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. 29

Quite the come on Sharks performance in their 5-4 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers. After the 7-2 debacle last game against Chicago, I expected a bit more effort tonight, but alas, this is San Jose. Effort is harder to come by than a 2012 convention at your local church.

Patrick Marleau scored a hat trick with Joe Thornton as the set-up man on all 3. And every goal of Patty’s looked similar. All involved Joe being at or behind the goal line and throwing the puck to Patty in front of the net. Easy pickings for Marleau, who also tallied an assist later for a four-point night.

Ryane Clowe was the other goal scorer. He and Joe Pavelski camped out in front of the net, and Clowe pocketed the rebound.

Not many Sharks showed up tonight, unfortunately. And since all my angry emotions are drained from the Chicago game, I won’t be going off on them as much.

Please tell me why you wouldn’t play as hard as you could after a crappy performance. Your manhood was tested and you come back tonight with another ball-less act. You’re making a joke of yourselves. This should have been a blowout. Edmonton is destined for the NHL cellar and you guys needed a shootout to beat them? Really now?

I’ve avoided the Todd McClellan criticism, but this goes on him. I still don’t know what he’s like in the locker room, but if he doesn’t yell, that needs to change. This was inexcusable.

Joe Pavelski fights for position (From SJSHARKS.com)

OK, I’m really tired of talking about defensive letdowns but tonight it was as blatant as ever. One Edmonton goal came when Dan Boyle tried to bring the puck into the Oilers’ zone and was pickpocketed. A breakaway later, the Oilers were on the board. Another time, Jason Demers attempted a stretch pass, which was promptly intercepted. An offensive breakout later, another Oiler goal.

I guess I should just accept these kinds of things because that’s what Boyle and Demers do — try to create offense — but it’s just so annoying seeing it EVERY SINGLE GAME.

Tell Me Why

Kent Huskins and Derek Joslin were on the ice in overtime for a 3 on 3 situation. For the love of all that is holy, give me one good reason why those two have any business being out there.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  EDM 22; Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe led with 3 each.

Torrey Mitchell returned to the lineup for the first time this millenium; however, we didn’t get to see much from him. He accumulated 6:25 of ice time with one shot.

The Sharks play Vancouver on Sunday.

–Ray

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 24

Quite the what-comes-around game for the Sharks in their 4-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks stole a few games from Nashville and St. Louis lately (what goes around), and in this game, they were in position to win, but couldn’t hang on. The lack of defense is starting to rear it’s ugly shark head.

While Sharks defensemen are good offensively, they are mediocre defensively; that goes for defensive defensemen Douglas Murray and Kent Huskins. They are competent, no question, but they are now shut-down quality. It hurts having Rob Blake out, but the Sharks have always lacked a star shut-down defenseman.

I don’t think it’s pertinent to acquire one, but perhaps some of the current players should attend a few hockey camps and learn some defensive fundamentals — specifically not to leave your man! Their eyes are always on the puck looking for a breakout. As much a fan of the couterattack as I am, if  you don’t stay with your man, they’re going to score on you.

They also need to learn how to clear the puck better. The d-men were terrible in the beginning of the season at it, they got better but the problem is starting to come back. There must be some secret way of clearing that can help them. I’m tired of seeing them exert so much effort for no reason.

The Chicago game was back and forth. Very entertaining to watch. Once again the Sharks scored two goals right after another. It took 45 seconds this time, compared with 16 seconds yesterday, to put up two goals. Tonight those two scorers were Jason Demers and Patrick Marleau.

It was Jason’s first career goal and it’s about time. He’s played so well dishing out assists, and he deserves this goal.

The Sharks got on the bad side of a controversial goal call. Joe Thornton batted a puck off the back of Cristobal Huet. He raised his hands him to signal goal, but upon further review, it looked as though the puck dropped and stuck on the goal line. That allowed the Hawks to come back and tie it.

Picture 14

Jason Demers (#60) celebrates his first NHL goal with Dan Boyle (From SJSHARKS.com)

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s rebounds haunted him tonight. The Hawks knew he comes out to challenge players a lot, and their game plan of getting shots and burying rebounds work. Hopefully no other team was watching because it worked marvelously. Rebounds left Nabby flailing like Hasek, and of course d-men were not in position to clear out the garbage.

The game ended up going to overtime, but Brent Seabrook ended things very quickly — 41 seconds into the extra session. Seabrook found open ice and received the puck cross-ice. He buried it past Nabby. Nabby tried to do his patented double-pad stack, but it failed miserably. If he would have stayed up and just pushed off his right skate more, it could have been an easy stop because Seabrook’s shot was kind of weak.

The third-period woes continue. The Sharks are not finishing teams; they’re letting them hang around in the third. They once again played well in the second, but I got deja vu seeing this same team get tired in the last period. I won’t put too much emphasis on that from this game because it was the back-end of a back-to-back.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  CHI 21; Patty led the team with three.

Dan Boyle was the goat tonight as he had the worst plus/minus rating (-2). Demers’ +1 was the only positive marker on the team.He added an assist along with his goal.

The Sharks point-streak remains in-tact. It stands out 12 games.

The Sharks travel to Nashville for a rematch with the Predators on Tuesday, just one week after defeating the Preds 4-3 at HP Pavillion.

–Ray

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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. 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

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 11

Quite the about-time performance for the Sharks in their 7-3 win against the New York Rangers. The game marked the second time the Sharks have won two games in a row, and the third time they have scored 4+ goals in a row. With the win, the Rangers seven-game win streak came to an end.

Once again the Sharks started out slow and dug themselves an 0-2 hole. At that point the best player for San Jose was — gasp — Manny Malhotra! He looked like a hockey player tonight and actually showed speed and intelligence.

It was a night for the hard workers, though, and deservedly so. Brad Staubitz got on the board first with a Joe-Pavelski-like wrister past Ranger goalie Stephen Valiquette.

Not to be outdone by a tough guy, Dany Heatley showcased some eye-foot coordination kicking the puck to himself while skating between to Ranger defenseman. He finished it off with a backhand to the top corner.

From then on, it was what I’ve been waiting to see — hard work and net presence. The Sharks finally learned that easy goals come when you stand in front of the opposing goalie. Jed Ortmeyer got a rebound goal when Kent Huskins wristed the puck to the net.

Devin Setoguchi scored when he and Joe Thornton camped out in front of the net, while Patrick Marleau shot the puck at them. Seto pocketed the rebound underneath the crossbar.

Joe Thornton flies over a Ranger defenseman (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Thornton flies over a Ranger defenseman (From SJSHARKS.com)

Seto wasn’t done though. He and Marleau continued some really nice chemistry when Marleau streaked down the left side and passed to Seto in the right slot. Easy pickings for Seto.

And my boy Ryan Vesce scored in his second game up with San Jose. This kid is awesome. Heatley was on a breakaway, shot it, a juicy rebound found its way to Vesce’s stick for an easy goal. I told you. Sharks players: pay attention to Vesce. He goes to the net and gets goals; simple as that. Keep doing what he’s doing.

Marleau got on the board near the end. Jason Demers fed him a nice pass, and with Ryane Clowe in front of the net, the puck went in. I sincerely hope coach Todd McClellan drives this point home because it works.

Now we get to see if the Sharks can reach three wins in a row. One doesn’t mean anything, two is a trend and three is a hot streak.

Power Play

Sharks extended their multi-power-play goal streak as they once again scored two on the man advantage.

MVL

Most Valuable Line was the fourth line. They sparked the goals and sparked the entire team. Ortmeyer, Nichol, Vesce, Staubitz, Shelley and Malhotra did their job. We need the secondary scoring badly.

Other Notes

Hit-o-meter: SJ 33  NYR 22 (Ortmeyer and Vesce led the team with 5 and 4 hits respectively.)

The Sharks travel to Tampa Bay next, and if there was any time to begin a win streak, now is the time. After Tampa is Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Colorado. We shall see, but until I see consistency, I won’t believe.

–Ray

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment