Tigers ride Verlander to shutout win, avoid ALDS collapse

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Tigers ride Verlander to shutout win, avoid ALDS collapse

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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 get some down time with a break in schedule

Sharks get some down time with a break in schedule

SAN JOSE – A weekend with no games on the NHL calendar is rare enough. A weekend without any games or practices, though? That’s virtually unheard of in the middle of the season.

But with nothing until Wednesday's home game, and after a stretch of 10 games in 18 days, Sharks coach Pete DeBoer chose to give the players and staff a full Saturday and Sunday off. DeBoer and assistant coach Johan Hedberg were seen quickly scurrying from SAP Center a few short minutes after the game ended, while defenseman Brent Burns had his massive camouflage backpack stuffed to capacity while conducing his postgame media availability.

“It’s packed and ready to go,” Burns said, without going into any detail as to what exactly was in the bag.

DeBoer explained his rationale behind the respite on Friday morning.

“The way [the schedule] laid out after the month we’ve just had – the injuries, the stuff we’ve dealt with – it just made sense. We’ve got another push until the Christmas break after this with a tough schedule. 

“With our travel and the World Cup and everything, it didn’t make sense to come down here and skate when we had a chance to actually recharge mentally and physically.”

Although the team was aware of the break for some time, there’s no question that the Sharks have earned it. As they wake up on Saturday morning (presumably after sleeping in), they find themselves with a three-point cushion in the Pacific Division with a 15-9-1 mark. San Jose has won six of its last seven, including triumphs over perennial contender Chicago, chief rival Los Angeles, and the top team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal.

Their two longest road trips of the season are also already behind them, including a five-game trip in October and a six-gamer in November.

Joe Pavelski is pleased with what he’s seen so far, despite the challenging circumstances.

“Guys have handled it well,” said the captain. “There hasn’t been a whole lot of rest time, and we’ve found a few different ways to win, especially on nights that it hasn’t been easy. The biggest thing is guys have shown up and played hard. We’ve got a pretty good structure in here, guys are responsible, we’ve found a few goals, and [Martin Jones] gives us a chance every night.”

Joe Thornton said: “It’s been a lot of hockey. It will be nice to get a couple days after this to relax and recover a little bit.”

The schedule will ramp up again in short order. After three games in four nights next week, the Sharks will fly to Toronto and open up a four-games-in-six-days road trip with the Maple Leafs on Dec. 13.

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The Sharks reassigned forwards Kevin Labanc and Ryan Carpenter to the AHL Barracuda on Saturday morning. Carpenter was a healthy scratch on Friday as Tommy Wingels got back in the lineup. 

It’s likely that the move was made at least partially because the Sharks are up against the salary cap, and that one or both players could return by the time they host the Senators on Wednesday.

Three takeaways: Sharks see similarities between Jones, Price

Three takeaways: Sharks see similarities between Jones, Price

SAN JOSE – The Sharks continued their hot streak with a 2-1 win over the Canadiens in a classic goaltender’s duel Friday night. The three takeaways from the game…

1 – Price, Jones similarities

Martin Jones was the standout star with his 31 saves, but the Sharks had to beat Carey Price on the other end to reward their own goalie. Price entered the night as the NHL leader in save percentage (.947), and third in goals-against average (1.68) and is probably on his way to another Vezina Trophy at the end of the season.

That the game came down to a battle in net was no surprise, as a prescient Pete DeBoer said Friday morning “we have to be prepared to win 2-1.”

There was talk after the game that there are some similarities between the Sharks emerging goaltender and the Canadiens superstar. 

“Actually, we spoke to [Sharks assistant/goaltending coach] Johan Hedberg about that, and he does see a lot of similarities between the two of them,” assistant coach Steve Spott said. “Their mannerisms in the net – they're both very, very calm. Both very quick. And both hockey clubs believe in their goaltenders. It was a great duo on that ice tonight. I think for any fan to see those two goaltenders was pretty special tonight."

Brent Burns, who won the World Cup with Price in September, said: “Very similar. … [Jones is] unflappable. They’re both big, very calm and great positioning. Very similar.”

2 – Strong start

The Sharks knew they were getting the weekend off from practice after the game, with no chance of any late changes as DeBoer and Hedberg were seen quickly departing for getaway flights after the final horn (that’s why Spott handled the postgame media duties). 

At this point in DeBoer’s second season, there seems to be a real trust factor between the coaching staff and the veteran team that no one will start their mini-break early. The Sharks were flying in the first period, jumping all over the Canadiens and seizing a 2-0 lead that Jones helped preserve over the final two frames.

Spott said: “It was good to come out like that and establish that momentum. We know how fast Montreal is and how deep they are up front, and obviously we know Carey Price. It was a good start. We were able to hold onto that."

“Whether you get the days off, you want to play hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “You want to come out [quickly], especially at home, at the starts.” 

3 – Escaping injury

Injuries are always a concern with so many games in so few days, and there were a few scary moments for San Jose.

The Sharks lost Kevin Labanc for a stretch in the first period after the rookie went hard into the boards on a hit by Alexei Emelin, but he came back in the second after he apparently went through some concussion tests.

Spott said: “He took a good hit. He came back. He went in and had to obviously do some [head injury] protocol.”

David Schlemko’s situation looked much worse, as the defenseman limped off of the ice and up the tunnel in the second period with what looked like a right leg or ankle problem. He returned midway through the third, though.

“It didn't look good when we saw it on video, but thankfully I think we dodged a bullet there,” Spott said.