Cam Tucker

‘No magic answer’ to get Pavelski, Thornton going for the Sharks

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The leading goal scorer in these playoffs has yet to score a goal or even record a point in the Stanley Cup Final. And time is now running out for Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks.

In four games against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pavelski, who has a league-leading 13 goals in these playoffs, has been completely shut out. Joe Thornton, his linemate, has two assists, both coming in a Game 3 overtime win for San Jose.

However, following a 3-1 loss in Game 4 on Monday, the series, the season and the Stanley Cup are all now on the line.

Prior to Game 4, much was made about Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins star forward, being shut out in three games to begin the series. He went out Monday and had a two-point night.

Is there reason for optimism for the Sharks and their fans — at least for a one-game breakout? After managing a total of four shots on goal through three games of the series for Pavelski, the Sharks captain had five on Matt Murray in Monday’s loss.

“He’s getting his chances, so it’s one of those things — goal-scoring can go in bunches and it can go away,” Sharks veteran forward Patrick Marleau told SFGate.com.

“Sometimes it just doesn’t go in, but he’s been all around it. As long as he’s getting looks, that’s the main thing.”

Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer addressed the struggles of Pavelski and Thornton on Tuesday, saying he feels they’ve created more with each game in the series.

But, using Melker Karlsson‘s goal as the example, he stressed the need for offensive contributions from others in the lineup and the need to draw more penalties. So far, the Sharks have one power play goal in eight opportunities in the entire series. (The Penguins also have only eight power play opportunities.)

“There is no magic answer. They get a ton of attention. I think our support group has to take a little bit of pressure off them,” DeBoer said to reporters.

“You have to give Pittsburgh some credit for the job they’ve done on them. The stars on both sides would tell you there’s not a lot of room out there.”

Related: Four games, no leads for the Sharks — ‘We’ve got to find an answer for that’

There will now be a Matt Murray Avenue in Pittsburgh — at least for one day

SAN JOSE, CA - JUNE 06:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins tends goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game Four of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at SAP Center on June 6, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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So, it sounds like the people of Pittsburgh are pretty excited about the Penguins having the chance to claim the Stanley Cup on home ice Thursday.

The Penguins lead the San Jose Sharks 3-1 in the series and can win their second championship in eight years with a victory in Thursday’s Game 5.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this occasion has prompted Pittsburgh City Council to re-name a street — at least for that game day — to Matt Murray Avenue in celebration of the Penguins rookie puck stopper who has been so good in these playoffs despite a lack of experience.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Pittsburgh City Council today passed a “Will of Council” that renames the thoroughfare for the day, when the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Councilman Corey O’Connor said he got a call around 5:30 a.m. from Star 100.7’s Bubba Show asking for council to consider honoring the Pens’ starting goalie. Their plea, he said, was backed by about 20,000 listeners.

The excitement in Pittsburgh doesn’t stop there.

On Tuesday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan was confident his players could keep their emotions in check leading up to Thursday, despite having two days to wait before such a pivotal game.

“We’ve got some guys in there that have this in perspective, that have been through similar experiences in the past. I think our guys are very grounded. They understand the challenge in front of us,” Sullivan told reporters.

“We have to try to do our best to ignore some of the noise surrounding the group. I think our players are well aware of it. They’ve been through it the whole post-season.

“We know that we’re going to need our very best in order to accomplish our ultimate goal.”

DeBoer isn’t about to rule Hertl out of the Stanley Cup Final

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 24:  Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks awaits a face off against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on February 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Despite a report surfacing Monday saying Tomas Hertl was out for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final with a knee injury, San Jose Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer isn’t ready to completely rule out the talented 22-year-old forward just yet.

Hertl has missed the last two games of the championship series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sharks travel back to Pittsburgh trailing 3-1 in the series. They need a win Thursday to extend it back to California for Game 6.

“Improvement every day that I’ve seen him. Hopeful, yes. I term him as day-to-day,” DeBoer told reporters.

“This time of year, guys find an inner strength and play with injuries. I mean, that’s just what these guys do at this level. I’m not ruling him out for any games.”

With Hertl out, Melker Karlsson, Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi have all seen time on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.

Related: With Hertl out again, Sharks wary of loading up top line

Report: There’s a chance NHL salary cap could drop below $70M next season

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at the Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City. Joining him from left to right is Ruslan Fedotenko, Henrik Lundqvist, Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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In March, the NHL salary cap was projected to rise to $74 million for next season. Last week, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he expects the cap to remain “relatively flat” for next season.

The salary cap for 2015-16 is $71.4 million.

And now there’s been a report from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet during the broadcast of Game 3 that the “…players were told this week when they met with the NHLPA that if they don’t vote to increase the salary cap by five per cent, there’s a chance it could go down below $70 million next year.”

If that does occur, the cap going below $70 million, it could potentially mean less money for free agents this summer, and this is a free agent class that could include a player like Steven Stamkos.

From Friedman and Sportsnet:

Meanwhile, the NHLPA meets this week in Chicago, and, among the discussion topics is if the membership will vote to raise the cap by up to five per cent, as is its right. It’s happened every year but once, and that was a decade ago, the first time this option existed. In recent seasons, players have made more noise about saying no, as it hurts their escrow payments. But whenever the moment of truth arrives, they go for the max.

Those eligible for free agency (and their agents) make it very clear: Why should we be punished, when others weren’t? Don’t expect a decision for a week or so, as players who attend the meetings will likely take some time to consult with teammates before the vote.

As stated on PHT last week, an agreement between the NHLPA and the league needs to be reached ahead of June 30, with free agency opening the next day.

Justin Braun has been ‘exceptional’ for the Sharks

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This has been a difficult time for Justin Braun and his family.

While playing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic and tasked with trying to contain Sidney Crosby in the Stanley Cup Final, Braun has been playing this series with a heavy heart after losing his father-in-law Tom Lysiak, a former NHLers, to leukemia last week.

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Braun found out that his father-in-law died the morning of Game 1. It devastated him that he couldn’t be there for his wife, an accomplished chef whom he met on a blind date. After the Sharks lost Game 1, Braun was hard on himself and said he needed to do a better job focusing after playing a part in Pittsburgh’s first two goals.

“When you’re out there on the ice, you want to pretty much shut your brain off and just play,” Braun said. “When there are other things creeping in, that’s when you’re going to be a little slow on plays and making reads.”

In Game 3, which the Sharks won in overtime to earn their first victory of the series, Crosby was held off the score sheet, playing the majority of the game five-on-five against Braun and Vlasic.

Adding to the success of keeping Crosby mostly in check — at least on the score board — with Vlasic, Braun scored once again to earn a first in his NHL career.

The fact Braun is playing and playing well under such difficult circumstances isn’t lost on his coach.

“I thought he was excellent last night. With what he’s dealt with, I don’t know if you can understand the emotion of kind of the last week for him, last couple weeks. He’s known this day was coming,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer told reporters.

“For him to play through and do what he’s done for us, I can’t say enough about that. I know his teammates appreciate it. He’s one of those quiet guys that just shows up every day and punches in, does his job. Really we wouldn’t be here without him either. He’s been exceptional. I think him and Vlasic are a great combination together. I thought they were outstanding last night.”