When The Hockey News editorial staff convened last summer to put together our annual Yearbook, there was no consensus when we were hashing out our collective pick to win the Stanley Cup this season. It was like any group of hockey observers, really. Some liked Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins; others picked the Bruins, the Kings or the Rangers.
We wound up settling on the Blues – and with St. Louis tied with Boston for the NHL’s best regular-season record right now, we’re feeling good as a group about that – but that team wasn’t my personal selection. I went with a franchise that not long ago was the darling of hockey pundits everywhere: the San Jose Sharks.
And you know what? I feel better about that pick today than I did when I first made it. It’s fair to question this group’s ability to get over the hump after so many years of disappointment, but it’s also entirely possible they finally take that next step this spring.
Like all teams, the Sharks have struggled at different points in the season. But in the NHL’s new playoff format that emphasizes divisional play, they’re better than solid: only the Ducks have a better record within the division (19-3-3) than San Jose (17-6-3) – and two of Anaheim’s three regulation time divisional losses came against the Sharks.
Meanwhile, as they proved in a 2-1 win Thursday, the Sharks also match up very well against the Kings – especially if star defenseman Drew Doughty is sidelined for any significant stretch of playoff time. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic won’t win the Norris Trophy this season, but he’s been quietly spectacular for them and their overall blueline group makes goalie Antti Niemi’s job a lot easier. As well, San Jose is the NHL’s most dominant playoff team (53 percent efficiency), something that will take on more importance when the post-season begins.
But here’s why I’ve always liked the Sharks this year: an air of desperation, at least for stars such as Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, is beginning to loom large over the organization. Read more
Los Angeles Kings star blueliner Drew Doughty joined the growing ranks of the NHL’s injured Thursday when he was sidelined with what appears to be an injured left shoulder.
The Kings would only say Doughty suffered an upper-body injury when they announced he wouldn’t return after he was hurt in the first period in L.A.’s game against San Jose. Doughty drove his shoulder into Sharks forward Tyler Kennedy at the 11:38 mark and favored his shoulder before leaving the ice. Read more
This is the 20th season the Anaheim Ducks have been in the NHL and until Monday night, they had never, ever come back and won a game in which they’d trailed by four goals. Not even when they were known as the Mighty Ducks.
We’re not even going to guess at how many F-bombs Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau hurled at his team after the first two periods of the Ducks 5-4 overtime win over the Winnipeg Jets, but we’re willing to bet there was a fair bit of salt to his language. Whatever he did, it worked on everyone from stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to lesser lights such as Patrick Maroon and Daniel Winnik. Read more
Less than a year after the Toronto Maple Leafs signed winger David Clarkson to a seven-year, $36.75-million contract, there’s speculation they could buy him out.
Sportsnet’s Greg Brady recently reported via Twitter that colleague Doug MacLean said there will be “serious discussions” by Leafs management to consider buying out the remainder of Clarkson’s contract this summer to free up cap space.
At the time of the signing, some in the Toronto media compared Clarkson to his idol, former Leafs captain Wendel Clark. Others, however, were critical of the Leafs paying so much to a player who only exceeded the 20-goal mark once in his NHL career.
To call Clarkson’s first season with the Leafs disappointing is an understatement. It began with a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench during a pre-season game to join an on-ice altercation. Clarkson also received a two-game suspension in December for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues center Vladimir Sobotka. Foot, elbow and leg injuries sidelined the Leafs’ forward an additional 10 games. He’s now on pace for a career-worst 11-point season. Read more
Jonny Brodzinski is a high-scoring center for the St. Cloud State Huskies and a Los Angeles Kings draft pick. Michael Brodzinski is an offensive-minded defenseman with the University of Minnesota and a San Jose Sharks draft pick. They are brothers who had the unenviable task of playing each other on the weekend, with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line. When the dust settled, younger brother Michael got the win as his Gophers smashed the Huskies 4-0, but what happened after the game is what really made this one to remember:
By Chris Kazarian
On a chilly Friday morning in the middle of January, all is quiet on the streets of Worcester, Mass., as workers in this proud city in Boston’s shadow have punched their time clocks, beginning the slow descent toward the weekend.
Deep inside the DCU Center, home to the American League’s Worcester Sharks, players who dream of NHL contracts are about to substantially raise the decibel level. It begins minutes after the Sharks’ morning skate in preparation for their home game later that night against the Springfield Falcons. As players walk the short distance from the ice to the dressing room, some throw their practice jerseys onto a rolling gray bin placed directly in the center of their stalls.
But not center Jon Matsumoto.
“Mo,” he calls out in a sing-song voice, holding up his jersey.
“Mo,” he repeats.
Within seconds a “Mo” chant reverberates through the wooden stalls of the Sharks’ dressing room as teammates join in.
‘Mo’ springs up from the corner and in a rocking horse fashion, runs up to Matsumoto, snags his jersey and slam dunks it into the bin, lifting his hands up triumphantly to a roar of approval. Read more
The San Jose Sharks reclaimed first place in the Pacific Division for the first time in 104 days. The previous time the Fins owned top spot in the division was Dec. 6.
And they did it on the shoulders of their captain.
Joe Thornton proved he’s the best passer in the NHL with a pair of assists. ‘Jumbo Joe’ also had a goal.
For the second night in a row, two of the NHL’s heavyweights collide in a crucial late-season showdown. St. Louis had a chance to bury Chicago last night, but the Blackhawks beat down the Blues 4-0 in a rather one-sided game between two of the Central Division’s big boys.
Tonight, the Pacific Division’s heavies take center stage. And the Anaheim Ducks vs. San Jose Sharks fight promises to be much better.
This one has playoff-like anticipation around it. Each team has 97 points, so the winner will take over sole possession of first place in the division. And both are desperate to win it.
The old adage of just making the playoffs doesn’t apply to them. Second place in the Pacific means a dance with the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the post-season. First place will draw one of Minnesota, Phoenix or Dallas (possibly Winnipeg or Vancouver). No poison to pick among any of those teams.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, poses a post-season brick wall that neither Anaheim nor San Jose wants to run into in the first round.