McLellan-comes-home one of many fascinating Sharks-Oilers storylines

McLellan-comes-home one of many fascinating Sharks-Oilers storylines

If you’re the sort who thinks that coaching matchups are compelling playoff fodder, the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers are just the thing for you.

Of course, you’re also the sort who has to drink alone a lot because, well, nobody who is the sort who thinks coaching matchups are compelling playoff fodder has a lot of friends.

But now that it seems a near certainty that the Oilers and Sharks will be the one of the eight Stanley Cup first-round matchups (Anaheim-Calgary and Montreal-New York Rangers seem equally set), there will be a steady stream of Todd McLellan-comes-home stories. They are easy to do, have a compelling hook (he didn’t leave San Jose happily or willingly, the wound is still not fully closed over, and the turmoil of his last year was the most noticeable fail-blip in the last 15 years of Sharkery).

But it isn’t what you will actually be watching when the series begins April 12 (site as yet undetermined). What you will be watching is a wounded Sharks team (probably no Joe Thornton to start the series, maybe no Logan Couture, and the slow closing of one of the longest open windows in recent NHL history) against a young, intrepid, don’t-know-enough-to-know-what-they-don’t-know Oilers team with two of the best young players in a rich lode of great young players.

For those of you who claim not to pay attention before the Cup begins, that would be Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

The Oilers are fast, offensively cheeky and profoundly inexperienced. The Sharks are deeply experienced and paced for grinding. They both have one-goalie systems (Cam Talbot v. Martin Jones). They are both sloppy with possession (San Jose is1 and Edmonton 2 in giveaways) and bad in the faceoff circle (24th and 30th), but love blocking shots (San Jose is 1 and Edmonton 7).

But those are just yearlong tendencies compared against everyone else’s yearlong tendencies. The real issue here is whether age and experience can overcome infirmities and l’arn the faster and greener a thing or two.

Put another way, whether you prefer the Sharks with Jones and Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski but without Thornton and Couture to the Oilers with McDavid and Draisaitl and Talbot and no injuries of any real note.

Much of traversing the playoffs is being and staying healthy, and avoiding a series of high-leverage games early in the process. That won’t be possible for either team, since the winner likely gets the bruise distributorship known as Anaheim in the second round.

But we have never really seen the Sharks in the postseason without Thornton (although we came close when he played one-armed against Vancouver in 2011, and he was wrongly roasted in Boston in 2004 because he played poorly while hiding torn rib cartilage), and if you double-down without Couture, it is fair to wonder if the Sharks are simply too depleted to be effective. Their last month has been largely poor even before the injuries, though momentum between games in hockey is largely a myth, so the suggestion that Edmonton is ready to advance is not an unfounded one.

But nobody saw the Sharks as a Cup finalist a year ago either. Hot teams seek their own level, and though the Sharks have to find that heat, it is not unreasonable to think that as a playoff fixture they could do that.

It’s probably not the way to bet, though, not if Edmonton can maintain the faster pace and San Jose can’t get Thornton and Couture back and useful.

In short, while Todd McLellan will be a fun one-day story, this series has enough fascinating unknowns to carry you through those dark days while the Warriors are trying to navigate either the Portland Trail Blazers or Denver Nuggets. I mean, the effective NBA season starts in more than a month, but the NHL starts right . . . about . . . now.

Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win


Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win

VANCOUVER --Timo Meier's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Hertl scored into an empty net with 25 seconds remaining for the Sharks, who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games.

Nikolay Goldobin, Alex Edler and Bo Horvat scored power-play goals and Sam Gagner had two assists for the Canucks, who lost their sixth consecutive game - their longest losing streak of the season.

Goldobin's goal at 10:48 of the first period snapped a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 57 minutes for the Canucks, who had been shut out in three consecutive losses.

The Sharks had allowed just two power-play goals in their previous 17 games, but gave up three against Vancouver. The only other time San Jose allowed three power-play goals in a game was in an opening-night loss to Philadelphia.

Aaron Dell, making his first start since Feb. 22, made 28 saves for the Sharks. Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.

Meier put the Sharks ahead at 6:07 of the third with a shot from the faceoff circle that went under Markstrom's blocker. The Canucks came close with just over six minutes left, but Hertl scooped a loose puck off the goal line.

Vancouver scored twice with the man-advantage in the second period to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks took a 3-1 lead just 1:47 into the period when Meier tipped in Brenden Dillion's shot from the point.

Horvat started Vancouver's comeback, scoring just 6 seconds into a power play. Dell stopped Gagner's slap shot but Horvat jammed home the rebound. Edler tied it with a blast from the point at 11:48. It was his first power-play goal in 88 games dating to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Sharks scored 1:10 apart in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Goldobin opened the scoring when he took a pass from defenseman Derrick Pouilot and snapped a shot from the face-off circle that sailed over Dell's shoulder. The San Jose goalie was screened by Jake Virtanen.

Labanc tied it on a power play at 14:48. Joe Pavelski's shot was stopped by Markstrom, but he managed to get his own rebound and passed it to Labanc at the side of the net.

The Sharks went ahead on Couture's 29th of the season at 16:08. He took a feed from Hertl, fought off a check by Virtanen and chipped the puck past Markstrom.

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Tanev returned to Vancouver lineup for his first game since breaking his leg Feb. 8 against Tampa Bay ... San Jose center Melker Karlsson went to the dressing favoring his right leg early in the first period after blocking a shot. ... San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic left in the second period after being hit in the chest by a puck. ... The Canucks' franchise record for a scoring drought is 234 minutes, 52 seconds, set March 16-24, 2016. ... The longest goal drought by a team in the expansion era is 262 minutes, 3 seconds, set by the Minnesota North Stars from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 1988.


Sharks: vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Canucks: at Vegas on Tuesday night.

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Where does Evander Kane's four-goal game rank in Sharks history?

Sharks winger Evander Kane returns to his hometown of Vancouver on Saturday, fresh off of doing something a Vancouver-born player had not done in nearly 30 years. 

On Friday, Kane became the first such player to score four goals in an NHL game since Hockey Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson, who scored four goals with the Edmonton Oilers against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 19, 1988. It was also the first hat-trick of Kane's career, and just the fourth four-goal game in Sharks history. 

The latter point got us thinking, where does Kane's four-goal effort rank among those games? Using a rigorous, highly scientific process (read: the thoughts of this writer), we've come up with the definitive ranking. 

Without further adieu, we start with another power forward acquired in a midseason trade. 

4. Owen Nolan (Dec. 19, 1995 at Anaheim)

The Final Line: Four goals (Three power play goals), One assist, Six shots on goal

You never forget your first, so we begin with Owen Nolan, the first player to accomplish the feat in franchise history. If not for Kane and another entrant on this list (no spoilers), Nolan would still be the fastest to do it, scoring four goals in just his 27th game and just under two months after the Sharks acquired him from the Colorado Avalanche.

Nolan struck quickly throughout. He opened the scoring just 1:22 into the game against the then-Mighty Ducks, then scored his second only 57 seconds into the second period. His third and fourth, both on the power play, came 34 seconds apart in that same period. 

Just as Kane did on Friday, Nolan scored as many goals as the opposing team in a 7-4 win. It didn't quite have the same impact on the playoff race, however, as San Jose picked up its seventh win....of the entire season (in its 34th game) thanks to Nolan.

3. Patrick Marleau (Jan. 23, 2017 at Colorado)

The Final Line: Four goals (including the game-winner), Six shots on goal

The 1,459th time was the charm for the longest-tenured player in Sharks history, and the then-37-year-old Marleau became the second-oldest since 1987 to score four in a game. The oldest, Martin St. Louis, actually reached the feat against the Sharks as a 38-year-old in 2014. 

Marleau scored all four goals in a span of 13-and-a-half minutes in the third period, which began with the game tied at one. Three of those goals constituted a natural hat trick, in just a 7:42 stretch.

This game also jumpstarted Marleau's pursuit of a major milestone, as the goals were No. 494, 495, 496, and 497 of his career. He scored No. 500 a week-and-a-half later, but the four-goal game gave Marleau yet another signature moment in teal. 

2. Evander Kane (Mar. 16, 2018 at Calgary)

The Final Line: Four goals, Seven shots on goal 

Of all the players to score four goals in Sharks history, Kane certainly had the best timing. With San Jose in the thick of a playoff race and in need of a win, the newly-acquired forward delivered. 

He only needed eight games to score four goals for the first time in teal, but needed 565 for the first hat-trick of his career. The exuberance (and relief) was palpable after Kane scored his third, and that goal put the Sharks up by two. 

The desperate Flames, now four points out of the playoffs, would never get closer than that again, and Kane essentially put the game out of reach with his fourth goal 62 seconds into the third period. No Sharks player has scored four goals in a playoff game, but this one comes the closest. 

1. Tomas Hertl (Oct. 9, 2013 vs New York Rangers)

The Final Line: Four goals (One power play goal), Seven shots on goal

In just his third NHL game, and in front of his griflriend and mother visiting from the native Czech Republic, Tomas Hertl became then the fourth-youngest player in NHL history (now the sixth-youngest) to score a hat-trick-plus-one. If not for Auston Matthews scoring four in his debutHertl has arguably the most memorable four-goal game by a young player to his name. 

Of all the Sharks to score four in a game, Hertl did it the most efficiently. He only played 11:12 in that game against the Rangers, and still scored four goals on seven shots. 

Yes, it was in an October blowout, but no other four-goal game has had the same impact on the rest of the hockey world. From a fourth goal tailor-made to go viral, to the ensuing Hot Takes ("Hertl's disrespecting the game!") and subsequent jokes (Joe Thornton's still looking for four goals) it spawned, Hertl captivated the hockey world in a way no other Shark that's scored four has, and all by living his "dream, no reality."