Boys won't stand a chance in Sharks-Blues series

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Boys won't stand a chance in Sharks-Blues series

St. Louis -- To figure out the event that sparked the mayhem that defined the second game of this Western Conference quarterfinal is like finding the best piece of hay in a haystack. The San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues came to the rink loaded for bear, and came away with handfuls of fur.

Of the game, which St. Louis won, 3-0, to tie the series at one skin apiece, this can be said. The Sharks started, and didnt finish. They didnt finish their chances, they didnt finish their work along the wall, they didnt . . . well, anything, really.

RECAP: Sharks singing the Blues, blanked in St. Louis

But the many incidents that turned the game into a 132-minute fist-fest turned the match into a veritable triumph of physical and even dirty one-upsmanship that San Jose coach Todd McLellan said, is the stuff were trying to get out of this game.

His complaint was the brawl at games end. When asked to cover the game as a general topic, he said, That depends on what you want to talk about -- the instigation, the sucker punch, the blow to the head, the broken nose, all directed at Vladimir Sobotka, who hammered Dominic Moore.

The Blues, on the other hand, were incensed at T.J. Galiardis charge into Andy McDonald 10:10 into the third that McDonald said cracked his helmet; he even held up the damaged equipment as evidence.

Others (well, general manager Doug Wilson) thought that the broken St. Louis bench 5:11 into the game that caused a rhythm-breaking delay seemed, well, convenient.

But finding the match that lit the stick that started the fire is, as always, in the eye of the beholder. The point to be made is that two teams that had produced few enough deeds to rile each other, now have enough to light up the rest of this series.

I dont know what set it off, but if thats gonna happen, theres going to be pushback, Sharks forward Ryane Clowe said. If they want to talk about the Galiardi hit, we can talk about when McDonald slue-footed Cooch (Logan Couture). At the end, when we had four and they had five . . . he (St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock) had guys who wanted to do that stuff. I would have loved to have been in there at the end.

The end, as Clowe described what could end up being the start, saw Sobotka throttling Moore while defenseman Roman Polak pounded Justin Braun as the high (or low, as you wish) lights of the 60th-minute 83-minute smackdown.

It ended what Hitchcock called a test of wills that the Blues passed with a better grade than San Jose.

They gave us what a veteran team that knows how to win will do, Hitchcock said. They gave it to us in the first period. They tested our will, big time, in the first period. We had no choice but to respond. They pushed us hard. They have that experience of being a veteran team and knowing what its like at this time of year. They shoved us hard, and I liked the way we responded.

We grew up to the level of what it takes to win against a team that knows how to do it. That part feels good. We have some more knowledge that we need to compete at this level at this time of year. Theres a level out there. Theres a tenacity. Teams like San Jose, Chicago, Detroit they play right through you. And if you dont respond, you get pushed out the back door quick.

For statistical purposes, the game ended 91 seconds in when Marc-Edouard Vlasic knocked a loose puck shot by Sobotka into his own net. Since San Jose didnt score, the third time they havent in this building, that was the odd but deciding score.

But San Jose didnt really lose control of the game until the second period, when St. Louis started winning the smaller battles that led to the biggest one, David Backes game-sealer. T.J. Oshie essentially bullrushed his way past Jason Demers, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski to find Backes alone to goalie Antti Niemis blind right side at 13:49.

And though tempers were already starting to betray the growing animosity between the teams (Kris Russell working Pavelski in the first of the main events), it headed toward hell shortly thereafter when Brent Burns popped Scott Nichol in the head 47 seconds later.

After that, well, you know. Of the 132 minutes of penalties detected by officials Marc Joannette and Brian Pochmara, only six were innocuous a hook by Torrey Mitchell, a hold by Mitchell and a delay-of-game by Nichol for shooting the puck over the glass. And 112 happened after the Backes goal.

In short, as Hitchcock put it, Boys will be boys.

And that, too, is an eye-of-the-beholder thing. Game Three is Monday in San Jose, and boys wont stand a chance.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”