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Five Questions: Sharks Need Road Success, Pavelski

Monday, 04.29.2013 / 1:03 PM / News
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Five Questions: Sharks Need Road Success, Pavelski
NHL.com presents five questions facing the San Jose Sharks in their quest to capture the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

There's a question that's been haunting the San Jose Sharks for quite some time:

Will they ever win the Stanley Cup?

Here are five questions they must answer to win it this season:

1. Can the Sharks win a game on the road?

There is absolutely no question they can win at home; San Jose went 17-2-5 at HP Pavilion this season, and is 110-34-20 there in four previous seasons under coach Todd McLellan.

But based on the Western Conference seeding, the Sharks will have to win a road game or two to advance through each round. This season they were 8-13-2 in enemy buildings, including road losses to non-playoff teams Nashville, Calgary, Colorado and Phoenix. They were 2-3-0 on the road in April.

The Sharks did win three road games in a six-game, first-round series victory against the Los Angeles Kings in 2011, and won their only game in a five-game loss to the St. Louis Blues last season on the road.


2. Which Joe Pavelski will show up?

When the energetic forward is on his game, the Sharks have had playoff success. When he's been held off the score sheet, the Sharks have gone home early.

Last season, Pavelski did not have a point in the quick loss to the Blues. The prior spring, he had 10 points in 18 games on the way to the conference final, one season after he had 17 points in 15 games in reaching the third round. The season before that, he had one point and the Sharks checked out in the first round.

Pavelski has moved up and down the lineup, and after the Sharks traded away Ryane Clowe and turned Brett Burns into a forward, Pavelski settled on the third line with Raffi Torres and Tommy Wingels, but he still plays on the top power-play unit.

Antti Niemi
Goalie - SJS
RECORD: 24-12-6
GAA: 2.16 | SVP: 0.924
3. Is Antti Niemi fresh enough to do it again?

Arguably the most accomplished playoff goaltender in this year's tournament, Niemi played 43 of the 48 games this regular season, a workload he's never experienced before.

Niemi carried a 24-15 record into last season's playoffs, and in the five games against the Blues saw his teammates score two goals total in three of the losses.

Prior to winning the Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, Niemi played 39 regular-season games. Prior to the Sharks' run to the conference final in 2011, he played 60 regular-season games.

4. Can Larry Robinson make a difference?

In his first season as an assistant coach with the Sharks, they ranked sixth in the NHL on the penalty kill (84.9 percent). Last season, the team ranked 29th (76.9).

That means the Hall of Fame defenseman did the first thing he was brought in to do. Now he must lend his valuable experience in the League's second season.

Robinson won the Stanley Cup six times as a player with the Montreal Canadiens, coached the Devils to the Cup in 2000, and was an assistant on their championship teams of 1995 and 2003.

He should be able to help in so many ways once the playoffs begin, and perhaps will prove to be postseason ingredient the team was missing all along.

5. Is this -- finally -- the year for one of the most successful regular-season teams of the past decade?

Since the 2003-04 season, when the Sharks reached the Western Conference Finals for the first time, they have won their division five times and never finished lower than second.

They have compiled at least 100 points six times, with another season of 99 and one of 96.

They have won at least one playoff series six times. They reached the Western finals again in 2010 and 2011.

But they never have made it to the Stanley Cup Final, losing in six games to the Calgary Flames in 2004, swept by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and bowing in five games to the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

With eight of their top players at least 30 years old, and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each turning 34 before next season, this could be the last hurrah for this core. Whether it ends with the ultimate prize is yet to be answered.

Author: Mike Battaglino | NHL.com Staff Writer

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
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