A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 61

Quite the Whac-A-Mole game for the Sharks has they pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs back into the the NHL cellar with a 3-2 win. It wasn’t pretty, but the Sharks did enough to withstand the newly energized Leafs.

The game felt like a Western Conference game. It’s always nice to watch the Sharks play Eastern Conference teams since we never see those players. But with the Leafs’ additions of Dion Phaneuf and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, along with Francois Beauchemin, it was like facing the Ducks or Flames.

Astonishingly, Giguere recorded two shutouts in his first two games as a Maple Leaf. After the first period, the streak was still in tact. Toronto led 1-0 at the first break after completely controlling most of the period. Phanuef was throwing his weight around on Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. The Leafs were skating and made the Sharks look very lethargic.

Jody Shelley tried his best to get some emotions going. He dropped the gloves with Toronto tough guy Colton Orr, and Shelley KO’d him with a right. You don’t see that too often — Orr getting dropped or Shelley KO’ing someone. So you might want to favorite that video on YouTube.

Right after was when Toronto notched their first goal. Rob Blake turned the puck over behind the net, and a cross-crease pass found Tyler Bozak’s stick.

The Leafs continued the pressure briefly in the second before the Sharks whacked their first mole. Dan Boyle shot a wrist shot change-up to beat Giguere. Yep, Boyle’s back.

Two minutes later Joe Pavelski wristed one past Giggy, and yet another mole was whacked to oblivion.

All right, Colton. This is going to be a one-shot KO. Jersey Shore Ronnie style. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Brad Staubitz sought redemption against Garnet Exelby for a knee-to-knee hit earlier in the game. The two danced, and it was a close fight. Both fighters landed some punches, and Staubitz claimed the takedown.

The Leafs would score in the last minute of the second to tie the game back up. Curse those relentless moles for popping up.

Remember last game when I gave you the statistic which read the Sharks are 10-0 in games with multiple fights. Well, make that 11-0. Ryane Clowe buried the puck with seven minutes left to give the good guys the win.

Nab-credible

Once again, Mr. Evgeni Nabokov did his best brick wall impersonation, making key save after key save. You just can’t say enough about how great he’s been this year. We’ll have to wait until April to see if he gives the Sharks the real bang for their buck, but if this season is any indication, the Sharks will be living well come postseason.

Welcome Wallin and Helminen!

Newly acquired Niclas Wallin made his debut in the #7 sweater tonight and played as advertised. He didn’t make any mistakes and finished with a +1 rating in 17:03 of ice time. He also recorded one shot, one blocked shot and one hit.

Dwight Helminen was called up for the first time as a Shark. I didn’t hear his name called much, though. He put in nine minutes of work and struggled in the faceoff circle going 1-4.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  TOR 34; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks visit the reeling Blue Jackets on Wednesday. It’s the front end of a back-to-back — Columbus and Detroit.

–Ray

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February 9, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 37

Quite the back-on-track game for the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Nothing cures losing-streak pessimism like a win over your most hated rival. It wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t flashy. It was good ole fashioned hard work.

Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere tried to steal the show with an amazing performance, but the Sharks were too much down low. The Sharks actually used their sized around the crease to manhandle the Ducks defensemen. I think by now we can acknowledge that this type of performance probably won’t happen for another month or two. But it was nice to see the effort and garbage goals.

Leading the way with effort down low was Joe Thornton — yes the big man doin’ his thang around the crease. He caused a lot of havoc 6’4″ 230 lbs frame. He notched four points (2G, 2A) tonight. Jumbo has been throwing his weight around recently and that’s translating into a power forward style we’ve long awaited for.

Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi were the other goal scorers. Patty’s goal came on a deflection, while Seto’s was a wicked wrister. Seto’s goal broke his seven-game point drought. Coach Todd McClellan put him on the top line with Patty and Jumbo to jump-start his production. It was a move criticized by many considering the huge numbers Heatley-Thornton-Marleau put up.

Clowe delivering the "Newfoundland Haymaker" (From SJSHARKS.com)

With Seto scoring, I wonder if McClellan will stay with Seto on the top line. Heatley is much more dangerous than Seto, and now that he’s out of his slump, his mentality will change. And it’s now really a downgrade playing with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe on line two.

One thing I want to mention is before the game Derek Joslin was sent back down to Worcester and Jason Demers was called up. Isn’t it funny how the Sharks all of a sudden win with Demers back? Call it coincidence if you want, but you can’t deny the losing streak included Joslin. Joslin goes bye-bye and the losing streak ends. Hmmm… Just take that home and chew it.

Clowe breaks the ‘Bank

Clowe dropped the gloves with Sheldon Brookbank in the second period. One-sided affair. Clowe threw haymakers, and Brookbank was in way over his head.

Torrey! Torrey! Torrey!

It might have been Torrey Mitchell’s best game since coming back. He showed his blazing speed in picking up a penalty shot (unfortunately he didn’t convert) and forced turnovers. The lone Ducks goal was on the power play, again building the argument for a penalty-kill change. Torrey should get some more PK time in the coming games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  ANA 39; Setoguchi and Douglas Murray led the team with five each.

San Jose is now 3-0 against the Ducks this season.

The Sharks have another three days off before traveling to Dallas for the first game of a back-to-back. The second game is against Chicago.

–Ray

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 4

Quite the dominating performance by the Sharks tonight in a 4-1 win at Anaheim. The Sharks absolutely eviscerated the Ducks on their home ice, spoiling the party for Ducks fans. San Jose won in every aspect of the game — a refreshing experience compared to the horrid Colorado game.

Benn Ferriero scored his first NHL goal to get the game started. What did he do? Went to the front of the net! He found the puck right in front of the crease and buried it behind Jonas Hiller, who got the nod ahead of J.S. Giguere. It was fulfilling to see the Sharks dismantle Hiller, after the debacle that was the 2009 playoffs. Jason Demers and Frazer McLaren picked up assists on Ferriero’s goal, which was their first points of their career.

Patrick Marleau continued his excellence by blocking a Ryan Whitney shot on an Anaheim power play, and beating out Whitney for the puck, leading to a shorthanded breakaway. Patty went forehand-backhand to beat Hiller. Perhaps the ‘C’ on jerseys is an extra 20 lbs, because Patty is playing 20 lbs. lighter. I’m looking forward to him having a career year.

Good news Sharks fans! Dany Heatley showed up tonight and the chemistry with Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton was on. Coming out of the penalty box, he found Jumbo Joe, who also went forehand-backhand on Hiller — looks like we found a weakness in ol’ Jonas, ‘eh?’

The same sort of play happened next period with Heatley along the boards passing to the slot finding Setoguchi who shot a rocket into the twine. Good to see things picking up for the trifecta.

Benn Ferriero celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Benn Ferriero celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Other Observations

It was definitely a scrappy affair as the teams combined for 80 penalty minutes. That’s what I’m talking about! There were only two legitimate fights (which weren’t very good) but a cornucopia of scrums after the whistle. I liked seeing that though, shows the Sharks aren’t taking exception to any kind of Corey Perry-esque activity. Douglas Murray did get a game misconduct for being third-man-in. Murray went to an Ivy League school; I thought he was supposed to be smart.

The third and fourth lines for San Jose looked amazing and completely gelled. They were always fighting for loose pucks and winning for the most part. I think last year, those lines fought but didn’t succeed enough. I guess when coach Todd McClellan said they now had more grit, he was right. A lot more determination out of guys like Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol tonight — both who were involved in fights and altercations.

Improvements

Marleau was 1-8 in the faceoff circle; that needs to improve.

The Sharks were 1-7 on the power play. They didn’t keep a constant forecheck enough and looked sloppy entering the zone. McClellan is supposed to be the power play guru, so hopefully that’s fixed by the next game at Los Angeles.

Overall, I was elated to see us disembowel Anaheim and hear their fans immersed in a deafening silence. Here’s to Anaheim not making the playoffs.

–Ray

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 3

The Sharks take on the Ducks tonight at Anaheim and it should be a bruising contest. In an interesting roster move, The Sharks sent Jamie McGinn down to Worcester and brought up Frazer McLaren, who is known as a tough guy. After all the things I’ve heard from coaches about playing their own game and not worrying about the other team, this throws it for a loop.

Frazer McLaren giving a Canuck the business

Frazer McLaren giving a Canuck "the business"

So much for playing a speedy, offensive affair as the Sharks are known to do; they plan on adapting to Anaheim’s slower, hit-filled game. I guess it’s worth a shot considering our fast style didn’t work in the playoffs last year. But alas, it’s only one player. We’ll see the effects at 10 p.m. eastern.

Things to look for

1. Saku Koivu’s debut for Anaheim

2. Will Marleau-Pavelski-Clowe line continue their first game performance?

3. Any chemistry from Thornton or Heatley?

4. Who starts in goal for Anaheim? Giguere or Hiller?

5. Nabokov

Slow Starts

Last years division winners in the Western Conference (Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose) are off to a combined 0-5 start. Detroit was swept by St. Louis, while Vancouver dropped a game in Calgary and was shutout by upstart Colorado today.

St. Louis will be dangerous — so long as Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya stay healthy. They already have four goals combined in two games; however, one of them will get injured this year — it never fails.

Detroit’s backup Jimmy Howard played in the second game and looked, to put it lightly, sub-par. He allowed to goals in 13 seconds. I really don’t think he will ever be ready for the NHL; he’s a full-time AHLer.

October 3, 2009 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