The words “road trip” conjures up many interesting thoughts.
There’s the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” line. And who could forget what happened after the words “road trip” were used in the movie, “Animal House,” the classic 1970s movie starring the late John Belushi?
Tomorrow night, the San Jose Sharks will complete their seven-game road trip, the longest of the 2010-11 season, in Nashville. When the plane lands in San Jose late tomorrow night, the Sharks would’ve been gone for 13 days, played in three different time zones, visited seven cities and traveled 7,132 miles across the continental United States.
Despite what happens tomorrow night in Nashville, the Sharks are guaranteed a winning record. They’ve won the first four games, but have lost the last two.
When reviewing road trips of five or more games, San Jose has posted winning records six times over their 20-year history (a complete list of these winning road trips follows this story).
But the most successful long trip in team history came during the 2007-08 season. From Feb. 17 to March 1, 2008, the Sharks went 5-3. San Jose lost the first three games, but won the final five.
The trip began on Feb. 17, 2008 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Jonathan Cheechoo scored the game’s first goal at 3:31 of the first period. The Rangers tied it at 11:34 on the first of Ryan Callahan’s two goals. The Broadway Blueshirts went ahead for good at 5:44 of the second on Chris Drury’s power play goal. Callahan scored his second goal of the game on an empty net at 19:58 of the third to give the Rangers a 3-1 win.
The Sharks stayed in the New York City area for their next game, a Feb. 18 match on Long Island. San Jose scored the game’s first two goals (Marcel Goc in the second and Joe Thornton
in the third). But slightly over a minute after Thornton’s goal in the third, Andy Hilbert got the Islanders on the board and 59 seconds after that, Mike Comrie tied the game. The Islanders got the winner at 11:19 on Freddie Meyer’s second goal of the season. Final score: Islanders 3, Sharks 2.
The Sharks had one more stop in their Tri-State nightmare: New Jersey. For the third consecutive game, San Jose scored the game’s first goal. And for the second time, Cheechoo potted the tally. However, the Devils got the next three (Zach Parise, John Madden and Sergei Brylin). Kyle McLaren’s goal at 13:54 of the third made the game a one-goal contest to New Jersey’s advantage, 3-2.
Destination No. 4 was in Philadelphia on Feb. 21. The game began like the other three – Sharks score the first goal. The game started like two of the first three – Cheechoo scored San Jose’s initial goal. Yet the game didn’t end like the first three. Philadelphia’s Mike Knuble tied the game at 19:54 of the second, but at 3:35 of the third, Milan Michalek scored his 20th goal of the season to put the Sharks up for good. And finally, Douglas Murray
got his first National Hockey League goal in his 115th game to complete San Jose’s 3-1 win.
The fifth stop was still in the Keystone State, but an hour to the west in Pittsburgh on Feb. 24. This may sound familiar, but the Sharks scored the game’s first goal (fifth straight time) at 3:10 of the third period and it was scored by Cheechoo (fourth of five). Eric Christensen’s power play goal at 10:02 tied it. The teams needed the shootout to decide things and Jeremy Roenick’s wrister on the sixth shot gave the Sharks a 2-1 win. Roenick’s clutch shot on Ty Conklin made him 3-for-3 in the shootout that season.
San Jose stayed in the Eastern Time Zone for game No. 6 in Columbus on Feb. 27. For the fifth time on the trip, Cheechoo scored the game’s first goal (7:28 in the first on the power play). The Blue Jackets took a temporary 2-1 lead on consecutive goals by David Vyborny. After Vyborny’s second tally at 7:54 of the second period, the Sharks ripped three goals in slightly over seven minutes (Roenick, Torrey Mitchell
and Joe Pavelski
) of the middle frame for a 4-2 win.
A Feb. 29 leap year game in Detroit was truly the lucky seventh stop for the Sharks. San Jose scored at 1:40 of the first, thanks to Pavelski. They increased the lead to 2-0, on the first of Devin Setoguchi’s two goals, at 52 seconds of the second period. Henrik Zetterberg and Mikael Samuelsson scored for Detroit on the power play, but San Jose held on to secure a winning road trip and a 3-2 victory.
The fifth win of the eight-game trip came on March 1 in St. Louis. Brian Boucher, who was signed as a free agent on Feb. 26, was making his Sharks debut in goal. The Sharks got goals from Pavelski and Mike Grier, but Boucher really needed just one as he made 24 saves in a 2-0 win. He became the first goaltender in franchise history to record a shutout victory in his first Sharks game.
No doubt that this trip was very successful for the Sharks. Yet every team has one they’d like to forget. The Sharks are no exception.
For the record, the worst came in the team’s second year (1992-93). From Jan. 18-26, the Sharks lost all nine games. Those nine games were part of the franchise record for the longest winless streak (0-19-0 from Nov. 27, 1992 through Feb. 12, 1993).
And while most Sharks fans want to forget their first long trip during the inaugural 1991-92 season (0-7-0, Oct. 23-Nov. 4, 1991), the start of the trip included a set of crazy events only a Hollywood screenwriter could devise.
According to Sharks Radio Play-by-Play Announcer Dan Rusanowsky, who recalled the tale in “20 Years of Teal: A History of the San Jose Sharks,” the trip began at Oakland International Airport the day before on Oct. 22. As the Sharks were waiting for their flight to depart, the pilot decided to practice touch-and-go landings and got a flat tire. As the team kept hearing numerous “only two more hours” announcements to fix a flat (mechanics had to get a jack transported to Oakland from San Francisco International Airport), the day was only beginning.
Left wing and future Nashville Predators Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton passed out in the waiting area. Fenton, who became the team’s first casualty on the trip without having played in a game, would turn out to be fine.
Meanwhile in another part of the waiting area, a couple of players lost all of their meal money in a friendly game of poker.
That’s not all. The team didn’t leave Oakland until the late afternoon and wouldn’t arrive in Hartford until 4 a.m. THE NEXT DAY, which was game day. When they arrived in Connecticut, there was no bus waiting for them. Apparently, someone forgot to inform the bus company of the delay. So while someone called the bus company, the team had to wait another hour before arriving at the hotel.
The “good news” was that the Sharks lost just 3-0 to the Whalers. During that trip, the Sharks were shutout twice and scored two goals twice as well. They never scored more than four goals in any of those games.
Twenty years of Sharks hockey has brought many road trip memories: the good, the bad and the downright bizarre.SHARKS BEST LONG ROAD TRIPS
(in chronological order)2010-11:
seven games, Feb. 2-15, 4-2-0 (one more game tomorrow in Nashville)2009-10:
six games, Feb. 4-13, 4-2-02007-08:
eight games, Feb. 17-March 1, 5-3-02000-01:
six games, Dec. 16-26, 4-2-0-01997-98:
six games, March 26-April 4, 4-1-11996-97:
six games, Oct. 18-27, 3-2-1
The Sharks will conclude their road trip on Tuesday night in Nashville when they face the Predators at 5:00 PM (Pacific). Watch the game live on CSNCA-HD and listen on KFOX 98.5/102.1 FM and SJSHARKS.com.