Sharks

Five things to ponder when thinking about the Sharks' sweep of the Ducks

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AP

Five things to ponder when thinking about the Sharks' sweep of the Ducks

Round 1 can be summed up this simply for San Jose: The Sharks generally got better as the series progressed, while the Ducks further unraveled with each outing.

The biggest exception to that was Game 4, where in spurts, you could see Anaheim start to play the style they should have presented all along.  Skating the puck into the offensive zone instead dumping, getting possession established behind San Jose’s cage to set up scoring opportunities in front of Martin Jones, and most importantly - showing defensive discipline and taking far less penalties.  

But as the saying goes, “too little, too late." San Jose answered with a clutch coach’s challenge, and series clinching goal from Tomas Hertl.

In true Las Vegas fashion, I’m doubling down on my motto entering the playoffs: Expect the unexpected.

1) Martin Jones stopped 128 of the 132 Ducks shots he faced.

I could conclude my observations right here.  When you allow just four goals in four games, you’re probably getting three wins at the minimum.  However with the Sharks offense pouring in 16 goals over 12 periods, there was plenty of “run support” for Jones.  I’ll take it a step further and remind you that two of the four Ducks scores came on the power play, and I generally let the goalie off the hook for those.  Hard to pick an MVP with such wide-ranging contributions in this first round, but nobody would deny it going to Martin.

2) San Jose’s 4th line was the x-factor in the series, and Marcus Sorensen was a standout.

The smallest player on the Sharks ended the round on a three-game goal streak.  Whether it was his early equalizer in Game 2, his momentum gaining breakaway finisher in Game 3, or his tone-setting conversion in Game 4 — Sorensen scored some incredibly timely tallies for the club.  And it wasn’t just him, there were important contributions from Eric Fehr and Melker Karlsson over the course of the series, too.  Pete DeBoer has found incredible chemistry with his forward lines into the first few playoff games, top to bottom.  And this established depth is something we remember being very critical to that Cup Final run of two seasons ago.

3) The Sharks coaching staff should be credited with a goal in Game 4.

It was a rough second period for the Sharks.  They got out-shot 14-7, and took three minor penalties.  The last one came with a minute left, meaning that Anaheim would get about 60 seconds of advantage to end the period, then another 60 seconds with fresh legs and fresh ice to begin the 3rd period.  With time ticking down before 2nd intermission, Ryan Getzlaf buried a puck about one second after the clock had expired.  No goal.  Then at :27 seconds into the 3rd period, Rickard Rakell blasted one past Jones, except - Pete DeBoer challenged Anaheim’s entry into the zone, which turned out to be offside.  No goal again.  My math tells me preventing a goal is equally important to scoring one.  So in a 2-1 final score, the Sharks bench and coaching staff should be credited for catching what they saw.  And making the bold move (risking a minor penalty) to issue the challenge.

4) Pacing for the playoff marathon, not a sprint.

The best thing about San Jose sweeping is not even handing four straight losses to a SoCal rival.  Although wow, nobody is complaining about the bragging rights it brings.  It’s actually the efficiency of exerting yourself as few times as possible while advancing to the next round.  One thing we learned in the run of 2016, was the physical and mental toll an extra 24 games brough.  If it took San Jose 6 to eliminate Anaheim, that’s 6 more periods of risk, wear, and tear.  When you put yourself in position to end rounds quickly, you MUST capitalize.  Playing into mid-June becomes a battle against physical attrition.  Might as well play your cards well early.

5) Who is the underdog between San Jose and Las Vegas in Round 2?

Here’s a fancy fact: This will be (only) the eighth time that two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while each sweeping their prior opponent to advance.  On the Sharks side, it’s a group that has generally been together for years of playoff runs.  They have tons of experiences, both wining and losing as a group.  A total of 89 playoff games since 2010 alone.  With Las Vegas, you have many individuals with postseason experiences, but, certainly nowhere near the same level of experience (four games) together under the Golden Knights banner.  Naturally, you’d have to expect the pundits to favor the Golden Knights.  They won the division.  They are a storybook team.  Who are the Sharks to interfere with inaugural-season-destiny?   Pete DeBoer said he knew they “weren’t a mirage” after playing them head-to-head the day after Thanksgiving.  But if you’re the Sharks, gladly give the title of “favorites” to Las Vegas, and all the pressure it comes with.

Why Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs

Why Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boiled over in loss to Maple Leafs

SAN JOSE -- Barclay Goodrow wasn’t happy with Nazem Kadri.

The two jawed before the opening face-off Thursday night, and Goodrow grabbed the Toronto Maple Leafs center once the puck was dropped, trying to make him drop the gloves. Kadri would not, and the Sharks forward alone headed to the box for roughing eight seconds in.

It was a chippy start for teams that only play twice a season. So, what set off Goodrow?

“[Kadri] chose to fight Jumbo last year off of the opening face-off,” Goodrow told reporters after the Sharks’ 5-3 loss, “who quite frankly shouldn’t have to do that. So, I thought I would try to return the favor.” 

Let’s rewind to Jan. 4 in Toronto, when the teams last met. 

Kadri and Thornton jockeyed for stick position ahead of the opening face-off. The two traded slashes, then words, and finally punches after they were kicked out of the face-off circle before the puck was dropped. 

Kadri also grabbed a piece of Thornton’s beard in the fight, but said at the time that it was unintentional. He told reporters Thursday he figured that fight caused the immediate tension.

“I’m not quite sure why they were still so bitter about it,” Kadri said, “especially when he’s the one [who] initiated it with me, so it’s not like I went out looking for it. … I kind of knew they were pretty agitated from the start, and I figured I’d run with that.” 

The Leafs scored seconds after the ensuing power play expired. 

With the man advantage winding down, Toronto center John Tavares threw the puck in front of the net from behind the goal line. The puck bounced off San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s skate and helplessly through goaltender Martin Jones’ pads.

Up to that point, the Sharks allowed one shot on goal and three attempts on the penalty kill. 

"The biggest thing is [Kadri] got us a power play to start the game,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “They're gonna say it's not a power-play goal because I think there was one second or something [on the clock], but that's a power-play goal. It's a great way to start the game.”

Kadri, who is known for getting under his opponents’ skin, was hit a game-high six times. He drew another penalty later in the first period, then drew and received two of his own when he and Sharks winger Melker Karlsson were twice penalized for roughing in the third.

Still, the Sharks out-attempted (18-16), outshot (11-7), and out-chanced (9-5) the Leafs with Kadri on the ice five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick. San Jose tied the score 3:18 after Tavares’ tally, and held a lead at the end of the first period. 

[RELATED: DeBoer talks Sharks' defensive woes against Leafs]

Goodrow and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said they did not think Kadri threw the Sharks off their game. DeBoer thought Kadri “crossed the line” fighting Thornton, but said the pre-puck drop confrontation “was the end of it.”

If there is any remaining tension, we’ll know in fewer than two weeks. The Sharks and Leafs conclude their season series Nov. 28 in Toronto. 

Peter DeBoer says Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'probably' won't play vs. Blues

Peter DeBoer says Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'probably' won't play vs. Blues

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks would’ve liked to see Tomas Hertl penciled into Saturday’s lineup against the St. Louis Blues.

It’s looking like that might not be the case.

Hertl participated in team practice Friday, but coach Peter DeBoer told the media the 25-year-old forward "probably" won’t suit up Saturday when the Sharks have their rematch with the Blues.

It will be the second consecutive game Hertl misses on the Sharks’ current six-game homestand, after he was taken out of Tuesday’s win over the Nashville Predators with a lower body injury.

The Czech winger missed San Jose’s last bout with the Blues on Nov. 9 in St. Louis after being sidelined with a head injury. The Sharks lost that game 4-0.

[RELATED: Sharks' tension with Nazem Kadri boils over in loss to Maple Leafs]

There’s no denying the Sharks would like to have Hertl healthy and back in the lineup as soon as possible, given how well he has played so far this season. He has scored 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 16 games, including an assist on Joe Pavelski’s first-period goal in Tuesday’s win over the Nashville Predators.

With Hertl out of the lineup, it’s unclear how the Sharks' forwards will line up against Blues. DeBoer experimented with a number of line combinations with Hertl sidelined. It isn’t clear yet if the combinations used in Thursday’s loss to the Maple Leafs will be the same Saturday.