Posts Tagged ‘Sharks’
The NHL postseason is here.
How will the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs shake out? Is this the year the Toronto Maple Leafs end their championship drought? Can the Pittsburgh Penguins repeat? Will the Chicago Blackhawks keep their decade-long dynasty going? Keep reading to find out.
There’s an unconfirmed theory around San Jose that Joe Thornton began growing a beard when the Sharks played their first game in 1991, and he refused to shave until the team won its first Stanley Cup. If true, the theory would explain a lot.
The Silicon Valley is a region populated by immigrants, some of whom were born elsewhere in the United States, many of whom were born abroad. Many are too young to remember a time when the San Jose Sharks didn’t exist or when agriculture, not silicon, was the backbone of the local economy. That’s why I like the Thornton Beard theory, tall as it is. It’s a useful illustration of how something magnificent can sprout up out of nowhere and blossom, like a tech industry from orchards, or an ice hockey tradition in Northern California.1
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Fresh blood: that’s the easiest way to describe the four teams remaining that still have Stanley Cup dreams on their mind. The San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins represent impressive turnover in the NHL’s final four playoff slots with three new teams for 2016.
They are a true representation of the league’s Salary Cap era, but the Conference Finalists in the 2010s were rarely made up of fresh faces. The usual suspects, near dynasties Chicago and Los Angeles, and perennial favorite the New York Rangers in the East, bowed out in the first round.
Replacing Chicago and Los Angeles in the West are two of the most star-crossed franchises in the NHL.
Emerging from the Central Division was the usually disappointing Blues, a squad that has been stuck in neutral over the past few years trying to outlast the Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators in easily the league’s toughest grouping. However, this is St. Louis 2.0, a retooled team that combined its prior size, grit and outstanding blue line with new skilled young offensive weapons.
In the first round, we predicted six of the eight series correctly. The two we were most unsure about were the two incorrect picks – no surprise at all that New York or Los Angeles won.
Now that the second round is here, the picture becomes a little more clear. Only one of the four series will go the full seven games. Which will it be, and who will move on?
The playoffs have been interesting so far. Some teams have surprised me. Others haven’t at all.
The biggest surprise was the play of the New York Islanders. I thought Pittsburgh would wipe the floor with the Isles and that they should feel lucky if they pick up one game in the series. New York ended up staying with the Penguins in almost every game, and lost two heartbreakers at home in overtime. I never thought I’d say this, but the Islanders look as if they are finally turning things around. (Just in time for their move to Brooklyn!)
Another surprise was the performance of the Minnesota Wild. I’m not surprised that they lost to Chicago, but because they got bounced in only five games. Losing their top goaltender didn’t help, but Minnesota’s offense was stagnant the whole series. The Wild also looked terrible in Game 4 as they got shut out at home and handed the Blackhawks all the momentum in the series. Nevertheless, Minnesota looks stable and if they can add another scorer and fix their inconsistency in the net, they should be a force next season.
Speaking of net consistency, here’s Vancouver. The Canucks’ first-round sweep didn’t surprise me at all. They looked flat-out awful against the Sharks. Roberto Luongo started the first two games in net and didn’t look that bad, but then he was pulled for Cory Schneider, who wasn’t an improvement. Vancouver needs to fix its goaltending problem next season, or else they can kiss their fading Stanley Cup hopes goodbye.
Anyway, we’ve said goodbye to eight teams and are now off to the Conference Semifinals. Here are my predictions for the second round.
“Hockey is like heroin. Only drug addicts do heroin. It’s not like a recreational drug. It’s never like, No, that’s O.K., I’m not going to have heroin. You guys go right ahead. Hockey is kind of the same way. Only hockey fans watch hockey.”
– Chris Rock
Hi, my name is J.P., and I’m a heroin addict.
They took my heroin away on a Saturday night …
I was sitting at the kitchen table at my girlfriend’s apartment in L.A. when my heart sank at the realization that I wasn’t going to a hockey game the next day. A part of me was gone, and that’s when it hit me: I really was addicted to this thing, covering the NHL, that I’d reduced to a four-letter word — “work”. I probably lost some color in my face, too. (Coincidentally, that’s what happens if the Kings go to a shootout at Staples Center and the press box is out of coffee.)
The scene was straight out of an undergrad film student’s attempt at urban drama, each line followed by a #firstworldproblems hashtag. I didn’t lose my job that night. The following Friday, a paycheck was direct-deposited into my bank account, just like clockwork. All I’d lost was my heroin, the NHL, by virtue of a decision handed down through the MediaNews Group Inc. food chain. They told me to sober up by covering other leagues and other sports.
Only the boss never actually sent me to rehab. I’m checking myself in. Right here, right now. Read the rest of this entry »