Friday, September 9, 2016

Retro ReCAP, Round 2 - 2015-2016 San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks just completed a historic season of hockey, making it farther in the playoffs than they ever had before. Tiger watched every minute of the 82 regular season games and every second of the 24 playoff games. Taking time to reminisce about the amazing journey, Tiger and Rabbit highlight their favorite moments and reCAP the 2015-2016 season of the San Jose Sharks.


Tiger: You better buckle up, Rabbit, this is going to be a long one.

Rabbit: ^opens a grocery bag^ I already brought snacks and drinks. Plus, I ordered a pizza, pepperoni and black olives, baby!

Tiger: I thought rabbits were supposed to be herbivores?

Rabbit: But it’s pizza, you have to have pepperoni on pizza.

Tiger: You know what, it doesn’t matter. We have a lot of things to talk about and we shouldn’t waste time on your eating habits again.

Rabbit: Alright, alright. Well, what a run the San Jose Sharks had last season.

Tiger: It was amazing.

Rabbit: I saw you cry, I saw you cry three times.

Tiger: It was a very emotional experience.

Rabbit: The 2015-2016 season was the Sharks 25th anniversary and it turned out to be the most memorable season in the history of the team.

Tiger: Before we discuss all the amazing and some not so amazing events that took place this season, we have to frame the story by mentioning the seasons before.

Rabbit: It was a tough couple of seasons, wasn’t it?

Tiger: Tough is an understatement.

Rabbit: First, it was LA in 2013-2014.

Tiger: Effing LA.

Rabbit: Not still sore over that, I see. Anyway, in the first round of the playoffs against the Kings, the Sharks led the best of seven series with three wins and zero losses. LA stormed back and ended up winning four games in a row to eliminate the Sharks from the playoffs.

Tiger: The loss brought changes to the team and soon the 2014-2015 playoffs rolled around. This time, the Sharks didn’t even qualify and watched the entire thing from their couches. This was the first time they missed the playoffs, reaching the postseason the previous nine years straight.

Rabbit: The Sharks would be up for one of the biggest shakeups they had ever seen after two devastating seasons. Longtime coach Tod McLellan, who had worn teal since 2008, was let go.

Tiger: Peter DeBoer was hired as the eighth head coach in franchise history and a new era in Sharks Territory was about to begin.

Rabbit: Previously, DeBoer had coached the New Jersey Devils and the Florida Panthers. Interestingly enough, he was also a finalist for the Sharks head coaching position back in 2008 but lost it to McLellan.

Tiger: At the time, DeBoer had little experience as a coach in the NHL, but in 2015 he proved that he had what it took to manage and guide a big league team.

Rabbit: So PDB was kind of an unknown to us when he was first hired.

Tiger: Being a coach in the Eastern Conference, we didn’t see his teams very often. To be honest, his Panthers team wasn’t that skilled and though he did make the Stanley Cup Final with NJ, he never had the firepower the Sharks possessed. We really weren’t sure what he would do with the team.

Rabbit: We’d soon learn just how impressive his coaching skills were but before we could do that, there were a couple of holes to fill in the Sharks roster.

Tiger: We’ve already talked about the free agent signings of Joel Ward and Paul Martin in a previous round. These two players would be key in the successful playoff run the Sharks would eventually construct. We’ll be discussing Wardo in a bit but I want to bring up the amazingly steady play of Paul Martin.

Rabbit: Yes, often paired with the affable Brent Burns, Martin had his hands full.

Tiger: Burns is a gifted defenseman but tends to be unpredictable in a both good and bad ways.

Rabbit: Suddenly charging into the offensive zone with the puck and powering his way to the net is something that you don’t see a lot of defensemen do but with Burnzie, he’s a highlight reel maker.

Tiger: He can also be so focused on the offensive aspect of the game that he leaves his partner high and dry during odd-man rushes. Luckily, Martin is a very skilled and often unnoticeable player.

Rabbit: Which is a great compliment because usually when you notice defensemen, it’s because they made a bad play.

Tiger: Martin is truly the yin to Burns’ yang. The tandem is amazing, Martin allows Burns to play his chaotic style of game and also seems to calm him down in the D-zone. Slotting Martin with Burns also allowed the other defensemen to really play to their strengths as well.

Rabbit: Those weren’t the only moves General Manager Doug Wilson made in the 2015 offseason.

Tiger: You could say one of the biggest trades in San Jose history happened on June 30th when the Sharks sent their 2016 1st round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly to Boston for goaltender Martin Jones. Jones had only been traded to Boston from LA a few days prior and now found himself back in California, abet on the right side this time.

Rabbit: Oh, I remember you screaming at your phone when this news broke.

Tiger: Freaking LA. But he’s not one of them now, suckers! He’s wearing a real color now, Team Teal!

Rabbit: Jones was a phenom in his brief stint as relief for LA’s Jonathan Quick and also had an exemplary record at the 2015 World Championships for Canada. Other than that, his resume was short and he had never held a starting goalie position in the NHL before.

Tiger: Like DeBoer, Jones was a variable that we just didn’t know how he’d play out. Now, I actually expected him to play well in the beginning of the year but as the grind went deeper into the season, I was unsure how he’d handle the workload.

Rabbit: Luckily, Jones did a stellar job since the Sharks backup goalie, Alex Stalock, had an atrocious season that resulted in him being traded.

Tiger: Jones would soon prove himself as the dominate goalie the Sharks have always yearned for since Evgeni Nabokov left the team. Jones set a new franchise shutout record in October 2015, going an amazing 234:33 without allowing a single goal.

Rabbit: Jones would also hold an impressive shutout streak of 156 minutes in the playoffs against the St. Louis Blues.

Tiger: An absolutely phenomenal season by Martin Jones. We weren’t exactly sure what we were getting with him but he’s proven himself again and again. Everyone in San Jose absolutely loves him. I mean, I haven’t heard a goalie chant since the old days of “Nabby! Nabby! Nabby!” Now, you can hear the crowd at SAP Center cheer, “Jonesy! Jonesy! Jonesy!” when he makes a great save, and he makes those quite often.

Rabbit: There was one final change that occurred before the 2015-2016 got underway and that was the issue of who wore the ‘C’ for Team Teal.

Tiger: The previous season, the Sharks did not have a captain and instead had four alternates.

Rabbit: Once Peter DeBoer took the reins, he declared that SJS would have a captain again. On October 5th, 2015 that captain was named and his name was Captain America.

Tiger: Joe Pavelski was named the 9th captain of the Sharks. Logan Couture and Joe Thornton were named the alternates for the team.

Rabbit: Pavelski was drafted by the Sharks in the 7th round of the 2003 NHL Draft. That’s 205th overall! He is the second most prolific scorer in the last four seasons, only behind Alex Ovechkin who was drafted 1st in 2004! Weighing in at an underwhelming five-foot-eleven and 190-pounds, Pavelski is definitely not the biggest out there which just showcases how much skill he has as a pure goal scorer.

Tiger: He has to be one of the premier puck deflectors in the National Hockey League too. Always giving his all and playing a complete two-way game, Joe Pavelski has truly earned his title as Captain America.

Rabbit: If that doesn’t sell you on this extremely underrated player, Pavelski had 38 regular season goals and 14 tallies in the playoffs. He also has an Olympic silver medal to his name too. Truly one of the greatest players to don teal.
Tiger: With a new coach, a new goalie, and a new captain; the San Jose Sharks were set to commence the 2015-2016 season against their bitter, bitter, most hated rivals.

Rabbit: There were so many curse words flying at our house on October 7th, 2015 as the Sharks opened their season in LA against the Kings. It was Martin Jones’ first game as the starting goalie and his first against his old team. Team Teal started off shaky, allowing a goal in the first two minutes of the game but once they settled the nerves, it was all Sharks.

Tiger: Jumbo started off with a one-on-one goal in the first followed by a powerplay goal from Pavelski.

Rabbit: In the second period, it was Burns lighting the lamp then Hertl following suit on the powerplay. Captain America himself capped off the night with his second goal in the third period, leading to a final score of 5-1 for SJS.

Tiger: The Sharks were out to a 3-0-0 start and looked like a team reborn but adversity would soon strike. On October 16th, 2015 during practice, Couture fractured his right fibula and would require surgery, forcing him to miss most of the 2015 schedule. Couture eventually returned late in the year but would only play two games. During his second game against the Edmonton Oilers, he suffered a more severe injury.

Rabbit: Couture left the game against Edmonton with what he assumed was a severe Charley horse but once on the team plane, he knew something was very wrong. Couture suffered from bleeding in his thigh and required another surgery to repair the tear. Couture would not return to the ice until January 2nd, 2016.

Tiger: If you haven’t seen the Sharks play, Couture is just as vital to the team as Pavelski. A determined player both in the offensive and defensive zones, Cooch is also called Clutchure for his ability to produce a goal when the team needs it the most. His loss meant that other players had to fill the hole in the roster, causing the team to look unbalanced at times.

Rabbit: The end of 2015 was shaky for the Sharks as they alternated wins and losses, never really recapturing the momentum from the beginning of the season. There were bright spots for the team as players like Joel Ward stepped up big time to fill the void left by Couture. One of those times was on October 24th against the Carolina Hurricanes. Wardo scored two goals in the first period, allowing the Sharks to control the game. With 57 seconds left in the 3rd period, Ward scored the empty netter to complete the second hat trick of his career and first in the only jersey he should ever wear.

Tiger: One of the biggest tests the Sharks faced was in November when they went on a six game road trip. Now, the Sharks notoriously have a terrible road schedule with grueling travel demands. The previous road trip saw the Sharks split 2-2-0, not a stellar result at all. They were falling in the standings and knew they needed to string some wins together. It would be no easy task.

Rabbit: The six games across ten-days road trip began against Detroit. The Sharks eked out a 3-2 win before flying to Buffalo to play the next day. The Sharks had not won a game in Buffalo since Joe Thornton’s first game as a Shark way back in 2005. It was looking as if Team Teal wasn’t going to win this time as they reached the end of regulation with a 1-1 tie. Mister Shark himself, Patrick Marleau, scored the overtime winning goal, making the Sharks 2-0-0 on the trip so far.

Tiger: Next was Boston and the Sharks found themselves on the right side of a high scoring affair, winning 5-4. They tightened up their play in Philadelphia and squeaked by with a 1-0 overtime win, earning Martin Jones another shutout.

Rabbit: November 21st, 2015 would turn out to be a special night as the Sharks faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Brent Burns’ scored the first goal of the game and Patrick Marleau made an assist. This would be Patty’s 1000th point in the NHL, all with the San Jose Sharks. It was also special because Pittsburgh was the city which hosted the 1997 NHL Draft where the Sharks took Marleau 2nd overall. If you look at the record book for the San Jose Sharks, you’ll likely see Marleau’s name show up a lot. He’s played a total of 1,411 all in teal. He’s currently the all-time leader in goals with 481, all-time leader in even strength goals with 311, and all-time leader in power play goals with 153. He also has the record for points with 1,036, shots with 3,608, games played with 1,411, and most 30+ goal seasons with 7.

Tiger: There’s speculation that we may have seen the last of Marleau in teal whether he retires or asks for a trade but no matter what happens, Marleau will always be seen as one of the most influential members of SJS.

Rabbit: Getting back on track with the road trip, the Sharks were 5-0-0 with their last game in Columbus. It was a wild west type of game with the Blue Jackets leading 3-1 in the third but the Sharks charged back with three goals in a little over seven minutes. Joe Pavelski sealed the deal with an empty net goal in the dying seconds of the game to win it 5-3. This completed the perfect 6-0 road trip, the first ever done by the Sharks. Pavelski had seven points over the course of the road trip and Patrick Marleau would also tally three more points to add to his impressive milestone. Martin Jones cannot be overlooked with his spectacular 5-0-0 record and a 1.56 goals against average coupled with a .950 save percentage. Those numbers are so amazing that he practically shined like the sun when he played.

Tiger: It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, as the Sharks were just 18-18-2 when 2016 rolled around. January 9th would prove to be a turning point for the team when the Toronto Maple Leafs arrived in town. It was a rare afternoon match and the game was broadcasted on Hockey Night in Canada, making it a game that many in the hockey world would see.

Rabbit: The first period saw both goalies tested but neither allowed a goal. It wasn’t until the second period when hulking Brent Burns was able to find the back of the net with a highlight reel goal. Seriously, check out the video which is linked above.

Tiger: This would spark an offensive onslaught as Matt Nieto from Long Beach, California tallied a shorthanded goal which was followed by goals from Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl. The Sharks didn’t let up in the third period and received goals from Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi, and another from Hertl. The Sharks emphatically put down the Leafs 7-0 and ignited their game, going 8-0-2 in the next ten games. This game also started Joe Thornton’s point streak which would see him score the most points in the entire NHL from this point until the end of the season.

Rabbit: Jumbo Joe racked up so many points during this time that on January 26th against the Colorado Avalanche, he achieved his 1,300th point. Only 33 players in the history of the league have reached that total. Jumbo got his 1,300th in stereotypical fashion with a beautiful cross-crease feed to Joe Pavelski, who buried it.

Tiger: So I may have mentioned a name you might not be familiar with, Joonas Donskoi. Originally drafted by the Panthers in 2010, Donskoi played in the Finnish Elite League before signing with the Sharks. He tallied his first NHL goal in his first NHL game against the LA Kings during the Sharks opener. At 24 years of age, Donskoi was older and more experienced than other NHL rookies but he still surprised many when he took to the ice. The injury to Logan Couture allowed Donskoi to take on a more demanding role and he did not disappoint. He’s not an overly large or fast player but his skill with the puck has garnered him an impressive highlight reel.

Rabbit: Seriously, if you only click on one link, clink on this one, the goals are ridiculous.

Tiger: In his first season in the NHL, Donskoi scored 11 goals and 25 points with 6 goals in the playoffs including the Game 3 overtime winner of the SCF. The future of the San Jose Sharks is a bright one with Donskoi in the lineup.

Rabbit: We’ve already discussed Logan Couture’s series of injuries. When he finally came back in January, Cooch wasn’t the same player as he was before. It took him a long time to not only get back to speed but also find his scoring touch. He definitely had the touch on March 29th in Vancouver though. Couture had played a total of 426 games up to this point but had never scored a hattie. With the game tied 1-1, Couture would score three uninterrupted goals, giving him his first hat trick. Couture was on fire from here on out and was clutch in the playoffs with 30 points, which lead the league. Couture also scored three points in every series clinching game the Sharks had in the playoffs and contributed three more points to stave off elimination in Game 5 of the SCF. Couture would be one of the best players in the playoffs not only for the Sharks but NHL wide which was an amazing feat considering the injuries and adversity he suffered through in the early portion of the season.

Tiger: OMG, we’ve covered so much and we haven’t even talked about the playoffs yet.

Rabbit: Well, the pizza is here so maybe we should take a break, give our Qgers and Qbbits a breather too.

Tiger: You’ve got to be kidding me. Really?

Rabbit: I’m serious, I’m super hungry too.

Tiger: *sighs* Fine, we can take a short break

[an hour later]

Tiger: Now can we talk playoffs?

Rabbit: ^yawns^ That was so yummy! I’m sleepy now.

Tiger: Nope, nope, you don’t get to do this to me. We’re finishing this.

Rabbit: Hai, hai.
Tiger: The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs began with a familiar foe in the first round, the fu-

Rabbit: Fuzzy! Those very fuzzy LA Kings. Yes, it was a rematch in the first round as the Sharks had a lot to prove while everyone was questioning whether they would repeat 2014’s results.

Tiger: The Sharks took a commanding 2-0 before dropping the third game in overtime to LA. Again, the media and fans were buzzing with the nightmares of 2014. The Sharks, however, were a different team and came back to win Game 4. Game 5 started with the Sharks taking a 3-0 lead but the Kings came back to tie it. Going into the third, SJ responded with another three goals, winning the game and eliminating the LA Kings from the playoffs. Yeah, baby! That’s how you do it!

Rabbit: It was a battle with Music City as the Sharks faced the Nashville Predators in the second round. The Sharks won their first two games at home but Nashville matched them by taking the two games in Tennessee.

Tiger: Again, it was home ice advantage as the Sharks won Game 5 but lost Game 6 on the road. Would the Sharks be able to hold serve at home? That was resoundly answered when the Sharks shut down the Predators, winning Game 7 by a 5-0 margin. It was also Martin Jones first playoff shutout. The Sharks were going to the Western Conference Final.

Rabbit: For the fourth time in franchise history, the Sharks made it to the third round of the Stanly Cup Playoffs, this time facing off against the St. Louis Blues. It was a tight series with St. Louis winning the first game and the Sharks shutting out the Blues in the second.

Tiger: The next two games were also split, leaving the series tied at two games apiece. The Sharks were losing the game late in the second period of Game 5 until Captain America tied it up and then gave the Sharks the early lead. SJ would not yield another goal and were now one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.

Rabbit: Game 6 was back in San Jose and the Tank was rocking. The Sharks blazed out of the starting gate with a 4-0 and would win the game with a final score of 5-2. The Sharks had eliminated the St. Louis Blues and reached the first-ever SCF!

Tiger: The Sharks would face the Pittsburgh Penguins to see who would raise Lord Stanley’s Cup. The first two games in Pittsburgh were losses for the Sharks. The first SCF game in San Jose was nuts and it felt like the city was going to be set ablaze by the sheer passion. The Sharks would win Game 3 at home but lost the following. It was a scrappy affair on the road as the Sharks battled to earn the ‘W’ and bring one more Stanley Cup Final game back to San Jose. The Sharks would end up losing this game and thus lost the series 4-2 to the Penguins. While it wasn’t the result we wanted, it was an experience that no one was expecting.

Rabbit: I remember hoping that they’d just make it to the playoffs, I never thought about them playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Looking back at this whirlwind of a season, what are some of your thoughts?

Tiger: For me, the number one thing is how the team really pulled together and played as a unit. The previous season, there were so many times that you saw individuals put in individual efforts and it often didn’t feel like there was a team on the ice. It reminded me of seeing some of the Olympic teams play because those teams don’t have a lot of practice and rely pretty much on star power. This Sharks team; everyone knew their role, accepted it, and played it to the best of their abilities. Got to give DeBoer a lot of credit for righting the ship so quickly.

Rabbit: I also think infusing the new blood was really key. Players like Jones, Ward, Martin, Donskoi, and some of the young players that played in relief like DeMelo were great. We didn’t mention Karlsson or Tierney but they were young guns the previous season and came back with renewed confidence and really contributed to the team down the stretch. A healthy Hertl and better D-pairings were really important too. I know it wasn’t the end result that we had hoped for but you cannot take away anything from this team and the season they played.

Tiger: I’m actually really happy how things turned out. Yeah, they didn’t win the Cup but no one expected them to make it that far. Heck, when January rolled around, I thought we were out of the playoffs entirely. It reminded me of the horrible February in 2015 that killed the Sharks chances to advance to the post-season.

Rabbit: We didn’t mention Joe Thornton too much, there were a lot of players who had amazing years and we just couldn’t mention them all, but Jumbo’s season was a special sort of special.

Tiger: We witnessed probably the greatest season of a future hall of fame player. I can literally say Thornton played some of the best hockey I have ever seen from anyone in the 17 or so years I’ve been watching the sport. I mean, there were some Ray Bourque vibes going on with a lot of fans calling to “win it for Joe.” Now, Joe Thornton is not retiring next season but he is up there in age and I’d love to see him win it all, definitely well deserved. But he is one of the greatest players to ever play the sport. The records he holds and how he keeps smashing his way up those point total ladders; it’s just insane to watch.

Rabbit: Yes, the people he is passing on those lists are already legendary which makes him even more so since he’s still playing. I hope the Sharks can get it done for him before he retires, I really do.

Tiger: Seeing Jeremy Roenick have to eat his words was awesome too. But we’re getting a little off track, I think we should go ahead and wrap this up before we end up talking for another hour.

Rabbit: All in all, this was the best season we’ve ever seen the Sharks play.

Tiger: I totally agree with you there; my only regret is we couldn’t be there in person to witness it. But it makes me excited for the future, not just the upcoming season but the seasons to come. Is it October yet?

2015-2016 San Jose Sharks ReCAP

 photo DownTiger25_zps42nel8ye.png Couture’s injuries
 photo DownTiger25_zps42nel8ye.png Not being able to see the Sharks play live
 photo DownTiger25_zps42nel8ye.png Losing a game to the freaking LA Kings

 photo DownRabbit25_zps7npsaebb.png Early injury troubles
 photo DownRabbit25_zps7npsaebb.png November/December losing streaks 2015
 photo DownRabbit25_zps7npsaebb.png Losing Hertl in the SCF

 photo UpTiger25_zps6afvcd0b.png Martin Jones phenomenal play all season long
 photo UpTiger25_zps6afvcd0b.png Beating LA in the first round
 photo UpTiger25_zps6afvcd0b.png Couture’s return and his clutch scoring in the playoffs

 photo UpRabbit25_zpsjb4ofq1q.png Joe Thornton’s 1300th point
 photo UpRabbit25_zpsjb4ofq1q.png Donskoi’s highlight reel goals
 photo UpRabbit25_zpsjb4ofq1q.png San Jose hosting its first SCF game

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