Sharks

Sharks' Havlat remains a playoff rainmaker

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Sharks' Havlat remains a playoff rainmaker

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS -- Todd McLellan said he saw the old San Jose Sharks he had come to know and like in the overtime periods of Game 1 of this Western Conference quarterfinal.

They were calm. They were saying all the right things, the San Jose head coach said as he basked in the temporary warmth of the Sharks 3-2 double-overtime victory over St. Louis. Nobody was fidgeting.

With one notable exception.

I always fidget, he said.

And he fidgeted for good reasons Thursday. Despite the first true repayment on the Martin Havlat trade, despite Antti Niemis first official game theft of the postseason, despite the exemplary work of the fourth, er, third, er, DesjardinsWingelsWinnik line -- despite all these things, the Sharks were backing up just as much as they were pressing forward.

And therein lies the central truth of Game 1 of this series, which the Sharks lead, 1-0. They are playing a team that will make them look overmatched for elongated stretches, and they will have to cling on tightly to the younger and faster Blues to keep the games close enough to win.

What they have, in sum, is enough experience to keep the fidgeting to a minimum. They may still lose this series, but they wont do it by being either overwhelmed or easily defeated.

And they may win this series, but they wont do it without knowing that the Blues are good and getting better.

Look, they played good, we played good, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said. I thought there were stretches where we seemed to be in pretty good command.

But command isnt enough, as anyone who has just started watching hockey on Wednesday could tell. Theres the matter of finishing, and the Sharks, well, finished.

They finished because the Blues couldnt clear their zone for the games final 40 seconds, because Logan Couture, one of the Sharks de facto veterans, hit Ryane Clowe with a tape-to-tape pass and then had the wit to pick St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, because Clowe found Havlat, who had nearly cost them the game in regulation, and Havlat did what he has done with considerable regularity in his career.

He scored an important postseason goal, beating Jaroslav Halak from 30 feet with a well-aimed slap shot and sending the alleged underdogs home one to the good. The goal was Havlats second of the game, and 15th in his last 27 playoff games.

I was just trying to do my part, Havlat said, seeking the most benign way to take credit for propelling the Sharks. It was good for me, because it was a stupid penalty that I took before, a penalty I cant take.

The penalty in question was his sluefooting of Halak behind the St. Louis net at 6:31 of the third. It was well behind the play, was thoroughly unhelpful even if he had gotten away with it, and it set up Patrik Berglunds seeming go-ahead goal.

But Havlat, who missed more than half the season, is a playoff rainmaker, and has been since 2003, when he helped get the Ottawa Senators into the Stanley Cup Final.

He is part of that experience the Sharks keep talking about as though it is the antivenom to St. Louis considerable bite. Niemi is part of that experience as well, and his 40 saves, 14 of which came in the first overtime, allowed Havlat to enjoy his evening. So was Coutures pick of Shattenkirk, a veteran ploy in a veterans game.

But there was also just enough youth, shown most clearly by Desjardins, Wingels and Winnik. They started the evening as the fourth line, had seven fewer shifts than the putative third line centered by Dominic Moore, but they played important minutes in the third period and the overtime, and it was their speed and persistence that created the game-tying goal 5:16 from last call.

In sum, the Sharks raised their game just enough, and held service just enough, to have enough of a cushion for Havlat to earn his bones, and give themselves a reason to believe that St. Louis may lose a bit of their belief. The Blues swept San Jose in the regular season, and it means zero this morning.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

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AP

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

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Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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