Who will the Sharks face in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Who do they want to face in the Stanley Cup playoffs? Let’s look at that moving target as of this moment, go through the possibilities, and decide.
As of this moment, the Western Conference field is not set. There are nine teams playing for eight spots. The Minnesota Wild can clinch a spot and eliminate Columbus if they win tonight against Edmonton in any fashion, and if that doesn’t happen, they’ll have another chance at Colorado on Saturday.
Detroit can get into the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season if they get one point in their season finale against Dallas.
Columbus can get in if they win their last game against Nashville, but only if the Red Wings lose in regulation to Dallas. Then, the final team, either Minnesota or Detroit, would be determined by the outcomes of the last two Minnesota games. Detroit would need a lot of help to make it in that situation.
Has your head exploded yet?
Now, let’s look at the possible opponents, and render a decision as to which one you want to play.
The Sharks can still finish fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh in the Western Conference. Their potential opponents could be: Anaheim, Vancouver, St. Louis, or Los Angeles.
ST. LOUIS: It could be a setup to avenge last season’s WCQF defeat, but it would also involve the most travel for San Jose in the first round. St. Louis is a good sports town, and the Sharks have faced St. Louis four times in the playoffs, so there’s a longstanding rivalry there.
VANCOUVER: Another opportunity to avenge a stinging playoff defeat, this time the WCF round in 2011. Vancouver is a great city with passionate fans. It isn’t a long flight to VAN, either. It would be a great series.
LOS ANGELES and ANAHEIM: No explanation is really necessary, is it? These are the two big geographical rivals for the Sharks, it’s an easier travel situation, and either series would be a classic. The Sharks would get the chance to either knock out the defending Stanley Cup champions or would have a chance to avenge a bitterly disappointing playoff loss in 2009.
FINAL VERDICT: The Sharks want to finish the season with a winning note on the road, and that would give them their only chance to capture home ice with a fourth seed. But as to the opponent or the seeding, it really doesn’t matter. Let’s remember the lesson from last year, when the eighth-seeded Kings steamrolled through everyone to win the Stanley Cup. In the final analysis, winning the Stanley Cup is the only thing that matters, regardless of playoff seeding or opponent.
See you on the radio on Saturday in Los Angeles, and find out how it all turns out!
With only four laps to go in the regular season race, it’s a fight to the finish for positioning with no pit stop windows open for all 30 teams in the NHL. It’s been interesting to hear the perspectives of the players and coaches as the intensity ratchets up, the margins for error get thinner, and everything comes together for the men in Teal.
Case in point number one involves the search for more offense and what needs to be improved. During our KFOX/Sharks Radio Network broadcast from Dallas, associate coach Larry Robinson said, “I personally think we can get better in our D-zone coverage when we don’t have the puck.
Offensively, I think that’s going to come, getting to the net more and that kind of stuff, but going into the playoffs, I think it’s not so much about what you do offensively, it’s more about what you do defensively, and no better example than last year, when you had two of the top defensive teams in the League going at it in the Finals, so that’s the point that we want to get to.”
It was interesting to hear that, because the Sharks have been doing a good job in defensive areas for much of the season, and have gone through stretches where they couldn’t score goals. Yet in the past few games, Robinson’s mantra of continuously focusing on improving the defensive game has brought many benefits in the other area of the ice.
Brent Burns played Colin Kaepernick hockey against the Los Angeles Kings yesterday, and in a 42 second span, he scored a goal and assisted on another by TJ Galiardi. He played the point on the power play. He is, in a way, returning the era of the “rover” to today’s NHL without the too-many-men-on-the-ice call.
Raffi Torres showed a nifty move in the shootout to pick up the game-deciding goal. He provided a much-needed presence all over the ice.
Antti Niemi had a spectacular night in goal, making many spectacular saves. One of his best was against Mike Richards during a 5-on-3 penalty killing sequence that was a heart-stopping, thrilling moment.
On the other side of the ice, the Kings gave it their all as well. After Niemi’s great save on Richards and the first penalty to Galiardi ended, Jake Muzzin perfectly placed a shot from the point through traffic and got the Kings on the board. Then, on a play where a penalty was to be called against San Jose, Anze Kopitar got the shot away, and Dustin Brown was able to will the rebound into the net to tie the score.
Let’s not forget Jonathan Quick, either. He had some spectacular saves down the stretch, including an amazing span midway through the third period off Tommy Wingels and Raffi Torres following a turnover.
It was a classic regular season game, one of the better ones that we’ve seen in the past few years, and it was punctuated by the fact that the Sharks were the team that had played and traveled the night before. It makes everyone look forward to the next game, and the next one after that, and that goes for Kings fans, too, who undoubtedly have circled the season finale on April 27th at Staples Center as a rendezvous point for their return barrage.
Here are two sidebars from last night’s great Sharks win against the Detroit Red Wings that continued the tremendous history in the series between the two clubs. Both have a somewhat predictive quality, and one is illustrative of what hockey is all about.
If you listen to the “Coach’s Chalkboard” segment with Todd McLellan on KFOX 98.5/102.1 and the San Jose Sharks Radio Network affiliate stations near you, you usually get a gem or two from the leader behind the bench. Here is a modest case in point from last night’s game:
McLellan was showing some concern about the previous loss in Columbus, but he saw the Detroit game as a chance to squash the poor memory of that disappointment. “Our opportunity that lies in front of us is a good one,” he said on the radio.
Sharks hockey hits the road today for an important four-game trip, with stops in Columbus, Detroit, Dallas, and Phoenix. It’s a well thought out trip, as the team has the flight all the way East on the first day, and works its way back to a shorter return trip home at the end of the excursion.
While the 7-game winning streak came to an end with the shootout loss against Dallas, the Sharks still are 9-0-4 in their last 13 games at HP Pavilion, and at 14-1-5, they possess the NHL’s top home record as of this writing. Now it’s time to beef up the road record, which is currently 6-10-2.
I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts that came out of the Dallas game, some of which made the radio airwaves, and some which did not:
Antti Niemi picked up an assist on the second Sharks goal that was scored by Brent Burns. It was his fourth career assist, and only his second as a Shark. His first Sharks assist came in the very first game that he played in a San Jose uniform, on October 8, 2010, at Columbus. A further check of the schedule reminds us that the word “at” really applied to both teams, as Niemi made his Sharks debut against the Blue Jackets at Ericsson Globen Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
It’s too bad that Stars winger Lane MacDermid didn’t suit up against the Sharks, because I would have been able to note that he scored his first goal on April 3 in Anaheim. Exactly 31 years earlier, on April 3, 1982, his father Paul MacDermid scored his first NHL goal.
Well, a father and a son scoring their first NHL goal on the same day is a pretty neat nugget, but how about this? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a father and a son had already picked up their first NHL goals on the same day once before! On November 3, 1972, Gerry O’Flaherty, now a scout, picked up his first goal while playing for the Vancouver Canucks. His father, John “Peanuts” O’Flaherty, notched his first NHL goal on November 3, 1940, while playing for the New York Americans.
Now, that’s one of the great nicknames in hockey history, and it isn’t because Peanuts was 5-7 and 145, which would certainly be diminutive today. Apparently, he got the nickname because he earned extra cash by selling peanuts at Maple Leaf Gardens!
The nickname also one-ups his other son, Bill “Flapper” O’Flaherty, who was a very successful coach at Clarkson University and later, director of player personnel for the Los Angeles Kings. I always thought that Billy received his nickname due to the way that he waved his arms in the direction of the officials when disputing calls from the Tech bench. One thing is for certain: the O’Flahertys are another example of a solid hockey family.
By the way, “Peanuts” O’Flaherty only played in 21 NHL games, scoring just 5 goals and 1 assist, all with the Americans. He played for Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians for a couple of years, but settled in with the Pittsburgh Hornets for seven more seasons.
Anyway, it’s off to the road for the San Jose Sharks, and we’re looking forward to bringing you all the action on the radio. See you there!
The San Jose Sharks have acquired Scott Hannan from the Nashville Predators and Raffi Torres from the Phoenix Coyotes today in two important trades that help the team and have a “full circle” feeling to them.
Let me explain. Hearing those names today takes me back to one date in San Jose Sharks history. It was May 8, 2006, and HP Pavilion was rocking with Game Two of the Western Conference Semi-final round between the Sharks and the Edmonton Oilers. San Jose had the 1-0 lead in the best of seven series, and it was another tight checking, hard hitting game between two teams with little love lost on each side.
Late in the first period, the crowd was so loud that LW Nils Ekman didn’t hear the officials blow the play dead. He shot the puck into an empty net, and was promptly nailed by both Torres and goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Roloson got a penalty. Torres got nothing.
At 4:53 of the second period, a series-changing moment occurred, when Torres blasted San Jose LW Milan Michalek with a legal body check that re-taught Michalek the value of not skating through the neutral zone with one’s head down. It was the end of Michalek for the next three games, and it was a moment that allowed the Oilers to maintain a swagger.
Later in the second stanza, Patrick Rissmiller and Josh Gorges took penalties just 19 seconds apart, giving the Oilers a 5-on-3 skating advantage. During that situation, San Jose put Mark Smith, Kyle McLaren, and Scott Hannan on the ice. The Oilers put the pressure on. Two players broke their sticks. McLaren ended up with the only stick.
Hannan capped the sequence by batting the puck out of the zone with his glove, and HP Pavilion’s decibel count raised to one of its highest levels in history.
You can hear the KFOX/Sharks Radio Network call of the action here.
What have the Sharks picked up today? All you have to do to find out is go back to May 8, 2006. You’ll find a physical winger that gets under the skin of his opponents and can make series-changing plays. You’ll also find a veteran defenseman that figures out a way to keep the puck away from his goaltender, often under the highest level of pressure.
That pretty much sums things up on this Trade Deadline Day. See you on the radio!
It’s always such a pleasure to call the action when the San Jose Sharks face the Detroit Red Wings. The style of hockey that is played is, all at once, fast, hard skating, thrilling, and clean. It brings back memories of some great Sharks triumphs along with some bitter Sharks disappointments, but it really sets the tone for the way that professional hockey ought to be played.
When the Sharks last faced the Red Wings in the 2011 playoffs, all of hockey got more of the same. That series was the finest of all of the series played that season, with the possible exception of the seven-game Final series between Vancouver and Boston.
Last night, at HP Pavilion, another awesome game was played between these two long-time rivals, and the Sharks captured the victory, 2-0. Antti Niemi was outstanding in net, but it took contributions from everyone working together in order to get to the desired result.
You have to tip your hat to the Red Wings for putting together a solid effort of their own that was typical of their history. In fact, one of the more spectacular individual moments in the game occurred when Pavel Datsyuk performed some magic in a one-on-one situation with Logan Couture. Check the evidence here, from the point of view of the Detroit telecast:
Logan Couture is one of the most competitive and talented players on the Sharks roster, so when you watch what Datsyuk did, you see why he has to be one of the truly best players in the game. Couture, by the way, had an excellent night in all three zones, and celebrated his 24th birthday in style with the Sharks win.
Let the homestand continue!
What is “Billy Mosienko Time?”
For those of you who have listened to our broadcasts, you know that it means that a team needs more than one goal to force overtime, but time is dwindling in the game. It’s named for the late Billy Mosienko, who scored three goals in just 21 seconds for the Chicago Blackhawks on March 23, 1952, at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.
What is “Teemu Selanne Time?”
For those of you who have seen the Finnish Flash play, it usually means that it’s a Sharks game where he is on the opposing roster. Selanne scored his first NHL goal against the Sharks at the Cow Palace, way back in October of 1992, and he’s close to becoming the first player to record 100 points against San Jose in his career. But so far this season, Selanne has not recorded a single point against Sharks Hockey, and the team is hoping that stays that way in the final two games of the season series.
What is “Marleau Time?”
It’s the third period, where Patrick Marleau has scored more goals than anyone since the 2005-06 NHL season. Marleau has two goals on this trip, and one of them, scored on March 18th at the Honda Center against the Ducks, came at the 19:31 mark of the second period, which is pretty close to being “Marleau Time.”
What is “Sharks Hockey Time?”
When the Sharks really need to record a win, they tend to gather all of their energies and get it done with a combination of determination, resolve, goaltending, and timely play. As the road trip concludes, what is definitely needed is a little “Sharks Hockey Time,” which might need some “Marleau Time,” but hopefully no “Billy Mosienko Time” and definitely no “Selanne Time.”
See you on the radio tonight.
Martin Brodeur has joined Evgeni Nabokov as the only two goaltenders to ever score a power play goal.
It happened on March 21, 2013, in Raleigh, North Carolina, while the Devils were on the power play. Brodeur had just returned to action after missing over a dozen games with an injury. As he tipped the puck away into the corner, the Devils were signaled for a delayed penalty. With Carolina’s Dan Ellis leaving the ice for an extra attacker, Jordan Staal gained control and attempted to pass the puck back to the point to defenseman Tim Gleason.
Staal missed. Gleason reached. He couldn’t get it. It bounced off the side boards and went all the way down the ice into the vacated net. The score was 1-0, New Jersey, and since the future Hall of Fame goaltender was the last to touch the puck for the Devils, he was credited with the goal.
Of course, in noting all of this, I couldn’t help but recall that Nabokov also scored a power-play goal, on March 10, 2002, in Vancouver. The Sharks were also on the power play and the net was also vacated, but the reason why was because it was late in the third period and the Canucks were desperately trying to come back in the game.
Nabokov had the puck to the side of his goal. He fired it. The puck went the length of the ice and into the net. Nabokov had scored the first power play goal by a goaltender in NHL history.
Sometimes, a change of seasons brings forth a change of perspective, and with two straight Sharks losses on their current road trip, it is heartening to know that spring is here.
Spring begins on the occasion of the vernal equinox, when days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and where the Sun rises due East and sets due West. It marks increasing daylight, the end of hibernation, the return of green pastures and flowery landscapes, and a general rebirth.
Today in Edmonton, there isn’t much sign of spring, as the temperatures will rise to about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, wind, and a 50% chance of snow later in the evening. In other words, it’s hockey weather.
Today, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is slated to skate in his 500th career game. He’s one of several “home grown” Sharks who have reached that point in his career with the team. That includes Scott Hannan, Marcus Ragnarsson, and Mike Rathje. He is the youngest to do so, at 25 years (plus 355 days) of age, and he’s the kind of player who will continue to excel for years to come.
It’s interesting to note that Vlasic is only the 11th player to skate in 500 games in a Sharks uniform. Along with Rathje (671 games), Ragnarsson (519), and Hannan (508), there are seven additional players who have accomplished the feat: Patrick Marleau (1145), Joe Thornton (573), Owen Nolan (568), Evgeni Nabokov (563), Marco Sturm (553), Mike Ricci (529), and Jeff Friesen (512). That’s a pretty distinguished group of Sharks!
Douglas Murray is scheduled to skate in his 450th Sharks/NHL game tonight, but he will have to wait until next season to get to 500 because of the shortened schedule. Brad Stuart will play in his 406th Sharks game (his first 377 were with San Jose before beginning his “Great Circle Route” around the NHL via Boston, Calgary, Los Angeles, and Detroit before returning to the Sharks this year).
With the beginning of spring, the newly achieved milestones, and some hard work, the Sharks are hoping for rebirth in the win column on this road trip. If that happens, it couldn’t be on a more symbolic day: the first day of spring.