Tag: Sharks-Canucks

Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley

Your requisite San Jose Sharks playoff injuries post


It is a huge disappointment for fans to see their favorite team get eliminated, but for the rest of us, it’s a fascinating time. That’s because, in most cases, we finally get to find out the type of injuries players were fighting through.

CSN Bay Area’s Brodie Brazil was all over the San Jose Sharks’ list of maladies today.

  • While the injury lacks the cringe-ability of Jumbo Joe’s Fun Size pinky, Jason Demers was sidelined with a high-ankle sprain suffered during Game 7 of the Detroit series. High-ankle sprains are quietly among the most problematic injuries in hockey because they inhibit movement considerably and are so difficult to heal.
  • It probably won’t keep him from being a whipping boy, but Dany Heatley was indeed playing with some injuries during the playoffs. The streaky sniper broke his hand late in the regular season and twisted his ankle in Game 3 of the Canucks series, according to Brazil. Heatley doesn’t do much more than skate fast and score goals, so decreased mobility and hand strength probably didn’t help his cause much.
  • Ryane Clowe was injured badly enough that he struggled to put on his jersey before games. That account reminds me of the days when people remarked that Mario Lemieux couldn’t bend over to tie up his skates because of a bad back yet he still managed to be a fearsome offensive force. Clowe’s impressive playoff season slowed down after he took some tough hits, but he still contributed admirably for his team.

Now, it’s important to note that injuries don’t justify defeat, especially when you consider the fact that every remaining team is banged up at this point in the playoffs. Still, for those of you who cling to all the knee-jerk “choking” talk, it might be fair to at least consider the fact the toughness of hockey players. The Sharks might have fallen short of their ultimate goal, but they deserve some admiration for fighting through injuries to try to get there.

Your San Jose Sharks-Vancouver Canucks Game 5 primer

Henrik Sedin, Kent Huskins, Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Kevin Bieksa

After winning on special teams and on the scoreboard in Game 3, the San Jose Sharks experienced a disturbing role reversal in their 4-2 Game 4 loss. The only way they can make their first Stanley Cup finals appearance in franchise history is to beat the Presidents Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks three times in a row. The Sharks hope to begin that journey in Vancouver tonight.

San Jose @ Vancouver (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 3-1

Of all the Sharks worries, something tells me that they’re not too concerned about their “playoff demons.” Instead, they’ll hope that their team will rally around their injured star Joe Thornton, who will fight through a shoulder injury in Game 5. Simply put, the Sharks need more from forwards such as Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski if they hope to bring the series back to the Shark Tank.

Meanwhile, the Canucks hope to put away an opponent on their first chance for once. It took them four tries to finish off the Chicago Blackhawks in Round 1 and two tries to end the Nashville Predators’ season in the semifinals. It’s not a do-or-die game for them, but they don’t want to be weary in their first Stanley Cup finals appearance since 1994. (If they make it, obviously.)

With the Joe Thornton question out of the way, the biggest lineup questions revolve around the teams’ defenses. Hip check virtuoso Keith Ballard is expected to play again in Game 5 for the Canucks, but Christian Ehrhoff seems like a toss-up after missing Game 4. The Sharks face a question about their blueline as well since it sounds like young offensive defenseman Jason Demers is ready to go. Will Todd McLellan decide to put him back in the lineup? It sounds like both teams won’t tip their hands until game time.

If the Sharks lose tonight, they’ll face another year’s worth of inane questions about demons and choking. On the other hand, if the Canucks lose, people will wonder about their killer instinct and energy going forward. For more on Game 5, let’s take a look at the additional PHT content.

Joe Thornton will be in the Sharks lineup in Game 5, but he can’t win it alone

Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks - Game Four
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While the differences between this year’s playoff run and previous campaigns with San Jose have been exaggerated, Joe Thornton really has been playing tremendous hockey for the Sharks in the 2011 playoffs. He is currently tied for second place in postseason points scoring with 17, already the best playoff output of his impressive NHL career.

Yet one of the underrated elements to his breakthrough is the free feeling that comes with knowing that other players will contribute. While Thornton had some solid linemates (even if some of them flamed out, like Jonathan Cheechoo) over the years, most of the Sharks teams didn’t have much scoring depth beyond his top line.

San Jose is now very strong down the middle thanks to a full season at the NHL level for talented rookie pivot Logan Couture and another solid campaign by Joe Pavelski. Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley give the team an imposing set of scoring wingers as well. (At least when all of these players are achieving at their expected levels.)

Just like we discussed yesterday, Thornton will indeed play in Game 5 tonight, according to Tim Panaccio. Ray Ratto asks an important question, though: will his teammates show up, too? (In the figurative sense, mind you, since Pavelski and Heatley rank among the struggling Sharks.)

The unsaid truth here is that San Jose’s future Tuesday is going to hinge not on the breadth of Thornton’s back, but on the support staff that hasn’t been very supportive in this series.

And getting that level of more across what has been a fairly thin board?

“We often say that as a coaching staff about individual players: ‘What more can we do with them?’” he said. “That’s a copout as a coaching staff.  We have to find ways to make them better, help them.  There’s a real good lesson I learned in Minnesota’s organization.  Doug Risebrough (the former general manager there) said, You always have to try to find a way.”

The Sharks watched the Detroit Red Wings march back from a 3-0 series deficit to nearly beat them in the second round. Perhaps they’ll take lessons from the way the Red Wings conducted themselves in that series, especially since Detroit’s own elite center Pavel Datsyuk was far from 100 percent himself.

Thornton is showing the guts to fight through a shoulder injury that might lessen his ability to take good shots and win faceoffs. Will his teammates have the guts to pick up the slack and keep their season alive?

San Jose Sharks deny playoff demons heading into Game 5

Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks - Game Four

When you put some of the San Jose Sharks’ playoff disappointments in context, it makes them a little easier to understand. As Tim Panaccio pointed out, the Sharks lost to the eventual Western Conference champion in five of their last seven postseason exits.

There’s no doubt that it is embarrassing to get swept, but the Sharks suffered that fate thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks, the eventual Stanley Cup champions in 2010. Sure, they lost a first round series when they were the first seed and the Anaheim Ducks were the eighth seed in 2009, but let’s not forget that the Ducks still had many of the pieces of a Stanley Cup championship team. (Not to mention Jonas Hiller’s sterling play in his breakout playoffs.) Really, the strongest argument for “choking” might have been the Sharks losing to the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 after building a 2-0 series lead. Even in that case, they lost to a team that fell one win short of winning a Cup during that year.

Yes, the Sharks have had some disappointments, but they seem to be the victim of other people’s expectations and tough playoff matchups more than anything else. Critics dismiss the jarring difficulty of getting through the Western Conference playoffs too easily. After all, only the Detroit Red Wings and Ducks made two or more Stanley Cup finals appearances since 2000.

With these factors in mind, it’s understandable that players and coaches might get a bit annoyed by the stream of questions about “demons” and “curses.” As usual, head coach Todd McLellan had something interesting to say about all the demon talk.

“You guys think we have demons,” McLellan responded. “They don’t exist in our world. We’ve had a lot of success as an organization and as a franchise. We can keep referring back to the Conference Finals in 2004, say that we had an eight-game losing streak. I think some of you wrote that. I don’t know what the hell 2004 has to do with 2011.

“I don’t think we have demons. We have a team that’s worked extremely hard to get to the Conference Finals. We’ve had a team that’s faced a lot of adversity, external adversity.

“The only people we answer to are ourselves in that locker room. We don’t answer to the media. We answer to our fans somewhat here at home. We owe them an effort. We owe them a commitment level second to none. But that’s it.”

Deep down, the Sharks’ biggest demons are the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks must find a way to beat the best team from the 2010-11 season three times in a row or they’ll open themselves up to another round of the same line of questions next year. Regardless of how well Joe Thornton and other often-criticized members of the team play, they probably won’t hear the end of those jabs unless they win a Stanley Cup.

That would be a devil of a challenge this time around.

Video: Hockey Central previews Sharks-Canucks Game 5

Sharks Oilers Hockey

This San Jose Sharks team has excelled in many ways that people rarely associate with their franchise. They avoided coughing up a 3-0 series lead against the Detroit Red Wings even if every game of the series was a nail-biter. The Sharks completed one of the best comebacks in playoff history against the Los Angeles Kings before gutting out a 4-2 series win. In a nutshell, this is a team Sharks fans should be proud of.

It’s quite possible that they met their match in the Vancouver Canucks, though. A lot of people want to say that the Sharks are choking, but that ignores the fact that the Canucks were far and away the best team in the NHL this season. Can you really choke if the other team is just better?

There are a few Sharks players who need to produce better results, though. Dany Heatley has been virtually invisible, a tough thing to stomach considering his $7.5 million annual salary cap hit. What might be more disturbing is the struggles of Joe Pavelski, who was a playoff hero in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are enjoying the benefits of the Sedin twins receiving some easier matchups than the previous two rounds. Henrik Sedin generated four assists in Game 4 while his brother Daniel had three of his own. That explosive performance placed Henrik alone atop the list of 2011 playoff scorers with 19 points.

Win or lose, we’ll find out something about these two teams in Game 5 (starting at 9 p.m. ET on Versus). Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones provide their takes on this contest in the Hockey Central preview below.

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