What can be said about the San Jose Sharks’ first round exit that hasn’t already been uttered – and harshly – already? Fair or not, losing in seven games after building a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings seems like something that only happens to the Sharks (even if three other teams in modern NHL history have suffered that fate).
For many, wrapping this up is a matter of throwing down a typically harsh comparison – money’s on Tony Romo coming up – but let’s take a step back and look at the Sharks’ 2013-14 season and ahead to 2014-15.
- The immediate and obvious question is if Todd McLellan will be handed his walking papers. Despite all the Sharks head coach’s successes with the team – including consecutive trips to the Western Conference finals – San Jose still hasn’t been able to “get over the hump.”
- One obvious reason why McLellan might go is that two players who often get the blame in San Jose (Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau) were already locked up to contract extensions during the regular season. Sure, there’s always the chance that one or more of those veteran forwards will want out of the Bay Area, but this is a situation in which the saying “It’s easier to fire the coach than fire the team” is especially true.
- Much of the team’s core is locked up to (in many cases very cap-friendly) deals beyond Thornton and Marleau.
- It’s easy to ignore how strong a season San Jose enjoyed in a time like this. The Sharks had their best season since they generated 113 points in 2009-10, as they managed 51 points in 111 standings points in finishing second in the Pacific Division behind the Anaheim Ducks.
- Even with a raise from $4 to $6 million per year, Joe Pavelski’s deal looks pretty sweet after his breakout 41-goal season. Logan Couture costs the same amount and seems capable of being a regular All-Star player.
- It all plays into the future seeming pretty bright for the Sharks, if they can get over the present. Tomas Hertl is another fine example, as he seemed primed to be a serious Calder Trophy candidate before his serious injury after colliding with Kings forward Dustin Brown.
When you lose like this, people often call for heads. There are likely to be some changes in San Jose, yet when you look at what this team has built, it’s reasonable to see some light at the end of the tunnel, too.
Even if it’s pretty difficult for Sharks fans to think about positive things right now.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are on their first real losing streak of the season (three games) and are now going to be without their No. 1 defenseman for at least the next few games after the team announced on Monday morning that Kris Letang has been placed on injured reserve.
Along with that move, the Penguins also recalled forward Jake Guentzel and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
Letang was injured during the Penguins’ 6-4 loss in Detroit over the weekend, playing only 2:06 before exiting the game with an apparent leg injury.
Injuries have been a constant problem for Letang in his career and have allowed him to play in more than 70 games just once since 2010, and it usually has a pretty significant impact on the team when he is out.
While Sidney Crosby is the Penguins’ best player, there is an argument to be made that Letang is their most important and the one player they can not afford to lose given the minutes he plays, the impact he has on the game in all three zones, and the fact he is probably on any given night on one of the five best all-around defensemen in hockey. There is a pretty drastic change to their offense when Letang is out of the lineup.
Entering this season the Penguins averaged 3.16 goals per game over the previous six seasons with Letang in the lineup (while winning more than 64 percent of their games), versus only 2.73 (and only winning 54 percent of their games) when he has been out of the lineup.
In the 12 games Letang has missed this season they have averaged 3.06 goals, compared to 3.60 in the 30 games he has played.
The Penguins host the Washington Capitals, winners of nine in a row, on Monday night.
— Following a six-game winning streak that moved them back into playoff contention the Vancouver Canucks dropped their fourth game in a row on Sunday night, losing 2-1 to Cory Schneider and the New Jersey Devils. A power play unit that is currently 27th in the league on the season and has gone just 1-for-17 during their current losing streak has been a big part of the problem and Ben Kuzma of the Province looked into it following their most recent defeat. [The Province]
— The Washington Capitals’ 5-0 win on Sunday (highlights above) that improved their winning streak to nine games was also the 1,500th win in franchise history. [Washington Capitals]
— Will this be the year Shane Doan waives his no-trade clause to get a chance at the Stanley Cup? Elliotte Friedman speculates that if the Coyotes, who currently have the second worst record in the league, approached the now-40-year-old Doan about a trade that he might be willing to accept it. He has four goals and eight assists in 40 games this season. [Sportsnet]
— Edmonton Oilers forward Drake Caggiula had some fun at the team’s skills competition over the weekend by taking out in the shootout dressed as … Drake. [Edmonton Oilers/YouTube]
— Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi had an update on the status of injured goaltender Jonathan Quick on Sunday and basically said there is “no change” that he is still “a long way off.” He has been injured since the season opener and has not played since, making Peter Budaj the team’s starting goaltender this season. Budaj has a .917 save percentage and a 20-11-3 record in Quick’s absence for a Kings team that is hanging on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference [Kings Insider]
— Since their 16-game winning streak came to an end the Columbus Blue Jackets have lost four of their past six games and had to use four different goaltenders over the past four games. Is that post-winning streak hangover something that is going to be good for them in the long run? [Columbus Dispatch]
— The Minnesota Wild extended their winning streak to four games on Sunday night and moved into sole possession of first place with a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. They now have a two-point lead over the Blackhawks with four games in hand on them. Here are the highlights from Sunday’s game.
The Edmonton Oilers made a move Sunday, recalling defenseman Jordan Oesterle from the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.
In 18 games with the Condors this season, the 24-year-old Oesterle has three goals and 11 points.
The decision comes one day after Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson missed Saturday’s contest against the rival Calgary Flames because of a lower-body injury.
While he isn’t a flashy player, Larsson seems to have made a positive impression on the Oilers coaching staff during his first season in Edmonton following last summer’s blockbuster trade involving scoring winger Taylor Hall.
No surprise this development is leading to questions about the health of Larsson, with the Oilers set to begin the second half of a six-game home stand and sitting second in the Pacific Division standings.
Heavyweight fighters Jared Boll and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves during the second period of Sunday’s game between the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues.
Those were some thunderous right hands thrown there, both combatants landing their fair share of punches before officials finally intervened.