A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

So Glad to be Wrong!

Never in my wildest dreams (OK, maybe my wildest) would I have expected to beat Detroit in five games. I was completely wrong about this team.

No question it was incredibly difficult, but when it came time to dig deep, the Sharks did it.

I’m absolutely ecstatic. Unbelievable!

Wings and Takoyaki for dinner!

Evgeni Nabokov celebrates the series win. (From ESPN.com)

–Ray

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May 9, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 75

Quite the golf clap game for the Sharks as they finally managed to end their six-game losing streak and defeat the Minnesota Wild 4-1. That streak lasted an eternity.

It wasn’t the typical, early season type victory, but it works. Coach Todd McLellan said he wanted his team to win a 2-1 game before a 5-4 one. He pretty much got his wish. Finally some defensive stability along with solid goaltending brought the Sharks to the promiseland.

Neither team recorded 20 shots. Clearly the entire focus was defense and taking offensive opportunities when you have them. Dan Boyle and the rest of the defensemen didn’t pinch nearly as much as usual allowing them to focus on what they make their money for. The only d-man to put a shot on net was Rob Blake.

Nice jersey, Cam...FOR ME TO POOP ON! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Blake recorded three assists, blocked two shots and most importantly did not spend any time in the penalty box. See guys? The keys to success are really simple.

Another shocking statistic was the Sharks had only nine hits. That might be a season low. No time for bodies flying around when you’re playing like cow manure. They focused on their game, and it worked.

McLellan spread the big three over three lines tonight. I actually liked some of the line combinations.

Clowe-Thornton-Mitchell

Malhotra-Marleau-Pavelski

Heatley-Couture-Setoguchi

Of course those changed throughout, but the concept is a good one. Put the stars with hard workers and let the Mitchell’s and Malhotra’s of the world rub off on you.

Torrey Mitchell scored his second goal of the season tonight too! One of my favorite Sharks, it never gets tiring seeing him be successful. The kid deserves it with all he’s been through.

Obviously, this game is a transition game and could mean nothing. The next game is against a Dallas team who obliterated the Sharks a week ago. It’s at home and a tough retaliation is in order. Hopefully, McLellan sticks with the defensive mindset moving forward — at least until San Jose is fully back on its feet.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 9  MIN 15; Niclas Wallin and Mitchell had two.

Scott Nichol didn’t play tonight as he is hurt again with an upper body injury.

The Stars come to the Shark Tank, Thursday.

–Ray

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 47

Quite the S.S.D.D. performance by the Sharks as they once again lose to the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. There must have been some rule put in place after the lockout not allowing the Sharks to ever beat Detroit. If they do, they get fined.

What’s most annoying is the Wings always play their best against San Jose. The Sharks can never crush them because they always play their worst against Detroit. This completely sucks. I can’t stand Detroit. I really hope they miss the playoffs, but that won’t happen.

Their goalie Jimmy Howard has been hot lately and that continued as he made 31 saves. As much confidence as this may give Wings fans, Howard will ever be a number-one goalie. He is not that good. Just watch how quickly they switch to Chris Osgood in the playoffs.

For the first five minutes, the Sharks looked ready to blow out Detroit. They looked like a Michael Johnson racing Rosie O’Donnell. They cashed in midway through the first, then everything fell apart faster than Tiger Woods’ image. Mailing it in would be an understatement. Nobody shined through the complete dismay. Everyone played poorly.

Jason Demers was called up, but even he played terrible. One of his two dumb turnovers led to a breakaway goal. Turnovers plagued all Sharks though. Ryane Clowe’s big turnover led to a breakout resulting in another Detroit goal. For the second straight game, the Sharks recorded 20 giveaways. Two games is a trend, so if it happens next game, the Sharks are in deep trouble.

Oooooooo, rubbery. (From SJSHARKS.com)

But I want to go back to this mentality the Sharks have against the Red Wings. After all the playoff failures, so many fans, media, and even coaches told the players to mimic the Red Wings. I think it’s wore on them so much and with every game against Detroit, they put so much pressure on themselves to beat them. It backfires; they lose and feel like everything they’ve been taught failed.

The only way the Sharks are going to be successful is to find their own style, and they haven’t done that in coach Todd McLellan’s tenure. He brought over Detroit’s style of play and used it throughout his first year; get people in front of the net, put 40+ shots on net, out-skate people. It worked enough to earn a President’s trophy. After being bounced in the first round, McLellan realized this isn’t Detroit. These are different players.

So this year, he’s emphasized playing the gritty style of play, which I associate mostly with the Nashville Predators. Management even brought over two Predators, Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer, to further bring the tough style to fruition. The jury won’t be out until playoff time, but I don’t like the how the Sharks always strive to be someone else. Ultimately it’s up to the players to decide who they want to be, but that’s not enough. The players must battle to achieve their goals, not wait for it to come to them.

As much as I hate to say it, this core of players doesn’t seem like they “want it.” They’re too relaxed and non-confrontational. I’m not talking about on the ice; I’m talking about their personalities. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Setoguchi Steamed

Seto got ticked at Dan Cleary for driving him into the net, and the two dropped the gloves. Seto was pumping him with fists before Cleary chickened out by throwing himself on top of Seto.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 24  DET 18; Nichol led with five.

The Sharks have lost two of three, and they will travel to Los Angeles on Monday.

–Ray

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 44

Quite the facile game for the Sharks as they easily dispatched the Edmonton Oilers, 4-1. There was no doubt about the outcome tonight. The Sharks imposed their will on the wounded Oilers.

Three Sharks were back in the lineup for the first time in a long time: Brad Staubitz, Jody Shelley and Jay Leach. They replaced Manny Malhotra who is injured, Frazer McLaren and Jason Demers who were sent down. Demers was sent all the way down to the ECHL for some reason. I assume for money reasons and convenience since the ECHL affiliate is in California.

All three made a noticeable impact. Leach fought Steve Staios late in the game, but there’s nothing much to report though as it was a bear hug match. Shelley led the team with seven hits, and Staubitz had an assist.

Woohoo! This is too easy, guys! (From NHL.com)

Despite sloppy passes early, the Sharks struck first with Jamie McGinn and Douglas Murray four minutes apart. Both goals started off hard work and sheer will. I never grow tired of seeing battling like that.

San Jose tightened its grip with two more goals in the second period by Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, proving that the top line can score along with the secondary lines.

Also in the second, Ryane Clowe destroyed Jason Strudwick in a fight with an enormous uppercut.

There’s not much else to say about this game; it’s just one of those easy games that great teams are supposed to win. The Sharks came out, did not look past their opponent, and put them away early.

Perhaps it’s a good tune-up/confidence-builder heading into a big showdown with Los Angeles on Monday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 30  EDM 38; Shelley led the team with seven.

The Sharks have now won eight games in a row.

As I said, the Kings come to town on Monday. The Sharks are 1-1-1 against the Kings this season.

–Ray

January 3, 2010 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. 14

Quite the wide-open performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday. It wasn’t a dazzling display, but it was efficient, and that’s all you can ask for.

First, I need to give credit to Manny Malhotra for scoring two goals tonight, his first two of the season. One goal was all hard work and the other was a nice wrist shot from the faceoff circle. Don’t expect another multi-goal game any time soon from him because I think he’ll dive back into mediocrity next game.

The game belonged to Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss, however. He made several spectacular/lucky saves to preserve the win. He outdueled Philly backup Brian Boucher, who was with San Jose last year. I really hope Greiss gets a lot more looks after this performance. Evgeni Nabokov is a stubborn guy, but it’s time he start conceding to Greiss more.

Goalie Thomas Greiss looks on as a battle for the puck ensues (From SJSHARKS.com)

Goalie Thomas Greiss looks on as a battle for the puck ensues (From SJSHARKS.com)

I want Greiss to get at least 25-30 games in barring any Nabby injury. Greiss stopped 37 Flyers shots and looked extremely comfortable in net. He was very aggressive, challenging every Flyer player who dare enter his area.

The Sharks scored first for the second game in a row — which was stunning — but it didn’t take long for Philly to knot it up at 1. The whole first period was back and forth and physical. Jody Shelley fought Ian Laperriere and actually won. By my count, that’s his first victory of the season.

After the first period, though, things got really slow. I’m going to say that’s because of the back-to-back situation for both teams. They were feeling it. The game sort of dragged on with no team securing a fair amount of time in the offensive zone.

Jed Ortmeyer scored his third goal of the year to finish off the Flyers. Analyst Drew Remenda said it was his best game as a Shark. Jed accounted for three shots and three blocked shots. As balanced as you can get. Good stuff.

Jason Demers — Tough Guy?

Jason was roughing up Ole-Kristian Tollefson in the second period. As surprised as many fans were, he did really well in handling the situation. Nice to see such a calm-demeanor type guy taking care of business.

Logan Couture and Jamie Mcginn

Logan and Jamie were called up to replace Ryan Vesce and Devin Setoguchi, who were both injured against Atlanta. Jamie was his usual speedy self, while Logan didn’t do much. In his first NHL game, Logan had two shots, two PIMs and was 60% in faceoffs.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 15  PHI 18

The Sharks were outshot again; this time it was 38-28 Flyers. They’re playing solid defensively and capitalizing on minimal opportunities. No reason to be worried about that yet.

The Sharks finally come home Wednesday, October 28, to face the Los Angeles Kings.

–Ray

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 10

Quite the flashes-of-competence performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. It was the Sharks’ third 4-1 game of the year already; they’ve won two of three. The game wasn’t very pretty — the good play was spotty, but when they did play well, they scored.

The whole first period looked like the Washington game. San Jose looked lost and uninterested. Perhaps getting dominated by the Islanders (who haven’t won a game yet) woke them up during intermission. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, playing in his 500th game, played amazing in the first. He was the sole reason the Sharks were still in the game and he deserves a lot of credit for his stellar play so far.

The second period allowed Sharks fans to see more sustained pressure and a better forecheck. There were less one-and-done forechecks, as analyst Drew Remenda put it. That’s been the main problem I’ve noticed — the Sharks take a shot but can’t find the rebound or keep the pressure.

The power play looked solid as the Sharks pocketed two goals on the man-advantage. Patrick Marleau got on the board with a nifty backhand shot from the slot past goalie Martin Biron. Guess who scored next?

Ryan Vesce (#53) celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryan Vesce (#53) celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryan Vesce! The man I suggested the Sharks call up, and while I obviously had nothing to do with it, it was nice to see my suggestion come up and score — not to mention it was his first NHL goal. Congratulations to Vesce. He’s such a hard worker and a lot of Sharks veterans could learn from him. I hope he stays up for a long time.

The third period showcased the Sharks best play. Joe Thornton actually took a shot and it went in. I guess he wanted more than the two assists he already had so far.

Devin Setoguchi scored late in the game on a nice solo effort from down low. Seto might have been the hardest working Shark of the night. He was flying around on the ice. Why? He was demoted to the second line, consisting of Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau. Maybe that sparked something.

Ryane Clowe

Clowe notched his first point of the year, finally, on Seto’s goal. Clowe also fought Tim Jackman: Clowe took care of him fairly easily. I think Clowe needs to be demoted to the third line. It worked for Seto; it might work for Clowe. Putting him with Scott Nichol and Benn Ferriero/Jed Ortmeyer could help his work ethic. Those guys never quit and don’t get down on themselves. Clowe is struggling mentally and needs a change of scenery.

Other Notes

Hit-o-meter: SJ 19  NYI 14

The Islanders outshot the Sharks 32-29, but the Islanders blocked 24 shots. New York also got a majority of their shots in the first period when they had 19.

The Sharks now face the Rangers, Monday. San Jose has only won two in a row once this year, so I’ll be expecting another bad performance. That’s the Sharks — win-loss-win-loss. Very annoying. But, here’s to change.

–Ray

October 19, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment