Thought: When it first starts to rain on a mountain, the rain runs everywhere. But if it continues to rain, the rain will make deeps cuts into the earth where it continues to flow, and those cuts become valleys.
Sitting here in Washington, and reminiscing on all the games I played in this city, the times we spent at the famous hotel The Mayflower, and I can’t tell you what a nice feeling I have right now being able to call this one from the booth. Don’t get me wrong, I miss playing the game, but coming into this building for 10 years within the division (Florida, Carolina) I knew it was going to be a war and had to be ready mentally and physically. You never walked out of this building NOT knowing you played in a hockey game.
With Scott Hannan playing in his 1000th NHL Regular Season game on Tuesday, it also helps me reflect on my 1000 games and knowing how hard that number is to achieve and the level of mental toughness it takes to accomplish. Reading a quote from the head coach Barry Trotz of the Capitals, it speaks to what Scott Hannan has accomplished, and what it takes some nights when your body says no I can’t go out and play tonight because my body can’t do it, but your mind convinces you it can. Trotz speaks on the importance of being mentally strong,
“The bigger lessons form after that was how you responded after some adversity. Your mind says 'I can’t do this,' or ‘It’s going to be too hard, I can’t do this.’ And what you find out is that your mind is lot stronger. Your body is strong, but your mind controls everything. You’ve got to talk yourself through it.”
There were many of nights getting to my 1000 games that I had to talk myself into it, and what I realized after those nights that I went out and played when my body was saying no, is that you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Those tough nights when you go out and play well, makes you realize that your mind is strong, and that sometimes the only thing in your way is your own inability to think positive.
Today’s blog is a great reminder to be positive in what you do every day. Tell yourself positive thoughts, because you deserve it. Not everyone has the ability or the skill to play 1000 games in the NHL, but we all have the ability to accomplish things we didn’t think we could do through the repetition of positive thoughts. The times Scott Hannan said, “I can do this” would dwarf his 1000 games, but that’s what it takes. It’s the belief that you can and the repetition of positive thoughts is what gives us great strength to accomplish great goals.
Thought: Make your thoughts valleys, and let the positive rain fall on you every day!
I’m often asked what the best part of my job as a Sharks broadcaster is. My answer is always the same. I love the unpredictability. Every time I step into the broadcast booth I’m never sure what I’m going to see. It could be a thrilling game or a dud. I might see something I’ve never seen before or it could just be one game among many that is soon forgotten. This season is only 3 games old and I’ve already witnessed an NHL first. The back-to-back shutouts by Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock to start the season had never been done before in the 97-year history of the league. On Tuesday night in Washington it was jaw-dropping time again. Todd McLellan decided to shake up the defence a little bit by replacing rookie Mirco Mueller with Matt Irwin. Irwin then not only scores the first goal of the game but he scores the second one too. This is a guy who scored only twice all of last season in 62 games. And Irwin made franchise history scoring those two goals in the first 4:26 of the game. No Sharks player has ever done that before. And then there’s John Scott. Going into the Washington game he had scored 2 goals in his 236 game career with Minnesota, Chicago, the Rangers and Buffalo. With Mike Brown down with an injury, McLellan opted to give Scott the nod to make his Sharks debut. Scott proceeded to score a beauty of a goal on one of his first few shifts! You just can’t make this stuff up.
The best part of my job? I never know what’s going to happen next!
Winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal for every National Hockey League player, but being selected in the NHL Draft is the first dream that comes true en route to that unforgettable achievement. Such a selection is a tremendous honor, and it’s the first sign that a player has a chance to make it to the greatest hockey league in the world.
But the Draft has not always been the main way that players arrived on the scene. In fact, the original draft that was held in 1963, then called the “NHL Amateur Draft,” held the position that today’s free agency holds in one sense: it produced some NHL players, but was not the primary method of procuring the future stars of the world’s fastest game.
For instance, if the San Jose Sharks were in business back in the 1960’s as one of the “Original Six,” the media guide would not have had the following phrase next to Logan Couture’s name: “Selected by San Jose in the NHL Draft (1st round, 9th overall).” Instead, the more likely phrase would have been, “Product of San Jose Sharks organization.”
Now, even though one could use that phrase about many current Sharks, it had a slightly different meaning back in those halcyon years. By the mid-1940’s, NHL clubs were directly subsidizing what are now called “major junior” teams, and had either outright ownership or working agreements with affiliated American Hockey League clubs, and that gave them exclusive playing rights for the players who played on these teams and who had signed a “C-Form” commitment. Once a player signed such a form, he became an apprentice in the trade of professional hockey, and his entire existence was in the control of the NHL team that had signed him.
Transporting a modern player into that era, a young Logan Couture would have likely signed a C-Form after being watched as a bantam and perhaps a midget by Sharks super-scouts. The Sharks would have subsidized a team in, say, the Ontario Hockey League, and Logan would have automatically become property of that club. Invited to an NHL training camp, he would have likely progressed through a team’s system, first to the American Hockey League, and then to the Sharks.
As is the case today, the rare exception would jump directly to the NHL, and that’s essentially how it all happened for one of the greatest players of all time, Bobby Orr. Signed to a commitment by scout Wren Blair and the Boston Bruins when he was just 14 years of age, Orr played junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals, the Bruins-subsidized organization in the OHL. Then, at 18, in 1966-67, he cracked the Bruins roster, and the rest was history.
While this system certainly vacuumed up most of the burgeoning young talent and provided them a competitive place to play, there were always those who developed later or whom the scouts missed. The NHL Amateur Draft was developed as a way to distribute those talented players around the League.
So it was on a quiet summer day in 1963, at a non-public event at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, that the first NHL Amateur Draft was conducted. The first player ever selected was Garry Monahan, a winger who wound up playing in 748 NHL games for Montreal, Detroit, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Toronto.
After the 1969-70 season, the last vestiges of this system slipped into the modern format of what is now the NHL Draft, which today is a hugely public event that is conducted with much pomp and circumstance over two days, including prime national television coverage. It is in this system that the San Jose Sharks will select their future stars, and in which they possess three picks in the top 60.
The Sharks will select 20th this year, based on their ending position in the standings. Over the course of their history, they have selected with the 20th pick only once. It was 2001, at what is now known as the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, and the Sharks stepped to the podium to select center Marcel Goc.
Goc, of course, would have a memorable first run in the NHL during the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs. After spending a full season in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons, he found himself in the lineup for his first NHL game of any kind in Game 5 of the first round against St. Louis, and he picked up an assist on the series-winning goal by Mark Smith. Then, in round two against Colorado, he scored his first-ever NHL goal of any kind in Game 6, on a play that turned out to be the series-winning goal.
Some other notable 20th-overall selections in the history of the NHL Draft include Larry Robinson (Montreal, 1971), Brian Sutter (St. Louis, 1976), Michel Goulet (Quebec, 1979), Martin Brodeur (New Jersey, 1990), Scott Parker (Colorado, 1998), Brent Burns (Minnesota, 2003), Travis Zajac (New Jersey, 2004), and Michael Del Zotto (N.Y. Rangers, 2008).
Who could the Sharks get with the 51st and 53rd selections? Historically speaking, here are a few names for you: Butch Goring (LA, 51st, 1969), Nicklas Lidstrom (DET, 53rd, 1989), Patrick Elias (NJ, 51st, 1994), David Booth (FLA, 53rd, 2004), Mason Raymond (VAN, 51st, 2005), and Derek Stepan (NYR, 51st, 2008), to name a few.
But in every draft, there is always the hidden gem who turns up, and these players are prime examples of that in Sharks history: Marcus Ragnarsson (99th, 1992), Alexander Korolyuk (141st, 1994), Evgeni Nabokov (219th, 1994), Vesa Toskala (90th, 1995), Miikka Kiprusoff (116th, 1995), Matt Bradley (102nd, 1996), Mark Smith (219th, 1997), Mikael Samuelsson (145th, 1998), Douglas Murray (241st, 1999), Ryane Clowe (175th, 2001), Joe Pavelski (205th, 2003), Alex Stalock (112th, 2005), Justin Braun (201st, 2007), Tommy Wingels (177th, 2008), and Jason Demers (186th, 2008).
Beyond that, there are the free agent players who are also scouted, signed, and developed alongside all those who had the “head start” of being selected in the draft. An outstanding example is Andrew Desjardins, who played in the OHL for four years and was neither drafted, nor signed immediately, by an NHL team. His path to the League went through Laredo, Texas (CHL), Phoenix, Arizona (ECHL), and Worcester, Massachusetts (AHL), before getting to the NHL here in San Jose for the first time in 2010.
As is the case with all of the draftees, past and present, “Desi” has worked his way up through the system, and has earned the right to be identified as the earlier players used to be: “Product of the San Jose Sharks organization.”
It is a designation that all home-grown Sharks players have the right to be proud of, and it is a tribute to the dedication and professionalism of these players, and that of the staff that discovered them, that deserves to be celebrated this week. Whether they’re drafted, acquired in trades, or signed as free agents, they all become products of the organization that developed them.
Make sure that you pay close attention to each and every selection that is made at this week’s draft. You’ll be reviewing some household names of the future, and some Stanley Cup champions in years to come. But on Friday and Saturday, you’ll also see the first dream of young players coming true, with the chance to achieve the ultimate goal.
See you at Stanley’s on Friday at Sharks Ice at San Jose, for the NHL Draft Viewing Party, presented by Coors Light. For more information on that event, click here.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
The FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, an event that occurs every four years, is now underway for the United States, and sports fans from around the world will be following the exploits of their respective nations in what is sure to be a dramatic scene in Brazil. As is the case in international hockey, there are favorites, underdogs, upsets, strange bedfellows, and tremendous competition.
From a hockey fan perspective, it’s interesting to contrast our sport’s premier event, the Stanley Cup playoffs, with what’s happening now in cities like Sao Paolo, Belo Horizonte, and Recife. There is nothing like the World Cup every four years for soccer fans, but there is nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs every year for a hockey fan.
From a San Jose Sharks perspective, of course, there are no smiles over what occurred this past spring, and it seemed appropriate that the final day was Friday, the 13th of June. On that evening, the Los Angeles Kings overcame a 2-1 deficit, tied the game on a power play in the third, and won the Stanley Cup in front of their fan base at the Staples Center. It was the second Stanley Cup championship for the Sharks’ arch rivals, and it capped a spring of disappointment and soul-searching for the Men in Teal.
But beyond the too-early end for the Sharks, the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs were truly a remarkable showcase of the greatest game on earth, and unlike the World Cup or the Olympics, it happens every year, not every four years. Aside from the many remarkable, albeit painful stories that led to the Kings’ championship, there were so many others.
The New York Rangers made it back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years, and that was quite an accomplishment for the Broadway Blueshirts, an excellent and improving team over the course of the season. They beat the Philadelphia Flyers in 7 games, fell behind Pittsburgh 3 games to 1 in round 2, and roared back to take Game Seven at Burgh Hockey in a comeback that rivaled any in this post-season. Then, in a traditional Original Six matchup, they took the Montreal Canadiens in six games, setting things up for the Final against the Kings.
The Chicago Blackhawks, like the Sharks , saw their season end too soon, and as was the case with San Jose, they were defeated in Game Seven at home by the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Chicago trailed its series 3 games to 1 before fighting back to force Game Seven. But as was the case for three great teams, they dropped Game Seven at home to the Kings.
One of the most interesting aspects, of course, of the Stanley Cup playoffs is how grueling it is over the span of years. Consider the path of the two Finalists. The Kings have played an NHL record 64 playoff games in the past three seasons, which gives them a grand total of 276 games played. But the Rangers, with 57 playoff contests in the last three years, are not far behind, with 269 games played. By comparison, the Sharks have played in 23 playoff contests in the last three seasons, ranking them 8th among all teams. That’s a total of 235 games overall for the Sharks in that span.
The new season officially kicks off with the NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, with the first round scheduled for Friday, June 27th. The future stars of the world’s fastest game will be selected, and the Sharks will begin their long journey to training camp, looking forward with excitement. The coaches, players, and hockey staff are already doing so.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky for sjsharks.com.
It’s hard not to be inspired watching the 2014 NHL playoffs, which many consider to be the best playoffs in years, many years meaning in decades. The passion and parity of this year's playoffs has been off the charts amazing and another reason why hockey is the ultimate team sport.
I decided to look up the meaning of inspiration and here is the definition from the World English Dictionary:
Inspiration -- noun
- stimulation or arousal of the mind, feelings, etc, to do special or unusual activity
- the state or quality of being so stimulated or aroused
- someone or something that causes this state
- an idea or action resulting from such a state
So let’s talk about inspiration from a leadership standpoint because great leaders inspire others to be stimulated, aroused and do special things, like go above and beyond when it matters most.
Here are examples from the four teams that played the Conference Finals.
PK Subban is all about inspiration and was the emotional leader for Montreal as they beat the top-seeded Bruins in the 2nd round before falling to the Rangers in the Conference Finals.
How about Toews and Kane from the Blackhawks? They are all about inspiring others. The Blackhawks have won 2 Stanley Cups in the last 4 seasons and a lot of the reason has to do with their inspirational leaders. The way the Hawks battled back from a 3-1 series deficit to the Kings and taking game 7 to overtime was beyond impressive and it started with the inspiration from its leaders.
The LA Kings get inspiration from the likes of Doughty, Williams, Quick, Kopitar and Brown as they have an unrelenting ability to inspire and a ‘refuse to lose’ attitude. The Kings have won three straight game 7’s on the road, for the first time in NHL history, and have done so against great teams; San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago. Their leaders inspire others to be better and it’s why they are in the Stanley Cup Finals.
And last but not least the NY Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist is all about inspiring his teammates to be better, but the circumstances that have followed Dominic Moore and Marty St. Louis are taking inspirational leading to a higher power. Could the Rangers be a team of destiny because of the inspiration from their leaders?
The NHL playoffs are all about passion and inspiration. It’s been great theater so far and the Stanley Cup Finals promises to continue the trend of amazing hockey.
What a treat it is to be a hockey fan right now!
I don’t think that there is anyone who believes that the NHL’s conference final series are “over,” but everyone must agree that the hockey that is being played is absolutely spectacular.
The sight of Martin St. Louis taking advantage of an opportunity and scoring a superbly placed OT game-winner for the New York Rangers against Montreal certainly was inspirational for Gotham hockey fans.
Meanwhile, in the LA-Chicago series, the Blackhawks made it close the night before, but the Los Angeles Kings got a big goal from Drew Doughty in the third period and took a 2-1 series lead in their 4-3 victory.
One of the interesting notes about the Kings and the Rangers is that they’re the only teams in the NHL with 50 or more post-season games played in the last three seasons. As of today, here are the top 10 post-season teams in that time span, arranged by winning percentage:
|1||LOS ANGELES||55||35||20||0.636||150||109||9||8||1||0.889||Won Stanley Cup|
|2||CHICAGO||44||27||17||0.614||119||103||7||6||1||0.857||Won Stanley Cup|
|4||NEW JERSEY||24||14||10||0.583||60||58||4||3||1||0.75||Lost Final|
|5||PHOENIX||16||9||7||0.563||37||35||3||2||1||0.667||Lost Conference Final|
|6||N.Y. RANGERS||50||26||24||0.52||118||107||7||5||2||0.714||Conference Final|
|7||ANAHEIM||20||10||10||0.5||56||55||3||1||2||0.333||Lost Round 2|
|9||NASHVILLE||10||5||5||0.5||22||21||2||1||1||0.5||Lost Round 2|
|10||PITTSBURGH||34||17||17||0.5||110||103||6||3||3||0.5||Lost Conference Final|
It really is amazing to note that both Los Angeles and New York are playing fresh hockey, even though they’ve endured so many grueling games over these past three playoff campaigns. They each have played in more than 50 post-season contests in that time span. Chicago has also played in 44 playoff games, while the Canadiens have 20. San Jose, by the way, has played in 23 playoff games, 8th most in the NHL since the 2011-12 season.
The remaining teams are all strong in goal. With Carey Price out the Canadiens have been going with Dustin Tokarski, who won the Memorial Cup in 2008 and MVP honors with Spokane, won the World Junior Tournament for Canada in 2009, and added the Calder Cup championship in 2012 with the Norfolk Admirals to his resume. Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford have Stanley Cup championships, and are looking for another, while Henrik Lundqvist is an elite netminder looking for his first Stanley Cup crown.
All four teams have excellent defensemen who are firmly in the prime of their NHL careers. All have been doing an admirable job in both ends of the rink. When considering this position, think Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Ryan McDonagh, and P.K. Subban.
Up front, each team is configured slightly differently, but even though the road has been grueling, players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Thomas Vanek, and Lars Eller have been making tremendous offensive contributions.
The role players, as is usually the case with teams that advance this far, are all significant with the four clubs.
Here is a tip of the hat to the NHL and the clubs still competing for the Stanley Cup. It’s been quite an amazing ride for them. I’m Dan Rusanowsky, for sjsharks.com.
Many fine players have passed through the San Jose Sharks dressing room over the past two plus decades. Igor Larionov was the first former Shark to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and Ed Belfour later joined him. Mike Vernon and Bernie Nicholls still have a solid case to get in. Joe Thornton will certainly be a HOFer some day and Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov will no doubt get consideration too. But in my view there has never been as iconic of a player in the history of the franchise as Teemu Selanne.
Selanne played his last NHL game last week when Anaheim was eliminated from the playoffs by Los Angeles. His career was outstanding. Selanne broke into the league with the Winnipeg Jets and shocked the world with a record 76-goal rookie season. It’s a record that still stands today and it earned him the Calder Trophy. After that all he did was consistently produce. Over his 21-year career Selanne scored 684 goals and recorded 1457 points. His 255 power play goals are the third most ever. His 110 game winning goals are the third most ever. He had 22 hat tricks.
Has any former Shark received more accolades than Teemu Selanne? Along with his Calder award he also won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard trophy for leading the NHL in goals. He went to the All Star Game 10 times, captured four Olympic Medals for his native Finland and then capped it all with a Stanley Cup championship in Anaheim in 2007.
Regrettably Selanne’s time in San Jose was short. He played 176 games over parts of three seasons scoring 64 goals and 131 points. In his 18-playoff games in teal he had five goals and 10 points. But Selanne had knee trouble before and during his time as a Shark and he was never really the electrifying player that he was in other places.
But make no mistake that Selanne was a special player and person with the Sharks. On the ice he was a top scorer and playmaker. Off the ice he was a tremendous citizen who connected with the fans and touched many lives in San Jose and the Bay Area through the charitable work that he and his wife Sirpa always made a priority. And what an inspiration he has always been. The only time I’ve ever seen Selanne without a smile on his face was after losing a game.
Teemu Selanne is a bona fide, slam-dunk, no doubt about it, first ballot Hockey Hall of Famer. We were blessed to have him in San Jose for those three years and it will be a long time before we ever see a player of his caliber. Congratulations to “The Finnish Flash” on a remarkable career!
Best of Seven
Whoever came up with the best of seven game format to determine playoff winner should be knighted. The twists and turns, the constant give and take and the tension created by seven games is simply wonderful. Home ice can be huge in any NHL Playoff series but it’s not everything. If the lower seaded club wins one of their first two games on the road, it changes everything.
Click here to learn more about the trends of a best of seven visit.
This past week Sharks GM Doug Wilson appeared on a conference call with members of the media. There was little doubt about Wilson’s emotions a full two weeks after the LA Kings eliminated the Sharks. Doug said he was unhappy with the result, but more ticked about the surrendering of a 3-0 series. It was only the 4th time in NHL history a team had won the first three of a series, only to lose the next four.
Look for a major facelift of the Sharks roster come training camp in September. Two initial changes were announced during the media call. Winger Martin Havlat, despite a year remaining on his contract, will not be back. Havlat was brought to the San Jose camp to add skill and his high-powered offensive style. But Marty struggled to remain healthy and when he was at 100% he failed to provide any grit or fire, both prerequisites to any effective NHLer. Also Wilson announced that veteran defender Dan Boyle would not be offered a new contract. Two main reasons came into play with that decision. First, Boyle will be 38-years-old come opening night next October. Second, the Sharks were not interested in offering a multi-year deal. San Jose wants to get younger and grittier, especially on the blueline. While Boyle was ‘devastated’ by the news, he wasn’t surprised. Boyle will become a free agent on July 1 and he certainly will find a home for the 2014-15 season.
During his six seasons in teal, Boyle was the definition of a ‘gamer’. He’ll long be remembered by Sharks fans as a smart, skilled, play-making d-man. He was a true professional both on and off the ice. I will always remember his tireless skating and clever moves to get the puck up the ice.
These two moves will free up some cap space which will give San Jose more flexibility going forward. Stay tuned.
Former Sharks Success
As a Sharks follower, it was especially tough to see the rival Kings topple San Jose’s playoff dreams, but there are those in San Jose and around the league that were quietly pleased to see success come the way of former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter and ex-GM Dean Lombardi. Both are dedicated hockey men and they contributed greatly to the Sharks success going back to the mid 1990’s.
Playoff Bracket Format
The NHL’s new bracket-style playoff format will take time to establish it's goal of enhancing rivalries. It was tough to see either the Kings or Sharks get knocked out in round one, but it did allow for all-California series in Rounds 1 and 2. Those matchups will stoke the fires for next years’ regular season contests and undoubtedly for future playoff seasons.
Hockey in Seattle
It was quietly reported recently that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made a stop in Seattle to speak with city leaders. Both parties are interested in prospect of bringing the NHL to the Emerald City. Time will tell, but a new arena is in the plans, and there is interest in local ownership for an NHL club. It must be noted that the Seattle market loves the NBA and is very interested in replacing their Sonics which was relocated to Oklahoma City. Can Seattle support both the NBA and the NHL? With the right ownership, and strong corporate support, the answer is a bold ‘absolutely!’.
Enjoy the exciting Stanley Cup Final Four.
Notes from the first round…
Last night at Staples Center the Kings beat the Sharks 6-3 forcing a game 5 in San Jose this Saturday. The Kings made a statement to everyone involved that they will not go down without a fight. The Sharks also made it clear that they will not back down from anyone. With the game essentially decided the 2 California teams found a way to make the final moments of game 4 get chippy. Game 5 seems to be set to be a memorable classic playoff battle.
Despite the San Jose being up 3 games to one in their series, the Sharks-Kings rivalry is alive and well. With three playoff meetings in the past 4 seasons there are plenty of bragging rights authored by each California club.
The Sharks captain, Joe Thornton, scored the game 6 and series winner in 2011. Last season the Kings/Sharks series ‘deux’ went the 7-game distance, only to see the Kings capture the deciding game in LA. Both teams brought their solid franchise core to this spring’s 1st round matchup.
In many ways these teams mirror one another. LA and San Jose both have excellent coaches. The Kings Darryl Sutter plays it ‘old-school’. He’s a no nonsense guy who demands unwavering discipline and effort. Anything less and Sutter will find a way to get his group re-engaged. The Sharks bench boss, Todd McLellan is not afraid to lay down the law either, but his style is to stress details and create an environment of responsibility. Players know they are responsible to their team and their teammates. Todd’s staff spends considerable time breaking down tape, to ensure each player is prepared and provided with best information possible. Both coaches are genius at making adjustments during the game. Lastly both are winners. Sutter led the Kings to NHL royalty status by capturing the Stanley in 2012 while McLellan was part of the coaching staff in Detroit that led the Wings to the 2008 Cup.
The Kings Cup squad was built around a great puck-moving D-man (Drew Daughty) and a corps of forwarded who combine skill, speed and work ethic (Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards). The Sharks long run as an NHL power has been anchored by future hall-of-famer Joe Thornton, franchise icon Patrick Marleau and a combination of young and experienced impact players. Both clubs have consistently restocked their rosters via the NHL draft.
Regardless of the outcome the Sharks-Kings rivalry is set up for years to come. Both GMs, Doug Wilson of the Sharks and Dean Lombardi of the Kings know what it takes to assemble a competitive NHL squad. Like great chess masters they can look into the future and anticipate the dynamics of their organization.
It’s been fun to watch these two emerging hockey markets grow and embrace the west coast game, especially those matchups with feature the Sharks, Kings and the Powerful Anaheim Ducks. These games are some of the most anticipated be it regular season or the playoffs.
As we prepare for game 5 of the series it’s interesting to ponder the idea of young California kids watching these games, falling in love with the game and identifying with California natives, Matt Nieto of the Sharks and Alec Martinez of the Kings. This series will certainly add to the rich history of California hockey. Mark my words; it won’t be all that long until we see a fresh crop of California hockey talent break into the NHL.
So as you watch the Sharks and Kings face off tomorrow, be aware you are seeing one of the great rivalries of the NHL. Enjoy the games.
Something we learned watching game 1 of the Kings/Sharks series was that no lead is ever safe in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sharks burst out of the gate to a 5-0 lead after two periods. But it wasn’t by luck that the Los Angeles Kings won the Cup in 2012. Three 3rd period goals and a wave after wave attack by the Kings made it clear that each and every game will be a struggle.
It’s not a coincidence that when the San Jose club stopped finishing their checks the Kings came to life. Sunday’s Game 2 will start with a 0-0 tie and the Sharks need to again push the pace and play the body for all 60 minutes.
The Kings’ all-world netminder Jonathon Quick never seemed in control of his game following the Sharks crashing of the net from the opening faceoff. Expect Quick to rebound and give his team a great chance to win in Game 2. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Quick will not give up 5 goals again this series.
How different are the Sharks with Tomas Hertl and Raffi Torres back in the lineup? Hertl's debut in the Stanley Cup was impressive as he scored one goal and chipped in with an assist. The amazing thing about the Sharks’ rookie phenom is he doesn’t get rattled. He doesn’t shy away from physical play and works to make plays at every turn. As for Torres, his body on body style of play clearly rattled the Kings. If Torres can continue his hard-nosed style while staying out of the penalty box he will prove to be a force on every shift.
This season two Sharks in particular appeared grow their game by leaps and bounds. Jason Demers has blossomed into a solid, trusted puck-moving defenseman who also has upped his level of battle. Operating in the shadow of veteran d-man Dan Boyle for the past few seasons, Demers has been a good study and gives San Jose highly valuable right-handed blueliner.
Up front, James Sheppard is playing an inspired game. The former first-round pick of the Wild suffered a horrific ATV accident that put his career in Jeopardy. Sharks GM Doug Wilson identified Sheppard’s potential and said yes while many teams said no. That decision has been paying off as Sheppard was named the Sharks’ Player of the Month for March. Combined with the return of Hertl and Torres, Sheppard’s play makes match-ups difficult for the Kings’ bench boss Darryl Sutter.
This first-round matchup has the potential to be an epic test of wills. Enjoy.
Into Twitter? Do yourself a favor and follow Darin Stephens @SharksStats. Darin is the main graphics man for the Sharks television games on Comcast Sports Net California. His ability to get deep inside the numbers of hockey makes him the best in the biz.
Samples of his work from last night…
--The Sharks are the 1st team to score 6+ in their playoff opener since the 2007 Senators.
--Tomas Hertl (20 years old) is the youngest Shark to score a playoff goal since Patrick Marleau (19 years old) in 1999.
Make note of the 7:00 p.m. start time for this Sunday’s Game 2 in San Jose.