Tigers ride Verlander to shutout win, avoid ALDS collapse

913035.jpg

Tigers ride Verlander to shutout win, avoid ALDS collapse

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND When Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander held the Oakland As to just one run in seven innings in Game 1 of their ALDS series, it was easily the best postseason start of the Cy Young Award winners career.That is, until Game 5 happened.Verlander was dazzling on Thursday in Oakland, going the distance in a four-hit shutout while striking out 11 and walking just one. The Tigers eliminated the feisty Athletics, 6-0, just 24 hours after a heartbreaking loss in which they blew a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth.He has a pair of no-hitters under his belt, but the 29-year-old Verlander called Thursdays performance the biggest moment of his already impressive career.The two no-hitters are obviously up there, but thats something a little bit different. This is a win-or-go-home my team needs me, and I was able to go out there and have one of the better performances Ive had, a champagne-drenched Verlander said after the game. For me, this is number one, personally.While the Tigers were no doubt stunned after Game 4, they were able to take heart in the fact that their ace was available on full rest for the do-or-die game in a hostile environment. They could tell early on that Verlander had his best stuff, and quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning.Centerfielder Austin Jackson, who was 2-for-5 with two RBIs, explains.We had complete confidence in him going into this game, and when you see him working out there and you see him with that bulldog mentality, you feed off of it, Jackson said. And we fed off of it as a team.Manager Jim Leyland said: He had that look in his eyes today. He was determined. He had a complete game look in his eye. And we were thankful to get that.Verlander finished the series with an extraordinary stat line to go along with his 2-0 record. In 16 innings, he surrendered just one earned run (0.56 ERA) and struck out 22 while walking five. The As hit just .130 against him.He knew early in Game 5 that he had his best stuff.My changeup was working well for me tonight. I could tell from the first batter, from Coco Crisp, that it was going to be an effective pitch for me, he said. Its just one of those things as a pitcher, you go out there and see what youve got and whats going to work for you that night. I was hoping my changeup was going to be good with as many lefties as they have. If it was on, I knew it would make it tough on them, and thankfully it was.The Tigers were also able to put Game 4 behind them, and according to Gerald Laird, treated Game 5 as if it were just another day at the office.This game is full of highs and low, and the lows, youve got to get rid of them. Theyve got to be a quick memory, forget about it and get ready for the new day and ride out the highs, he said. Thats why this game is so wonderful, last night they made a good comeback and forced a Game 5, but we knew we had our ace. Probably one of the best, if not the best pitcher in baseball going for us, and I liked our chances.Tigers complimentary of As, Coliseum crowdPerhaps they were just still giddy from their relieving series-clinching win, but the Detroit Tigers had nothing but positive things to say about the Oakland As and their raucous Coliseum crowd.
RATTO: Oakland rekindles love affair with baseball
Jackson shot down one prevailing notion that the As are an unproven bunch that only made it to the playoffs by catching lightning in a bottle.I dont know where people get this inexperienced team or theyre just coming out of nowhere theyre a good team. Theyve got good pitching and good hitters, and it was tough on us, Jackson said. No game that we played this series was easy. We didnt expect anything different from them, theyre a good team.Certainly, they don't have anything to be ashamed of. They were a terrific opponent, Leyland said. And, I just hope that there's no lingering disrespect over the Al Alburquerque situation that happened earlier at our place. We apologized for that, we meant it sincerely, and we would never show anybody up. And I think that's past us, and we had a competitive series and we were fortunate to win it.Some Tigers also seemed a bit surprised that the As fans, which once again packed the Coliseum, were with their team until the final out despite the fact that their club was trailing 6-0 and not showing any signs of life at the plate against a dominant hurler.I think playing here was the toughest atmosphere Ive played in, Verlander said.These fans were unbelievable. They were on their feet from out one to out 27. Weve got some good fans at home, too, but they made it tough to come here and play. Thats what home field is all about.

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

CHICAGO – If there were a best-case scenario for the Sharks regarding the expansion draft, it probably would have been the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Mikkel Boedker, and the three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

Instead, the Golden Knights swiped David Schlemko. While the 30-year-old was a nice third pair defenseman in his only year with the Sharks, it was probably the second-best case from San Jose’s perspective. The team should be able to fill the vacancy internally without too much difficulty. Schlemko had two goals and 18 points in 62 games last season, and has three years left on his contract at $2.1 million annually.

“I think it’s worked out well for all parties involved,” said general manager Doug Wilson. “You go into expansion, you know you’re going to lose a player. David came in and played well for us. We signed him as a free agent, so we didn’t have to give up an asset to get him. So, we think we moved through the expansion phase with the good young players coming in that are ready to play and compete for that spot. That’s probably as good as we could have expected to come out of expansion, in that position.”

If there are no other major moves on the Sharks’ blue line this offseason, the spot to play alongside Brenden Dillon will be there for the taking in training camp. There’s no reason, of course, to break up the top four of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun, and Brent Burns-Paul Martin.

Dylan DeMelo would figure to have the inside track on the job, but there are others like Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, each of whom signed two-year contract extensions on June 17. They served as the AHL Barracuda’s top defense pair for most of the season.

The 24-year-old Ryan, a sixth round pick in 2012, posted 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games last season in the AHL. He was recalled once by the Sharks but did not play. Heed, 26, is an offensive defenseman that tallied 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda and played in one game with the Sharks on Jan. 11 in Calgary. Ryan is a left-handed shot; Heed, like Schlemko and DeMelo, shoots right.

Regarding Ryan, Wilson said: “He’s right on track. He’s the type of guy that – if you look around the league at the number of young defensemen that are making an impact – he thinks and plays the game the right way.”

“Watching [Ryan and Heed] play together, I would say they were arguably the best defense pair in the AHL last year.”

There are other defensemen to monitor, too. The Sharks signed soon-to-be 25-year-old Czech Radim Simek to a one-year contract on May 23, beating out several of other NHL teams to acquire his services. 

“He’s a puck-moving guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got a little bite to him, too. Not tall, but thick and strong. We think he’s a guy that has the skill set to step right in and play. We’ll see how much time it takes him to adjust to the smaller rink.”

And don’t forget about Jeremy Roy, either. The first pick of the second round in the deep 2015 draft (31st overall), Roy is expected to join the organization next season, likely starting his pro career with the Barracuda after recovering from a significant knee injury that ended his junior season in late October.

“He had a major repair, but he’s back healthy,” Wilson said. “We’ll see him this summer, and he’s a puck-moving guy. … Injuries you can’t control, but we have high expectations for Jeremy.”

* * *

Vegas shipped Schlemko to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft.

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

CHICAGO – The glass-half-full observer looks at Sharks’ recent draft record and sees some late round picks that could be on the cusp of making the NHL on a full time basis. 

Defenseman Joakim Ryan (7th round, 2012), center Danny O’Regan (5th round, 2012) and forward Kevin Labanc (6th round, 2014) have all exceeded expectations so far. Dylan DeMelo (6th round, 2011) could also be included in that group.

The glass-half-empty observer, though, sees that the Sharks have traded away a pair of recent first rounders that didn’t pan out. Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall, 2014) was dealt to Vancouver in late February for Jannik Hansen and a fourth round pick, while Mirco Mueller (18th overall, 2013) is off to New Jersey for a pair of picks in this year’s draft.

It’s all part of the uncertainty of selecting what are mostly teenagers in the annual NHL Entry Draft, which takes place at Chicago’s United Center this weekend. The Sharks’ first pick during Friday night’s first round sits at 19th overall, and they have seven more selections on Saturday when rounds two-through-seven take place.

Doug Wilson is used to picking in the mid-to-late first round, as the Sharks have missed the playoffs just once under his 14-year watch.

“I think we always take the best player available,” he said. “I think it’s a good draft. … We feel pretty comfortable at 19 we’ll get a pretty good player.”

The Sharks have never selected 19th, and Wilson left open the possibility that they could move up or down.

“People move up and down all the time. We’ve got a history of doing that so teams do reach out to us,” he said.

The Sharks moved up to pick Mueller in 2013, sending a second round pick to Detroit to jump ahead two places in a deal that now looks regrettable. The next year, they moved down seven spots before selecting Goldobin.

Less than a week ago, the Sharks didn’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds. But in dealing Mueller (and a fifth rounder this year) to the Devils, they acquired second and fourth round picks from New Jersey (49 and 123 overall). They also have a pair of sixth round picks and three in the seventh round.

While this year’s draft isn’t thought to be especially strong, Wilson still expects there to be some good players available after the first round. Getting some assets in exchange for Mueller, who had been passed over in the organization, was critical.

“I think it was important for us to fill in the grid like we did. I think it’s a good draft,” Wilson said. “Realistically, it’s probably not a Connor McDavid-Auston Matthews type draft, but there are some very good players in this draft that will go on and have very good careers.”

As for losing Mueller and Goldobin recently, the general manager seemed to say that that those are the breaks when you’re a team doesn’t make one of the first few selections.

“First of all, you’ve got to clarify where we pick and have picked. You’re not talking about top five picks or lottery picks, so often – and this is not to take away from Mirco and Goldie, because they’re really good players and good kids – you move players when you’re trying to win or trying to make things happen,” he said. 

“Historically, our scouts have done an outstanding job, one of the best records for a scouting staff in the league, since 2003 in particular. But, you can’t be afraid to be bold and move things.”

* * *

Although the Sharks have never made a pick in the 19th overall spot, they’ve been around it. Players include Tomas Hertl (17th overall, 2012), Marcel Goc (20th overall, 2001) and Marco Sturm (21st overall, 1996). 

Some notable players around the league taken 19th overall 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 will hold their annual development camp from July 3-7 at their practice facility. It includes a scrimmage at SAP Center on Thursday, July 6.