A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 4

Quite the dominating performance by the Sharks tonight in a 4-1 win at Anaheim. The Sharks absolutely eviscerated the Ducks on their home ice, spoiling the party for Ducks fans. San Jose won in every aspect of the game — a refreshing experience compared to the horrid Colorado game.

Benn Ferriero scored his first NHL goal to get the game started. What did he do? Went to the front of the net! He found the puck right in front of the crease and buried it behind Jonas Hiller, who got the nod ahead of J.S. Giguere. It was fulfilling to see the Sharks dismantle Hiller, after the debacle that was the 2009 playoffs. Jason Demers and Frazer McLaren picked up assists on Ferriero’s goal, which was their first points of their career.

Patrick Marleau continued his excellence by blocking a Ryan Whitney shot on an Anaheim power play, and beating out Whitney for the puck, leading to a shorthanded breakaway. Patty went forehand-backhand to beat Hiller. Perhaps the ‘C’ on jerseys is an extra 20 lbs, because Patty is playing 20 lbs. lighter. I’m looking forward to him having a career year.

Good news Sharks fans! Dany Heatley showed up tonight and the chemistry with Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton was on. Coming out of the penalty box, he found Jumbo Joe, who also went forehand-backhand on Hiller — looks like we found a weakness in ol’ Jonas, ‘eh?’

The same sort of play happened next period with Heatley along the boards passing to the slot finding Setoguchi who shot a rocket into the twine. Good to see things picking up for the trifecta.

Benn Ferriero celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Benn Ferriero celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Other Observations

It was definitely a scrappy affair as the teams combined for 80 penalty minutes. That’s what I’m talking about! There were only two legitimate fights (which weren’t very good) but a cornucopia of scrums after the whistle. I liked seeing that though, shows the Sharks aren’t taking exception to any kind of Corey Perry-esque activity. Douglas Murray did get a game misconduct for being third-man-in. Murray went to an Ivy League school; I thought he was supposed to be smart.

The third and fourth lines for San Jose looked amazing and completely gelled. They were always fighting for loose pucks and winning for the most part. I think last year, those lines fought but didn’t succeed enough. I guess when coach Todd McClellan said they now had more grit, he was right. A lot more determination out of guys like Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol tonight — both who were involved in fights and altercations.

Improvements

Marleau was 1-8 in the faceoff circle; that needs to improve.

The Sharks were 1-7 on the power play. They didn’t keep a constant forecheck enough and looked sloppy entering the zone. McClellan is supposed to be the power play guru, so hopefully that’s fixed by the next game at Los Angeles.

Overall, I was elated to see us disembowel Anaheim and hear their fans immersed in a deafening silence. Here’s to Anaheim not making the playoffs.

–Ray

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 3

The Sharks take on the Ducks tonight at Anaheim and it should be a bruising contest. In an interesting roster move, The Sharks sent Jamie McGinn down to Worcester and brought up Frazer McLaren, who is known as a tough guy. After all the things I’ve heard from coaches about playing their own game and not worrying about the other team, this throws it for a loop.

Frazer McLaren giving a Canuck the business

Frazer McLaren giving a Canuck "the business"

So much for playing a speedy, offensive affair as the Sharks are known to do; they plan on adapting to Anaheim’s slower, hit-filled game. I guess it’s worth a shot considering our fast style didn’t work in the playoffs last year. But alas, it’s only one player. We’ll see the effects at 10 p.m. eastern.

Things to look for

1. Saku Koivu’s debut for Anaheim

2. Will Marleau-Pavelski-Clowe line continue their first game performance?

3. Any chemistry from Thornton or Heatley?

4. Who starts in goal for Anaheim? Giguere or Hiller?

5. Nabokov

Slow Starts

Last years division winners in the Western Conference (Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose) are off to a combined 0-5 start. Detroit was swept by St. Louis, while Vancouver dropped a game in Calgary and was shutout by upstart Colorado today.

St. Louis will be dangerous — so long as Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya stay healthy. They already have four goals combined in two games; however, one of them will get injured this year — it never fails.

Detroit’s backup Jimmy Howard played in the second game and looked, to put it lightly, sub-par. He allowed to goals in 13 seconds. I really don’t think he will ever be ready for the NHL; he’s a full-time AHLer.

October 3, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 2

Quite the disgraceful performance from the Sharks against the Colorado Avalanche tonight, losing 5-2.

The team looked lost on defense — constant positioning errors by both young players and veterans leading to numerous weak side goals. No communication on offense or defense. Goaltending was absolutely atrocious. Nabokov needs to get his act together very quickly. There was a phrase I heard from Tony Kornheiser saying something like “once is an anomaly, two is a trend, three is a problem.” Nabby has two games to make drastic changes, or the trade rumors will start, as if they hadn’t already.

There were two bright spots I saw. Patrick Marleau looked magnificent in his new C-less sweater netting San Jose’s only two goals. Defenseman Jason Demers was the best d-man of the night for the Sharks. He looked confident moving the puck and with his decision-making with the exception of the goal against he was on the ice for.

Jason Demers handles the puck

Jason Demers handles the puck. (From SJSHARKS.COM)

Other than that, it was disgusting to watch. As I said in Vol. 1, the Avs came out in the first five minutes with a fury and scored first. The Sharks answered in the sixth minute though, cooling off the Sakic emotions. From then on, it was all about effort. The youngsters for the Avs wanted to prove something to themselves, their teammates, and the fans. They were successful.

I wouldn’t say the Sharks didn’t put forth a good effort, but they just weren’t good. The Sharks put 40 shots on goal — something they always do under head coach Todd McClellan; however, the shots are not well-selected. Most are just random slapshots from the point hoping for a deflection. Ryane Clowe is the only legitimate player who will get in front of the net and try for deflections. That strategy needs to be tweaked to find better passing lanes before randomly drilling the puck to the crease. I think most players are shooting just to shoot (because that’s what Todd wants), but if the shot selection isn’t there, you give confidence to the goalie. Avs goalie Craig Anderson is not that good; that’s just the truth. But with every weak shot, he starts believing he is Luongo.

Jody Shelley got into a fight with David Koci and lost. I’m one of the few Shelley supporters; he is a good guy, and chooses fights at the right time. I can’t support him forever, so long as he keeps getting beat. Another loss and I might just call for his head too. We have Frazer McLaren and Brad Staubitz, who are more than capable of beating the hell out of the other team.

As you read in the first volume, I defended the selection of Rob Blake as captain. But Blake came out and took a double minor at the end of the first, forcing the Sharks to start the second on the defensive for the first four minutes. You can’t do that. I’m sure he knows that, so it will be interesting to see what he says in the postgame quotes.

One thing is for sure: the Sharks better get their act together in a hurry because the Ducks are next on the schedule. And it’s in Anaheim on Saturday.

–Ray

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NHL Power Rankings

1. San Jose Sharks 13-3-0
Entering Nov. 11, the Sharks boast the NHL’s loan undefeated record at home (9-0). The “Shark Tank” as fans call it, has been a dead zone for opposing teams as well as an imminent loss. Under the new coaching regime, the Sharks offense is reaching is potential, with the most goals for in the league. The defense has stepped up with the offseason acquisitions of Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, providing leadership and guidance for the Sharks fairly young defense. Most importantly, San Jose has shown character in being able to come back in games in which they trail, something absent the last few years.

2. Detroit Red Wings 9-2-2
The defending Stanley Cup Champs find themselves at number two in the power rankings. Marian Hossa has been exactly what they expected, netting 8 goals and adding 9 assists, in only 13 games played. Detroit is still playing as advertised, with a tough defense led by Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Goalie Chris Osgood has split time with backup with Ty Conklin and neither has put up stellar numbers, making it difficult on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings offensive juggernauts. Both carry the Wings offense again this year, although Datsyuk has only put in 3 goals. With right-winger Johan Franzen coming off injury, Detroit is going to start spreading the wealth.

3. New York Rangers 11-5-2
After 18 games played, no one would think that youngster Nikolai Zherdev would lead the team in points, but that is just the case with 5 goals and 9 assists. Markus Naslund, a big free agent signee, has been doing his part with 5 goals and 8 assists. With the exception of a hat trick last week, center Chris Drury has been struggling. Scott Gomez has had problems with finding the net, only scoring 3 goals thus far. Drury and Gomez are key to the team’s success. They have to improve, but with a goalie like Henrik Lundqvist and his 1.99 goals against average, the Rangers will be in every game.

4. Montreal Canadiens 8-2-2
Left wing Alex Tanguay leads the team in points with 14, along with defenseman Andrei Markov. Montreal is fourth in the league in the goals per game category with 3.42. With the combination of that offense and goalie Carey Price, the Canadiens are a very dangerous team. Price has a 2.61 GAA and .917 save percentage, keeping games close. The problem the Canadiens have is on defense. With the exception of Markov, not many defenseman are contributing. Roman Hamrlik has 5 points, but the rest have 2 points or less. The offense will not be able to carry the team the whole season. The defense must get involved if Montreal expects to win the tough Northeast division.

5. Boston Bruins 8-3-3
Archrival Montreal got the nod over Boston because of their head-to-head matchup earlier in the season, a shootout victory for the Canadiens. Boston has been a very formidable opponent and the record shows that. On average, the Bruins get outshot every game, but goalie Tim Thomas has been exceptional, boasting a 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. For the offense, Marc Savard is the unquestioned leader of the team with 16 points. The next best offenseman has only 9 points. Savard is also second on the team in penalty minutes, putting added pressure on the penalty kill unit. With Savard being off the ice constantly, more players have to step up if the Bruins are to legitimately challenge Montreal.

6. Buffalo Sabres 8-3-3
Buffalo has one of the best penalty kill units in the game, which helps them cover their own mistakes. Along with doing that, goalie Ryan Miller has a GAA just over 2. Buffalo is a team that just gets it done and they score when they have to. Their records at home and away are virtually identical making them a team to bet on every night.

7. Washington Capitals 8-4-2
It’s been a breakout year for Alexander Semin so far, leading the league in points with 22 (11G 11A). Alex Ovechkin has been an assist man this year, with 7 helpers and only 3 goals. It’s safe to say an Alex is going to score every night the Caps play.

8. Chicago Blackhawks 7-3-3
Captain Jonathan Toews has been having a tough time lately, with only 1 goal in 13 games played. Patrick Kane has picked up the slack, however, leading the team with 18 points (7G 11A). The problem for Chicago is goaltending. Nikolai Khabibulin has started seven games and Cristobal Huet has started six. Rumors are swirling that Khabibulin could be traded at any time, but with a 7-3-3 record, it doesn’t look like it is much of a distraction.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins 8-4-2
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin only have a combined 7 goals, yet lead the team in points. How is that possible? Both have a staggering number of assists. Malkin has 18 assists on the year, and Crosby has 13. As good as it is to see both helping their teammates, Malkin and Crosby need to start being more selfish and put the puck in the net if Pittsburgh wants to get better.

10. Anaheim Ducks 9-7-1
After such a terrible start, Anaheim has climbed back into the hunt for the Pacific division and the Western Conference. Over the last ten games, the Ducks are 7-2-1, making them one of the hottest teams in the league right now. A troubling stat, though, is they have more goals against, then for. They better get that straightened out quickly.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NHL 2008-2009 Predicted Final Division Standings

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Atlantic Division

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Southeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Central Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northwest Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Pacific Division

October 9, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTHWWT – Week 5 (Nathan)

So, in a week where the MLB saw the Cubs and Angels get eliminated from the playoffs, and the NHL started another season, with two games over in Europe, there was another week full of upsets and surprises in the NFL. The stock market continues to hit rock bottom and the presidential candidates continue to tour the country in hopes of people’s votes. Wachovia was bought out by Wells Fargo, and the University of Michigan got blown out of the water by the Fighting Illini and Juice Williams. As society continues to go downhill, the thoughts of where this world will be one year from today is just scary and unpredictable. But when times turn rough, you can always count on these blogs to cheer you up.

Atlanta vs Green BayAaron Rodgers vs Matt Ryan. Both very young inexperienced, starting quarterbacks and Lambeau Field on the first weekend of October, it does not get any better than this. People were unsure of how Rodgers would play because of his shoulder injury, but in an attempt to beat Brett Favre’s record setting streak of continuous starts, Rodger suited up and played. In the end, Matt Ryan was the quarterback who was leaving the field as a winner. This is the third week in a row that I have had to write about the Packers which is not a good thing. Hopefully they get the team back on track on their way to Seattle to visit former head coach Mike Holmgren.

San Diego vs Miami – So as I should have done when picking my picks for the week, the Chargers will now be known as the Padres. Hopefully this will give them a reason to start winning… Miami once again surprised the league with another upset victory. The Miami Dolphins are the team that everyone is going to overlook this season. Expect the Dolphins to finish at least .500 this season. They are that good. Or that average. However you want to look at it.

Buffalo vs Arizona – If any Buffalo Bills fans thought that JP Losman was a good quarterback hopefully this week proved something to you. The only good thing JP is good for is riding the bench and maybe giving the plays to the quarterback. On his first drive, JP lost a fumble and the Cardinals subsequently scored on the following drive. Hopefully, Trent Edwards can heal up over the bye week and come back in two weeks and start at quarterback. Concussions are so unpredictable so I’m sure we won’t find out until next week whether he can play or not.

Pittsburgh vs Jacksonville – Once again, the Jaguars let me down. Their lack of a running game has imploded my fantasy teams all season long and until they find a decent tandem in the backfield, it’s going to be a long season for the Jags.  Jones-Drew and Taylor must pick it up for Jacksonville’s success. The Steelers are going to have another dominant year in their division and will end up making the playoffs once again.

So, as this will be my last blog before the NHL Season officially starts on Thursday, let me finish this by saying Go Wings… HEY HEY HOCKEYTOWN!

– Nathan

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Baseball, Football, Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lace ’em up: The 2008 NHL season begins Saturday

Lace up your skates and hit the ice — it’s hockey time.

Ron Cortes/MCTPittsburg Penguins’ Sidney Crosby celebrates a goal by Ryan Malone during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The NHL season starts Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, with the New York Rangers taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season begins after numerous offseason signings and trades that are sure to shake up the standings. Will the Detroit Red Wings repeat? How will the local teams, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, do? Which team is the dark horse? Which team will tumble into the depths of last place? Those questions will all be answered.

Following their Stanley Cup Finals victory, the Red Wings decided it would be best to sign another sniper — Marian Hossa. Surely, this will keep Detroit in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, but things will not be as easy this year. Goalie Dominik Hasek finally retired and defenseman Nick Lidstrom is one year older, as is Chris Chelios. Age has always been a factor for Detroit but they are winners in Hockeytown. However, the Central division, which Detroit is a part of, has been retooled and looks very formidable for the defending champs.

The Chicago Blackhawks are the team to watch in this division, and in the whole NHL. With their two young stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (both could be sophomores or juniors with us here at Virginia Tech), Chicago could easily challenge Detroit for the division crown. Its defense has been bolstered with offseason acquisition Brian Campbell, bringing offense to their blueline. The question mark for Chicago is its goaltender, Cristobal Huet. If he can match his second half of last season with Washington, Chicago will be in tremendous shape.

Let’s head back east and take a look at the defending Eastern Conference champions — the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens lost quite a few players in the offseason, namely Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and, of course, Marian Hossa. This is going to hurt them this year. They are in one of the most difficult divisions in hockey, the Atlantic.

Philadelphia is the main opponent for the Pens. There was not much movement by the Flyers except a huge contract extension for young franchise man Mike Richards. The past year allowed Richards and Briere to gel, and let Braydon Coburn break out into a top defenseman.

The Rangers lost a lot with Jaromir Jagr going to Russia. All of that experience and scoring is now halfway around the world. The pressure now solely rests with centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, both entering their second year in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers front office did help the loss of Jagr by bringing in Markus Naslund and blueliner Wade Redden. It will be a three-team race for the Atlantic title, but all three will end up in the playoffs. That means the Devils are out.

We will stay in the Eastern Conference and look at the Southeast division, won last year by Washington. Alexander Ovechkin proved again why he is one of the best players in the game, every bit as good as Sidney Crosby. There is a problem for the Capitals, though — the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa yanked Barry Melrose away from ESPN to be head coach, and with a slew of signees things look bright for the Lightning. This is the dark horse for the NHL. It would not be surprising for them to make it to the Eastern Conference finals, if they can sure up the goaltending.

Wrapping up the east is the Northeast division. Montreal goalie Carey Price, said to be the second coming of Patrick Roy, proved his worth last year. The Canadians dumped some useless salary and are still attempting to bring in will-he-or-won’t-he free agent Mats Sundin, your Roger Clemens of hockey. They should finish first in the division.

Montreal’s archrival, Boston is going to turn some heads this year. Barring any more injuries, they will be contenders, along with Ottawa and Buffalo in the division. Ottawa is going backwards, and Buffalo is at a stalemate. Now is the time for Buffalo to make its move. Watch for a big trade deadline deal for the Bruins.

Back out west, we find the Northwest and Pacific divisions. In these two, you will find some of the best goaltending and defense in the NHL. It’s all about hardnosed hockey here, with the occasional sprinkling of offensive firepower in San Jose and Detroit. The Northwest division lost a lot of talent and players shifted around to teams in the same conference. Anybody can win the Northwest — it’s that simple. Every team has a solid defense backed by exceptional goaltending.

The Pacific division is home to a perennial regular season powerhouse, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks’ problems come in the playoffs, and that is why they fired their coach Ron Wilson last year and brought in one of Detroit’s assistant coaches, Todd McClellan, to give the team a new, winning attitude. This coupled with the addition of a revamped blueline — Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich — means the pieces are once again in place for a deep playoff run.

The Stars and Ducks are going to give the Sharks everything they can handle, though, especially with goalies like Marty Turco and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Anaheim did not make any huge moves in the offseason, and Dallas lost a few key players from their Conference Finals run. That will not stop them from competing though. Both teams have superior coaches.

With all of that said, this looks to be another fantastic hockey season. More and more fans are tuning in and attending games, bringing back the love for hockey in America. It is truly a great and exciting sport. There is nothing more emotional in sports than seeing players lift the Stanley Cup after a strenuous eight-month journey. That journey begins tomorrow.

– Ray

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment