Sharks’ Pavelski at the top of his game in time for Olympics 

click to enlarge Joe Pavelski
  • Julie Jacobson/2010 AP file photo
  • The Sharks' Joe Pavelski (16) is once again on the U.S. Olympic roster.
It was overtime in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics gold-medal men’s hockey game and Joe Pavelski, skating for Team USA, went for the deciding goal. He fired the puck toward the net, but Canada goalie Roberto Luongo made a save with his shoulder, barely keeping it out of the net.

Seconds later, Canada’s Sidney Crosby scored the sudden-death goal to give the host country the gold and dash the Americans’ chances.

“It was close; it could have went either way, I guess at times, it felt like,” Pavelski recounted to The San Francisco Examiner. “Obviously we didn’t win so you hope, well the goal, is to recreate that success and get back to that chance to have another opportunity.”

The 29-year-old center has played his way into another chance to lead the U.S. to a gold medal in Sochi for the Winter Olympics, which kick off with the opening ceremony Friday.

He is the only Sharks player to represent the United States, and it comes as little surprise — his game has been phenomenal. The NHL on Monday announced Pavelski was named one of the “Three Stars” for the month of January thanks to a league-leading 12 goals in 15 games and scoring in eight contests, including the game-winner in three consecutive matches.

All three of his fellow Sharks teammates who made the Olympics for their home countries recognized Pavelski as a threat.

Goalie Antti Niemi, who will play for Finland, sees Pavelski as a bigger weapon than he was in Vancouver four years ago.

“He’s gone forward, especially with how hot he’s been lately scoring and getting lots of points,” Niemi said. “I think he’s one of the top players for USA.”

Left wing Patrick Marleau, who will play for Canada, agreed.

“He’s having a lot of success right now which is good to see, and he’s been helping us win a lot of games,” Marleau said. “He always does things to help put himself in the position to get better so I’d say probably he is better.”

Pavelski made a big difference in the last Olympic games, said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, also a member of Team Canada, and his performance this season may make him more noticeable.

“He was a great player back then and he still is today,” Vlasic said. “I love playing with him here [with the Sharks]. Obviously he’s a good friend but there’s no friends out there in the Olympics.”

Former Sharks player Jamie Baker and now the team’s radio color analyst noted that Pavelski is not the fastest or biggest guy on the ice, but “uses his hockey sense, his compete and his great hands” and optimizes his skills as well as anyone in the game.

But Pavelski has even improved his speed since the 2010 games, according to Sharks play-by-play announcer Dan Rusanowsky. An “explosion” in his first five or six feet is an apparent result of work over the summer.

“The difference for him is he’s gotten stronger,” Rusanowsky said. “He’s what they call a Swiss Army Knife — he has a lot of different attachments that do a lot of different things.”

Playing against NHL teammates internationally can be hard, said Bret Hedican, analyst and color commentator for NBC radio during the Winter games, but Pavelski already proved he could do it in 2010.

“I’ve listened to a lot of games in the [2010] telecast and every time I turn around, it’s, ‘Joe Pavelski, Joe Pavelski,’ so he finds a way to block all of that out, go there, represent our country and do it to the best of his ability,” Hedican said.

Pavelski, in fact, said, “it’s pretty fun” to play against teammates he practices with every day.

“I remember the last Olympics against Jumbo [Joe Thornton], Patty [Marleau] and Heater [former Sharks player Dany Heatley] and the face-off against them,” he said. “You just you kind of give a little chuckle.”

Comparing an Olympic gold medal to the Stanley Cup he has worked years with the Sharks to win, Pavelski said, “They’re both tremendous honors.”

“You know, it’s hard to really put them into words,” he said. “I haven’t won either one of them yet and I’d like to get a taste of them.”

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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