A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Guest Column: Playing for Life

Former afanofthegame blogger Nathan Skytta pops back in to tell the story of BYU’s dream of a national championship. The Cougars’ head coach Dave Rose overcame cancer last summer bringing more emotion into the 2009-10 college basketball season.

Note: Story written after first round and before second round of NCAA tournament.


After Brigham Young University’s coach Dave Rose beat pancreatic cancer last summer, the team and the school did not want this season to be just another season for the team.  After having a successful past few season, BYU wanted to continue their regular season domination of the Mountain West Conference this season and to advance into the deeper rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Even though the Cougars did not win the conference outright, they did finish second in the conference and that was enough to enter them into the tournament.

When BYU was matched up against the University of Florida, they knew that a challenge was ahead of them. BYU came into the matchup having lost seven straight first round matchups and knew Florida had won 12 games in a row.

They knew that it was going to be a big game for both teams, but for BYU, it meant something more. They hadn’t won a tournament game since 1993 and hadn’t advanced any further since 1981, when Danny Ainge was on the team.

BYU head coach Dave Rose won the most important battle of his life last summer — against cancer.

Led by James “Jimmer” Fredette, BYU defeated the Gators 99-92 in double overtime. Fredette led the team with 37 points, including knocking down two three-pointers in the second overtime. With the victory, the Cougars advanced to the second round of the tournament for the first time in 17 years.

“We had a second life, or a third life, or whatever it was,” Fredette said, “and I just wanted to go out there and try to get it done because I don’t know if I could have played another overtime.”

Florida didn’t make the game easy for the Cougars. In fact, if you ask the Gators, the game should have been theirs.

“You can’t complain about the looks we got at the end,” said Chandler Parsons, who landed game-winning shots at the final buzzer against North Carolina State and South Carolina this season. “We fought hard. Everyone was tired but they were just as tired as us.”

Parsons missed what were, at the time, potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and the first overtime period. Fredette and his teammates did not allow Parsons or any other Gator clean shots during the second overtime, and therefore did not allow for what could have been a dramatic finish.

When asked what his thoughts were on the victory for his team Rose said, “This was a long time in coming for our program, and it’s a big win. One of the most important goals we had at the start of this season was to get into this tournament and advance, and we’re advancing. I’m proud of our guys.”

Probably the most fitting quote that could come from a cancer survivor, a coach, and a mentor to many athletes, Rose told the attending media members, “You’re playing for your life,” he said. It’s one and done at this point.”

BYU moves on to face Kansas State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the team will fight just like their coach has inspired them to do all season long. Their coach was successful at defeating his opponent, and that’s exactly what his team plans on doing until they can cut down the nets and raise the championship trophy.

–Nathan Skytta

Advertisements

April 2, 2010 Posted by | College Basketball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 69

Quite the reversal game for the Sharks as they lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime. The gameplay was completely flipped from last game against Nashville.

In the last three games, San Jose trailed going into the third, but each time they came back to win. That was an NHL record. Coach Todd McLellan was all but pleased with the effort of the Sharks though. It’s been tough to find a full 60-minute effort this season.

The Sharks got the message — for the first 20 minutes — and kept pressure on the Panthers throughout the first frame. Things were looking really good; the Sharks scored two goals and held the Panthers off the scoresheet after one.

All downhill from there.

Florida turned the heat up for the remainder of the game, and with Tomas Vokoun making stops at key times, the Panthers were able to tie the game up in the third at 2-2. It seems the Sharks forgot what it was like to have a lead so late in the game.

The Sharks actually attempted to score in overtime, coming as a shock to me. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find the back of the net. A shot from the point doomed San Jose, and they leave HP Pavilion with one point.

It’s like McLellan is a one-period coach. He sure can get the guys ready to play and spark them for one period, but after that, it’s disgusting. That’s not on the coach though. He can turn the key to the ignition, but the players have to step on the gas and keep the pedal down.

I’m just glad this string of crappy play is happening now and not at the very end of the season. That occurred last year and we all know what went down in the playoffs.

Fight!

Brad Staubitz finally decided to appear, in his first scrap since Jody Shelley was traded. He took on Nick Tarnasky, and it was an uneventful affair. The two swung each other in circles before falling to the ice.

Manny Malhotra took it upon himself to defend Joe Pavelski in the third period. Jason Garrison slammed Pavs’ head into the boards, which sent Malhotra off. The two tussled, but it also was dull. Malhotra received an instigator and 10-minute misconduct for it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  FLA 36; Scott Nichol and Dany Heatley both had six.

No photos were posted for the game. Odd.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim tomorrow to take on the Ducks.

–Ray

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sharks Report II

I feel as though I need to write something after the Sharks’ 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. Watching the game, a concern of mine just grew, and that would be our defense.

Ryane Clowe attempts to get the puck past Panther goaltender, Tomas Vokoun

Ryane Clowe attempts to get the puck past Panther goaltender, Tomas Vokoun

The first report was mainly focused on the offense and how much they have improved. But with that improvement, the Sharks are forgetting what has made them successful the last 3 years — their defense. The defenseman are now playing so far into the offensive zone that they are forgetting their first responsibilities. This has led to so many breakaways, its making my head spin. Nabokov is definitely not the best goalie when it comes to facing breakaways and 2-on-1s.

Nabby has let in 14 goals the last 3 times, when usually that number would be around 4 or 5. Scary.

The Sharks had 50 shots on goal and still lost! This just shows that you can have 100 shots on goal and the other teams gets 4 or 5 breakaways and coverts, you will lose. I do give Vokoun credit, he played well.

I mentioned in the last post that Clowe should be the Sharks’ version of Tomas Holmstrom. Well, he is doing that more often, but Cheechoo seems to be taking over that role. Every game, it looks like he is less scared of planting himself in front of the net, which is great to see. The D feeds the shots from the point and Cheechoo and Clowe get the garbage goals. They still count as 1. “Weak” or not.

Alexei Semenov played awful last night. One play he slapped the puck back between his legs which went right to a Panther, and that led to a pass and goal. Douglas Murray needs to get healthy and get back there. Semenov doesn’t cut it. At least cut his ice time. Vlasic needs more. He is our best defensive defenseman. Hopefully, the Sharks can limit Tampa’s goals tonight to 2 or less, and show a better defensive mold than what they have put on the ice the last couple games.

– Ray

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sharks Report I

6-1.

That is the Sharks record thus far, going into tonight’s matchup against the Florida Panthers. The Sharks are in the midst of their East Coast swing and the spotlight will be on Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich when they head back to Tampa Bay for a game against the Lightning. The Sharks are coming off a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Flyers, via shootout.

Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi scores on Flyer goalie Antero Nittymaki, as captain Mike Richards looks on

Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi scores on Flyer goalie Antero Nittymaki, as captain Mike Richards looks on

The 2008-09 Sharks look extremely formidable. Under new coach Todd McClellan, I can clearly see the difference in style of play, and it is paying huge dividends. Gone are the old Ron Wilson days of dump and chase and don’t shoot unless you see the whole net (exaggeration). All the players are working hard for every puck and through every scrum. I’ll highlight some stats the Sharks have put up this year, good and bad:

34.9 Shots per Game (2nd in NHL) 244 Total Shots (2nd in NHL)

This is one of my favorite stats to see. Last year was so irritating seeing our total shots only end up in the teens. Because of that we hardly scored 3+ goals, even with all of our talent. McClellan has come in and implemented an excellent, and quite obvious strategy that everyone should use. More shots = more goals. Simple as that. The defense has been instrumental in this statistic. Rob Blake and Dan Boyle on the point for the powerplay has been fun to watch. Blake’s shot is a fantastic addition to the PP. Ehrhoff is no longer the lone powerful D-man shot.

169 Total Hits (4th in NHL)

This stat tells me the Sharks are constantly forechecking and keeping up the pressure, and they are actually using their size to their advantage!! Something they wouldn’t do under Ron Wilson.

Faceoff Percentage 56.4% (1st in NHL) Marleau 63.4% (3rd in NHL)

Great stat right here. If you are going to have a consistent forecheck, you must be able to win faceoffs in the offensive zone. San Jose is doing it, and doing it well. This also shows that Marleau is being the player he should be. Being the captain, and helping his teammates get the puck and put it in the net. On that note:

Marleau: Points 8, Goals 4, Assists 4

The captain is doing his job. No slump here. With the media constantly on Patty’s case, it is great to see him rebound from a sub-par year to being on fire. Now, those stats only put him in the lower half of the top 20, but there is a reason for that. The Sharks are getting scoring from everywhere. Every player who has played for the Sharks this year has a shot on goal, even Alexei Semenov. That is amazing stuff. Marleau has 26 shots, as do Rob Blake and Devin Setoguchi. More shots = more goals. Philosophy holds.

No Shark is in the top 30 of total ice time per game

McClellan is rolling all four lines, and not changing lines very much. Last year, Wilson would change lines, oh I don’t know, about 60 times a game until they scored. That is ridiculous. McClellan is preaching patience, and although that is hard to learn, the Sharks are responding. Everyone is staying fresh and ready to go when their name is called. This will bode well for games in March and April, when you need to bring it even more every night.

Power Play 16.2% (16th in NHL) Penalty Kill 79.3% (19th in NHL) 8th in NHL – Power Play Opportunities

Here is the Sharks’ problem. Special teams is not helping them, and letting other teams get back into games. Being in the bottom half of both special teams stats is troubling for a fan to see. The thing I would suggest here is to get more screening going. They have gotten better at it, but still seem a little hesitant on the power play. Make Ryane Clowe watch a 24-hour video on Tomas Holmstrom. He is the guy that needs to pull up a chair in front of the goalie. Joe Thornton should stay there and then you need another dangler/shooter. Cheechoo or Pavelski would be a good addition there. As for the backline, Boyle and Blake should stay. If there continues to be problems, switch it up and try Ehrhoff or Vlasic (to allow no more shorthanded goals).

73 Giveaways 41 Takeaways

This is a tricky stat. I think the giveaways stem from a lot of time in the offensive zone, so there is more of a chance to turn the puck over. Still, protect the puck better and don’t make dumb passes to the middle when no one is there. Cut down that number 73, it does not look good, and another reason why Jeff Carter score 2 SHG on the Sharks on back-to-back nights.

It really is great to see the Sharks show some actual character. When their opponent scores they don’t give up anymore, and when they get ahead by 2, they don’t relax. I cannot tell you how many times I saw that last year. Keep up that pressure, and don’t blow leads. I think McClellan is doing an excellent job so far with the Sharks’ 6-1 record. Continue to progress, evolve, and gel into the best hockey team possible. First thing’s first. Take care of Florida tonight.

– Ray

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment