The Pittsburgh Penguins have guaranteed themselves a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs and have done so for the seventh consecutive year. That's the third longest active streak for teams making it to the NHL's coveted playoffs. The top two teams are:
Detroit - Twenty one years in a row. Incredible but that amazing feat is closer than ever to ending as the Wings hang on to eighth spot by a few points over hungry teams such as Phoenix, Edmonton, Dallas and Columbus.
San Jose - Eight years in a row. And with the recent home-stand where the Sharks gained 13 of a possible 14 points it looks like their streak will continue to nine years in a row. It's a huge accomplishment and a testament to the great work that the management, hockey operations, coaches and players have put in over the years.
The Sharks meanwhile shouldn't be satisfied with just making the playoffs but trying to get enough points to be the fourth seed and home ice advantage in the first round. It is starting to look like they might play LA, Vancouver, Minnesota or St. Louis and starting at home where the Sharks are 14-1-5 would be an advantage against any of the mentioned opponents.
Hard to believe that after tonight's game in Columbus there will only be nine games left in the season. It's flying by but man is it fun.
What a week ....
Doug Wilson made some tough decisions in the past week trading away popular (in the dressing rooms and with the fans) players Murray and Clowe who were drafted and developed in the Sharks organization. They are both pending unrestricted free agents, as is Michael Handzus, so Wilson traded these players to acquire draft picks to help position the Sharks for the future.
The Sharks then acquired Scott Hannan who started his career with the Sharks and is a good depth defenseman who lays it on the line and is comfortable playing against top players in a shut down role. The Sharks also acquired Raffi Torres, and the math is real simple here, you'd rather have him on your team than have to play against him.
As one hockey writer said, Doug Wilson did some "savvy maneuvering" that was very beneficial to the Sharks both in the present and for the future.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have been savvy maneuvering their way up the standings with a 6 game winning streak and playing the best hockey since the start of the season. In the 6 games the Sharks have:
- beaten Anaheim, Anaheim, Detroit, Phoenix, Vancouver, and Minnesota
- given up 9 goals
- only put the other team on the power play 7 times
- out-skated and out-played the opposition in each of the games with a balanced 4 line attack, solid defensive play from the D-corps and great goaltending.
Truncated - "shortened by or as if having a part cut of"
Unpredictable - "not predictable; not to be foreseen or foretold"
Uncomfortable - "causing discomfort or distress"
Sharks - "mostly marine fishes, certain species which are large, voracious and dangerous to humans"
Realization - "the making or being made real of something imagined, planned"
Home - "a house, apartment or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family or household"
Home - "the place in which one's domestic affections are centered"
This truncated season has been unpredictable and since the Murray trade the Sharks players have shown they are uncomfortable with the realization that home as they know it could change via a trade unless they play well at home, which they have done so far by shutting out the Ducks and Wings in back to back games.
Stay tuned hockey fans, this improbable season is just kicking into high gear and don't try and figure out what's going to happen, just enjoy the ride.
• Douglas Murray, aka the Crankshaft, introduced all of us to his patented “head down, eyes up, hit-back.” Cranker would have his head down to lure opponents to come and hit him but unbeknownst to them his eyes were up – meaning just before they hit him he planted his 245 lb. middle linebacker body and offered the hit-back. Opponents would get credit for a hit yet they ended up going down …. Hard! Good luck in Pittsburgh Cranker and thanks for all great memories in San Jose. You will be missed both on and off the ice!
• With Jon Cooper getting the Head Coaching position in Tampa Bay a void was left for their AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch. Ex-Shark player and assistant coach Rob Zettler was named Head Coach of Syracuse – congrats to Zetts who is one of the best guys I have ever met.
• The Sharks just completed a stretch of 15 games out of 20 on the road. The Sharks spent 28 of the last 43 days on the road and a rough estimate of about 42 hours of time in the air. Remembering your hotel room is the least of your concern, especially when the wins were hard to come by. The good news is this tough stretch of the season is now in the rear view mirror and the Sharks are still clinging to a playoff spot.
• What’s in store – 7 home games in a row, 13 straight days in San Jose and not having to eat every meal in a restaurant. Here’s to some good home cooking both at home and on the ice where the Sharks have a home record of 8-1-4.
It’s great to be back in San Jose where we have the best fans in the NHL.
Skating - quickness, speed, mobility, agility, backwards
Hockey Sense - ability to anticipate and make the right decisions ... quickly
Compete Level / Win Battles - have to win battles to get the puck
Puck Skills - stickhandling, quick hands, puck protection, making and catching passes
Ability to Score - some players have the knack, others don't
Size / Strength - helps to win battles and endure a grueling schedule
Leadership - ability to make others better
Intangibles - discipline, experience, good details/habits, work ethic, not injury prone
It takes a combination of all these attributes to be a great player and to build a great team. The fastest team doesn't necessarily win, neither does the biggest or the most skilled. Building a team is like making a great stew, you need just the right ingredients and they have to all compliment each other.
The Sharks along with every other team they are competing with to make the playoffs are trying to find just the right ingredients. Isn't that what makes hockey, and sports for that matter so interesting; watching teams try and find that right mix of character of chemistry. The Giants did it as did the A's and 49ers and now the Sharks are trying to do the same thing.
Don't forget to set your clocks for 11am PST on Saturday - that's game time against the Wild. Should be a great game.
Drew and I were reminiscing on the flight home from St Louis about our 93/94 team. That team wasn't the biggest, fastest or most skilled but man did we battle, compete and play for each other, not to mention we got unreal goaltending from Arturs "The Wall" Irbe.
Drew was an assistant coach and a big part of that team. I was a 3rd line player and a big part of that team. And that's the thing, teams with character and chemistry get contributions from everyone and everyone buys in and knows their role.
We started that year 0-8-1. No one outside of the players and coaches thought we would do what we did by making the playoffs and upsetting the Red Wings.
The 2013 Sharks team is big, skilled and while they might not be the fastest team in the league they compete and are hard to play against. The coaching tandem of McLellan, Robinson, Johnson, Woodcroft and Heimlich is top notch.
Maybe this team has seen a pro-longed rough patch that will help them come together and develop a chemistry that leads to special things happening. I don't know but I am looking forward to watching how the second half of this truncated season plays out.
Drew and I can just cheer these guys on but we would both love to see this group get that special feeling - it doesn't happen often and its fun to reminisce about years later.
Go Sharks, BEAT LA!
Can you imagine the NFL season being 32 games in 68 days? That's the equivalent of this short season where teams are playing 48 intense, pressure filled games in 99 days.
Anyone who expects the players to be at their best for that many games in such a short time period with all the travel has never seen a game played at ice level --- or played in a short NHL season before. It's fast, it's physical and the bumps and bruises add up.
The Sharks have laid an egg twice this year - in Columbus and in Calgary, otherwise they have competed in every game. In Columbus they looked mentally unprepared to battle - it happens!. In Calgary they were working hard but they had no legs and couldn't get to the places their brains told them to go to, it happens! Playing the night before and traveling on game day is not an excuse, it's an explanation.
We are exactly at the halfway point of this truncated (love that word by the way) season. The Sharks are truly a half is glass full, glass is half empty team depending on how you want to analyze them.
Stingy defense with great goaltending or a team that can't score? The Sharks are currently in 7th place, 2 points out of 4th and 6 points away from 15th. The schedule gets even tougher the last month and a half and it will be a wild ride to the finish.
This short season sure beats the non-season in 2004/05. I can't wait to get the 2nd half of this season going and the opponent is perfect, the St. Louis Blues, the team who knocked the Sharks out of the playoffs last year.
Tonight should be a good game and then it's back to back with our SoCal rivals and the defending Stanley Cup Champions - what a great week for hockey.
- I like the new proposed re-alignment from the Sharks standpoint. In their division are 3 teams from Canada; Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. These cities are all hockey hotbeds and fun to visit, not to mention some good rivalries. Makes for a great road trip for any hockey fan looking to see Sharks hockey on the road.
- The Sharks and Blues both have 26 points, with the Sharks having 1 game in hand. Makes for an awesome matchup on Saturday at 1pm at HP Pavilion. This will be an intense, physical game and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Sharks respond after the loss in Calgary, not to mention these two teams meet again on Tuesday in St. Louis.
- After the game the Sharks hit the road for Colorado where they play on Sunday and start a span of 7 games out of the next 8 on the road. We knew this tough schedule would be a grind and it is.
- Hard to believe that we are almost as the halfway mark (24 games) for the season. Even more incredible is the fact Chicago has played 24 games, or half their season, and still has not lost in regulation.
- Parity is great for the fans but the coaches are all scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get even the slightest edge to help them gain some ground in the standings.
Enjoy the games this weekend!