San Jose Sharks were waiting to exhale

1-thornton.jpgThe top-seeded San Jose Sharks are off to their second Western Conference Finals, their first since 2003-2004 and reading the reaction from bloggers and fans alike today is one that fascinates me. A lot of that is probably due to the fact that I’m not directly embroiled with the Sharks and don’t understand the perspective of what’s going on but the one thing that makes me tilt my head and go, “Huh…” is the sense of relief.

For instance, take this reaction from Mr. Plank at Fear The Fin.

The biggest series in franchise history was handled in a mere five games. It is a time of celebration and jubilation, of freedom from the demons that have plagued our souls for five years. It was a monumental event that shook the city of San Jose tonight, one that will go down in the history books as a moment where the shackles of shame were broken in one quick flick of Patrick Marleau’s wrist.

Tonight is exactly where we wanted to be.

Tomorrow is when it sets in that we’re only halfway home.

Buckle up.

Now I’d say the Sharks have had other road blocks in the last five years aside from Detroit (Ron Wilson, Anaheim and Dallas also come to mind) and I don’t really want to call it “over-dramatizing” referring to it as the “biggest series in franchise history” (the 2003-2004 Flames must feel very disrespected) but it does make me worry for this team.

While Plank is right that the team is only halfway home, my concern for the Sharks against either Chicago or Vancouver is complacency. The bulk of this Sharks team hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs before and you know that that fact hung over them like the Sword of Damocles. So where does this team go after getting over that molehill before climbing the mountain it takes to reach the Stanley Cup? If you asked Adrian Dater at Versus, he’d be sarcastically congratulating Joe Thornton.

No, you still haven’t won the big dawg prize yet, that big silver punchbowl with all those names on it. Two more winning series to go before you get that.

But no longer are you the guy everybody badmouths at this time of the year. You’re still playing, moving on to another opponent, the playoff beard getting a little fuller, a little redder with every passing day.

Thornton was huge against Detroit, as was Patrick Marleau, two guys with previously terrible playoff reputations. The key for San Jose is to keep those guys scoring and that’s where Sharks fans and interested observers like ourselves are left to wonder what happens next. I’d like to think that getting over this hump will get the Sharks to tear through the playoffs and bring northern California their first Stanley Cup. I just can’t shake that nagging thought in my head that they’ll get complacent and end up getting rolled in the Western Conference Finals. Show me what you’ve got Sharks, make me a believer.

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    Karlsson is back skating, but ‘we don’t want him to get too excited,’ says Boucher

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    The good news? Erik Karlsson hit the ice to skate with his Ottawa Senators teammates on Saturday.

    “Back at it,” is what the star defenseman wrote in an Instagram post, which included a photo of him on the ice in a blue jersey.

    It’s certainly an exciting development for the Senators and their fans. Karlsson was a dominant player for Ottawa during the Stanley Cup playoffs despite playing with a foot injury that later required surgery, with an expected recovery time of four months.

    Head coach Guy Boucher, however, offered some cautionary words on Karlsson’s status. Basically, it’s exciting, but Boucher doesn’t want anyone — Karlsson included — to get too far ahead of themselves right now.

    “It’s a positive thing, but we don’t want to get too excited. It’s a second step,” said Boucher, according to NHL.com.

    “The first step was to let the therapists tell us when it was adequate to put him on the ice, because you need to get the flexibility and the strength off the ice before we could put [him] on the ice. Yesterday they apparently put the skates on to see how it felt and [went] very lightly on the ice, and they felt he was able this morning [to] get dressed and be with the boys.

    “Basically, this is the second step, but there’s quite a few steps before we get to him playing. We don’t want him to get too excited.”

    His status for the Senators’ season opener against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 has been up in the air since he underwent the operation. Karlsson admitted earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready for that game.

    Ottawa is dealing with a few injury situations right now, with four preseason games remaining on their schedule. Karlsson is one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL and given how important he is to the Senators, there is absolutely no need to rush him back into the lineup if he’s not ready.

     

    NHL suspends Tom Wilson two preseason games for interference

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    Capitals forward Tom Wilson has been suspended for two preseason games for interference, after his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas during Friday’s exhibition game.

    The incident occurred early in the third period, as Wilson caught Thomas with a heavy and late hit along the boards at the Blues bench.

    “Over a full second after Thomas loses control of the puck, well past the point where Thomas is eligible to be checked, Wilson comes in from the side and delivers a forceful body check, knocking Thomas to the ice,” stated a member of the NHL Department of Player Safety in a video explanation of the suspension.

    “In addition to the lateness of the hit, what elevates this hit to the level of supplemental discipline is the predatory nature and force of the hit. Wilson tracks Thomas for some time and alters his course to ensure he is able to finish his hit. Then, with the puck long gone from Thomas’ control, Wilson finishes the check with force.”

    The Capitals continue their preseason schedule Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. They also play the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday.

    Letang set to return to Penguins lineup vs. Blues on Sunday

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    For the first time since February, Kris Letang is expected to be in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup when they face the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

    Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21. He underwent neck surgery in April and missed the entire Stanley Cup playoffs as a result. Despite the absence of their best defenseman, which is a huge loss in Letang, the Penguins were able to overcome that and emerge as champions over Nashville.

    According to Pens Inside Scoop on Saturday, head coach Mike Sullivan said Letang will play in Sunday’s Kraft Hockeyville game between the Penguins and St. Louis Blues.

    That wasn’t the only Letang news Saturday:

    Getting Letang back into the lineup will provide a huge boost to an already strong Penguins team, with his ability to log heavy minutes and act as a catalyst in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack.

    “I want to be the same player I was before. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said Letang. “Hopefully everything goes well and I go back to the old way, playing over 25 minutes and in all situations.”

    But what is most critical is having Letang healthy, and Sullivan this offseason has stressed to the star defenseman to recognize situations when he should make a simple play rather than risk taking an unnecessary hit.

    “When people try to dissect all of that, they make assumptions that they understand, but they don’t,” Letang told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    “Mike and I have a clear understanding of what he wants me to do. I think I’m tired of hearing people around it because I had a talk with Mike and Jim. It’s just a way of avoiding those unnecessary hits. It’s not going to be reducing ice time or anything like that. It’s taking a different approach on certain plays.”

    Related: Letang isn’t interested in getting less ice time now that he’s healthy

    Canucks’ Horvat out a week with upper-body injury

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    The Canucks will resume their preseason schedule on Thursday, although it appears right now that Bo Horvat will likely not be in the lineup.

    Just prior to puck drop against the L.A. Kings on Saturday, the Canucks announced that Horvat is expected to be out a week with an upper-body injury.

    Per Dan Murphy of Sportsnet, the injury occurred on a hit from Drew Doughty during the first game of the two-game exhibition series between the Canucks and Kings in China.

    The good news for the Canucks is that their regular season schedule begins on Oct. 7, which would give Horvat two weeks to get fully healthy and ready for the opener against Connor McDavid and the Oilers.

    The 22-year-old Horvat enjoyed a 20-goal, 52-point season in 2016-17, emerging as the team’s leading scorer and one of the few bright spots during another disappointing season for the Canucks. As a result, he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension earlier this month.

    Related: Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’