A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 42

Quite the retribution game for the Sharks as the demolished the Washington Capitals 5-2. Three Sharks missed the first meeting between these two teams — Joe Pavelski, Douglas Murray and Torrey Mitchell. All of them made a huge impact on the game.

Joe Pavelski used his insanely accurate shot to score twice and Douglas Murray shut down Alex Ovechkin for most of the game although OV scored at the end. Mitchell notched his first goal of the season in the first period.

Ovechkin became frustrated in the third trying to drop the gloves with Dan Boyle and getting into it with Murray. That just means the Sharks’ gameplan worked amazingly.

Some Sharks fans were booing Ovechkin every time he touched the puck. I have no clue what that was about; he isn’t Chris Pronger; he hasn’t cheap-shotted any Sharks before; there’s no bad blood. It really disappointed me that some of the Sharks fans did that. Now if they booed Crosby, that would be completely different!

What was odd tonight was the Sharks received two penalty shot opportunities and buried both of them. Ryane Clowe took the first one in the second and used his patented forehand-backhand move to beat young goalie Michal Neuvirth.

Get up man. This is no place for a Playboy pose. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Thornton converted the second chance in the third to seal the game.

The turning point in tonight’s game, though, came at the start of the second period. The Caps got a quick five-on-three chance followed by another power-play, but the Sharks’ penalty kill stifled Washington.

The Sharks are showing no signs of slowing down. They’ve brought their A-game throughout the holidays, and this marks the sixth straight victory.

He Said What?

Capitals analyst Craig Laughlin said Dan Boyle was just a tad bit better than Caps defenseman Mike Green. Yea, right. Boyle is astronomically better.

Stat Central

The Sharks haven’t allowed a first-period goal in seven straight games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  WSH 46; Murray led the team with four.

The Sharks have to turn around quickly and play an early game tomorrow versus Phoenix.

–Ray

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 41

Quite the felicitous win for the Sharks as they defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout. The story of Pacific Division goalies trying (and sometimes succeeding) to steal games grew old weeks ago. Leave it to Yotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to keep the story alive.

He was robbing people left and right, up and down.  He definitely made it known his placement on Team Russia is no joke. Sharks goaie Evgeni Nabokov stood taller on this night, however, and legitimized his starting role on Team Russia.

But I’ll stop the Olympics talk there.

This was a fabulous game to watch. It’s why hockey is the best sport in the world — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The game featured defensive struggles, monstrous hits, intricate strategies, fierce battles ending in a pressure-filled one-on-one war between skater and goalie.

Folks, this is hockey.

71 shots

50 hits

36 blocked shots

65 minutes

1 Victor

The Sharks wanted it more tonight, and they’ve been playing this way lately. Only good things come out of a mentality like this.

I'm going to pump -- you up! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Pavelski played outstanding tonight, notching one shorthanded goal in regulation and the only goal of the shootout. That wrister of his is top-5 in the league.

Douglas Murray played his best game of the season tonight. He just found out the other day he was chosen for Team Sweden (whoops, more Olympics talk). No lapse from him. He crushed people and put on a defensive clinic. His stick was in the right place, his positioning was phenomenal, his intelligence showed. I can’t rag on him at all after tonight’s game.

But I do have to find some criticism. Devin Setoguchi finally scored to end his schnide over the past few weeks. However, he took two bad penalties — one in overtime of all places — that really put the team in a pinch. The Sharks penalty kill stepped up in that four-on-three overtime situation, though. Nabby saved it for the Sharks and for Seto’s job.

Throwing in the Towel

During the overtime period, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett threw a towel on the ice to ask for a timeout. Sharks analyst Drew Remenda (yes I finally got the Sharks feed for the first time in months!) scorned the refs for not calling a delay of game. I’m not sure what to make of the towel, but how hard is it to yell for a timeout like everyone else? I’m sure they’ll be a rule against towels tomorrow, though, knowing the league.

Stats to Chew On

The Sharks are now:

14-1-3 when scoring first.

4-2-5 after regulation (W-OTL-SOL)

4-0 against the Pacific Division after starting out 3-2-4 against divisional opponents.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  PHX 24; Murray led the team with five.

It was a tough game for Joe Thornton; he was slammed into the goal post from behind and was a -2; the lowest on the team.

The Sharks welcome the Capitals to town on Wednesday. The Caps dominated the Sharks in their first meeting, winning 4-1.

–Ray

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 40

Quite the Duck: It’s what’s for dinner game for the Sharks as the stomped Anaheim 5-2. The victory makes the Sharks 4-0 against their most-hated rival and continues to help eliminate thoughts of last year’s playoff matchup.

The Sharks received all the breaks and all the deflections. Nothing worked for the Ducks. They needed their goals from Sharks mistakes.

San Jose now rides a four-game winning streak with two of the four coming against Anaheim.

Jed Ortmeyer stayed on the second line tonight with Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski. Ortmeyer is really working his tail off and while he may not score goals, his battling pays off in turnovers and scoring chances. With the move up, it required someone to move down and Devin Setoguchi had the short straw. Coach Todd McClellan demoted him to fourth-line duty. McClellan finally realized you can’t waste time putting a player up on the top line just to jump start them. It’s up to the player to make things happen.

Seto will turn it around at some point, of course. He has been playing well with a power-froward style, hitting and bashing people.

Patrick Marleau scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season tonight. Both were garbage goals, but like everyone says, a garbage goal is worth the same as a fancy goal.

Hey Marchant, does this breakaway make my butt look smaller? (From SJSHARKS.com)

One of Patty’s goals came on the power-play — an area of concern over the last 11 games prior to tonight. In those 11 games, the Sharks were 4-for-43 (9.3%). That changed tonight; the Sharks capitalized on both man-advantage opportunities to improve that statistic to 6-for-45 (13.3%) the last 12 games.

Dany Heatley notched his 23rd goal of the season after being sandwiched between two Ducks. His first shot hit one defender in the face, ended up back on Heater’s stick, and he didn’t miss the second time. I’ve seen and heard a few people criticize him for his work ethic, but that must all be from blind people. I’ve never seen him take a shift off or lazily attack a puck. He wants the puck and does everything he can to get it on his stick.

Clowe and Jamie McGinn were the other goal-scorers.

This was the best game the Sharks have played in a long time. Any questions about responding to no practice for three days were answered in the first 10 minutes. The mental game was there; the physical game was there. Here’s to hoping that continues on this last stretch before the Olympics.

Fight Night at the Tank

Three fights took place. I’ll break this down into judges’ scorecards.

Frazer McLaren vs. George Parros.  29-28, 29-28, 29-28 McLaren.

Scott Nichol vs. Kyle Chipchura. 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 Nichol.

Jed Ortmeyer vs. Matt Beleskey. 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 Beleskey.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  ANA 38; Douglas Murray led with seven.

Despite the domination, the Sharks were once again outshot by an opponent. This time the shot totals were 32-25 for the Ducks.

The Coyotes come to town on Monday.

–Ray

December 27, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 39

Quite the milk-it-for-all-its-worth game for the Sharks as they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The Sharks were outshot 47-14 and still came out on top.

Through two periods the Sharks had a whopping seven shots on net. Dan Boyle mentioned after the game how pitiful that was and he’s right. Even in the second game of a back-to-back, you’re just asking to lose with those numbers.

So when you look at those numbers and still see a ‘W’ in the column, you know it was the goalie’s doing. Evgeni Nabokov was outstanding tonight. His 45 saves were no doubt the difference. Chicago’s 47 shots weren’t just the 2008-Sharks type either. They were screened, rebounds, and deflection. Nabby plays better the more work he has, and with all this time off recently, he needed to get back in a rhythm.

Come on man, I didn't even punch you this time. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Another Shark who played one of his best games of the season was Jason Demers. San Jose is now 3-0 since Demers was recalled, and that’s no coincidence. Demers scored his second goal of the year off a clean wrist shot past Cristobal Huet. Demers made some key defensive plays — clearing out loose pucks in the crease, blocking shots — and provided solid breakouts to create most of the offense. It’s too bad coach Todd McClellan wouldn’t reveal the changes he wanted Demers to make.

Special teams were a big story tonight. The Sharks talked about not taking penalties, which they did plenty of against Dallas, but they came out and took four penalties in the first. They’d take five more penalties, but the penalty kill stepped up and stopped all seven power-plays (they did allow a four-on-four goal).

One of the Sharks goals came shorthanded as Joe Thornton received a perfect Joe Pavelski pass, and beat Huet up high — where he’s well-known to be beat.

Fight!

Frazer McLaren beat down Bryan Bickell in the second period. Absolute demolition.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 15  CHI 18; No player had more than two.

The Sharks now take a Christmas break and resume play Saturday against this season’s whipping pole, Anaheim Ducks.

–Ray

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 38

Quite the typical Sharks-Stars game as the away team won again, this time being the Sharks 4-2. I wonder if there’s ever been such an unusual series besides this one where the away team always wins. The Sharks are now 8-1 in Dallas their last nine games there. Wow.

The Stars ownership should change the arena’s name from American Airlines Arena to Nabokov Airlines Arena. Nabby was once again spectacular on Dallas ice stopping 36 of 38 shots.

Contrary to what the score may indicate, the game very much belonged to the Stars who controlled the pace throughout. What was concerning was the Sharks were actually trying hard but losing a majority of the battles along the boards and for loose pucks. Things started to even out near the end, but luckily the Sharks converted their chances.

Calm down dude. It's just Kent Huskins. (From SJSHARKS.com)

The refs were giving Dallas every opportunity in the world with five powerplays. The Sharks received 0 powerplays and held their ground on the penalty kill until the fifth penalty. Dallas finished 1-5 on the man advantage.

Patrick Marleau took over the goal-scoring lead on the team with his 22nd and 23rd goal of the year. He was tied with Dany Heatley prior to tonight’s game. But Heatley wasn’t quiet. He was placed back on the top line and tallied two assists — both on Patty’s goals.

I’m glad to see coach Todd McClellan put the big boys back together. You can argue putting them together reduces depth all you want, but the “burger” lines produces. It doesn’t matter if the opponent has the last change or not. They find away to put points on the board.

This is the front end of a back-to-back. The Sharks travel to Chicago tomorrow, and because of the long layoff over the last week, Nabby will probably start again.

Stop it Blake!

Rob Blake continues to take bad penalties. Old age is no excuse for constantly whacking other players and hooking them. Calm your hormones old man. Your killing us.

Whoops!

The final Sharks goal came off a stupid play by Stars player Ivan Vishnevskiy. Off a faceoff in front of an empty net, he skated towards his own goal and lost control. And the biscuit went in much to the dismay of Stars fans. It’ll probably end up on SportsCenter’s Not Top 10. He will need a paper bag over his head fast.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  DAL 35; Three players led the team with four each.

As aforementioned, the Sharks face the Blackhawks tomorrow.

–Ray

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 37

Quite the back-on-track game for the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Nothing cures losing-streak pessimism like a win over your most hated rival. It wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t flashy. It was good ole fashioned hard work.

Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere tried to steal the show with an amazing performance, but the Sharks were too much down low. The Sharks actually used their sized around the crease to manhandle the Ducks defensemen. I think by now we can acknowledge that this type of performance probably won’t happen for another month or two. But it was nice to see the effort and garbage goals.

Leading the way with effort down low was Joe Thornton — yes the big man doin’ his thang around the crease. He caused a lot of havoc 6’4″ 230 lbs frame. He notched four points (2G, 2A) tonight. Jumbo has been throwing his weight around recently and that’s translating into a power forward style we’ve long awaited for.

Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi were the other goal scorers. Patty’s goal came on a deflection, while Seto’s was a wicked wrister. Seto’s goal broke his seven-game point drought. Coach Todd McClellan put him on the top line with Patty and Jumbo to jump-start his production. It was a move criticized by many considering the huge numbers Heatley-Thornton-Marleau put up.

Clowe delivering the "Newfoundland Haymaker" (From SJSHARKS.com)

With Seto scoring, I wonder if McClellan will stay with Seto on the top line. Heatley is much more dangerous than Seto, and now that he’s out of his slump, his mentality will change. And it’s now really a downgrade playing with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe on line two.

One thing I want to mention is before the game Derek Joslin was sent back down to Worcester and Jason Demers was called up. Isn’t it funny how the Sharks all of a sudden win with Demers back? Call it coincidence if you want, but you can’t deny the losing streak included Joslin. Joslin goes bye-bye and the losing streak ends. Hmmm… Just take that home and chew it.

Clowe breaks the ‘Bank

Clowe dropped the gloves with Sheldon Brookbank in the second period. One-sided affair. Clowe threw haymakers, and Brookbank was in way over his head.

Torrey! Torrey! Torrey!

It might have been Torrey Mitchell’s best game since coming back. He showed his blazing speed in picking up a penalty shot (unfortunately he didn’t convert) and forced turnovers. The lone Ducks goal was on the power play, again building the argument for a penalty-kill change. Torrey should get some more PK time in the coming games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  ANA 39; Setoguchi and Douglas Murray led the team with five each.

San Jose is now 3-0 against the Ducks this season.

The Sharks have another three days off before traveling to Dallas for the first game of a back-to-back. The second game is against Chicago.

–Ray

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 36

Quite the unpropitious performance from the Sharks in their 2-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. I don’t know what else I can possibly say other than this blows. I feel like a Hurricanes fan right now.

Here’s a startling stat for you: the Sharks are 3-2-4 against their division. That breaks down as follows:

vs. Anaheim: 2-0-0

vs. Los Angeles: 1-1-1

vs. Phoenix: 0-1-1

vs. Dallas: 0-0-2

That’s pitiful and it leaves me dumbfounded. For all the great talk announcers and hockey media people give the Sharks, they sure to suck against the important teams. Being undefeated against the Ducks only helps my feelings a little.

Tonight wasn’t really a contest. Look at the stats and you’ll see the Sharks outshot the Coyotes 38-35. Boy, that couldn’t be more misleading. It really was all Phoenix tonight. Sustaining pressure was impossible for San Jose, and for the 2,453rd time, the Sharks faced a hot goalie in Ilya Bryzgalov.

The biggest reason for forecheck impotence was penalties. The Sharks were in the box all night after taking lazy penalties. San Jose posted 16 PIMs, and they were not just by lowly fourth liners. Joe Thornton, Rob Blake and Dan Boyle all spent time in the naughty room. Isn’t that something, though? Your captain and two alternates all took penalties. What amazing leadership shown there.

Torrey, Torrey, he has none. It's a worthless cause. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Another stat of note: The Sharks are now 0-7-1 when trailing after two periods. I thought this team had more character and resiliency this year. I can get lost in the number of hits and phenomenal shifts Scott Nichol has, but when you look at it from that perspective, it’s frightening.

OK, it’s time to bring Jason Demers back up. The Derek Joslin experiment has gone awry. He hasn’t provided anything worth nothing, but I will tell you something worth nothing: Since Demers was sent down, the Sharks are 2-2-3. Worcester is 3-1-1 with Demers, who has two goals, one assist, and a +3 rating (five games played) with the AHL affiliate.

There isn’t a single Sharks fan I’ve talked to who likes Joslin. I haven’t even found a Sharks fan who’s indifferent towards him. Everyone hates him. Even the Dallas Stars announcers said his nickname should be “Janice” Joslin. Ouch!

Breaking up is hard to do

Coach Todd McClellan thought it best to break up the “burger line” of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau and replace Patty with Devin Setoguchi, who has been struggling mightily. Why on earth would you do that? As good of a sniper as Seto can be, Pattycakez is so much better and a better all-around athlete. Todd– lay off the eggnog buddy and put your head back on straight.

Oh No!

Boyle went down awkwardly into the boards at the end of the game. Taylor Pyatt shoved him after Boyle tried to gain position on him. Hope he’s all right.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 35  PHX 24; Doulgas Murray, returning after missing last game, led the team with eight hits.

The Sharks now have a four-day layoff before facing Anaheim at home on Thursday. It’s their only game in the next eight days. Interesting schedule.

–Ray

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment