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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

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 48 32 10 6 143 124 70
2 NSH 46 31 10 5 141 107 67
3 STL 46 29 13 4 148 111 62
4 CHI 48 30 16 2 151 112 62
5 WPG 49 26 15 8 138 122 60
6 SJS 48 25 17 6 131 132 56
7 VAN 46 26 17 3 124 118 55
8 CGY 48 26 19 3 140 126 55
9 LAK 48 21 15 12 133 129 54
10 COL 49 20 18 11 128 141 51
11 DAL 47 21 19 7 146 154 49
12 MIN 47 21 20 6 130 138 48
13 ARI 47 16 25 6 108 160 38
14 EDM 48 12 27 9 110 160 33

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 48 24 18 10 42
L. Couture 48 18 24 2 42
J. Thornton 44 10 27 0 37
B. Burns 48 11 24 -6 35
P. Marleau 48 9 24 -10 33
T. Wingels 47 11 14 -2 25
J. Braun 47 1 18 4 19
T. Hertl 48 8 9 -2 17
M. Vlasic 47 6 10 13 16
J. Sheppard 42 4 9 -2 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 19 11 5 .912 2.57
A. Stalock 5 5 1 .905 2.65
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