A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 49

Quite the fluctuating game tonight as the Sharks earned their first regulation win over the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1. The game featured a lot of ebbs and flows and different styles of play. Because of the Sharks diverse lineup, they were able to match any style presented to them and get the W.

The first period was the Patrick Marleau show. He scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season, and both came on incredibly different plays. The first was a shorthanded goal, and it occurred when the puck took a weird bounce behind the boards where goalie Jason Labarbera was, leaving the net wide open. Patty pocketed the puck with ease in the open net. His second goal came off a deflection from a point shot.

These goals might not have happened if Phoenix were awarded a goal soon after the game began. The referees blew the whistle early while the puck was underneath goalie Evgeni Nabokov. As soon as the whistle blew, the puck crossed the goal line. An unfortunate event for the Coyotes, who were previously 7-1-2 in their last 10 home games.

The oh-so-dangerous two-goal lead was tested in the second period. Almost half the period was spent with a Shark in the sin bin. It’s been a growing concern for Sharks fans — penalties. Three in the first, four in the second and one in the third. Yet again the stellar penalty kill unit locked it down all seven times, even killing a brief five-on-three. I thought the Sharks were supposed to be big and fast, and they were supposed to cause penalties, not take them. This might be the biggest reason for recent struggles, but it’s hard to fix. You don’t want to tell your players to tone it down because it risks losing an aggressive style of play defensively. And these aren’t all low-level guys taking them. We’re talking four penalties combined on Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle, and one on Rob Blake. The guys must be smarter about what they’re doing.

You don't look so happy Shane. Maybe if I blow on the puck instead of stickhandle, you'll have a chance. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Back to the game: scrums started developing after every stoppage, a few facewashes here and there, including Marleau, yes Marleau, throwing a few punches at Scottie Upshall. Marleau’s only had a couple fights in his career, one I remember was against Phoenix. Patty’s just a nice guy. Maybe he planned on killing Upshall with kindness?

Everything in the third period slowed down. Not much pace or emotion. The coaches clearly wanted their players to calm down. Too bad for us fans. Nabby lost the shutout with eight minutes left, but I didn’t expect one with the weak defensive play in that final frame.

The Sharks are currently on a stretch where they play eight games in 13 nights. Good way to start it with back-to-back wins.

He’s A Low-Talker

Todd Walsh, one of the Phoenix commentators, whispers to the audience and injects a monotone voice into everything he says. It certainly goes along with the style of play Phoenix uses, and I’m all for uniformity, but that’s not what a commentator should sound like. Not to mention he looks like an overweight Keith Olbermann.

Second Line Shenanigans

The second line is in a drought. A bad one. Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi have 0 goals, 4 assists and are -16 in their last six games, according to a Phoenix broadcast graphic. Not positive if that included tonight’s game, but if it didn’t, the only thing that would change would be the rating to -15. I can tell you guys and girls the problem. There’s a cancer in that line. Who could it be? I don’t want to give it awa–DEVIN SETOGUCHI DID IN THE LOCKER ROOM WITH A CROWBAR–whoops. Sorry. Remove Seto and the line will go back to normal.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  PHX 24; Douglas Murray and Pavelski both had three.

The Sharks head back home and play the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

–Ray

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January 13, 2010 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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 22

Quite the disheartening performance by the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks looked to be on the road to victory until they broke out their trademark lazy third period performance. I’m sensing a trend, and coach Todd McClellan better address it quick.

Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe were the goal scorers tonight. Heatley scored on a behind-the-net feed from Joe Pavelski, while Clowe scored on a wrister from the point. That’s about all the offense there is to report.

The game was all about the goalies. Dallas goalie Marty Turco is probably the luckiest man on earth. He had no right making some of the saves he did. It’s so frustrating to see a goalie beat so many times, yet fling his arms or stick out and make a save. I don’t think that’s skill at all. I can only imagine what it felt like to the Sharks players.

Picture 12

Ryane Clowe screens Marty Turco (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Turco’s saves to keep the game tight. One of the Stars’ goals was a wacky deflection that Nabby had zero chance in getting. Unfortunately, that goal came back to haunt the Sharks.

Enough about the Stars’ luck, though, this third-period collapse trend is scary. I think it was a couple years back in one of Ron Wilson’s last years, if not his last year as Sharks coach, where they could never hold onto leads well. They also got complacent and lazy, and it’s coming up again. I realize I’m not a professional hockey player, but come on. Don’t you want to beat every team 10-0 every night? Why do you want to take shifts off and not try? Please tell me.

This is a rivalry game. Pummel your opponent.

Pacific Division games are boring, I must admit. I don’t know if every fan feels this way about their teams’ division games, but they put me to sleep. Playing Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas is so lackluster. Anaheim is better, but I don’t feel any intensity. Maybe some of the Sharks feel that, I don’t know.

Why did Ryan Vesce only play five minutes in this game? He looks healthy and he was on that point streak before he got injured. Give him more ice time. He deserves it, and he’s earned it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 33  DAL 26; Douglas Murray had six hits. Jed Ortmeyer had five.

The Sharks earn another point by getting into a shootout to extend their point-streak to 10 games.

All five games the Sharks have played past regulation have gone to shootouts. They’re 2-3 in those games.

Next game is Saturday at St. Louis.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 8

Quite the humdrum performance by both teams in the Coyotes 1-0 shootout win over the Sharks. The Sharks were slapdash throughout the contest not stringing together two passes more often than not. The whole game was a giant hodge-podge. The Coyotes faired no better, and their style of play made for a top-5 contender for most boring game of the year. I really do hate Dave Tippet’s (Coyotes head coach) style of play. I can’t stand the trap — so dull; so monotonous. But Phoenix won with their tedious, mind-numbing play.

At least San Jose got a point.

The Sharks could have used to Drain-O to unclog the neutral zone, because that’s where all the Phoenix players were the entire game. San Jose tried to execute some dump-and-chase plays to get behind Phoenix, but they were always one step ahead of the Sharks.

I’d had to give the MVP to Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. He kept the game 0-0 and made so many spectacular saves — much more crucial saves than Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Phoenix’s shots were more potent and in open ice, while the Shark’s shots were just kind of “blah, here’s a shot, maybe something will happen.”

Scott Nichol and Jamie McGinn were the best players on the ice. They threw their body around and Nichol’s speed and determination were evident every time he stepped out on the ice. I thought the signing of Nichol was suspect, but he’s proven me wrong so far. Nichol had seven hits in the game and was 64% in the faceoff circle. Excellent stuff.

Once overtime hit triple zeroes, I knew the game would end in a Sharks loss. Nabby is so bad in breakaway situations — it’s nauseating. He’s now 13-16 in shootouts I believe. Yikes.

Sharks Goalie Evgeni Nabkov looks for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks Goalie Evgeni Nabkov looks for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sharks could have really used Joe Pavelski’s amazing shootout skills, as well as Jeremy Roenick’s shootout prowess, but hey, at least they sent out Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Dan Boyle.

*Cue record scratching sound* Wait, what?

Heatley is awful in shootouts; Setoguchi has only scored one shootout goal; Boyle is 2 for 8. Why did you pick them Todd (McClellan)? Heatley shot the puck into Bryzgalov’s pads, Setoguchi shot it wide, but Boyle did make it. In fact, Boyle looked like an all-star forward with his forehand-backhand move.

The Sharks get a point, though, before heading out to their Eastern Conference road trip. They’re now 3-2-1.

Fight

Jody Shelley continued his punching bag status — this time getting beat up by Paul Bissonnette. It’s getting really old now. Shelley chooses the right time for a fight but doesn’t finish what he started.

Other Notes

Frazer McLaren was sent down to Worcester before the game and Steven Zalewski was called up. It was Zalewski’s first NHL game, but unfortunately for him, he only played five minutes.

The Sharks outhit the Coyotes 31-18 and and dominated the faceoff circle going 35-19.

Next game: At Washington, 7 ET. The Sharks better pick up the speed if they want to skate with the Caps and Alex Ovechkin.

–Ray

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