipated be it regular season or the playoffs.
As we prepare for game 5 of the series it’s interesting to ponder the idea of young California kids watching these games, falling in love with the game and identifying with California natives, Matt Nieto of the Sharks and Alec Martinez of the Kings. This series will certainly add to the rich history of California hockey. Mark my words; it won’t be all that long until we see a fresh crop of California hockey talent break into the NHL.
So as you watch the Sharks and Kings face off tomorrow, be aware you are seeing one of the great rivalries of the NHL. Enjoy the games.
Something we learned watching game 1 of the Kings/Sharks series was that no lead is ever safe in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sharks burst out of the gate to a 5-0 lead after two periods. But it wasn’t by luck that the Los Angeles Kings won the Cup in 2012. Three 3rd period goals and a wave after wave attack by the Kings made it clear that each and every game will be a struggle.
It’s not a coincidence that when the San Jose club stopped finishing their checks the Kings came to life. Sunday’s Game 2 will start with a 0-0 tie and the Sharks need to again push the pace and play the body for all 60 minutes.
The Kings’ all-world netminder Jonathon Quick never seemed in control of his game following the Sharks crashing of the net from the opening faceoff. Expect Quick to rebound and give his team a great chance to win in Game 2. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Quick will not give up 5 goals again this series.
How different are the Sharks with Tomas Hertl and Raffi Torres back in the lineup? Hertl's debut in the Stanley Cup was impressive as he scored one goal and chipped in with an assist. The amazing thing about the Sharks’ rookie phenom is he doesn’t get rattled. He doesn’t shy away from physical play and works to make plays at every turn. As for Torres, his body on body style of play clearly rattled the Kings. If Torres can continue his hard-nosed style while staying out of the penalty box he will prove to be a force on every shift.
This season two Sharks in particular appeared grow their game by leaps and bounds. Jason Demers has blossomed into a solid, trusted puck-moving defenseman who also has upped his level of battle. Operating in the shadow of veteran d-man Dan Boyle for the past few seasons, Demers has been a good study and gives San Jose highly valuable right-handed blueliner.
Up front, James Sheppard is playing an inspired game. The former first-round pick of the Wild suffered a horrific ATV accident that put his career in Jeopardy. Sharks GM Doug Wilson identified Sheppard’s potential and said yes while many teams said no. That decision has been paying off as Sheppard was named the Sharks’ Player of the Month for March. Combined with the return of Hertl and Torres, Sheppard’s play makes match-ups difficult for the Kings’ bench boss Darryl Sutter.
This first-round matchup has the potential to be an epic test of wills. Enjoy.
Into Twitter? Do yourself a favor and follow Darin Stephens @SharksStats. Darin is the main graphics man for the Sharks television games on Comcast Sports Net California. His ability to get deep inside the numbers of hockey makes him the best in the biz.
Samples of his work from last night…
--The Sharks are the 1st team to score 6+ in their playoff opener since the 2007 Senators.
--Tomas Hertl (20 years old) is the youngest Shark to score a playoff goal since Patrick Marleau (19 years old) in 1999.
Make note of the 7:00 p.m. start time for this Sunday’s Game 2 in San Jose.
The greatest day of the season has arrived for Sharks fans. It’s the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
I was fortunate enough to have been around when the 1993-94 Sharks shocked the hockey world by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in only their third season and then stunned the hockey world by knocking off Detroit in game 7.
Bob Errey, now a successful television broadcaster with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was the captain of that 1993-94 Sharks squad. Before game 1 of that series, Errey posted his now famous “16 Points for Playoff Success” on the bulletin board in the Sharks dressing room. It’s been somewhat of a tradition to re-post Errey’s list. So in keeping with Sharks tradition, here it is.
1. It takes 16 Wins to Win the Stanley Cup.
2. 4 Wins per series.
3. Never dwell on the past (Good, Bad, Win, Lose).
4. Never take anything for granted.
5. One shift is as important as 20.
9. Throw statistics out the window.
11. Play bigger.
12. Never Retaliate.
13. Get pucks out, get pucks deep.
14. You’re never out of a game (major penalty for high-sticking = 5 min. PP)
15. Have fun.
16. Heart is more important than skill.
Here’s to hoping for a long ride and lot’s of fun.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
Here’s the reality and truth about NHL players – they bleed for the logo, their teammates and the fans.
As the players head into the playoffs they all know one thing, starting Thursday night the intensity gets ratcheted up another notch and in the next two weeks and beyond pretty much every player is going to be hurt or injured in some capacity and will still lay it on the line during games.
This is what makes the NHL playoffs such an amazing spectacle… Players have received their full salary for the year and now they literally play for passion, pride and a chance to win the greatest trophy in the world, the Stanley Cup.
Knowing you are about to begin a journey where you get injured, and excited to do so, takes a different type of person and athlete. To win the Cup it will take a band of players that are selfless, play for each other, make each other better, are tough, fast and skilled and after all of that they will still need a bit of puck luck.
16 wins, that’s what it takes. The toughest 16 wins of the year, but its worth it because hockey players bleed for the logo, their teammates and their fans.
It’s what makes hockey so special!
Ladies and Gentleman, start your engines, buckle up and let the real season begin.
I am Jamie Baker, ex-San Jose Shark who bled for you and can’t wait to watch this version of the Sharks do the same.
The regular season has come to an end, and we are about to throw all the stats out the window. The Sharks have finished up with a two-game winning streak, and the pump is primed for what is sure to be an epic first-round playoff series with the Los Angeles Kings.
Here are a couple of notes:
• With his 2 goals in Phoenix, Joe Pavelski became the fourth Shark to hit the 40-goal mark, winding up with 41. He’s the first Sharks 40-goal man since 2009-10.
• Two assists in the Phoenix game put Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle officially over the 200 assist mark in a San Jose uniform. Boyle is the only defenseman to record 200 career Sharks assists. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (134) and Brad Stuart (132) are next on that list.
• Boyle (201 career Sharks assists) is only the 6th player to reach the milestone. He’s now tied with Jeff Friesen. Players ahead of them: Joe Thornton (567), Patrick Marleau (493), Owen Nolan (245), and Joe Pavelski (224).
• Pavelski’s 40th goal came on the power play. It was his 16th power play goal of the year, which is second only to Alexander Ovechkin (24). His 41 goals ranks him 3rd overall, behind Ovechkin (51) and Corey Perry (43).
• Penalty killing is an important factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and so is the concept of staying out of the box. The Sharks allowed just 33 power play goals by opponents, which is the lowest number they’ve allowed in a full-length NHL season. They were only shorthanded 219 times, which is also an all-time team low.
• Scoring balance is also important when preparing for a long playoff run. The Sharks have 10 skaters who have scored 10 or more goals this season, 4 with 20 or more, and 2 with 30 or more. Four players have 50 points or more.
• In goal, Antti Niemi had a very strong night in the desert, capped by his terrific stop on a breakaway by Shane Doan in the second period, when the Coyotes outshot the Sharks 16-13 in the middle frame. He wound up tied for 2nd in wins with 39, and the Sharks are in the top 5 in goals-against average.
• Tomas Hertl is back to health, and the two games that he played will be very valuable preparation benchmarks for the playoffs.
Now, it’s time to throw those stats out the window, and get ready for a series that everyone concedes will be an epic one: the San Jose Sharks against the Los Angeles Kings. Let’s get started!
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
Hockey is a fast, beautiful and often violent game.
It's a game of ...
You can play
A good joke
The good old days
Moms and Dads
Sons and daughters
A fun night out
Making a move
The Big Moment
The game of hockey is ...
A game....that belongs to all of us!