The quarter pole has been reached in the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks season, and it’s been quite a ride so far. The team has endured a previously unprecedented start to the campaign, gone through some rough times, and has emerged in a relatively positive place. In other words, they have survived it!
With regard to the road-heavy schedule, a lot of people have been asking me, “Has anything like this ever happened before?” Well, the answer is yes and no, if you want to know the truth. For more details, let’s consult the world famous Elias Sports Bureau, also lovingly known to us as the “Patrick Elias Sports Bureau” in most cities, or the “Elias Lindholm Sports Bureau” when we’re in North Carolina.
A few things have happened so far that are unprecedented:
- For the first time in history, a team has played 16 of their first 21 games on the road. Yes, there have been seasons where a team has begun out of town due to construction on a building, such as when the New York Rangers began their year with 9 straight on the road in 2013-14. That deserves much attention, but don’t forget that the Rangers played 12 of their first 21 on the road last season.
- To find another team that came close in recent years, look no further than the Sharks in 2009-10, when they played 9 of their first 12 away from home, and 13 of their first 21. That’s a schedule that is comparable to what the Rangers had to endure last season.
- Last season, the Rangers went 3-6-0 in their first 9 road games, 10-11-0 in their first 21, and 6-6-0 in those first 12 road contests. The Sharks had a better record.
- But the old champions in this one area are the California Golden Seals, the team that played in Oakland for 9 years from 1967-76. In their final year in the Bay Area, the Seals played 14 of their first 21 on the road. To quote Krazy George, “Ooh-ooh!”
- The Sharks put together a 10-9-2 record in those 21 games, including an 8-6-2 record in their road schedule. By comparison, the Seals started their year at 7-12-2, including a 4-9-1 road record in that span.
All in all, Sharks Hockey held up reasonably well in those games, even with the valleys (at Florida, at Columbus, at Buffalo) that went along with the peaks (at Anaheim, at Tampa Bay, at Carolina).
Individually, San Jose got pretty solid goaltending from all three of their netminders. For the first time ever, three separate goaltenders recorded shutouts in their season debuts. Rookie Troy Grosenick, of course, had the most memorable performance, with a 45-save night at Carolina that turned out to be the most saves a Sharks goalie had ever made in a shutout, eclipsing Antti Niemi’s record of 41 last year against the Rangers.
If you go back in history, Evgeni Nabokov, Nolan Schaefer, and Vesa Toskala each recorded shutouts in the 2005-06 season, and in 2002-03, Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Vesa Toskala each recorded a shutout. However, neither instance occurred in the first 20 games of a season.
That state of affairs has only happened on two other occasions in NHL history, according to our friends at the “Patrick Elias Sports Bureau.” In 2007-08, the Coyotes got shutouts from Alex Auld, Mikael Tellqvist, and Ilya Bryzgalov in the first 20 games. In 1998-99, Pittsburgh also accomplished the feat, courtesy of J-S Aubin, Tom Barraasso, and Peter Skudra. That’s all, folks!
On defense, Brent Burns finds himself among the NHL leaders in scoring. Through his first 23 games, Burnzie had 7 goals and 12 assists, and his 71 shots on goal were right at the top of the list of men who patrol the blue line.
Rookie Mirco Mueller may have had the most humorous moment of the trip in the waning seconds of the first period in Carolina. With the last couple of seconds ticking down and Mueller with the puck behind the net, he turned his back to the play and had some eye contact with a group of fans in the first two rows of the building until the horn sounded. No one was anywhere near him, but a good laugh was had in the radio booth over that one.
Up front, Joe Thornton was the Sharks’ best player on the road trip. He recorded a point or more in every game of the swing, and scored 4 goals and 4 assists.
You have to take the good with the bad, of course, and so along with the thrilling comeback in Dallas, the sensational team performance in Tampa, and the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious goaltending of Grosenick in Carolina, we also saw some disappointments in Columbus, Florida, and Buffalo.
Now, the Sharks are in the midst of a lengthy homestand. They’ve had some practice time. They’ve gotten some rest. They ‘re on to the next phase of the season.
We are likely to have many more unique experiences on the schedule this coming season, and the Sharks just have to keep on trucking. It’s all about the journey, so let’s enjoy it!
|Quite often Joe Pavelksi is described as "so money."|
While he has been widely recognized in the last several years as being a key member of the Sharks - I'm still not sure Joe Pavelski has received enough credit for his contributions.
|Thanks Mrs. Pavelksi - we really appreciate your son.|
There is no question - right now - we are witnessing #8 entering his prime.
"Little Joe"... "The Big Pavelski"... "Pokey"... the forward has plenty of nicknames, but the more accurate depicters are "productive" and "reliable".
Last season we witnessed Joe's offensive breakout: eclipsing the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career. He ended up with 41. And right now with 9 in the bank, Pavelski is on pace to finish this campaign in the mid 30's. His "worst" season was part of a "sophomore slump" - if you can even call 19 goals and 40 total points "struggling" - back in 2007-08.
But his value extends off the ice too. Inside the dressing room, Pavelski is known as one of the team's great characters. When the chips are down, he is honest, heartfelt, and accountable in his assertions. Certainly this was recognized in his appointment to being an Alternate Captain this season.
However - don't be fooled by the reserved nature and simple appearance - Joe is a chronic jokester. Actually he's a chirping machine, and let me tell you from experience, you can't get much past him. He is aware of basically all things, at all times. It's this kind of personality which all teams need, in order to keep things loose and fresh over the course of a grueling 82 game schedule.
What makes all of this even more impressive: Pavelski was a complete steal in the 2003 entry draft. The Sharks selected him in the 7th round with the 205th overall pick. You'd have to think back then, nobody truly knew what San Jose would be getting less than 10 seasons later at the NHL level.
1) Going into the home game Thursday night against the Florida Panthers, the Sharks were beginning a stretch where they play 33 of the next 48 games at home. Hey, who’s complaining about the road travel now?
2) I said in an earlier blog that the Sharks are the most interesting team in the NHL. I was wrong, Toronto is!
3) Speaking of the recent road trip, I found time to fly from Columbus to Syracuse (on the off-day last Friday) to watch my daughter play. She plays for the UVM (Univ. of Vermont) Woman’s hockey team and I was there to watch them come back from a 3-0 first period deficit to win 6-5 in overtime. Talk about spoiled, I got to see my daughter, watch her team win in OT and see a team I was cheering for score six goals.
4) You know where this was leading. In the last 7 games the Sharks have scored 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1 and 2 goals. That’s 11 goals in seven games for those keeping score at home.
5) So what do the Sharks need to do to start scoring? Well that’s the question they are asking themselves but I’ll chime in with a few thoughts:
- Cleaner, crisper breakouts
- Speed through the neutral zone – attacks off the rush
- Hit the net – not hitting the net means you don’t score on the original shot and can’t create 2nd/3rd scoring opportunities
- Make the goalie move laterally – it opens up holes and makes it more difficult for the goalie to control rebounds
- Muck it up in front of the opponents net and get some gritty, greasy, dirty goals that are created by screens, tips, rebounds and just finding a way to score
6) Some great games coming up:
- Wednesday, Nov. 26 – Calgary Flames (one of the early season surprises)
- Saturday, Nov. 29 – Anaheim Ducks (you remember what happened last game eh?)
- Tuesday, Dec. 2 – Philadelphia Flyers (their only visit to SAP Center this season)
- Thursday, Dec. 4 – Boston Bruins (Original 6 team, Thornton’s old team, enough said!)
7) My thoughts and prayers to Ottawa GM, Bryan Murray, as he fights the stage 4 cancer that is in his body. May he find strength in his battle and peace in knowing he has so many people thinking and praying on his behalf.
8) Joe Thornton has been the most consistent player for the Sharks this season. He is currently riding an 8-game point streak, has 20 points on the season. Of the 20 points, 16 are even-strength points, 7 more than any other Sharks forward.
9) Jason Demers, aka ‘Daddy’ is a wonderful person and I wish him all the luck in Dallas. And I would like to give a big warm welcome to Brenden Dillon who is now part of Sharks Territory.
10) It’s a head scratcher to think the Sharks are done with Columbus, Florida and Buffalo for this year and ended up with a 0-5-1 record.
11) Anaheim and LA are a combined 15-4-4 at home this year. Of the 4 regulation losses, two of them have been to the Sharks who beat LA 4-0 on opening night and Anaheim 4-1 on Oct 26. Scratch scratch!
12) The Sharks are 5-2-1 against teams in the West. That’s a good thing because they play 18 of their next 20 games against teams in the West.
13) I broke up the season into quarters (21, 21, 20 and 20 respectively) and here is how it breaks down from a home/road and West vs East (opponent) standpoint:
- 1st Quarter: Games 1 – 21: Home (5), Away (16), vs West (8), vs East (13)
- 2nd Quarter: Games 22 – 42: Home (13), Away (8), vs West (18), vs East (3)
- 3rd Quarter: Games 43 – 62: Home (14), Away (6), vs West (13), vs East (7)
- 4th Quarter: Games 63 – 82: Home (9), Away (11), vs West (11), vs East (9)
Yesterday was about an NHL debut.
And it was about a shutout win.
And it was about a uniquely entertaining goalie celebration.
But what I will always remember most about San Jose's 2-0 victory over Carolina was the post-game reaction of Troy's father, Scott Grosenick.
This was the moment - the culmination - of all the practices, all the games, all the highs and lows of Troy's career. This was the realization that the 25 year old had "made it". Something which was never a guarantee. And now, something that can never be taken away.
"It's kind of like, just how you write it up when you're a little kid," Troy told Jamie Baker on Postgame Live.
The Sharks backstop was perfect in halting all 45 shots he faced, and too many observers and analysts, was the main reason San Jose came out victorious.
But to me: more than the performance - was achieving this success in front of his immediate family. They converged from Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C., just to be present for the moment.
"The support they have provided me for... how many years... it's going to be really special to be able to share this with them," Grosenick said before even getting the chance to take his gear off.
In an electronic age where hockey headlines are dominated by talk of "illegal hits", extraordinary-sized contracts, and mundane lineup details... what a refreshing moment, yesterday.
Go back, scroll up, and take a look at that picture of Troy's father, one more time.
Imagine ALL he was thinking, and feeling. Years worth of hope, emotion, and love - coming out in the form of tears.
THIS is why we love hockey. And sports.
The Sharks have been on the road a lot this year, haven’t practiced much, and are doing so with a revised leadership group led by 4 assistant captains and no official captain.
They have been streaky, had good starts, bad finishes, bad starts, good finishes and everything else you can imagine. This season has certainly been unpredictable and intriguing to say the least. To that point, here are 4 streaks the Sharks have accomplished prior to their game against Tampa:
First 5 games: 4-0-1
Next 4 games: 0-4-0
Next 4 games: 3-0-1
Next 4 games: 1-3-0
The Tampa game was, in my estimation, the third game this year where the Sharks were really tested from an adversity standpoint. Here are the 3 scenarios:
Game 1 vs LA – after a long summer the team had to endure a delay before the game as the Kings had their Cup Banner raised to the roof. There was no way to know how they would respond.
Outcome: Win 4-0
After a horrible home effort and loss to Buffalo the Sharks found themselves on a 4-game losing streak heading to Anaheim who was at the top of the Western Conference and had not lost on home ice in regulation. It was back-to-back games for the Sharks against a rested Ducks team.
Outcome: Win 4-1
After an uninspiring loss to a Florida team the Sharks next opponent was Tampa who was 6-1-1 at home, had won 4 straight at home, was 6-0-1 in their last 7 games where they averaged 4.7 goals per game and sat atop the Eastern Conference and were 1 point behind Anaheim for top spot in the NHL.
Outcome: Win 2-1
It’s still early but this road weary team has passed the test on 3 occasions against very good hockey teams.
This is great theater, and what sports is all about!
In professional sports, with every injury there is also an opportunity. With Alex Stalock out of the lineup and on inured reserve it’s a chance for Worcester Sharks call-up Troy Grosenick to show what he’s got. He’ll be dressed for his first ever NHL game on Thursday when the Sharks continue their road trip in Tampa.
First of all Grosenick is a good goalie. In college he took his Union Dutchmen team to the NCAA Final Four his sophomore year and became the first ever player from that program to be a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s outstanding play college hockey player.
This year the undrafted free agent leads the American Hockey League in victories with 10 and has a lot of people believing that the Worcester Sharks will be a playoff team and could really do some damage if they get there.
In chatting with Worcester play-by-play man Eric Lindquist he describes Grosenick as a “battler”. The kind of goalie who makes the last save, the big save. He’s athletic and intense. He’s also a character. Grosenick juggles three tennis balls up against the wall as part of his pregame ritual. He’s sporting a totally legit “Movember” moustache and if he happens to get an NHL start and happens to get his fist NHL win, keep an eye on his water bottle. Apparently after a win, Grosenick grabs his water bottle off the top of the net, goes down on a knee and throws the bottle down the ice. Check out this video at about the 2:30 mark.
And if that’s not colorful enough for you, Grosenick’s fiancé Maggie has her own business. She makes bow ties for dogs and sells them. You can’t make this up. You have to love hockey goalies!
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com
On this Veterans Day, I would like to take a moment to reflect with appreciation the dedicated service that our men and women of the armed forces provide us.
Veterans Day actually began as Armistice Day, a national holiday initially proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, commemorating the end of what is now known as World War I. Seven years later, the U.S. Congress passed a concurrent resolution, requesting that President Coolidge observe the 11th of November with ceremonies, and then in 1938, the Congress made the date a legal holiday “to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”
Of course, in 1939, the nations of the world had other ideas, and two years later, the United States entered what is now known as World War II. A war veteran thought it was now appropriate to change the meaning of this holiday to celebrate all veterans, living and dead. General Dwight D. Eisenhower supported this change, and in 1954, when he was President, Ike signed the bill into law, and the holiday has been known as “Veterans Day” ever since.
Interestingly, November 11th is just one day after another interesting date in American history. On November 10, 1775, the United States Marine Corps was created, and exactly 200 years later, on November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank in a Lake Superior storm that claimed the lives of its 29 crew members, and inspired a legendary song by Gordon Lightfoot.
Let us now segue into the current Sharks road trip, and check out what will be happening at center ice tonight in Florida on Veterans Day: U.S. Army Brigadier General Pete Dawkins will be dropping a ceremonial faceoff, and the Panthers players will be wearing camouflage jerseys in warmups to honor military veterans, who will receive the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets to the game.
Pete Dawkins is a fascinating story, both in athletics and in the military. I’m going to paraphrase a story that I read about his remarkable life:
Growing up in Michigan at 11, he contracted polio. At the time, one of the treatments was to place the patient in a back brace, but subsequent research has determined that such treatment actually makes spinal curvature permanent. Dawkins was lucky to have a doctor with forward thinking ideas about physiotherapy. His sessions allowed him to resume athletics after several years, and that led him to his next great moment in life.
Playing football in high school, he was coached by a Marine Corps company commander at Iwo Jima, and it was that coach who guided him toward West Point. They drove all the way there with some game films and without an appointment to see legendary coach Earl “Red” Blaik. Waiting six hours, they were granted a five minute meeting, and it was that experience that made him want to attend.
But it was actually hockey that actually aided Dawkins in his path to the U.S. Military Academy. All of the required Congressional appointments had been given out by the time he applied, and so he was in the alternate pool. But hockey coach Jack Riley, the man who guided the United States to its first Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 at Squaw Valley, saw Dawkins’ hockey abilities, and was able to get him into West Point.
What happened from that point was one of the more amazing stories in college athletics. Dawkins, who was a defenseman in his day, earned three varsity letters playing hockey for Riley, and he worked his way onto the football squad, without giving up hockey, by the time he was a junior. In his senior year, the kid from Michigan who had fought his way through polio put together one of the most dominant performances in college football history, leading Army to an 8-0-1 record and being recognized with the Heisman Trophy, given to the best college football player in the nation.
But at the Heisman Trophy award ceremonies in New York, Dawkins seemed more focused on the fact that he had to miss two days of hockey practice to go to the ceremony. After all, Army had a hockey game that weekend against Brown, and he was eager to join his team in Providence for the game.
After graduation, Dawkins did not have the special dispensations that service academy graduates sometimes receive to play professional sports today. Besides, he was likely going to making more money as an officer than he would have in the NFL back in those days.
But first, there was a trip to Oxford for three years as a Rhodes Scholar, followed later by a doctorate at Princeton. Then, serving our nation in Vietnam as a Captain, he advised the most decorated unit in the Vietnamese Army.
Brigadier General Dawkins wore the number 24 when he played at West Point. His military career lasted a corresponding 24 years. In 2008, his number was retired by the Academy, an honor that has only occurred four times in history. By the way, here are the other retired numbers:
24 Pete Dawkins, 1958 Heisman Trophy winner
35 Doc Blanchard, 1945 Heisman Trophy winner
41 Glenn Davis, 1946 Heisman Trophy winner
61 Joe Steffy, 1947 Outland Trophy winner
12 Representing the Corps of Cadets, the “12th Man.”
To think, it all started because of an ahead-of-her-time doctor, and an amazing athletic career in hockey that led to a legendary football and military career.
This story is but one that shows the honor and the dedication of our military members. Let us thank them all today, on this Veterans Day, on this Sharks road trip, with Brig. General Pete Dawkins in attendance.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
Do the NHL schedulers hate us or what? Lol
- Oscar Hernandez Jr.
It sure might feel that way at times - not only 16 of the first 21 on the road - but the current seven games in 11 day trip, which has the Sharks criss-crossing 9,000 miles around the map in no particular order. BUT... lets not forget hockey is a long season, and what seems like a disadvantage NOW (nine home games in October & November), should turn in the team's favor come December, January & February (24 total home dates). Wouldn't you rather get these difficult parts of the schedule out of the way early? AND... consider how much players and coaches will benefit being "home" during the holidays and thick of winter, as opposed to constantly on the road.
Is it fair to say that the Sharks are pacing themselves like Chicago did last year? Could that be the key to the Sharks success this year?
- Spencer L. Rodriguez
Let me do a hard switch of gears here to build on your suggestion. Look at the San Francisco Giants 2014 season. At early stages they briefly held the best MLB record. But that quickly (and severely) diminished - the team had all sorts of issues hitting and winning games at home. It turns out, NONE of that mattered because they got HOT at the right time, in the second season. In recent times, we've seen NHL teams win the Stanley Cup in similar fashion. So it comes down to these two things: 1) can your team qualify for the playoffs? And 2) do they have the potential to get (almost) unbelievably hot? I think the answers to both questions for the Sharks are yes, and that's why I will always "expect the unexpected" when it comes to winning it all.
Are the players looking forward to being featured on EPIX?
- Colby Clark
To let everyone know: you are referring to extremely behind-the-scenes programming that will be made, in documenting team preparations for the Stadium Series game in February. I guarantee Sharks players don't really have an idea just how much access the production crews will want - because these types of shows don't come around very often. But I DO know they will thrive and enjoy sharing things that never are usually exposed in terms of routines, rituals, and overall lifestyle of the NHL. As someone who already gets to see things "behind the curtain" with the team, even I am looking forward to watching these shows... what does that tell you?!
How do other teams retain and sustain their energy from back to back games?
- Tram Nguyen
Most NHL teams do it the same way, and the real answer is "just do what you can" in terms of rest and nutrition, and lets not forget - quickly preparing and pre-scouting for a second opponent. The real challenge is not necessarily back-to-back games, but the frequent three games in four nights stretches. Those are especially brutal when going from West to East, and you lose time in between travel. I'm glad you brought this up, because I wish the NHL & NBA would reconsider so many condensed portions of their schedule making. I know every team deals with it - but no group will ever be at their best on these quick turnarounds - and isn't that what fans want to see?
Any word on someone being named "Captain" yet?
- Lauren Lancieri
This is definitely the most common question I am asked on social media - and I'm sure it's the same for all other Sharks broadcasters too. The quick answer is: no. But the bigger question: is it likely to happen in the near future? The answer to that: probably not. If somebody emerges over time as Captain, it should be a natural progression... and at this point, I believe we are too shallow in the season for that to organically happen.
Two Roadmaps To Change
Tonight’s matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks is an interesting game in the midst of the 82 game grind. Two organizations have had to take “Two Different Roadmaps To Change.” Both teams have come off a tough end of the 2013-14 season with the Canucks missing the playoffs and the Sharks, well you know the story. Both these organizations have had similar records the last three years posting regular season records: Canucks (113-72-27) Sharks (119-77-26). Maybe the only difference between these two teams over the last three years has been playoff success, the Sharks have won 11 playoff games, and the Canucks only one win in the last three years, but both have had a hard time winning their last game of the season with a Stanley Cup.
That being said, both teams had to make changes before they could move forward. The Canucks decided to start at the top by hiring ex-Vancouver Hockey Legend Trevor Linden to be their President, Jim Benning as their new General Manager, and Willie Desjardins as their new Coach. Along with the management changes, they decided to move out hard-nosed forward Ryan Kesler to Anaheim and getting in return Nick Bonino who has gotten off to a great start. Bonino has scored six goals in 13 games, all of those goals have been even strength. Along with Bonino, they’ve added four other players, Luca Sbisa, Linden Vey, Radim Vrbata, and Derek Dorsett. If you count all the points those five players have added it equates to a big addition of 19 goals, 19 assists, 36 points through 13 games. They’ve also added a world-class goaltender Ryan Miller who is off to one of his best starts of his career nine wins, one loss, 2.21 GAA, .917 Sv %, which is also a huge change in where he started last season 1-10-0. With an eight win difference to start the season, it should have a dramatic impact on Miller's season confidence.
The San Jose Sharks have pushed change by committing to giving youth a chance with guys like Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Mirco Mueller, and Tye McGinn. They’ve also dispersed leadership, allowing younger players to step in that role, which early in this season seems to be working for guys like Tommy Wingels, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. With the tough schedule to start the season for the Sharks, they’ve had to rely on veterans like Joe Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Anti Niemi to steady the ship, by playing some great hockey to start the season. In addition, Thornton & Niemi have come back this season in even better shape along with great attitudes that seem to be that solid foundation any team would want.
Two points in the standing separate these two teams through 13 games to start this "changed" season. So, what will happen tonight between these two teams, scarred by the past, but making change for the future in hopes of winning that last game of the year? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out!