We’ve all seen the popular “This is Sharks Territory” signs. So just where exactly do you suppose Sharks Territory is?
It used to be that you could draw a large circle on a map around HP Pavilion, toss in San Mateo and parts of Alameda county, and that was pretty much Sharks Territory. Not anymore.
As the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs escalates NBC Sports Network and the NHL Network are picking up our Sharks telecasts and distributing them nationally. Combine this “wide” coverage with the ability to view games on the Internet and you get a whole different idea of where Sharks fans live.
Thursday night during the Sharks 6-1 win over Minnesota I got Twitter messages from viewers in Des Moines (Iowa), Prince Edward Island, Guadalajara (Mexico), Charleston (South Carolina), Fresno, Las Vegas, Lindsay (Texas), Bellingham (Washington), Omaha, Kamloops (British Columbia), Brazil, Montreal, Chico, Newfoundland, Finland and Bali!
As you can see, Sharks fans can literally be found all over the globe. It’s a blast to be connected to so many of you through our telecasts and the web. And the way the hockey team is playing at this important time of the season, life in Sharks Territory is pretty good.
I’m Randy Hahn
“The Sharks game tonight is huge!”
Get used to hearing that a lot between now and the end on the regular season April 27th. The Sharks have seven games remaining in this shortened 48 game NHL regular season. None of their remaining opponents have clinched a playoff spot yet, and none have been eliminated from contention. And oh yes, throw the Sharks into that group as well.
Tonight the Sharks visit the Phoenix Coyotes. It’s an especially crucial game for the Desert Dogs. Phoenix has 43 points, 4 points behind the 8th place Detroit Red Wings. After tonight the Coyotes have to travel to St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit. They absolutely cannot afford to slip up at home.
The Sharks path to the playoffs is simple. They just need to get to 54 or 55 points and they’ll be in. That means they need to win 3-4 of their remaining games and the more they win against teams behind them, like Phoenix, the better. With the LA Kings already in San Jose waiting to take on the Sharks Tuesday night at HP Pavilion, a win here in the desert tonight would be a big step toward cementing their post season position.
Like I said, the Sharks game tonight is huge!
I’m Randy Hahn
Any regular viewer of Sharks broadcasts know that Drew Remenda and I do a brief segment that kicks off the Esurance Postgame Live (aka “The Brodie Brazil Show”) following every game. I’m not going to lie. It’s always an easier segment to do when the Sharks win, but it must be done win or lose.
Yesterday’s 4-0 loss in Columbus was tough. The Sharks never seemed to find their legs and the desperate Blue Jackets took full advantage. Drew and I never discuss ahead of time what we’re going to talk about on the post-game show. It’s a spontaneous and organic thing, like my hair.
Last night our “theme” if you want to call it that was that the Sharks have to move on. Of course there were mistakes made on the ice and the coaches will go over that and more at practice. But then it has to be over. In this crazy compressed season there’s no time to dwell on negatives or positives for that matter. The Red Wings are every bit as desperate as the Blue Jackets are and they will be a formidable opponent on Thursday at The Joe. We can moan all day about how the Sharks got it handed to them twice in Columbus this year but it won’t change the fact that preparing for Detroit is all that really matters now. Onward.
I’m Randy Hahn
So there you have it. It’s the end of a seven game win streak, a terrific if not perfect home stand and the start of another huge road trip for the Sharks. And what an important 8 game stretch it was. On March 23rd the Sharks lost 2-0 in Minnesota and were a tired hockey team having played 14 of their prior 19 games on the road. It was an exhausting grind that had them in 9th place in the West at 13-11-6 record and 32 points. But two nights later in Anaheim they beat the Ducks 5-3 and it would be the start of a profound turnaround to their season.
Fast forward to this morning as they boarded their charter flight for Columbus and the Sharks are now 20-11-7 with 47 points and they are 5th in the West, only a point behind 4th placed Los Angeles but more importantly 7 points clear of the dreaded 9th spot. Not a bad little run of 7 straight wins and 8 straights games with at least a point.
Trying to predict the outcome of NHL games is difficult/ridiculous proposition. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to do it anyway.
When you examined the Sharks current seven game home stand before it began it looked like it was going to be tough. Certainly the first five games against Anaheim, Detroit, Phoenix, Vancouver and Minnesota were going to be difficult matchups. Now that the Sharks have won all five of those games, it’s natural to look ahead.
Can the Sharks beat Calgary tonight and Dallas on Sunday and sweep all seven games? On paper the chances look good. The Flames have traded the face of their franchise, Jarome Iginla along with minute munching defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and they got spanked against Edmonton two nights ago by an 8-2 score. Dallas also traded their captain Brendan Morrow and then moved future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr on trade deadline day. And just like the Flames, Dallas has lost 3 games in a row and doesn’t look like a playoff team. On paper it looks good for a Sharks sweep.
But games are played on the ice and once the puck is dropped all bets are off. Pride and professionalism run deep in the organizational DNA’s of most teams in the league and in Calgary and Dallas, where Stanley Cup banners fly, those traits are absolutely expected. Injuries, fatigue, mistakes, officiating, luck and a lot of other factors contribute to the outcome of every game in the NHL. On paper, should the Sharks complete their home-stand sweep and beat Calgary and Dallas? Probably. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little aren’t we?
As a friend of mine used to say, “Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, just win tonight!”
I’m Randy Hahn
Has the job of NHL General Manager ever been more challenging than it is this week? The trade deadline is Noon Pacific time Wednesday. Between now and the deadline there will be 16 games played, 9 tonight and 7 more tomorrow. As of today there are 11 teams not in a playoff spot that are only 4 or fewer points away from getting in. What to do?
There’s so much to take into consideration. If you’re close to making the playoffs do you add to your team in the hopes of getting in? Or even if you think you can get into the playoffs do you really believe your team has a chance of going deep or will it be a one and done? Are you a buyer? Are you a seller? Do you stand pat and put your faith in the group you already have? Are you sending your team a negative message if you don’t add to the roster or if you subtract from the roster?
There are lots of questions and a myriad of answers. This is a week when the NHL’s General Managers are earning their pay and a week upon which they will be judged going forward.
I’m Randy Hahn.
It’s impossible to know what stretch of the Sharks season will end up being the most important to their playoff hopes. Maybe it was the 7 game winning streak at the beginning of the year that gave them a cushion? Or it could come down to the final two games of the season on the road in Phoenix and LA. But the next 4 home games against Anaheim, Detroit, Phoenix and Vancouver will certainly tell us a lot about where the team is heading and perhaps where some individual players are or are not heading.
The NHL trade deadline is a week from today. As of this morning the Sharks are in a playoff spot, 8th in the West. If the next 4 games go well they’ll be in good shape at the deadline. If things go sideways they could fall out of the top 8 in a hurry.
I’m not required to provide “keys to the game”. That duty is left for far more advanced hockey minds than mine. (Remenda, Baker, Hedican, Brown) But these are MY Great White Bites, so here are my keys to victory tonight against Anaheim.
Urgency and focus.
It was great that the Sharks broke out against Anaheim Monday and scored 5 goals. But it’s hardly time to start feeling comfortable. I’m guessing the Ducks are going to be in a snarly mood tonight and the Sharks have to match that with urgency from the first drop of the puck.
And then there’s the issue of focus. When things have gone bad for the Sharks it’s usually been a loss of focus/composure over a 2 or 3-minute stretch that sees the game get away from them. They overcame some adversity within that game Monday and settled down to close it out. That needs to happen again tonight.
I’m Randy Hahn.
Leftovers from the Road
It started February 11th in Columbus. It ended March 25th in Anaheim. “It” was a heinous stretch in the Sharks season that had them playing 15 out of 20 games on the road. I realize that plenty of teams have had less than perfect schedules in this lockout shortened year but the past 6 weeks was a real challenge.
The final tally saw the Sharks go 7-9-4 during the stretch, picking up 18 out of a possible 40 points in the standings. The good news is that they returned home in 8th place in the Western Conference and finished the marathon with a character win over the rival Anaheim Ducks. With 11 of their final 17 games on home ice the Sharks are in a good position to push for a playoff spot.
It was tough to see longtime Shark Douglas Murray leave the team for the Pittsburgh Penguins via trade. Murray wasn’t just popular in the dressing room; he was an all around good guy and would routinely wish even the broadcasters good luck on game nights. With so many teams still in the playoff hunt and the trade deadline approaching next Wednesday, the price is very high for established players.
GM Doug Wilson was able to extract two 2nd round picks from the Penguins for Murray who was originally an 8th round selection back in 1999 and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. While the Sharks will miss Murray’s many talents, the bottom line is that the team must get faster and the trade allows quicker and younger defensemen like Justin Braun, Matt Irwin and Jason Demers the opportunity to develop and compete for more ice time.
Sitting here in front of my computer at the Sharks Saint Paul hotel, I can’t remember a game where there were so many “connections” like tomorrows’ against the Minnesota Wild.
Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Torrey Mitchell all played for the Sharks and Charlie Coyle was drafted and developed by the Sharks and ended up with the Wild as part of the Brent Burns trade. On the other side Burns, Martin Havlat and James Sheppard all played for Minnesota. But the connections don’t end there.
Todd McLellan spent 4 years in the Wild organization as their AHL Head Coach at Houston and won a championship there. Assistant Coach Jim Johnson is a University of Minnesota-Duluth Hall of Famer. Defenseman Justin Braun was born in Vadnais Heights, just outside the Twin Cities. Goaltender Alex Stalock was born and raised here in St. Paul and won a WCHA championship with UMD, Johnson’s alma mater. Sharks Assistant General Manger Joe Will worked for the old Minnesota North Stars before he joined the Sharks and scouts Pat Funk and Rob Grillo are both Minnesota guys.
And last but not least there’s the immensely popular Sharks former Assistant Equipment Manager Rick “Rickey Bobby” Bronwell, who now holds down the same position with the Wild.
Connections aside it’ll be “All Business” tomorrow as the Sharks and Wild meet for the first time this season and continue the battle to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In case you haven’t noticed the Sharks have been on the road a lot lately. And guess what? The Sharks are going to be on the road a lot going forward.
We’re not quite halfway through March and the team has travelled to Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado and St. Louis. After tomorrow’s brief pit stop at home to host the Kings, the Sharks go to LA on Friday to kick off a 5 game 11-day trip with stops in Anaheim, Edmonton, Minnesota and finally back to Anaheim.
The payoff will come late in the month and into April when the Sharks have a 7 game home stand. However as I write this, the Sharks have dropped to 9th place in the West with 28 points and a road record of 4-7-2. It goes without saying that this upcoming road trip will be BIG.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Time to unpack so that I can pack.
I’m Randy Hahn