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Land of the homeless, San Jose, CA

When the median price for a San Jose home is $1.085 million, you get a lot of homeless..ness.  To distract me from this pressing social problem here is an objective look at the Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks.

The San Jose Sharks relied heavily on depth and speed last season to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, defeating the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues along the way.

But the Sharks ran into the Pittsburgh Penguins, a deeper and faster group, in the Cup Final and lost in six games.

So on July 1, the first day of free agency, the Sharks made two moves aimed at improving their depth and speed at each end of the ice, signing forward Mikkel Boedker to a four-year contract reportedly worth $16 million (average annual value $4 million) and defenseman David Schlemko to a four-year contract reportedly worth $8.4 million (AAV $2.1 million).

“I think it was important for our group to add some speed,” said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who coached Boedker, 26, with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League in 2007-08. “[Boedker] is a world-class skater, and Schlemko is an above-average skating defenseman. That was a key element for both guys.”

Boedker, the No. 8 pick of the 2008 NHL Draft, matched his NHL career high of 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) last season in 80 games between the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. He’ll likely find a spot on one of San Jose’s top two lines, creating more balance among the forwards.

The Sharks believe Boedker will take his game to a higher level playing alongside either Joe Thornton orLogan Couture.

“Mikkel’s tremendous speed is his best attribute, and he has the ability to back off defenders with his combination of quickness and soft hands,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “His creativity and puck-handling abilities make him a threat in the transition game. … We think he will thrive with our group.”

San Jose will be even faster if forward Timo Meier, the No. 9 pick in the 2015 draft, or forward Marcus Sorensen, a free agent addition from Sweden, earns a roster spot.

Making the Sharks roster, however, won’t be easy for any young player. Eleven of the top 13 forwards from their Western Conference championship team are returning: Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Tomas Hertl, Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, Matt Nieto, Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels, with Boedker joining that veteran mix.

Unrestricted free agent forwards Nick Spaling and Dainius Zubrus, who each played on San Jose’s fourth line last season, were not re-signed.

Forward Barclay Goodrow, who played 60 games for the Sharks two seasons ago but spent most of last season with the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League, will be fighting for a roster spot, along with forward Nikolay Goldobin, the No. 27 pick in the 2014 draft.

DeBoer said he welcomes the increased forward depth, despite the tough roster decisions he will face.

“We just got beat by a team with Phil Kessel on the third line,” DeBoer said. “That shows you what kind of mismatches you can create when you have that type of depth. It’s a nice problem to have, and we’ll find a way to deal with it.”

Five of the Sharks’ top six defensemen from last season return: Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin, Justin Braun and Brenden Dillon. Schlemko likely will skate on the third pair with Dillon, taking the spot of Roman Polak, who signed as a free agent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller provide depth.

Schlemko, 29, who spent most of his NHL career with the Coyotes, had career highs of four goals, 13 assists and 67 games last season with the New Jersey Devils.

“[We’re] very pleased that he chose us with the ingredients that he has,” Wilson said of Schlemko. “He’s a puck-mover, great poise with the puck, had a really good year last year. There’s speed in his game.”

Backup goaltender James Reimer signed as a free agent with the Florida Panthers. Aaron Dell, coming off a solid season in the AHL (17-16-6, 2.42 goals-against average, .922 save percentage), likely will fill that role. Martin Jones won 37 games and had a 2.27 GAA in his first season as a starting goalie in the NHL.

The Sharks re-signed three key restricted free agents in the offseason: Nieto, one of their fastest skaters, received a one-year contract reportedly worth $735,000; DeMelo signed a two-year contract reportedly worth $1.3 million (AAV $650,000); and Hertl, coming off his best season with 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists), signed a two-year contract reportedly worth $6 million (AAV $3 million).

“He just gets better and better,” Wilson said of Hertl. “When we drafted him, we expected him to be a dominant player, and so does he. He has high expectations for himself, loves to play the game.”

Do or Die

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 6

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 6

The Tank, CA

As we look forward to Game Six on Sunday, I want to point out a few things that the East Coast hockey proletariat seems to be missing about the Sharks and Penguins.  They blather on about the complete domination of the Pens on the shot clock, how Matt Murray is Conn Smythe worthy, Sidney Crosby is the poster child for the NHL and the San Jose Sharks need to “show a sense of urgency.”

Last time I looked, shots on goal and outshooting your opponent does NOT guarantee victory.  Yes, its better to have the puck and play in the O zone, I get it.  However, I don’t think enough credit is given to Marc Eduard Vlasic and Justin Braun for their stellar defensive play against Sid, Malkin and the rest of the high powered Pitt offense.  Paul Martin and Brent Burns are also to be lauded for their shutdown D play.

Matt Murray has played 13 games in his NHL career.  He has played more playoff games than regular season games and is sporting a 14-6 record with a .923 save %.  Pretty good, but when your team has the puck 65-70% of the time, maybe not quite so much credit can be given to him.  Martin Jones is outplaying him, but that’s another column.

Sidney Crosby has played great for stretches but seems to disappear for long periods of time.  Why?  Defense and goaltending, give it up for San Jose’s commitment to defense.  I will say that Crosby’s passing is  directly responsible for the Pens 3-2 lead in the series.  However, I concede that San Jose has looked out of sorts on offense because of their style of play (cycling the puck down low) and the Pens trapping setup in the neutral zone.  The trap allows for any Sharks mistake Roman Polak, to be turned into a golden scoring opportunity.

San Jose has shown a resiliency and an ability to recovery from some egregious turnovers and keep the games close.  I don’t think enough credit has been given to the Sharks for keeping the games so close when it appears they are being badly outplayed.  At the end of the day, I believe these teams are very even.  In Game 2, the Sharks hit five posts or crossbars before the sixth post shot went in.  No, I’m not ignoring the fact that the Pens have had similar poor puck luck, hitting four posts in the second with no goal to show, including Kessel’s two posts and out shot.

Game Six on home ice is all San Jose can ask for at this point.  Poised to take the series back to Pittsburgh, the Sharks CANNOT allow the Cup to be hoisted on their ice.  Is Tomas Hertl gonna be able to go for Game Six?  Will Jones continue his sublime play against a very gifted offensive team?  Will Mike Sullivan continue to play the maddening trap game that has cause such frustration for the Sharks?  Does Logan Couture have another Conn Smythe worthy game in him?

Game on!!  Put on the Foil boyz and play like your lives depend on it!

Puttin on the Foil

Puttin on the Foil

 

 

Stanley Cup California Style

The Tank, CA

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 3

Reilly Predicts a Sharks Victory in Game 3

On a sultry Saturday afternoon, with the temperature in the 90s along with the humidity, we march ever closer to game time.  As I glance over at my Corgi prognosticator, he sleepily turned to me and said, ” wake me up when we win today, its too hot to pay attention.”

As we anticipate the first EVER Stanley Cup Final game at 5 PM, a few questions come to mind about the tilt.  Missing Tomas Hertl bad, Karlsson rises to the occasion?  Logan Couture’s comments about the cheater Crosby, whining or productive gamesmanship? Will the linesmen enforce the faceoff rules?  Can Brett Burns get untracked and unleash the nasty on Matt Murray?

Can the Sharks break Pittsburgh’s iron grip on our forecheck?  Can Jones continue his stellar play to give us a chance to turn the series? The Joes need to show up, Joel Ward wreaking havoc in front of Murray needs to happen.  Nick Spaling or Chris Tierney gets a goal tonight….Roman Polak needs to play on the edge and hurt some Penguins tonight.

Going all the Way

Going all the Way

 

Pens Outplay San Jose, Lead Series 2-0

Pittsburgh, PA

 

Pens Secret Weapon

Pens Secret Weapon

The Sharks were no match for the Penguins and their secret weapon, Sofia Vergara tonight as they lost 2-1 in OT.  Connor Sheary scored early in the extra frame on a rocket past Martin Jones for the win.

The real story is how San Jose hasn’t played well for extended periods of time in the first two games.  In Game One, the Sharks gave up two goals in about a minute to fall behind.  They rallied for the tie by imposing their will on the young Pens but ultimately lost on a late goal.

Tonight, they didn’t play well for about 50 minutes of the game, yet were still able to tie the score with about 5 minutes left.  Following that clutch goal by Justin Braun, they played their cycle game down low and had several great chances to salt the game away in regulation but G Matt Murray was impenetrable.

I could blather on about Mike Sullivan doing more with less or how he has devised a method for taking the Sharks out of their customary dominance in the offensive zone.  Boys, the Sharks are getting outworked and are unable to cycle the biscuit as is their wont.  Tomas Hertl hit three posts in the first two periods, Chris Tierney hit a cross bar and even the Sharks tying goal was through traffic off the post but in.

Joe Thornton looked uncharacteristically vulnerable, Pavelski was a step slow and Brent Burns was ineffective and shot wildly most of the night.  Thornton seems to be bothered by his injured thumb, incurred on a slash by Patrick Berglund of the Blues in the Conference Finals. Yet they lost by one goal in OT.  What does that tell us?  That the San Jose Sharks can play better and I believe they are the team with superior talent.  Six posts and one goal.  Pens hit the post a few times also.

Saturday Night Fights from the The Tank Game 3 at 5 PM.

Hertl Hits the Post

Hertl Hits the Post

 

 

 

 

Whats Up Stanley Cup?

The Tank, CA

 

                The Net

The Net

Five days later, its still sinking in.  Pittsburgh vs San Jose for the Stanley Cup. Wow. Inadequate word for an emotion that has great depth, not only in its origin but its duration.  Enduring 24 years of varied success, regular season and playoffs included.  Season tickets for 20 years.

Pavelski scores the first goal of the game.

Pavelski scores the first goal of the game.

Game Six, great expectations that were realized, the pageantry of the Western Conference Finals, the cachet for the franchise and Silicon Valley.  Five days later it would be redundant to recap it for you.

Suffice it to say it was a hell of a game from a Sharks point of view, complete domination through two and a half periods of fierce forechecking and spectacular goals. All that remained was the nailbiting ending after St Louis had scored twice and were pressing.

Sharks First Goal

Sharks First Goal

Ward Celebrates his Second Goal

Ward Celebrates his Second Goal

Good Omen

Good Omen

Random thoughts and observations….Joe Thornton and Patty Marleau going to a Final is cool.  Pete DeBoer goes to the Stanley Cup Final in his 1st year as coach again, having done it with the New Jersey Devils…  Nick Spaling is as good or better than Andrew Desjardin…Captain Clutch delivers…Fourth line magic…Jones is as cool as Chicago sleet…Penalty kill excellent…Sharks are pure North/South game…Blues caught flatfooted by San Jose’s speed…Young Guns carry San Jose…Penguins might be in for some trouble…Logan Couture for Conn Smythe murmurs…Sharks Defense is deep and talented…Oh and Pittsburgh, what do they got?…Sid, Kessel, Malkin, Letang…Murray the rookie goalie?Hrmm?…

The Handshake

Another Handshake Lies Ahead…

 

Clutch Play by Sharks Stars Gives San Jose a 3-2 Lead

 

 

St Louis, MO

Reilly stickhandles in the backyard.

Reilly stickhandles in the backyard.

The San Jose Sharks score 3 in the third to take the pivotal Game 5 contest Monday night in St. Louis to go up 3-2 in this amazing Western Conference Final.

On a night when G Martin Jones was fighting it all night, his teammates continued their clutch play by coming back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to score the go ahead goal 16 seconds into the third period.

Joel Ward tied the score in the second, after the Blues had taken the lead on a goal by power forward Troy Brouwer. Captain Joe Pavs made an amazing spin pass to D man Marc Eduard Vlazic who rifled the puck off the post and goalie Jake Allen, Ward was there to knock it out of the air past the St. Louis goalie.

Soon after that goal the Blues got one back on the power play.  Rookie Robby Fabbri ripped one past Jones to retake the lead as the teams headed towards the end of the second.

Pavelski’s goal

https://www.nhl.com/video/pavelski-roofs-thorntons-feed/t-280765358/c-44042203

Pavelski would score again on the power play to knot the game at three heading to the third period.

In what has become a recurring theme in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the
San Jose stars would come up big again. The Blues won the faceoff to start the period, St. Louis D man Jay Bowmeester tried a bank pass off the boards that eluded his teammate and went down for an icing.

San Jose won the face off back to Burns, who shot wide intentionally with Pavs in the slot. The Captain would tip the puck with the heel of his blade past a befuddled Jake Allen for a 4-3 lead 16 seconds into the third stanza.

What can I say that I haven’t said before about Pavelski?  Dude is playing outta his mind, Conn Smythe worthy.  San Jose would stifle and frustrate the Blues for the duration of the game, scoring 2 empty net goals in the last 90 seconds.

Check out this link

https://www.nhl.com/video/tierneys-empty-net-goal/t-280765358/c-44042903

Chris Tierney would pot the first  empty netter by going one on three against the desperate Blues, stealing the puck back from All Star D man Alex Pieterangelo and tucking the puck into the empty net on a beautiful wrap around.

Fuckin amazing.

I love to Dominate

I love to Dominate

Stanley Cup or Bust, Sharks Vs Blues

San Jose, CA

Game Seven Shark

Game Seven Shark

Two franchises, the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, much maligned for never winning a Cup, face off in this amazing Western Conference Final beginning today. The Blues were part of the NHL expansion in 1967 have been to the dance but never won.  San Jose, celebrating its 25th anniversary has never advanced to a Cup Final.

That is not a story line for this year although the media will beat that horse to death throughout the remaining games.  I prefer to focus on their intriguing matchup because that’s what we do here.

First, St. Louis is a powerful team with balanced scoring, great puck moving defensemen, and a goalie, Brian Elliot who has taken them past the 2015 Stanley Cup champs, the Hawks, and the Dallas Stars, owners of the best record in the West.  Coach Ken Hitchcock is a great coach and has won a Cup with the Stars in 1999.

Game Seven Action

Game Seven Action

The Sharks, led by Captain Joe Pavelski are not your muthas Sharks anymore.  Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were the face of the franchises futility but are now pieces of the puzzle instead of their best hope for winning it all.  Balanced scoring, very good puck moving defensemen and goalie Martin Jones are what got San Jose to the Finals for the first time since 2011.

Marc "The Pickle" Vlasic taken down by James Neal of Nashville

Marc “The Pickle” Vlasic taken down by James Neal of Nashville

San Jose has exorcised the demons from LaLa Land, beating the Kings in 5 games in the first round.  Moving into the semis, the home teams won all the games with San Jose stomping on the Preds nuts 5-0 in the decisive seventh game on Thursday.  Five different players scored in that contest including the aforementioned Marleau and Thornton, Pavelski, gritty Joel Ward and the clutchest of all the Sharks this post season Logan420Couture.

Couture scores at 4:20 of the 2nd period in Game 2

Couture scores at 4:20 of the 2nd period in Game 2

St. Louis was built to beat the Hawks and the Kings because they lost in the 1st round  to both of those teams in 2012 through 2014 and Minny Soda last year.  Anyway, the point is, who has had more playoff futility than the Blues and Sharks?  The answer is no one.

The good news is that one team will move on and have a great chance to shed their loser moniker. San Jose is built similar to the St Louis team and matches up very well.  The Sharks rookie Jonas Donskoi of San Jose is a Finnish player that can finish, scoring clutch goals all post season and plays as if  he has the puck on a string.  Blues rookie Robbie Fabbri brings a similar scoring prowess and has given St. Louis game breaking speed.

Robby Fabbri scores in Game Seven against the Dallas Stars

Robby Fabbri scores in Game Seven against the Dallas Stars

To sum it up, a great Final awaits their fans and fans of great hockey played with tremendous skill and savior faire.  For my less literate readers, the definition of savior faire is to play with poise, aplomb,adroitness, polish, and style.  In a word, passion, grit and skill will be on display tonight!  So don’t miss this series, could be amazing and one for the ages!

Pekka Rinne throws his stick in Game Seven.

Pekka Rinne throws his stick in Game Seven.