A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 44

Quite the facile game for the Sharks as they easily dispatched the Edmonton Oilers, 4-1. There was no doubt about the outcome tonight. The Sharks imposed their will on the wounded Oilers.

Three Sharks were back in the lineup for the first time in a long time: Brad Staubitz, Jody Shelley and Jay Leach. They replaced Manny Malhotra who is injured, Frazer McLaren and Jason Demers who were sent down. Demers was sent all the way down to the ECHL for some reason. I assume for money reasons and convenience since the ECHL affiliate is in California.

All three made a noticeable impact. Leach fought Steve Staios late in the game, but there’s nothing much to report though as it was a bear hug match. Shelley led the team with seven hits, and Staubitz had an assist.

Woohoo! This is too easy, guys! (From NHL.com)

Despite sloppy passes early, the Sharks struck first with Jamie McGinn and Douglas Murray four minutes apart. Both goals started off hard work and sheer will. I never grow tired of seeing battling like that.

San Jose tightened its grip with two more goals in the second period by Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, proving that the top line can score along with the secondary lines.

Also in the second, Ryane Clowe destroyed Jason Strudwick in a fight with an enormous uppercut.

There’s not much else to say about this game; it’s just one of those easy games that great teams are supposed to win. The Sharks came out, did not look past their opponent, and put them away early.

Perhaps it’s a good tune-up/confidence-builder heading into a big showdown with Los Angeles on Monday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 30  EDM 38; Shelley led the team with seven.

The Sharks have now won eight games in a row.

As I said, the Kings come to town on Monday. The Sharks are 1-1-1 against the Kings this season.

–Ray

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January 3, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 40

Quite the Duck: It’s what’s for dinner game for the Sharks as the stomped Anaheim 5-2. The victory makes the Sharks 4-0 against their most-hated rival and continues to help eliminate thoughts of last year’s playoff matchup.

The Sharks received all the breaks and all the deflections. Nothing worked for the Ducks. They needed their goals from Sharks mistakes.

San Jose now rides a four-game winning streak with two of the four coming against Anaheim.

Jed Ortmeyer stayed on the second line tonight with Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski. Ortmeyer is really working his tail off and while he may not score goals, his battling pays off in turnovers and scoring chances. With the move up, it required someone to move down and Devin Setoguchi had the short straw. Coach Todd McClellan demoted him to fourth-line duty. McClellan finally realized you can’t waste time putting a player up on the top line just to jump start them. It’s up to the player to make things happen.

Seto will turn it around at some point, of course. He has been playing well with a power-froward style, hitting and bashing people.

Patrick Marleau scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season tonight. Both were garbage goals, but like everyone says, a garbage goal is worth the same as a fancy goal.

Hey Marchant, does this breakaway make my butt look smaller? (From SJSHARKS.com)

One of Patty’s goals came on the power-play — an area of concern over the last 11 games prior to tonight. In those 11 games, the Sharks were 4-for-43 (9.3%). That changed tonight; the Sharks capitalized on both man-advantage opportunities to improve that statistic to 6-for-45 (13.3%) the last 12 games.

Dany Heatley notched his 23rd goal of the season after being sandwiched between two Ducks. His first shot hit one defender in the face, ended up back on Heater’s stick, and he didn’t miss the second time. I’ve seen and heard a few people criticize him for his work ethic, but that must all be from blind people. I’ve never seen him take a shift off or lazily attack a puck. He wants the puck and does everything he can to get it on his stick.

Clowe and Jamie McGinn were the other goal-scorers.

This was the best game the Sharks have played in a long time. Any questions about responding to no practice for three days were answered in the first 10 minutes. The mental game was there; the physical game was there. Here’s to hoping that continues on this last stretch before the Olympics.

Fight Night at the Tank

Three fights took place. I’ll break this down into judges’ scorecards.

Frazer McLaren vs. George Parros.  29-28, 29-28, 29-28 McLaren.

Scott Nichol vs. Kyle Chipchura. 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 Nichol.

Jed Ortmeyer vs. Matt Beleskey. 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 Beleskey.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  ANA 38; Douglas Murray led with seven.

Despite the domination, the Sharks were once again outshot by an opponent. This time the shot totals were 32-25 for the Ducks.

The Coyotes come to town on Monday.

–Ray

December 27, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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. 33

Quite the unlucky game for the Sharks in their 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. For the second straight game, the opposing goalie made saves he has no business making. The Sharks can’t buy a goal right now.

The game was action-packed, no question about that. Thirty-six shots a-piece and 35 hits a-piece made for another playoff atmosphere.

Ryane Clowe extended his points streak to nine games with a goal tonight. That came off a rebound from Dan Boyle’s shot. Other than that it was the Mikka Kiprusoff show. He couldn’t be beat. San Jose tried everything.

One of his saves was a miracle; he was on his stomach, a shot was taken, he flung his glove up which deflected it. The puck was on its way in when he kicked his skate up to kick it out. Unbelievable. That’s how it went all night for the Sharks.

I think Kipper has X-ray vision because the Sharks stacked a bunch of players in front of him for screens. They were doing everything right according to their game plan. When you hit a hot goalie, there isn’t much you can do except pray.

It was nice to see the Sharks never give up despite all this. Any number of teams would pack it up and take a seat in the press box after seeing saves like that. The Sharks didn’t do that at all. But unfortunately “will” couldn’t win it for them tonight and they’ve lost three of their last six games.

Every broadcast the opposing announcers make mention of the Sharks being No. 1 in the NHL. Can we stop that please? I don’t care if the points say they’re in first, they’re not the best in the league. San Jose’s record is now 19-7-5. Now change the numbers up a bit and we’re 19-12 (Overtime/Shootout losses are losses.) 19-12 is mediocre. That’s not too far from being .500.

Players battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

That one stretch earlier in the season where they recorded a point in 12 straight games is why the record is what it is.

Reviewing the postgame quotes from last game against St. Louis, coach Todd McClellan was ticked off at his team for allowing that last minute goal. Coaches will say it’s a team loss that encompasses the entire game, but you could tell Todd knew it came down to that last shift. It certainly looked like he sparked something in the players tonight. Good to know they respond well to Todd’s anger.

Also from last game, goalie Evgeni Nabokov mentioned Marc-Edouard Vlasic should have blocked that shot which tied the game up. A little “90210” in the Sharks locker room? Not so much. Not that big of a deal. Nabby and Vlasic shook it off, and while I know players act like they don’t care all the time, this was an exception.

Maybe I’m spoiled, but losing three of six makes me feel like a New Jersey Nets fan (The Nets started this season 0-18). It’s never fun losing, but losing because of these redonkulous goalies is beyond frustrating. Here’s to turnarounds.

Battle of the Mc’s

Frazer McLaren took on Brian McGratton, but it was too much McGratton for the youngster. He’s officially caught the Jody-Shelley syndrome. There is no cure except to choose more weak combatants. Tread carefully my friend.

So close, yet so far

Before the game Derek Joslin was reassigned to Worcester but then immediately recalled to play. Darn. We were so close to freedom and becoming good again…

Sick Heatley

Heatley is battling flu-like symptoms and was a game-time decision. He played below average. Dion Phaneuf nailed him with a neutral-zone check, and Dany had a bunch of giveaways.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 35  CGY 35; Devin Setoguchi led the team with five.

The Sharks have three days off before facing the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. McClellan better not give anyone the day off.

–Ray

December 6, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 32

Quite the playoff atmosphere tonight and while the Sharks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks deserved to win. Karma is karma, though. The Sharks stole a game in St. Louis earlier this year and the opposite happened this time.

Blues goalie Ty Conklin is insanely lucky. He simply isn’t this good to make the saves he made tonight. All luck. It’s so frustrating to see amazing chances go by the wayside when a sub-par goalie gets confident. This game should have been 6-1 by the third period, and it could have ended 8-1. But nooooooo, Conklin always decides to play well against the Sharks. Prior to the start of the game, he had a 3-2-1 record against San Jose, with a 1.68 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. Crazy numbers. Geez, this guy is annoying.

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Conklin save for save though. He made a specatcular save with 30 seconds left to keep a 2-1 lead. However, he was unable to stop one more shot with 6.6 seconds left in regulation. That goal tied it at 2-2 sending the game to overtime.

Let’s go back and talk about regulation. What a great game to watch. Both teams played 60 minutes of hockey. No one took any breaks. The Sharks didn’t look sluggish at any point during the game and neither did the Blues. This could very well be a playoff matchup; however, I hope it isn’t because the Blues are like a mosquito to the Sharks.

Dany Heatley scored first from a Joe Thornton pass. He ripped it from a bit inside the blue line and Conklin had no chance.

The Blues got on the board with an awkward, change-up type shot from Jay McClement. Nabby looked like he just saw Ryane Clowe in tights.

Joe Pavelski scored the other Sharks goal in the second period. Douglas Murray took a shot from the point, and Pavs, standing right in front of Conklin, deflected it in.

Joe Pavelski gives Ty Conklin a serving of Wisconsin booty as he scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

That was the only good thing Murray did tonight. He did try hard, but he got burned bad by both T.J. Oshie and David Perron. Two times each. I hope coach Todd McClellan saw that, because Murray needs defensive help. Right now he’s just a pylon taking up space.

The Sharks power play looked outstanding. Unfortunately, they never converted an opportunity. The puck movement was there, passes were quick, decisions were made swiftly and the correct shots were taken. But like I said before, Conklin’s jersey must have had a few thousand four-leaf clovers in it.

This loss is tough to take. I can’t put it any simpler than that. A game-tying goal with 6.6 seconds left, and it was shorthanded — it just sucks. I’m sure the guys are extremely downtrodden in that locker room. Hopefully one of them thinks like me and hopes Conklin never plays against the Sharks again.

I can already hear the postgame quotes now: “Give St. Louis credit,” “You gotta give the Blues credit.” I really don’t want to hear that mess. Just say, “Well that friggin’ blows; that goalie is so lucky.” Stop giving other teams credit.

Shootout

In the shootout, Nabby showed his weakest part of his game – his infamously wide five-hole. Man is that thing big. (Pun intended).

Fight

Right off the bat, Ryane Clowe dropped the gloves with B.J. Crombeen. Mainly a throw-a-whiff affair, Clowe got a few punches to land. Clowe gets the win.

Also, David Backes was being a rat trying to get Heatley to drop the gloves. Heatley didn’t go for it, but Frazer McLaren jumped off the bench and went to beat down Backes. Backes turtled like a true coward, while McLaren got a third-man-in penalty and was thrown out.

Fourth Line

The fourth line of McLaren-Mitchell-Vesce looked really good tonight. Vesce and Mitchell played together down in Worcester and developed some chemistry. I don’t recall any bad mistakes from the line. They always seemed to be on the forecheck wearing the other team down. I hope Vesce stays up.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  StL 28; Murray led the team with four.

The Flames come to town on Saturday. It’s the last game before the Sharks begin a streak of 8/10 games against divisional opponents.

–Ray

December 4, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 31

Quite the fun game tonight as the Sharks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2. Dany Heatley played his former team for the first time, as did Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Things were very spirited in the first period. Those three players definitely tried to make statements to their former clubs, and one was very successful.

Michalek netted two goals, so as far as I’m concerned, only Sharks scored tonight. He looked like a man on a mission to score. He pushed the Sens’ play and forecheck, constantly battled in front of the net. What else can I say? Milan deserved it. Buuuttt, the Sharks are too good.

A fourth man entered the ring to prove something; Patrick Marleau played his 900th game, all with the Sharks, and showed everyone it was a good decision to not trade him after all these years. He scored two goals as well and almost had a third, but lost the puck on a cut-in towards the net.

It was just a fun game to watch. There wasn’t a shortage of effort, maybe lack of intelligence (I think of one player to be named later), but all the players tried hard.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau celebrate after Marleau scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

Frazer McLaren dropped the gloves with Matt Carkner in the first to continue the entertainment. Unfortunately, McLaren dropped another decision. It was close after Carkner ended the fight on purpose by dragging Frazer down, but Carkner had more punches land. Frazer needs to start winning some fights soon and not continue this Jody Shelley syndrome.

Both the second and third periods started off considerably slower than the first period; however, things picked up about halfway through each time.

Ryane Clowe came through with a goal after a tough battle between Manny Malhotra and Sens defenders. My tune is slowly starting to change on Manny. He scored an empty netter tonight and has shown some good speed and toughness lately. But I’m not so quick to change my mind on people. Hopefully this stays consistent.

Thomas Greiss manned the net for the Sharks. He hadn’t started in two weeks so coach Todd McClellan gave Evgeni Nabokov the night off. “Jesus” Greiss sure likes to flail. Reminds me of Magikarp from Pokemon. Both Greiss and Magikarp have one move: Flail. Obviously Greiss is more effective at it. He made some spectacular saves to preserve the lead. This backup situation could get juicy next season. After the Sharks decide whether or not to resign Nabby, will they put all their stock in Greiss as the heir apparent? Or will they look further to stud prospects Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith? Who knows, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.

The Sharks’ top line of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau amassed six points tonight continuing their William-Sherman-March-to-the-Sea trek torching any team in their path.

Douglas Murray

This guy took three penalties in the third period alone. What in the world was he thinking? Maybe he was excited because his grandfather was watching him play for the first time since he was in college. I don’t know, but regardless, this is the kind of thing that gets you in the coach’s doghouse. I mean, almost half of the period was shorthanded because of Murray. Use your friggin’ head, son.

Cheech ‘n’ Seek

Boy has Cheech ever fallen off the radar. He’s a third-liner in Ottawa and has been reduced to scrubbing the poop deck every game. Long gone are the days of him scoring 50 goals. Poor Cheech. Guess you really find out how good Joe Thornton is when the sniper leaves Jumbo’s side.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  OTT 18; Scott Nichol (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

Seto and Torrey Mitchell aren’t getting much important action on the fourth line. Torrey received an extra minute compared to last game and Seto’s ice time was decreased. I wonder how much rust these two actually accumulated, because I think we all know these guys are much better than fourth liners. Patience is a virtue I guess. Can’t wait to see them fully recovered.

The Sharks play St. Louis on Thursday.

–Ray

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

 

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