A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 33

Quite the unlucky game for the Sharks in their 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. For the second straight game, the opposing goalie made saves he has no business making. The Sharks can’t buy a goal right now.

The game was action-packed, no question about that. Thirty-six shots a-piece and 35 hits a-piece made for another playoff atmosphere.

Ryane Clowe extended his points streak to nine games with a goal tonight. That came off a rebound from Dan Boyle’s shot. Other than that it was the Mikka Kiprusoff show. He couldn’t be beat. San Jose tried everything.

One of his saves was a miracle; he was on his stomach, a shot was taken, he flung his glove up which deflected it. The puck was on its way in when he kicked his skate up to kick it out. Unbelievable. That’s how it went all night for the Sharks.

I think Kipper has X-ray vision because the Sharks stacked a bunch of players in front of him for screens. They were doing everything right according to their game plan. When you hit a hot goalie, there isn’t much you can do except pray.

It was nice to see the Sharks never give up despite all this. Any number of teams would pack it up and take a seat in the press box after seeing saves like that. The Sharks didn’t do that at all. But unfortunately “will” couldn’t win it for them tonight and they’ve lost three of their last six games.

Every broadcast the opposing announcers make mention of the Sharks being No. 1 in the NHL. Can we stop that please? I don’t care if the points say they’re in first, they’re not the best in the league. San Jose’s record is now 19-7-5. Now change the numbers up a bit and we’re 19-12 (Overtime/Shootout losses are losses.) 19-12 is mediocre. That’s not too far from being .500.

Players battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

That one stretch earlier in the season where they recorded a point in 12 straight games is why the record is what it is.

Reviewing the postgame quotes from last game against St. Louis, coach Todd McClellan was ticked off at his team for allowing that last minute goal. Coaches will say it’s a team loss that encompasses the entire game, but you could tell Todd knew it came down to that last shift. It certainly looked like he sparked something in the players tonight. Good to know they respond well to Todd’s anger.

Also from last game, goalie Evgeni Nabokov mentioned Marc-Edouard Vlasic should have blocked that shot which tied the game up. A little “90210” in the Sharks locker room? Not so much. Not that big of a deal. Nabby and Vlasic shook it off, and while I know players act like they don’t care all the time, this was an exception.

Maybe I’m spoiled, but losing three of six makes me feel like a New Jersey Nets fan (The Nets started this season 0-18). It’s never fun losing, but losing because of these redonkulous goalies is beyond frustrating. Here’s to turnarounds.

Battle of the Mc’s

Frazer McLaren took on Brian McGratton, but it was too much McGratton for the youngster. He’s officially caught the Jody-Shelley syndrome. There is no cure except to choose more weak combatants. Tread carefully my friend.

So close, yet so far

Before the game Derek Joslin was reassigned to Worcester but then immediately recalled to play. Darn. We were so close to freedom and becoming good again…

Sick Heatley

Heatley is battling flu-like symptoms and was a game-time decision. He played below average. Dion Phaneuf nailed him with a neutral-zone check, and Dany had a bunch of giveaways.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 35  CGY 35; Devin Setoguchi led the team with five.

The Sharks have three days off before facing the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. McClellan better not give anyone the day off.

–Ray

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December 6, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 13

Quite the fast performance by the Sharks in their 4-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. The Sharks just looked quick and agile all over the ice, and Atlanta just couldn’t keep up — despite what the score indicates.

The first period was the opposite of what fans are used to as San Jose scored the first two goals. It was the second time all year the Sharks scored first — not a very good stat at all, huh? Not to mention the first goal was scored only 45 seconds into the game.

After criticizing Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley last game for having a grand total of 0 shots on goal combined, look who gets those first two goals: Thornton and Heatley. For the record they finished with eight total shots (four each).

Patrick Marleau tallied his eighth goal of the year just 55 seconds into the second period and should have had another soon after that. Patty broke away from Atlanta defenders and got pushed into goalie Johan Hedburg. The whistles blew but the replay clearly showed the puck in the net. The referees reviewed and somehow suffered temporary blindness; they called it no-goal. Analyst Drew Remenda was livid, which was amazing to hear because that’s what fans were saying.

The review booth in Toronto passed along that it the goal was called off because the whistle blew before the puck went it. This time it was temporary deafness that officials suffered from. The broadcasters played back the goal real-time with sound, and low-and-behold the whistle was WAY after the puck went in.

I describe this play in detail because right after that, Atlanta scored. The momentum of the entire game changed from a potential blowout into a squeaker.

Patty did get his revenge with his second goal of the night, but things didn’t feel the same.

Dany Heatley works the defense to fire a shot. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Dany Heatley works the defense to fire a shot. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Atlanta put forth a lot of effort into making the score 4-3 but Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov was up to the challenge. The Thrashers racked up 27 shots to the Sharks’ 24.

The Sharks are such a different team shot-wise this year. Remember last year when they put up 40 shots a game, every game? Seems like decades ago. I think the Sharks were trying to be too much like Detroit, and since that’s where coach Todd McClellan came from, the Sharks became Detroit #2.

San Jose is still trying to find their own distinct identity, so that might be a valid reason for their inconsistency so far, but like I’ve said before — no excuses.

Train Wreck

I think this is the third game in a row that I’ve seen two Sharks collide in the neutral zone. They’ve done it at least once a game it seems. What in the blue hell is that all about? I didn’t realize eyes are such a hinderance. Keep your head up or next time you’ll end up like R. J. Umberger in the 2006 playoffs. (If you haven’t seen that hit, take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3Gvfr9GUC0)

Ryan Vesce

He earned an assist tonight bringing his scoring streak to four games. Hes always taking shots, finding open spots on the ice. He’s a pleasure to watch. I do not think his scoring is because of being on the top line. He works his own magic.

Other Notes

Hit-o-meter: SJ 13  ATL 8

Brad Staubitz and Eric Boulton received fighting majors in the first. Not much to report on it, though. By the time the cameras got to them, they were on the ground. I really think Todd needs to choose between Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz. I think another speedy offensive guy could plug in for one of those two tough guys. We don’t need both. Bring up Logan Couture; he’s been on a tear in Worcester.

Next game is tonight against Philadelphia. We’ll see if Todd starts Thomas Greiss in goal because of the back-to-back games.

–Ray

October 25, 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

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

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

WTHWWT – Week 4 (Ray)

Starting this week’s version, I want to say that I hope Aaron Rodgers is OK, and able to continue. I learned that Denver doesn’t know how to beat weak teams, and that my theory on the overrated Cowboys came true. Yet, the experts are completely shocked they lost? Unbelievable. Someone hold another Inquisition and execute all these dunces. They are polluting the airwaves more than the Paris Hilton sex tape. I also learned that Chicago must hate me, because every time I pick them to win or lose they do the opposite. I handed that game over to Nathan though. It’s exhausting writing about Chicago. I feel sorry for their beat writers. Scott Linehan is the first coach to get beheaded in the season. The Rams fired him this morning. Jim Haslett will take over as interim coach. Enjoy that crapshoot Jim. Anyway, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Kansas City 33 Denver 19

What the hell happened Broncos? You rolled over and laid a giant, moldy egg – the kind Fear Factor used to feed people. Beat the teams you are supposed to. At least my main man Eddie Royal did good with 9 catches and 104 yards (excluding his fumble). Jay Cutler did not look like himself. He threw 49 times; way too much in that offense. I realize that they were behind a lot of the time but, you must establish the run game a little bit. Set up play action. I sincerely hope, Kansas City fans don’t think you guys have it together now. You don’t. Your team is not going anywhere. This was a “Thank you for watching us even though we’re not good” gift. Don’t expect anymore of it. Herm Edwards needs to be fired and you know it. Where is Dick Vermeil? Maybe he can cry you guys into the playoffs. I kid. I like Vermeil. Anyways Denver, do not do this again. I thought you were the best team in the NFL before Sunday. So much for that…

New Orleans 31 San Francisco 17

I changed this pick Saturday night, along with a few others. This game was probably the hardest to figure out. San Francisco seems capable of winning but they are still somewhat confusing. The Saints are the same way. J.T. O’Sullivan was finally brought back to the planet in this game with a 59.6 QB rating. Frank Gore did OK but he needed his QB to help out. Drew Brees was the same guy he should be throwing 3 TD’s. I really don’t think this game helped out in telling me how good these teams are. I do know that whoever said J.T. O’Sullivan was going to be the next Kurt Warner “come out of nowhere” type player, they were sorely mistaken.

Tennessee 30 Minnesota 17

OK, Tennessee should not be 4-0 right now. They are really not very good. The defense does everything. The offense is just barely competent enough. Minnesota is the exact same way yet they are 1-3? It does not make sense to me. Both had running QBs that are now replaced by old veterans. The Vikings have the better RB in Peterson. It just doesn’t add up. I am not sold on the Titans and probably will never be this season. I may be in the minority, but I feel if they were to face a really good team, they would fold over faster than Ohio State in BCS championship games or against the SEC. Call me what you want, but the Titans are not good. They will make the playoffs, sure, but will make an early exit. I won’t even say anything else about Minnesota besides that they should trade AP to the Packers.

Tampa Bay 30 Green Bay 21

This was the first game where Aaron Rodgers didn’t play very well throwing 3 INT. I wanted to see how he would respond in the second half, which wasn’t very well. He did get injured, though, and for some reason Matt Flynn came in. Brian Brohm should be the second string, not Mr. One Time LSU Wonder. Also, one of my fears is coming true – Ryan Grant was a fluke last year. He just does not look the same this year. Running backs in this day and age are not doing well. There is not a consistent runner anymore. LT can’t even give us 100 yard games that much. The Packers put up an amazing 28 yards rushing for the game. Ouch. That stat speaks for itself. The GB defense did a good job of creating turnovers but the offense couldn’t help out. This game was really important because this was a loss to an average team. People expected the Packers to lose to Dallas but not to Tampa Bay. They need to regroup, hope Rodgers is healthy, come up with a new run strategy and take care of Atlanta next week by 21. Thoughts and prayers go out to Matt Bryant of the Bucs; playing Sunday after losing your child took a lot of heart.

Pittsburgh 23 Baltimore 20

Pittsburgh is not that good. Baltimore is by far the better team. Roethlisberger is garbage and will always be garbage. Flacco is the man. That is all I have to say about this game.

-Ray

Update: Aaron Rodgers has a shoulder sprain and should be able to start Sunday
Source: ESPN

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment