Niemi saves Sharks in first OT

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Niemi saves Sharks in first OT

ST. LOUIS One of goaltender Antti Niemis trademarks is that the more action he gets, the stronger he becomes.

That may be true not just in terms starting consecutive games. Niemi got better as Game 1 of the Sharks playoff series against the Blues progressed, culminating with a dominant and game-saving 14 stops in the first overtime that allowed his team to win it in the second extra session.

Niemi, who ended with 40 saves on 42 shots, improved to 8-2 all-time in the playoffs in overtime.

Nemo was great, especially in that first overtime, Dan Boyle said. That was our worst period. He came up with some big saves.

Niemi couldnt be faulted on either of the Blues third period goals, both by Patrik Berglund. The Blues winger tipped a Kevin Shattenkirk shot in the first minute tying the game, and then gave his team the lead when he was left wide open in the slot on an odd-man power play rush.

In fact, Niemi looked like he battled some playoff jitters early in the game, when he struggled with his rebound control in the first seven or eight minutes. Fortunately, the group in front of him cleared the puck from dangerous areas of the ice and it remained 0-0 at the first intermission.

I felt good all the way, and a couple goals in the third I wanted to get back, but I felt good overall, Niemi said.

Second line steps up: The Sharks couldnt keep playing the second overtime the way they had in the first. Ryane Clowe knew it, and so did his linemates, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat.

So, they decided to do something about it.

I think it was pretty obvious we knew what had to be done. It wasnt like anyone was leading the charge. We needed a line to step up, Clowe said. All the guys kind of took it upon themselves after the first overtime.

Just a conversation about how we can defend for another overtime if we want, or we can go play a little bit, play some offense and test this goalie a bit more. Luckily, we ended it quick.

It ended, of course, with Havlats one timer, with assists from Clowe and Couture.

We didnt have a good first overtime, and as a line we didnt, Couture said. We wanted to be better, and its just nice Marty was able to get that one.

Rookies produce key goal: The Sharks fourth line once again became their third line before Game 1 was complete.

The scoresheet shows that Andrew Desjardins, Tommy Wingels and Daniel Winnik saw less ice time than the Dominic Moore-Torrey Mitchell-TJ Galiardi trio, but after getting the game-tying goal in the third period, their playing time gradually increased.

For a team that boasts so much playoff experience, it was a couple of guys with a combined three postseason games coming in (all by Desjardins) that teamed up to tie the game late in the third when Wingels set up his centerman in the slot at 14:44.

It was Desjardins second career playoff goal.

We can talk about the goal, but the 13 or 14 minutes that they played for us was very valuable, McLellan said. Played hard, played smart, Desi was very good in the faceoff circle. Tommy got some power play time, and played an important role on that line.

When you get those two young guys playing together and a veteran like Daniel Winnik, you have a fourth line, or a third line, that you can trust whatever they might be.

Desjardins won six of his seven faceoffs.

The Sharks were able to roll four lines for the duration.

The reward was in the fourth or fifth period. It wasnt necessarily in the second or third period. It was in the fifth period, McLellan said. We did try to get those four lines rolling, and I think it will be an important facet moving forward in this series.

Sharks select center Josh Norris No. 19 in 2017 NHL Entry Draft

Sharks select center Josh Norris No. 19 in 2017 NHL Entry Draft

CHICAGO – The Sharks used their first round draft selection on Friday night to select Josh Norris, a center from Michigan.
 
San Jose stayed in the 19th position in the first round, where it was originally slotted, to take Norris. The six-foot, 189-pounder posted 61 points (27g, 34a) in 61 games with the U.S. National Under-18 team last season, and added 26 points (12g, 14a) in 25 games in the USHL. He has committed to the University of Michigan for the 2017-18 season.
 
Norris became the Sharks’ first North American-born first round pick since Charlie Coyle in 2010. Their previous four first round selections were born in Europe.
 
Norris’ father, Dwayne, was drafted 127th overall by Quebec in 1990 and played in 20 games with the club from 1990-93.
 
Just before making the pick, general manager Doug Wilson had a quick chat with Washington general manager Brian MacLellan, but nothing apparently came of it.
 
The Sharks had never selected a player 19th overall in their history. Notable players around the league selected in that spot include Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay, 2012), Oscar Klefbom (Edmonton, 2011), Nick Bjugstad (Florida, 2010), Chris Kreider (Rangers, 2009), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim, 2003) and Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg, 1990).
 
The Sharks have seven more selections on Saturday when the draft resumes at 7 a.m. PT, including the 49th overall pick in the second round, acquired from New Jersey as part of the Mirco Mueller trade earlier in the week. They also own one fourth round pick, two in the sixth round, and three in the seventh round.
 
Swiss native Nico Hischier went first overall to the New Jersey Devils, while the Philadelphia Flyers selected Nolan Patrick second.
 
Recent Sharks first round draft picks
 
2016 – None
2015 – Timo Meier (9th overall)
2014 – Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall)
2013 – Mirco Mueller (18th overall)
2012 – Tomas Hertl (17th overall)
2011 – None 
2010 – Charlie Coyle (28th overall)
2009 – None
2008 – None
2007 – Logan Couture (9th overall), Nick Petrecki (28th overall)

Analysis: Wilson could be taking calculated risk with Thornton, Marleau

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AP

Analysis: Wilson could be taking calculated risk with Thornton, Marleau

The NHL offseason is about to heat up with the draft this weekend in Chicago and the start of free agency on July 1. Here’s what we’re hearing in regards to the Sharks, who could be at an organizational crossroads…

What’s the latest with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau?

It’s been quiet regarding to two franchise cornerstones that could officially become unrestricted free agents in eight days and are free to speak with other teams on Sunday. There has been dialogue, as Doug Wilson has said, but the general manager always prefers to keep contract negotiations private.

We do know that there have never been any gentleman’s agreements between the Sharks and Thornton and Marleau for after the expansion draft. I continue to see this theory suggested by some – both media and fans alike – but it’s simply not true, as we've reported here in the past.

At this point, Thornton and Marleau will surely wait until June 25 to see what kind of offers roll in from other clubs. They should learn pretty quickly what kind of interest is out there.

From the Sharks’ perspective, the term of any potential deal is vital. If Thornton and Marleau still want at least three years – as we’ve reported here previously – that might not work for the Sharks, as their top offseason priority is to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term extensions. 

Wilson could be taking a calculated risk, especially in Thornton’s case, as the general manager no doubt knows that Thornton would prefer to stay in San Jose (it’s less clear how much Marleau wants to return). If there aren’t any other teams out there willing to sign a 38-year-old player coming off of a significant knee injury to a three-year deal, Thornton could settle for a one or two-year deal to stay with the Sharks. If another team is willing to go that long, Thornton could always give the Sharks a chance to match.

Which Sharks players could be on the move in a potential trade?

There have already been a few huge trades as of Friday morning, including the Blue Jackets snagging Artemi Panarin from Chicago for Brandon Saad, the Coyotes acquiring Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers, and Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago.

Could the Sharks join the party? It’s certainly possible, as the team could probably use another forward or two than can put the puck in the net.

I could see the Sharks dangling Chris Tierney, for reasons that I laid out last week on my Facebook page when I thought that the club might protect a fourth defenseman and leave Tierney unprotected. In short, Ryan Carpenter’s return should make Tierney more expendable; coach Pete DeBoer has been pretty critical of Tierney in the past; and Tierney, a pending restricted free agent, remains unsigned. 

Further, you have to wonder if Tierney might be better off on another team for his own growth. If the Sharks re-sign Thornton, Tierney will be firmly entrenched as the fourth line center behind Thornton, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. Could his camp be pushing for a trade, prompting the Sharks to make sure they kept Carpenter around?

As for other potential trade bait, the Sharks have some organizational depth at defense right now, even after they shipped Mirco Mueller to the Devils. Perhaps they try and move one of their established defenseman for the right price, if they think any of the youngsters are ready to make the leap to the NHL, or maybe they could move one of the blue line prospects for an established veteran scorer.

It’s worth noting, too, that one source texted me last week, “I think there is more coming from Doug and crew.”

Is Micheal Haley going to return?

The only other UFA from the Sharks’ NHL roster last season, other than Thornton and Marleau, is Haley.

There continues to be mutual interest between the two sides. Pete DeBoer likes Haley, he’s a respected guy in the dressing room, and his teammates appreciate the role he plays. That doesn’t mean a deal will get done, as the Sharks have more pressing matters to navigate through first, but Haley could be back in the fall.

The Sharks have some key restricted free agents, too. What’s going on with those guys?

The deadline to qualify restricted free agents is Sunday. Expect the Sharks to qualify Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow.

The remaining RFAs are Nikita Jevpalovs, Mantas Armalis and Patrick McNally. All three could be allowed to walk, and therefore become unrestricted.