Brent Burns, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Thornton, Patrick Marleau

Sharks dominated special teams differential in 2013-14

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The San Jose Sharks don’t own a Stanley Cup, but it appears that they’re the best team in the NHL at drawing more penalties than they take. Honestly, the numbers are pretty stunning.

San Jose drew 291 power-plays opportunities and were only shorthanded 219 times during the 2013-14 season, making for a differential of 72 power plays. That’s almost an extra power play per game.

To give you an idea of how much better they’ve been than any other NHL team in that area, consider this: they match the second-best (Carolina Hurricanes, +40 chances) and third-best (New York Rangers +32 chances) combined.

Here’s the full chart of how the 30 NHL teams fared whistle-wise in 2013-14 (TS stands for times shorthanded, hopefully other abbreviations are self-explanatory):

Team Total diff 2013-14 Home PP Opp Road PP Opp 13-14 PP Opp Home diff Road diff 13-14 home TS 13-14 Road TS 13-14 total TS
SJS 72 162 129 291 40 32 122 97 219
CAR 40 154 127 281 41 -1 113 128 241
NYR 32 132 132 264 27 5 105 127 232
DAL 27 158 132 290 33 -6 125 138 263
PIT 24 136 142 278 25 -1 111 143 254
CGY 14 121 128 249 14 0 107 128 235
NYI 11 145 131 276 27 -16 118 147 265
PHX 10 145 137 282 21 -11 124 148 272
CHI 9 143 114 257 32 -23 111 137 248
FLA 7 127 142 269 -2 9 129 133 262
WSH 7 148 143 291 5 2 143 141 284
ANA 5 152 123 275 17 -12 135 135 270
COL 3 131 121 252 13 -10 118 131 249
MIN 2 129 123 252 16 -14 113 137 250
NSH 1 121 118 239 6 -5 115 123 238
CBJ 0 142 138 280 -1 1 143 137 280
TBL 0 140 130 270 6 -6 134 136 270
EDM -9 148 123 271 13 -22 135 145 280
MTL -10 140 139 279 1 -11 139 150 289
STL -10 157 126 283 12 -22 145 148 293
LAK -12 154 130 284 14 -26 140 156 296
DET -13 149 133 282 5 -18 144 151 295
TOR -16 119 133 252 6 -22 113 155 268
VAN -17 131 126 257 8 -25 123 151 274
BUF -18 129 127 256 -3 -15 132 142 274
PHI -22 159 135 294 6 -28 153 163 316
NJD -23 123 118 241 -11 -12 134 130 264
WPG -32 151 108 259 1 -33 150 141 291
BOS -33 112 118 230 -26 -7 138 125 263
OTT -49 135 136 271 -15 -34 150 170 320

A few interesting takeaways from that:

  • The crowd in Carolina clearly steers things in the Hurricanes’ direction. They had the highest home differential at +41, one more than San Jose. The ‘Canes were -1 on the road, so it’s not like it was just a matter of an aggressive style.
  • The Boston Bruins easily had the worst home differential at -26. Odd, huh?
  • Could fewer penalties in the postseason be a big reason why San Jose seems to struggle in the playoffs? It’s at least a theory.

In case you’re wondering if this is just a one-time thing, the Sharks really tower over the pack when you count the last three seasons:

Team diff last 3 seasons Total diff 2013-14 diff 12-13 diff 11-12
SJS 139 72 22 45
CAR 86 40 4 42
CHI 62 9 9 44
NYR 57 32 5 20
CBJ 54 0 11 43
PIT 46 24 3 19
FLA 45 7 -9 47
DET 32 -13 21 24
NYI 32 11 14 7
TOR 18 -16 9 25
PHX 12 10 0 2
CGY 10 14 4 -8
NSH 8 1 1 6
MTL 6 -10 30 -14
TBL -7 0 8 -15
NJD -8 -23 7 8
MIN -9 2 16 -27
LAK -11 -12 5 -4
WSH -13 7 1 -21
PHI -19 -22 -13 16
VAN -19 -17 -4 2
STL -23 -10 -1 -12
BUF -32 -18 -15 1
ANA -34 5 -27 -12
DAL -40 27 -8 -59
EDM -49 -9 -6 -34
WPG -66 -32 7 -41
BOS -84 -33 -41 -10
COL -94 3 -43 -54
OTT -99 -49 -10 -40

Let’s consider a few other points:

  • Just in case you missed it, the Sharks finished at +139 while no other team cracked +90.
  • Again, Carolina seems to get a nice amount of PP chances. If Bill Peters can make a difference in that unit, he could see some huge gains even if the rest of the team stays in neutral.
  • One would be wise to consider the 2011-12 season the least since a 48-game slate can be misleading. Quite a few of the “middle” campaigns above indeed seem to make for breaks in patterns.

It should be interesting to see if teams can break these cycles or keep up these positive advantages going in 2014-15. The Sharks certainly hope so and the Ottawa Senators would absolutely prefer not.

Bears face Monsters for the AHL’s Calder Cup

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 15:  Chris Bourque #17 of the Hershey Bears kisses the Calder Cup after the Hershey Bears defeated the Milwaukee Admirals in game six of the AHL Calder Cup Finals on June 15, 2006 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bears defeated the Admirals 5-1 in game six to win the AHL Calder Cup. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Hershey Bears and Lake Erie Monsters will play for the 2016 Calder Cup, as the American Hockey League’s championship series begins Wednesday.

The Bears, who start with home ice advantage, enter the series having won the Calder Cup 11 times — the most of any franchise in the league’s history. They also enter the final having dispatched the Toronto Marlies — Canada’s remaining hope for an AHL championship, right…? — in the third round.

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Meanwhile, the Monsters have been on a torrid run in the playoffs, losing only twice in 13 games so far. They’ve earned the sweep in two of three series, making quick work of the Rockford IceHogs and Ontario Reign.

Bears forward Carter Camper, a journeyman in the minors with three games of NHL experience with Boston in 2011-12, is second in AHL playoff scoring with 15 points in 17 games.

For the Monsters, Blue Jackets prospect Lukas Sedlak has been on a roll, offensively, and now has 13 points in 13 post-season games this year.

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Sedlak was regarded as a smart two-way forward, but his offensive production was minimal, almost non-existent. Players like that tend to drift away after a few seasons, pushed aside by the next wave of young talent and high draft picks.

“I’d say right around Christmas I started wondering what was going to happen,” Sedlak said. “I was asking my agent what Columbus thought of me, and I was prepared for everything — maybe even going back to Europe.

“I knew my contract was up after the season. I thought I was playing pretty well … but you just don’t know.”

 

Stars sign Dowling, Ranford to one-year deals

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The Dallas Stars made a pair of depth moves on Tuesday, announcing the signings of forwards Justin Dowling and Brendan Ranford to one-year contracts.

Both players have put up good numbers in the American Hockey League with the Texas Stars.

This past season, the 24-year-old Ranford scored 19 goals and 59 points in 76 games — all career highs for him in the minors. He played once for Dallas last season, but didn’t register a point.

Initially undrafted and a Stars’ free agent signing from two years ago, the 25-year-old Dowling was also productive with 11 goals and 46 points in 52 games.

Lombardi’s goal was to assemble USA World Cup team ‘that you think can beat Canada’

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: Dean Lombardi, an advisor to the 2014 Men's Olympic Hockey Team is introduced at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 29, 2013 in New York City.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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When Dean Lombardi put together the United States roster for the return of the World Cup of Hockey, one model that attracted his attention was a team from 20 years ago.

That U.S. team led by Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Mike Modano and Mike Richter beat Canada to win the tournament, a title the general manager of the Los Angeles Kings hopes to duplicate this fall. Lombardi and USA Hockey finalized the 23-man roster Friday, and the result was a gritty bunch that will very much fit coach John Tortorella’s personality.

Instead of taking pure skill in the form of forwards Phil Kessel and Paul Stastny and defensemen Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk, the U.S. went with grinders Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky up front and two-way players Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson on the blue line. Lombardi said the goal was the “type of the team that you think can beat Canada,” and one that will coalesce quickly without much time to prepare.

Related: Kessel takes World Cup snub in stride — ‘It is what it is’

“It made it essential that you do all your research in terms of not only the quality of the player and his ability but their history of being a good teammate and things like that,” Lombardi said Tuesday in a phone interview. “There was a lot to choose from, don’t forget. There are a lot of good players and you could easily argue that this guy should be here and everything else, and you wouldn’t be wrong.”

The 1996 team had high-end skill in the form of Hull, Modano, Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte, who scored the World Cup-winning goal that Lombardi considers the biggest in U.S. hockey history – more significant than Mike Eruzione’s from the “Miracle on Ice” against the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics.

Lombardi was quick to point to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane, Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise and San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski as the offensive talent that should mesh with the toughness of Dubinsky, Callahan, St. Louis Blues captain David Backes and Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler.

No Kessel came as a surprise given that he tied for the scoring lead at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and is leading the Pittsburgh Penguins in points in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Lombardi said the U.S. had plenty of skilled wingers and was looking to fill specific roles with its final few players.

“He’s a top player, but so are these other guys,” Lombardi said of Kessel. “It’s a good problem to have, but you can’t have all skill just like you can’t have all grit. You’re building a team, not an All-Star team.”

Lombardi and fellow USA Hockey management members Paul Holmgren and Brian Burke like a certain amount of size and toughness on their teams, so they knew this team would have a certain MO. Hiring Tortorella cemented that, and the final roster meetings in Colorado included a lot of the coach’s input.

But Lombardi also talked to 1996 World Cup-winning players like Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin and Derian Hatcher as well as some who got a silver medal at the 2010 Olympics and lost the bronze-medal game in Sochi. He wanted to know what went right, what went wrong and how to fix it, going so far as to watch the 1996 tournament again in the process.

That group was together in dorm rooms for a month in Providence, Rhode Island. The 2016 team will have some time at training camp in Columbus, Ohio, but that’s so little preparation that Lombardi and Co. wanted to define jobs in advance.

“If you’re going to pull it together quickly, it’s very clear what your roles are,” Lombardi said. “You don’t have time for players to figure that out. That’s what a player wants. He wants to know his role, then he’ll fit into your team concept.”

With a focus on NHL-sized ice and Canada as the target, Lombardi hopes he put together the right mix to win it all in Toronto.

Canada is “the benchmark and that’s what you’ve got to look at if you’re going to win this thing,” Lombardi said. “If they can come together like (the 1996) group and learn from maybe some of the mistakes they made as a group in the past and a lot of them have been together, they can beat Canada. No doubt about it.”

‘He was great, full of life’: Sharks’ Braun mourns the passing of father-in-law, NHL veteran Tom Lysiak

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Justin Braun #61 of the San Jose Sharks looks on during the third period against the Boston Bruinsat TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun played Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final with a heavy heart.

According to CSN Bay Area, Braun’s father-in-law and NHL veteran Tom Lysiak passed away at the age of 63 after a battle with leukemia.

The news was confirmed Monday.

“He was great, full of life,” said Braun, as per CSN Bay Area. “Loved to hang out with the boys. Loved to talk about his hockey days. Great father, great husband. Great to me, welcomed me into the family.

“Just a tough day.”

Lysiak was a three-time NHL all-star, playing 13 seasons in the league with the Atlanta Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. He scored 292 goals and 843 points in 919 games over the course of his career.

Braun played Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. As per CSN Bay Area, he is expected to be in the Sharks lineup for Game 2.

“It’s a tough situation. To Justin’s credit, he was business as usual. He’s made some arrangements for after Game 2 to pay his respects and do what he has to do on that end,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told reporters.

“There’s not much you can do. You feel for him. He went out there, he battled for us under tough circumstances. I think we all appreciate it.”