Home Page

Surging Sharks couldn't have asked for more to start vital six-game homestand

Surging Sharks couldn't have asked for more to start vital six-game homestand

The Sharks couldn't have asked for more from the first two games of their current six-game homestand. 

In two wins over the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose scored 12 goals and allowed four. All but one of those goals-for came during five-on-five play (the outlier was an empty-netter), and in all, the Sharks scored four more five-on-five goals than on the entirety of a four-game road tip in which they won just once last week. 

San Jose has turned around its possession game, too. When adjusting for score and venue, (since the team held three-goal and five-goal leads headed into third periods against the Oilers and Blackhawks, respectively) the Sharks controlled 51.43 percent of the shot attempts and 55.08 percent of the unblocked shot attempts, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

The power play's now-11-game goalless drought remains concerning, but the first third of San Jose's six-game homestand has otherwise been impressive. It's also been necessary, considering how similar of a position the team's biggest rivals currently find themselves in. 

Call it a scheduling quirk, or divine narrative intervention, but whatever your preferred label, the Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings will play the same amount of home games over the next 11 days (four). Two points are currently what separates the two in the Pacific Division standings, and are the difference between starting the first round at home or on the road. 

While San Jose was in the midst of one of its biggest wins of the season on Thursday (by goal differential, anyway), Los Angeles scored five unanswered goals against the Columbus Blue Jackets en route to its third consecutive win. That's coincided nearly perfectly with the return of now-healthy Jeff Carter, who's scored in each of those aforementioned wins. 

Carter's return helped the Kings leapfrog the Ducks, and close in on the Sharks. Had San Jose split its last two games, Los Angeles would have been second in the Pacific. 

The Sharks instead kept pace, thanks to the near-ideal start to their homestand, and hold the Pacific's last spot for first round for home-ice advantage. A lack of it hasn't necessarily been a postseason impediment in the Peter DeBoer era, as they've only had it once over the last two postseasons, in the second round en route to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. 

Given the disparity between San Jose's home (19-9-3) and road records (16-12-6), though, that calculus could change this spring, and make home-ice advantage vital to advancing out of the first round. Continued success on the homestand would move the Sharks closer to it, with the added bonus of keeping it further out of the Kings' reach.

Like the first two games of said homestand, they couldn't ask for much more.

Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis


Sacramento native Rhys Hoskins reaches Home Run Derby semis

WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper thrilled the home crowd and surely made his father proud, winning the All-Star Home Run Derby on Monday night with an exceptional display of power that carried him past Kyle Schwarber of the Chicago Cubs 19-18.

Harper hit the contest-winning blast in extra time, the reward for hitting two homers at least 440 feet during the 4 minutes of regulation. After he connected with the game winner, the Washington Nationals slugger threw his bat in the air and pointed both index fingers toward the sky as a shower of streamers rained upon the crowd of 43,698.

The six-time All-Star arranged to have his dad, Ron, pitch to him in the annual contest on the eve of the All-Star Game. Harper responded with a performance that drew the loudest cheers of the night at Nationals Park.

It’s been a trying season for Harper, who’s hitting only .214 for the disappointing Nationals. He won a contest that many sluggers avoid, fearful it might wear them out and throw them off.

Harper can only hope this helps him get back into the swing.

The 2015 NL MVP beat Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves and Max Muncy of the Dodgers before trumping the fifth-seeded Schwarber, who put the pressure on with a solid outing before Harper stepped to the plate.

Wearing a headband that resembled the District of Columbia flag and displaying a right sleeve with stars and stripes, Harper trailed 18-9 with 1:20 left before rallying. He homered on nine of his last 10 swings before entering extra time.

Hours before the session, Harper spoke excitedly about having his dad pitch to him in the contest. The 25-year-old said his father “worked his tail off every single day to provide for me and my family” and “now being able to have him throw to me in a big league ballpark is the cherry on top.”

Harper advanced to the final with an astonishing spree of long-ball hitting. He trailed Max Muncy of the Dodgers 12-4 with 2:20 left, then peeled off six homers in 47 seconds before calling a timeout.

Harper returned to hit three more home runs in 22 seconds, the last of them inside the right-field foul pole.

The semifinal matchup between Schwarber and Philadelphia’s Rhys Hoskins was a thriller. After stunning top-seed Jesus Aguilar of Milwaukee in the opening round, the eighth-seeded Hoskins ripped 20 long balls to put the pressure on Schwarber.

Using a late surge, Schwarber pulled one ball after another over the right field wall to squeeze out a 21-20 victory — by far the highest-scoring matchup of the night.

The fans dutifully cheered most home runs during the first round, but they saved their loudest cheers for Harper, the last player to step to the plate.

After Freeman hit 12 home runs over the 4-minute span, Harper unleashed six shots of at least 440 feet and secured the victory with a drive to center long before the clock expired. As the ball cleared the wall, the left-handed hitting Harper walked out of the batter’s box and thrust both arms in the air.

Freeman was the oldest player in the field at 28, and the first Braves participant since Andruw Jones in 2005.

Milwaukee’s Aguilar, the NL home run leader at the break, was eliminated in the opening round by Hoskins 17-12.

Aguilar hit too many balls to straightaway center, where the wall stands over 400 feet from the plate. Hoskins pumped most of his drives into the left-field seats, where it’s 336 feet down the line.

The most thrilling first-round match featured a near buzzer-beater by Houston’s Alex Bregman, who fell to Schwarber 16-15. The difference was the pair of homers that Schwarber hit during 30 seconds of extra time, the reward for hitting two long balls of at least 440 feet.

Bregman — the lone AL representative — appeared defeated with a minute left, but he mounted a late surge and lost when his final swing produced a drive that landed at the base of the center-field wall.

Muncy advanced by defeating No. 6 seed Javier Baez of the Cubs, 16-15. Baez hit the longest shot of the Derby, a 479-footer.

Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw


Aaron Rodgers hits fan jumping off a boat in Tahoe in stride with perfect throw

Green Bay Packers quarterback (and former Cal Golden Bear) Aaron Rodgers is known for his downfield accuracy. 

Rodgers has three successful Hail Marys to his name. The first, on Dec. 3, 2015 against the Detroit Lions, kept his team's playoff hopes alive. Another, on Jan. 16, 2016 against the Arizona Cardinals, sent the Divisional game to overtime, and a third came en route to a Wild Card game win against the New York Giants on Jan. 8, 2007. 

At the American Century Championship Celebrity Golf Tournament in Lake Tahoe on Friday, Rodgers added another notch to his belt.

His latest effort won't be confused with the other three, but it's not like any of those receivers landed in a body of water, either. 

The real question? Whether or not that's a catch under the NFL's new rules.