A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 82

Quite the rip-roaring game for the Sharks as they kept their hot streak alive with a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Things got nasty in the third period and there ended up being 96 penalty minutes.

Gotta love it.

This was a great game for the Sharks all around. They showcased their offense, defense and some heart, giving Sharks fans everywhere hope heading into the playoffs.

It was a playoff atmosphere. The pace started off fast and Vancouver was pressing hard, but the Sharks pushed back and struck first on a Joe Pavelski goal. That goal was all thanks to Ryane Clowe’s boardwork and deking. Clowe’s ripping opponents to pieces on the scoresheet, and he also fought Aaron Rome tonight.

Clowe is what we like to call a prototypical hockey player.

San Jose kept the gas pedal down by exploding for three goals in the second period. Logan Couture, Joe Thornton and Manny Malhotra tallied the markers.

Torrey Mitchell assisted on Couture’s and Malhotra’s goals, which gave him his first multi-point game of his career. Torrey is officially back.

The third period is where things got scrappy. The Sharks took three penalties in quick succession to put Vancouver on a decade-long power play. And guess what? The Sharks killed it all off behind spectacular goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov.

After Jamie McGinn skated out of the penalty box, he had an altercation with one of the Sedins, and McGinn received a ten-minute misconduct for some odd reason. That’s what sparked everything.

Devin, we're back in first in the West. Show me your "O" face! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Scott Nichol cross-checked Mikael Samuelsson in the back, who dived like a little punk. When Samuelsson came back, he tried to stir the pot with Rob Blake, and Blake proceeded to punch him right in the face.

Samuelsson is a wuss. I’ve never liked him — to me he was never a Shark — which stems from his Red Wing days. He’s just an annoying pest who can’t take physicality. Much like the entire Canuck team and his former Detroit team.

Joe Thornton was getting into it with a Sedin, still talking trash for some reason. These Sedins really need to shut their mouths before they get hurt. Yap yap yap all you want twins, but someone is going to wreck you with a giant hip check one day.

Sensing that his meatball-less teammates were in trouble, Alexandre Burrows blatantly interfered with Thornton. That started a pile up, with Thornton in the middle throwing punches and ripping the helmet off a Sedin (as you can tell, I don’t know which twin but it really doesn’t matter).

Niclas Wallin and Ryan Kesler actually dropped the gloves, but it was a nice, cozy bearhug.

After all of this, the Canucks finally got on the board and ended Nabby’s shutout. Vancouver scored again soon after to actually make it a game.

Knowing that it wasn’t over, the Sharks calmed down and locked the game down for good.

This is the kind of game I’ve been wanting to see for a while now. I mentioned a while back how I wanted to see a brawl and the team needed it. Well, this was close enough and when you see Thornton getting in the mix, it always bodes well.

It would have been a good last regular season game, but there’s still one more.

Three teams in the West are tied with 98 points, so it’s still a mystery as to who the Sharks will play. The Kings, Predators or Avalanche are fine, but not Detroit. I hear some talk of “you shouldn’t be afraid of Detroit and to face them early.”

Yea, about that. I’ll take the easiest road possible to the Stanley Cup, thanks. While there would be no doubt of an explosion of optimism if the Sharks could beat the Wings in the first round, I don’t want to take chances. I’m sure people were saying similar things about the Ducks last year — anybody but Anaheim. Look what happened there.

Seto’s effort

This is worth mentioning: in the third period, Devin Setoguchi blocked a shot, took it and skated all the way down the ice, and put a shot on goal. That block had to have hurt, but he sucked it up and started a dangerous forecheck. That counts as a point in my book.

Right Wing Jason Demers?

Coach Todd McLellan is experimenting with Demers up front with Nichol and McGinn. It’s not permanent as he does play some defense during the game, but I like the concept. It’s like a mini Dan Boyle playing forward.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 22  VAN 16; Setoguchi and Pavelski both had three.

The Sharks finish the regular season with a home game against Phoenix, Saturday.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 81

Quite the rough-and-tumble game for the Sharks as they held on to all but eliminate the Calgary Flames from the playoffs, winning 2-1. No Jarome Iginla in the playoffs, no worries.

Most impressive was the Sharks ability to withstand and neutralize any sort of Calgary onslaught at the beginning of the game.

It wouldn’t have come as a shock to see an early Flames 2-0 lead. Sharks coach Todd McLellan may have been right, before the game, when he said they were well aware the Flames would be desperate.

Pardon me for questioning the Sharks psyche. It’s not like I’ve had any reason to.

Part of the solution was Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby played great tonight, and it’s slowly becoming realized that he’s getting into a rhythm. Perfect timing.

Even more fantastic is the Sharks secondary scoring is hot. Jamie McGinn scored in the second period for his second consecutive game with a goal. McLellan’s been on his case to pick up the pace and it’s working.

"Goalie's gotta biiigg butt!" (From SJSHARKS.com)

Logan Couture played well again also. One thing I notice about him is that he takes the shot — always. It doesn’t matter where he’s at, he will take it. He does it more than Dany Heatley does. Great things are coming from Logan in the playoffs.

Ryane Clowe continued his scorching pace with yet another assist.

After that forgettable debacle in Dallas, Jason Demers returned to the lineup and added an assist.

The planets may be aligning folks — and now that I said that, watch the Sharks lose 8-0 to Vancouver next game.

None of the big three registered a point or a +/- rating. That might be alarming to some but not for me right now. What was alarming was the laziness of Patrick Marleau defensively. He may have caught the Jumbo-shrimp syndrome; he coasted around the defensive zone not pressuring anyone.

Patty’s played well enough all year that I’ll let the last few games slide so long as it ends in the coming days.

A big criticism tonight was the third period. San Jose couldn’t generate any consistent forecheck, which kept Nabby on his toes. Luckily he obliged, but the Sharks have to learn to push back in situations like those.

In the meantime, I’ll rejoice for another Pacific Division title — until next week.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 11  CGY 22; Four players had two.

For those wondering, Rob Blake scored the first goal. No suspension for that hit on Mueller, and there should not have been.

All away games are done with for the regular season. San Jose returns home for the last two games. Vancouver is in town Thursday.

–Ray

April 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 79

Quite the Hello! McFly! game for the Sharks as nobody was home, and Dallas beat them handily again 5-1. Adding insult to injury was the mega-terd Steve Ott with a hat trick — yes, a hat trick.

How do you let a goon like that score so much? Oh I know, don’t cover him. Just let him frolic to the front of the net and let him receive passes right in front of Nabokov.

It’s what the defense did all night. Just when you think they turn a corner, whammo! You get hit with this ginormous piece of garbage.

Jason Demers played his worst game as a pro tonight. Pairing him with Niclas Wallin was a dumb decision. They teamed up to show us the worst tandem in NHL history — kudos to you guys.

Every other defenseman was a turnover machine. It was like watching an infinite loop; you’d see a Shark flail his arms around at the blueline trying to turn around while a Star skated in the other direction. Time after time. No Cyndi Lauper here.

If there’s any retired NHL defenseman out there, I’d like to ask how hard is it to mark your man? Is it really that difficult to be between the goal and your man? Actually, don’t bother because I know the answer. It’s about as hard as blinking.

The boneheadedness wasn’t limited to the blueliners either. Patrick Marleau caught the syndrome and boy was it ugly. Twice he tried through-the-legs passes and both times they ended up on a Dallas stick on a breakaway. Once led directly to a goal.

Scott Nichol was kind enough to show us what this game was with one image. (From SJSHARKS.com)

These turnovers weren’t just coming on 5-on-5’s. Shockingly, they came on power plays. I probably shouldn’t even say shockingly because that would be giving the Sharks credit. How they are third in power play percentage is beyond me. I can tell you they are first in “whoops!” percentage.

I wonder what Joe Thornton thought of his teammates — he was sidelined again with his lower body injury. One can only hope he thought to himself, “Ooohhhh so that’s what I look like.”

STEVE FREAKIN’ OTT! Sorry, I just can’t get over this. After the stunt he pulled on Marleau in the last meeting, he was supposed to get payback. Nah, just rewards.

Whatever happened to the away-ice advantage in this series? San Jose always won in Dallas and vice versa. That’s gone down the crapper.

Let me guess… Interference!

All the refs ever wanted to call was interference. Seven interference penalties were called. Apparently, the “officials” don’t know what finishing your check is.

What’s the point?

Demers dropped the gloves with Mark Fistric in the closing seconds. It was a hugfest.

Hockey is for Everyone ads

I’ve been meaning to mention this, and since I’m already in a bad mood, it’s the perfect timing. Gamecenter and the NHL network really need to stop running these ads. NHLnet already runs the same commercials over and over again, but these ones are so incredibly annoying. It’s hilarious these commercials run on channels and internet software that must be paid for. I think the “everyone” part the NHL is looking for is not going to have enough money to pay to see the ads.

Then we get Wayne Simmonds in the ads who looks completely miserable. If you see the ad again, pay attention. Simmonds looks like he just wants to get the hell out of dodge. Great face for this campaign, huh?

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  DAL 40; Douglas Murray led with six.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic didn’t play tonight after re-injuring his leg. Ryane Clowe didn’t return after the first period. Thomas Greiss started the third period.

Perhaps it’s a good thing the Sharks play Minnesota on Friday, since they were the team that got the Sharks out of their previous slump.

–Ray

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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. 69

Quite the reversal game for the Sharks as they lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime. The gameplay was completely flipped from last game against Nashville.

In the last three games, San Jose trailed going into the third, but each time they came back to win. That was an NHL record. Coach Todd McLellan was all but pleased with the effort of the Sharks though. It’s been tough to find a full 60-minute effort this season.

The Sharks got the message — for the first 20 minutes — and kept pressure on the Panthers throughout the first frame. Things were looking really good; the Sharks scored two goals and held the Panthers off the scoresheet after one.

All downhill from there.

Florida turned the heat up for the remainder of the game, and with Tomas Vokoun making stops at key times, the Panthers were able to tie the game up in the third at 2-2. It seems the Sharks forgot what it was like to have a lead so late in the game.

The Sharks actually attempted to score in overtime, coming as a shock to me. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find the back of the net. A shot from the point doomed San Jose, and they leave HP Pavilion with one point.

It’s like McLellan is a one-period coach. He sure can get the guys ready to play and spark them for one period, but after that, it’s disgusting. That’s not on the coach though. He can turn the key to the ignition, but the players have to step on the gas and keep the pedal down.

I’m just glad this string of crappy play is happening now and not at the very end of the season. That occurred last year and we all know what went down in the playoffs.

Fight!

Brad Staubitz finally decided to appear, in his first scrap since Jody Shelley was traded. He took on Nick Tarnasky, and it was an uneventful affair. The two swung each other in circles before falling to the ice.

Manny Malhotra took it upon himself to defend Joe Pavelski in the third period. Jason Garrison slammed Pavs’ head into the boards, which sent Malhotra off. The two tussled, but it also was dull. Malhotra received an instigator and 10-minute misconduct for it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  FLA 36; Scott Nichol and Dany Heatley both had six.

No photos were posted for the game. Odd.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim tomorrow to take on the Ducks.

–Ray

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 58

Quite the activate-Edmonton-Oilers-mode game for the Sharks, and when they activate that notoriously awful mode, there’s only one team they could have faced — the Detroit Red Wings. Yep, you guessed it. Another Sharks loss to the Wings; this time the score was 4-2.

You know Sharks, why even bother playing this team? Why? Why do you even put your skates on or even wake up the morning of these games? You know you’re not going to try. You know you’re going to blow it. Just stay home. Bring up the Worcester Sharks to take your place, and let’s see what happens.

What’s the worst that could happen? A 10-0 loss maybe? That’s about as good as any other Sharks/Wings game has been for San Jose. It’s utterly ridiculous.

I was so ecstatic to see Sharks broadcaster Randy Hahn post a blog in which he stated it’s time for the Sharks to start gearing up for big games like this. Stop with the “it’s just another game” BS, because I got news for ya — it ain’t workin’!

Anyway, I guess Joe Thornton saw my video about him before tonight’s game because he played a lot better (only two giveaways). He scored the Sharks only two goals; both came in the first period on rebounds.

But then once again, the Wings scored four straight goals to win the game — just like they did in that 4-1 whooping earlier in the season.

I’ve run out of things to say about these Sharks/Wings games. What more can you say about this crap? I guess I’ll go the referee route for fun.

Ever notice the Wings struggle all year, but when the Wings play the Sharks, some switch turns on. The Wings get all the crucial calls and any Sharks power plays are negated. It’s truly inconceivable how bad refs are in these games. Tonight the Wings had double the power play time and took advantage of it. Two of their four markers came on the power play.

I believe I can fly...I believe I can suck incredibly (From SJSHARKS.com)

When the Sharks pulled their goalie at the end and received a power play, it was short-lived of course. God forbid San Jose EVER gets a chance to come back! Oh me Oh my! We refs can never let such a thing happen.

And they didn’t. Thornton got called for goalie interference. There goes that chance down the toilet. Thanks for playing Sharks.

So on top of not putting effort into games (maybe refs are the reason) and getting awful calls, the NHL should ban Sharks/Wings games. There truly is no point in them.

Let’s get to individuals now, and I’ll start with injuries. Dan Boyle missed yet another game, and it’s turning into one of those annoying “game-time decision” fiascos that always ends in a scratch. Do us a favor and put him on long-term injured reserve. There’s no point in playing him until after the Olympics. Let him rest. Let him play for his country. Move on.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed the game as well, which left a giant defensive hole on the Sharks blueline. So with two defensemen out, that means two had to be called up. Jason Demers and yes, my friends, our favorite little pinata — Derek Joslin.

Joslin lack of hockey intelligence is ground-breaking. Position error here — DET goal — position error there — DET goal. I looked up ole Derek on Facebook (you have to login to see), and he indeed has one. You can peruse his pictures, and you’ll find some interesting photographs. Two that stick out are him and his friends peeing on a building and the other is him and his friends peeing off a boat. Class act that Joslin. Urine-filled lakes coming to a city near you.

Half-Full

I think it’s been a few years since Detroit has won the season series against the Sharks. The one time the Sharks owned the series is when Detroit later knocked them out of the playoffs. Maybe it’s the reverse this time around? Hope so.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DET 24; Scott Nichol led with seven.

Will some media member just go around asking every coach and player, “Why the hell can’t you beat the Red Wings? Seriously what is your malfunction?” But noooooo. Let’s be politically correct and boring. The fans want to know it, so ask it. Simple.

The Sharks now embark on a six-game road trip leading up to the Olympics. It starts Thursday when the Sharks go to St. Louis.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 49

Quite the fluctuating game tonight as the Sharks earned their first regulation win over the Phoenix Coyotes 3-1. The game featured a lot of ebbs and flows and different styles of play. Because of the Sharks diverse lineup, they were able to match any style presented to them and get the W.

The first period was the Patrick Marleau show. He scored his 30th and 31st goals of the season, and both came on incredibly different plays. The first was a shorthanded goal, and it occurred when the puck took a weird bounce behind the boards where goalie Jason Labarbera was, leaving the net wide open. Patty pocketed the puck with ease in the open net. His second goal came off a deflection from a point shot.

These goals might not have happened if Phoenix were awarded a goal soon after the game began. The referees blew the whistle early while the puck was underneath goalie Evgeni Nabokov. As soon as the whistle blew, the puck crossed the goal line. An unfortunate event for the Coyotes, who were previously 7-1-2 in their last 10 home games.

The oh-so-dangerous two-goal lead was tested in the second period. Almost half the period was spent with a Shark in the sin bin. It’s been a growing concern for Sharks fans — penalties. Three in the first, four in the second and one in the third. Yet again the stellar penalty kill unit locked it down all seven times, even killing a brief five-on-three. I thought the Sharks were supposed to be big and fast, and they were supposed to cause penalties, not take them. This might be the biggest reason for recent struggles, but it’s hard to fix. You don’t want to tell your players to tone it down because it risks losing an aggressive style of play defensively. And these aren’t all low-level guys taking them. We’re talking four penalties combined on Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle, and one on Rob Blake. The guys must be smarter about what they’re doing.

You don't look so happy Shane. Maybe if I blow on the puck instead of stickhandle, you'll have a chance. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Back to the game: scrums started developing after every stoppage, a few facewashes here and there, including Marleau, yes Marleau, throwing a few punches at Scottie Upshall. Marleau’s only had a couple fights in his career, one I remember was against Phoenix. Patty’s just a nice guy. Maybe he planned on killing Upshall with kindness?

Everything in the third period slowed down. Not much pace or emotion. The coaches clearly wanted their players to calm down. Too bad for us fans. Nabby lost the shutout with eight minutes left, but I didn’t expect one with the weak defensive play in that final frame.

The Sharks are currently on a stretch where they play eight games in 13 nights. Good way to start it with back-to-back wins.

He’s A Low-Talker

Todd Walsh, one of the Phoenix commentators, whispers to the audience and injects a monotone voice into everything he says. It certainly goes along with the style of play Phoenix uses, and I’m all for uniformity, but that’s not what a commentator should sound like. Not to mention he looks like an overweight Keith Olbermann.

Second Line Shenanigans

The second line is in a drought. A bad one. Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi have 0 goals, 4 assists and are -16 in their last six games, according to a Phoenix broadcast graphic. Not positive if that included tonight’s game, but if it didn’t, the only thing that would change would be the rating to -15. I can tell you guys and girls the problem. There’s a cancer in that line. Who could it be? I don’t want to give it awa–DEVIN SETOGUCHI DID IN THE LOCKER ROOM WITH A CROWBAR–whoops. Sorry. Remove Seto and the line will go back to normal.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  PHX 24; Douglas Murray and Pavelski both had three.

The Sharks head back home and play the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

–Ray

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment