The Philadelphia Flyers are all the rage these days, the Carolina Hurricanes are still causing a storm, what’s bedeviling the New Jersey Devils and, uh, is Sergei Bobrovsky still good?
The Battle For Gloria rages on with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues tied 2-2 in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. Nick and Pete also discuss the latest coaching moves (Dave Tippett, Bob Boughner, Marc Crawford), trades (Kevin Hayes) and rumors (Patrick Marleau, Nikita Zaitsev, Phil Kessel), while Nick introduces a new game segment that has Pete stumped.
If you didn’t learn your lesson from the First Round to the Second Round, hopefully you’ve learned it by now, because their is no “Third Chance Bracket”.
Yes, it’s time for the Conference Finals in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, ladies and gentlemen, and this year in the Western Conference it’s a familiar duo going at it again for the first time in three years.
P2 San Jose Sharks (46-27-9, 101 points) vs C3 St. Louis Blues (45-28-9, 99 points)
The San Jose Sharks trailed, 3-0, on home ice in the third period of a Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round, but everything changed when Joe Pavelski went down with an injury and Cody Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
Sure, maybe the penalty was over the top and should have only been a two-minute minor penalty, but the Golden Knights also shouldn’t have ever allowed four power play goals against in a span of 4:01. San Jose took the lead, 4-3, then Vegas tied it in the final minute of regulation.
The Sharks became just the 2nd team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to erase a three-goal deficit and win in overtime, 5-4, as they eliminated the Golden Knights in seven games in the First Round.
Anybody see that coming? No?
But at the same time, we all had a warning sign when the Golden Knights blew a, 3-0, lead in the first period of Game 2 and the Sharks tied it, 3-3, heading into the first intermission. Though San Jose went on to lose that game, 5-3, it meant Vegas was vulnerable.
Since then, the Sharks rocketed back-and-forth with the Colorado Avalanche, ultimately coming out on top, 3-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2016.
The St. Louis Blues have been riding the back of their rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, since a little over four months ago as the hottest team in the league since Jan. 1st.
As such, the Blues defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games in the First Round– despite both teams dropping their first two home games in the series.
St. Louis then faced the best goaltender (statistically speaking) remaining in the postseason, Ben Bishop, and the rest of the Dallas Stars in the Second Round.
They trailed in the series, 3-2, entering Game 6 in Dallas and stormed out of American Airlines Center faster than a jet with the series tied, 3-3, heading back to home ice for Game 7.
Tuesday night, the Blues fired 54 shots on goal. Bishop stopped 52 of them, but Binnington only allowed one goal against.
Hometown hero, Pat Maroon, scored the game-winning, series clinching goal in double overtime to lift St. Louis over Dallas, 2-1, and punched his team’s ticket to the Western Conference Final for the first time since… 2016.
That’s because San Jose defeated St. Louis in six games in the 2016 Western Conference Final. The Blues had home ice in that series and utilized Jake Allen in the crease until Game 6 when then head coach, Ken Hitchcock, elected to start Brian Elliott facing elimination.
This time around, the Sharks have home ice and St. Louis appears to have an answer to the Allen wrench– it’s Binnington.
Can they enact revenge and advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970 or will San Jose make the trip back to the Final for the second time in franchise history– and first since losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final?
There’s good and bad news for both teams as Peter DeBoer prepares his Sharks to take on Craig Berube‘s Blues.
San Jose has made the postseason in 21 out of 27 seasons in their existence and Sharks fans have grown accustomed to usual playoff performers like Logan Couture (9-5–14 totals in 14 games played) on their ice at SAP Center.
But the Sharks have the added benefit of a three-way tie for the lead in scoring on their roster with Couture, Tomas Hertl (9-5–14 totals) and Brent Burns (5-9–14 totals) all having amassed 14 points through two rounds.
Not only that, but Hertl is tied with Couture in goals so far this postseason. It’s been a breakout year for the already star player in teal.
General Manager Doug Wilson landed the offseason’s biggest prize on the blue line via a trade with the Ottawa Senators back in September and his asset is paying off when it really counts.
Erik Karlsson may trail Burns among all Sharks defenders in points, but he does have 12 assists through 14 games and that’s good enough to lead his entire team in helpers.
DeBoer’s lineup is pretty deep with Timo Meier contributing three goals and seven assists (10 points) in 14 games and trade deadline acquisition, Gustav Nyquist, chipping in 1-7–8 totals from the top-nine.
San Jose has also had depth scoring from Kevin Labanc (three goals, three assists in 14 GP), Marc-Edouard Vlasic (three goals, three assists in 12 GP), Joe Thornton (2-4–6 totals in 12 games) and even Joonas Donskoi— who scored a goal for the first time in 35 games (regular season and postseason) against Colorado in Game 7.
Martin Jones (8-5 record, 2.72 goals against average, .910 save percentage in 14 games played this postseason) is having an old-school Stanley Cup Playoffs performance, whereby it’s not about the numbers, but rather how many games you win (and getting better as you go).
Backup goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-1, 3.33 GAA, .861 SV% in two games played this postseason) made a couple of relief appearances against Vegas, but was not required to save his team from the Avs.
St. Louis General Manager, Doug Armstrong, landed Ryan O’Reilly via a trade and important third line center, Tyler Bozak, in free agency last summer and built a roster that looked to be force coming out of the gate.
Things didn’t go so well from the get-go as then head coach, Mike Yeo, got his team off to a horrendous start and was replaced by the interim head coach (Berube) who has taken the roster from 31st in the league (dead last) as January began to the Western Conference Final as the calendar enters mid-May.
Jaden Schwartz (8-3–11 totals in 13 GP) is tied with Alex Pietrangelo (2-9–11 totals in 13 GP) in scoring on the Blues roster. While Schwartz is also a team-best plus-seven rating and leads St. Louis in goals with eight, Pietrangelo leads his team– both as the captain and– in assists with nine.
Selke Trophy finalist, O’Reilly has two goals and seven assists (nine points) through 13 games, but is a minus-five rating.
Worse, while Vladimir Tarasenko has five goals in 13 games, the usual star at Enterprise Center has yet to pickup an assist and is also a minus-five.
Maroon, however, has three timely goals and one assist (four points) in 13 games from the bottom-six and has helped solidified St. Louis’ all-around playing style.
Meanwhile, Binnington (8-5, 2.39 GAA, .915 SV% in 13 GP) has backstopped the Blues when it matters most, or rather, when he needs to since the defense is helping keep his workload relatively low.
The Stars only managed 30 shots on goal in Game 7– you know, a game that went into double overtime. Credit where credit is due to Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Jay Bouwmeester, Joel Edmundson and crew on the blue line in St. Louis.
The two teams split the season series 1-1-0, but as is a well-known fact of the postseason– it’s almost like an entirely new season altogether. Having home ice is one thing. Defending it is another.
St. Louis has their best chance to win the Cup in (well, it seems like this is said almost every year with Armstrong as their General Manager, but this year they mean it) years.
That said, San Jose has a lot of momentum working in their favor from the first two rounds after riding an emotional comeback and with the return of Pavelski to their lineup.
This series isn’t going to be a short one and the Sharks should pull off another seven-game stunner, cracking the Binnington code and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.
Except this time around, the Sharks are out for blood.
Regular season outcomes:
3-2 F/SO SJS at SAP Center on March 9th, 4-0 STL at Enterprise Center on Nov. 9th
5/11- Game 1 STL @ SJS 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/13- Game 2 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
5/15- Game 3 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN360, TVAS
5/17- Game 4 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS
5/19- Game 5 STL @ SJS 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*
5/21- Game 6 SJS @ STL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, TVAS*
5/23- Game 7 STL @ SJS 9 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN1, TVAS
The St. Louis Blues just keep on winning (11 straight, to be exact). Can they win it all? The Tampa Bay Lightning are not Stanley Cup favorites according to Nick– nobody is! Did the Edmonton Oilers win a trade? Cory Schneider won a game! and other milestones from the last week, as well as whatever happened in the Boston Bruins vs San Jose Sharks game on Monday.
Messy officiating was a theme of the night, but at the end of the night, Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning overtime goal to lift the Boston Bruins over the San Jose Sharks, 6-5, on Monday night at SAP Center.
San Jose’s ageless wonder, 39-year-old Joe Thornton had his fifth career hat trick (and first since Oct. 27, 2010) and united the hockey world in his quest for four goals in one game that was ultimately unsuccessful due to the loss.
Tuukka Rask (20-8-4 record, 2.45 goals against average, .918 save percentage in 33 games played) made 33 saves on 38 shots against for an .868 SV% in the overtime win for Boston.
Sharks goaltender, Martin Jones (28-11-5, 2.95 GAA, .896 SV% in 45 GP) turned aside 14 out of 20 shots faced for a .700 SV% in the overtime loss.
The B’s improved to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and remained in 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Sharks fell to 35-17-8 (78 points) on the season and stayed in 2nd place in the Pacific Division.
Boston improved to 23-4-5 when scoring first this season and 11-2-3 when tied after two periods. San Jose fell to 4-4-3 when tied after two periods this season.
In addition, the Bruins are now 14-10-5 on the road this season and 3-0-0 on their current five-game road trip.
The Bruins are also on a six-game winning streak (their longest of the season) and are now 8-0-1 in the month of February.
Peter Cehlarik did not take part in morning skate on Monday, as Bruce Cassidy reassured reporters after practice that Cehalrik sustained a lower body injury in Saturday night’s matchup with the Los Angeles Kings and would be out against San Jose.
Karson Kuhlman took over Cehlarik’s spot on the second line right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, while David Backes took Kuhlman’s spot from Saturday on the fourth line with Joakim Nordstrom and Trent Frederic.
Bruins defender, Steven Kampfer rejoined the NHL club in San Jose on a recall after a three-game conditioning stint with Boston’s AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins.
From puck drop to the first whistle, the Bruins and Sharks played a consecutive span of 10:13– negating the first media timeout altogether.
In fact, the networks carrying the game Monday night couldn’t even go to break after the first whistle as it came on an icing call.
As the frantic postseason-infused pace settled in, San Jose defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved the puck from crossing the line just in the nick of time. Or did he?
An overhead view from the crossbar might have indicated that Boston was robbed of a goal, but since the call on the ice was “no goal” and the other camera angles were inconclusive– the original call stood.
While shorthanded, Evander Kane broke free from the Bruins blue liners, beat Rask and rang the post with his shot.
Moments later, after killing off the Hertl infraction, Kane got a stick up high on Grzelcyk, sending the B’s back on the power play at 13:04 of the opening frame.
After failing to generate any offense on their first power play chance of the night, Boston capitalized on their second extra skater advantage.
45 seconds into their second power play, Krug (6) blasted a slap shot while moving into the face-off dot to Jones’ right side, while Erik Karlsson partially screened his own goaltender, as the puck went high, glove side, into the twine.
Krejci (36) and Patrice Bergeron (35) tallied the assists on Krug’s power play goal at 13:49 as Boston jumped out to a, 1-0, lead.
With his assist on the goal, Krejci became the fourth Bruin to reach at least 50 points this season.
A few minutes later, Kuraly won a face-off in the attacking zone back to Zdeno Chara (6) whereby the 6-foot-9 defender rocketed his patented slap shot past Jones for his 199th career goal.
Kuraly (11) had the only assist on Chara’s goal at 16:26 and the Bruins led, 2-0.
Less than two minutes later, Boston continued to strangle the momentum pendulum into their metaphorical side.
DeBrusk lobbed an aerial pass on a two-on-one to Kuhlman (1) as Jones was caught behind the play, giving Kuhlman his first career NHL goal and a three-goal lead for the Bruins.
Kuhlman’s goal was assisted by DeBrusk (9) and Krejci (37) at 18:24 of the first period as Boston led, 3-0.
As the seconds ticked down before the first intermission, Joe Thornton (11) put the Sharks on the scoreboard to make it a two-goal game.
Joe Pavelski had the initial shot on goal, but Thornton found the rebound in the crease and sent it home to make it, 3-1, Boston at 19:57 of the first period.
Pavelski recorded his 22nd assist of the season on Thornton’s first goal of the game.
Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, but both teams recorded eight shots on goal aside.
The B’s led in takeaways (3-2), hits (8-6) and face-off win percentage (63-37), while the Sharks led in blocked shots (4-2) and giveaways (4-2) after one period of play. San Jose had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the second period.
Early in the middle frame, Miller sent the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game penalty– leaving Boston shorthanded at 1:40 of the second period.
Almost 30 seconds later, Pavelski (32) redirected an initial shot from the point off Rask, whereby the Bruins goaltender made the initial save, but the puck took an odd bounce and went over his shoulder and into the four-by-six frame behind him.
Couture followed up his assist on Pavelski’s goal with a hooking penalty at 4:43.
Late in the ensuing power play for Boston, DeBrusk (18) entered the attacking zone on a breakaway with speed and beat Jones to make it, 4-2, Bruins.
In the last four games, DeBrusk has 4-4–8 totals.
Danton Heinen (11) and Backes (9) notched the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on DeBrusk’s power play goal at 6:30 of the second period.
Wagner and Braun tussled for a few seconds with the gloves off before the linesmen got in-between the two and separated them.
Despite not actually fighting, Wagner and Braun each received five-minute majors for doing more than what otherwise would have been considered roughing at 10:25.
Late in the second period, whatever tilt in the ice there was took a tank (at the Shark Tank, get it?) as San Jose made it a one-goal game at 16:03, thanks to another garbage goal collected by Thornton (12).
For the second time of the night, Thornton banged home the rebound to record his first two-goal game in his 51st game this season and fourth since 2013.
Shortly thereafter, Thornton took a trip to the penalty box for high-sticking Bruins winger, Brad Marchand.
While shorthanded, Couture split the Boston defense and charged into the offensive zone while the B’s were caught changing lines.
As Couture neared Rask, Marchand hooked the Sharks forward and the puck didn’t cross the goal line, despite the quick string of confusing signals indicated by the referee.
Instead of waving off the goal that wasn’t (alas, the puck almost reached the goal line), then pointing towards the center-ice face-off dot to award the ensuing penalty shot, the ref closest to the goal appeared to change his mind and indicated a goal had been scored.
Except he hadn’t, technically.
To the dismay of those in attendance, the ref had simply misdirected his followup signal to the washout and should have pointed towards center-ice as Couture was to follow up with a penalty shot, regardless.
The official call was that Rask had made the save on the initial breakaway while Marchand had hooked Couture, illegally disrupting the scoring chance and thus resulting in a penalty shot.
On the ensuing penalty shot, Couture (22) fired one into the twine at 19:35 of the second period, resulting in yet another last minute goal for San Jose– this time tying the game, 4-4.
As a result, Couture became just the fourth player in Sharks franchise history to score a shorthanded penalty shot goal.
Through 40 minutes of play, both teams were tied, 4-4, on the scoreboard, despite San Jose’s distinct advantage in shots on goal in the middle frame alone (14-4).
Entering the second intermission, San Jose led in shot on goal (22-12), blocked shots (7-3), giveaways (7-3) and hits (20-17), while Boston led in face-off win% (54-47). Both teams had five giveaways each after two periods.
The Sharks were 1/1 on the power play, while the Bruins were 2/4 on the skater advantage heading into the third period.
After not changing lines quick enough, the refs decided to charge the Bruins with a bench minor for delay of game at 1:57 of the third period.
Sure, that’s an actual thing, but given the standard (or lack thereof) of the night, well…
Too many men on the ice was something that went overlooked and two goals (one that was that wasn’t and one that wasn’t that was) were both miscalled as some of the bigger takeaways for next season’s “what not to do” officiating training video.
Jokes aside, it was a poorly officiated game.
Backes served the delay of game bench minor for Boston, but the Sharks weren’t able to capitalize on the power play.
Finally, in a moment the hockey world had been waiting to see in almost nine years, Thornton (13) scored his third goal of the game, notching a hat trick on the first lead change of the night.
San Jose led, 5-4, at 13:32 of the third period.
Pavelski (23) and Braun (13) tallied the assist’s on Thornton’s goal as the game’s momentum completely shifted to the Sharks’ favor.
Chara and Pavelski exchanged pleasantries and slashed each other with their sticks, yielding matching slashing minors at 15:42.
Late in the ensuing 4-on-4 action, Carlo sent a shot on goal that rebounded high into the air.
Wagner (8) batted the puck down with a seemingly high stick, then swung his stick along the ice at the puck tying the game, 5-5.
That’s right, Wagner scored the game-tying goal after playing the puck with a high stick.
Going to review is not an option for a goal that is thought to be scored as a result of knocking the puck down with a high stick, then scoring the goal from a legal elevation.
The problem with the goal was that the play should’ve been whistled dead as soon as Wagner knocked the puck out of the air with his stick above his shoulder.
Whether it was seen or not from the angle on the ice, we’ll never know (it’s not the NHL’s nature to make refs explain why a call was made or not– in fact, it’s never happened for anything that’s not reviewable).
Carlo (4) and Noel Acciari (4) had the assists on Wagner’s goal, which set a new career-high in goals in a season for the Walpole, Massachusetts native at 17:11 of the third period.
At the end of regulation, the Bruins and Sharks were tied, 5-5.
San Jose led in shots on goal (33-19) and in blocked shots (8-7), giveaways (9-5), hits (23-22) and face-off win% (54-46) after three periods of play.
Both teams had ten takeaways aside. The Sharks finished the night 1/2 on the skater advantage as Boston went 2/4 on the power play.
Peter DeBoer was coaching in his 800th career game on Monday and rolled out line after line of All-Star quality 3-on-3 overtime lines, especially after Cassidy started Kuraly, Grzelcyk and McAvoy in the five-minute overtime period.
Trouble is, one of those starters actually turned out to be the right one. *foreshadowing*
After Kane entered the zone with a virtual 3-on-0 for San Jose, the play was blown dead as the net behind Rask had come off its moorings and was not properly fixed even though the ref behind the play should have gone over and readjusted it while the puck was at the opposite end of the ice.
It’s either the goaltender’s responsibility or the referee’s job to fix the net if it’s off its pegs, but not enough to immediately disrupt play.
If it’s fixable, the ref must fix it as long as the puck is completely out of the zone.
Officiating be damned, Kane’s surefire scoring chance was killed.
On a 3-on-2 back the other way, DeBrusk worked the puck to Krejci for the perfect pass to McAvoy (4), who ripped a bullet past Jones to win the game for Boston, 6-5, in overtime.
Krejci (38) and DeBrusk (10) collected the assists on McAvoy’s game-winning goal at 3:59 of the overtime period, as the Bruins improved to 7-6 in overtime this season.
The Sharks fell to 6-5 past the 60-minute mark, but before having to go to a shootout, this season, despite finishing Monday night’s action with the advantage in shots on goal (38-20, including a 5-1 advantage in overtime alone), giveaways (10-6) and face-off win% (52-48).
Boston finished the night leading in blocked shots (11-8).
Both teams recorded 24 hits aside.
The Bruins travel to Las Vegas for a Wednesday night battle with the Vegas Golden Knights before finishing up their current five-game road trip on Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues. Boston returns home to close out February with a Tuesday (Feb. 26th) night matchup with the Sharks and a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 28th.
The holiday break is so close we can almost taste it, but there’s still a little more work to be done before the NHL begins its three-day break on Monday. Without further ado, this week’s offerings include:
|NHL SCHEDULE: December 17-23|
|TIME (ALL TIMES EASTERN)||VISITOR||HOST||NATIONAL BROADCAST(S)/
|Monday, December 17|
|7:30 p.m.||Nashville||Ottawa||3-4 (OT)|
|9 p.m.||New York Islanders||Colorado Avalanche||4-1|
|Tuesday, December 18|
|7 p.m.||Toronto||New Jersey||7-2|
|7 p.m.||Anaheim Ducks||New York Rangers||1-3|
|8 p.m.||San Jose||Minnesota||4-0|
|9 p.m.||St. Louis||Edmonton||4-1|
|9 p.m.||New York Islanders||Arizona Coyotes||3-1|
|10 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Vancouver||5-2|
|10:30 p.m.||Winnipeg||Los Angeles||1-4|
|Wednesday, December 19|
|Thursday, December 20|
|7 p.m.||New Jersey||Columbus|
|9 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Calgary|
|9 p.m.||Montréal||Arizona||RDS, TSN2|
|10 p.m.||St. Louis||Vancouver||ESPN+|
|10 p.m.||New York Islanders||Vegas Golden Knights||SN360|
|10:30 p.m.||Winnipeg||San Jose|
|Friday, December 21|
|7 p.m.||Ottawa||New Jersey||RDS|
|7 p.m.||Buffalo||Washington||NBCSN, SN, TVAS|
|9 p.m.||Chicago||Colorado||ESPN+, SN360|
|Saturday, December 22|
|1 p.m.||Nashville||Boston||NHLN, SN, SN1|
|4 p.m.||Montréal||Vegas||RDS, TSN2|
|4 p.m.||Los Angeles||San Jose||NBCSN, SN1|
|4 p.m.||St. Louis||Calgary|
|7 p.m.||New York Rangers||Toronto Maple Leafs||CBC, NHLN, SN, SN1|
|7 p.m.||Washington||Ottawa||CITY, SN360, TVAS|
|10 p.m.||Winnipeg||Vancouver||CBC, SN360|
|10 p.m.||Tampa Bay||Edmonton||CITY, ESPN+, SN1|
|Sunday, December 23|
|12:30 p.m.||Columbus||New Jersey||SN|
|7 p.m.||Philadelphia Flyers||New York Rangers||NHLN|
|7:30 p.m.||Detroit||Toronto||SN, SN360, TVAS|
|8 p.m.||Los Angeles||Vegas|
|8 p.m.||Arizona||San Jose|
|8 p.m.||New York Islanders||Dallas Stars|
For those that didn’t keep count, that’s a healthy 55 tilts to keep us entertained while family members you simply adore ask a multitude of questions you’d rather they not.
In the rivalries department, the NHL loaded us up with six showdowns this week, including Boston at Montréal, Pittsburgh at Washington, Los Angeles at San Jose, the Rangers at Toronto, Philadelphia at the Rangers and Detroit at Toronto.
Two rematches from this spring’s edition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will also take place: the previously mentioned Pens-Caps game and Los Angeles’ trip to Sin City Sunday night.
Finally, the biggest player return of the week will take place tonight when F Max Domi makes his first trip back to Glendale to take on the Coyotes, the club that drafted him 12th overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
However, of all those games highlighted, there’s still another tonight that will have my full attention. Both the Jets and Sharks entered this season with high expectations, but only one has truly flexed its muscles thus far this season. Perhaps that will be just the motivation San Jose needs to find its next gear.
Currently in a three-way tie for first place in the Western Conference, the 22-10-2 Winnipeg Jets are technically the top team by playing one fewer game than both the Calgary Flames and Nashville Predators.
Winnipeg’s last outing wasn’t exactly one to be proud of (the Jets fell 4-1 in Los Angeles to the lowly Kings on Tuesday), but it had been riding a five-game winning streak coming into that game. In fact, in their past 11 games, the Jets boast a 9-2-0 record that includes five overtime or shootout victories.
To the surprise of none, Winnipeg’s greatest strength is undoubtedly its offense. Having averaged 3.56 goals per game for the entire season (the fourth-best mark in the NHL), Head Coach Peter DeBoer will certainly have a plan for how he wants his team to slow down the impressive talents of C Mark Scheifele (21-25-46 points) and RW Blake Wheeler (5-39-44) on Winnipeg’s top line.
However, that will be a difficult task to pull off because the Jets’ attack has been even more potent than usual during this 11-game run. Since November 29, the Jets have averaged an outstanding four goals per game, which is tied with, coincidentally, San Jose for third best in the league in that time.
The previously mentioned Scheifele and Wheeler have certainly had their fingerprints all over that dynamic attack, as they’ve posted respective 8-12-20 and 1-14-15 totals in their last 11 outings. However, they’ve also been joined by LW Nikolaj Ehlers (7-5-12), D Josh Morrissey (3-8-11 in nine games) and D Dustin Byfuglien (1-8-9 in seven games) in averaging at least a point per game during this run, creating a defensive nightmare for most teams not as talented as the Sharks on the blue line.
The San Jose Sharks were supposed to already be atop the Western Conference – if not the entire NHL – according to many preseason reports, yet they find themselves stuck with a 19-11-5 record good enough for only second place in the Pacific Division.
But don’t read that as the Sharks being a bad team. They’re riding a five-game winning streak and have posted a 7-1-0 record in their past eight outings, so it seems like the team is finally starting to realize its potential. The next question, of course, is just how good can this team be, but that’s an answer the Jets would rather not answer tonight.
During this eight-game run, San Jose has been clicking on all cylinders; literally everything is gelling, and the numbers are showing just that.
Perhaps my favorite part of the Sharks’ game right now is their attack. Currently in a tie with Ottawa for eighth-best offense on the season by averaging 3.31 goals per game, the Sharks’ effort since December 2 has made all but Tampa Bay jealous. Led by F Logan Couture‘s impressive 5-6-11 totals in the last eight games, San Jose has managed a dominant 4.25 goals per game during this run.
That’s right, the same Karlsson that looked like he wasn’t panning out in Silicon Valley is on a bit of a hot streak of late. His goal scoring may be down from his Ottawa days (last season’s nine goals in 71 appearances was a poor season for him, and this year’s pace has him set to register only five markers), but the 10-year NHL veteran is still making his presence known on the scorecard.
In addition to scoring, this dynamic offense has also had some incredible influence on the defensive zone by maintaining elongated possessions. During this eight-game run, San Jose has allowed only 27.88 shots against per game, the fifth-best mark in the NHL since December 2 and only two shots worse than the Islanders’ league-leading pace set in that same time span.
Of course, D Justin Braun (2.3 blocks per game since December 2), D Brenden Dillon (2.8 hits per game during this run) and Karlsson (11 takeaways in his past eight outings) have certainly done their fair share on the defensive end as well.
If anyone is appreciative of that effort, it’s surely 14-7-3 G Martin Jones, tonight’s starter. Though he’s struggled for much of the season (made evident by his unusually low .901 save percentage and 2.81 GAA for the campaign), he’s shown signs of improvement lately. He’s earned five of the Sharks’ last seven wins, posting a much more familiar .936 save percentage and 1.94 GAA in his last seven starts.
If Jones has finally rounded into form for the year, this Sharks blue line will truly begin to influence play in the offensive zone, which should be a very scary proposition for the entire Western Conference.
When two high powered offenses are going at it, I usually side with the better of the two goaltenders to determine the game’s winner. In his past eight starts, 15-9-1 G Connor Hellebuyck has earned six wins on the back of a .91 save percentage and 2.72 GAA (both nominal improvements on his .908 season save percentage and associated 2.9 GAA).
Compare that to Jones’ numbers, and the answer is obvious: the Sharks should come away winners tonight and send the home fans happy.
San Jose Sharks
45-27-10, 100 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division
Lost in the Second Round, 4-2, to VGK
Additions: D Cody Donaghey (acquired from OTT), D Erik Karlsson (acquired from OTT), F Francis Perron (acquired from OTT), D Kyle Wood (acquired from ARI)
Subtractions: F Rudolfs Balcers (traded to OTT), D Julius Bergman (traded to OTT), F Mikkel Boedker (traded to OTT), D Dylan DeMelo (traded to OTT), F Eric Fehr (signed with MIN), F Jannik Hansen (signed, KHL), F Adam Helewka (traded to ARI), F Mike Hoffman (acquired from OTT, then traded to FLA), F Josh Norris (traded to OTT), F Daniil Tarasov (signed, KHL), F Chris Tierney (traded to OTT), F Joel Ward (signed to a PTO with MTL)
Still Unsigned: F Brandon Mashinter
Offseason Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the San Jose Sharks have a legitimate Cup contending roster on paper. They’re going to make a Cup or bust run this season.
And perhaps the season after that and the next one after that too.
Next to the Toronto Maple Leafs signing free agent forward John Tavares to a long-term seven-year, $77 million deal, the Sharks had one of the best offseasons in the league.
Not only did San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson convince Ottawa Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion to trade goal-scoring winger Mike Hoffman to the Sharks, then flip the 28-year-old to the Florida Panthers for draft picks after Dorion originally wanted to avoid dealing with a division rival altogether, but Wilson managed to convince Dorion he wasn’t about to make the same mistake of making the Sharks way better than before twice in one offseason.
No, actually, in a span of almost three months.
Wilson got rid of cap space by clearing Mikkel Boedker from the roster for Hoffman, then dumping Hoffman in Florida and landed– oh yeah, that other guy in one of this offseason’s craziest stories involving alleged harassment on social media– Erik Karlsson.
The Sharks cleared about $8.000-9.000 million in cap room by sending Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo and Boedker to the Senators over the course of the summer in exchange, ultimately, for Karlsson and his $6.500 million cap hit.
Mind you, Karlsson is a pending-UFA in July 2019 still.
They didn’t land Tavares, but defense wins championships is how the saying goes anyway.
San Jose has the No. 1 and 2 defenders in blue line scoring in the National Hockey League and they have Marc-Edouard Vlasic who could conceivably earn some Norris Trophy consideration nods even without Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson.
Speaking of Burns and Karlsson, which one of those guys will be on the Sharks second defensive pair?
Peter DeBoer has a plethora of options and choices to make as he gears up for another season behind the bench in San Jose. Last season’s 45-27-10 record (100 points) should improve. Just how far past 50 wins can they go?
How many shutouts will Martin Jones record with his new defender wearing No. 65 in front of him?
Evander Kane signed a seven-year extension worth $49 million ($7.000 million per season) in May and is looking to maintain the ferocious pace of play and scoring alongside Joe Pavelski.
Meanwhile, Joe Thornton’s back for what might be one last shot at a Cup.
The third time, as they say, is a charm. Will DeBoer’s third trip back to the Stanley Cup Final be the one to do the trick and land the Sharks their first Cup in franchise history? Are we really going to get ahead of ourselves before October even begins?
Hell yeah we are.
If Toronto can do it with John Tavares, Silicon Valley should be going just as crazy for Erik Karlsson. Besides, the Maple Leafs still have to re-sign current-RFA William Nylander and the Sharks already have their crew assembled for victory.
Offseason Grade: A
Remember, there’s no such thing as an “A+” kids. Not in college, at least.
Therefore, Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks hit it out of the park a la the Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason, but without John Tavares– and to think, the Sharks were once in on Tavares too!
Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That is all. Defense. Wins. Championships.
(At least, that’s the hope, anyway.)
Erik Karlsson finally got traded, NHL 19 came out and our official 2018-19 Pacific Division Season Preview just so happened to be this week too. Nick and Connor place their bets on the San Jose Sharks and more.
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the San Jose Sharks and their outlook for the summer.
The San Jose Sharks quietly strolled along in the Pacific Division for much of the season, spending time in 2nd place behind the Vegas Golden Knights. If it wasn’t for slipping considerably down the stretch in a critical time where every point matters, the Sharks would’ve had home ice for their First Round matchup against the Anaheim Ducks.
Instead, head coach Peter DeBoer and his players finished the season 3rd in the Pacific, with 100 points on the season– one point behind Anaheim– and a 45-27-10 record.
For not having the spotlight on the team most of the year and the pressure that had built up in 2016 and 2017 thanks to the club’s Stanley Cup Final run in 2016, General Manager Doug Wilson made a splash acquiring Evander Kane from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline.
The Sharks were all in.
They swept the Ducks in the First Round, proving home ice advantage didn’t matter to them and even beat the Golden Knights on the road in the Second Round in double-overtime.
But San Jose fell to the Vegas offense and stellar goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury and the 2018 postseason run was cut short in six games without an appearance by Joe Thornton— in the literal sense, because he was oft-injured this season.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Wilson and the Sharks have the 21st overall pick in the 2018 Draft and could target a defender or fall in line with the “pick the best available” mantra of the first round past the top-10 picks in the draft.
In any case, San Jose realistically has a chance of landing either Jack McBain, Serron Noel, Jared McIsaac, Ryan Merkley, Olivier-Benoit Groulx, Rasmus Sandin, Albin Eriksson, Adam Ginning, Fillip Hallander or Ryan McLeod.
The club does not have any picks in the second or third round as things currently stand at the time of this writing.
Pending free agents
The Sharks have a little more than $7.500 million to work with this summer after delivering a significant pay raise to Evander Kane, keeping him around for the long-term in Northern California, alongside Joe Pavelski.
Speaking of Pavelski, he’ll need a new contract next summer.
Back to the present, for now, though.
Hansen, 32, might have some staying power in that he’s one of the younger pending-UFAs currently on the NHL roster in San Jose, however, he only amassed 2-12–14 totals in 46 games this season. That’s not good and the Sharks can move on, given the emergence of Marcus Sorensen and, well, the overall outlook of the organization.
It could come down to re-signing one or two of these pending-UFAs if they’re willing to take a tremendous discount and limited role.
While a guy like Thornton wouldn’t have as limited of a role as Hansen, Fehr or Ward, he is coming off of a season plagued by injuries.
If he has anything left in the tank, he’ll be back, but at a discount for sure. Not an $8.000 million, one-year deal, but something like a $1.000 million one-year deal with performance bonuses and the like.
Despite being limited to 47 games this season, the Boston Bruins 1st overall pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft still had 13 goals and 23 assists (36 points).
At 38, Thornton could be the next ageless wonder, a la Jaromir Jagr— minus all the traveling around the league, because Thornton is that dedicated to the organization he’s been with since the 2005-06 season.
Without a doubt the plan in Silicon Valley is Cup or bust in 2019 and Joe Thornton still haven’t won his Cup.
But he’ll surely take his time to mull over a decision on whether to return or not, let alone return to the game.
Fehr, 32, was a low-cost, potentially high-reward on the fourth line acquisition the Sharks made in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Fehr didn’t have all that far to go to meet up with his new team. He was already on loan to the San Jose Barracuda (AHL).
Unless he can rebound, he might be getting an AHL deal this summer.
Drafted by the Washington Capitals 18th overall in the deep 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Fehr had three goals and one assist (four points) in 18 games with the Sharks and Maple Leafs this season.
He won’t be back.
Like Thornton, Joel Ward is getting up there in age. He’s 37 and really slowing down in offense. Ward had 5-7–12 totals in 52 games this season and did not play in the postseason. He may still find an NHL team or two interested in his services this summer, but it’ll be outside of San Jose.
Doug Wilson’s biggest priorities this offseason is keeping things intact while envisioning a younger defense somewhere down the not-so-distant line.
Hertl, 24, had 22 goals and 24 assists (46 points) in 79 games this season. He’ll be looking for dollars or term and the Sharks will have to work around some things to give it to him, but they absolutely should.
Tierney, 23, has proven to be an effective second or third line center with 17-23–40 totals in 82 games this season. It’s the first time in his young NHL career (4th season) that he’s played in all 82 games in the regular season and he’ll continue to play in many more as long as he’s got a spot on San Jose’s special teams– most notably, at times, killing penalties.
Then there’s pending-RFA blueliner Dylan DeMelo.
DeMelo had 20 assists in 63 games played this season. He can move the puck and shutdown the opponent on any given night. He’s also in the sweet-spot for a defenseman in their prime.
Finally, the Sharks are set in net with Martin Jones, 28, under contract through the 2023-24 season at a $5.750 million cap hit as their starter and Aaron Dell, 29, on a fresh two-year extension at $1.900 million per year as the backup.
Seriously though, Jones is perhaps the best goaltender– if not one of the best– in franchise history and he’s signed at an affordable cap hit for a starting goaltender of his caliber.
Look, we love Evgeni Nabokov as much as the next guy, but Jones carries the promise of potentially bringing the franchise its first Cup on his current contract and he’s not even being paid $6.000 million or more like other elite goaltenders in this league.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Brandon Mashinter (UFA)
The Vegas Golden Knights are one win away from their first Western Conference Finals appearance. Is it worth mentioning that it’s only their inaugural season/postseason? Asking for a friend.
Vegas topped the San Jose Sharks, 5-3, on home ice in Game 5 on Friday, scoring four unanswered goals before the Sharks almost forced a comeback at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights now have a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves on 30 shots against for a .900 save percentage in the win for Vegas, while San Jose’s Martin Jones stopped 27 shots on 31 shots faced for an .871 SV% in 48:33 time on ice before being replaced by Sharks backup goaltender, Aaron Dell.
Dell went on to stop all seven shots he faced for a 1.000 SV% in his relief appearance that lasted for 10:24 TOI.
James Neal (3) opened scoring in the closing seconds of the first period, collecting a garbage goal by pouncing on a rebound and putting the puck in the open twine behind Jones. Shea Theodore (3) and David Perron (5) notched the assists on Neal’s goal at 19:57 of the first period to make it, 1-0, Golden Knights.
Vegas had a 15-7 advantage in shots on goal after one period.
Colin Miller took the game’s first penalty, as the Golden Knights defender was called for holding San Jose’s Chris Tierney at 2:07 of the second period. The Sharks did not convert on the ensuing power play.
San Jose’s Tomas Hertl shortly followed up with an interference minor against Miller a couple minutes later.
About a half-a-minute later, Alex Tuch (3) found the back of the net on a power play goal assisted by Reilly Smith (9) and Jonathan Marchessault (7) at 4:52 of the second period. Tuch’s goal put the Golden Knights up, 2-0.
Shortly thereafter, Justin Braun was guilty of tripping Tuch and was subsequently sent to the penalty box. Vegas did not convert on the power play and play continued rather tamely until Joe Pavelski roughed up Marchessault and took a trip to the sin bin for roughing at 16:40 of the second period.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Golden Knights led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 28-17, in shots on goal.
Theodore opened the final frame with a cross checking penalty against Hertl 84 seconds into the third period. A few minutes later, Theodore and Hertl got into it again, this time with Theodore delivering a swift slash to Hertl, leading to another Sharks power play at 4:11 of the third period.
San Jose did not convert on either player advantage opportunity.
Almost midway through the third, Tuch (4) scored his second goal of the night, giving the Golden Knights a run of four unanswered goals to lead, 4-0, at 8:36 of the third. Cody Eakin (1) and Oscar Lindberg (1) notched their first assists of the postseason on the goal.
As a result of the mountainous lead for Vegas, Peter DeBoer replaced his starting goaltender, Jones, with backup, Aaron Dell.
Less than a minute later, Neal slashed Sharks fourth line center, Eric Fehr. San Jose converted on the ensuing power play 29 seconds later, as Kevin Labanc (1) notched his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Logan Couture (6) and Hertl (3) picked up the assists as the Sharks finally got on the scoreboard and trailed by three goals with over half a period left in regulation.
Nearly two minutes later, Hertl (6) fired the puck past Fleury to bring the Sharks within two goals at 11:44 of the third period. Mikkel Boedker (5) and Couture (7) notched the assists and San Jose trailed, 4-2.
Four minutes later, Boedker (1) scored his first goal of the postseason to bring the Sharks within one and put Golden Knights fans on edge at their own arena.
Couture (8) capitalized his third assist of the night on Boedker’s goal at 15:44.
With about two minutes remaining in the game, DeBoer pulled Dell for an extra skater. The Sharks were not able to complete the comeback as Marchessault (3) fired one into the empty net at 18:39 of the third period to seal the deal for the Golden Knights, 5-3.
Tensions escalated in the final minute as the undisciplined Sharks continued to fall apart late in the game. Marc-Edouard Vlasic slashed Eakin, then added an unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty next to his name on the official event sheet, yielding a four-minute power play to Vegas.
Almost 20 seconds later, Golden Knights defender, Deryk Engelland, and San Jose blueliner, Brenden Dillon, got into it and were served matching misconducts that led to a 12 second head start on hitting the showers before their teammates.
At the final horn, Vegas had defeated San Jose, 5-3, on the scoreboard and finished the night leading in shots on goal (39-30), blocked shots (24-18), hits (53-35), giveaways (15-7) and faceoff win percentage (51-49). Both teams finished the night 1/4 on the power play.
The Golden Knights can eliminate the Sharks on the road at SAP Center on Sunday night in Game 6 and advance to their first Western Conference Final (conveniently also in their inaugural season). Puck drop is expected to occur a little after 7:30 p.m. ET and United States viewers looking to tune in can do so on NBCSN. Meanwhile, Canadians can set their TVs to CBC, SN or TVAS.