Ranking the Stanley Cup playoff series

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Ranking the Stanley Cup playoff series

We hate to break it to you this way, but its better if you hear from someone you . . . well, dont like very much.

The Sharks-Blues series is not considered a potential classic of the genre. In fact, the word ugly gets bandied about a lot.

As in, This series is going to be as ugly as the regular season series. Not the results, necessarily, although seven-seeds traditionally have difficult times handling twos.

But the games? They wont be a lot of fun. Theyll be short on scoring chances, skating room or traditional up-tempo give-and-take.

In short, you cant say you havent been warned. But if it helps at all, even if your ardor for the local Selachimorpha does not allow you to believe your favorite team can play ugly hockey, the rest of the series arent that much better.

In fact, lets rank them in order of fun per minute:

NASHVILLE-DETROIT
The Wings are always elegant viewing, if only because Pavel Datsyuk may very well be the most underrated great player ever. But having Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Valteri Filppula and a well-established style of play makes the Wings good entertainment. Against that, Nashville brings two extraordinary defensemen in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, the best goalie in the game in Pekka Rinne, and the resurgent if mercenary Alexander Radulov. The series with the best chance of going seven games, too.

NEW YORK RANGERS-OTTAWA
One-eight matches dont often stand up well, but Ottawa gives the Rangers more than enough trouble and Henrik Lundqvist is believed to be nursing a nagging injury. John Tortorella never met an argument he couldnt make louder or more profane, and Ottawa hockey fans are plain nuts.

PITTSBURGH-PHILADELPHIA
Most folks would rank this higher, maybe even first, but the Penguins when fully healthy are a dramatically better team. Plus, Flyer goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is due for one of his everyones-paying-attention-to-me walkabouts. This will be an aggressively played but brief series.

VANCOUVER-LOS ANGELES
If Jonathan Quick is brilliant, the Canucks can get as tight-windpiped as any team, and in that town, a tight windpipe is a sign to make it tighter. Plus, there are many amusements to be found in watching coaches Darryl Sutter and Alain Vigneault screwing with each others heads.

BOSTON-WASHINGTON
This is only good if Alexander Ovechkin can become the happy-time Fizzies party he used to be. The Bruins finished strong, goaliepolitical naf Tim Thomas is playing close to his playoff level of a year ago, and the Bruins are defending champions. But the Caps have been mediocre to frustrating even after the coaching change to Dale Hunter, so getting your hopes up here seems counterproductive.

PHOENIX-CHICAGO
The Blackhawks get Jonathan Toews back, and their goaltending problems will make the Coyotes seem less offensively-challenged. It could be a sleeper series for entertainment. It could also stink to high heaven if the Hawks give in to Phoenix penchant for grinding the game into dust.

ST. LOUIS-SAN JOSE
Logan CoutureJoe PavelskiJoe Thornton and David BackesPatrick BerglundAlex Steen had better be lots of fun, if only to negate the Ken Hitchcock way of doing things. Thats all were saying.

FLORIDA-NEW JERSEY
Oh God.

You are of course entitled to judge the series in any order you wish. Its just that this is the correct one until more data presents itself.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Canucks battling mumps ahead of meeting with Sharks

Canucks battling mumps ahead of meeting with Sharks

Several Vancouver Canucks are battling an outbreak of the mumps ahead of a game on Saturday with the Sharks at Rogers Arena.

At least five players are expected to miss the game. Troy Stecher is the only player with a confirmed test result, general manager Jim Benning said in a statement, but Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Mike Chaput and Markus Granlund “have each presented symptoms.”

Players with symptoms are “immediately being tested and quarantined in isolation for a five-day period from the onset of symptoms or until test results prove negative.”

Vancouver Coastal Health authorities were on hand at Rogers Arena on Friday to screen players and staff, and issue immunizations if necessary.

The Sharks and Canucks will both be coming off of their bye week when they play for the second of five times this season.

Sharks' Thornton can follow Marleau, make history in Vancouver

Sharks' Thornton can follow Marleau, make history in Vancouver

SAN JOSE – Three weeks ago, Sharks forward Patrick Marleau made history in Vancouver when he scored his 500th career goal at Rogers Arena on Feb. 2.

His longtime teammate has a chance to make more history on the same ice surface on Saturday. Joe Thornton sits two assists away from becoming just the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 for his career, as the Sharks prepare to resume their post-bye week schedule against the Canucks.

“It’s neat,” Thornton said recently. “It’s something I don’t think growing up or even playing so many years you realize you’re going to hit this milestone. When you see the names – I haven’t really looked at the names yet. I think once it hits I’ll kind of peek and see who’s on that list. It’s a nice accomplishment, I guess.”

Thornton, of course, has helped make goal scorers out of many different teammates throughout his career in Boston and San Jose. Marleau has scored 120 goals in which Thornton registered an assist to top the list, while Joe Pavelski is close behind (111). Jonathan Cheechoo (89 goals assisted by Thornton), Boston’s Glen Murray (70) and Brent Burns (50) have also benefited from being on the ice at the same time as the best player in Sharks franchise history.

“I’ve been lucky to play with so many goal scorers,” Thornton said. “For a guy that passes the puck a lot, you need guys to finish. I’ve been lucky enough ever since I’ve been here in San Jose, and really my whole career. … I’ve had so many good goal scorers that it helps you get to that point.”

Logan Couture gave Thornton more credit than he was willing to give himself. 

“You look over the years – Cheechoo, [Devin Setoguchi], now Pav. He finds guys in the slot," Couture said. "Obviously he’s made some tremendous passes over the years, and guys have put it in the back of the net. … The way he’s able to kind of take a quick peek out of the corner of his eye and find someone and deliver it through feet and sticks and all that stuff, it’s pretty special.”

Thornton is currently 23rd all-time in scoring in NHL history with 1,380 points. He would be just the second player in to debut during the 1990s to reach 1,000 career assists, joining Florida’s Jaromir Jagr. He could eclipse Joe Sakic (1,016 assists) for 12th place on the all-time assist list before the season is through, and is 43 helpers away from breaking into the top 10 (Marcel Dionne, 1,040).

In 60 games this season, Thornton has five goals and 34 assists for 39 points. He has recorded multiple assists in a game six times this season, with the most recent occurrence on Jan. 18 in Los Angeles.

Although he’s off his scoring pace from last season, when he had 82 points in 82 games and finished fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy, Thornton has admitted that this season has been a grind for him. The 37-year-old is coming off of a short summer, helping the Sharks reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, and helped Canada win the World Cup of Hockey in September, too.

He’ll be a player to watch coming out of the bye week, which he was looking forward to.

“For me, it’s nice. It’s going to be a nice little break before our last [22] games and our postseason,” he said last week." I think it kind of fits in perfect for us. Get our rest, and get ready for the sprint.”

In 56 career regular season games against the Canucks, Thornton has 16 goals and 48 assists for 64 points.