I apologize for the horrid Burt Reynolds 80’s movie reference, but this post-season the San Jose Sharks have been playing like machines. In fact, it must be a Nor-Cal day for here in Michigan, talking about San Jose, listening to San Francisco Metal pioneers Death Angel, while wearing my Joe Pavelski T-shirt. But, it is good to celebrate, as the Sharks have been playoff disappointments for years, but this San Jose club is finally skating for Lord Stanley’s Cup, where the talent is spread.
Let’s start with the Great Whites of the Sharks, and break it down according to the stats. Logan Couture is the NHL’s leader in playoff points with a slash line of 8G/16A/24P and a plus/minus +5 thus far. If you remember, Logan missed a great portion of the regular season, losing 56 games recovering from surgery. So, the good news is the Center is just hitting mid-season stride and playing like it. Averaging an even 19 minutes per game, Couture has added four power play goals and two game winners this playoff cycle. Best of all, while most of the Sharks studs are over 30 years old, he is just 26.
Captain Joe Pavelski is second in playoff scoring with 13G/9A/22P to go with a plus/minus +5. The Center has five goals on the man advantage along with four game winners, and if he keeps this pace up, Pavelski will be inducted into the real Hall of Fame sooner rather than later, the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in Troy, Michigan. “Lil’ Joe”, as he’s ironically called (5’11”, 190 lbs.) in the Bay Area, has been on a roll ever since management slapped the “C” on his chest.
Brent Burns, the converted Wookie, can play both defense and forward and has never met a shot he didn’t like. Burns is at an even 20 points this post-season with six goals and 14 helpers and a plus/minus +8. Burns leads all players in ice-time this post-season, averaging over 25 minutes per game. Four of his six goals have come on that deadly Sharks power play that’s humming along at a solid 27% thus far.
It has been 1368 days since Joe Thornton was traded from the Boston Bruins to the Sharks, and the Center has finally done what was expected. If Pavelski et al are the Great Whites, then Thornton and his ilk are the Tigers. Thornton does have the supporting cast in place, and even though he is not the Captain anymore, he is their leader. Thornton led the Sharks in regular season scoring and is currently fourth in playoff scoring with 18 points (3G/15A) with a plus/minus +6 right now. After losing a 3-0 lead to the L.A. Kings last year, Thornton has been playing all season like each game was the playoffs.
Another former Captain, Patrick Marleau is in this category as well, and he is the other elder statesman in the locker room. Marleau is fifth in scoring right now with a 4G/8A/12P slash line, while skating at a plus/minus +2. Marleau and Thornton have been stripped of the Captaincy before and are now Alternates, but no matter what letter is on their chests, they are the leaders of the San Jose Sharks.
Finishing the troika of Tigers is Joel Ward, acquired by San Jose when Washington signed Justin Williams in the off-season. The signing made Ward expendable, and San Jose should send the Caps management a thank you card because he has been clutch so far. With his six goals and five assists, Ward does the dirty work in the corners and in front of the net with the best of them.
The Bull Sharks in San Jose, who have thrown in excellent secondary scoring, has helped this facet of the game that is so imperative to playoff success. Marc-Edward Vlasic has contributed all along, but he really picked it up in the Conference Finals versus the St. Louis Blues. “Pickles” as he’s so eloquently called, added one goal with ten assists and plus/minus +9. The defenseman is averaging close to 24 minutes per game, good for second-best on the Sharks.
Tomas Hertl, in his second NHL season, is one of the luckiest players on Earth to get to skate nightly with Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton. Hertl has quick hands and is a very accurate shot, adding an even 10 points over the post-season. He has five goals and five assists along with an excellent plus/minus +9 too, and added one power play goal and one game winner.
Jonas Donskoi is another dynamic young skater for San Jose who should be a main cog in the team’s future success. Donskoi has five goals and four assists and also added one game winning goal, which San Jose seems to spread out evenly amongst their players like candy.
On Thursday evening, we saw that Pittsburgh will be the opponent for the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals starting Monday night at 8 PM ET. San Jose and Pittsburgh split the two games during the regular season with the Sharks, winning in the Steel City 3-1 and then getting walloped at home 5-1 a few weeks later. The Penguins are the home team in the Final, but at this point with these two teams, it may not matter.
Enjoy the Stanley Cup Finals, and enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend as well. Just remember to say thanks to a Veteran if you can, and thank all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.