Persistence paid off for Stanley Cup final bound Joel Ward

Mike Brophy
Joel Ward. (Getty Images)

Many other players – some with great potential – walked away from the game.

Not Joel Ward, though. Not even after hockey slapped him in the face.

Not after a four-year junior career with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. Undrafted, but undaunted, Ward spent the next four years playing Canadian university hockey at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Now there have been a few graduates of Canadian university hockey who have gone on to respectable professional careers – Steve Rucchin and Cory Cross spring to mind – but it is not accepted as the surest path to get to the NHL.

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World Cup Power Rankings: Take a wild guess who’s No. 1

Sidney Crosby  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

Now that the rosters for the World Cash Grab of Hockey™ have been finalized, we can now set about to devoting our energies to predicting everything that’s going to happen. After all, the tournament is only four months away and time is of the essence.

With that said, here’s our stab at World Cup of Hockey Power Rankings. Remember, these are Power Rankings and have no bearing on how a team will finish, so stop it with the hate mail and nasty tweets just because your team didn’t do well in this little exercise. That goes double for all you Team Europe fans out there, all three of you.

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Thornton and Burns added to Canada and nobody should be surprised

Ken Campbell
Joe Thornton (left) and Brent Burns  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

With the addition of the final seven players to the roster, Canada’s team for the World Cup of Hockey just got a lot hairier. And if the San Jose Sharks can manage to win the Stanley Cup, you’ll have to wear sunglasses in the dressing room just to deal with the bling from the Stanley Cups and Olympic gold medals.

The additions of the hirsute Joe Thornton and Brent Burns should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched this year’s playoffs. Both enter the Stanley Cup final as legitimate frontrunners to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, but they were also dominant in the regular season for the Sharks. In the case of Thornton, this was most certainly not a feel-good bone-throw to a guy who has been a class act and outstanding player for a long time. Thornton has earned every bit of this and has proved that even though he’ll be 37 – and will be Canada’s oldest skater – when the tournament begins, he can still play an effective game at both ends of the ice and remains one of the league’s elite passers.

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Bryan Rust plays the hero, provides depth Penguins needed to break through

Steven Stamkos (left) and Bryan Rust  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

For a guy with such blinding speed, Bryan Rust sure took his time becoming a big-time hero. And that’s exactly what he is, perhaps Notre Dame’s most unlikely hero since Daniel Ruettiger.

Four years at Notre Dame, a couple of years in the minors and no full-time NHL work until about five months ago. But that did not prevent Rust from being the Game 7 hero of the Eastern Conference final in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. And more yet may be to come, because if the Penguins are going to emerge victorious over the San Jose Sharks in the final, they’re going to need the kind of speed that Rust brings to the game.

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NHL taking a bullet for NBC Sports by cancelling Tampa viewing party

Amalie Arena  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

There’s one thing you have to keep in mind when it comes to this public relations debacle surrounding the cancellation of tonight’s viewing party in Tampa for Game 7 between the Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. And that is that the NHL is not the bad guy here. The league is basically taking a bullet for its broadcast partner, NBC Sports.

Think about it. Why would the league want to deter thousands of people from assembling in one place to celebrate their team’s playoff run and create a sense of community among fans that no amount of money can buy, unless it was being forced to do so? The truth is, the NHL would love it, absolutely love it, if every team in the playoffs held public gatherings for each one of their playoff games. It creates a buzz around the team and the product that is immeasurable. The days of Bill Wirtz not putting the Chicago Blackhawks home games on television passed a long time ago.

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Sharks avoid losing prospect Sadowy for nothing, ship him to Red Wings for third-round pick

Jared Clinton
Dylan Sadowy (Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks had until June 1 to sign prospect Dylan Sadowy. If they didn’t, the 20-year-old winger was set to re-enter the upcoming draft and the Sharks would lose Sadowy, a two-time 40-goal scorer in the OHL, for nothing.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson solved that problem Thursday afternoon, however, by working out a deal with Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland.

It was announced by the Red Wings Thursday afternoon that they have acquired Sadowy from the Sharks in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2017 draft, and, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Sadowy has signed an entry-level deal with Detroit. That means he won’t be re-entering the draft, and he’s officially a Red Wing. Read more

Sharks win Game 6, book ticket to first Stanley Cup final in team history

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

All it took was a quarter century of blood, sweat and playoff anguish. Finally, the San Jose Sharks will play in a Stanley Cup final. They came home to the SAP Center for Game 6 of their Western Conference final Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues. Whereas previous incarnations of the Sharks may have crumbled under the pressure, the 2015-16 version showed killer instinct right away. They took the lead on a Joe Pavelski goal 3:57 into the first period and never relinquished it, winning 5-2, weathering a mini-storm from the Blues in the third.

The San Jose Sharks arrived on the NHL scene in 1991-92, kicking off the NHL’s Sun Belt expansion. The early years were ugly as can be, with the Sharks winning 28 game over their first two seasons combined, joining the Mount Rushmore of awful hockey teams with the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and the 1992-93 Ottawa Senators. The Sharks awakened as a relevant team in 1993-94 under coach Kevin Constantine when they upset the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs and have been a competitive franchise ever since, making the post-season in 18 their past 22 campaigns. But they were perpetually the so-close-yet-so far team, losing three times in the Western Conference final, twice during Jumbo Joe Thornton’s prime. Coach Ron Wilson couldn’t get them over the top. Todd McLellan couldn’t do it.

But, finally, the Sharks are Stanley Cup finalists. They toppled the St. Louis Blues in six games, shutting down St. Louis’ most dangerous forwards, especially Vladimir Tarasenko, whose lone goals game with the score 4-0 in Game 6. The Sharks’ elite players shone through, especially Pavelski, who scored his 13th goal of the playoffs in Game 6 and has to be the Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner right now.

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Watch Martin Jones’ massive pad save on Jori Lehtera one timer in Game 6

Matt Larkin
Martin Jones. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

Let’s be honest: we could rhyme off several Conn Smythe Trophy candidates from the San Jose Sharks before we get to goaltender Martin Jones. It’s nothing against Jones. It’s just that he hasn’t been too busy. Entering Game 6 of the Western Conference final against the St. Louis Blues, Jones had faced 26 or fewer shots in every game, though he was pulled in one of those.

The Blues managed just five shots in the first period of Game 5 as they faced elimination, and they’d fallen behind 2-0 by the 5:02 mark of the second period. They gained momentum later in the second, however, managing 11 shots on Jones. They finally tested him, none more than center Jori Lehtera, who had a 10-bell chance in the slot on a one-time feed from Robby Fabbri halfway through the period. Watch Jones’ smooth pad save:

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