A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 81

Quite the rough-and-tumble game for the Sharks as they held on to all but eliminate the Calgary Flames from the playoffs, winning 2-1. No Jarome Iginla in the playoffs, no worries.

Most impressive was the Sharks ability to withstand and neutralize any sort of Calgary onslaught at the beginning of the game.

It wouldn’t have come as a shock to see an early Flames 2-0 lead. Sharks coach Todd McLellan may have been right, before the game, when he said they were well aware the Flames would be desperate.

Pardon me for questioning the Sharks psyche. It’s not like I’ve had any reason to.

Part of the solution was Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby played great tonight, and it’s slowly becoming realized that he’s getting into a rhythm. Perfect timing.

Even more fantastic is the Sharks secondary scoring is hot. Jamie McGinn scored in the second period for his second consecutive game with a goal. McLellan’s been on his case to pick up the pace and it’s working.

"Goalie's gotta biiigg butt!" (From SJSHARKS.com)

Logan Couture played well again also. One thing I notice about him is that he takes the shot — always. It doesn’t matter where he’s at, he will take it. He does it more than Dany Heatley does. Great things are coming from Logan in the playoffs.

Ryane Clowe continued his scorching pace with yet another assist.

After that forgettable debacle in Dallas, Jason Demers returned to the lineup and added an assist.

The planets may be aligning folks — and now that I said that, watch the Sharks lose 8-0 to Vancouver next game.

None of the big three registered a point or a +/- rating. That might be alarming to some but not for me right now. What was alarming was the laziness of Patrick Marleau defensively. He may have caught the Jumbo-shrimp syndrome; he coasted around the defensive zone not pressuring anyone.

Patty’s played well enough all year that I’ll let the last few games slide so long as it ends in the coming days.

A big criticism tonight was the third period. San Jose couldn’t generate any consistent forecheck, which kept Nabby on his toes. Luckily he obliged, but the Sharks have to learn to push back in situations like those.

In the meantime, I’ll rejoice for another Pacific Division title — until next week.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 11  CGY 22; Four players had two.

For those wondering, Rob Blake scored the first goal. No suspension for that hit on Mueller, and there should not have been.

All away games are done with for the regular season. San Jose returns home for the last two games. Vancouver is in town Thursday.

–Ray

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April 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 67

Quite the persistence pays off game for the Sharks as they finally solved Steve Mason and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1. It was looking bad early on, but Mason finally cracked.

I’ve definitely been a part of these games before — while playing video games of course — especially against Roberto Luongo. I try all different button combinations to set up the perfect pass and still get stoned by the goalie. That’s probably how the real players felt tonight against Mason.

It had been over seven periods since the Sharks last scored on Mason. Columbus shut out the Sharks right before the break, but the Sharks looked awful that night. This time around, San Jose swarmed the Blue Jackets and put on unrelenting pressure.

The team reacts to Jumbo saying he'll keep his shirt on for interviews (From SJSHARKS.com)

I really hope these types of games stay in the Sharks’ minds. When playoff time comes, you’re going to be down — no question. They may be just regular season games, but knowing you can come back against a hot goalie could pay huge dividends.

Dany Heatley scored the first goal, which came in the third period on the power play. A gigantic sigh exited HP Pavilion. Joe Pavelski skated around the back of the net and scored to take the lead.

A few timely saves by Evgeni Nabokov, specifically in the final seconds, sealed the victory.

Nichol Update

Scott Nichol, who was cheap-shotted last game, will be out 7-10 days with a shoulder injury. Ryan Vesce was called up to take his place. Vesce played seven minutes and amassed three hits.

Maxim Lapierre was suspended four games for the hit.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 36  CBJ 32; Douglas Murray led with six.

The Sharks’ next game is Thursday against Nashville, at home.

–Ray

March 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 60

Quite the Nab-tacular performance for the Sharks as they beat the Nashville Predators 4-3. There was no doubt goalie Evgeni Nabokov was the most spectacular player on the ice. He made 35 saves in the victory.

The Sharks were sloppy all night with their puck management, continuing to struggle with giveaways. These weren’t just harmless neutral zone giveaways — these were giveaways right in front of Nabokov. I don’t know how Nabby made some of the saves he did, but all the guys should treat him out to a week of meals and the finest Russian vodka you can find.

Dan Boyle made his return and showed no signs of rust. Coach Todd McLellan kept Derek Joslin up as a seventh defenseman just in case Boyle struggled. He didn’t and Boyle played nearly 20 minutes (19:10).

Despite the turnovers, Nashville couldn’t put the Sharks away. The Preds took the lead three times, and each time the Sharks came back to tie it.

Dany Heatley scored two power play goals and now leads the NHL in goals on the man advantage with 14. That means almost half of Heater’s goals come on the power play. I don’t know what to say about that. Should it be a concern he needs opponents to be shorthanded to score? I don’t think so now that I think about it. That’s actually pretty good. Keep him on the ice for the full two minutes now. Ha.

I'm picturing myself giving the 21 gun salute. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Brad Staubitz and Rob Blake were the other goal-scorers. Blake’s marker put him ahead of Doug Wilson on the all-time goals for defenseman list.

Sharks commentator Randy Hahn threw out an interesting statistic last night. Prior to the game, Nashville was 10-0 when Joel Ward scored a goal, and the Sharks were 9-0 when they have multiple fights in a game. Guess what? Both happened and the Sharks improve to 10-0 with more than one boxing match.

Unfortunately, both fights were Jody Shelley getting railed on by Wade Belak. It was ugly. Shelley wasn’t throwing — just hanging on. Oh well. It worked in the bigger picture.

Airheads

Nashville fans talk a lot of smack for no apparent reason. They use the “you suck” chants more than any other team. Why? Your team is the face of perennial mediocrity. Instead of insulting opponents, maybe you should insult your own team for blowing leads.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  NSH 20; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs, Monday. It won’t be entirely different from playing the Western Conference now that Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dion Phaneuf are there.

–Ray

February 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 46

Quite the insipid performance by the Sharks in their 2-1 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues. After coming off a blowout loss to the Kings, I expected a bit more heart tonight. There wasn’t much intelligence either.

The Sharks had over 40 shots for the second straight game with the final shot clock being 44-29, but like so many times last year, shots were taken with no traffic in front of the goalie. Chris Mason saw every shot that came to him and didn’t give up many rebounds. Instead of planting themselves right in Mason’s eyes, they’d stay off to the side waiting for a rebound off his pads. That’s just being lazy and cowardly. Maybe Dan Boyle getting hit in the face with the puck earlier in the game got to them, but that’s not an excuse.

For the first time in years, Patrick Marleau was playing really bad. His passes were off the mark and careless. He just didn’t have it. However, he made up for it with in the third period with the game-tying goal. It came off a one-timer from the point that deflected past Mason.

Not too long after that, the Sharks had a fantastic chance to take the lead. The puck flew into the air after a shot, landed behind Mason and was just asking to be slammed home. Barret Jackman, defenseman for the Blues, put his hand over the puck to keep it out — a penalty that should be rewarded with a penalty shot. Of course the referees didn’t see it despite one being right behind the net. Karma’s gotta kick in though right?

It would in overtime. Dany Heatley found himself on a breakaway with a minute left in the extra frame; he sped away from defenders and buried it in the twine.

Hey Winchester, those croissants go right to hips, ya? (From SJSHARKS.com)

That was all fine and dandy, but the four minutes before that, the Sharks played to not lose. I’ve mentioned it before, but something is going on with this prevent defense in overtime. I’d like to know if its coach Todd McLellan’s philosophy or just the players being too tentative. The fans actually started to boo them, which was spectacular. At least they recognize it as well.

This isn’t the way to rebound from a bad loss, but it’s a starting point. And the Sharks better speed up to the finish line because there’s a showdown with Detroit on Saturday.

Spelling Error

So I realized the other day I’ve been spelling Todd McLellan’s name wrong. I’ve been spelling it with an extra ‘C’ because I saw it like that when he first became coach. I don’t know where I saw it, but it’s stuck with me. My brain’s been so used to it, I’ve not noticed the correct spelling. Well, something clicked and I saw it yesterday. I verified it, and now I feel like an idiot. Mistakes happen to everyone I guess.

Torrey Mitchell

He’s been getting good amounts of ice time on the power play lately. Not just seconds at the end either. He’s been playing with Marleau and Heatley. It’s been a good combination as he complements their talent with hard work and determination.

Finally A Fight!

Jody Shelley dropped the gloves with Cam Janssen, in the second period, for a 90 second slugfest. Jersey jabs galore and a few attempted haymakers. Shelley handled Cam pretty well and earned the win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 29  StL 23; Devin Setoguchi led with five.

Giveaways: SJ 20  StL 6; Yikes. That’s a scary statistic.

Detroit comes to town on Saturday.

–Ray

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 5

Quite the deflating performance for the Sharks in tonight’s 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. I use the term deflating because the Sharks went down 0-4, came back to tie it 4-4, only to have a goal scored on them from behind the goal line. It ruined all emotion, including the elation of Dany Heatley’s first goal as a Shark.

I’m also using the rather tame word “deflating” because the offense — particularly the top line — played well and the power play showed up tonight and dominated. San Jose was 4-6 with the man advantage, with Devin Setoguchi scoring two, Heatley with one, and Rob Blake with one.

Now that the good is out of the way, time for some ripping.

The defensemen were awful in every sense of the word, with the exception of Jason Demers and maybe Blake. There were lambasted by the Kings forwards and the dmen had no communication at all. I think three of the Kings goals came from a weak-side forward who was wide open. Inexcusable. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was at fault for allowing the first goal. He tightened up a bit after that goal, but then sunk back into terrible positioning.

Jason Demers goes to the net hard (From NHL.com)

Jason Demers goes to the net hard (From NHL.com)

Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle allowed Ryan Smyth to punch in a garbage goal, weak-side for the second goal. I don’t know how you leave Smyth of all people wide open, as he’s known for being in front of the net.

Murray wasn’t done yet, though! He allowed Jack Johnson to skate right by him and into the front of the crease. Johnson batted a puck out of the air into the net. After the play, Murray gave a little shrug — oh the nerve. It was a pitiful effort by him all night.

The fourth goal was all Nabokov’s fault. Anze Kopitar shot a wicked wrister from just inside the blue line. With that much space, you must pick up the puck in that amount of time. Thankfully, Nabby was pulled after that one in favor of Thomas Greiss. While the dmen were mostly at fault for the previous goals, Nabby has to be a vocal leader back there directing traffic. He is to blame as well.

After the comeback, LA won a faceoff and Teddy Purcell carried the puck BEHIND the goal line, shot it at Greiss’ pads and the puck went in. That is horrid/disgusting/embrarrassing. An NHL goalie can never allow that to happen. Pay attention! What’s so hard about that? Besides that, Greiss didn’t play too bad, making some key saves to preserve that comeback.

Some other notes

Ryane Clowe was abhorrent — completely atrocious. I have no clue what got into him — or out of him in this case — but he did not have anything tonight. His skating was sub-par, his stickhandling was always an adventure (in a bad way) and his decision-making was nauseating. He was always a step behind, passing to Kings players or slipping on the ice. He decided to fight Wayne Simmonds at the end of the game, probably out of frustration from himself, not the team. When walking to the locker room after the fight, he slammed his helmet down. Good. He better. At least he knows he was horrendous.

Manny Malhotra was Clowe Jr. tonight. While not as bad as Clowe, Malhotra played like a slow, full-time AHLer. He actually came out with a firey passion, as did the whole third line, but sadly, it didn’t last. For a faceoff guy, he was second to last in faceoff percentage, with 46%.

Speaking of bad faceoff percentage Patrick Marleau was last with 36%, but this is a different situation. Joe Pavelski injured himself blocking a shot against the Ducks, and will be out for a couple weeks. Marleau moved back to his natural center position tonight, so he probably had some rust. He skated fast as always and played sound defense.

Final thoughts

The Sharks have their home opener against Columbus, Thursday. I hope they can stop being so wishy-washy, and figure out who they are. Individually, players need to limit their mistakes as much as possible. When players have terrible nights like Clowe, coach Todd McClellan needs to pull the plug fast and limit ice time.

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WTHWWT – Week 6 (Ray)

A slew of last minute victories sprinkled the NFL landscape this week, and of course a majority of them go the opposite way I picked. Let’s get it on!

Houston 29 Miami 28

Miami could have stole this one but decided that a loss would be the perfect way to end a day in Houston. The Dolphins rushing attack was decent, and Pennington performed quite well, but it still was not enough to take out the Texans. Some fans wanted Sage Rosenfels to be the starter after last week’s performance but Matt Schaub proved why he is QB1, leading the team down the field for the game winning touchdown (which he ran in). The Texans defense held and got the W. So, now Miami joins the ranks of the enigmas, playing great one week and losing a head-scratcher the next.

Tampa Bay 27 Carolina 3

Talk about laying a gigantic egg, Carolina. Way to not show up at all. A total of 40 yards rushing is all the Panthers could garner the whole game. The passing retreat (attack would be an injustice) led by Jake Delhomme was garbage, due to 3 INT. The Bucs need to choose a starting quarterback. This week it was Jeff Garcia who played the whole game and not Brian Griese. Pick one! It looked as though Carolina would become an NFC power but noooope! Once again, we’re left with questions. No team is that great in the NFL. Should be interesting as time goes on.

Indianapolis 31 Baltimore 3

Kudos to me for picking two teams that only managed 3 points in their games. I am truly honored to have such a despicable record grace the pages of this blog. First off, it is about time the Colts won a game at home. Took way too long. Both teams rushing dropped a deuce and stunk it up. Peyton Manning looked like he should have the first 5 weeks. Joe Flacco looked like he should have the first 5 weeks, a rookie. Flacco got intercepted-o three times and did not throw any touchdowns (obviously as the score of 3 tells you). The Ravens need to pick one RB and not use Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, AND Le’Ron McClain. McGahee should be the starter and finisher. You don’t pay him the big bucks to ride pine and let rookies play instead of him.

St. Louis 19 Washington 17

This is probably the happiest I have been after getting a pick wrong. I told everyone the Redskins were average and this proved it. They can beat Dallas and Philly all they want, but if you cannot defeat a WINLESS team, there is a huge problem. Everybody can now jump off the ‘Skins bandwagon. Sure, they put up good stats but they didn’t get the most important thing – the win. You can tell me all day Clinton Portis had 129 yds rushing and 2 TD! That’s fine for me for my fantasy team with Portis on it but it did not help your team at all win now did it? HA. Calm your nerves now Washington fans. Welcome back to Earth.

Jacksonville 24 Denver 17

Fairly even game here so not really any people I can go off on, unfortunately. I really thought Denver could be a great team, but now they are really sucking it. No spectacular stats here, just a hard fought Jaguars victory. Although, the Broncos need to get better on rush defense and not allow Jones-Drew 125 yards and 2 TD (but it helps my fantasy team! If you are keeping tabs I have Portis and Jones-Drew). Denver needs some consistency in their life and not flip-floppyness like John Kerry.

October 14, 2008 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NFL Week 6 Picks!

Last Week’s Results:
Nathan: 9-5 (48-26)
Ray: 8-6 (40-34)

Games Nathan Ray
CIN @ NYJ JETS JETS
MIA @ HOU DOLPHINS DOLPHINS
CHI @ ATL FALCONS FALCONS
DET @ MIN VIKINGS VIKINGS
CAR @ TB BUCS PANTHERS
BAL @ IND COLTS RAVENS
OAK @ NO SAINTS SAINTS
STL @ WAS RAMS SKINS
JAX @ DEN JAGS BRONCOS
GB @ SEA PACK PACK
DAL @ ARI COWBOYS COWBOYS
PHI @ SF EAGLES EAGLES
NE @ SD PATS CHARGERS
NYG @ CLE GIANTS GIANTS

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment