A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 53

Quite the vicegrip game for the Sharks as they clamped down on the Los Angeles Kings and won 5-1. It was the Sharks best performance and third win against the Kings this season. The two previous wins were 2-1 affairs.

San Jose has outscored their last three opponents 18-4 and have found their groove.

This has to be one of the best stretches the defense has played all year. They’re keeping their sticks on the ice, using good positioning and locking down opposing teams’ best players. That’s a recipe for success.

Jay Leach has really surprised me. He’s learned the system and playing great defensively; he’s also been seen pinching in the offensive zone. Even his partner Kent Huskins, who I enjoy ripping, is playing well. He was second on the team in ice time tonight with 20:23. Wow! Perhaps I underrated him? Hahaha, no.

Patrick Marleau started things off quickly with a power play goal just five minutes in. Power plays were the name of the game. The Sharks were 3-3 on the man advantage and held the Kings to no power play goals on five opportunities.

Patty would score another power play goal in the second period; it came just after a Kings shorthanded breakaway that goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped. Nabby couldn’t find the magic for a shutout though, like usual. I tell you what — the Sharks are like me playing NHL 10. I always manage to allow at least one goal and never get shutouts. It’s the same story in real life. I wonder if Nabby is wondering if he’ll ever get one again. We’ll never know because he’ll just tell the media it’s about the win. Don’t just take that answer. He’s a prideful Russian.

Aaaaahhh! Get your wooden stake away from me, mortal! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryane Clowe scored two goals as well, making it his first two-goal game since Nov. 11, 2008. Guess who was on the ice and notched the primary assist. Manny Malhotra! OK, this is the one thing I was definitely wrong about. Manny is an amazing catalyst right now especially, but he’s provided so much to the team. Every line he ends up on scores. Joe Thornton, Jr. anyone?

Maybe my favorite part of the night was the third period. Again the Sharks kept their teeth on the jugular. Dan Boyle attempted to fight Dustin Brown, but the refs wouldn’t allow it. This star player protection needs to stop. Let these guys fight. The biggest excuse is “but we don’t want them to get hurt.” I rarely ever see players get hurt in fights. Injuries happen much more after bonecrushing hits or cheap elbows.

That wraps up the season series with L.A. thankfully. The Sharks finally solved them. It only took four months to do so.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 18  LA 28; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks look to continue their Sherman-like march on Thursday when Anaheim travels to San Jose.

–Ray

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January 20, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 45

Quite the wtf game for the Sharks as they lost miserably to the Los Angeles Kings 6-2. Despite outshooting the Kings 47-20, the Sharks couldn’t solve LA goalie Jonathan Quick or make up for their defensive lapses.

Things looked good early for the Sharks. Torrey Mitchell was on the power play and working hard with Devin Setoguchi. The forecheck looked strong, but the Kings struck first when no one marked Michal Handzus, who scored on a wraparound.

Two LA power play goals would follow on similar defensive lapses. Nobody wanted to mark their man or take proper position. It looked like the beginning of the season all over again, as well as the first game against Los Angeles where the Sharks were destroyed.

In the second, the Sharks put their best shots on Quick but nothing would get past him. Quick is something like 3-0-1 against the Sharks now. They really don’t need another Pacific Division goalie giving them problems. Two more LA goals in the period made the score 5-0.

So coach Todd McClellan decided to pull Evgeni Nabokov and try Thomas Greiss in goal to start the third. Thirteen seconds later it was 6-0. Yikes. Credit Greiss, though; he didn’t allow another goal, and the Sharks put two goals on the board to avoid the shutout. (Douglas Murray and Patrick Marleau scored.)

Is this open enough for you guys to score? (From SJSHARKS.com)

We all know this next statement was coming so let’s get right to it. The Sharks were 7-0 with Jason Demers back in the lineup, and now they’re 1-1 since sending him down. What in the world has to happen for the Sharks coaches and management to realize they win games with Demers in the lineup. You are not getting different results by taking him out. You keep losing. For the love of all that is holy, call him up and keep him there. Get it through your thick skulls. Sheesh.

I’d also like to address what a bunch of terrible announcers LA has. The analyst took it upon himself to mock the “Beat LA” chant at the end of the game. Yea, you wouldn’t do that at the beginning of the game would you tough guy? Very professional of you. That’s why the only job you could get was on a terrible franchise’s broadcasting team. We’ll see where your team is come playoff time. Probably on the couches, but if by some divine intervention the Kings make the playoffs, enjoy your first-round exit.

No Fights

In a game like this, I would expect someone to step up and fight, but no one did. Instead of opening the second period with a message, you guys waited to the third to make a goalie change. That was your message? Come on. Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz should have dropped the gloves. What’s wrong with you guys? Did the long layoff make you soft? That is what you are a Shark for; otherwise, demote yourselves to Worcester.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 19  LA 13; Three players had three hits each.

This ends the Sharks eight-game winning streak, and the three first-period goals ends a 10-game streak without allowing one.

The Sharks were No. 2 in penalty killing. They allowed three power play goals tonight.

The Sharks get a chance to rebound, Wednesday, against St. Louis.

–Ray

January 5, 2010 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. 34

Quite the incredible performance by the Sharks in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. I use the word incredible as the literal meaning, i.e. you can’t believe it, not credible.

Same old, same old. A lot of flash, lousy execution. Man this is getting annoying playing down to inferior teams. It’s the Sharks third straight loss, and fourth loss in seven games. It’s officially a slump.

The Sharks are No. 1 in the NHL on faceoffs, while the Kings are No. 20. Somehow the Sharks found a way to lose most of the faceoffs. The final tally was 52%-48% Kings. This is what made the Sharks lose. It seemed like they lost every offensive zone draw and they had to have lost a majority of faceoffs while on the power play.

Everyone with a quality "WTF" look (From NHL.com)

Speaking of, the extra work on the power play during the layoff didn’t help. Sure they scored on PP goal, but once again they tried to be too fancy. I can think of one specific example: During a 4-on-3, a few Sharks were parked one foot from the crease. Instead of shooting, they just stood there with imaginary cement around their skates and would not shoot.

They need to revert back to last year’s philosophy of shooting everything from everywhere for the power play. This is ridiculous.

Accompanying the worthless power play was taking dumb penalties. The Sharks were asking to be scored on and they were. Two of LA’s goals were on the man advantage. I guess with all that work on the power play, the Sharks forgot about penalty killing, which they were No. 1 in the NHL.

The overtime goal was a great way to cap off the game; Dustin Brown, who had been slumping, used a spin and a weak shot to beat goalie Evgeni Nabokov. And yes, the puck went five-hole.

One good note was Ryane Clowe, who finished with two assists and a +1 rating. He now holds a 10-game point streak.

I really don’t think the Sharks can do much else to get out of this slump. It’s just one of those times of the year where nothing is going right. They’ll pull out of it eventually, but this isn’t a good time of the year to have one. Seven out of the next nine our division games, so something better happen soon.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  LA 33; Scott Nichol (5) and Manny Malhotra (4) led the team.

The Sharks are now 1-1-2 on this five-game homestand.

The Dallas Stars come to town Friday.

–Ray

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 9

Quite the lackadaisical performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Sharks hadn’t lost to the Caps since Feb. 20, 1999, but this new lethargic team ended that streak tonight. It’s the first game this season where not one player showed any sort of spark or effort. It was disheartening. It’d be nice to have a media member ask all the Sharks where their heads our at. But I guarantee they all would say, “I think the effort was there, we just weren’t executing.” Yea right, let’s get real. Maybe Dan Boyle would be honest; he usually is, but that canned answer is what you would get.

Before I continue, let me just explain how I am. Many Sharks fans will point out that it’s just the beginning of the season and they’re still trying to find chemistry.

Sorry, but I’m not like that. I’m not patient at all. And contrary to popular belief, these games mean the same as ones in March. I’ll let you be patient, but allow me the luxury of being impatient.

Anyway, the first period was difficult to watch. San Jose took five penalties during the frame, and were slow. Luckily, the Caps only converted once on a 5 on 3, and the Sharks escaped. Benn Ferriero knotted it up at the end of the first on a nice passing play — that would be the last string of tape-to-tape passes in the game.

Alex Ovechkin scores his second goal in 28 seconds

Alex Ovechkin scores his second goal in 28 seconds (From SJSHARKS.com)

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals in 28 seconds, in the second stanza — his first goals against the Sharks ever. The Sharks lost any sort of mental sturdiness after that sequence; there was to be no magic comeback like there was against the Los Angeles Kings.

The board play was terrible. Sharks players randomly kicked the puck from the halfboards to empty space or Caps players. The offense was non-existent. Players dumped it in with no teammates showing any intention of recovering it. I remember one instance in particular that summed it up: Joe Thornton came down the left side, dumped it in, the puck went around the back of the net, Caps player tied up a Sharks player, and the puck (still rolling from Joe’s dump) went to Brooks Laich, who started a Caps breakout.

I can’t think of a word for the defense. Let’s just keep it simple: bad. Kent Huskins wins dunce of the night for being Kent Huskins. It’s time to bring up Nick Petrecki. Cut the Derek Joslin trash. He is going nowhere in this league, but Petrecki is.

It’s also time to bring up Logan Couture or Ryan Vesce. As much as I like the tough guys, they aren’t doing anything important.

Manny Malhotra is an absolute joke. He has done nothing at all. Time to fish or cut bait, and I’m liking the latter right now. He doesn’t have any skills, so I have no clue how he made the team. Get him out of San Jose, ASAP.

Other Notes

Wish I had some. The Sharks stunk.

I will say if this keeps up, the Sharks are going 0-6 on this road trip. There were no signs tonight of anything positive to make me think otherwise. The Sharks need an 8-0 loss; maybe then they’ll wake up.

–Ray

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 6

Quite the explosive performance for the Sharks tonight as San Jose defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-3. Dany Heatley had a hat trick in the home opener for the Sharks, making all the fans ecstatic. It is so nice to have a pure sniper on the team now. Sure, we had Jonathan Cheechoo and we still have Devin Setoguchi, but I always saw those players as needing a Joe Thornton. Heatley doesn’t need anyone but himself to score goals, and that’s what kind of player the Sharks have needed.

Heatley had 3 goals, 1 assist, finished +5 and had 2 PIMs — a good night for Heater, to say the least.

Heater’s first goal came on a hard-fought shift behind the goal line, then he scored on a wraparound. His next goal came from a Dan Boyle pass from the defensive zone all the way to the Jackets’ blue line. Heatley wristed it by Steve Mason. For the hat trick, Heatley was tripped in front of the net that led to a penalty shot. He calmly deposited it 5-hole, and the fans made it rain with hats.

Dany Heatley celebrates with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi (From: SJSHARKS.com)

Dany Heatley celebrates with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi (From: SJSHARKS.com)

Ryane Clowe

After the tongue-thrashing (or type-thrashing in this case) I gave Clowe last game, he came out and was on fire. He was hitting as many players as he could find (he led the team with 5 hits). His skating was fast and agile, and his shooting was spot-on. I could tell he wanted to prove last game was a fluke. There’s nothing I respect more than a guy getting pissed off at his performance, then come out next game and dominate. Clowe also had a fight tonight, which leads to…

Fights

Two fights tonight, both coming in the second period. First fight pitted Clowe vs. Michael Blunden. This was no contest. Clowe carried his emotion into his fists as he busted Blunden’s head wide open. Blunden bled profusely from his left temple.

The second fight involved Shark Frazer McLaren and Jacket tough guy Derek Dorsett. McLaren got his arm stuck inside his jersey and struggled the first half of the fight. Dorsett capitailzed with a couple left hooks, but McLaren finally got free of his jersey and proceeded to pound the living daylights out of Dorsett. I’m sure if Dorsett has some chips, he can dip them in his head because his brain is a nice mushy salsa now.

Defensemen

Two d-men got on the scoreboard tonight, goal-wise. Dan Boyle did his usual pinching, and shot a wicked wrister top-shelf past Mason. Boyle assisted twice as well.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the culprit allowing the Jackets first goal — another weak-side positioning error. He made up for it with a slapshot from the point through traffic. Good to see him make up for that mistake.

Demers struggling?

You can’t be perfect. It was Jason Demers’ worst night of the young season, against Columbus. His first passes out of the zone were being intercepted or blocked. His puck control was suspect — at one point, Rick Nash stole the puck in the Sharks’ defensive zone. I’m sure Jason will clean up those mistakes though.

Other notes

Brad Staubitz was suspended for one game due to making excessive physical contact on an icing play against the Los Angeles Kings. Jamie McGinn filled in for him. There wasn’t much to report for McGinn. He was fast as usual, but that’s it.

Columbus goalie Steve Mason was pulled after the Sharks’ fifth goal. At the time, he had allowed five goals on 20 shots.

Joe Thornton quietly picked up four assists — Joe being Joe.

–Ray

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment