A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 78

Quite the bouncy game for the Sharks as they muddled through some rugged play to defeat the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3. You won’t see many more deflection goals in a game than this one.

San Jose needed to step up with the absence of some key players, and the best way to do it is to get some dirty goals. That they did.

Joe Thornton missed his first game as a Shark with a lower body injured. He’s listed as day-to-day, but we all know how that has gone in the past (Vlasic missing 17 games).

Rob Blake didn’t play tonight either. A curious move, but coach Todd McLellan loves to use those “maintenance days.” Jason Demers was called up from Worcester to take his spot.

If that wasn’t enough, goalie Thomas Greiss got the call in nets, so essentially the Sharks sent out their B team.

When you beat a potential playoff team with mainly secondary players, it says something. Maybe this can, at least temporarily, put to rest questions about the Sharks’ depth. Sure Marleau, Heatley and Thornton are the main contributers, but to argue against the talent of Setoguchi, Pavelski and Clowe is futile.

Devin Setoguchi grabbed the role of top performer tonight with two goals — both deflections. His first goal came in the first period in the midst of an Avalanche assault. Colorado pounded the rubber on Greiss tonight with 45 shots.

Pavs watched Karate Kid earlier. Adam Foote stands in amazement. (From NHL.com)

San Jose survived the first period and took a 1-0 lead into intermission.

Colorado continued to shoot the puck in the second, even taking a 2-1 lead. Douglas Murray did not play well for the Sharks tonight. He’s been making some very questionable decisions lately and turning it over. Opponents are capitalizing on it. You won’t see it in the score sheet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Enough was enough though. The Sharks counterpunched in the third period. With blazing speed and a new-found realization of throwing the puck to the net, Dan Boyle and Setoguchi notched goals to give the Sharks the win.

“Jesus” Greiss walked on ice in the closing minutes to seal the deal. He had trouble with rebounds all night but came up big when called on.

It’s McLellan’s 100th regular season win; it only took two seasons to do that. Great job, Todd. Now convert that into playoff success, please. Kthxbai.

Roughing?

In the first, Brad Staubitz and Matt Hendricks did the tango. However, they were both called roughing penalties. Bitz received four minutes and Hendricks two. Clearly I have no understanding of the rules because both dropped the gloves and fought. I’ve seen fighting majors dished out for one second of punching. This one just baffled me.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  COL 29; Murray led with six.

Manny Malhotra suffered a broken nose last game after a puck clocked him right in the face. He was all stitched up and back on the ice tonight. No problems.

San Jose sweeps the short, three-game homestand, and will now travel to Dallas for a game, Wednesday.

–Ray

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 77

Quite the HA HA! game for the Sharks as they beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2. That’s a little Gus Johnson reference for all you March Madness fans.

After taking out two bottom feeders in Minnesota and Dallas, the Sharks proved that they may very well be regaining old form by beating Vancouver. It wasn’t a full 60 minute game, but San Jose wasn’t built in a day.

Vancouver won the first period with a constant forecheck and a goal by the annoying Sedin line. Add the twins to my giant list of people who I can’t stand. That’s all you hear about with the Canucks — Sedin this, Sedin that. They’d be nothing without them. I’m sick of it.

But alas, it wasn’t to be the Swedish meatballs’ night. The Sharks dominated the second period as they do all the time. Three goals came to fruition with Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski netting them.

Heatley shot a wrister on the power play to tie the game, 1-1. Marleau scored on a breakaway after deking Roberto Luongo. No “Luuu” chants here. Patty had a more explosive reaction than usual, which was awesome to see. It’s his 42nd goal. He also recorded three assists for a four-point night.

The San Jose heartbeat stops as Jumbo goes down. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Pavelski took notes from the nearby San Francisco Giants and batted the puck into the net after an initial shot deflected into the air.

Then — PANIC. Joe Thornton rammed awkwardly into the boards and went down in a heap. Jumbo needed extra help to get to the locker room. Any ripping of Thornton can cease now. If there is one positive, it’s that he hasn’t missed a game in a Shark uniform (I’m fairly certain of that).

He’s getting a bit more energetic while working with Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell on the third line. It looked to be his left knee that was injured. But we all know what we’ll hear tomorrow morning: “Lower body injury.” That’s Top-5 worst things about hockey — the crappy injury reports.

I hope he’s all right.

The Sharks sunk back into old play again and struggled in the third period. Vancouver barraged them with wave after wave, but somehow San Jose withstood it. They did allow one Canuck goal, but Clowe sealed it in the final seconds with an empty netter.

So, while I’d like the headline to be “Sharks continue winning ways,” it’s going to be “Thornton leaves game injured, return questionable.”

Raining Blood

Manny Malhotra was struck in the face by a puck late in the game, and blood poured out of his face. Not sure where exactly it hit, but the blood wasn’t stopping. Stitches will probably seal that right up, though. I can’t fathom being hit by a frozen puck in the face.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 39  VAN 24; Clowe led with seven.

Scott Nichol returned from injury after missing two games. Rob Blake was back on the ice tonight as well after missing almost all of the third period versus Dallas. Blake had two assists on the night to continue his hot streak.

It’s another back-to-back for the Sharks as the Avalanche will be at the Shark Tank, Sunday.

–Ray

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 76

Quite the vengeance game for the Sharks as they shut out the Dallas Stars 3-0. After last week’s debacle to the Stars, it was great to see the Sharks rebound by blanking them. Enjoy the playoffs from the couch, Stars!

San Jose continued the defensive focus tonight, and with the exception of the early stages of the game, there weren’t many turnovers to report. Hard to believe I know.

The lines were pretty much the same from last time with the big three broken up. I don’t see any reason to bring them back together anytime soon either.

The win helped clinch a playoff spot for the Sharks, but that was already a foregone conclusion. I have this awful feeling the Sharks are going to play Detroit in the first round. That would be the worst luck in the world. I’d much rather see Chicago play them so their fans can endure what we did last year against Anaheim. Bye bye Chicago.

Couture overlooks a dead-looking Turco ready to be buried (From SJSHARKS.com)

It was also goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s 50th career shutout. I’m sure some Sharks fans will say it was bound to happen sooner or later. These would be the same ones saying his play declines with more starts.

Dan Boyle and Rob Blake scored goals in the second period on the power play. Blake was injured at some point during the game as he didn’t play but half a minute in the third. Hopefully, it’s not too serious. The last thing the Sharks need is another defenseman to go down.

Logan Couture scored his second career goal in the third period after Devin Setoguchi made a tough drive to the net. Setoguchi hasn’t been lighting the lamp much at all but his physicality rivals Ryane Clowe this year.

But with all Dallas game, you have to deal with rats like Steve Ott and Stephane Robidas. Robidas already showcased his recklessness last game when he steamrolled Clowe into the boards. This time he went after Couture in the corner and Couture was slow to get up.

It was incredibly disappointing to not see any Shark go after him. This guy deserves some payback and needs his teeth knocked out.

Now Steve Ott thought it would be a good idea to elbow Patrick Marleau in the head behind the play. I am so disgusted by Ott. He is not a hockey player anymore than Lindsay Lohan is straight edge. Ott dropped the gloves with Marleau but Patty was overwhelmed by the goon before he could do anything.

Luckily, Ott was tossed from the game like he should have been. I hope he gets suspended for that elbow; I’m not entirely sure if it was really brutal because the camera didn’t zoom in, but it’d be a good precedent to suspend him following the head shot rule passing today.

A Bitz Late

Brad Staubitz fought Krys Barch in a minor tussle. Bitz got the better of him and took the victory. Been a while since I’ve been able to say that.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  DAL 24; Setoguchi led with three.

The Canucks march into town Saturday.

–Ray

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 59

Quite the Jesus-Greiss-saves game for the Sharks as they defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-2. Greiss was the man with the plan stopping 35 shots en route to the victory.

Greiss’ patented flailing was toned down tonight — perhaps a good sign — and he looked comfortable in net. That could be for Team Germany’s scouts looking to solidify their starting goaltender for the Olympics. Whatever it is, I hope it continues. Greiss will probably get one or two more starts these next five games to give Evgeni Nabokov extra rest.

The Blues weren’t joking around tonight. They were getting shots through, putting lots of traffic in front of the net, throwing their weight around and skating fast. Those things made it extra tough on the Sharks depleted defense who were once again without Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

So much for Boyle ever being day-to-day. I remember the good ole days where he was only supposed to miss one game. What a sham!

As for the Sharks skaters tonight, they were OK. Patrick Marleau scored 21 seconds into the game after a feed from Joe Thornton.

Ryane Clowe increased the lead to two goals seven minutes later, and it was another early two-goal lead. The Blues rallied two minutes after Clowe’s goal. At that point, I’m thinking, “Here we go again. Just like last game against Detroit.” Those thoughts almost came to fruition several times. The Blues controlled the play and dominated for a good twenty minutes.

D.J., if you skate by me, prepare for urination. Just sayin'. (From SJSHARKS.com)

That brings us to halfway through the second period. The Blues were outshooting the Sharks 8-2 the first half of the second period. San Jose slowly started to get their feet under them. The legs started churning, the pucks started getting deep and whaddaya know? A goal comes about. Devin Setoguchi scored on the power play, swinging the momentum back to the Sharks.

Fortunately, the Sharks withstood a Blues comeback in the third. Scott Nichol sealed the deal with a slapshot.

I guess I should have kept the expectations a bit lower since this was the first game of a long road trip. The Blues have been a mosquito to the Sharks, so I’ll give them dap for swatting them.

Niclas Wallin

The Sharks rumor mill is churning with rumors of Niclas Wallin coming to San Jose within the next 24 hours. What the deal could be has varied. I’ve seen Wallin or a second round pick. I’ve seen Wallin for Jody Shelley and Derek Joslin. Apparently Carolina is gaga over Joslin. Maybe the Canes enjoy public urination and see Joslin as a centerpiece for that fetish. Who knows, but I hope the Sharks don’t give up too much. If they do, Ray Whitney better come over too.

Not Everyone is Like You

So I was visiting ChompBoard.com — a Sharks forum, and saw one of the members said:

“its the bull**** bandwagon fans that dont understand that this is a long ass season and losing 1 or 2 games a month doesn’t mean its the end of the friggin world.. it just shows that the team makes mistakes and there are still plenty of things the team needs to work on before the post season..”

Cool story, bro. Guess what? Not everyone thinks the way you do. I’m sorry, but I’m not just going to sit around and have no emotion for these regular season games. What’s the point in being a fan if you’re just going to go through the regular season indifferent to results? Who is the real bandwagon fan here when you’re waiting for April to roll around to really feel these panicky emotions? Ponder that.

I’m a sports fan; I’m a hockey fan; I’m a Sharks fan. If my team blows a game badly, I’m going to be uncomfortable with it. I want to see fixes as soon as possible. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m impatient. Woe is me for being that way.

You can embrace your “it’s a long season” mentality. That’s fine. A lot of people do. But don’t go around ridiculing other people because they are a different type of person. It’s ridiculous. Yea, what I just said was probably hypocritical, but oh well. I’m on a roll.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  StL 27; Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski both led with three.

The Sharks travel to Nashville, Saturday, for a bout with the Predators.

–Ray

February 5, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 56

Quite the don’t-get-your-hopes-up game as the Sharks staged a three-goal comeback only to fall short in overtime 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Sharks finish 1-1-2 against Chicago, which is an incredible disappointment. I can already see the bandwagon filling up on both the Blackhawks one and the Sharks-can’t-win-big-games one.

Both probably should be filling up; the Blackhawks once again defeat the “best” Western Conference team, and the Sharks came out to play in sneakers against an elite team.

Four days rest was the devil this time. All that time to focus and plan and winning formula against a Chicago team nearing the end of a long road trip, all went for not. It didn’t help Dan Boyle missed a third-straight game with the always laughable, ambiguous “upper-body injury.”

Chicago came out and took it to the Sharks. Three straight goals in the first 8:23. Yippee ki-yay! I seriously thought this would be a Sharks blowout, but expect the unexpected I always say — or should have.

So down 0-3, I’m thinking this is going to be like the 9-4 win over Detroit a few years back. Yea, nine straight goals ain’t too hard for this team. They scored nine not too long ago against Calgary.

Goal Joe Pavelski. OK, here we go. Just like Mike Grier did against Detroit. Get that first goal before intermission. This will turn the tide teal.

Peek-a-boo! I see you! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Move to the second. Goal Pavelski. Yep, I’m right bro’s. Here comes the comeback.

Goal Manny Malhotra. I must be Nostradamus. Tie game. Pack it up. Here comes six more goals.

Third period. Whoa whoa, Chicago. What are you doing? Trying? That’s not right. I am the Mayan calendar. You do not defy me!

Sharks can’t clear. You could defy me. Sharks still can’t clear and Marleau is flopping around with no stick. You might defy me. Chicago shooting the puck easily. You probably will defy me. With less than two minutes to go, the Sharks take a penalty — only their second of the game. You will defy me.

Unbelievable. The Sharks did manage to hold off the inevitable by killing that penalty, but we all know by now what the Sharks do in overtime. PRE-VENT OF-FENSE, clap-clap, clap-clap-clap.

Joe Thornton decided it’d be best to miss a wide-open net. Following a Sharks turnover, the Hawks scored and sent their bandwagon fans off into the illegitimate sunset. Fan-freaking-tastic.

I’m not sure what’s more deflating — a 7-2 loss or a three-goal comeback only to lose in overtime. You tell me.

Some positives: Logan Couture was called up for this game and played well. He played alongside Jody Shelley and Torrey Mitchell. They stuck to the game plan of getting it deep and keeping it there. Shelley mentioned it in a pregame interview: if you’re in the defensive zone, get it out, the neutral zone, get it in, the offensive zone, keep it in and create chances. Glad to see one line stick to that plan from start to finish.

Pavsleki has five goals and six games. Unfortunately, his hot streak couldn’t solve the Sharks defensive zone problems.

Let’s talk about the more interesting aspect of this game: the negatives. Joe Thornton was terrible. His passes looked like they game off a rubber hose. He passed to Hawks players all night long. He coasted through the night thinking about what photo angle his abs would look best in.

The Sharks can’t clear the puck. This has been mentioned numerous times here on ITSC. I say build a brick wall on the blueline and leave one brick out. Force the players to clear the puck through that tiny hole. Maybe that’ll help them stop clearing the puck right at opposing players. Come on guys. Look for the actual holes in the defense.

The crowd was the worst all season. Man, do I love Sharks fans. They’re incredibly loyal. But tonight, I think someone gave them seditives because there was no noise to speak of. And no, this is not because of Chicago’s 3-0 lead. When the game started, no creature was stirring, not even a mouse. I hear about this marquee matchup all week long — I’m sure they did too — and they come out like a bunch of mutes? Please. If you aren’t going to lose your voice, don’t show up. How ’bout ‘dat, yo?

Injuries!

Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game with an undisclosed injury. He didn’t come back. He better come back. I don’t want no Derek Joslin coming up and ruining my life.

Douglas Murray got injured blocking a shot I believe and left temporarily. He came back though and looked fine. Good news.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 22  CHI 20; Ryane Clowe led with five.

San Jose lost the faceoff battle by a decisive 58%-42% margin. Malhotra was 29%! Wow. One of the best faceoff men in the league got wrecked.

The Minnesota Wild are the next foes as they come to town on Saturday.

–Ray

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 19

Quite the courageous performance by the Sharks, despite losing to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1, in a shootout. It ends their six-game winning streak, but they keep in-tact their seven-game point streak. Thinking about all the adversity the Sharks face coming into this game, it’s hard to be mad at them for not pulling this one out.

Allow me to discuss some of that opposition.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Sharks are injured. It’s like Stalingrad in San Jose. Players injured consist of Ryan Vesce, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski and Rob Blake. None of those guys are expendable. Maybe Vesce, but remember he was scoring like crazy on the top line. Dany Heatley got hit hard in tonight’s game and all fans held their breath. He returned and looked fine, however.

The Sharks called up Derek Joslin and Joe Callahan. Yea, that creates a hell of a lot of opposition when you call up those two.

This was the second of back-to-back games.

The Sharks have been on the road seemingly the whole season. Constant travel and stinky motel rooms will do a number on you.

The Sharks never win in Detroit. This is just a weird fact of life. They have a few wins at the Joe, but San Jose always finds a way to come out with a loss there.

And this is all before opening faceoff! Yet, these guys came out, exhausted, lethargic and earned a point. Outstanding.

Logan Couture scored his first goal of his career tonight on a wrister between the legs of goalie Chris Osgood. I really wish this kid could get a better opportunity with a higher line rather than meandering around with Jody Shelley. With the injuries, he’s going to be sent back down to Worcester, so put him on the top or second line for a few shifts. See what happens.

Picture 9

Logan Couture celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

OK, so let’s jump out of Optimismville and get into some criticism, shall we? Goalie Evgeni Nabokov gives me heart attacks with his puck handling. He’s been giving the puck away to opposition on a consistent basis lately. I realize he wants a quick breakout — maybe because the Sharks’ breakouts have struggled — but Nabby, don’t put your team behind by doing something you aren’t required to do.

The Sharks power play forecheck was abismal tonight. I’m sure part of it was exhaustion, but they allowed a bunch of 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s tonight, while on the man advantage. Patch that up pronto.

The shootout was ugly for the Sharks. They didn’t convert on either chance and Nabby allowed two out of 3 chances. Ryane Clowe used the same exact move he’s used in the last two shootouts. It worked the first time, but the last two chances were easy stops for the goalie. Either come up with a new move for stay on the bench.

Brad Staubitz

Bitz was a healthy scratch tonight, presumably because coach Todd McClellan was angry with his penalties against the Blue Jackets last game. He received 17 minutes worth of penalties after a fight with Jared Boll. He was eligible to return in the game, but Todd kept him benched. As a result, Couture only had Shelley as a linemate. Bitz better keep his head together. I haven’t see Todd keep anyone in a doghouse, but there’s a first for everything.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  DET 32; Scott Nichol, Joe Thornton and Douglas Murray combined for 14 of those.

The Sharks go home for a week, and they will play three games at HP Pavillion against Pittsburgh, Nashville and Dallas, in that order. I think Thomas Greiss needs to spell Nabby for Pittsburgh on Saturday. I know it’s baptism by fire, but Nabby needs a break.

–Ray

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

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