The Sharks Got What They Need

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- If the 2013-14 Sharks had to come up with a wish list right now, I believe it would take a lot of thinking. They are 2-0 against the top-ranked team in the league now. They might have a case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” though Todd McLellan is probably making some adjustments to his fourth line today. Nothing drastic, nothing GM Doug Wilson would have to get involved in.

Saturday morning, Ducks’ Head Coach Bruce Boudreau had some thoughts about what the Sharks need:

You give these guys space, they’re gonna burn you. They can skate, they’re big, they’re strong, so you have to play a perfect game or San Jose is going to eat you up.

Space. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, and it is the kind of thing everybody appreciates. Good call, Coach Boudreau.

The Sharks do have some good space-makers. Most conspicuous of these is Brent Burns. He isn’t a new addition to the team but he is in a relatively new role. He has had some frustrating injury troubles in the last couple of seasons, and he was missed. If he can finally be a mainstay as a forward, he almost counts as a new acquisition.

Brent Burns isn’t what Doug Wilson said he wanted when he traded for him:

“Brent is an elite first-pairing defenseman that is just coming into his prime,” Wilson said. “We feel that he gives our blueline tremendous depth and versatility… -SJ Sharks press release

So Burns has not become the defenseman Wilson wanted then, but he is what the Sharks need now. The team wins more, scores more, does better with Burns the forward in the lineup. He is fast, strong, aggressive and unpredictable on the ice, and he brings intangibles that might be less obvious to the naked eye.

Of playing with him, Joe Thornton said:

He’s so big and so strong and he has such a good shot… and he just has so much fun out there. It’s so fun being a part of his line, you know I just have a smile on my face most of the game because the stuff he does is amazing.

Without Burns in the lineup, the team has scoring punch and can win plenty of games, but they do score more with him. He makes space and incites chaos that San Jose’s considerable offensive talent can take advantage of. Apparently he puts people in a good mood too.

I always say the same thing, I never want a lineup to change, but this year, I think I might finally be right. The Sharks shouldn’t need any more pieces to make this their most effective season to date. The have depth and experience on the blue line that must make most NHL teams green with envy. They have to sit defensemen that other teams would gladly play into the ground.

San Jose has a wealth of talent on their forward lines. It is safe to call the third line overqualified, with Martin Havlat, Joe Pavelski and Tyler Kennedy settling in there. The only lingering doubts are which wingers to use on the fourth line, which McLellan seems to answer on a game by game basis. Despite being a natural center, John McCarthy has been very effective as a winger there. The Sharks give Andrew Desjardins the edge as a center, but McCarthy has the experience to slide over if needed, since that is where he mostly played in Worcester and college.

Still, it is fun to play the “what piece would make the difference? There must be someone to add, shopping season is coming!” Some of those pieces are already in place in the form of a retasked Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl the wonder-rookie, and the evolution of Tommy Wingels’ game.

Wingels is clicking at a higher rate and more consistently than ever before. He hits, he shoots, he grinds and crashes, all with increasing polish and precision. He has moved flawlessly up and down the lineup, fitting in an scoring on all top three lines.

If additions and improvements like that don’t make enough difference, then the team is hopeless. If you still need more, remember the team has Raffi Torres in the shop, and they sent Matt Nieto back to Worcester. This is why the Sharks need space: they have a lot of players playing well, and reserves in the hold.

Sharks Beat the Blues, Again

sharks-blues-20111210-blog2

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE-Friday afternoon, the San Jose Sharks defeated the St. Louis Blues, scoring six goals against them for the second time this season. Four of those came in the first period, during which time the Blues went scoreless and only registered two shots on goal. The Blues’ game picked up after that, but that first period gave the Sharks a lead too great for St. Louis to overcome. The final score was 6-3, with three goals for the Sharks coming from Brent Burns, and one each from Tommy Wingels, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl. The Blues’ goals were scored by Ian Cole, David Backes and Jaden Schwartz. The Sharks outshot the Blues 32-24.

Is scoring six goals against St. Louis likely to become a pattern? Tommy Wingels addressed that and some possible reasons for the Sharks’ success against the Blues this season:

I think our game is simplified when we play a team like that, … making the easy play. We know that they’re aggressive and if you don’t, we’re probably going to be hemmed in our zone… are we going to score that many goals against them every time? I doubt it. Other games might be 1-0, 3-2 games but we’ll take the goals as they come.

The Blues started Friday’s game with a blind spot that their starting goaltender Brian Elliott could not make up for. Through the first period, the Blues treated the space between the inside of the right face-off dot and the slot like dark territory. Three Sharks scored from that space: Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Tommy Wingels. Joe Pavelski took a shot from there as well, but Elliott grabbed it.

Two first period goals were scored by Burns. The ex-defenseman went on to score again in the third period, for his first career hat trick. Burns might seem to be back to 100% since returning from injury, but he thinks there is more improvement to come:

Hopefully the legs are going to keep getting better… I feel like I stayed in really good shape but gym shape and game shape [are] different, so I think it’s going to get better every game. I’m hoping to feel better than… today was a little weird with Thanksgiving yesterday, a lot of food, and then no skate in the morning. I think it’s going to keep getting better and better.

Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan was very pleased with the start.

A hell of a period. Really happy with it, excited about going out and playing the next, a really good start.

Nevertheless, the Sharks had to be prepared for the Blues to push back, as they did:

They’re a first place club for a reason. They’re not going away, they weren’t happy obviously with their first. They came back and played their game and that’s the type of team you’ve got to play against for the last forty minutes.

The Sharks started the game fast and furious, going right to the Blues net. After 25 seconds in the Blues’ zone, Brent Burns put the Sharks up 1-0.

The Blues’ Kevin Shattenkirk went to the box for interference 2:06 into the first. A shot from Couture bounced off of Brian Elliott. Pavelski picked up the rebound and back-handed it to Joe Thornton, who did not wait to shoot it. 

With the score 2-0 Sharks, after four minutes of play, the Blues still did not have a shot on goal. Their first came in the next minute, but it was clear that the Sharks had come ready for the top-ranked opponent.

The Blues did not score with that shot, and did not get credit for another shot until 6:40 into the period, when they also took another penalty. Patrick Berglund was called for cross-checking Martin Havlat. Eight seconds later, Logan Couture went to the box for hooking Roman Polak, so the Sharks’ second power play was neutralized.

No matter. Shortly after the penalties expired, the Sharks made another fast rush through the neutral zone, and Burns scored his second from the slot off a pass from Thornton. The second assist went to Tomas Hertl.

Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock called a time out. When that was over, the Sharks went right back on the attack.

Wingels got on the board at 11:27 of the first, putting the Sharks up 4-0. The shot count now stood at 11-2. Assists went to Couture and Justin Braun.

With 5:08 left in the period, Patrick Marleau was called for tripping Alexander Steen, giving the Blues their first full power play of the game. They did not register a shot through the power play, though one shot rang loudly off the outside of Niemi’s post.

The Blues started the second with more composure and a new goaltender as Jaroslav Halak replaced Elliott. The Blues had a good early chance in front of Niemi, and the Sharks’ goaltender had to be sharp, stretching out a toe to stop a shot from T.J. Oshie. It took the Blues a little under six minutes to triple their shot count.

By then, it was time for another penalty. David Backes took it, two of them: a cross-checking minor and a ten minute misconduct. The Sharks’ power play did not score, though Couture had a good chance off a Thornton pass.

With nine seconds left in that power play, Pavelski was called for interference. The Blues’ power play started to show some of its mettle, with the Blues holding the zone fairly well and getting a couple of shots off.

As the power play wound down, the Sharks had a short-handed chance but that ended when Havlat was called for high-sticking Alec Pietrangelo. The Sharks would have had to kill back to back penalties. Instead, the Blues’ Derek Roy took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with 1:21 left in the Blues’ power play.

With the teams playing four on four, the Sharks had a couple of good chances before the Blues went the other way and Ian Cole shot the puck in to make it 4-1.

The Sharks took another penalty at 17:23, when Dan Boyle was called for holding Vladimir Tarasenko. As that penalty expired, Niemi made a beautiful glove save on a shot from the blue line, despite being screened by numerous players. That puck had been going right where the first Blues’ goal got by him.

By the end of the second, the shots for the period were even at 12 apiece. The total count was still 24-14 Sharks.

The Sharks started the third period with an early penalty, to Brad Stuart for tripping Tarasenko. It took the Blues over a minute and 20 seconds, but their power play finally produced, closing the gap to two goals. The goal was scored by David Backes, with assists going to Derek Roy and Alexander Steen.

That goal woke the Sharks up. They made themselves comfortable in the Blues’ zone for a couple of shifts after the goal, but the Blues were not backing down. The teams traded chances and both goalies were busy for a few minutes before T.J. Oshie took an interference penalty at 5:19. This gave the Sharks their fifth power play of the game, and possibly their least impressive. They didn’t score and spent too much time trying to get set up. The Blues’ penalty kill made it nearly impossible with timely clears and extended board battles.

The Blues followed up that penalty kill with some very tough play in the Sharks’ zone. Brad Stuart was pushed into the boards but it went uncalled. After a couple more players were knocked to the ice, Niemi covered the puck as it sat on the outside of the net. Tensions boiled over behind the net but the referees quieted the scrum without assigning any penalties.

At 9:26, they did call Boyle for high-sticking. Sharks blocked shots relentlessly, and managed three good clears, including a solid kick of the puck from Stuart. With several line changes and a timely stop by Niemi, the Sharks’ penalty killers stayed fresh until the Blues’ power play was neutralized with a holding call to Kevin Shattenkirk. With just seven seconds left before the Sharks’ power play would start, Vladimir Sobotka skated into the sharks’ zone, two-on-one with Jaden Schwartz. Sobotka passed and Schwartz scored, making it a one-goal game at 11:19. The second assist went to Roman Polak.

Seconds later, as the Sharks’ power play was just getting under way, Burns skated down the left side with the puck, evaded the Blues’ defenders and threw the puck at the net from the left faceoff circle. With Pavelski in front of the net, Burns’ shot went by Halak on the far side, giving the ex-defenseman his first NHL hat trick. That also restored the Sharks’ two-goal lead.

With just 3:54 left in the game, the Blues took a defensive zone tripping call on Shattenkirk.

That power play didn’t pay off for the Sharks. The Blues pulled their goaltender. With under 50 seconds left, Tomas Hertl extended the Sharks lead to 6-3, with assists on the empty netter going to Burns and Thornton.

The Sharks’ scratches were James Sheppard, John McCarthy and Jason Demers. That left room for both Mike Brown and Matt Pelech on the fourth line, and Matt Irwin on the blue line.

Sharks edge out the Kings in the shootout

By Ivan Makarov

Before the game on Wednesday night, San Jose Sharks and LA Kings were tied for points in the Pacific Division, both at 35. Neither team showed much of an edge over their opponent in this even match up, but the Sharks went on to win it in what was one of the most entertaining shootouts in their history.

It took eight rounds of  attempts to determine the winner. Prior to the game, only Logan Couture scored for the Sharks in the shootout all season. This time Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton all successfully finished their attempts, but it took a while to determine the winner, as Kings had three of their players score in a shootout too. In the end, it was Thornton’s backhand goal and Niemi’s subsequent pad save that secured the Sharks the extra point and put them in the lead in the Pacific Division.

“I was begging coach to look my way [laughs],” said Thornton after the game. “It was nice to be involved in one. Down in their building it’s a one-goal game, tonight another one-goal game. Both teams compete hard against each other and you knew it was going to come down to overtime or the shootout and it did. We were just happy with the two points.”

And just like in the shootout, both teams traded goals and leads back and forth throughout the regulation.

Sharks started their game at a goal disadvantage early on, as Kings scored just 18 seconds into it. LA had the possession inside the San Jose zone, and Dwight King passed the puck off the boards behind Antti Niemi. The puck bounced right back into the crease, with Sharks’ defenseman Scott Hannan unable to clear it. Kings’ Jeff Carter was right there, and shot the puck into the net for his sixth goal of the season.

Sharks dominated the remainder of the first period, winning the shot battle 18-8, but still trailing, with Kings’ goaltender Ben Scrivens taking the most credit for that outcome.

Sharks finally solved him in the second period. Joe Pavelski tied the game early with the ninth goal of the season, winning the battle for the lose puck near the crease and lifting it to the top of the goal.

Joe Thornton helped the Sharks take their first lead of the game with his third goal of the season towards the end of the second period. It was an odd one – he was behind the net with the puck, and sent it towards the crease area, but it bounced into the Kings’ goaltender Ben Scrivens pads and back into the net.

Kings tied the game back in the first half of the third period to make it an even 2-2. The puck went in after Drew Doughty shot the puck towards the net, and it changed direction as it hit Sharks’ Scott Hannan’s skate. Both teams skated well in overtime, but it all came down to the skills competition to determine the winner.

Sharks will be back in action on Friday, as they host St Louis Blues for an early 1pm puck drop.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pro Hockey Report by Mary Lisa Walsh

as interviewed by Sports Radio Service

DALY CITY–The win by the San Francisco Bulls in Bakersfield on Tuesday night 5-1 was a badly needed win and the Bulls were shut out twice once each by Idaho and Utah at home during their six game losing streak. The Bulls really needed a score and Dean Ouellet delivered scoring his fourth goal of the season and they basically dismantled Bakersfield after that. Bulls head coach Pat Curcio made some very quick moves and adjustments to his roster he waved Riley Emerson and traded Damon Kipp defenseman to Idaho and that’s where Tyler Gron came from who scored two goals on Tuesday in Bakersfield and another on Wednesday night against Bakersfield at the Cow Palace.

Curcio picked up another defenseman signing a rookie Kalvin Sagert and he played pretty well in Bakersfield and the other forward he acquired and Gron was the big star he got an assist and two goals in the game in Bakersfield and it’s very impressive because he actually scored against San Francisco this season but he did a lot of damage last season so it’s reason to see why Curcio was happy to get him. So far this season he’s only got points against the top three teams in the west Alaska, Stockton and Ontario.He’s a great asset to have hope it doesn’t go the other way of the top scorers  for the team who have been injured at a relentless rate so it could happen.

Getting Gron should help San Francisco next time they face Idaho on Saturday March 29th the move to get forward Andrian Foster and everybody had a great game in Bakersfield and Bakersfield is not exactly the toughest competition in the west but the Bulls really needed that confidence because they were shooting like crazy in all of those loses before because nothing was going in the goal. It seems like that might have given him a boost we’ll have to see if that works out in the long run.

The Bulls are still ahead of where they were last season and everybody on the team hoped they’d be further ahead to where they were and the Bulls are still more competitive at this time than where they were last season. There’s still hope here and maybe they can have a playoff birth.

Bobblehead promotion for Pat Curcio: Wednesday nights tends to be the lowest nights for attendance for the Bulls at the Cow Palace and this was a great promotion idea to boost attendance and they will give away bobbleheads on two more home Wednesday night games this season. The bobblehead is a great collectors item and the other two bobbleheads coming up are for Dean Ouellet and Rawhide the mascot.

So Wednesday is a great time to come because hey you get a bobblehead this season.

San Jose Sharks update: The San Jose Sharks Brett Burns is tremendous asset but a lot of the other lines that were performing well before he came back are still performing well. It lifted the team up but Burns needs a little bit of time to really hit his stride because he is such a phenomenal player so it will be exciting to see that growth again it was a tough injury he was out for a long time and unsettling and it’s good to have him back but the rest of the team is holding up without him.

For the Sharks to win the division is like a dog fight and the new Pacific Division is just relentlessly tough this season the Sharks played Wednesday night against the Kings then have back to back games versus St. Louis and Anaheim on Friday and Saturday. There are a lot of good teams out there and they’ll be lucky to get into the playoffs at all so the Sharks have a shot. The Sharks play pretty well against the Kings and the Kings are the Sharks worst enemy.

The Sharks third line saw Matt Nieto who was demoted to Worcester on Monday, Nieto made the line up and continued to play and get time as much as he did but he’s green but of course Tomas Hertl is green too but it doesn’t show. Jaromir Jagr made an interesting comment before the Devils game that Hertl’s team had a rink in the Czech Republic that was NHL size although Hertl played on international ice and he had more experience than most European players on smaller ice so that gave him a leg up and of course he’s phenomenal as well.

The Sharks fourth liners: John McCarthy has been up and down for several seasons for the Sharks. Clearly McCarthy has the coaching staff trusting him he gets a lot of short handed time but he’s one of the guys who sits when Mike Brown sits. McCarthy played center in one game last week in place of Andrew Desjardins who has sat one game and hasn’t sat any others. Their performing quite well and it’s a mix and match for the coaches on the fourth line.

Mary Lisa Walsh is filling in for Larry Levitt for the Pro Hockey report this week

Crossing the Language Barrier: Jagr and Hertl

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- Tomas Hertl arrived in the US with several adjustments to make. He had to adjust to NHL hockey. He had to adjust to being a young man in a new country. He had to learn to get by in a foreign language. That last one is the toughest. You need language to understand instructions, to make your requirements known, and to connect with people. Hertl is climbing the language barrier now, playing for the San Jose Sharks. Jaromir Jagr did it at the start of his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The best way to learn a new language is through immersion. If you want to learn to teach English as a foreign language, you don’t have to learn to speak the local language, because translation isn’t how you will teach. You build the new language word by word, the way a child does when they first learn to speak. It is a time-proven method, but just as being immersed in water can drown you, being completely immersed in a foreign language can be overwhelming.

Hertl’s language skills are improving quickly but that doesn’t mean he can understand all the questions asked of him or, probably more frustrating, answer thoroughly the ones he understands.

It has been estimated that you can’t really learn to use and remember more than ten new words in the space of an hour of studying. Multiply that by the number of words you use in a day and it takes a very long time to become conversationally proficient in any language.

Hertl did not come here without any English at all. He did study it in school. That foundation should give him a leg up.

Today he did an interview with a Czech reporter just before we English speakers descended on him. Listening to him speak at some length with the reporter made me ask him if it was nice to speak Czech. His smile answered the question, but he also explained:

Yeah, it’s much better for me… For me it’s difficult, talking English, and Czech interviews for me [are] very very easy … and I like speaking in interviews, and English is hard.

You might not know how much you like to speak until it is difficult to do so. The limitation can be exhausting and stifling. Yes, you learn faster when you have no other outlet than in the new language. But the mental fatigue factor of not being able to express yourself has to be considered. Like so many things, it is a matter of balance.

Today, going to a country where you don’t speak the language is not so isolating as it once was. Twenty years ago, your options for venting your words were more limited. Jaromir Jagr, now with the New Jersey Devils, explained how it was for him when he came to North America, and how it might be different for Hertl:

I was staying with a Czech family so it was kind of easier for me. To have a Czech player on the team always helps. [Hertl] has that now, I didn’t have that in my first few months… then there was a trade made from Calgary to Pittsburgh, Jiri Hrdina.

He knows more English than I did, at least he should because they’re learning it in school. I didn’t, [we learned] Russian.

A lot has changed in the Czech Republic, but a lot has changed everywhere since the 1990’s:

Of course we didn’t have cell phones so … I always tried to [call on] Sundays. Now, he can call all the time. After every good game, he can call.

And the parents and the friends, they have a chance to see him. There was not much media [in Czech] for NHL, no internet, so it was totally different. [My family] didn’t know if I’m alive.

Jagr said that last part with a smile but he was not exaggerating that much. I was in the Czech Republic at about the same time as he came to the NHL. I had to go to the post office to make an international call, ask an operator to put the call through, and wait for my turn in a booth. I was in a fairly small town far from Prague but international communication in Central Europe just wasn’t that easy in the 90s.

Hertl is not staying with a Czech family, but he has access to some Czech language. He has Martin Havlat on the team, and many different ways to let his family and friends know he’s alive. The Sharks have put him in a good situation to make progress, but no matter how you slice it, it will take time. It does sound like once he has more words in his arsenal, he will have a lot to say.

Larry Levitt on Pro Hockey

by Larry Levitt

DALY CITY–The San Francisco Bulls really have moments when they really look like they have a good team that’s getting it together and then they have a momentary loss and all it takes is that one little momentary loss of team work and you give a team an opening and they take it and unfortunately for the Bulls they’ve been capitalizing on those openings a lot lately.

The Bulls lost in their last game in Stockton 5-1 for their fourth straight loss, it was a local rivalry and they should be up for those games and it’s not a lot of travel and it’s not like their flying or riding the bus for a long time it’s a couple hours to Stockton from the City it’s early in the season still and yes you need to get the win if your going to get to the playoffs and go far in the playoffs you need to have some confidence and this is where you got to start.

You got to take them one game at a time and get that win and work on the second win and the third and get a string of them together and every team goes through a losing period you just don’t want multiple strings of them. The Bulls need to come out and play a good game of hockey and just have fun and play the sport and play the game and it will all come to them but they got to put the work in it doesn’t come easy.

The thing with the ECHL or the minor league level you really don’t have time to jell and get used to each other and their all hockey players and they all know the game but the tendencies of each individual and if you stay with a teammate for a long period of time you get to learn their tendencies and where their going to be and it makes it that much easier for your game. You don’t have to stop and look and think it’s just automatic and that’s what they got to get to they’ve got to learn each others game.

San Jose Sharks update: I was fortunate to be able to talk to Sharks left winger Tomas Hertl the other night and he’s well grounded whose really doing well. Hertl’s English is a lot better than my Czech 101 that I learned on You Tube it was pretty funny but with Burns coming back on that line it’s going to take a little time to get that timing back. What I like about Hertl and Burns is they go straight in front of the net.

Hertl and Burns knows Joe Thornton is the passer, they know they’ll find you but you got to go to those sturdier areas in front of the net and pay the price of the hard hits and the pushes and the shoving. They’re not scared to do that, they go in there and do their job and they cover that area. Patrick Marleau he’s a great team player, he’s a great skater he uses his speed to his advantage against the Tampa Bay Lighting.

Marleau wiffed on a shot which actually pulled the goalie out of position in the Tampa Bay game last Thursday night at SAP in San Jose and it allowed him to do a simple backhand into the net and when you get the breaks and when things are going well you take them. You don’t fight it you just go with it, the Sharks were very fortunate to win because Tampa Bay at times had pretty good shots at the Sharks net and they didn’t get the breaks.

The Bulls weren’t allowed to get the puck in the net for one reason or another and it was Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi who came up with some really good saves or the defense just got their stick on it enough. It was a pleasure to watch the Lighting right winger Martin St. Louis what a great player he is. When he was on the ice I was isolating on him and it was a joy to watch he’s got the speed. He’s not the size but he’s got the speed, he’s got the hands and he’s just an amazing hockey player.

The Sharks are hosting the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night at the SAP for the second in this five game homestand which started last Thursday with the Lighting.

Larry Levitt does pro hockey analysis each week for Sportstalk Radio

Sharks Short Lightning 5-1

Lightning Sharks Hockey .JPEG-0ae54

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- Thursday night, San Jose defeated Tampa Bay 5-1, but it was not the way a 5-1 game usually looks. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi had to make a lot of good saves and some very tough ones. Four Sharks scored, with two goals coming from Tommy Wingels, and one each from Brad Stuart, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau. Despite the team having many good chances, the only Lighting player to score was Tyler Johnson.

The big news of the night was that Brent Burns was back in the game for San Jose. His  line did have their moments, but they were not as dangerous as they had been earlier in the season. Head Coach Todd McLellan didn’t sound too worried about them:

Burnzie’s line with Jumbo and Thomas, it’ll take some time to get their legs going again, and feel each other out, but they’ll be back to where they’re supposed to be.

Before the game, the question was raised: would the Sharks be ready to compete, after two days off and just one practice since their last game? McLellan acknowledged that it was a gamble:

Now that we won, I’m glad that we took those days off. I still think there were a few guys that didn’t have their legs because of it. But we made it through the night and they’ll be better tomorrow. Hopefully by the time the New Jersey game rolls around everybody will be real fresh. You take the chance of overresting at times.

The Logan Couture line with Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels turned some heads, though hardly with surprise. They have been consistently productive players for the team. They were the most dangerous scoring threat of the night. After the game, McLellan said of that line and the Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat, Tyler Kennedy line:

That whole line played very well, against their top players for most of the night. I also thought that Marty, Pav and TK had a really good night. Those three looked like they belong together and played well. So, good balance through those two lines.

A point of curiosity was how the Tampa Bay Lightning plays without Steven Stamkos. It turns out, they play a lot like they did with him. Obviously they could not replace his scoring touch, but they did prevent the Sharks from sustaining extended zone time. The shot clock reflected a game of traded chances, ending 37-36. That is very close except that in victory, the Sharks habitually outshoot their opponents by a sizeable margin.

The first four minutes of the game were uneventful except for one very good first shift from Logan Couture’s line that resulted in several shots but no points. They didn’t score until their next shift, when Tommy Wingels scored from the left faceoff circle. Assists went to his linemates, Couture and Patrick Marleau.

Eight minutes into the period, Tampa Bay asserted themselves in the Sharks’ zone after stripping the puck at the Sharks’ blue line. A couple of shots later, San Jose iced the puck to get out of trouble. The Sharks regained their composure when the fourth line of James Sheppard, Andrew Desjardins and Mike Brown drove play the other way. They held the offensive zone for San Jose until the next whistle.

At 14:43, Tommy Wingels was called for tripping Valteri Filppula. The Lightning had a good long spell with six skaters before Wingels finally cleared the puck. That was enough for the referee to blow play dead.

The penalty kill unit was Hannan, Marleau, Pavelski and Brad Stuart. Tampa Bay’s power play was not easy to chase off. In fact, the Sharks skaters did not get a chance at a shift change for the full two minutes. Tampa Bay managed several shots, but it brought to mind the old saying: if they didn’t have bad luck they would have no luck at all.

The beleaguered but successful penalty killers seemed to inspire the Sharks because they finally sustained an attack. Stuart came back out, recovered from his penalty killing marathon. The puck came to him above the faceoff circle and he slapped it past Tampa Bay’s goaltender Anders Lindback.

With 51.9 left in the first, Victor Hedman went to the box for holding Marleau. The Sharks didn’t dawdle this time, but Tampa Bay still managed a short handed rush, this time it was Nate Thompson and Tyler Johnson. The Sharks pushed back and got one shot off before the period ended.

The period ended with the Sharks leading 2-0 on the scoreboard and 18-12 in shots.

The Sharks started the second period on the power play. With Thornton, Couture, Marleau, Pavelski and Boyle on the ice, Lindback stopped two shots before the power play expired. Havlat came out on a line with Kennedy and Desjardins. The makeshift line was quickly trapped in their own zone. The second line came out for a defensive zone draw and managed two rushes up ice before going off, but without being able to do much more than one and done shots. The top line of Thornton, Burns and Hertl had no more success. Tampa Bay was very attentive to their defensive duties. Niemi had to be sharp, though Tampa Bay rarely got more than one shot on net in a stretch.

Once they had some distance from the penalties, McLellan reverted to his starting lines.

About seven minutes in to the second period, Scott Hannan just missed with a hard one-timer from the half boards. The puck landed square on his stick off a beautiful backhand pass from Havlat. That was followed by a good chance to jam it home for Kennedy. The Sharks were finding a way to sustain the attack beyond one shift, but Lindback held on.

Another good shift from Couture’s line seemed about to fail when Patrick Marleau got the puck behind the net. He passed the puck past a Lightning defenseman, right to Tommy Wingels in front of the net. Wingels’ second of the game put the Sharks up 3-0.

Tampa Bay outshot the Sharks in the second period, 12-9 but had yet to make one of those shots count for a goal.

The third period opened with the Couture line on the ice. Both that line and the Thornton line that followed spent most of their shifts defending, until the end of the top line’s shift when they did get a draw in the offensive zone. The Pavelski line after them managed extended time in the zone but not many shots.

At 4:23, the top line finally got their point. A shot from Scott Hannan above the faceoff circle was deflected in by Brent Burns. Assists went to Thornton and Hannan.

Seconds later (19 to be exact), Patrick Marleau skated in around a blue and white defender and back-handed it over the goalie for the Sharks’ fifth goal. Assists went to Logan Couture and Justin Braun.

The Tampa Bay Lightning finally got on the board with a breakaway shot from Tyler Johnson at 7:39. Assists went to Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik. Niemi had been very sharp up until then, and he had to be. The Sharks had allowed too many shots for comfort.

Tampa Bay, with nothing left to lose, pushed hard. The Sharks, with as much motivation as a team with a four-goal lead can have, had trouble getting through the neutral zone and their infrequent forays into the offensive zone did not last long.

The final shot count was 37-36 Tampa Bay, but the count that mattered read 5-1 San Jose.

The Sharks’ scratches were Matt Irwin, John McCarthy and Matt Nieto.

The Sharks next play Saturday at 7:30 at SAP Center in San Jose, against the New Jersey Devils.

Blackhawks Embarass Sharks, Hand San Jose Toughest Loss of the Season

By Matthew Harrington

The San Jose Sharks were downed by the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks 5-1 Sunday evening at the United Center, suffering their worst defeat of the season. Patrick Sharp had 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist) while Brandon Pirri and Kris Versteeg notched a goal and an assist each. Joe Pavelski scored the lone goal for the Sharks who saw a three-game win-streak snapped with the loss.

Chicago opened up the scoring in the first period when a Patrick Kane shot deflected off Scott Hannon’s leg. The puck landed on Brandon Pirri’s stick and he fired it past an out-of-position Antti Niemi with 3:26 remaining in the first for the 1-0 lead.

Pavelski evened the score 8:16 into the second period when what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot popped out of Corey Crawford’s glove and trickled in to the back of the net. Tyler Kennedy and Justin Braun were credited with the assists. Crawford would go on to turn away the rest of the Sharks shots, making 23 saves in the game.

Patrick Sharp scored the game-winner just 3:58 after Pavelski’s tally, cashing in on a Marcus Kruger one-timer feed to beat Niemi. Niemi made 22 saves on 27 shots.

Jonathan Toews and Kris Versteeg, who made his first appearance back in a Blackhawk jersey following a trade with the Florida Thursday, added third period scores. Sharp finished the scoring with a penalty shot goal with 1:11 left in the game after Marc-Edouard Vlasic hooked him on the original breakaway attempt.
The Sharks faced a 27-24 shot deficit. San Jose failed to score a power play goal on two opportunities, while the Sharks foiled the Blackhawks on their lone chance.

The Sharks will have a few days to dwell on the loss. They return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning at the SAP Center for a Thursday night contest.

Sharks Sweep The West, Beat Edmonton 3-1

188139211_slide

By Kahlil Najar

EDMONTON — The San Jose Sharks beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Friday night and completed their first sweep of Western Canada in franchise history. Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau all scored with help from veteran Joe Thornton contributing on each goal. San Jose Shark goalie Alex Stalock stopped 30 of 31 shots on goal and brought his record to 3-0-0.

“Coming off back-to-back nights, you want to get off to a good start, and we were able to do that with two early ones,” Thornton said. “We just kind of rolled on after that. It is always nice to get a 2-0 lead like that when you are playing back-to-back.”

On his win, Stalock said, “Every game, you hope for a shutout. Of course that would be awesome, you look at why they haven’t scored goals lately, but they have unbelievable skill up front with their forwards. They are going to be a scary team when they start scoring goals. My biggest thing is to get the win and to give the team a chance to get two points every night.”

Pavelski got the Sharks on the board first when on a power-play Marleau smack a backhand shot on Dubnyk who was able to turn the puck away but Thorton was able to get in his way and leave Pavelski wide open to make it a 1-0 Sharks lead. Rookie phenom Thomas Hertl gave the Sharks a 2-0 lead when at 17:13 he took a pass from Thornton and got it past Dubnyk for his 12th goal of the season.

The Sharks made it a 3-0 game when after a Thornton interception of an Oilers pass in the Sharks zone led to a three on two and Marleau ended up with the puck and shot it past the Oilers goalie.

The Oilers Yakupov finally got Edmonton on the board at 12:48 of the second when he launched a bouncing puck at Stalock and was able to beat him stick side and make it a 3-1 game.

The Sharks finish off their road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

Sharks hot to get mileage on current trip/Bulls look to have close games on homestand

by Larry Levitt
DALY CITY–The San Jose Sharks are on very long road trip and I don’t mean long as in time although as in multiple days in an eight day, five game road trip but the amount of travel they criss cross the United States and Canada twice. The Sharks are doing rather well, they’re not really executing and playing a very good defensive game right now
To say they got lucky Thursday night and beat the Vancouver Canucks in an overtime goal by Dan Boyle is an understatement, they didn’t really deserve to win but then again they deserve to win a couple others they didn’t get the goals scored, for now it’s payback. The best line I heard was ”the hockey Gods might be even things up.”
When the Sharks had Ryan Clowe and Michal Handzus that was their go to team and when you trade them away and they traded them away for speed but they don’t have that skill. I love that quick shot of the Sharks Joe Pevelski and Logan Courture they really get their shot off their stick quickly. You got to give the goalie some credit too but they didn’t seem like they had much of a game plan going in the last game on Thursday.The Sharks did what they could, they got what they got getting one point even though you lose a game getting one point is better than none.
The scary thing about facing a team like Edmonton in last place, the Oilers have been shut out for the last three games in a row. So you know their going to be aching to get a goal and against a team that’s struggling defensively like the Sharks are. Edmonton has a young team their in transition for quite awhile. They’re suppose to be there now and they’re working at having a good team now. The Oilers are struggling so maybe it’s a good time for them to catch up to them and straighten out your own woes.
Two inured Sharks Raffi Torres and Brett Burns the two injured Sharks, Torres is the team’s spark plug but the Sharks have been doing pretty good without them. Raffi is supposed to be the big heavy hitter but they didn’t really need a big heavy hitter. They’ve really been playing okay without him. Burns is a bigger miss. I don’t understand why he’s been out so long. Burns has been out with a mouth injury and Torres out with a torn ACL.
For sure Burns is really missed and he’s out for more than just a chipped tooth it’s going to be interesting when we finally find out probably at the end of the season to find out how bad this injury is. Burns may have a broken bone that still needs to heal. They miss his speed, they miss his recklessness down on the ice that really plays havoc with other teams.
It was also reported that Burns is suffering from an injury that could be a concussion related so the Sharks are going to have to make due without him. When Torres comes back he can bring some offense he doesn’t have to be a heavy hitter. He’s a big guy, he’s a good skater he can shoot so their out there and the team has been getting along okay and the Sharks look forward to see what comes up.
San Francisco Bulls update: The Bulls are on a two game winning streak they won their home opener on Friday night and then they won in Stockton on Veterans day Monday night, they’re looking pretty good the thing that is most impressive getting the road win in Stockton on Monday night. The thing that’s most impressive is the goaltending and they have hot goaltending with Tyler Boskorowany he’s a big guy at 6’5 210 pounds he moves really well.
Boskorowany moves pretty well, he got caught out of position a few times in Stockton but recovered really well and saved a goal. If the team can learn to play with him he’s a new goalie for the team. If they can get used to his style and used to his defense that’s in front of him they can really be a good team. Boskorowany he talks a lot and they seemed to be thriving on that and a lot of the defenseman are pretty young and are pretty new to the league.
They have been performing quite well, offensively it’s pretty interesting that the Bulls have been had some really lousy luck in terms of losing some players that had been called up or an injury. Center Ryan McDonough and right winger Dale Mitchell with injuries and left winger Riley Brace with the call up to Worcester. Players like Chris Crane have been filling that gap, he was in the top half of the shots taken so he seemed primed to move up a line but offensively they’ve had some difficult loses of players but they seem to be holding it together anyway.
Larry Levitt does Pro Hockey commentary each week for Sportstalk