It was probably the best thing the San Jose Sharks could have hoped for. They didn’t play anywhere near their best. Yet, they won anyway.
It was probably the best thing the San Jose Sharks could have hoped for. They didn’t play anywhere near their best. Yet, they won anyway.
The Sharks became the only team to take a 2-0 series lead in the second round when they edged the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Sunday night. They were outshot 39-25 by the desperate visitors, but managed to hang in before captain Joe Pavelski netted a crucial go-ahead goal at 17:20 of the third period.
As one of the NHL’s chronic underachievers over the past decade, the Sharks have may have lost games like this in previous years. During this post-season, however, they’ve displayed an ability to shake off poor stretches within games.
They avoided a collapse in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings as a three-goal advantage turned into a narrow 3-2 victory. They rebounded after blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 5, closing out the Kings with a 6-3 win. And they trailed 1-0 heading into the third period in the series opener against Nashville on Friday before netting five goals in the frame.
The Sharks have won six of seven games in the playoffs so far, the best clip of any team.
As usual, it was the team’s core players that led the way on Sunday.
Center Logan Couture deposited a loose puck off a point shot from Brent Burns to give the Sharks the game’s first goal in the second period. It was Couture’s fourth goal of the playoffs and Burns’ team-leading 11th point.
Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm tied the game 12:56 into the third period and overtime was looming. But Pavelski shoved in a rebound chance with 2:40 left in regulation to restore the Sharks’ lead. It was the captain’s sixth goal of the playoffs, tying him with New York Islanders center John Tavares and Tampa Bay Lightning right winger Nikita Kucherov for top spot overall. The rush that led to the goal, and the pass that started it, was made by Joe Thornton – arguably the Sharks’ best player this season.
Thornton added an empty-net goal prior to Predators center Ryan Johansen rounding out the scoring in the dying seconds.
Martin Jones made 37 saves in the San Jose net, while Pekka Rinne allowed two goals on 24 shots.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Sharks found a way. For a team looking to get to its first Western Conference final since 2011 and its first Stanley Cup final ever, winning ugly will suffice. Just imagine how good the Sharks will look when they’re really firing on all cylinders.
Every team in the NHL could use a player of Kevin Shattenkirk's pedigree. But which playoff hopeful team most needs to get the defenseman?
Unless he's already been traded by the time you read this, St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will be the most sought after commodity on deadline day. He's a legit No. 1 D-man, and an unrestricted free agent come July, so everyone expects him to be on the move. Certainly almost every team in the league could use a player of his caliber, but which playoff hopeful really needs him? Here are some options.
New York Rangers
It's the New York Rangers, without a doubt. We worried before the season started that the Rangers only had so many shots left to win a Stanley Cup before Henrik Lundqvist aged out. And while the Blueshirts have many good young forwards, vets like Rick Nash are exiting their primes, and same goes for D-men like Marc Staal. New York has a good enough team to make a legit run, albeit through a vicious road in the Metro Division. All the more reason to trade for Shattenkirk. He could jumpstart their 17th-ranked power play and help generate more goals for a team that has regressed a lot since a blazing offensive start to the year. Shattenkirk also owns a home in the Hamptons, so he'd be a strong candidate to sign an extension. (Matt Larkin)
St. Louis Blues
No team needs to trade for Kevin Shattenkirk. Check that, the St. Louis needs to trade for him. No, I’m not off my meds here. If Shattenkirk is destined to be a rental to any team aside from say, the New York Rangers, then why would the Blues not treat him that way and keep him on their own roster without having to give up anything? The Blues are a bubble playoff team in the Western Conference, likely destined for one of the two wildcard spots if they make it at all. They need a healthy, productive Shattenkirk in a big way if they have any hope of making any noise in the west. And with Shattenkirk, they do have that hope. So instead of pedaling him off for draft picks and young guys who may never pan out, why not keep him and see if he can be a difference maker in the post-season, then lose him for nothing in the summer. The Blues are loathe to do this, but the fact they got Patrik Berglund under contract for five years will soften the blow this summer. Had both of them left, it would have been a different story. This way, he can still be a rental. He’s just the Blues’ rental. (Ken Campbell)
Finding a way to make the money work would be tricky, but the Bruins could really benefit from adding a puck mover like Shattenkirk to their back end. Boston has gotten good production out of Torey Krug this season. The rest of their blueline, however, hasn’t been all that effective at filling the score sheet. In fact, 39-year-old Zdeno Chara is the second highest scoring rearguard the team has with six goals and 18 points. That’s not enough to compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Adding Shattenkirk could realistically put the Bruins into the conversation for the Atlantic Division title — they're only four points back of the rival Montreal Canadiens — but getting out of the Atlantic in the post-season isn’t going to be easy if a Metropolitan Division squad crosses over due to the wild card. Competing with the high scoring teams from the Metro is a tall task. That’s where Shattenkirk would come in, though. Acquiring an offensive defenseman of Shattenkirk’s calibre would make the Bruins’ chances that much greater. (Jared Clinton)
There are some big names on the trade market, sure, but what happens on deadline day if those players are all moved before March 1?
Entering the final weekend before the NHL's March 1 trade deadline, activity is expected to increase in what's been a mostly stagnant trade market. There's already been two notable moves in recent days, with the Arizona Coyotes shipping defenseman Michael Stone to the Calgary Flames and the Carolina Hurricanes dealing blueliner Ron Hainsey to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In recent years, some notable stars were moved well before deadline day. In 2015, Jaromir Jagr, Keith Yandle, Andrej Sekera and Antoine Vermette were moved to new clubs within days of the March 2 deadline. Last season, Eric Staal and Andrew Ladd were dealt the weekend prior to the Feb. 29 deadline, as well as second-tier players such as James Reimer, Kris Versteeg, Jiri Hudler and Justin Schultz.
It's not unusual for players to be moved well before deadline day. But in a season where there's a shortage of noteworthy trade bait, this year's deadline could be devoid of significant moves.
That will be a nightmare for the sports networks covering deadline day. Viewers could face hours of tedium as TV pundits try to play up the merits of the available lesser lights in the trade market.
This year's market is particularly thin, in part because of a notable lack of quality pending free agents usually pursued by playoff clubs as rental players. Parity in the postseason race and concerns over protecting players in the June expansion draft also adversely affects the trade pool.
St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk remains this season's top potential rental player. Given the trend of the last two years, he could be on the move by Monday.
Despite the Blues' improvement in recent weeks, TSN's Darren Dreger believes Shattenkirk will be dealt. Noting Troy Brouwer and David Backes departed last summer via free agency, Dreger feels the Blues want to avoid the same scenario with the 28-year-old blueliner.
Dreger's colleague Bob McKenzie reports the Blues were believed to have had tentative deals involving Shattenkirk with three different teams stretching back to last summer. However, all fell through because he was unwilling to sign a long-term contract extension.
According to McKenzie, the most recent occurred about six weeks ago, as Shattenkirk turned down a seven-year, $42-million offer. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that deal was thought to be with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Blues will now shop the rearguard as a rental player. It's believed the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs are among the suitors. However, the Blues reportedly seek at least a first-round pick and a top prospect. The Rangers and Leafs could balk at that, preferring instead to bid for his services in the free-agent market in July.
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop still features prominently in this season's rumor chatter. After struggling with inconsistency and injury in the first half of this season, the 30-year-old's performance has improved in recent weeks.
However, there isn't much of a market for starting goalies at this point in the season. Bishop was linked to the Dallas Stars earlier this season, but they're now out of playoff contention and unlikely to go goalie-shopping. The Calgary Flames nearly had a deal in place for Bishop before the 2016 NHL draft. Perhaps they'll revisit that interest before the deadline.
Despite the risk of losing Bishop in July to free agency, the Lightning could retain him. Over the past couple of weeks, the Bolts have surged back into playoff contention. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Timesspeculates they could stick with Bishop and hope he can backstop them into the postseason.
Detroit Red Wings left winger Thomas Vanek is the most notable rental forward. With the Red Wings poised to miss the playoffs for the first time in 25 season seasons, MLive.com's Brendan Savage expects GM Ken Holland will soon go into sell mode. The 33-year-old Vanek is Holland's best trade chip. Teams lacking scoring depth on the wing, such as the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators, could come calling.
The rest of the rental market is comprised of second-tier players such as Coyotes center Martin Hanzal and past-their prime stars like Colorado Avalanche right winger Jarome Iginla and Stars right winger Patrick Sharp. TSN's Pierre LeBrun speculates Hanzal could be on the move before deadline day.
If Shattenkirk, Bishop, Vanek, and Hanzal are gone by March 1, this year's deadline could be a dud for fans and pundits.
Noteworthy stars such as Avalanche forwards Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, Edmonton Oilers right winger Jordan Eberle or Buffalo Sabres left winger Evander Kane could also be traded on deadline day. But all of them carry annual cap hits in excess of $5 million and the Avs set high asking prices for Duchene and Landeskog.
Given the concerns over a stagnant salary-cap for 2017-18 and the need to protect those players in the expansion draft, it's doubtful any of them will be moved at this year's trade deadline.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
The Capitals are tired of playoff disappointments. Already the best team in the league, they decided overkill was the smart strategy. That's why they went out and got the best player on the trade market.
The Washington Capitals haven’t just fooled us once, not even twice, into thinking they’re legitimate alpha-dog Stanley Cup contenders. Since the Alex Ovechkin era started in 2005-06, this team has tantalized us with multiple Presidents’ Trophies, one of the two best players of this generation, some of the most exciting offensive teams of all-time and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltending. And no matter how much buzz the Caps could generate, no matter how much THIS year was the year, it never was. They still haven’t advanced past the second round of the Stanley cup playoffs since 1998, when they reached the final with an underdog group coached by Ron Wilson.
Kudos to GM Brian MacLellan, then, for taking a stand Monday night. He took a team already looking like the NHL’s best on paper, already loaded with talent, already on track for another Presidents’ Trophy, and augmented it with arguably the best player available on the 2016-17 trade market. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk is now a Capital, acquired from the St. Louis Blues for the very reasonable price of a first-round pick in 2017, a conditional 2018 second-rounder and Zach Sanford, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. The Blues will also retain some salary in the deal, LeBrun reports. At a price that reasonable, renting Shattenkirk, a pending unrestricted free agent, is just fine. Re-signing him in the summer would be gravy (and likely not financially feasible for Washington).
The Caps have a top-three offense in the league. They allow easily the fewest goals per game. They rank second in save percentage. They boast the league’s No. 5 power play and No. 7 penalty kill. They still have Ovechkin playing high-end hockey even if his prime is over. They have arguably the best goaltender in the game right now in Braden Holtby. They call Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller their top three centers. Their top five defensemen are John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Dmitry Orlov
They are S-T-A-C-K-E-D. But MacLellan realized (a) they’ve never been stacked enough over the past decade and (b) that, despite such a talent-rich roster, they did lack mobility and true offensive creativity after Carlson on the back end. Shattenkirk is an absolute luxury, but that’s what the Caps evidently need to get over the playoff choke hump. Doing so, conquering the Pittsburgh Penguins, requires overkill.
Shattenkirk obviously enhances an already deadly power play, can play 20-plus minutes a game and increases the fleet-footedness on Washington’s blueline. But he’s also an underrated defensive player, a driver of possession with a career 5-on-5 Corsi mark of 53.3 percent and an average rating 2.2 percent higher than his teammates. He fits the modern definition of what it means to be effective in your own end. He is the anti Brooks Orpik, really. As a bonus, Shattenkirk blocks the New York Rangers, the Caps’ Metro Division competition, from landing him. The Blueshirts were one of the teams most commonly linked to him.
So will the Caps ultimately make every prognosticator look silly yet again and flop with an early playoff exit? Hey, it’s entirely possible. But they deserve credit for recognizing they’re in an elite contention window and for refusing to stand pat. They’re making the boldest mid-season move they’ve made during the Ovechkin era. The Capitals can also finally say they have good possession numbers, something that correlates directly with the past seven Stanley Cup champions. They rank third in the NHL in 5-on-5 score- zone- and venue-adjusted Corsi. The last five champions have ranked top-five in that category.
The Shattenkirk acquisition solidifies Washington as the NHL’s team to beat right now. No matter how skeptical we may feel about them, no matter how many times this team has fallen short of expectations, they’ve decided to do something different this time. We have to view them through a new lens.