A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 39

Quite the milk-it-for-all-its-worth game for the Sharks as they defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The Sharks were outshot 47-14 and still came out on top.

Through two periods the Sharks had a whopping seven shots on net. Dan Boyle mentioned after the game how pitiful that was and he’s right. Even in the second game of a back-to-back, you’re just asking to lose with those numbers.

So when you look at those numbers and still see a ‘W’ in the column, you know it was the goalie’s doing. Evgeni Nabokov was outstanding tonight. His 45 saves were no doubt the difference. Chicago’s 47 shots weren’t just the 2008-Sharks type either. They were screened, rebounds, and deflection. Nabby plays better the more work he has, and with all this time off recently, he needed to get back in a rhythm.

Come on man, I didn't even punch you this time. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Another Shark who played one of his best games of the season was Jason Demers. San Jose is now 3-0 since Demers was recalled, and that’s no coincidence. Demers scored his second goal of the year off a clean wrist shot past Cristobal Huet. Demers made some key defensive plays — clearing out loose pucks in the crease, blocking shots — and provided solid breakouts to create most of the offense. It’s too bad coach Todd McClellan wouldn’t reveal the changes he wanted Demers to make.

Special teams were a big story tonight. The Sharks talked about not taking penalties, which they did plenty of against Dallas, but they came out and took four penalties in the first. They’d take five more penalties, but the penalty kill stepped up and stopped all seven power-plays (they did allow a four-on-four goal).

One of the Sharks goals came shorthanded as Joe Thornton received a perfect Joe Pavelski pass, and beat Huet up high — where he’s well-known to be beat.

Fight!

Frazer McLaren beat down Bryan Bickell in the second period. Absolute demolition.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 15  CHI 18; No player had more than two.

The Sharks now take a Christmas break and resume play Saturday against this season’s whipping pole, Anaheim Ducks.

–Ray

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 24

Quite the what-comes-around game for the Sharks in their 4-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks stole a few games from Nashville and St. Louis lately (what goes around), and in this game, they were in position to win, but couldn’t hang on. The lack of defense is starting to rear it’s ugly shark head.

While Sharks defensemen are good offensively, they are mediocre defensively; that goes for defensive defensemen Douglas Murray and Kent Huskins. They are competent, no question, but they are now shut-down quality. It hurts having Rob Blake out, but the Sharks have always lacked a star shut-down defenseman.

I don’t think it’s pertinent to acquire one, but perhaps some of the current players should attend a few hockey camps and learn some defensive fundamentals — specifically not to leave your man! Their eyes are always on the puck looking for a breakout. As much a fan of the couterattack as I am, if  you don’t stay with your man, they’re going to score on you.

They also need to learn how to clear the puck better. The d-men were terrible in the beginning of the season at it, they got better but the problem is starting to come back. There must be some secret way of clearing that can help them. I’m tired of seeing them exert so much effort for no reason.

The Chicago game was back and forth. Very entertaining to watch. Once again the Sharks scored two goals right after another. It took 45 seconds this time, compared with 16 seconds yesterday, to put up two goals. Tonight those two scorers were Jason Demers and Patrick Marleau.

It was Jason’s first career goal and it’s about time. He’s played so well dishing out assists, and he deserves this goal.

The Sharks got on the bad side of a controversial goal call. Joe Thornton batted a puck off the back of Cristobal Huet. He raised his hands him to signal goal, but upon further review, it looked as though the puck dropped and stuck on the goal line. That allowed the Hawks to come back and tie it.

Picture 14

Jason Demers (#60) celebrates his first NHL goal with Dan Boyle (From SJSHARKS.com)

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s rebounds haunted him tonight. The Hawks knew he comes out to challenge players a lot, and their game plan of getting shots and burying rebounds work. Hopefully no other team was watching because it worked marvelously. Rebounds left Nabby flailing like Hasek, and of course d-men were not in position to clear out the garbage.

The game ended up going to overtime, but Brent Seabrook ended things very quickly — 41 seconds into the extra session. Seabrook found open ice and received the puck cross-ice. He buried it past Nabby. Nabby tried to do his patented double-pad stack, but it failed miserably. If he would have stayed up and just pushed off his right skate more, it could have been an easy stop because Seabrook’s shot was kind of weak.

The third-period woes continue. The Sharks are not finishing teams; they’re letting them hang around in the third. They once again played well in the second, but I got deja vu seeing this same team get tired in the last period. I won’t put too much emphasis on that from this game because it was the back-end of a back-to-back.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  CHI 21; Patty led the team with three.

Dan Boyle was the goat tonight as he had the worst plus/minus rating (-2). Demers’ +1 was the only positive marker on the team.He added an assist along with his goal.

The Sharks point-streak remains in-tact. It stands out 12 games.

The Sharks travel to Nashville for a rematch with the Predators on Tuesday, just one week after defeating the Preds 4-3 at HP Pavillion.

–Ray

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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