“Mixed emotions.” That’s how head coach Todd McLellan sized up Sunday night’s stunning overtime loss in Colorado.
As the Sharks have now reached the halfway point of the NHL season, mixed emotions also sums up the first 24 games. For the first 11 days and seven games, the Sharks could do no wrong. They were the hottest things on ice and the top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski was running roughshod over the top of the scoring leaderboard.
But something changed on Groundhog Day in a 2-1 shootout loss to Nashville. The offense sputtered and after that some nights dried up completely. After scoring no fewer than four goals in each of the first five games, the Sharks failed to score that many in any of the subsequent 19 games, a streak that is still intact.
What happened? Where did the goals go? Did the team’s elite scorers forget how to put the puck in the net? What about the offense from Lines 2, 3 and 4? What about scoring from the blueline? These are all questions yet to be answered but certainly must be at the top of McLellan’s list.
And then there’s the good. After finishing one spot from the bottom on the penalty kill last year, the Sharks are third right now. It’s a strength that has kept them in many games the past six weeks.
The goaltending has been great to excellent. The Sharks are 5th in goals against per game. Solid goaltending, strong team defense and a good penalty kill are the foundation for any team hoping for postseason success, and the Sharks appear to have those pillars in place.
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.
Vancouver – I’m often asked what my favorite NHL road city is. There are plenty of good ones but Vancouver has to be at the top of my list.
The natural beauty and cultural diversity makes it special, think San Francisco with snow capped mountains.
For a Bay Area Sharks fan it’s the perfect roadie location. The flight is about 2 hours. You can drive it in a little over a day. Once you get here the options are endless.
I’m a jogger so a run around world famous Stanley Park is a must for me, but its also perfect for cycling or just walking. There are many unique neighborhoods like Kitsilano, Gastown or Robson Street.
The food and drink destinations are outstanding. My favorites include Joe Forte’s and Cardero’s. Both feature fresh British Columbia salmon and mussels.
And finally there’s the passion for hockey. Vancouverite’s eat, breathe and sleep Canucks hockey.
If a hockey road trip is in your future, try Vancouver. Rain or shine it’s my top stop in the league.
As you may know Drew Remenda and I called last nights Detroit - LA game on NBC Sports Network. It was the first time we'd ever worked on a non Sharks game together and I'll be honest with you for the first few minutes it was a little strange. First of all Drew worked inside the glass down at ice level and I sat alone up in the booth. Usually we're side by side. And then there's the whole "fair and balanced" thing. On a national broadcast such as last nights the commentary has to be down the middle. That's a code we don't have to adhere to as closely when we're calling a Sharks game like tonight when the Red Wings visit San Jose.
We received plenty of tweets and text messages before, during and after the game. Most were congratulatory, some were not "Hahn you're an idiot", but my favorite one came from a Sharks fan who tweeted "Watching you and Drew call a Kings-Wings game is like watching my wife on a date with another man."
It'll all be back to normal tonight at 7:00pm PDT on CSNCA.
What a difference a win makes!
When the Sharks woke up in frigid Chicago Wednesday morning they were able to breathe just a little bit easier after Tuesday's slump busting 2-1 win in St. Louis. Even though they picked up a few points during their seven game winless slide, it was crucial to earn a two point victory and to do it in regulation. Before the win over the Blues the Sharks had actually gone 9 in a row without a regulation win. Do the math. In 9 straight games they were giving up points to the opponent. In an all Western Conference, 48 game season, that is not an advisable strategy. Now the challenge for Todd McLellan's team is to keep their collective noses to the grindstone and do it again on Friday against the hottest team in the NHL, Chicago. How they manage that is for another day.
It's a new day. It's not game 4 of a tough 6 game grinder. It's game 1 of quick little 3 game jaunt to the Midwest. The winning streak was great but it's in the rear view mirror. The winless streak shall also pass. The time is right. Tonight it's St. Louis where it all ended last spring. Yes the Sharks should be hungry. Yes they should be angry. And one more thing. Because of aircraft problems the Blues didn't return home from Vancouver until 6:30am CST today. They will be travel weary. The Sharks are rested and ready, with something to prove. It's time to turn it around. Tonight. It's a new day.
On this day of love there's not too many hearts, butterflies or rainbows flowing toward Matt Cook of the Pittsburgh Penguins from fans of the Ottawa Senators. Last night Cooks skate severed the Achilles tendon of Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, quite likely ending the reining Norris trophy winners season. Because of Cook's reputation as a head hunter there are many convinced that what happened last night was not an accident. But after watching the video of the incident a number of times, it looks accidental to me. The National Hockey League apparently concurs because they've already stated that there will be no discipline for Cook.
The injury is a huge blow to the Senators and their chances to make the playoffs this season, let alone win the Stanley Cup. They've already lost their top center Jason Spezza to back surgery and now the loss of Karlsson could prove to be insurmountable. We'll see if the Sen's have the depth to adapt and successfully move on.
Meanwhile here in Chicago the Sharks will practice today in advance of tomorrows continuation of the 6 game road trip against the Blackhawks. The bad news is that the Sharks have lost 6 in a row and they just can't find a way to put the puck into the net on a regular basis. They've scored only 7 goals in the last 18 periods and 3 overtimes. If you take away power play goals, they've scored only 5 even strength goals since the slump began. On a brighter note the Sharks scored 3 goals at even strength against Chicago in a tough 5-3 loss at HP Pavilion last week. Knowing the way Todd McLellan and his coaching staff operate, they'll take those positives and reinforce them to the players between now and tomorrow night's face off at the United Center.
Hearts, butterflies and rainbows to all of you from Chicago. Happy Valentine's Day!
I'm Randy Hahn for SJSHARKS.com
Sharks fans have been busy on the Twitter machine so far this season. Here are a few that have recently come my way. Enjoy!
@sharkvoice at some point refs need to start getting fined just like players do when mistakes are made.— John Zardkoohi (@TGIJZ) February 6, 2013
I don’t see that coming anytime soon. NHL Officials are already constantly being monitored and reviewed and graded on their performances. Those grades affect their playoff assignments and thus their compensation.
The long wait for Sharks fans is finally over. The home opener is tonight at HP Pavilion at 7:30pm against the Phoenix Coyotes. Not only do fans finally get to see the Boys in Teal for the first time since last April, but also they’ll be welcoming a team that comes home with a 2-0 record after impressive wins in Calgary and Edmonton.
There are so many positive takeaways from the road trip.
- The stunning and franchise record 6 goal first period against Edmonton.
- Patrick Marleau’s 4 goals as he became the first Shark to record multiple goal games in the first two contests of the season.
- Joe Thornton’s 5 assists
- Logan Couture’s 2 goal 2 assist start and his “stare down” of Taylor Hall and the Oilers other “Young Guns”
- Antti Niemi’s brilliance in the first period of the first game in Calgary when he gave the Sharks a chance to win
And those were just the headlines.
Here’s 10 reason’s to love the Sharks TV Schedule.
1. We’re back and the band is back together
The last time we ((Drew Remenda, Brodie Brazil, Bret Hedican, Jamie Baker, Dave Maley, Curtis Brown and yours truly) called a live game was April 21, 2012 from St. Louis. That’s just too long between broadcasts. We all love what we do and can’t wait to get back at it.
2. Opening night January 20 at Calgary
Finally we get to see the Boys In Teal back in action and what a venue to begin in. Lockout or no lockout, hockey is Canada’s national passion. Flames fans will be out in full force and the city of Calgary will be teeming with anticipation. It’ll be similar 2 nights later in Edmonton.