My Two Cents: Sharks Aftermath; Philly-NJ Could Be A Classic In Making; Phoenix Coyotes Are For Real…


My Two Cents for April 30th:

Sharks Aftermath: Another season has come and gone for our beloved team teal. Lots of star power on the roster, lots of sweat and toil through a rough 82 game schedule. For the eighth straight year the Sharks made the post season, which is something a lot of franchises cannot say. However, also for the eighth straight year, no Stanley Cup or even so much as a Finals appearance. The Sharks have made three Western Conference Finals appearances, but were handed their hats in all three Finals rounds going 3-12 in the WC Finals, including just one home win in seven games. None of this is through a lack of effort on the Sharks part, in all three cases they ran into teams that proved to be more than superior. You have to credit Calgary, Chicago and Vancouver for the jobs they did in each of those series.

The Sharks this time around though were manhandled by a team that passed by them almost overnight in the St Louis Blues. Counting the playoffs, the Sharks were just 1-8 versus the Blues and the only win was one they were frankly lucky to even get. Team teal after Game One versus the Blues never came close again to the victory lane. How did the Blues in a matter of one season go from finishing 12th in the overall standings to a team that could all but still beat the Sharks if blindfolded? One reason would be that Ken Hitchcock when he took over the Bluenotes saw the talent he had on the roster and got the most out of it by coaching it up and getting the players to believe in themselves. While this was going on, the Sharks on the other hand despite off season moves to shore up their defense and penalty kill still failed to address chemistry issues that seems to haunt team teal at the most inconvenient of times. Not to mention that when it mattered the most, the penalty kill issue had come back and again bit the Sharks square in the rear.

A good friend of mine from my college days at San Jose State recently e-mailed me and voiced his frustration and disgust at what he had seen this year. He had concluded that the Sharks window of opportunity was closed and that team teal needed to go back to the drawing board. I feel that on many levels my friend voiced what many Sharks fans are feeling today and with good reason. My take simply is going forward the Sharks must change some fundamental philosophies within the organization and focus on getting both younger and tougher. Your untouchable cornerstones are Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Ryane Clowe since he is the one player who has always had the back of any player on the ice wearing teal. As for the rest of the roster, both General Manager Doug Wilson and Head Coach Todd McLellan need to make some tough decisions as it’s obvious the Sharks cannot stand pat with the roster as constructed now.

Some changes must be made, and it’s likely time to say goodbye to a few household names. This same team as constructed now will struggle again next season and may or may not make the post season. If they make the post season, their stay will be equally as short as this one was. Both Wilson and McLellan know this and I would expect them to be the two busiest men in the NHL this post season. Anything less than that, and the Sharks will become what has already happened to the Calgary Flames. A aging roster of once strong players that are just now good enough collectively to miss the post season. That won’t be good for business (needless to say). We will see what happens.

Could The Sharks had Beaten the Canucks?: For those who keep asking themselves and others “What if the Sharks had played Vancouver?” First, there is absolutely no guarantee the Sharks would have beaten Vancouver. Just for sake of argument, let’s says just hypothetically the Sharks pulled the upset as the eight seed and knocked off the Canucks, who would have the Sharks played next? Probably the St Louis Blues, and it would have likely either been the same result or even a Blues sweep (The Sharks probably would have needed seven game to beat Vancouver, because they are the Sharks). The reason the LA Kings beat Vancouver was because they created a lot more bad match ups for the Canucks than the Sharks would have. In addition, the Kings caught Vancouver at “the right time.” This may not be the answer you would look for from a die hard Sharks fan as myself. However, to tell you anything less would not be telling you the truth. I owe you the reader that much.

New Jersey versus Philadelphia, a Classic in the Making?: I hope many of you reading this got a chance to see Game One of the series between the New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia Flyers. If the rest of this series plays out anything as the opening game did, this could go down as one of the classic series of any post season. The climate for the series is perfect, two teams separated by 85 miles with one of the teams drawing a number of fans from the southern half of the opposing and bordering state, and that team is not the Devils. As for Game 1, Danny Briere’s second goal of the game 4:36 into the overtime period gave the Flyers a 4-3 win and a 1-0 lead in their best of seven series. Game Two is Tuesday Night 7pm EDT/4pm PDT (NBC Sports Net in US; CBC-TV in Canada).

This game was a classic back and fourth game where both teams created a number of scoring chances and both goalies, Martin Brodeur for New Jersey, and Ilia Bryzgalov for Philadelphia were called upon to make some huge saves throughout the contest. What was also nice about this contest is that it kept you on the edge of your seat throughout with it’s fast back and fourth style of play, and that it was a relatively clean game with very little in the way of skirmishes or fights. The focus was just a good three hours of wall to wall solid hockey. James Van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux also scored for the Flyers. In addition to Briere’s game winner in overtime, he scored the first of two Flyers goals within a 37 second span as the Flyers rallied to take a 2-1 lead midway though the second period (Van Riemsdyk getting the go ahead goal a few seconds later). Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Petr Sykora scored for New Jersey.

If this series matches the intensity level of Game One, this could be a classic to look forward to. Not to be outdone, both the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings opened their best of seven series with resounding wins to take the early one game lead in their respective series. Goals from Chris Kreider, Brad Richards broke a 1-1 tie in the third period and gave the Rangers a 3-1 victory over the #7 seeded Washington at Madison Square Garden Saturday Afternoon. Game Two is Monday Night as the Capitals look to draw even against the Eastern Conference’s top seeded team. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Kings continue to surprise as they continued their strong play with an impressive series opening 3-1 win versus the St Louis Blues in The Gateway City. Kings’ Goalie Mike Quick made 28 saves as he out dueled Brian Elliot. A short handed goal late in the second period from Matt Greene turned out to be the difference in the game as St Louis could not recover from it. The Blues probably are not too worried being a game down one game into the series, however maybe they should be concerned that the team they are playing now is playing a much stronger game of hockey than their previous opponent the Sharks. The Kings as the eighth seeded team in the Western Conference are playing with house money because of their seeding, and so far are making very good use of it going 4-0 on the road so far in these playoffs. Game Two is Monday Night in St Louis 8pm CDT/6pm PDT (CNBC-US; TSN-Canada).

Who Are Those Guys Anyway?: Before the season started back in October, nobody thought much of the Phoenix Coyotes. Nobody gave them a chance to win the Pacific Division that was seemingly owned by the Sharks. The Sharks beat the Coyotes at the Shark Tank 6-3 on opening night in a game that was not even that close. One game down, 81 to go. Well, the Phoenix Coyotes if nothing else have become one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season this side of the St Louis Blues. After losing the season opener in San Jose, the Coyotes would soon come together as a team and surprise the NHL with a degree of dominance that has earned this writer’s respect and admiration. The Coyotes after losing the first game to the Sharks won four of the next five against team teal. The Coyotes won all three games in Phoenix against the Sharks in a somewhat convincing fashion. The Coyotes won the Pacific Division winning two final games on the road in St Louis and Minnesota, both 4-1 blowouts. The Desert Dogs got things rolling in their favor and made the quantum leap to Pacific Division winner in part by going 12-0-2 in February (while the Sharks were 4-9-1 in the same period).

Though the Coyotes had some struggles against the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs, they still overcame adversity a won the series in six games, sweeping all three games in Chicago. This included a convincing 4-0 win in a series clinching game in the windy city. They Coyotes are lead by Captain Shane Doan, and former Shark Ray Whitney who has been arguably the heart and soul of the Coyotes. Mike Smith replaced the traded Ilia Bryzgalov in goal for the Coyotes and has been nothing short of a steal for Phoenix as he has been lights out in goal this season. I don’t know who’ll win the Viezna this year, but there is no way that Mike Smith could be excluded from a serious discussion.

The Coyotes as of this writing have also won the first two games of their series in Phoenix against the favored Nashville Predators. After holding on to win game one in overtime, the Coyotes flat out pasted the Predators in Game Two. If the Coyotes get to the Western Conference Finals or even get to the Stanley Cup Finals, it will make for possibly one of the hugest surprises in NHL history. If the Coyotes make it all the way to the finals, this could also be a concern for the NHL for two reasons. First, the Coyotes ownership situation is still in flux. Secondly, not that the Coyotes would care about this anyway, but it may be tough to play a Stanley Cup Finals game in Phoenix. The Finals would start in late May, about the same time that the Phoenix area hits the period of year where 100 degree plus temperatures start and stay locked in through early October. I hope the arena is a climate controlled building, and that there won’t be a problem with ice condensation. Again, if your the Coyotes if you reach the finals you may not care that much about that anyways. It still beats Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Minneapolis in January.

It’s All in the Numbers (Just for Fun): Looking at the remaining teams in this years NHL Playoffs, they are seeded collectively as follows: 1) NY Rangers (EC); 2) St Louis Blues (WC); 3) Phoenix Coyotes (WC); 4) Nashville Predators (WC); 5) Philadelphia Flyers (EC); 6) New Jersey Devils (EC); 7) Washington Capitals (EC);  8) Los Angeles Kings (WC)… Just one of those oddities you don’t normally see. I guess this means that if the NHL had a consolation round, which they could call the “Presidents” round, the #7 Sharks would be playing the #2 Boston Bruins. That would have made a great Stanley Cup Final. For at least one of those teams, it’s looking more everyday like being in possession of the winning lotto numbers, just another pipe dream…

…Just My Two Cents…

The King Shark

*Be sure to follow all of your BoT staff on twitter!!! @BladesofTeal @bladesofteal17 @Puckguy14 @KingShark49 @_StephLee_

“Blades of Teal: The Final Word on San Jose Sharks Hockey”…(where puck drops again for team teal this October)…

 *PS1: “The Kingshark Prediction Guarantee: If my predictions for the post season are not right, that is because they are wrong!”

**PS2: Thanks to KRXQ 98.5 Sacramento (via on line)…thanks for the great article writing music..Linkin’Park, Primus, Alice in Chains & Metallica always help me to concentrate…

M2C #1