A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 30

Quite the just-like-old-times performance for the Sharks in their 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks roster finally looked like it should be with a couple exceptions. And with the added aspect of facing former Sharks, Christian Ehrhoff and Steve Bernier, it was a reunion of sorts.

Got to mention the injuries, returns and transactions. Devin Setoguchi and Rob Blake returned to the lineup tonight; Benn Ferriero and Jason Demers were sent down to Worcester because of that. Of course this was Torrey Mitchell’s second game back so he’s still getting used to NHL-level speed.

Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz are still out with injuries, so Frazer McLaren played on the fourth line. Derek Joslin retained his spot on the defense upon Demers’ reassignment.

OK so the game — a slow back-and-forth game. One team would control for 10 minutes, then things would switch. Vancouver got on the board early in the first and controlled the play. McLaren scored his first NHL goal to tie things up before the first ended. He took a big hit behind the goal-line but stayed on his feet and kept his stick on the ice. Joe Pavelski found him and it was an easy tip-in. Glad to see Frazer add his name to the list of first-time scorers this season; Ferriero, McLaren, Demers, Logan Couture and Ryan Vesce all have scored their first NHL goal so far this season.

The Sharks dominated the second period, outshooting Vancouver 15-4; however, they only managed one goal, which came from Dan Boyle on the power play. It was a cool goal to watch on the replay because you saw how much Boyle moves on the man-advantage. One second he would be up high at the point, five seconds later he was down low. Always keeps his skates moving in a very fluid motion.

Captain Rob Blake made his return against Vancouver (From SJSHARKS.com)

San Jose backed off during the last frame but withstood a fierce Canucks forecheck. The Sharks capitalized on a counterattack, as Manny Malhotra deked — yes deked — goalie Roberto Luongo fairly easily. Thirteen seconds later Jamie McGinn notched his fourth goal of the season after Jed Ortmeyer battled beyond the goal line and sent the puck to the crease.

Let’s go back to the decision to send Demers down to Worcester. Coach Todd McClellan cited bad play in the defensive zone as the reason for the reassignment. Demers and Joslin were battling for the final defenseman spot with Rob Blake returning and T-Mac said Joslin played better over the last 10 games. Demers has definitely not played up to par lately. I think back to last game where Demers attempted a stretch pass only to have it intercepted and turned into an Edmonton goal.

T-Mac said before he likes how Demers takes risks, and now he’s going back on that? I don’t get it. Demers is clearly learning from Boyle how to be an offensive threat and doing a pretty good job at it. He has one goal and 12 assists in 27 games. He’s been one of the league’s most surprising rookies and you choose Joslin over Demers? I’m sorry, but this is a dumb move by T-Mac. Joslin is a joke of a player and isn’t going to amount to anything.

Perhaps it will help Demers not to play with Kent Huskins and actually someone good down in Worcester. Huskins was on the power play tonight again. Stop doing that T-Mac. Just stop. Demers needs to be on the power play and Huskins needs to be sent down. No one will claim him off waivers.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  VAN 14; Jamie McGinn (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

The Sharks wrap up November with a 9-2-3 record and are the first team to reach 40 points.

All eyes will be on San Jose on Tuesday when the Sharks battle the Ottawa Senators. Dany Heatley versus his ex-girlfriend. Should be good.

–Ray

 

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November 30, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 28

DISCLAIMER: Minor language. Proceed with caution.

Quite the piss poor, I-feel-like-disowning-you “performance” by the Sharks in their 7-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks should have just stayed home in their cribs and choked on their pacifiers rather than “play” tonight.

Joe Thornton: Hey guys, let’s step on the ice.

*SILENCE*

Team: …and do what Jumbo? Are you going to finish that thought?

Thornton: Ya know, step on the ice and succeed with good ol’ fashioned California chillin’.

Team: OMFG, you iz brilliant Jumbo! Why didnt us think of that?! LOLZ.

Give me a damn break. This was disgusting. Absolutely putrid. Um, helllllooooo? Um, hi? You little children play professional hockey. Sounds kinda cool when you think about it. How about you actually play the game. And try. Just try.

What the hell happened during this long layoff to make the Sharks play like a beer league team? They allowed three, THREE shorthanded goals. Two of them were on the same power play!

Nobody wanted to play, everyone played with jocks on their heads. Turnover after turnover, fail after fail. If there was any doubt left about our defense, those were put to rest. From now on, if anyone tells you the Sharks defense is good, go ahead and tell them to remove their secret Ducks jersey or to go watch the NBA.

What a joke. Jason Demers played his worst game of his career. Dan Boyle felt like playing with an injured foot because this was a big game. He did end up scoring very late in the game, but it’s refreshing to know he waited 56 minutes to do something with his life. He finished with a -4 rating.

Also joining Pimple — I mean Boyle — with a -4 rating were Thornton and Dany Heatley. For all the great stuff they’ve done recently, this game shat all over it. Good gracious, it was atrocious. They must be stunned to know you have to play defense too. What a concept!

Manny Malhotra does his best pylon impression (From NHL.com)

With five minutes left to go in the second period, the shots were 26-7 Chicago. What in the blue hell is that about? Seven shots after 35 minutes? I could get eight shots on net by doing cartwheels the whole time.

At that time it was 4-0 and after the fourth, Ryane Clowe took it upon his messed-up-nose self to take a penalty. Brilliant. What a smart hockey player. Take a penalty and you show those bad guys you can beat them even with a man down. Ryane Clown. Blow me up a balloon while you make a joke of yourself.

Let’s go ahead and give credit to Chicago. They came in with an exceptional gameplan and their coach Joel Quenneville and perfected it. Sharks coach Todd McClellan was lost in the Tao of Joel’s stache.

This is the Blackhawks’ eighth win in a row and they’re no signs of slowing down.

LOL WUT?

Frazer McLaren managed a +1 for the Sharks. Ha ha ha ha.

AHL

Five AHL players were in the lineup: Jamie McGinn, Benn Ferriero, McLaren, Steven Zalewski and Derek Joslin. Certainly looked like Worcester was playing.

Kent friggin’ Huskins…

…was on the power play. Yes. On the power play and caused the turnover that led to a Chicago goal. Don’t EVER put that guy on the PP again.

Optimism Corner

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  CHI 17

Faceoff Percentage: SJ 56%  CHI 44%

The game ended.

Other Dreadful Notes

The Sharks’ injuries are plaguing them so badly now. Rob Blake, Devin Setoguchi, Jody Shelley, Brad Staubitz, Torrey Mitchell need to come back.

Per NHL rules, the Sharks are required to play again. They play Edmonton in Edmonton, Friday.

–Ray

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 18

Quite the even matchup tonight for the Sharks against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the Sharks came out with a 3-2 win in a shootout. The Sharks now ride a six-game winning streak.

It was an interesting game to watch; there were massive lulls at times, but then there was hoards of action. That all culminated into a fierce overtime session. Both goaltenders played spectacular tonight and should be proud of their performance.

Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason is the real deal. I saw no evidence of a sophomore slump. Columbus finally has a franchise goalie for Rick Nash and company, and that fanbase deserves it. The arena wasn’t completely full, but those fans are very dedicated to the team.

Things got started eight minutes in when Joe Thornton netted his fourth goal of the year, by banking the puck off Mason. Just prior to the play, Thornton somehow avoided a goalie interference call. He was pushed slightly by a Jacket player causing Joe to tumble over Mason. Thornton even exaggerated it a little bit. Surprising to see that not called.

Picture 8

Brad Staubitz tries to gain control of the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

Columbus’ first goal, just a minute after Thornton’s, proved that the Sharks still have work to do on defense. Douglas Murray kept himself out of the play leaving Jason Chimera wide open for a tip in. At least this gives coach Todd McClellan to work with so the team doesn’t get complacent.

Dany Heatley and Jacket Rick Nash scored their 10th goals of the year in the second period to keep things knotted up.

This game sure was the opposite of the Carolina game. All of those non-scorers with goals against the Canes was unusual and now it was the stars who scored the goals. Once again, getting contribution from everywhere is huge. I remember last year, scoring was all up to the top two lines. Don’t have to worry about that anymore (for now).

The overtime, like I said, was an clinic by the goaltenders. There needs to be some serious ice on groins after tonight. Ouch. I don’t think men were ever meant to be that flexible.

Going into the shootout, I wasn’t feeling very good about the Sharks’ chances, but they proved me wrong. Dan Boyle put a wicked move on Mason and placed it top-shelf. Nabby got things done on the other side stopping all three Jacket shooters.

The Sharks are now 2-1 in shootouts; I’d like to know when the last time we were over .500 in shootouts was. Seems like…well…never.

Jared Boll

This guy was being a real thorn in the Sharks’ side. First, he forces Kent Huskins to fight with him; he puts Kent into the boards, then punches him, then finally drops his gloves. Kent had no choice but to drop them. That really irked me.

Luckily, Brad Staubitz took notice and instigated a fight with Boll. Payback’s a–well you know. Bitz handled him fairly easily although he took a few punches during the middle of the fight.

Perhaps the best moment involving Boll, was in Benn Ferriero hit him into the Jacket bench. Hilarious. This small, tiny player Ferriero runs right into Boll, who goes flying into his own bench. Epic win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 22  CBJ 35

Rob Blake was injured during a Jacket power play. He stayed on the ice, but couldn’t do much. It was more like a 5 on 3, and the Jackets did end up scoring. He only ended up with 11 minutes of ice time. He did not play in the third period or overtime. Let’s hope he’s all right.

The Sharks take on Detroit tomorrow night. Since McClellan went with Nabby tonight, let’s see if he’ll call on Thomas Greiss tomorrow. That decision is going to be crucial.

–Ray

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 12

Quite the puzzling performance by the Sharks in their 5-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning. I can’t really articulate what happened. The Sharks seemed to try but nothing ever came to fruition.

For the first two periods, the Sharks were giving an acceptable amount of effort, but they couldn’t put it in the net. Very frustrating for fans and the players, I’m sure.

Things started off 30 seconds in when the Lightning scored from a weakside play. Dan Boyle was the culprit this time by not covering his man.

The Sharks got a power play opportunity shortly after and I absolutely loved the lineup. Heatley-Vesce-Clowe. What a great line along with Boyle and Vlasic on the man advantage. To have a selfish (in a good way) shooter and two guys who go for rebounds was an excellent idea from head coach Todd McClellan. He ended up keeping Clowe and Vesce together for the rest of the game, rotating the third forward. I hope that keeps up.

San Jose was down 0-2 after the first after sustaining a nice forecheck throughout.

Brad Staubitz tried starting a fight when the second period started, but the Lightning showed could patience to not join Bitz in a dance.

Jason Demers and Todd Fedoruk battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

Jason Demers and Todd Fedoruk battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sharks finally got on the board with Ryan Vesce. He started the play with a steal in Tampa’s zone, had a breakaway but was blocked by goalie Mike Smith. The Sharks kept it in with some D-to-D passing, shot it into a crowd, and Ryan was there. I tell you what, (wo)man. This kid is the epitome of scrappy and never-say-die. I’m going to look into cloning and see if I can’t field a team of 18 Ryan Vesce’s.

Unfortunately, Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov decided to misplay the puck, and d-man Jason Demers got tangled up with Ryan Malone, leaving Steven Stamkos with a wide open shot, which he scored. I think Nabby could have taken a much better angle on it.

That goal was the turning point as the Sharks came out in the third with a “whatever” attitude. Nabby seemed to echo that sentiment x1000 when he let in a wrister from the blue line. Sure, it was slightly deflected, but he had plenty of time to adjust. This was worse game of the season. He just seemed lost.

One thing I really want to point out was an embarrassing play by Joe Thornton. Coming out of the zone, in the third period, he nonshalantly handled the puck, glided into the neutral zone, and a Lightning player easily stole it. What a joke. I don’t ever want to see that from any NHL player. No matter what the score. As an alternate captain, you are bound to give your best and set a great example. Not that crap.

The Sharks showed up again with about seven minutes left when Boyle netted a power play goal. Too little, too late, of course.

Thornton and Heatley

0 combined shots

Other Notes

Hit-o-Meter: SJ 17  TB 16

Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra switched lines. I completely disagree with this. Nichol has played excellent on the third line with Ortmeyer and Ferriero. I don’t know if it was the lack of ice time or if the move got to him, but I saw nothing out of him. Shame. He’s been so good, so far.

I can’t wait until Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell are back. I can’t friggin’ wait.

Atlanta Thrashers are next on Saturday, October 24.

–Ray

October 23, 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. 7

Quite the turnaround performance from the Sharks tonight as they took care of the Minnesota Wild, 4-2. Things looked bleak for San Jose early, and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to string two wins in a row.

Throughout the first period, the Sharks looked sluggish and uninterested in playing tonight. The Wild dominated the neutral zone and had the 1-0 lead going into the second period.

The light switched flipped on (as did the refs whistles), and the Sharks scored three in the second. Early on in the second stanza, San Jose kept taking penalties — at one point killing off a 5 on 3 until a Wild player took a penalty. There were 16 minutes of penalties in the second period (10 on SJ, 6 on MIN). The Wild took a 2-0 lead on a fluke deflection off Dan Boyle’s skate. The puck flew over goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s head and into the net.

After that play, the Sharks started swimming. I was thinking it would be a good time for a fight, being down 2-0 and not looking good. Jody Shelley came on the ice, and his line gave a strong forecheck that led to Jed Ortmeyer’s first goal as a Shark. Congratulations to Jed.

Patrick Marleau, with some newfound, rocket-skates, hit a slapshot off Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom. A nice rebound lay on the ice, and Patty flipped it over Backstrom and in for a goal.

The penalties started to catch up with the Wild, though. The Sharks power play got on the board when Dany Heatley fired a one-timer cannon into the net — his accuracy is unbelievable.

Much to the Wild’s shock, the third period opened with another Marleau goal — just nine seconds in. Seriously, Patty should have lost his captaincy a long time ago if we’d known he would play like this. He might challenge Heater for most goals.

Jed Ortmeyer celebrates his first goal as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

Jed Ortmeyer celebrates his first goal as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

One of the most important aspects of this game was Nabby’s goaltending. It was outstanding. Absolutely phenomenal — his best game of the season. After the two goals, he stoned everyone — and these just weren’t weak shots from the point. These were point-blank opportunities with a plethora of juicy rebounds. I honestly have no clue how nothing went in.

Well, that’s not true. Every player on the Sharks was giving 110% effort, no question. Ryane Clowe, in particular, dove to prevent a wide-open net. Marc-Edouard Vlasic dove to block pucks; Jason Demers was diving to prevent shots; Benn Ferriero consistently skated hard to the net. It was spectacular to see such effort from the Sharks.

Other Notes

Jamie McGinn stayed in the lineup tonight, even after Brad Staubitz served his suspension last game. McGinn made a bonecrushing hit on a Wild player behind Backstrom. Good to see him giving his all as well.

This is the second time the Sharks scored four straight goals in the young season. That shows how potent this offense is when it’s on. I hope they take note and recognize they have even more potential.

I hope Nabby takes this game’s performance, sticks it in a bottle, and unleashes it every game. This is the Nabby we remember; this is the Nabby that we love. Let this not be a Douglas-Murray-hat-trick type of once-in-a-lifetime deal.

Devin Setoguchi racked up five hits, which led the team — nice to see Gooch doing something different/more than what he’s asked.

Rob Blake blocked five shots, which led the team — nice to see Blakey doing something he’s supposed to do, and excelling at it.

Who’s Got Next?

The Sharks play Phoenix, Monday. It’s their last home game before taking off on a six-game east coast road trip. It’s crucial to win this game and not sleep on the Coyotes. Phoenix always plays the Sharks hard, so getting the effort going shouldn’t be a problem. But if I’ve seen anything this season so far, it’s the Sharks like to play the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde card. Please don’t.

–Ray

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment