On May 28, 2013, the San Jose Sharks were one of five NHL clubs still in the running to win the Stanley Cup. The other four teams were the Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Boston Bruins, and the Pittsburgh Penguins – the four previous Stanley Cup champions.
Now, as a new regular season gets going, the Sharks have only one expectation, and only one goal: to be one of the elite teams all season long, and to bring the Stanley Cup to Silicon Valley.
On Monday, the team made its roster decisions to get to the 23-man limit, and assigned John McCarthy, Bracken Kearns, Matt Tennyson, Taylor Doherty, and Harri Sateri to the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. They released Anthony Stewart from his tryout, and assigned Matt Pelech to the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls.
How about a vote for the guy who plays both forward and defense, who is among the younger crop of star level players who are expected to perform, and who may be the most versatile guy on the roster? Yes, I’m talking about the guy who wears #88, Brent Burns.
With the Sharks defense looking positively fully stocked, it’s only natural to assume that the best use of Burns ice time will be up front, where he proved to be devastating to the opposition at times last year. His ice time was better managed, he still played the point on one of the Sharks power play units, and he wound up scoring 9 goals and 11 assists for 20 points in 30 games. If you play that out over an 82 game schedule, that translates into a 25 goal, 30 assist, 55 point season under normal circumstances.
In the playoffs, Burnzie was a huge factor in parts of the Vancouver sweep. I’m thinking of his 5 shots, 2 hits, and 2 assists, including an assist on the overtime winner, in Game 2 at Rogers Arena. I’m also thinking about his 6 hits, his even strength goal, and his heavy presence in Game 4 vs. Los Angeles, which turned out to be a 2-1 Sharks win.
It was a respite from the summer for just one evening, but Sharks fans really enjoyed their hockey fix at Sharks Ice on Thursday night.
At the first annual Sharks Prospects Scrimmage presented by RAM, the future was unveiled in all its diamond-in-the-rough glory to the team’s loyal fan base, and judging by the reaction, everyone is very excited about the prospects and the upcoming season.
The game had its exciting moments, and a lot of attention was placed on the last two top draft picks, Tomas Hertl and Mirco Mueller, who have been among the more publicized young players in the San Jose paddock. However, what jumped out for anyone watching was the level of talent throughout the organization.
For instance, the Bay Area got its first look at defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser, who left his small farming community in Germany to chase his NHL dream four years ago. Abeltshauser, who has participated in three other summer development camps since getting selected 163rd overall in 2010, experienced the thrill of a lifetime when he and his Halifax Mooseheads teammates won the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian Major Junior hockey, this past playoff spring. He’s been practicing against the likes of Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Drouin every day.
McKinnon and Drouin, in case you’ve forgotten, were the first and third overall picks in the draft this year by Colorado and Tampa Bay, respectively, and they are expected to turn into NHL stars. Abeltshauser, meanwhile, was named to the 2013 Memorial Cup All-Star squad, and he’s expecting to make a few heads turn in the upcoming training camp this fall.
Future stars of the world’s fastest game are gathering at Sharks Ice at San Jose, including the selections that Doug Wilson, Tim Burke and the Sharks scouting staff made at the recent NHL Entry Draft. But now, we are in a period where unrestricted free agents are dominating the discussions, and that brings forth another question that is flooding the mind of the concerned hockey habitué today.
Who is the most important free agent signed by an NHL team so far this summer?
From the San Jose Sharks perspective, you have to start with the players who have departed. The team moved Michal Handzus, Ryane Clowe, and Douglas Murray at the trade deadline. Handzus played an important role on Chicago’s Stanley Cup championship team, and re-signed with the Blackhawks. Clowe had a positive, albeit injury-riddled time with the New York Rangers before signing a big deal with the New Jersey Devils. Murray was a solid presence on Pittsburgh’s run to the Eastern Conference Final, and while he remains a free agent, there has been a lot of discussion that the Penguins would like to bring him back for another kick at the can.
Other Sharks who became ex-Sharks include goaltender Thomas Greiss, a popular figure in the dressing room who signed a contract with the Coyotes; Frazer McLaren, who was claimed off waivers by Toronto earlier in the year and re-signed with the Maple Leafs; Dominic Moore, who returned to the NHL where it started in Manhattan with the Rangers after a long year away from the game; and Jon Matsumoto, who played this past year in Worcester of the AHL and returned to his starting point with a new contract in the Sunshine State, also known as F-L-A.
This year, the Sharks made a few trades at the deadline which sent Ryane Clowe to New York, Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh, and Michal Handzus to Chicago. Coming back to San Jose includes the 49th and 58th selections in this draft, along with a 111th overall pick from Chicago that originally belonged to the Sharks and was re-acquired.
It’s important to note that there is plenty of maneuverability for the Sharks in this draft. They might be able to move upward in the draft to gain position if a coveted player is available and a transaction is possible. For instance, in the 2007 draft year, the Sharks had traded goaltender Vesa Toskala and left wing Mark Bell to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Toronto’s first round selection (22nd overall), the 2007 2nd round pick, and a 2009 4th rounder. They would send the first and second round selections to St. Louis in exchange for the Blues first round pick, which was 9th overall.
With that 9th selection, the Sharks were successfully able to make Logan Couture a cornerstone of their organization. The Blues wound up drafting Lars Eller and Aaron Palushaj , both who became Montreal Canadiens in return for an excellent starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak.
It’s do or die. Sink or swim. Win, and move on. Lose, and it’s all over.
There really is nothing quite like Game Seven of a Stanley Cup playoff series, and tonight, San Jose Sharks hockey skates into the amazing atmosphere and is eager to get things going against the Los Angeles Kings. There is tremendous history, hope, and heartbreak all rolled up into one night of electric shock therapy for everyone’s nervous system.
It is quite fitting that these two closely matched rivals will play this game, under these circumstances. This season, the Sharks and the Kings were two of the best home teams, and the home team has won every game of the series so far. There is absolutely no room to operate on the ice because of outstanding defensive coverage, and the goaltending from Antti Niemi and Jonathan Quick has been excellent.
The last time that the Sharks have been in a Game Seven, they had the home ice against the Detroit Red Wings. Winning the game on a goal by Patrick Marleau, San Jose advanced to the 2011 Western Conference Final against the Vancouver Canucks. It was the conclusion of perhaps the best playoff series of that particular year, including the Vancouver-Boston Final.
It’s been eleven years since the Sharks have played a Game Seven on the road. In 2002, they traveled to Denver to face off against the Avalanche, and had a golden opportunity to take the lead when Teemu Selanne began to wrap the puck around to beat Patrick Roy. Teemu’s skate got caught in a rut on the ice. He missed. Peter Forsberg scored the only goal.
Colorado won the game, 1-0, and perhaps the best series of that particular playoff season came to an end.
It’s the second Game Seven in an all-California Stanley Cup playoff series. On April 13, 1969, Game Seven was played at the Oakland Coliseum Arena between the Kings and the Oakland Seals. L.A. won that game, 5-3, and completed a series in which they won both Game Six at home and Game Seven on the road.
Tonight, the Sharks look to be the team that does the same thing. To date, road teams have captured two of the three Game Sevens played this post-season. Detroit won at Anaheim, and the Rangers won in Washington. On the other side of the coin, Boston took Game Seven at home against Toronto in overtime.
Oh, yes, there has been overtime in Sharks Game Seven history, too. On May 19, 1995, San Jose traveled to Calgary and on a goal by Ray Whitney at 21:54, advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Final with a 5-4 win against the Flames. In that series, the Sharks also captured both Game Six and Game Seven.
The Kings have not played in a Game Seven since 2002, when they lost, 4-0, on the road in Colorado. They have not hosted a Game Seven since 1989, when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers, 6-3, in a first-round series that was played before the Sharks were born.
L.A. is 3-4 lifetime in Game Seven, including a 2-1 home record. Their most recent Game Seven win was on May 29, 1993, when they won 5-4 at Toronto in a game that guaranteed their advancement to the Stanley Cup Final.
It is impossible to predict anything other than a terrific, closely contested hockey game that will conclude a classic series that has been perhaps the best of all that have been played to date this spring. At the end, as the players shake hands at center ice, we will all know whether there will be a new Stanley Cup champion this year, or whether the Cup champs will earn another opportunity to defend their crown.
May the best team win. It is all about the handshake at the end of the night, and both teams will give it their all to be on the right side of that handshake. It is going to be awesome. It’s what players dream to do, and what hockey is all about.
See you on the radio.
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.
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!
The San Jose Sharks have run smack into the path of playoff adversity, and the circumstances by which it has arrived have been exceedingly uncomfortable for players, coaches, and the fan faithful.
There will be those who wish to abandon ship. There will be those who wish to crawl into the fetal position in a corner of a room, or who prefer to engage in an endless session of hand-wringing, assuming that the worst is here. There are no such characters inside the San Jose Sharks’ dressing room.
In a sense, Game 2 was a case of the hockey gods giving one back to the Kings, in a returned favor from an even more unlikely Sharks playoff comeback at the Staples Center just two short years earlier.
It was Tuesday, April 19, 2011, and it was another playoff game between the Sharks and the Kings. Los Angeles had just won the previous game in the series, 4-0, with Jonathan Quick picking up the shutout. Unlike this season, it was Game 3 of the best-of-seven playoff series, but it was also at the Staples Center, since L.A. didn’t have home ice advantage.
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.