Sharks snap Wild's streak with 3-1 win


Sharks snap Wild's streak with 3-1 win


SAN JOSE -- The red-hot Minnesota penalty kill finally met its match. His name is Patrick Marleau.Marleau tallied twice on the power play in the second period and Torrey Mitchell scored his first of the season late in the frame, as the Sharks defeated the Wild at HP Pavilion on Thursday night, 3-1.San Jose is 8-1-1 since it started the season losers of three of its first four.The Wild, which entered having won their last five games, had killed off 27 straight opponent power plays before a miscue allowed Marleau to open the scoring.

With Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the box for hooking early in the second, Dan Boyle ripped a shot on net from center ice. Goalie Niklas Backstrom made the easy stop, and the puck settled in front of the net. It should have been a simple clear for either Backstrom or defenseman Justin Falk, but the two of them got their signals crossed and Marleau raced ahead to pop in the loose puck at 2:34.Boyle dumped it on the goalie and I tried to get in on the forecheck, and it was just laying right there, said Marleau. It was nice.The Wild had allowed just three goals total during their winning streak, but it took the Sharks just over 16 minutes to equal that in the second period. After his first goal, Marleau ripped home a one-timer on a cross-ice feed from Ryane Clowe for another one on the man advantage at 15:34.Torrey Mitchells first of the season at 18:39 was the backbreaker. He fired in a one-timer immediately following an offensive zone faceoff win by Michal Handzus on a set play.Handzus saw something and said line up here and one-time it, said Mitchell. So I said, yes sir.The goal was especially important as the Wild seemed deflated at the start of the third period. They didnt register their first shot on goal until almost nine minutes had passed.Two goals, youre still in it. Three, youre starting to doubt yourself, said Mitchell. It was a really big one for us, so yeah, it was huge and probably took some wind out of them, for sure.It sure was a big one, agreed Todd McLellan. To get to three certainly helped. Theyre not a team thats scored a lot, they prevent a lot. And, faceoffs have been an issue for us. We havent had our numbers where we wanted them to be at, so for Zeus to win that draw and Mitchy to put it in was a real good thing for our team.The Wild managed to ruin Antti Niemis shutout bid with a goal by Kyle Brodziak at 13:33 of the third, but the Sharks goalie held the fort for his second straight win and sixth overall with 21 saves. Backstrom took the loss, allowing three goals on 36 shots.The game, though, was more about the final score. Sharks Brent Burns and Martin Havlat were playing against the Wild for the first time since the two teams pulled off several offseason trades over the summer. Conversely, Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley played in their old building for the first time this season.Burns, who registered an assist on the first goal, admitted the win felt good but that hes glad its now in the past.It was good to get it over with, he said. Im sure the first one in Minny is going to be the same thing, but its good to get this one over with.McLellan also seemed content to put the game behind him, and not just for his own clubs sake.I think what happened tonight was those players that were moved in this deal realized they have new homes now, said the coach. Its good for us, and certainly good for them. Seto and Heatley had great games, but I think now that its over they realize they have new homes and its time to really settle in and contribute to both organizations.The Sharks have now won three games this season in which one of their key players was facing off against a former club. Long time Devils defenseman Colin White visited his old team earlier this season, while any time Joe Thornton visits Boston it seems to be newsworthy. The Sharks beat the Devils on Oct. 21, 4-3, and the Bruins the next night, 4-2.Burns thinks thats no coincidence.It was a big summer with the trades and everything. We went on the road to New Jersey, and Boston, and I think every game is big. But, when there are games like that, knowing in the room that that guy wants to winit was good, he said.The Sharks also got a good performance from their much-maligned penalty kill, which entered the game ranked 29th out of 30. San Jose killed off all three Wild power plays, after instituting a new system that emphasizes making it more difficult to bring the puck through the neutral zone.It takes everybody on the ice on the PK, and everybody was ready tonight, said Marleau.McLellan said: We did execute some of the things we wanted to following our practices.The Sharks continue their six-game homestand with the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday. They are 3-0-1 through the first four.Odds and ends: Justin Braun got his first point of the season, assisting on Marleaus first goal. McLellan tried some new defense pairs for the majority of the game, playing Burns with White and Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Braun. Niemi is 4-0 against the Wild all-time, while Backstrom fell to 1-6-1 against the Sharks in his career. The Wild are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games at HP Pavilion.

GMs have taken all the fun out of Trade Deadline day


GMs have taken all the fun out of Trade Deadline day

The NHL trade deadline came and went Monday night when the Washington Capitals went chips-in on St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

(For the record, the actual details of the trade are so absurdly complicated that all you will be permitted to know here is that the Caps got Shattenkirk).

But the fact is that, yet again, all the air rushed out of Wednesday’s trade deadline balloon for the hockey media, and the poor sods on set to babysit all the deal-lets and non-deals will weep bitterly as their phones spit out hour after hour of non-information.

At least that’s the way it is playing now. Maybe Pittsburgh will finally close that long-rumored (well, by me, anyway) Sidney Crosby-for-Phil Di Giuseppe deal, but that’s not the way to bet.

But the trade deadline has been slowly but surely dying as general managers find far greater advantage in making their deals away from the time crunch and the persistent phone calls from other general manager, agents and worst of all, media weasels.

For example, the Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Pelicans broke the NBA trade deadline as well as the All-Star Game by doing the DeMarcus Cousins deal four days early and midway through the first half, in that order.

And though this wasn’t actually a trade, the Golden State Warriors broke the market back in July by maneuvering their way for the prize of the summer – Zaza Pachulia.

Oh, and the other guy.

In short, the general managers seem to have figured out the simplest way to foil the pressures of the trade deadline – by ignoring the deadline and acting ahead of time, creating their own spoiler alerts by spoiling everyone’s fun before they were fully alerted.

And that leaves the rest of us faced with an empty day of blather after we’ve all gone to the trouble of doubling down on beer and chips.

Ultimately the idea behind the coverage of a trade is to break the news of the trade whenever it happens. And the idea of the trade from the general manager’s view is to better the team and minimize the chance of being fired.

All laudable goals, by and large.

But a trade deadline without some recognizable trades is just another day when you can’t fake working, and who needs that?

What’s needed here then is a trade deadline with teeth and real tangible punishments for everyone involved. I mean, we have chips and guacamole to think of.

For instance, there is no reason why the leagues couldn’t install rules that say that no trade can be announced even to any of the principals (players, agents, medioids, et. al.) except on the day of the deadline. Any teams involved in a deal that breaks the embargo is fined a massive amount of the owners’ (as in both teams’ owners) money.

To make this work, the teams would have to agree no trade could be made between, say, Thanksgiving and the deadline. Or Christmas, depending on how you feel about tryptophan overdosing. But the point is, nothing could get done until the agreed-upon deadline, and it could only be announced to anyone on the day of the deadline.

This is profoundly unfair to the players, of course, but that little issue has never bothered management before when the alternative was money.

It is also not much fun for the media, which has to twiddle its opposables floating rumors that can’t be proven or disproven except on that one day when everyone works from midnight to midnight, wired to the eyelids on six-buck coffee and enough green tea to turn a gall bladder into a souvenir ash tray.

No, this is about making a worthwhile and ironclad trade deadline for the good of the sport, and the business.

Okay, this is about our amusement.

We all like trade deadlines. It gives order to the market, and it centers everyone’s focus on one hyper-adrenalized day to watch out for double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses from general managers wanting to jump each others’ action in search of their own personal Shattenkirks.

It spikes Verizon stock, it makes lots of business for movers and real estate vultures, it provides cheap and disposable fame for about two-thirds of the players in the league, and it makes everyone involved look like twitchy red-eyed zombies on television.

It beats the Bachelorette every time, because among other things it looks a lot more like parents do when they’ve been up all day and night with the colic farms.

In short, a trade deadline is a precious thing not to be discarded just because it’s inconvenient for a few suits and about-to-be-moved employees.

So yeah, Kevin Shattenkirk could have held another day or so. You know, for the good of the game.


Ahead of trade deadline, Sharks must decide on top line

Ahead of trade deadline, Sharks must decide on top line

SAN JOSE – Less than 48 hours before the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday at noon, the Sharks’ brain trust has at least one important decision to make.

Are they comfortable rotating left wingers in and out of the Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski line, or should an upgrade be attempted via the trade market? There are a number of players said to be available that could provide the team with some forward depth and scoring punch ahead of the playoffs.

Seven different wingers have played on that so-called top line, none of them lasting more than one continuous stint there than Patrick Marleau from Nov. 21 – Jan. 3. 

In total, seven different players have started a game on that line, including Marleau (25 games), Tomas Hertl (13 games), Kevin Labanc (6 games), Mikkel Boedker (5 games), Timo Meier (4 games), Joel Ward (4 games) and Melker Karlsson (4 games). Injuries have played a role, of course, but it seems as if coach Pete DeBoer has been looking for someone to seize that position. 

Pavelski, though, didn’t seem overly worried about the ongoing alternation.

“We’ve had a few different players there, and I don’t think it’s a concern,” said the captain. “You’re always looking for chemistry and something set in stone if you can get it, but throughout a game, things change.”

DeBoer laid out what he’s looking for in a player to skate alongside Thornton and Pavelski, as well as the kind of player that wouldn’t fit in that role.

“You have to play [at Pavelski and Thornton’s] level and their work ethic,” said the coach. “They want the puck. They want to hunt the puck and want someone to get in there and retrieve pucks so that they can have possession. 

“I can tell you a guy who doesn’t fit would be a guy who is strictly a shooter, or kind of lets other people do the work and just goes to holes. They need somebody that’s going to work at their level and hunt the puck, so that’s got to be part of it.”

Labanc is the latest player to hold down that spot, starting there for the last four games and remaining there for Monday’s practice at Sharks Ice. Just 21 years old, Labanc has contributed a respectable seven goals and 18 points in his first 46 NHL games. Still, he hasn’t scored a goal in his last 22 games, and has just one assist and four total shots in the last four games.

It’s debatable whether the still-smallish Labanc is ready for the rigors of an NHL schedule on a full-time basis, which would make it dangerous for the Sharks to go into the postseason with someone like him in such a key position. DeBoer, though, praised the rookie’s recent efforts.

“I thought he’s done a good job. He’s got some of those [aforementioned] attributes,” DeBoer said. "He’s an offensive guy, [and] he thinks on their level offensively.”

Other teams in direct competition with the Sharks for a Western Conference title are adding pieces, particularly up front. Anaheim acquired scoring winger Patrick Eaves from Dallas, the Blackhawks brought in Detroit forward Tomas Jurco, and Minnesota gave up a haul to Arizona for center Martin Hanzal.

If the Sharks don’t make a move, they will likely go the whole season without bringing in a single player from the outside other than their young prospects. That would be unique, especially for a team that has championship aspirations.

Pavelski seemed to insinuate that he expects at least one body to arrive.

“Whoever we get, hopefully they’ll fill a little depth or add a little something, and we’ll go from there,” he said.

But if not?

“It doesn’t change anything if nothing happens, that’s for sure. We’re going to keep trying to get better.”