A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 20

Quite the amazing performance by the Sharks in their dominant 5-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. My hatred for the Penguins may only be matched by my hatred for the Detroit Red Wings, and to see the Penguins demolished was beyond gratifying.

Where to start?

I was definitely wrong about Evgeni Nabokov. I don’t know what conditioning regiment this guy is on, but put the entire team on it. Three games in four nights and he comes out with a shutout. He stopped all 27 shots he faced. Wow. Can’t give him enough credit.

San Jose battled for every puck and came out with it most of the time. No one relaxed much — even after gaining a 4-0 advantage going into the third period.

Jamie McGinn scored the first goal from a bank-in off Marc-Andre Fleury’s left pad. You could feel something good was going to happen the whole night.

Joe Pavelski, yes, Joe Pavelski, finally came back to the lineup tonight after being out since the second game of the year. He didn’t disappoint. He put up two points (one goal, one assist) and didn’t have much rust. His assist really should have been a goal; the puck was headed in, but Dany Heatley slammed it home when the puck was about one inch from the goal line. Gotta love Heater!

Dan Boyle owned the ice tonight. It was his. No disputing that. He continuously carried the puck from the defensive zone all the way to the net for scoring chances. It looks like that broken thumb is fully healed, and he’s on a mission to contribute. One of those times coming down the ice, he deked a few Pens and snapped a shot past Fleury.  That was the end of Fleury, who was pulled right after. He allowed three goals on 14 shots.

Pittsburgh mailed it in during the third with some late hits and a few scrums. They became frustrated and tried taking it out on Sharks tough guys. Yea, not a good idea. Jay McKee made a run at Jody Shelley, who wasn’t really looking. The two dropped the gloves and Shelley ended up taking McKee down. Well, you think that would be the end for Shelley. He did his job, and can resume his role in the fourth line. Oh, contraire.

Eric Godard tried his hand at Shelley and Mr. Shelley handed Godard’s derriere to him on a bloodied, silver platter. Jersey jabs and right hooks galore from Shelley. Thank you! Come again!

Picture 10

After Joe Pavelski's original shot, Dany Heatley slams the puck home (From SJSHARKS.com)

Jordan Staal, much to Sharks fans’ amazement, took a few runs and delivered an elbow to Douglas Murray. Staal better watch himself in the parking lot. I may not be a big fan of Murray’s, but to deny his skills in fighting and toughness would be ignorant. Come on now Staal. You can’t bring your peach fuzz to a swedish meatball fight.

I got a little worried when the Sharks weren’t putting more goals in. They seemed to be a bit complacent for a stretch in the third, but it was those scrums that fired them back up. So, that would be the only criticism of the night.

I also saw Logan Couture on the penalty kill unit. Can’t say I’ve seen him on it before, but I like he’s getting more ice time. I read that he did move up a couple lines last game to play with Patrick Marleau and Manny Malhotra. Good to hear. (Malhotra, by the way, scored the fifth goal tonight on a shot through a bunch of traffic.)

Home Power Play

The Sharks ranked last in power play efficiency at home, somewhere around five percent. They netted two goals on the man advantage tonight. The entries and forecheck looked better tonight. Passes were sloppy, however, leading to Penguins clears and breakouts.

Injury Bug

NHL GameCenter Live used Pittsburgh’s feed and all the commentators would talk about is how injuries caused their recent play. Give me a break. Take a look at the Sharks who’ve been playing with five key players missing from their lineup, and they still managed to win six in a row. The Penguins just didn’t show effort tonight and looked awful. It won’t kill you to say that.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 19  PIT 25; Scott Nichol and Murray both led with three hits a piece.

Sidney Crosby now has just one point in four games against the Sharks. Isn’t that great? San Jose has his number, and the Penguins’ number for that matter.

San Jose lost the faceoff battle. They lead the league in faceoff percentage with 56.8, and for them to lose to 19th-ranked Pittsburgh is surprising.

The Sharks get two days off before facing Nashville on Tuesday. The Sharks will look to extend their point-streak to nine games.

–Ray

November 8, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 17

Quite the great all-around performance by the Sharks in their 5-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. For San Jose, it’s the fifth straight win, which officially makes them hot.

There’s nothing bad to report from the game. Everybody contributed, including some players who you’d least expect to get on the score sheet. The Sharks received goals from Kent Huskins, Brad Staubitz, Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau.

One of those makes sense, but the other five? Yea, that’s not a typo.

The Sharks dominated the first period and Evgeni Nabokov made some spectacular saves. Those saves did come off some bad rebounds, but he made up for them. Everything looked great — breakouts, entry into the offensive zone, board play, effort. It was all there.

Picture 7

Scott Nichol puts on one of his seven hits (From NHL.com)

The Canes scored first on a perfect shot top shelf. Not much any goalie could have done.

Huskins answered on a great individual effort. He pinched in, shot, gathered his own rebound and scored on a wrap-around. He and Demers have been nothing but solid so far, and it was good to see Huskins finally rewarded. Demers picked up his 10th assist on that play.

The fourth line of Shelley-Couture-Staubitz put forth a great effort shortly after, and Staubitz was able to score on a rebound. It was the same for Murray who pinched in and scored on a rebound. That goal was his first in 109 games. Unbelievable how inept he’s been on offense. I still say he is the most overrated player on the team. The fans love him because of his hitting. He only has one big hit a game. I do like his personality, though. Don’t expect many more goals, if any, the rest of the season.

Carolina has now lost nine straight games, if I heard correctly. Zoinks! That’s awful! Add on top of that their star Eric Staal injured himself in the first period, and things couldn’t get much worse. The Canes are interesting. Not sure what to make of this team, which made it to the Conference Finals last season. They have great fans and good players; I wish only the best for them.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 25  CAR 41; Scott Nichol had seven of those hits. Awesome.

After their hot streak on the power play, things have cooled off. But it’s great to see the Sharks can score just as well even strength. They have found their consistency, so let’s hope the extra days off between next game doesn’t affect them.

The Sharks next game is Wednesday against Columbus, who they beat earlier this season, 6-3.

–Ray

November 1, 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