Category archive: San Jose Sharks

DETROIT -- Johan Franzen had a night he won't soon forget, tallying a franchise-record six points (4-2), the first NHLer to pot six points in one game since Geoff Courtnall in April 1998.

"I don't know if I felt any different," said Franzen. "The puck just seemed to go in off my stick a lot."

The puck seemed to follow Franzen around all night.

"He was all over it," said linemate Todd Bertuzzi. "He had some really good speed in the neutral zone. When The Mule's got speed like that, he's basically untouchable. It was good to see. We're going to need it again."

Also of note, Franzen recorded the second-fastest hat trick in Stanley Cup playoffs history, tallying his three goals in a 3:26 span in the first period Thursday night, just two seconds off the fastest mark. The record is 3:24 by Tim Kerr of the Philadelphia Flyers against the New York Rangers on April 13, 1985.

Like Kerr, Franzen has made a living in the slot.

"You always know he's got a great shot and he always seems to be in the right spot at the right time," said linemate Henrik Zetterberg. "If you look back at past playoffs, he's scored a lot of goals. It's nice that he got four tonight. Hopefully he keeps going."

Franzen's linemates, Zetterberg and Bertuzzi, also had big nights. The trio combined for 13 points.

"I thought we were moving around a bit more, not standing still, supporting each other and getting free that way," said Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi tallied five points (1-4) and was finally rewarded for his hard work in the playoffs.

"He's doing a lot of work," said Zetterberg, who had two assists. "I've been playing with him the whole playoffs and a lot in the regular season. He doesn't get enough credit. He's a hard worker, always in front of the net, he keeps guys away from us. He's fun to play with. It's nice to see him get rewarded like that."

Give Red Wings coach Mike Babcock kudos for switching up his top two lines after the Game 3 loss, flipping Franzen and Valtteri Filppula. The result? Instant magic.

"It was nice of him [Franzen] to step up and shoot it in the net," said Babcock. "Mule is one of those guys, no different than any scorer like [Joe] Pavelski; when you get hot, you just shoot the puck and it finds its way in the net."

Rough stuff

As you might expect with a lopsided score, things got chippy in the third period. Sharks center Joe Thornton led the way with two roughing penalties and a 10-minute misconduct after he went after Tomas Holmstrom.

"I thought they were diving around pretty good there at the end," said Thornton. "I don't know why I got a 10-minute. Holmer kind of ran into me; I'm just a bigger guy that's all."

The Wings shrugged off the rough stuff.

"I don't know, I didn't think it was much more than other games," said Zetterberg. "It's usually how it goes when a team is down a few goals like that."

For the game, the Sharks took 15 penalties for 49 minutes in total and the Wings took 11 for 33 minutes.

"The one thing about tonight, they finally took more penalties than we did," said Babcock. "Going into tonight, we were 22 times short-handed and they had 11. But they got their 5-on-3 again tonight, so they've got the market cornered on that."

The Sharks went 1-for-5 on the power play, while the Wings were 2-for-8.

DETROIT -- With the Red Wings one loss from having their season end, the annual rite of wondering about Nicklas Lidstrom's future has begun. The 40-year-old defenseman will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"I'm focused on the game tonight," he said Thursday morning. "I'll let whatever happens happen. I'll worry about that after the season is over."

The way he's played in the second half of the season and in these playoffs, there's no question he can return and remain a force. The Wings certainly want him back.

"He's a good man," Wings coach Mike Babcock said Thursday after the team's morning skate. "He's been fantastic because leadership to me is about doing things right. He still says the right things, but it's about his actions and what he does. From the way he treats his family to the way he interacts with the players and management, it's always been about the team.

"He's gone about his business very quietly, unassuming. And yet the bigger the game, the bigger the stage, the better he's played. He's not 25 anymore, but he's still an elite, elite player, and we're very fortunate that we have him. As a coach, he doesn't mind giving you feedback. He helps you out. He's got thoughts. He's a great example for everybody."

The pride of Newfoundland!

The province of Newfoundland has just more than half a million residents, and you can bet just more than half a million residents will once again be watching tonight's Game 4 between Detroit and San Jose.

OK, that's an exaggeration. But they're apparently pretty darn excited as Newfoundland natives Dan Cleary of the Red Wings and Ryane Clowe of the Sharks go head to head in this series.

"And we've got Michael Ryder [Boston Bruins] playing, too, right now, so we're represented pretty well this year," Cleary said. "I like it."

"Pretty legit chances to win a Cup from those three teams," Clowe said. "It's pretty exciting back home right now."

It's only the second time in NHL history three Newfoundland natives have reached the second round of the playoffs. The same three players did it two years ago, as well. That's also when Cleary became the first Newfoundlander to a capture a Stanley Cup and brought it home to an excited province that summer.

"I wasn't around, I was out of town, but I know it was a crazy party when he brought the Cup home," Clowe said. "It was wild."

Clowe and Cleary are four years apart, so they never played together growing up. Besides, they're from different communities. Both were quick to mention Thursday that their communities are fierce rivals in senior hockey. But there is a tie-in between the two: Clowe's girlfriend.

"She's my second or third cousin; I grew up with her," Cleary said.

So, who's more popular in Newfoundland?

"He's a got a good following; they worship the ground he walks on where he comes from," Cleary said of Clowe.

"I don't know about that," Clowe said when told of Cleary's comment. "He's the one who won the Cup and had the party for 30,000 people."

Clowe said Red Wings jerseys still outnumber the ones from San Jose.

"But gradually every year, you see more Sharks jerseys, more teal," he said with a smile.

The long road back

A common refrain this morning in both dressing rooms was that if there's any team that can erase a 3-0 deficit, it's the Red Wings. Because of that, the Sharks insist they're not looking ahead.

"Because it's Detroit, it may make the coaches' job and the leaders' job easier because they do have that distinct threat of having that ability to come back," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Thursday morning. "If it was another team that didn't have the rich history and experience that this Red Wing team has, maybe we could get ahead of ourselves. But I think they're actually helping us in that preparation, if you will, because we have that respect for them."

The Wings have done a lot of winning over the past 15-plus years, so that experience is key right now.

"Number one, you have a lot of confidence just because you're a good team and you've been a good team for a long time and found ways to win games," Babcock said.

And there's not much else left to say.

"We did most of our talking yesterday," said Babcock. "The message from me real clearly was that, 'You have to get your mind right. You got to get this compartmentalized into what it is.' Winning four games is a huge amount. Win a game, talk about your first shift like we always do and you're fine. That's the whole key here. We've got to win a game. There's no sense talking about anything else."

Nabby shining

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov has been rock solid in these playoffs, as underlined by his 2.14 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. A question some people had coming into the postseason was whether the Russian netminder would feel any residual effects from his Olympic quarterfinals nightmare against Canada, in which he was yanked after giving up six goals. Clearly, that hasn't been the case.

McLellan remembers watching that Olympic game on TV.

"We felt for Nabby because he's the last line of defense," McLellan said Thursday. "He let a number of goals in; he didn't look as sharp as I'm sure he'd like. But if you were really watching the game closely, the other 18 or 19 players in front of him probably played poorer than he did, so we put that into the equation.

"When he came back, I remember sitting down with him and saying, 'Hey Nabby, that was that team, you're coming back to our team now. You just do what you do.'"

McLellan said Nabokov is among a group of players on his team that seems determined to prove many detractors wrong, that he can bring it come playoff time.

"And he's done a very good job of it," the coach said.

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The playoffs are about revelations.

Which players can hack it and which can't?

You certainly can't find a more sensitive hockey subject in the Bay Area over the past half decade.

But here's what the Sharks are finding out in the first round of the playoffs: Little Joe Pavelski is a gamer. He's bringing it big time. You want to talk clutch? He tied the score with a huge goal late in Game 2 to force overtime and avoid an 0-2 series start against Colorado and then scored in overtime on a wicked wrist shot Tuesday night to help avoid a 1-3 hole in the series.

The foreshadowing of Pavelski's exploits came at the Olympics two months ago, when he revealed himself to be one of Team USA's most reliable players. There is no bigger stage, and Pavelski agreed when asked whether that performance helped propel him in these playoffs.

"Yeah, I think so. It was another step and I think it definitely did raise everyone's skill level a little bit," he said after Thursday's pregame skate. "The game was so fast. It was a good learning experience, something you could take and a good step to get ready for the playoffs. The nerves were there, the excitement, the atmosphere -- it was an exciting time to play."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan thought Pavelski had that kind of level of play in him even before the Olympics.

"I thought that before he went," said McLellan. "He was a very good hockey player for us. You have to remember that he missed a month and a bit at the beginning of the year and that really set him back. When he came back, he found his game and he was playing well enough to make the Olympic team, and I think he made an impact on that team there and really played well and he's carried it over here."

Pavelski's line, with wingers Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe, is saving San Jose's bacon right now. The trio had scored five of San Jose's nine goals in the series heading into Game 5 on Thursday night.

"I like Pav's responsibility on the line, both offensively and defensively," said McLellan. "Seto has found his game at the right time of the year, and that's encouraging. He can shoot the puck as well as anybody and wants to shoot it. And I think Ryane Clowe's game, when you look at it from the beginning of the year to where it is now, he's really come a long way. He's probably playing his best hockey he's played in my two years here, anyhow. Using his size and strength and the way he protects pucks. Three pretty good ingredients when you put it all together."

Setoguchi said Thursday he believes the three players are doing a nice job reading off each other and using each other's assets.

"We were challenged this year," said Setoguchi. "They wanted more secondary scoring and that was our main focus, and I think we've done a good job in the last four games in doing what we can do best."

Secondary scoring? Try primary scoring, because so far the top line hasn't produced. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley didn't have a goal between them heading into Game 5. To be fair to Heatley, he's clearly playing hurt. But the donuts in the goal column for Marleau and Thornton repeat an awful playoff pattern both players want to shed. Mind you, two Sharks observers told me Thursday morning they believed Thornton (who has two assists in the series) played pretty well the last two games. Marleau just appears to be fighting it. He led the team with 44 goals in the regular season.

The Sharks are surviving through their second line right now, but they won't go too far in these playoffs without Thornton's line contributing.

"If we weren't getting any shots and not playing in their end at all, that's the time to worry," Marleau said Thursday. "But we've been getting lots of chances and we've been stymied a little bit. We've got to keep going and keep getting those chances in order to get the goals."

Heatley update

Heatley, who missed Game 3 before returning for Game 4, doesn't quite look to be at full speed.

"Heater's good enough to play and contribute," said McLellan. "There's no doubt about it. He'll be in the lineup and we expect to get a real good game from him."

Heatley said after the pregame skate he felt "real good." When I asked him for a percentage, he smiled and said, "One-hundred percent, Pierre, 100 out of 100."

Credit the star winger for toughing it out. That's what the playoffs are all about.

Duchene nominated

Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene was officially nominated as a Calder Trophy finalist Thursday, along with Jimmy Howard and Tyler Myers.

"It's definitely a huge honor," Duchene said after Thursday's morning skate. "You only get one shot at it and it's pretty cool to be named in the top three there. I'm very honored and happy to be part of that. It's a huge credit to my teammates this year.

"Everybody helped me so much to have a good year, coaches and everyone. I'm very thankful to be there, but we have a big job to do here tonight and I can enjoy it after the playoffs."

Duchene's landlord, veteran teammate Adam Foote, ran out of words to describe his basement tenant.

"He's awesome. He's the real deal," said Foote. "He loves the game, he's a student of the game. He's very mature on the ice. He's mature in the room, definitely ahead of his time with that. It's going to be fun to see where his career goes."

But as a tenant?

"It's getting better," Foote said with a smile. "The second half has been better than the first half. He's giving me a head's up on what I can expect with my kids."

Boyle's boo-boo

Dan Boyle's headline-grabbing own goal in Game 3 is still fresh on his mind even if the Sharks blueliner bounced back impressively with a goal 74 seconds into Game 4 and an overall strong effort in the victory.

"I officially wouldn't put it behind me until we would win the series. It cost us a game," Boyle said Thursday. "Until we win the series, I won't officially put it behind me. It's not like it's mentally going to cause a problem here. It's in the rear-view mirror. It is what it is."