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Fireside Chats: Randy Hahn breaks down the Colorado series

Randy Hahn is the current play by play announcer for the San Jose Sharks on CSN-California. He has held that position for seventeen seasons, and along with partner Drew Remenda, has won four Northern California Emmy Awards in the “On Camera Sports” category.

Mr. Hahn was kind enough to talk with Plank about the upcoming playoff series with Colorado and what he feels are the keys to the series for San Jose. You can read more his thoughts on the playoffs at The Seagate Broadcaster’s Blog, as well as joining him and Drew during the entire first round on CSN-CA.

Fear The Fin would like to thank Randy Hahn and Comcast for making this interview happen.

San Jose has had some tough first round matchups the last two postseasons with Calgary and Anaheim. How does a series with Colorado compare?

The big trap that we, the collective Shark nation, can fall into here is to exhale and say, “Oh thank god we don’t have to play Detroit.” Colorado has proven all year long that they are a legitimate team, a legitimate contender, and are tough to beat. I think that it’s going to be a very difficult series. What they lack in experience they will make up for in youthful exuberance, and I think they will be a real tough opponent.

You look at the Sharks, and essentially they have all the pressure on their shoulders. Like you talked about, Colorado is coming in with that youthful exuberance, they weren’t predicted to be here. Do you think that plays a role in the first round or will San Jose come out chomping at the bit following the loss to Anaheim last season?

Well they better. I think that everybody who was in that dressing room last year that is still around ought to have that on their minds the next couple of days, and use that as motivation to get ready for game one. Losing those first two home games to the Ducks last year basically spelled the end of the series. The Sharks worked all year long to get home ice advantage and in two nights it was gone. Really in one it was gone, but in two, you know, the series was done and they never recovered from that.

Get ready for game one and get ready to win it, flex your first-place home-ice advantage muscle against a less experienced team, but also don’t fall into the trap of not respecting them. I think if the Sharks do that then they’ll be okay. If they fall into the trap of thinking that they got off lightly they’re going to be in trouble.

Colorado has a lot of quick forwards, a lot of team speed. In what ways do you think the Sharks can nullify those assets, because it seemed San Jose struggled containing that during the season.

I think the Sharks have to use their skill and have to play fast too. Everybody in the NHL plays fast now. It remains to be seen whether or not Matt Duchene is going to be ready for game one, whether or not Peter Mueller is going to be ready for game one, but beyond that they still bring a lot of speed to their lineup.

The Sharks have speed too with Marleau on the top line, and other players who bring that asset as well– Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell are good skaters, Dan Boyle is one of the best on the team. Maybe if you go pound for pound Colorado has a little more team speed, but I think the Sharks skill can overcome that.

Speaking of Mueller– do you think Rob Blake’s hit on him brings another layer of intrigue to the series, or is that something the players may not pay that much attention to?

I’m not sure the players will pay that much attention to it, but as a broadcaster we sure will. Same goes for the fans, especially if Mueller doesn’t play. Here you have the fans in Colorado used to cheering for Rob Blake when he won a Stanley Cup there, and then after that hit they were on him. If Mueller’s out they will be all over Rob Blake in games three and four.

You know what though, I find in these playoff series the issues come from the actual games from within the series themselves. More so than what carries over from the regular season. Because game one is in San Jose, Sharks fans probably aren’t thinking about whether or Mueller is going to play as far as an emotional standpoint is concerned. By the time you get to game three in Denver so much has already happened in the first two games in the series.

New storylines have begun to present themselves…

Yeah, I can’t imagine Rob Blake is going to be a focal point anymore unless he’s been a huge offensive threat for the Sharks. By the time we get to Sunday I doubt that hit will be that big of a deal anymore.

Who’s a player on Colorado, outside of Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk, that you look at and say, “You know, this guy could be a game changer.” Someone that may not be on the radar of Sharks fans.

I think Chris Stewart is fantastic, Mueller was obviously making a big impact until he got hit. Another guy who flies under the radar for them is T.J. Galiardi. One more young player who has received an opportunity to make a statement and he has done that from time to time throughout the season. I would have to say Stewart is definitely the guy outside of Stastny and Duchene.

If I remember correctly Galiardi is one of the leaders on the team in terms of points per sixty minutes played [Ed. Note: Galiardi is third behind Stewart and Stastny].

Yeah, and again, league-wide he certainly flies under the radar. It was kind of weird how the schedule worked this year, playing them twice in October and then not again until twice in March. You kind of lose track of them except what you read and see on TV. I’ll throw one other name in there because I think he is a guy to really watch, and that’s Brandon Yipp. He only played thirty two games but he has nineteen points, eleven goals, and is a really dynamic hockey player the Sharks are going to have to deal with.

In past postseasons the Sharks have lacked a player like Scott Nichol who is going to go into the corners, serve that agitator role. What does he bring to the Sharks in the playoffs and what has he taught the locker room during the regular season?

Nichol is leading that group of guys who make up the Sharks energy players. He is going to be a great role model for the younger players to watch, guys like Couture, Mitchell, Setoguchi, Vlasic. It is a great learning tool for players of that ilk to watch the energy he brings and how he prepares himself for the playoffs. This is a guy, if you look at his background, who had to fight and scrap to get to the NHL, and then again to stick around. When you are Scott Nichol and you get the opportunity to be in the Stanley Cup playoffs you cherish it. From that standpoint I think he will be a great role model going into these big games.

The other thing that he does is get under the skin of the other team, which is something that is instrumental in the playoffs. You have to go after people and do it in a way where you get them off their game without taking penalties. The third thing is, those players such as Nichol and Ortmeyer are going to need to score. I’m not saying the Sharks are going to rely on them all the time, but they will need to contribute offensively if they are going to play. Looking back on the history of any playoff team that has gone deep, those guys on those lines contribute offensively and get goals for you. An example would be, even though they lost on Sunday, Jody Shelley who down the stretch got some goals when they were fighting to get into the playoffs. That same thing needs to happen for the Sharks.

It was nice to see some ex-Sharks get in on the action during the final day– Shelley, Carle, Boucher, Stuart with the shootout winner.

One more benefit from the Joe Thornton trade right?

(laughs) There you go, that’s a good way to look at it. How impressed have you been with the young players who have made an impact this year? Do you think they manage to contribute on the scoresheet?

Again, you’re talking about young guys stepping into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in their lives. And that’s always a challenge. On the same token, that is something Colorado will really have to deal with as well. Are those guys just happy they got to the playoffs, or are they going to make some noise and commit to playoff hockey? All this remains to be seen, people handle pressure in different ways. We’ll see if Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn, using those two as an example, are ready to step up and contribute at the NHL Playoff level. Logan has only had one year of American League and Jamie has had a little more experience.

What I do like however is that when Couture came up this time he looked like he was never going to go back. The other times he came up you saw him for a few games, and he made some contributions here and there, but you could tell he wasn’t quite ready and he needed to go back to Worcester for some more development. Now he’s making a difference. Scoring big goals, not afraid to go to the net.

The other great thing about it is that as soon as he got here, Jamie McGinn got going. I really do think those things are connected. Jamie was kind of stagnant when he came up this last time– sort of just here, not making a real impact. And if you look at when he started to get going it was when Logan came here. They aren’t always on the same line, but I think the fact that their energy fed off each other due to the time they spent together in Worcester. Those two are going to be really important. We need them to be.

Going back to what I was saying before, those guys have to contribute. If they’re here, they have to score. They have to make a contribution offensively. They just have to. That’s what they do.

We spoke with McGinn earlier in the year and he mentioned some of the things you were saying, that playing with Couture in Ottawa with the 67’s and then in Worcester established some chemistry. They clicked with one another.

I think it helps with their confidence. As young players, to be able to go into this adventure together allows them to look across the room and see a guy who they have been through some things with before. That’s a good thing. When you add up these intangibles they all matter in the playoffs. I’m real excited to see how these kids do. Couture left us with the final regular season moment last night with that winning shootout goal. That was a special play. Not everybody in this league makes that play, knowing that you have a chance to win the Conference with that goal. And it turns out we did.

What do you think is the Sharks biggest weakness? Their greatest strength?

The biggest weakness is probably the obvious one, and that is playoff baggage. The best way to shed that is to go out and start well. If you establish yourself as a top team in game one, that baggage will slowly start to fall to the wayside. If you do that again in game two and go to Denver with a 2-0 lead in the series all of a sudden no one is talking about your baggage so much anymore. That past mental baggage is probably the big thing that they carry as a group, although there are enough guys who weren’t here last year that may not have that same tag on them. Even still, as a team they still carry that around.

Their biggest advantage is the fact that they have played reasonably well for the whole year, good enough to win the West. The Sharks have gotten solid play down the middle, and some players are beginning to come on as of late. Torrey Mitchell is one of those guys. You look at the defense and Boyle has been good all year, but you can tell Rob Blake really wanted to make sure he was ready for this part of the season. He’s been playing the best hockey of the year right now.

Post-Olympics he has really turned it on.

The nice thing about that is it puts Douglas Murray in a three/four role, and with Vlasic back as a two after Boyle, it balances the defense much better. When Vlasic was out you saw Murray forced to play outside of his envelope on some nights. I’m not saying he was overmatched, because he has gotten better and better every year and will continue to do so, but sometimes I thought he had to handle a little too much.

Now with Vlasic back, who has played really well again, you stack up with Boyle, Vlasic, Blake, Murray as your top four. That’s pretty solid. In goal Nabby has always been behind Brodeur, and I don’t know why anybody hasn’t been talking about him for Vezina. Maybe because they think the Olympics has something to do with voting for the Vezina, which it doesn’t. He has been one of the best goalies all year.

If your top three or four defenseman are solid and you get the goaltending, you are going to contend. Then the only thing that separates you from the rest of the pack is your character, and your scoring depth. Going back to what we were saying about those lines outside of the top two, they have to contribute in the playoffs or you won’t be going very far.

Both Todd McLellan and Joe Sacco are young coaches in the NHL. Do you think last year’s experience against the Anaheim Ducks allowed McLellan to get a feel for a playoff type atmosphere as a head coach? For example he broke up the top line after game one and then went back to them in game three– will we see HTML all the way through or is there still some flexibility there?

I think going into game one McLellan is going to go with Marleau, Heatley, and Thornton because that is what he’s been playing down the stretch. That’s his top line and he wants to establish them as a top playoff line. Even though it is only his second year as a NHL head coach he was an assistant with Detroit when they won the Stanley Cup, and a head coach in the American League when they won the Calder Cup.

McLellan is a winner who has won at the pro level before. He has a Stanley Cup ring. He definitely knows what he is doing. Every situation dictates the action, and he’s not rigid — we’ve seen it all year that he is more than willing to tinker. When the team was going through that post-Olympic funk he had all three of them on different lines trying to break out of that losing streak. He did everything he could to try and get them going, and he succeeded in that. Heatley’s pass to Thornton against Vancouver was a pretty play where that line clicked again.

He also has a great staff of people with him. These guys will do whatever it takes to create the right matchups against Colorado, and I know that Todd learns from every failure, as well as every success, to make himself better. He’s just that kind of a coach.

To wrap this up, do you think the altitude at the Pepsi Center will play a factor as it has in previous sporting events? In your years covering the team has this ever been an issue for the players?

I think if you start introducing that argument as a team you’re setting up excuses. There’s no excuses. You’re the number one team in the West, the best team through the regular season in your Conference for the second year in a row. It’s a salary capped team, elite players on your top line, blueline, between the pipes. If you’re starting to talk about the altitude you’re building in excuses. And there’s no room for that.

Your series prediction, and who will score the game winner.

I believe the Sharks will win it in five. The game winning goal will be scored by Douglas Murray.


Go Sharks.

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