Tag Archives: 2016 Western Conference Final

San Jose Sharks 2019-20 Season Preview

San Jose Sharks

46-27-9, 101 points, 2nd in the Pacific Division

Eliminated in the Western Conference Final by St. Louis

Additions: F Jonny Brodzinski, D Trevor Carrick (acquired from CAR), D Nicolas Meloche (acquired from COL), D Dalton Prout

Subtractions: F Joonas Donskoi (signed with COL), F Micheal Haley (signed to a PTO with NYR), F Jonathon Martin (signed with Tucson, AHL), F Gustav Nyquist (signed with CBJ), F Joe Pavelski (signed with DAL), F Francis Perron (traded to VAN), F Tom Pyatt (SHL), F Alex Schoenborn (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Justin Braun (traded to PHI), D Michael Brodzinski (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Cody Donaghey (signed with Orlando, ECHL), D Cavan Fitzgerald (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Joakim Ryan (signed with LAK), D Kyle Wood (re-signed, then traded to CAR), G Antoine Bibeau (traded to COL)

Still Unsigned: F Rourke Chartier, F Tim Clifton

Re-signed: F Kevin Labanc, F Maxim Letunov, F Timo Meier, F Antti Suomela, F Joe Thornton, D Nick DeSimone, D Tim Heed

Offseason Analysis: After making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016, the San Jose Sharks were looking to capitalize on their momentum from their miraculous comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of their First Round matchup.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, sometimes injuries pile up and get in the way of forward progress.

Though they lost to the St. Louis Blues in six games in the Western Conference Final, the mere fact San Jose made it that far after nearly blowing it against Vegas is impressive– especially considering how close of a series their Second Round matchup with the Colorado Avalanche was, which also went seven games.

Whether they were exhausted from multiple overtimes, one long series after another, the Sharks found themselves with a longer than anticipated offseason to rest and recover.

In the meantime, General Manager, Doug Wilson, had his work cut out for him.

Wilson signed Erik Karlsson to an eight-year, $92 million extension worth $11.500 million per season, making Karlsson the highest paid defender in the league.

The Sharks GM also managed to re-sign 22-year-old star in the making, Timo Meier, to a four-year contract worth $6.000 million per season. By the end of the deal, Meier will still have one year of restricted free agency left, which really speaks to the fact that it’s a great– team friendly– extension at an affordable price with the future in mind.

Last season, Meier had 30-36–66 totals in 78 games. He had 21 goals and 15 assists (36 points) in his first full season (81 games played) in 2017-18.

But the cost of re-signing key pieces of San Jose’s core comes with a price– losing depth.

First, Joe Pavelski priced himself out of the Sharks, in part, thanks to his consistent scoring and 38 goals last season at 35-years-old, as well as San Jose’s cap crunch thanks to Karlsson’s pay raise.

Pavelski signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Stars worth $7.000 million per season, but it’s not about the money for San Jose (even though it was)– it’s about having to make up for a 38-goal deficit heading into this season.

Second, to get themselves squared away with the salary cap, Wilson had to move one of his durable top-four defenders via a trade, sending Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on June 18th for a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick.

Trading Braun left Wilson with no choice but to sign Dalton Prout as a cheap replacement and to perform this season’s Micheal Haley duties. Haley, himself, signed a PTO with the New York Rangers in hopes of filling New York’s Cody McLeod/Tanner Glass role opening.

On the plus side, the Sharks will be able to replenish their pool of prospects with the transaction. On the other hand, Braun was a versatile component when others (like Karlsson) were injured.

Even with the additional $3.800 million addition in cap space, San Jose was not able to convince Joonas Donskoi to stay in town, regardless of whether or not Wilson had any plans for the top-nine forward.

Instead, Donskoi joined the Colorado Avalanche on a four-year deal worth $3.900 million per season– providing both job security and a chance to win the Cup, since the Avs are on the rise.

Sharks fans were hoping to see a reunion of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton back on the same team, but Wilson guaranteed Marleau wouldn’t be signed as long as Thornton was back for his 22nd season in the National Hockey League.

The good news? “Jumbo Joe” isn’t going anywhere– take that Father Time!

The bad news? Marleau isn’t going anywhere in free agency (yet) either.

It’s a good move for the Sharks though, as their younger players did exactly what Wilson explained– they played better and worked their way up the lineup to where Marleau had been prior to his departure to join the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2, 2017.

San Jose has something special in Meier, Kevin Labanc, Barclay Goodrow and even Dylan Gambrell, meanwhile Logan Couture was named captain in wake of Pavelski’s departure– fully cementing the Logan Couture Era legacy in Sharks history.

Head coach, Peter DeBoer, will have a lot of leadership in the dressing room to rely on with Couture as captain and Karlsson, Thornton, Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns serving as alternate captains throughout the season.

Offseason Grade: C-

Considering Karlsson’s cap hit, it would’ve been a “D+” if it weren’t for the redeeming qualities of Meier’s contract. Other than that, the Sharks are destined to be a divisional berth in the Pacific Division as recent history has dictated, but they don’t seem to have what it takes on paper to be leapfrogging over the competition.

Oh, and there’s the near 3.00 goals against average of both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell to consider from last season. That’s terrible for a team with or without Karlsson and Burns on the defense.

HOT TAKES: Is It Time To Trade Marc-Andre Fleury?

By: Nick Lanciani

With Matt Murray’s impressive 2016 Stanley Cup Playoff run for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is it time for them to think about their future in goal and realize the future is now? Let’s decide whether or not it’s time for the Penguins to trade Marc-Andre Fleury.

Pittsburgh Penguins Logo

Trade Him, Trade Him Now

Everyone’s making a big fuss over goaltenders these days, yet it seems like the smart thing to do would be to stick with your number one goalie all along. The St. Louis Blues fallout in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final against the now-headed to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, San Jose Sharks, had nothing to do with shaky goaltending, despite being outscored by a large margin.

Brian Elliott was the Blues clear starting goalie in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs as Jake Allen lost his way in the final month and a half of the regular season and was relegated to the backup role in the playoffs. Allen’s Game 5 loss to the Sharks comes as no surprise, given well, let’s just say Elliott is the clear number one goaltender as of right now for St. Louis’s 2016-2017 season opener (and I’m not just saying that because of a bet I made with Connor).

The Penguins rode the momentum of their tremendous run on the backs of Marc-Andre Fleury, Matt Murray and Jeff Zatkoff this season, but one thing has emerged as a clear choice to make. Is it time to replace Fleury?

Look, that might sound surprising— okay, I’m even surprising myself— but let’s face it, Fleury is coming off his greatest season ever and there’s no greater time to amass a significant return than right now. Especially when Matt Murray put up similar numbers in the regular season to the currently elite Washington Capitals goaltender, Braden Holtby’s rookie year.

Fleury went 35-17-6 is 58 games played this season with a 2.29 GAA and a .921 SV%. He recorded five shutouts this year, which put him at 20 shutouts over the last three seasons. Last year, Fleury went 34-20-9 in 64 appearances, with a league leading and career high 10 shutouts and a 2.32 GAA and .920 SV%. For the lack of a better summarization, Fleury’s been on fire in recent years.

His success seems to be unusual, considering how Fleury often flutters out of peak performance in the playoffs— oh wait.

Having been out of the lineup since March 31st with a concussion, Fleury returned to his first game action in relief of Murray in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Lightning on May 20th. Fleury made his first start in nearly two months on May 22nd in Game 5.

In two playoff appearances, Fleury is 0-1-1 with a 3.03 GAA and an .875 SV%. In other words, not good for his first couple of games back on the wings of a spectacular Vezina Trophy worthy season (it beats me why Jonathan Quick is a finalist this year and Fleury is not). A good playoff goalie is expected to make an impact on the series, bar none.

I get it, he’s coming back from being mostly inactive for the last couple of months, but he is considered a regular at what he does for a living and should not have even started Game 5, based on Murray’s performance in the playoffs as a whole. You don’t change your goalie in a series unless it’s goalie change in a relief appearance or heading into an elimination game— otherwise you’re only tinkering with momentum and robbing a goalie’s confidence (and perhaps the rest of the team’s confidence).

But Matt Murray is ten years younger and making an impact as good, if not better than Fleury, when it comes to crunch time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In Murray’s 13 regular season games this season, he went 9-2-1 with a 2.00 GAA and a .930 SV%. His rookie season save percentage almost mirror’s Holtby’s .934 SV% as a rookie 21-year-old back in the 2010-2011 season. Holtby also went 12-10-2 in 14 games with a 1.79 GAA, for the record, that year.

While Holtby set himself apart from the rest in 12 playoff appearances this year with a 1.72 GAA and .942 SV% at 26-years old, Murray’s been Holtby-esque spectacular, all while defeating the Capitals and taking his team further than Holtby’s ever been in the playoffs.

In 14 playoff appearances, Murray is 10-4-1 with a 2.30 GAA and a .924 SV% in his first run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs heading into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Holtby went 7-7-4 in 14 games played with a .935 SV% and a 1.95 GAA in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs (his first taste of playoff hockey). While the numbers might seem misleading, Holtby allowed 30 goals on 459 shots against that year and Murray’s allowed 32 goals on 420 shots against thus far in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

For a 21— 22-year-old goaltender, this kind of a run is insanity, no matter how you look at it.

For a general manager, living in the Braden Holtby-as-top-dog-in-net era, it’s certainly worth considering moving Murray up not only from the third-string position, but to your number one spot for good.

I have nothing against Marc-Andre Fleury as he is now.

I’ll repeat that. I have nothing against Marc-Andre Fleury.

However, at $5.75 million with 4 years left on his contract and Murray only costing $620K with two years left and a plethora of other talented pending RFA’s in the next couple of seasons for the Penguins, it’s worth the time to see what other teams would give up for a surefire number one goalie for at least the next five years (if not longer- Fleury isn’t showing signs of turning into the next Ryan Miller anytime soon).

And given the relationship between the Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs after the Phil Kessel deal in the offseason, it might be worth investigating just how badly Toronto needs a goaltender. Let alone other teams scampering around the Maple Leafs in the standings.

One more tidbit of information; Fleury’s rookie campaign of the 2003-2004 season only saw a 4-win, 14 losses and 2 ties performances in 21 games played with a 3.64 GAA and a .896 SV% at the age of 18 going on 19.

The fact of the matter is that the Penguins could lengthen the life of their success with a young goalie like Murray putting on a performance similar to their rival in Washington’s goalie (Holtby) and still be built on the currently successful Chicago model of running a team.

A team built on interchangeable scoring, a shutdown defense and a goalie that is clutch when you need him to be, but can be bailed out as he grows with the team in front of him.

Trade Fleury while you can. Make a pure hockey move, reminiscent of the days when the Boston Bruins acquired prolific goal scorer Phil Esposito in a deal that worked out for everyone involved— Blackhawks included— or like when the Colorado Avalanche landed Patrick Roy from the Montréal Canadiens— except the Canadiens didn’t really get much out of that deal and it was kind of forced on them (or by themselves, depending of who you ask).

Bottom line, hockey is a business and in a business you’re always looking for the here and now and where you’re headed in the future. Otherwise you’re only doomed to mismanagement at its finest. Pittsburgh has a chance to avoid poor management by trading Fleury while the price is still high and avoid falling in the standings by the grace of the rest of their organization and Matt Murray in goal.

Sharks Silence the Blues in Six Games, Reach First Ever Stanley Cup Final.

The St. Louis Blues will have to wait another season to try and make it to the Stanley Cup Final. The Blues have not made it to the SCF since the 1969-70 season when they lost to the Boston Bruins in 4 games (you might recall that flying goal by Bobby Orr in overtime in Game 4). That is a whopping 44 seasons in a row, which ranks 2nd all-time among teams trailing only the Toronto Maple Leafs who have not made it since 1966-67, which is 47 seasons.

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This is the San Jose Sharks biggest game in their 25 years of being a NHL team. They will try and silence the  St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup run tonight at “The Shark Tank”.

With a Sharks win in Game 6 on Wednesday night, they would advance to the Stanley Cup Final. It would be their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. The Blues will be going back to their “number one” goalie Brian Elliott for Game 6. Elliott was benched for their last two games as he was replaced by Jake Allen.

After Allen’s horrid Game 5, where he 0nly stopped 21 out of 25 shots for a terrible .840 SV% the Blues made the switch back to Elliott for the next game. Elliott has given up 6 goals on his last 37 shots in his last 2 starts, as well as being 2-0 in elimination games these playoffs. Allen did start Game 4 in San Jose where the Blues looked like a brand new team winning 6-3 and Allen finishing with a strong .912 SV%. St. Louis fans had something to look forward too after his win, but were let down as Allen and the Blues looked like a pee-wee team and squandered a 2-1 lead and a 3-2 lead and ended up losing the game.

As well as the Blues goalie troubles, they are having scoring troubles from their better players. For example, star winger Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues in scoring with 40 goals which were the most on the team. Tarasenko has yet to register a POINT let alone a goal in the series. He will definitely have to pick up his play. So the Blues will look to stave off elimination and force another Game 7 back in St. Louis.

San Jose has played in a total of 31 playoff series. Out of these 31 series, 10 of them have ended in 6 games. The Sharks have been on the losing end of the majority of these matchups with their record being 3-7. The Sharks will look to keep their composure and win in front of their home crowd. While St. Louis will look to do the opposite and get the crowd out of the game early, just as they did the last time they were here.

The Sharks won the battle of the crowd-pleasing early, although the game’s first shot didn’t happen until almost two minutes in (courtesy of San Jose), they got the crowd pumped and ready to go with a couple chances early. St. Louis got a little life back as they went on a little run, stringing together 3 shots but were all turned away by San Jose’s goalie Martin Jones. The Sharks would keep the crowd loud and proud as they would tally first almost four minutes in.

Here’s how it went down:

Sharks goalie Martin Jones would come up huge with a wicked glove save to stone Blues vet Alex Steen in the slot. The rebound would go flying into the left corner. Sharks winger Tomas Hertl found the puck lying in the corner and went back to get it. Hertl basically grabbed the puck, turned around in the corner, and threw the puck out of the zone for what it looked like to be a harmless clear.

Well, Sharks vet Jumbo Joe Thornton would sneak behind the two St. Louis’ defenders, pick up the loose puck after it was slowed down by a tip, and burst in on a breakaway. Thornton would come in on Blues goalie Brian Elliott and flip a wrister on net in the slot but would miss the net completely going high and get all glass behind the net.

As both of the Blues defenders would clumsily go behind the net looking for the puck, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski would find the loose puck behind the net. Pavelski sneakily wrapped the puck around the back of the net to Elliott’s left and get stoned by Elliott as he whipped out his left pad. Fortunately for Pavelski, since the defenders were still behind the net, the puck sat on the goal line. Pavelski had another huge whack at the puck and pushed the puck over the goal line to-tally first and put them in the lead at 1-0. This was Pavelski’s league leading 13th goal of the playoffs.

This early goal got the crowd ROARING early and LOUDLY. This was exactly what the Sharks wanted, to jump out to an early lead and get the crowd going. Sharks fans had something to look up to, because in all 5 previous games in the series, the team to score first would end up winning the game. The Sharks would also shut down the Blues offense early as they held St. Louis shot-less for a long six-minute span in the middle of the first period.

Surprisingly, there were no more big opportunities, just small ones, and no team took a single penalty in the first frame which happened for the second straight game. Other than that, to sum up the opening period between these two teams… it was ALL Sharks. When I say “ALL Sharks” I really mean it, this doesn’t happen very often, when a team controls the whole period. The Sharks only let 4 shots reach goalie Martin Jones as he had a quiet period after his glove save. San Jose scored early and dominated the rest of the period and kept their 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The “no penalty” part of the first did not carry over into the second period. Just 36 seconds into the middle period, Blues winger Troy Brouwer gets called for interference on Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi. This sent the Sharks to their first power play of the game, where they always dominate even if they don’t score a man up. They always create momentum no matter what. Unfortunately, the Blues were great at getting their sticks in the shooting lane and only let one shot get to Elliott and they killed it off.

The Sharks would once again lock down on defense and didn’t allow a shot until five minutes into the period. This stellar defense would lead to their second goal of the game. San Jose’s 3rd line would go right to work in the attacking zone looking for a goal. Sharks grinder Chris Tierney would find his way out of a battle in the right corner with the puck. Tierney pushed the puck up to Sharks star D-man Brent Burns at the right side point. Burns flipped a wrister on net that would find the stick of Sharks winger, Joel Ward. The puck would deflect right off Ward’s stick, past Elliott’s blocker, and into the net. This was Ward’s 3rd goal of the playoffs and 19th of his career in the postseason.

The Sharks would have another glorious chance as they would get their potent power play back onto the ice, and this one was a lengthy one. Blues 4th liner Scottie Upshall would catch Sharks winger Tommy Wingels up high with his stick. It would be a double minor (four minutes) because Wingels was bleeding from the contact with the stick. The Blues were once again up to the task, only giving up two shots, and killed off a huge penalty to keep the score at 2-0 at the midway point of the second period.

St. Louis would get their best chance to cut into the lead at the 10:48 mark of the period. Blues 1st line center Jori Lehtera would receive a perfect pass from teammate Robby Fabbri right in his wheelhouse in the slot on the right hash marks. Lehtera would unleash a massive one-time clap bomb and was absolutely ROBBED by Jones’ left pad. Jones pushed from his right to his left and kicked out his left pad at the last minute to rob Lehtera to keep his perfect night intact. This save was Jones’ best save of the series by far!

The second period would end with the score still being 2-0 in favor of the Sharks. The only thing different in the summary of the period was that San Jose had all the momentum early in the period especially with the goal five minutes in. Although, after the Blues killed off the massive four minutes power play, they brought the momentum back to their side. They spent probably 70% of the remainder of the period in the Sharks zone threatening to score. St. Louis outshot the Sharks 7-2 after killing the penalty. San Jose’s Martin Jones was there for every shot and turned them all away. The Sharks are 7-0 when leading after two periods in the playoffs while outscoring the opposition 26-12 in the third periods overall.

Well, the Sharks third period dominance showed up again early in the final period. San Jose’s 2nd line was in on the prowl looking to extend their lead and they did with beautiful passing. Sharks winger Joel Ward stole the puck in the offensive zone high on the right side boards. Ward looked up and fired a cross-ice pass over to linemate Logan Couture on top of the left side circle. Couture corralled the pass and skated down to the left side hash marks almost right on the boards.

Couture then whipped a wicked pass over to a streaking Joel Ward, who slipped down past the defense, parked right above the goalie crease to the right and tapped it into the wide-open net to extend their lead to 3-0 just three minutes into period three. It was Ward’s second goal of the game and fourth goal in his past two games.

The Sharks threatened to score again almost two minutes later. Sharks winger Tomas Hertl found himself with the puck behind the Blues net. Hertl stickhandled three to four times in place and found a wide open Joe Pavelski right below the left side hash marks. Pavelski put a snap shot right on net that had to be headed down into the corner by Elliott to keep the Blues’ little glimmer of hope still alive.

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That little glimmer of hope was smashed into pieces just four minutes later when San Jose would score again to go up 4-0. Sharks’ Patrick Marleau seized the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the offensive zone on the right side.

Marleau stopped on a T at the hash marks near the boards and dumped the puck off to streaking winger Logan Couture at the top of the circle. Couture took the puck, skated a foot, and spotted fellow winger Joonas Donskoi wide open in the slot to his left.

Donskoi wasted no time with the pass and unloaded a massive one-timer that beat Brian Elliott to his right. This was Donskoi’s 5th goal of the playoffs.

St. Louis would piece together a little bit of hope that was previously smashed by Donskoi’s goal. Blue’s D-man Colton Parayko would get the puck on the top of the right circle. Parayko would rip a wrister on net that was saved by Jones’ pad, but Jones would trip himself up and fall over. Blues’ Jori Lehtera would get the rebound and take the puck behind the net to set back up. Lehtera would find Russian star Vladimir Tarasenko high left side in the slot. Tarasenko would find the puck in his feet, kick the puck to his stick, and shoot a wrister on net that beat the out of position Jones high blocker side. This was finally Tarasenko’s first point and goal of the series to make the score 4-1.

Then with 4:25 left in the game a scrum would ensue between the benches. After everything settled down, both teams would get a penalty with a player from each side going to the box. Sharks’ Tommy Wingels would get caught for slashing Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk while Shattenkirk would get caught for cross-checking Wingels right back. We would have played 4 on 4 hockey with the penalties offsetting each other. St. Louis wasn’t going to take any chances and needed to score badly so they pulled Brian Elliott to make it 5 on 4 in favor of St. Louis.

This worked right in favor for the Blues as the scored 50 seconds later to cut the Sharks lead in half at 4-2. Blues center Paul Stastny would get the bouncing puck above the hash marks on the left side. Stastny would pass the puck down to recent goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko right on the goal line in the left corner. Tarasenko would see that the Sharks were giving him a lot of room and drove right to the net on the goal line. Tara would simply try his luck on goal with a little wrist shot. Somehow the seeing-eye shot would find a way into the net after Tara banked the puck right in off Jones’ hip as he was hugging the right post. This was Tarasenko’s second goal of the game and gave the team a little more hope then before.

St. Louis would then pull Brian Elliott and replace him with Jake Allen. The main reason for the replacement was that Allen is a much better puck handler in case he had to handle a loose puck. They move did not make much sense because they pulled him for the rest of the game to get the extra attacker to play 6 on 5 hockey for the last three minutes of the game.

The extra attacker did not pay off as they only managed four more shots that were stopped by Jones to keep their two goal lead. Then with 20 seconds left in the game, after a nice blocked shot from defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks would put the icing on the cake with Logan Couture’s empty net goal to make it 5-2.

This would end up being the final score as the Sharks ended the Blues season earlier then they hoped. San Jose will now play in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. The most experienced players on the team, them being Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, will also play in their first SCF after a combined 3,093 games! The Sharks were then presented with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, which is awarded to the Western Conference Playoff Champion.

There is a superstition about touching or not touching the trophy when it is presented to you. Some say if you touch it, you will lose the SCF. Well captain, Joe Pavelski did not touch the trophy, as most players choose not to so we will see what happens! This is also Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 2nd career time reaching the Stanley Cup Final. His first time was with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, his first time coaching in the NHL. The 2012 Devils, like the 2016 Sharks, missed the playoffs entirely the year before.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones stopped 23 out of 25 shots for a solid .920 SV% and Blues’ Brian Elliott stopped 22 out of 26 shots for a disastrous .856 SV%. St. Louis led in faceoffs (32-27), penalty minutes (8-2), and hits (42-31) while San Jose led in shots (27-25),  blocked shots (18-14), and giveaways (19-12). San Jose was 0/3 on the PP and St. Louis was 0/1.

San Jose’s final stats for their Conference Final are as followed: Teams leading goal scorer were Joe Pavelski and Joel Ward both with four, leading apple (assist) getter was Joe Thornton with seven, leading total point getter was Joe Pavelski with nine points (4G, 5A), the time on ice leader was Brent Burns averaging 23:39 per game. Goalie Stats: Martin Jones appeared in 6 games going 4-2 with a .920 SV% and 2.02 GAA and James Reimer appeared in 1 game (a relief effort) saving 6 out of 7 shots for a .857 and 2.06 GAA.

St. Louis’ final stats for their CF are: Teams leading goal scorer was surprisingly Troy Brouwer with three, leading apple getter was Paul Stastny with four, total point getter was Paul Stastny with four points (0G, 4A), time on ice leader was Alex Pietrangelo averaging 26:44 per game. Goalie Stats: Brian Elliott in 4 games going 1-3 with a .884 SV% and 3.02 GAA and Jake Allen also in 4 games going 1-1 with a .885 SV% and a 3.29 GAA%.

San Jose will have a nice little break as they wait to find out their opponent— either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning— for the Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh and Tampa battle in Game 7 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center. The first game of the Stanley Cup Final will be on Monday, May 30th.

Brodziak and Brouwer Lead The Bluenotes to a Vital Game 4 Victory.

The St. Louis Blues easily defeated the San Jose Sharks by the score of 6-3 on Saturday night at “The Shark Tank”. The Blues were led by the surprising play of underdogs Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak who scored two goals apiece. This game was the Blues 100th game of the 2015-2016 season which is now a new franchise record.

The St. Louis Blues looked to get back on track in the series after falling behind 2 games to 1. They were blown out by the combined score of 7-0 in Games 2 and 3, the Blues made a major change in net. Blues skipper Ken Hitchcock decided to bench Brian Elliot because of his very poor performances in Games 2 and 3 and go down a different path. He turned to surprising tendy Jake Allen, for his first start since April 3rd, to try and grab a crucial road win and even up the series. Allen’s only playoff action of this year’s playoffs were two relief efforts when the Blues pulled Brian Elliot. He’s only seen a total of nine shots in two games. Allen has appeared in a total of nine games, going 2-4 with a .910 SV% and 1.90 GAA in the playoffs.

St. Louis will look to try and get a puck past Sharks star goalie Martin Jones. The Blues have not scored a single goal in seven and a half periods going back to their last goal in Game 1 totaling to a whopping 147:43 in time. St. Louis has a total of two goals in three games this series.

The game started surprisingly slow which is uncommon for both teams. We got the games first penalty exactly five minutes into the game when Sharks star Brent Burns tripped Blues winger Jaden Schwartz. This sent St. Louis to their dreadful power play that is 1/9 on the man advantage in the series. It did not take long for the Blues to convert for the games first goal. St. Louis center Paul Stastny grabbed the puck above the hash marks on the right side. Stastny didn’t hold on to it long and dished the puck down to winger Robby Fabbri who was parked below the goal line. Fabbri immediately one touched the puck up to winger Troy Brouwer who instantly ripped a one-timer past goalie Martin Jones. St. Louis scored 1:14 into the manpower advantage and took the 1-0 lead thanks to Brouwer’s 6th goal of the playoffs. This goal ended Martin Jones stunning shutout streak at 156:59.

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St. Louis would double their lead just 4:14 later. St. Louis would go on the forecheck and force a turnover from the Sharks D in their own zone. The Blues would jump right on the loose puck and come in on a rush. Blues center Jori Lehtera, in the slot, would sauce a pass over to winger Robby Fabbri who had all net to shoot at as Martin Jones was way out of position. Just as Fabbri released his wrister Sharks goaltender Martin Jones pushed from left to right and absolutely ROBBED Fabbri with the paddle of his goalie stick. Fabbri looked up to the rafters in disbelief that he didn’t score, but he wasn’t sad for long. Jones’ rebound sat right in the goalie crease and Sharks D-man Brent Burns hastily kicked the puck out of the crease. Unfortunately, Burns kicked the puck right to Blues center Jori Lehtera who, made no mistake and, potted the puck into the gaping net. Lehtera’s 3rd goal of the playoffs increased the Blues lead to 2-0.

Just 17 seconds later Blues center Paul Stastny got a two-minute interference call on San Jose captain Joe Pavelski. This sent the Sharks to their first power play of the game while they are 2/10 in the series. St. Louis came to play early and weren’t having any nonsense and killed the penalty off without conceding a single shot.

Then with 24 seconds left in the opening frame, the Blues would go back onto the power play. Sharks defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic got the call for slashing St. Louis winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The first period would end with the game being all St. Louis. St. Louis will start the second period with 1:36 of power play time.

Things would not get any better for San Jose as just 48 seconds into the second period Sharks center Logan Couture would get called for a delay of game penalty. St. Louis would get a great chance to score again as they played 48 seconds of 5 on 3 hockey. The Sharks clamped down defensively, only giving up two shots, and killed the long penalty off.

We would get another penalty with 5:10 gone in period two. Blues D-man Kevin Shattenkirk would get a two-minute trip to the sin bin for interfering with Sharks Melker Karlsson. San Jose looked to cut into the Blues two-goal lead with their second power-play of the game but ended up giving up a short-handed goal instead. Blues winger Jaden Schwartz seized the loose puck on the left-hand point from a terrible pass from Sharks vet Joe Thornton in the offensive zone. Schwartz noticed he had a two on one odd man rush the other way and decided to take off towards the net. Schwartz carried the puck all the way to the left-hand hash marks and sauced a beaut of a pass to center Kyle Brodziak on the right-hand hash marks. Martin Jones was way out of position coming over to face the shooter, again, and Brodziak promptly ripped a wrister over Jones’ blocker to triple their lead to 3-0. Brodziak’s goal was their first short-handed goal of the playoffs.

San Jose still had a minute left on the power play to try and score a goal to gain some momentum back. St. Louis shut them down again while only giving up one shot.

Believe it or not, just four minutes later the Blues would strike again. St. Louis’ 4th line was in on the attack in the offensive zone. Blues winger Dmitrij Jaskin found himself behind the Sharks’ net with the puck. Jaskin curled around the net and spotted center Kyle Brodziak on the left side hash marks and hit him with a tape to tape pass. Brodziak wasted no time after corraling the pass and rifled a nasty snap shot top cheese to take their lead to 4-0. This is now Brodziak’s first career two-goal game in the playoffs. The Blues scored at exactly the same time (10:11) in the first and second period.

San Jose’s coach Peter DeBoer took no time and quickly called for backup goalie James Reimer to come in and replace the struggling, Martin Jones. James Reimer faced only three shots in the remainder of period two. The Sharks call for a goalie change made it official that now all four teams (Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, San Jose, and St. Louis) in the Conference Finals have used both of their goalies. On the other hand, bad news for the Blues, as captain David Backes did not play a single shift in the second period, when he played 5:34 in the first, as he may have been injured in the first. St. Louis controlled the whole period again and the second period ended with the Blues up 4-0.

The Sharks looked like a new team coming right out of the break to start the third period. San Jose jumped right out of the gun and scored 1:05 into the final period to make the score 4-1. Sharks D-man Paul Martin faked a slap shot on the right-hand point and fed center Joe Thornton the puck. Thornton skated down the left side and once he got to the top of the left circle dished a beautiful saucer pass to linemate Joe Pavelski on the right side cutting to the net. Pavelski had a completely wide open net and an easy tap in goal to get the Sharks on the board and give San Jose some momentum. This was Pavelski’s league leading 10th goal of the playoffs and a new franchise record for most in a single season. He beat the previous record of nine goals held by teammate Patrick Marleau in 2010.

St. Louis would go back on the power play when Sharks newcomer Joel Ward got caught flipping the puck out of his own zone for a delay of game penalty. This sent the Blues to their 4th PP of the game. It only took “The Notes” seven seconds to cash in on their now red hot man advantage. Blues center Paul Stastny on the left-hand boards passed the puck over to fellow center Alex Steen who let a one time shot go on the right side point. Steen’s shot found the stick of winger Troy Brouwer in the slot and was redirected right under Sharks goalie James Reimer’s arm. This was Brouwer’s second power-play goal of the game and makes it 5-1.

With 6:57 gone in the third period, the Sharks would get back in the goal scoring column. The Sharks 3rd line went to work in the attacking zone as Chris Tierney got the puck below the goal line on the right side. Tierney spotted fellow winger Melker Karlsson just below the right-hand hash and hit him with a pass. Karlsson let a one-t clapper go that was saved by Jake Allen. Although, Allen sticked the rebound away to his left but the puck went right to Chris Tierney’s stick. Tierney quickly shot the puck on net and it deflected off of Jake Allen’s leg and went in the net to cut the Blues lead to 3 at 5-2.

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Then just seven seconds later at the 7:07 mark of period three the Blues would take another penalty. Blues winger Jaden Schwartz tripped Sharks winger Joe Pavelski. The Sharks would go to their third PP of the game but only managed one shot and the Blues killed it off. San Jose would have numerous chances to cut into the Blues lead but goalie Jake Allen had to make two to four marvelous saves to keep the Sharks from scoring again. With three minutes later, yet again, St. Louis would get called for another infraction with Paul Stastny getting his second penalty of the game. Stastny hauled down Sharks grinder Chris Tierney. San Jose looked to try and score again quickly but the Blues halted their progress only letting one shot get on net in the two minutes.

San Jose took a page out of Colorado’s Patrick Roy book and pulled their goalie, James Reimer, with 5:05 remaining in the game. This tactic did not work to the Sharks’ liking at all. Only 44 seconds later St. Louis would tack on their final goal of the contest. Alex Pietrangelo would make a great defensive play in his own zone at the blue line, grab the loose puck, and fire it down the ice and into the empty net to get their lead back up to 4 at 6-2.

San Jose would tack on a consolation goal 49 seconds later at the 16:28 mark of period three. The Sharks third line would go back to work again in the attacking zone with center Chris Tierney corralling the vulcanized rubber behind the net and to Jake Allen’s right. Tierney centered the puck intended for winger Melker Karlsson who was parked just in front of the goal crease of to the left. The puck hit Karlsson’s skate/stick and slid in front of Jake Allen. St. Louis D-man Joel Edmundson tried poking the puck away but instead poked it through the legs of Jake Allen for an own goal. The goal was credited to the player who last touched the puck, Melker Karlsson. This was the Sharks last positive note of the game, and made the score 6-3

With 2:11 left in the game a fight broke out between Blues D-man Carl Gunnarsson and Sharks D-man Brenden Dillon. It is very rare to see a fight in the playoffs, let alone two defenders involved in it! Each player received a standard five-minute call. During the fight,  St. Louis’ Alex Steen and San Jose’s Tommy Wingels both received a 10-minute misconduct. All four players hit the showers early and did not finish the game. Last but not least, the Blues took a pointless penalty with 40 seconds left in the contest with Jori Lehtera slashing Sharks’ Tomas Hertl. The game ended with the score being 6-3, a very strong win for the Blues.

St. Louis goalie Jake Allen stopped 31 out of 34 shots thrown his way for a .912 SV%. San Jose’s goalies Martin Jones stopped 15 out of 19 shots for a terrible .789 SV% and James Reimer stopped 6 out of 7 for a .857SV% in relief of Jones. San Jose led in shots (34-27), faceoffs (30-29), hits (35-26), and giveaways (19-9). St. Louis only led in blocked shots (14-11). The teams tied in penalty minutes with 25 a piece while St. Louis went an awesome 2/4 on the PP and the Sharks went a terrible 0/4.

These two clubs will get on a flight and fly back for Game 5 in St. Louis, Missouri on Monday night at 8 pm.

 

 

Couture’s 3-Point Night Leads Sharks to 2016 Western Conference Final

By: Nick Lanciani

UnknownThe San Jose Sharks thumped the Nashville Predators 5-0 in Game 7 of their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round matchup.

Logan Couture had a three point night and Joe Pavelski scored the game winning goal while Martin Jones made 20 saves on 20 shots faced en route to the shutout victory on Thursday night at SAP Center in San Jose.

Jones became the fourth Sharks goaltender in franchise history to record a playoff shutout and became the first San Jose goalie to do so in a Game 7. Not only that, but it was the first Game 7 of Jones’s career.

Pekka Rinne made 21 saves on 26 shots against for a .808 SV% in the loss and was pulled in the third period after the Sharks scored their fifth goal of the evening. Rinne’s replacement, Carter Hutton, notched one save on one shot on goal in 16:06 TOI.

With the win, San Jose advanced to the Western Conference Final and will face the St. Louis Blues in the next round of the playoffs. It is the Sharks first appearance in the Western Conference Final since 2011 and their fourth overall (2004, 2010, 2011 and 2016).

Entering Thursday night it was the 13th playoff game in 25 days for the Nashville Predators, who were 3-0 when facing elimination this postseason until Thursday’s outcome. It was just the second Game 7 in Predators franchise history, with their first Game 7 having been a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on road ice in Round One of this year’s playoffs.

Sharks forward, Matt Nieto, was out of the lineup for Game 7 due to an undisclosed injury. As a result, Tommy Wingels was inserted into the lineup for the first time in two games after being a healthy scratch. San Jose entered the night 3-0 at home in the series and finished 4-0 at home in the series, while Nashville fell to 0-8 in all-time playoff games at SAP Center. Peter Laviolette’s five straight Game 7 winning streak was snapped and his record as a head coach in Game 7s fell to 5-2 (1-1 with Nashville) with the 5-0 outcome.

Viktor Arvidsson took the game’s first penalty at 8:22 of the first period for sending the puck over the glass. Arvidsson’s delay of game minor gave San Jose their first power play of the night and it didn’t take them long to capitalize on the man advantage. Joe Pavelski wristed one past Rinne for his 9th goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead at 9:02 of the first period. Patrick Marleau (5) and Joe Thornton (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists on Pavelski’s goal.

The goal was just Pavelski’s 2nd career Game 7 goal and tied a Sharks postseason record for most goals in a playoff year with nine.

It was apparent in the first eight minutes that the Sharks were grabbing momentum of Game 7 when they had already fired numerous shots on goal before Nashville got their first shot on Jones.

In keeping with the home ice, home crowd fueled momentum; Joel Ward received a pass from Melker Karlsson that sent him in on a breakaway towards Rinne. Ward deked and slid the puck underneath Rinne’s five-hole to give San Jose a 2-0 lead at 16:51 of the period. Karlsson (1) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (7) assisted on Ward’s goal— his 3rd in five-career Game 7s.

To finish off the first period, Shea Weber took an interference minor that would extend into the second period for 38 seconds.

UnknownAfter twenty minutes of play the Sharks led 2-0 on the scoreboard and outshot the Predators 17-3. San Jose also lead in faceoff wins (15-7) and takeaways (5-0), while Nashville led in hits (16-14) and giveaways (8-5).

Both teams blocked seven shots in the first period and Nashville has yet to see time on the man advantage, while the Sharks were 1/2 on the power play.

Logan Couture extended his two-game point streak to three games with a quick goal 36 seconds into the second period that put San Jose on top 3-0. Couture capitalized on a Shea Weber mishap (that seemed to be a theme of the night) and put his seventh goal of the playoffs through Rinne’s five-hole. With two assists in the third period, Couture not only extended his point streak, but added to his already five goals and three assists (now make that six goals and five assists) in the series.

His 11 points in the series passed Igor Larionov’s 1994 Sharks franchise record of ten points in a single postseason series.

Fed up with his own play and Nashville’s general lack of effort, Mattias Ekholm went undisciplined at the end of the second period and cross checked Tommy Wingels. Ekholm received a minor penalty that would be served in its entirety to start the third period.

But it didn’t take long for San Jose to capitalize on their third chance on the power play as Joe Thornton sent a backhanded puck in the twine 32 seconds into the third period. Thornton’s 3rd goal of the playoffs was assisted by Couture (9) and made it 4-0 Sharks.

In keeping with the hometown momentum, San Jose pressured the Predators early in the third, resulting in another goal at 3:54 of the period. Joonas Donskoi sent the puck to Couture who then found Patrick Marleau for a snap shot that beat Rinne and made it 5-0 Sharks in the third period. Marleau’s 4th goal of the playoffs was enough to chase Rinne from the net, but not before Rinne swung his stick twice at the net to break it and a third time as he threw it behind him, before skating off the ice to be replaced by Hutton.

Marleau’s goal was assisted by Couture (10) and Donskoi (5).

At 14:34 of the third, Justin Braun took the Sharks first penalty of the night for interfering with Colin Wilson. Nashville was unable to amount anything on their only power play of the night and Jones and the Sharks went on to hold the 5-0 lead through the end of the game.

With the shutout, Wilson’s seven-game point streak had been snapped, along with his 4-5-9 totals in that span and James Neal’s four-game point streak came to an end as well for the Preds.

San Jose finished the night leading in shots on goal (27-20), takeaways (10-4) and blocked shots (22-12). Nashville ended the night leading in hits (46-31), faceoff wins (32-31) and giveaways (21-12). The Sharks went 2/3 on the power play, while the Predators went 0/1.

While Couture had a three-point night and Marleau, Thornton and Vlasic each had two-point nights, top Nashville defensive pair, Weber and Roman Josi finished the night as minus-3’s.

Despite trailing in shots on goal in periods one and two (17-3 and 6-5, respectively), Nashville outshot San Jose 12-4 in the third period.

With the series outcome, the team that scores first in Game 7s improved to 123-42 (.745) all-time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (4-0 this postseason). San Jose improved to 8-0 when Pavelski records at least a point and the home team won all seven games in the series, which was just the fourth such occurrence in the last 20 years (with the other times being the 2013 Conference Semifinals between Los Angeles and San Jose, the 2003 Stanley Cup Final between New Jersey and Anaheim and the 2002 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between Toronto and the New York Islanders).

For the seventh straight season, a team from California will be playing in the Western Conference Final. San Jose played in the WCF in 2010 and 2011 against the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks, respectively, while Los Angeles took on the then Phoenix Coyotes in 2012 and the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks played the Blackhawks in 2015 and San Jose is once again back in the Western Conference Final in 2016.

Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference Final is scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00 PM EST in St. Louis at Scottrade Center and will be televised on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVA Sports in Canada. The St. Louis Blues have home ice advantage and play host to San Jose in Games 1 and 2, as well as 5 and 7 if necessary. The Sharks will host the Blues at SAP Center in Games 3 and 4, and Game 6 if necessary.