A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 57

Quite the special game for both teams, but the Sharks were too much for the Minnesota Wild and won 5-2. Special was the name of the game, as in special teams. Out of the seven goals, six were from the man advantage.

Poor nsblues/BHD won’t be too happy about this one.

Whenever a team goes 4-for-7 on the power play, chances are the end result will be a win. That’s what the Sharks did. For at least one night, no one can mention how bad the power play is at home. It was stellar. Jason Demers was the quarterback, replacing the still-injured Dan Boyle, and did a marvelous job. He scored two goals on his only two shots.

Demers amassed 21:48 of ice time, playing in all three situations — even strength, power play and penalty kill. This kid will be something special. Boyle was his favorite player and inspiration to be an offensive defenseman. I can’t imagine how cool it is to end up playing with your favorite player and learn from him. Now Demers just needs some defensive improvement to become that all-around defenseman players can count on.

Back to the game: the Wild scored first showing the Sharks they were here to play. After Demers’ first tally, the Wild struck again right at the end of the first period to make it 2-1. Perhaps the hangover from the Chicago loss was getting to them, but that was cured during intermission. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov stepped his game up tremendously and made key save after key save.

Get off me, Kim. I'm a man! I'm 40! (From SJSHARKS.com)

I was reading Sharks beat writer David Pollak’s blog earlier, and a few people were questioning why Nabokov keeps starting. Well, my little grasshoppers, if you had followed the Sharks intently at all, you would know coach Todd McLellan is doing this to prevent what happened last year. McLellan gave Nabby much more rest and it didn’t work at all. This time around, he’s letting Nabby keep playing. McLellan has stated this a couple times.

I don’t see fatigue being much a factor anyway with goalies. They may be on the ice all 60 minutes, but how much are they really playing? An offensive forecheck for 30 seconds where Nabby has to watch the puck. Make one save and the puck is going the other way. He isn’t exerting that much energy during games, at least not continuously. People are looking into this way too much.

Anyway, Demers’ second goal followed by Joe Pavelski’s wicked wrister put the Sharks on top for good. Pavs’ wrister makes even the toughest men become screaming, little girls.

Speaking of little girls, Joe Thornton continued his horrendous play tonight with seven giveaways. At some point, McLellan must address this — whether reduced ice time or a complete line demotion. Thornton just isn’t trying. I think the Sharks would be better off strapping skates on a two-by-four.

Patrick Marleau finished things off with two goals in the third (one may or may not be credited to Dany Heatley). I wonder when serious contract talks start or if they already have. Patty is San Jose. Sign him for the rest of his life. Just, please, keep the “C” far, far away.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  MIN 18; Scott Nichol led with eight.

Detroit meanders their way into town on Tuesday. Godspeed.

–Ray

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 55

Quite the electrifying game tonight as the Sharks slayed the Sabres 5-2. Lethargic people need not apply as this game was high octane from the outset. Eastern Conference teams seem to bring out the best in the Sharks skating abilities, and tonight was no different.

The Sharks escaped from the grind-it-out clutches of Western Conference teams and put on a show for the sellout crowd.

Buffalo was on a tear before this game with a record of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games. It looked like it would be another victory when the Sabres came out flying and executing. The scorching hot Tim Connolly scored his 13th goal of the season putting the Sharks down just seven minutes in.

After being outshot 14-5 in the first, San Jose came out with a different mindset; it was their turn to blow by the Sabres. Joe Pavelski notched his 11th goal to start with a bang, and Dany Heatley joined the 30-goal club to end with a bang.

Throughout the second, scrums formed, but no fights materialized. You could tell each team wanted to prove they were the best in the NHL.

Like a true elite club, the Sabres never backed down. They scored just 18 seconds into the third on the power play to end a Sharks streak of around 35 straight penalties killed.

A boxing match broke out in HP Pavilion; both teams threw haymakers at each other. It was toe-to-toe folks. Would one fighter tire out? Yes.

Mama said knock you out! (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sabres’ legs became spaghetti as Pavelski slammed home his second goal of the game six minutes in.

Another right hook came from the Sharks when Jed Ortmeyer scored his career-high sixth goal of the season off a one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Not wanting to concede defeat, the Sabres squeezed every ounce of energy into the final minutes of play, but the Sharks defense was too strong. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov blocked every punch to close out the game.

Ortmeyer completed the KO with an empty net goal, sending the Eastern Conference challenger back to the training room.

The Sharks got better as the night went on and the third period was one of their best third periods of the season. Buffalo forced them to step their game up, and the Sharks actually responded. Whether it was Douglas Murray throwing Sabres to the ice with ease or Patrick Marleau shifting into hyperspeed, the Sharks proved they can play at an entirely different level — one perhaps they didn’t fully realize they could.

Unfortunately, there’s a four-day layoff between now and the next game. That could be huge considering the next game is a battle against the always-pesky Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have had the Sharks number so far, so it’ll be crucial for San Jose to bottle this energy and unleash it again Thursday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  BUF 23; Scott Nichol led with seven.

Buffalo outshot the Sharks 40-24. Nabby played outstanding.

Chicago is in town next Thursday. No Sharks fan wants to remember the last time Chicago was in HP Pavilion. A 7-2 loss. Perhaps that can be used as extra motivation for the players.

–Ray

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

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. 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. 31

Quite the fun game tonight as the Sharks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2. Dany Heatley played his former team for the first time, as did Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Things were very spirited in the first period. Those three players definitely tried to make statements to their former clubs, and one was very successful.

Michalek netted two goals, so as far as I’m concerned, only Sharks scored tonight. He looked like a man on a mission to score. He pushed the Sens’ play and forecheck, constantly battled in front of the net. What else can I say? Milan deserved it. Buuuttt, the Sharks are too good.

A fourth man entered the ring to prove something; Patrick Marleau played his 900th game, all with the Sharks, and showed everyone it was a good decision to not trade him after all these years. He scored two goals as well and almost had a third, but lost the puck on a cut-in towards the net.

It was just a fun game to watch. There wasn’t a shortage of effort, maybe lack of intelligence (I think of one player to be named later), but all the players tried hard.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau celebrate after Marleau scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

Frazer McLaren dropped the gloves with Matt Carkner in the first to continue the entertainment. Unfortunately, McLaren dropped another decision. It was close after Carkner ended the fight on purpose by dragging Frazer down, but Carkner had more punches land. Frazer needs to start winning some fights soon and not continue this Jody Shelley syndrome.

Both the second and third periods started off considerably slower than the first period; however, things picked up about halfway through each time.

Ryane Clowe came through with a goal after a tough battle between Manny Malhotra and Sens defenders. My tune is slowly starting to change on Manny. He scored an empty netter tonight and has shown some good speed and toughness lately. But I’m not so quick to change my mind on people. Hopefully this stays consistent.

Thomas Greiss manned the net for the Sharks. He hadn’t started in two weeks so coach Todd McClellan gave Evgeni Nabokov the night off. “Jesus” Greiss sure likes to flail. Reminds me of Magikarp from Pokemon. Both Greiss and Magikarp have one move: Flail. Obviously Greiss is more effective at it. He made some spectacular saves to preserve the lead. This backup situation could get juicy next season. After the Sharks decide whether or not to resign Nabby, will they put all their stock in Greiss as the heir apparent? Or will they look further to stud prospects Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith? Who knows, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.

The Sharks’ top line of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau amassed six points tonight continuing their William-Sherman-March-to-the-Sea trek torching any team in their path.

Douglas Murray

This guy took three penalties in the third period alone. What in the world was he thinking? Maybe he was excited because his grandfather was watching him play for the first time since he was in college. I don’t know, but regardless, this is the kind of thing that gets you in the coach’s doghouse. I mean, almost half of the period was shorthanded because of Murray. Use your friggin’ head, son.

Cheech ‘n’ Seek

Boy has Cheech ever fallen off the radar. He’s a third-liner in Ottawa and has been reduced to scrubbing the poop deck every game. Long gone are the days of him scoring 50 goals. Poor Cheech. Guess you really find out how good Joe Thornton is when the sniper leaves Jumbo’s side.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  OTT 18; Scott Nichol (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

Seto and Torrey Mitchell aren’t getting much important action on the fourth line. Torrey received an extra minute compared to last game and Seto’s ice time was decreased. I wonder how much rust these two actually accumulated, because I think we all know these guys are much better than fourth liners. Patience is a virtue I guess. Can’t wait to see them fully recovered.

The Sharks play St. Louis on Thursday.

–Ray

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments