NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Sharks Take 2-0 Series Lead, Beat Ducks 3-2

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks took a 2-0 series lead over the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL Playoff quarterfinals with a 3-2 win Saturday. Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Marcus Sorensen scored for the Sharks, while Martin Jones made 28 saves. For Anaheim, goals came from Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm, with 32 saves from goalie John Gibson. It was the first time that Anaheim lost two home games in a row since November 24.

The Ducks started the scoring just 40 seconds in. Jakob Silfverberg had just carried the puck over the line when he took a long shot that must have surprised Jones, as it went right by him. Hampus Lindholm got an assist.

The first penalties went to Evander Kane and Jakob Silfverberg, matching roughing penalties at 6:12. Each team added a shot to their total but neither team scored four on four.

The Sharks tied the game up at 9:41 when Brenden Dillon’s blue line shot came off the boards behind the net and went right to Marcus Sorensen next to the goal mouth. He tapped it in for his first playoff goal.

Near the 15 minute mark, the Sharks were trapped in their own zone for long time, including two icing calls. Mikkel Boedker finally got the puck out and seconds after the much needed change, Melker Karlsson drew a hooking penalty from Brandon Montour at 13:37.

The Sharks took the lead at 14:41 with a goal from Logan Couture on the ensuing power play. Kevin Labanc caught Couture with a pass across the slot as Couture was skating hard for the net. Couture pulled the puck across the crease and away from Gibson’s poke-check before putting it away with a backhand. Assists went to Labanc and Joe Pavelski.

At the end of the period, the Ducks mustered sustained pressure against the Sharks, almost catching up on the shot clock. That count was 9-8 Sharks after the first.

That late-period pressure from the Ducks did not phase the Sharks as they jumped into the second period. Tomas Hertl scored with a back hand after skating by a couple of Ducks from the blue line to the net. Mikkel Boedker gave him the puck as he came fast through the neutral zone, earning the first assist on the 1:11 goal. Logan Couture got the secondary assist.

Shortly after the goal, Ryan Getzlaf caught a deflected puck to the face. He left the ice only briefly and returned with an ice pack for use between shifts.

Paul Martin was called for slashing at 6:30, giving the Ducks their first 5 on 4 power play of the game. Hampus Lindholm took advantage of Martin Jones being pulled off balance by Brenden Dillon’s skate as Dillon tried to get in front of the net to defend. Jones was helpless to stop the shot. Assists went to Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.

The Ducks were back on the power play at 6:12 of the third period after Evander Kane’s clearing attempt went over the glass. The Sharks killed that off and got their own power play at 9:17 after Nick Ritchie tripped Marcus Sorensen in the neutral zone. Despite a number of good chances, the score remained 3-2 Sharks.

At 16:17, Corey Perry hit Melker Karlsson while he did not seem to have the puck, knocking his helmet off and spinning him around. He went to the box for interference. The Ducks started their penalty kill with a short-handed opportunity, but the Sharks pushed back and held the zone after that.

The Ducks pulled John Gibson with under two minutes left but the Sharks held them off for the win.

The Sharks finished with 35 shots on goal to the Ducks’ 30.

Game three will be Monday in San Jose at 7:30 pm PT.

Merry Little Shutout: Sharks Beat Kings 2-0, Jones Picks Up 100th NHL Win

Photo credit: @PR_NHL

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks shutout the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 at SAP Center Saturday night. It was Martin Jones’ 100th NHL win and the first time the Sharks shutout the Kings in San Jose in over a decade. Sharks goals were scored by Marcus Sorensen and Joe Pavelski. Jones made 28 saves for the win, while Jonathan Quick made 31 saves in a losing effort for the Kings. Pavelski’s power play goal extended the Sharks’ power play success to an eight-game streak.

After the game, Sharks assistant coach Rob Zettler said:

I thought that was one of our best games of the year so far, against a division team, obviously and able to gain two points on those guys. Defensively we’ve been good all year, we’ve been starting to put the puck in the back of the net the last few games, last couple of weeks so it’s a good feeling.

Over those last couple of weeks, the Sharks have had to lean on their top lines for scoring. With Logan Couture injured, the team needs even more from the bottom six than before. That was the difference Saturday, said Zettler:

Tonight specifically I thought we got some quality minutes from our fourth line: Ward, Boedker, Sorensen, obviously scored the goal. I thought that was a major difference, being able to put those guys out in key times, key moments, and keep our big guys’ minutes down a little bit.

The game started with a strange sequence of penalties. First, Justin Braun was called for tripping Marian Gaborik, and it was a questionable call at best. 42 seconds into the Kings power play, Oscar Fantenberg was called for delay of game by concealing the puck. Depending on your bias, he either fell or threw himself down to the ice, momentarily concealing the puck. The puck was visible and moving almost immediately, so if it was an attempt to freeze the puck it was not a successful one.

Apart from penalties, it was a very rough-and-tumble game. Brenden Dillon and Timo Meier stood out, but it was a skirmish-laden event for almost everyone on the ice.

“It was fun to be on the bench, the physical part was fun. You know, Timo and Dillon and Burnsie’s hit against good players, really fun to be a part of,” said Zettler after the game. “You could feel the energy, not only in the building but you could feel it on the bench.”

The second period started with more penalties. First, Jonny Brodzinski hit Timo Meier, who responded by holding on and being dragged away from the boards. Brodzinski then threw Meier to the ice and got four minutes for roughing. Meier got two minutes for holding. During the ensuing four-on-four, the Kings were called for too many men on the ice, giving the Sharks about a minute of four-on-three action. With three penalty killers and then with four, the Kings killed off all of that.

One second past the midpoint of the game, Sorensen put the Sharks on the board. Key to his goal was that Quick was too far out of his net as the Sharks entered the zone. Sorensen changed direction abruptly right in front of Quick and was able to put the puck in with a backhand. Assists went to Mikkel Boedker and Dylan DeMelo.

The second goal came in the third period, on the Sharks’ fifth power play of the night. Tomas Hertl was in moving in front of the net, with Pavelski a little ways up in the slot. Burns took the shot from the blue line and Pavelski redirected it in. Burns took that shot right off a faceoff win by Pavelski, just six seconds into the power play.

The Sharks return to action Thursday when they host the Calgary Flames at 7:30 PM PT.

Barracuda Claim Territory, Overthrow Moose 4-1

Photo: @sjbarracuda

By Alexandra Evans

SAN JOSE—The Barracuda retaliated against the Manitoba Moose big time this afternoon, overthrowing them 4-1 after a 5-2 loss the previous day.

The Cuda’s defensive game went up from yesterday in the first period. The Cuda took a few slick shots, but each was a “close but no cigar” type of situation; they just could not make it past Moose goaltender Eric Comrie, who is said to be an NHL starter for Winnipeg in the near future. In other words, the Cuda were strong on defense, not so much on offense despite two power play opportunities. The total of nine shots were comprised of two from Radim Simek, two from Adam Helewka, and one each from Rudolfs Balcers, Brandon Bollig, Danny O’Regan, Jacob Middleton, and Alexander True.

The second period started off strong defensively, and the Cuda took a 1-0 lead after O’Regan scored at the 4:10 mark with helpers from Middleton and John McCarthy. San Jose held on until 16:33, when Manitoba’s Patrice Cormier notched a power play goal to tie the score 1-1 after 40 minutes of play.

“[Comrie] is really good, I think I was just able to get through the defensive zone there have get a point-blank shot, and those are tough [for goalies] to stop,” O’Regan said of his goal.

The third period was the game-maker. The Cuda amped up their offensive game big time and scored three goals in these 20 minutes, despite a no-goal call for O’Regan, who made a shot attempt close to the two minute mark. Marcus Sorensen made a wrist shot at 1:53 after receiving a pass from Balcers (who would put up three assists before the 60 minute mark hit). Rourke Chartier, who was out six months due to injury, notched his first goal of the season “Logan Couture-style,” Coach Roy Sommer described, referring to the Sharks forward who currently leads the team in points with 14. Chartier’s goal was assisted by Balcers and Brandon Mashinter. Balcers also assisted Radim Simek’s empty-net goal at 17:22, as did Sorensen.

“He’s good,” Sorensen said of Balcers. “When he skates hard, he’s creating a lot of space for other people [to score]. It is fun to see him play.”

Balcers, who has one goal and 10 assists this season, added, “I didn’t expect that I was going to struggle with scoring goals this season, but I’m happy that assists come and that the other guys score.” Sommer noted that Balcers, in the past, has been more adept at putting up goals rather than assists.

Tonight’s starting goaltender, Antoine Bibeau, earned his second win with the Cuda. He only gave up one shot in the entire 60 minutes (he had 17 saves on 18 shots, and has above a .925 save percentage overall).

“[Tonight] was probably the best game I’ve played defensively, especially going into the third period,” Bibeau shared following the match. “It felt to me like a playoff game, how we were playing. We played hard, played everything right… We didn’t show up just to be here [today], we showed up to win a game.”

Forwards Kevin Labanc and Brandon Bollig were spot on about the fact that the key to success is playing with a two-way mindset, having confidence both offensively and defensively, though not so much confidence that effort subsides. Bollig added that attitude impacts the game significantly, which few could argue against. The momentum from yesterday’s third period translated well into today’s match, overall.

“We were a lot tighter,” Sommer said after the match. “We took time and space away [from the Moose], which made us play a lot better than last night.”

How can the Cuda carry on this kind of energy, cultivating wins, without becoming overly confident? I asked Adam Helewka, and he answered, “We just have to keep our game simple, not too pretty, and keep making the plays we made tonight, but at the same time, we just want to get pucks and bodies to the net.”

By “pretty,” Helewka suggested that making too many passes, and playing or shooting from the outside of the opposing team’s defense, would convey a “showy” type of game rather than competitive.


Barracuda Outshines Stars 6-1, Sorensen Gets A Hat Trick, Labanc Returns

Photo credit: @sjbarracuda

By Alexandra Evans

SAN JOSE — The Barracuda have returned to San Jose from their road trip to the Midwest, Texas, and Southern California (a trip that came with three consecutive losses) to face the Texas Stars yet again. The Stars overthrew them 3-2 in a shootout last Saturday, October 28. Tonight, the Cuda refused to be outshined again and crushed them 6-1.

Roster update: Kevin Labanc was reassigned to the Barracuda from the Sharks today. In 13 games with the Sharks this season, he has posted three goals and four assists for seven points, along with a minus-3 rating and 10 penalty minutes.

The force was strong in the first period, and I am not just saying that because the previous night (November 4th’s match against the Anaheim Ducks) was Star Wars night for the Sharks! Marcus Sorensen scored two goals less than three minutes apart, the first one on the power play (Ludwig Bystrom scored the Stars’ first goal of the game 59 seconds before Sorensen’s second goal, on the power play). Nearing the end of the period, at 17:19, Filip Sandberg scored after being handed the puck by Rudolfs Balcers, who received the pass from Brandon Mashinter. In some of the earlier games this season, the Cuda had put up numerous penalties in a single period alone. There were only two in the first tonight.

The second period remained rather quiet, and ended scoreless. Following the first intermission, the boys stepped on the ice looking confident, as they should after a killer first period. Three goals in one period alone is something the Cuda had yet to accomplish prior to tonight’s match.

Five minutes into the third period, the Cuda has 25 shots on goal. Adam Helewka and Julius Bergman each fired the puck at the net within a few minutes of one another, hitting the rim and bouncing back after each player’s attempt. Then, almost eight minutes in, Sorensen notched a hat trick, assisted by Danny O’Regan and Labanc. Approximately three minutes later, Cavan Fitzgerald scored his first goal of the season, making the score 5-1. Oliver Archambault (who was recently recalled from the Allen Americans of the ECHL) wanted in on the action, and scored (his first goal as well) at the 18:44 mark. The final score was 6-1.

Sorensen, who played on the offensive line with O’Regan and Labanc (as he had last year), spoke with the media about his hat trick following the match. This was his first time scoring since opening night.

“It’s huge to be part of the offensive [line], especially on a power play. You need to help the team,” he said.

“[Sorensen] has always had potential, he just found the back of the net, which made an easy night. It was awesome to watch,” Coach Roy Sommer said.

Labanc also spoke about his reassignment to the Cuda. It came as a shocker for some, but his A-game is as strong as always.

“It was definitely fun [playing with the Sharks]. You want to come with the right attitude, you don’t want to think you’re sent down, you just have to be motivated to get back up, and be a good leader for all of the young guys, show them what it takes to play up there [in the NHL]. Work hard, work everyday.

“I learn from Jumbo [Joe Thornton], he’s always working. No matter what or where I play, you’ve got to have that work ethic, that’s what will make you a good hockey player. I’m down here [with the Cuda], so I’m going to work and just do the best that I can.

“Just because you get sent down, don’t be sorry for yourself. Instead, make a statement. Let them know you’re going to play hard no matter what…don’t waste a day,” Labanc shared.

Labanc, who enjoyed reconnecting with last year’s teammates, also discussed the smooth flow between him, Sorensen, and O’Regan.

“I knew I was playing with Marcus and Danny beforehand, so I knew we had chemistry. You just do what you can, play hard, and goals will come,” he said.

I also spoke with Helewka, Archambault, and Fitzgerald on their overall thoughts and feelings about tonight’s big win.

“The talk in the room before the game was ‘it’s a must-win for our confidence.’ We played like that, it showed, and we had success because of it,” Helewka said.

Helewka’s hand-eye coordination has really stood out to me so far this season; he truly knows where the net is, he knows where to send the puck in order to get it into the net, and how to find the “holes” around the net minder. He has been the king of assists thus far.

“I’ve always kind of worked on [my hand-eye coordination], so I guess it might be progressing this year,” Helewka told me after I brought the subject up with him.

Archambault and Fitzgerald scored their first goals of the season in tonight’s match, Archambault’s being his first in the AHL.

“It’s fun to get the first one out of the way, a good pass by my teammates [Tim Clifton and Radim Simek], so I was happy,” Archambault said.

“We had a lot of confidence in everyone tonight, in all three zones we felt good,” Fitzgerald said. “It was a big bounce-back game for us. We knew we needed to come back… it’s good to get that first win [since returning to San Jose] out of the way.”