Sharks prospects to play in World Juniors

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Sharks prospects to play in World Juniors

A pair of Sharks prospects will suit up for their respective countries for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia.

Tomas Hertl, a first round pick from 2012 (Czech Republic) and 2011 fifth round pick Sean Kuraly (USA) were named to their team’s final roster on Sunday. The annual tournament begins on Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 5.

It will be the second appearance at the World Juniors for Hertl, 19, who had three goals and two assists for the Czech Republic in last year’s tournament and was one of his country’s best performers. One of the top prospects in the Sharks’ organization, Hertl has a team-leading 12 goals for HC Slavia Praha in the Czech Extraliga, and is tied for the team lead with 22 points.

The 6-2, 200-pound Hertl was selected 17th overall by the Sharks at the NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh in June.

In early August, Kuraly opened some eyes at the National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, New York, when the 19-year-old had four goals and two assists for six points in three games. He’s currently a freshman at the University of Miami (Ohio), and has three goals and one assist in 18 games.

The NHL Network is carrying much of the preliminary action, including Team USA’s first game against Germany at 6:00 a.m. PST on Dec. 27 (with a replay at 5:00 p.m. PST). None of the Czech Republic’s preliminary games will appear on the network.

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While many of his Sharks teammates are on their way home for the holidays or have already returned from their European adventures, captain Joe Thornton remains in Switzerland with HC Davos. He’ll partake in the upcoming Spengler Cup, an annual tournament hosted by his current team. Thornton helped lead HC Davos to the Spengler Cup during the last NHL lockout in 2004-05.
 
HC Davos won the tournament last year, but repeating may prove to be difficult as Team Canada’s roster features several locked-out NHL stars. They include John Tavares, Jason Spezza, Sam Gagner, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Thornton’s teammate with the Sharks, defenseman Jason Demers. The tournament begins on Dec. 26.

The Sharks captain will also have plenty of family around for Christmas, as his wife, whom he met during the last lockout, is a Swiss native.

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

San Jose Sharks fans may have just witnessed the end of an era

Melodrama demands that San Jose’s exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs be portrayed as the very likely end of the Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau Era.

It probably won’t work that way, and probably shouldn't as will be explained further down your reading, but when you get shoved out of the postseason in your own building, melancholy is the order of the day. Even if the melancholy isn’t for any player in particular, but for an entire era.

Nobody will blame Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinal on bad luck (although Joe Pavelski going crossbar/post on the final power play of their season was close enough to it), or unjust officiating, or even lousy ice (though that was a fairly clear by-product for those who like their hockey a little less sticky). Edmonton took advantage of two critical Sharks errors 56 seconds apart in the second period, Oiler goaltender Cam Talbot cheated the gods multiple times when the Sharks weren’t vomiting up chances on their own, and young legs joined up with growing know-how to make this a just outcome.

But for Thornton and Marleau, a quick round of 30-on-1 interviews asking them if they thought their days in Finville Heights had finally come to an end were their mutual introduction to yet another unfulfilling offseason.

And a team whose core is among the league’s oldest was just exposed for that very flaw by a team that, in head coach Todd McLellan’s words, “Grew up, learned how to get into the playoffs, how to get a lead, how to play with it, and how to deal with a desperate team at the end of a game. Now we’ll see what they have to learn next.”

That learning will comes against the Anaheim Ducks, who are 15-0-3 in their last 18 games, including four straight against the Calgary Flames.

As for the rest of it, Edmonton earned its advancement without a big series, or even a single big game, from Connor McDavid. Rather, their difference makers were Talbot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (whose work with Jordan Eberle and Milan Lucic against the Marleau-Thornton-Pavelski line was the defining matchup) Leon Draisaitl (after a rocky start), Oskar Klefbom (their best defenseman), Zack Kassian (who made the most of his 15 minutes of fame), and Drake Caggiula (whose promotion to the McDavid line at the expense of Patrick Maroon helped wake up Draisaitl).

Plus, McLellan finally got to deliver a rebuttal for his firing by the Sharks two years ago. He didn’t, of course, at least not where anyone could hear it, but the exploding fumigant of the 2015 season never sat right with him as the one who paid the full retail price. Now, with this result, he can let the NHL’s Stanley Cup media guide do the talking for him.

That, and having the team of the future, while San Jose is trying to sort out its past. This is a closing window, one which stayed open a very long time and actually pried itself back open a year ago for the run that took them to the Cup final, but it is now clear that they play at a pace the modern game has outrun. Thornton is still hugely important (he remained an impact player despite the leg injury that cost him Games 1 and 2), and there are no clear young replacements for the central group.

This is why all the melodramatic speculations about Thornton and Marleau in particular and perhaps the entire era ignore one central truth – there are not nearly enough replacements for a reboot, or even a course correction. They may be stuck as what they are – a group whose veterans are still their best players, playing a game that younger and faster players are likely to do better. The Pacific Division, being easily the thinnest of the four, may allow one more year of status quo, but while the day of reckoning has not yet arrived, the method is now clear.

And Edmonton, young, impetuous, sprightly and McLellanized Edmonton, has been the instrument of San Jose’s education.

Instant Replay: Sharks eliminated from Stanley Cup playoffs, Oilers take series

Instant Replay: Sharks eliminated from Stanley Cup playoffs, Oilers take series

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE – One year after making their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks’ season has come to an end in the first round of the playoffs.

Leon Draisaitl and Anton Slepyshev scored early second period goals, and the Oilers held on for a 3-1 win that included a late Connor McDavid empty net goal to eliminate the Sharks in six games at SAP Center on Saturday.

Edmonton, in its first playoff since 2006, will advance to face Anaheim in the second round.

The Oilers were the aggressors early, controlling much of the opening frame yet not denting the scoreboard.

That changed early in the second, though.

Oscar Klefbom blocked Justin Braun’s point shot in the high slot, resulting in a Draisaitl breakaway. The winger held Braun off on a backcheck and slipped the puck through Martin Jones’ five-hole at the 54-second mark.

Less than a minute later, Chris Tierney and Paul Martin couldn’t connect on a pass in the offensive zone, and the puck trickled out to the neutral zone. That’s where Slepyshev took control, speeding in on a breakaway of his own and converting at 1:50.

The Sharks finally showed some life at that point, and had a pair of great chances to get one back on the next few shifts. Marcus Sorensen couldn’t quite reach a Logan Couture pass on a two-on-one, though, and Cam Talbot kicked aside a Patrick Marleau partial breakaway.

San Jose went on its first power play of the game with 3:13 left in the second, but the Oilers killed it off. Talbot made another pad save on Joonas Donskoi’s turnaround wrist shot from between the circles with 20 seconds before the intermission to preserve the two-goal cushion.

Marleau brought Sharks back to within one in the third period. Logan Couture pushed the puck through the slot to the team’s all-time leading scorer, who tapped in his team-leading third goal of the series.

The Sharks had a chance to tie it on a power play when Edmonton was called for too many men, but Joe Pavekski’s backhand from just outside the blue paint rang off the crossbar and post with 3:45 to go.

McDavid’s empty net goal, his first even strength point in the series, came at 19:59.

The Sharks have now lost 12 of 13 series in which they’ve trailed three games to two. They are just 6-18 all-time in Game 6 of a playoff series, including 2-9 when facing elimination.

Special teams

The Sharks failed on all three of their power plays. They finished 5-for-26 in the series, although four of them game in their Game 4 blowout.

Edmonton had just one power play and did not score, going 2-for-16 in the series.

In goal

Jones played in all six games for the duration, allowing two goals on 20 shots in Game 6. He’s now 16-14 in his playoff career.

Talbot stopped 27 of 28 shots, and in his first season as a number one starter on a playoff team recorded all four wins. The only game in which he didn’t play the entirety was Game 4, when he was pulled after allowing five goals.

Lineup

Donskoi drew back into the lineup after he was a healthy scratch in Game 5. Timo Meier came out for the first time in the series.

Klefbom did not play in the third period, presumably due to injury.

Up next

An offseason a month-and-a-half longer than last year awaits the Sharks, bringing with it more uncertainties than in recent memory. The Sharks have a number of players not yet signed for next season, none bigger than pending unrestricted free agents Joe Thornton and Marleau.