San Jose Sharks v Phoenix Coyotes

Pressing Question: Can the Sharks get over past playoff hurdles?


One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

It’s playoff time. For the San Jose Sharks, this time of the year has not been too kind to them.

Sure, they’ve been a terrific regular season team dating back to the resumption of National Hockey League operations following the 2004-05 lockout. They even won a Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top regular season team back in 2008-09, and the addition of Joe Thornton only helped that team roll over the competition but only up until playoff time.

Including that season, the Sharks have amassed a record of 271-130-57. Impressive. Here comes the ‘Yeah, but…’

The post-season is now upon us again. The Sharks go into their first-round series up against the L.A. Kings – Stanley Cup champions from 2012 and Western Conference finalists a year ago.

So, if the Sharks are indeed to follow up a strong regular season with a substantial playoff run, it will need to go through their California rivals, the Kings. No easy task.

“It’s a very evenly matched series and I think both teams respect each other,” Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Sharks watched this season as Joe Pavelski emerged as one of the league’s top scoring threats. He recorded 41 goals, which was 10 above his previous career best set two years ago.

Yet, based on reports out of San Jose, it appears he could start this series on the third line.

According to CSN Bay Area, 20-year-old rookie Tomas Hertl, out for 45 games due to an injury suffered on Dec. 19 in a collision with Kings’ captain Dustin Brown, could slot back onto the top line with Thornton. And certainly Hertl has his own motivation in this series, admitting he doesn’t like the Kings after what transpired earlier on.

“The debate isn’t a raging one in the coaches’ locker room. We feel equally comfortable going either way,” said Sharks’ head coach Todd McLellan, as per CSN Bay Area.

“The wild card is Tomas, and making sure that he’s capable of handling minutes against the other team’s key players, and [Raffi Torres’] potential return to the lineup. A lot of that will dictate which way we’ll go.”

Goaltending might be the biggest factor if San Jose is to make a run. Consider who the Sharks will face in the first round. Jonathan Quick has, since taking the Kings to a Stanley Cup victory two years ago, emerged as an elite goalie in the league.

Who the Sharks start in goal isn’t set in stone as of yet. Will it be Antti Niemi, the incumbent, or Alex Stalock, who played 24 times this season with a 12-5-2 record?

“It’s been, the whole season, a little different playing L.A. because we have faced them twice in the playoffs, and last year we lost to them,” Niemi told CSN Bay Area. “So, you always get a little extra energy against those guys.”

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

Video: Flyers, Bolts confirm 3-on-3 OT is pretty much the greatest thing ever

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Well, the NHL’s two new initiatives for ’15-16 seem to be going swimmingly.

Not long after Ottawa successfully made the second-ever coach’s challenge, fans got their first look at 3-on-3 overtime.

And what a look it was.

In the span of 137 seconds, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers combined for eight shots on goal, a few breakaways, some tremendous saves — including one on a penalty shot — and, finally, Jason Garrison‘s game-winning goal on a breakaway from center, giving the Bolts a 3-2 win.

It was, in a word, fun.

Lots of fun.

A quick sampling of reviews:

Of course, not everybody was a fan:

Now, to temper things a bit — this was the first time we’ve seen 3-on-3 with something on the line, so there was a novelty factor at play. There’s also no guaranteeing future OT sessions will be as exciting as this.

But none of that takes away from the fact 3-on-3 made for appointment viewing, and immense entertainment value. The prospect of future games like this? That’s pretty exciting.

In Jets return, Burmistrov delivers headshot to Bergeron (Updated)


Didn’t take long for Alex Burmistrov to make his presence felt — though not in a good way.

Burmistrov, playing in his first game for the Jets after a two-year stint in Russia, delivered a questionable elbow to the head of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron late in the first period of Thursday’s season-opener:

Burmistrov received a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head, while Bergeron received a matching minor for roughing (retaliating for the elbow, specifically).

The Bruins went into the intermission leading 1-0, and have yet to update Bergeron’s status.

Update: Bergeron stayed in the game, but B’s head coach Claude Julien was none too pleased with the hit. Following the game, he called for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to look at it…