Some random thoughts and leftovers as the NHL playoffs are set to begin next week…
1 – I know the Sharks and coach Pete DeBoer have said they’d like home ice advantage for the first round - they kind of have to, don't they? - but at this point, I think they’re better off starting on the road. As we wrote here yesterday, this team is simply more resilient on the road than they are at SAP Center, for some odd reason that no one seems to be able to figure out. The one stat that really leaps off the page is their 9-8-2 record when allowing the first goal on the road, compared with 2-16-2 at home. Not to mention, the last time the Sharks had a Game 7 at home in the playoffs against the Kings in 2014, they got smoked.
2 – A common question lately seems to be is there any chance James Reimer will stay after this season? I still don’t see it. This is a guy that could get in the range of $5-6 million per season on the open market this summer as a number one. The only way I see Reimer in teal in the fall is if the Sharks traded Martin Jones in the offseason, but it makes zero sense to deal a young goalie that’s making just $3 million for the next two seasons and may be a future star.
3 – I know they’ve lost four in a row, but the Nashville Predators could be a real sleeper in the postseason and I think they’ll give the Ducks or Kings a good series. They have a strong penalty kill unit of late, a more balanced scoring attack since Ryan Johansen arrived, their defense leads the NHL in points, they’ve played most of their games in the tough Central Division, and their coach, Peter Laviolette, has won a Stanley Cup and took a seventh seed to the Final in 2010. I’ll be very, very tempted to pick them as a first round upset.
4 – That in mind, I’m not a huge Kings guy headed into the playoffs. Sure, they still have their core players together that have won two Stanley Cups, and Milan Lucic has replaced what they lost in Justin Williams (on the ice, anyway), but this team still isn’t nearly as deep at any of the three positions as their championship teams were. Keep in mind, too, that 11 of their 46 wins have come in overtime (leading the league), and they obviously don’t play three-on-three in the playoffs.
5 – Choosing the top three finishers for Sharks team MVP, which is selected by the local media, was challenging this season (ballots were due on March 31). Ultimately I went with Joe Thornton, but choosing between Jones, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic for the second and third spots took some real thought. I ended up putting Burns second and Jones third.
6 – Speaking of votes, the NHL’s Calder Trophy vote is going to be a real tough decision, too. I’m leaning towards Shayne Gostisbehere first, Artemi Panarin second and Connor McDavid third, but that could change. Speaking of Gostisbehere, an old Flyers source of mine told me a few months ago that they didn’t really want to call him up until around Christmas time. They were forced to recall him early due to injuries in mid-November. Assuming they hold on to their playoff spot, that sure worked out well.
7 – Count me among those who thought there was a little too much made over the goal song (and, yes, the organization probably could have handled it better), but fan reaction to the new song seems to be positive. Here’s the history behind it, courtesy a Sharks spokesman:
“’Get Ready For This’ was the song to which the Sharks would take the ice when SAP Center first opened (formerly San Jose Arena) until 2003 when it was replaced by ‘Seek and Destroy’ by Metallica. The history and tradition of ‘Get Ready For This’ with this organization was cited by many as a determining factor for voting for this song, especially with this being our 25th Anniversary season. ‘Get Ready For This’ was not a part of the original song selections in the voting process. It was added to the fan vote in round two after being submitted as a write-in vote by several fans.”
8 – Todd McLellan isn’t a very happy guy these days, what with his Edmonton Oilers likely headed for another 30th place finish. He went off on the team after a 5-0 loss to Calgary on Saturday, saying, among other things: “That's the exact attitude and bulls--t that we're trying to eliminate here. And we see it after 200 days. Disappointing…”
The Edmonton Sun suggests some big changes could be coming this summer to the Oilers. McLellan's job, though, is definitely not in jeopardy.
9 – One huge benefit of Vlasic missing the past three weeks is that it’s given rookie Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a regular basis again. If the Sharks manage to win a round or two this postseason, they’ll undoubtedly need DeMelo at some point. I wonder if he could even be an option to get in anyway against a speedier team like Chicago or Dallas if the Sharks manage to advance that far. He’s been a minus player just three times in his last 18 games.
10 – Finally, in case you missed it, the Montreal Canadiens have recalled former Sharks forward and All-Star game MVP John Scott, and he’s expected to play on Tuesday. "It was a shock, but I’m super grateful to be here. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to play for the Canadiens,” Scott told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu.
Scott was traded to the Canadiens in January and promptly sent to their AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.