A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 26

Quite the suhweeeet performance by the Sharks in their 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sharks withstood the punches and counterpunches, both figuratively and literally, and sealed the win.

The man of the match was Dany Heatley who notched his ninth career hat trick and second with the Sharks. Winning co-man of the match was Joe Thornton who received the primary assist on all three Heater goals and added a fourth assist.

It was just an unbelievable game all around. The Flyers haven’t beaten the Sharks since 2000, but the games are always entertaining. They bring out the best in both teams, and I hope this is a Stanley Cup Finals preview.

Everything for the Sharks worked tonight: the even strength forecheck, the power play, the penalty kill. All exceptional. Well, I may be wrong about everything working. The defensive zone giveaways were enough to give fans and coach Todd McClellan migraines. If it weren’t for those, it would be a 6-0 victory.

Philly sure didn’t like Sharks ice. They saw it as a slip-and-slide, with public enemy #1 Chris Pronger as the main slip-and-slider. One of his slips ended up being a Heater goal. It really was home-ice advantage tonight.

Heatley’s hat trick was the EPS Trifecta (trademark pending). Even strength, power play and shorthanded goals. Two were carbon-copies. Joe would receive the puck in what looked like a perfect shooting opportunity, but it he would stop right to the side of the crease, wait, wait, wait for the defenseman to make a move, then BAM! Pass to Heater’s stick and it’s as easy as an Ovechkin toothless smile.

Dany Heatley notched his second hat trick as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

San Jose now has its top two lines set in stone for at least the next month. McClellan saw some great play between Heatley-Thornton-Marleau last game and decided to start them tonight. That choice proved epic as every time they took the ice, something good happened. Remember when everyone shook in fear from the Marleau-Thornton-Cheechoo line? Multiply that by 10,000.

The second line was Malhotra-Pavelski-Clowe and they meshed talent with will. This line will probably be broken up since Devin Setoguchi will come back from injury. Move Clowe to left wing and put Seto on the right. While Malhotra did net a goal tonight, he also netted a goal for the Flyers; for some reason he tried to handle the puck in the crease during a scramble, and instead of just knocking it out, he thought it best to backhand it first — bad idea.

The Sharks still haven’t lost in regulation at home either. Oh, how sweet the confines of HP Pavillion are.

Friday Night Fights

Frazer McLaren, up from Worcester took on Daniel Carcillo and McMan-handled him. I this kid is better than Staubitz and should get a few more looks. And he will because Staubitz is out for a couple weeks with an injury. I wish it were under better circumstances, but whatever the situation, cease your opportunity F-Mac.

Wait…Who? And he’s fighting who?

That’s right, my friends. Marc-Edouard Vlasic showed a nasty side tonight. Don’t know if someone stole this pickles from the pickle jar, but he was angry tonight. He dropped the gloves for the first time in his career with Daniel Briere and earned the win. Vlasic was the only one to throw a punch, and he also took Briere down. Vlasic also was featured in some scrums. I really hope this continues; I don’t want another Thornton situation where a guy plays better angry, but chooses to be angry once every leap year.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 25  PHI 26; Jed Ortmeyer (6) and Douglas Murray (5) led the team.

With the amazing play of the top two lines, the fourth line saw as much action as a young Bill Gates. McLaren played for two minutes, Benn Ferriero played four and Logan Couture played six. That’s fine with me if I can get first-line production like this every game.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim to face the Ducks. In their first meeting, the second game of the Sharks’ season, San Jose pummeled Anaheim 4-1.

–Ray

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November 21, 2009 Posted by | 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