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.
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.
Tomas Hertl’s first two NHL goals were expressive displays of talent, energy and élan that have everyone excited about his rookie season, and his future. After two games, he has two goals and one assist, and his seemingly endless smiles of joy are spreading through the locker room and the city.
Of course, there are many mountains for Hertl to climb, and there will be many challenges along the way, as there were for Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and Joe Thornton before him. However, how he spent his first weekend was an excellent, and unique start to what is hopefully a long and prosperous NHL career.
Let’s not forget the fact that Hertl was 19 years and 327 days old when he put together his first two-goal game. He did it against Mike Smith, one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL, and his two goals showcased different talents. On his first one, after a rough Phoenix line change, he got the puck from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and split the defense, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Derek Morris, who was just coming on the ice to replace Zbynek Michalek. He went to the backhand, deked, and slipped the puck right through Smith.
On his second goal, Hertl was on the ice with the Sharks second power play unit. He used strength, savvy, and stick position to get in front, and neatly tipped a Matt Irwin shot past Smith, showing that he can perform offensively in tight quarters against some pretty solid players.
Moreover, Tomas, who pronounces his first name “TOE-mash,” with that slightly lilting, subtle “sh” at the end, backchecked hard and kept to his responsibilities in both ends of the ice. It’s been a good start, and it is going to be fun to watch him deal with the challenges that are sure to come.
For those who are wondering, there are several other teenagers who have recorded 2-goal games in Sharks history, as noted by our friends at the Elias Sports Bureau via Uncle Darin Stephens:
Patrick Marleau, as many remember, was just 18 when he played in his first NHL regular season season. He had a two-goal night on November 18, 1997 against Anaheim, with Guy Hebert in goal. He was 18 years and 64 days old.
Marleau had two other multi-goal games as a teenager. On January 21,1999, he picked up a pair against goaltender Bob Essensa of Edmonton in a game that was long enough ago to have a 3-3 final result. In an interesting twist, Pat Falloon, Mike Grier and Bill Guerin, either ex- or soon-to-be Sharks, played in the game for the Edmontonians.
Marleau’s other teenaged two-goaler took place on March 17, 1999 against Florida, who had current Phoenix goalie coach Sean Burke in net. Ray Whitney, Alex Hicks, and Bill Lindsay, who all wore the Sharks uniform, were playing for F-L-A, as was Bret Hedican, now covering Sharks hockey for the CSN-California TV team.
It was Falloon who was the first teenager in Sharks history to score 2 goals in a game, and he did it on the road in Edmonton, on November 29, 1991 at the age of 19 years, 68 days. In another tie game, 4-4, Falloon scored his pair against Bill Ranford, who had won the Stanley Cup the year before with the Oilers. Future Sharks Vincent Damphousse and Joe Murphy played for the Oilers in that game.
But the current teenaged king of the multi-goal games for Sharks hockey is Jeff Friesen, who edged Marleau’s 3 gems by turning the trick 4 times, twice at the age of 18 and twice at 19. Included in that is the only hat trick scored by a Sharks teenager to date, on March 20, 1996, on the road in Winnipeg. In a 7-1 Sharks win, Friesen had Nikolai Khabibulin (6 GA) and Dominic Roussel (1 GA) tending net for the Jets. Rookie Shane Doan, now the Coyotes captain, was playing for Winnipeg in that game, as was a man who had worn Sharks teal, Craig Janney.
I’m sure that Tomas Hertl’s recent accomplishment has stirred a few memories, but the most exciting thing to note is that even better things lie ahead.
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.