Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 05/13/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Diehard fans, longtime critics and media pundits agree: There's something different about the San Jose Sharks this year.
"It's the grittiest I've seen them in the playoffs," said NBC analyst and former Shark Jeremy Roenick. "They are a totally different team."
At the heart of the transformation is a soft-spoken veteran who joined the team a month ago after years as a visiting villain in HP Pavilion.
Raffi Torres twice derailed San Jose's playoff hopes as an opponent, injuring Shark players in the process. Now Public Enemy No. 1 is trying to help them get where the franchise has never gone.
"You can't win the Stanley Cup without guys of his nature," Roenick added. "The Sharks have always had the talent, but they needed the grit. Torres has balanced the talent with the grit.
"The way they're playing now, they're going to give anybody a run for the money."
Torres, a 31-year-old left-winger, has a stare that could melt ice and a well-earned reputation as one of the NHL's most feared players. Last spring, as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes, he was suspended 21 games -- one of the longest in league history -- for a brutal late hit to the head of Chicago's Marian Hossa, who was carried off the ice on a stretcher.
But with the help of the Phoenix coaching staff, Torres reined in his game just enough this season to convince the Sharks that he was worth a third-round pick at the April 3 trade deadline.
"He plays the speed game with a high skill level and has a reputation as being a very good teammate," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "He's a player we've tried to (acquire) several times before."
Torres wasted little time winning over many of the fans who long despised him. He converted a shootout goal to beat the rival Los Angeles Kings in mid-April. In Game 1 of the opening-round playoff series against Vancouver, Torres unleashed a team-high six hits. In Game 2, he scored the winning goal.
The Sharks went on to record the first four-game playoff sweep in franchise history.
"The guys in the locker-room have been welcoming, and the fan support has been great," Torres said. "My reputation preceded me, but I just try to focus on what I do."
The son of a Mexican father and Peruvian mother, Torres is one of six Hispanic players in the NHL.
-- San Jose Mercury News
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2013 C3
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
'New era' for DC's NHL, NBA teams? Caps coach Trotz says so
NHL Playoff Capsules
Kronwall could face suspension for hit
Kuznetsov's goal leads Capitals past Isles 2-1 in Game 7
Johnson scores 2, Lightning beat Detroit 5-2 to force Game 7
NHL announces Norris Trophy finalists
Rangers' Zuccarello out indefinitely with upper body injury
Sharks near agreement to extend lease in San Jose
Calgary's goaltender to face familiar foe
Predators see youthful roster as reason for hope, motivation
Predators captain dislocated his right kneecap in playoffs
Former NHL player Marcel Pronovost dies at 84
For third straight year, St. Louis Blues make an early exit
Arena talks underway in Seattle suburb with eye on hockey
Crawford to start for Blackhawks against Wild
'Never-die attitude' propels Ducks comebacks
Connor McDavid has already helped Oilers
Islanders lean on playoff vets
Overtime victory a lesson for Wheat Kings
Dubnyk, Wild beat Blues, for rematch with Blackhawks
Senators come up short against Canadiens
NHL Playoff Capsules
Capitals-Islanders Game 7 stirs 'Epic' memories
Parise, Wild advance with 4-1 win over Blues
Blues pull Allen in 2nd period after 2nd goal by Wild
Malkin, Crosby reaffirm commitment to Penguins
Price stops 43 as Habs oust Sens 2-0
Sid the Kid to suit up for Canada in Prague
Wild sign Swiss centre Bertschy to 3-year contract
Embarrassed early, Blackhawks hit their stride just in time
Canucks reflect after Game 6 loss to Flames
Flames advance to second round of playoffs
Keith scores, Blackhawks eliminate Predators with 4-3 win
NHL Playoff Capsules
Mrazek shuts down Lightning again, Red Wings win Game 5
Islanders beat Capitals 3-1 to force Game 7
Home-ice advantage overrated in Wild-Blues series
Penguins searching for answers after quick playoff exit
Burrows well enough to travel with Canucks
Islanders down another defenceman: de Haan ruled out vs Caps