A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

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

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November 1, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Column: Miami overhyped

This is the full version of my column in the Collegiate Times:

Column: Miami Overhyped

Ray Nimmo

For the last several years, when the University of Miami wins a game, the media proclaims the U is back.

And unfortunately for Hurricanes fans, the U never really is back.

Once again, the media jumped on the Canes bandwagon following Miami’s 33-17 rout of Georgia Tech last Thursday.

Jacory Harris

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris

Sure, Canes quarterback Jacory Harris was 20-25 with 270 yards passing and threw 3 touchdowns, but the Yellow Jackets’ passing defense ranks 85th in the NCAA.

In Georgia Tech’s first game, they allowed Jacksonville State quarterback Marques Ivory to be 23-38 and throw 193 yards and two touchdowns.

So before crowning Harris as the next Jim Kelly or Vinny Testaverde, gain some perspective.

The first game Harris played this season against Florida State could easily have been a loss for the Canes; however, it quickly turned into a Harris lovefest.

Harris threw two interceptions in the contest, bringing his career total to nine compared with 17 touchdowns. When Harris faces a real defense on Saturday, people will find out just how good he is.

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will have his crew ready for the biggest Atlantic Coast Conference game of the year.

Harris has only been sacked once this year and hasn’t faced much pressure from defenses. Expect a lot of blitz packages and pressure from defensive end Jason Worilds. The Hokies will get to the quarterback and force Harris to make bad decisions.

It will then be up to the ball-hawking secondary to make the necessary plays to shutdown Miami’s speedy wide receivers.

There are a few problems, though.

While the defensive gameplan will, without a doubt, be an excellent counter to Miami’s offense, the execution is in question.

The Hokies defense has not performed up to typical lunch pail standards.

Tech is ranked 77th in total defense. They haven’t been out of the top-10 in that category since 2003.

Pinpointing the problem is nevertheless difficult.

The young linebacking corps? Injuries in the secondary? Defensive line not living up to the billing?

What about the offense? Because of their impotence and consistent three-and-out play, the defense must be on the field for more than half the game. Look back to the Alabama game. When was the last time you saw a Tech defense that worn out at the end of a game?

These are some of the best athletes in the country, and there is no excuse for being that tired with the high-class conditioning that goes on at Tech.

The defense did answer the bell against Nebraska by not allowing a touchdown, and employing a bend-but-

Virginia Tech vs. Miami

Virginia Tech vs. Miami

don’t-break mentality.

Miami is not Nebraska, though. The Canes may actually have better athletes the Alabama and Nebraska, so it’s paramount the offense find a rhythm early to keep the defense well-rested.

This game has much bigger implications than the previous three. This one counts. No excuses. With Miami being in the Coastal Division and already boasting a 2-0 record in the ACC, this game could very well decide the Hokies’ ACC title hopes.

The players and coaches know it, though.

“This game might as well be the ACC Championship game,” running back Ryan Williams said. “It’s big for us. It’s real big for us. We have to come out fighting strong from the first quarter through the fourth quarter.”

Coincidentally, Williams grew up a Miami fan, and looked up to previous Canes running backs: Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis and Frank Gore.

Williams has the Miami-type swagger. He showcased it against Nebraska when he did his variation of the “Dirty Bird” touchdown dance—he calls it the “Dirty Hokie.”

Williams redshirted last season and didn’t take part in last year’s 16-14 loss at Miami.

He will be here this time around, in Lane Stadium. The last time the Canes traveled to Blacksburg, the Hokies destroyed them 44-14.

The Canes did take care of the Hokies in 2005, in Lane, 27-7—a game that will hereby be forgotten, but the Hokies are 4-2 against Miami the last six meetings.

Tech knows how to beat the U, and the media has forgotten it. Miami jumped in the rankings from No. 20 to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll this week. With that jump, they leapfrogged No. 11 Tech.

Perhaps someone should notify the authorities the Hokies are three-time ACC champions. Miami has won the ACC championship exactly zero times.

The ACC championship runs through Blacksburg, so don’t sweat the Miami swagger.

Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor

Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NHL 2008-2009 Predicted Final Division Standings

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Atlantic Division

Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Southeast Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Central Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Northwest Division
Ray Nimmo Nathan Skytta
Pacific Division

October 9, 2008 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