Sharks

Sharks taking it to the wire

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Sharks taking it to the wire

The Sharks have won three consecutive games. They are back in third place, looking to host an opening round series against Chicago rather than hosting celebrity golf tournaments and duck blind bacchanals. Everything for them is swell.

And Todd McLellans eyes still look like Ryane Clowes forehead.

There is something invigorating about a playoff chase. The senses are heightened, every minute is exhausted on the task at hand, scoreboard-watching takes on an inordinate importance. And thats just for fans, whose usual exertions top out at dodging the check.

But McLellan can enjoy none of this because he has no expectations about Anaheim on Wednesday. He is safe tonight because none of the other members of the Gang of Six play, but tomorrow its back to the horrifying grind of coaching a team that scares the hell out of him.
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San Joses inconsistency has been a thing of exquisite beauty. They have turned the notion of playing to form into a minute-by-minute experience, and momentum into a hilarious joke. They are anything but trustworthy.

We know this because the Sharks got a long and sustained standing ovation for beating the bejeezus out of Colorado Monday night, a bar so low by recent historical standards that it should never have come to that at all. Grubbing for points is not something the Sharks are used to. Moreover, having to exert dominance on a team that is still in the race in name only because they have so few games left to get the lover they have always taken for granted is quite the eye-opener.

San Jose won Monday the way it won Saturday against Phoenix . . . by grinding every shift and letting the skill emerge out of the run of play rather than singular feats of brilliance. They are at their best when the glamorous stuff comes naturally and by the hard work of winning the defensive and neutral zones first, and they are their worst when trying to do it front to back.

But we knew that in February, when they couldnt do it hardly at all, and we knew it in December, and we knew it last summer when they traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns and Marty Havlat. They were trading style for substance, only they spent much of this season disavowing substance because they were still addicted to style.

And McLellan turned several shades of blue trying to convince them otherwise, to the point where he is now essentially out of words. All he can do is change lines, run what few practices there are, and show them the standings. He said as much Saturday when he said they all scoreboard-watch now, an admission most coaches would never allow outside the dressing room.

RELATED: NHL standings

He said it for a purpose, to get them to understand the inspiration of humiliation on their own, because saying, Youd rather be 10th than 3rd? Then keep doing what youre doing, every day gets monotonous, and players hate monotony.

So three wins in a row and third place overall has cured them? Hah! You havent been paying attention. They play Anaheim Wednesday, a team that is their doppelganger in so many ways, separated only by the Ducks miserable start. Then in Phoenix Thursday, and then nine days after that they are done. The Gang of Six is now closer to four, as Colorado has run out of games, and Calgary still has three teams to pass.

The assumption was that 96 points would be needed for a playoff spot, but that has been lowered to 94, a number that would have eliminated a team in four of the last six seasons. San Jose needs to split its final 12 available points to manage that, and even then the Sharks would be cutting the pastrami a bit fine.

But projecting what they will do even now is a fools game. There are no more projections, or even educated guesses. It is a night-to-night proposition, with no guarantee or signpost that a night will be good or bad until it is over. Monday night was one of their best performances in weeks, and yet they lost Logan Couture for the final 12 minutes to scare people halfway to hells waiting room.

So no wonder McLellan looks awful, and no wonder Clowes forehead knows it isnt the most gnarled object in the room.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

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AP

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.

UP NEXT

Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne was the ultimate Sharks villain

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AP

Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne was the ultimate Sharks villain

There are already a handful of Hockey Hall of Famers that had the Sharks’ number during their illustrious careers.

Ed Belfour followed up a forgettable teal tenure with two playoff series wins in two tries against San Jose, while Nicklas Lidstrom was classily dominant. Mike Modano scored his milestone 500th goal at what is now SAP Center, and Chris Pronger was loudly booed in every visit to San Jose.

None compare to Teemu Selanne, who joined them with his induction into the Hall of Fame on Monday night.

He mentioned the Sharks in his speech for all of 13 seconds, mentioning that he “had a chance to play with great players: Patrick Marleau, Owen Nolan, and many others.”

It was a forgettable, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment on an otherwise unforgettable night, and thus a neat encapsulation of his two-plus years in San Jose.

Somehow, his Sharks stint was even more infamous than Belfour’s. He was traded to San Jose for fan favorite Jeff Friesen in 2001, and was productive: 64 goals in 176 games are nothing to sneeze at.

Selanne cemented himself as a goat, rather than the G.O.A.T, with his lack of production in the postseason. 10 points in 18 playoff games wasn’t enough to get San Jose out of the second round.

His wraparound miss in a game 7 loss to Colorado in 2002 is etched into the memories of Sharks fans, as one of many missed opportunities for a franchise so often defined by misfortune.

Pronger likely would empathize with how frequently boo-birds flew upon Selanne’s subsequent returns to San Jose. Selanne was an all-time great that wasn’t especially great when he played for the Sharks, and the SAP Center crowd reacted accordingly.

It didn’t help that he was great against the Sharks.

No player in NHL history has scored more goals or points against the Sharks than the Finnish Flash.  His 99 points are 24 clear of the next closest player, fellow Hall of Famer Joe Sakic.

Only 27 of those points came after he left San Jose, but he added two more in the Ducks’ first round upset over the President’s Trophy-winning Sharks in 2009. Seeing Selanne skate with the Stanley Cup over his head in an Anaheim jersey only added insult to injury.

So Selanne not only stands above most of his peers in the Hall of Fame, but the rest of them as well, as the ultimate Sharks villain. Not because of anything he did after the whistle or said off of the ice, of course.

No, Selanne earned that status because of the points he scored against the Sharks, and the ones he didn’t for them.