A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 70/71

Quite the . . . for the Sharks as they proved just how awful they can be with two losses in a row to the Anaheim Ducks, 4-2, and the Dallas Stars, 8-2. I use ellipses because words just can’t describe how angry, disappointed and furious I am with this team.

I should have seen this coming. The last time the team played well might have been in January, and it was going to come to a head sooner or later. Tonight against Dallas was the night. It was the Chicago debacle, part deux (November 25, Sharks lost 7-2 to the Hawks).

Apologies for not having a blog posted for the Anaheim game. Unfortunately, my ride back to college took place during the game, and upon seeing the result, I really didn’t feel like watching it. The highlights were more than enough to enlighten me on the sloppy play.

It figures as soon as I defend Evgeni Nabokov, he starts letting in goals a two-year-old can stop. That was both in Anaheim and Dallas. Thomas Greiss relieved him tonight and looked like a lost redneck in New York City.

Tonight’s performance against Dallas was repulsive, but I can’t help but think about praising the Almighty. We all know by now how stupid and stubborn the Sharks can be, and the only way they learn is the hard way. Winning after playing like crap gives them confidence. That’s great if it happens for a few games in a season. Not 10 games in a row.

Dan Boyle supposedly yelled at the team in some capacity after the Anaheim loss and echoed those statements in the media. Boyle said half the team showed up and that they were “coasting” to the finish line like last season. Yes. That would be correct Mr. Boyle. It might be time for a late-season captain change. Rob Blake’s even-keel attitude has worn thin on me faster than I anticipated. And his stupid penalties game after game are driving all Sharks fans insane.

Boyle isn’t playing perfect either. He’s turning it over a lot lately, but at least he knows the team plays like a pile of manure.

Honest question. Have you ever seen a worse team with this many points? Answer in the comment section, please.

Let’s get into some specifics of tonight’s game while you ponder that question. San Jose didn’t help itself taking a double minor penalty right off the bat. More penalties and Dallas eventually capitalized.

Kyrs Barch dropped the gloves the first of two times in the first period — this one against Ryane Clowe. I expected more out of Clowe. Wild punches were thrown, but I think Barch had the slight edge.

After another Dallas goal in the second to make it 2-0, Barch danced with Jay Leach. No clue what Leach was doing, nor do I think he knew what he was doing; Barch won that handily.

Of course, that fight sparked two more goals from the Stars and it was 4-0. Nabby was pulled and Greiss entered the game.

Some of the Sharks players show their signs to the opponent before heading to the locker room and starting their dance recital (From SJSHARKS.com)

Then we have an interesting development. Stephane Robidas slammed Clowe into the boards — payback for an earlier hit Clowe gave Robidas — and Robidas received a five minute major and game misconduct. What’s hilarious is the Dallas analyst said he thinks the injured player shouldn’t be allowed to return either if the culprit is ejected (Clowe did continue to play).

In what dimension does that make sense? So, Clowe should essentially be “ejected” for being boarded? There’s a new low in human thought. Congrats analyst — I’m not even going to bother looking up your name.

This is where I was looking for Brad Staubitz to do something. Jody Shelley is gone; you’re the enforcer Brad. Do something with your life. It’s seeming like you were a lot tougher with Shelley to hide behind. Safe to say Staubitz’s and the rest of the Shark’s family jewels have retreated back into their stomach or just dropped off all together.

Proving my point about learning the hard way and seeing one of their own get demolished in the boards, the Sharks scored the next two goals to bring the score to 4-2.

The flash of professional-hockey-level play came to an abrupt end when Dallas scored two shorthanded goals in a row. Ah yes, the parallels to the Chicago game continue (Chicago scored three shorthanded goals in a row in the 7-2 game).

Dallas continued the onslaught with two more goals, as the Sharks hung up their skates and put on leotards.

I’ve just about given up hope on this team again. Every year after playoff struggles, I’ve managed to keep the positive thoughts going — even last year when they struggled at the end of the regular season. This time it just seems worse because there is only one major injury (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is skating now). Last year the team was plagued with injuries.

I actually verbally lashed out at my computer screen when the sixth goal was scored. It’s just plain ridiculous.

This team needs to start a brawl. Every player should be required to fight someone. I’d love to see that.

All hail the San Jose Sharks:  Dumb, Dumber, Dumberer, Dumbererer, Dumberererer, etc.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DAL 29; Jamie McGinn led with four.

The “Minnows” next game is against Vancouver on Thursday — the front end of a back-to-back.

–Ray

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 54

Quite the justice game for the Sharks as they took down the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 tonight. The win puts the Sharks 5-0 against the Ducks this season.

Say what you want about regular season games and getting vengeance against teams who ousted you in the playoffs, but this feels awesome. If the Ducks did make it to the playoffs and the Sharks faced them again, these five wins mean nothing, but I’m living in the moment. Cross that bridge when or if they get there. Right now, we beat the Ducks at their best so enjoy it.

First thing that must be addressed was the awful feed of the game on NHL GameCenter. I think the feed is up to the broadcasters and Anaheim did a poor job with their cameras. The game looked like it was being viewed through a smog filter. On top of that it was blurry and you have the boring Ducks announce team. A recipe for a non-fun viewing experience. Nevertheless, I and other Sharks fans endured.

The Sharks had to endure this game without Dan Boyle’s services because of an upper body injury. From the reports I’ve read, he’ll miss the big inter-conference showdown with Buffalo on Saturday, too. He should be back next week.

Being on this hot streak recently, the Ducks tried to send a message with a couple fights and keeping things intense. It backfired.

Ryane Clowe and George Parros had a dance four minutes in. It was a welcome change from seeing Jody Shelley always fight Parros. Clowe beat down Ron Jeremy, Jr., and it started off the game fantastically.

Brad Staubitz and Nick Boynton tangoed six minutes later. Haymaker after haymaker ensued, but Bitz got the best of Boynton putting the Sharks in control of the momentum.

Take seat, duckling. I make Swedish bonesaw--errr, meatballs-- for you. (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Ducks were charged with a four minute high-sticking penalty, and it took 3:55 for the Sharks to convert. Better late than never, of course. Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored off a wrist shot near the blue line.

Anaheim started to build their own momentum, but it was crushed when Rob Blake found the twine. He was set up by an absolutely beautiful pass from Joe Thornton.

As you probably already guessed, goalie Evgeni Nabokov allowed his trademark one goal. Again. The Sharks held on to win.

Penalty Destroyers

No extra-man goals for the Ducks. The Sharks’ penalty kill unit stopped all five chances.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 24  ANA 22; Jody Shelley led with four.

As I eluded to earlier, the Sabres continue their road trip by playing San Jose on Saturday.

–Ray

January 22, 2010 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. 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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 27

Quite the methodical win for the Sharks as they defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. The Sharks are two-for-two against Anaheim this season, and while this game wasn’t as dominating as the first, the result was the same: a win. Also remember this is the second time San Jose beat Anaheim at Anaheim.

It was KISS night in Anaheim. I can’t think of a stupider promotion. I was forcefed two makeup artists during the Ducks broadcast. I will say the makeup was more fun to look at than listening to the commentators.

There wasn’t anything flashy about this game; it was all hard work and determination. Both teams made mistakes — of course a few Sharks giveaways in their own zone stick out to me. But I’ve come to expect that, unfortunately, from the Sharks.

Douglas Murray was bad tonight. Don’t let the +1 rating fool you. He had so many giveaways and positioning errors — one of them led directly to a goal ten seconds later. He also took a penalty late in the second period, and the Ducks converted 11 seconds later. Dan Boyle was just a step behind tonight and couldn’t cover for Murray’s mistakes.

Frazer McLaren and George Parros get busy. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Things were frisky early with a quick fight out of the gates: Frazer McLaren vs. George Parros. Frazer won the first half of the fight, and Parros won the second half. Draw. Good to see Frazer making an impact with such a minute amount of ice time.

It looked to be another boring, close game after a scoreless first period. But the red lights were tiring out from four goals in the second. Ryane Clowe got on the board with a shot from the point. It’s his second straight goal from the point. Not the place you usually see him scoring from, but hey, whatever works.

Dany Heatley scored to keep his title of goal-scoring leader (18). It came off a Joe Thornton shot and rebound. I don’t think Anaheim was expecting Joe to shoot after his passes last game. That’s probably why the play worked.

But Anaheim hung in there, leaving the second period tied at 2-2.

The third period resembled the first, and I started getting deja vu; the game looked a lot like the playoff series between these two from last year. The difference? The Sharks were the ones who willed a goal out of themselves. Heater played passer and found Thornton coming up the side. Jumbo pocketed the puck perfectly to the far side to put the Sharks up for good.

People questioned coach Todd McClellan’s move to keep Evgeni Nabokov in goal for back-to-back games. He didn’t look as sharp as he usually does, but he was competent enough to earn the W. He’ll get a long rest because the Sharks won’t play again until Wednesday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 20  ANA 19; Scott Nichol (4) and Joe Thornton (3) led the team.

Every Sharks player who was on the ice for an Anaheim goal redeemed themselves; No Shark had a negative +/-.

The Sharks battle the Blackhawks, Wednesday at HP Pavilion.

–Ray

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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