A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 70/71

Quite the . . . for the Sharks as they proved just how awful they can be with two losses in a row to the Anaheim Ducks, 4-2, and the Dallas Stars, 8-2. I use ellipses because words just can’t describe how angry, disappointed and furious I am with this team.

I should have seen this coming. The last time the team played well might have been in January, and it was going to come to a head sooner or later. Tonight against Dallas was the night. It was the Chicago debacle, part deux (November 25, Sharks lost 7-2 to the Hawks).

Apologies for not having a blog posted for the Anaheim game. Unfortunately, my ride back to college took place during the game, and upon seeing the result, I really didn’t feel like watching it. The highlights were more than enough to enlighten me on the sloppy play.

It figures as soon as I defend Evgeni Nabokov, he starts letting in goals a two-year-old can stop. That was both in Anaheim and Dallas. Thomas Greiss relieved him tonight and looked like a lost redneck in New York City.

Tonight’s performance against Dallas was repulsive, but I can’t help but think about praising the Almighty. We all know by now how stupid and stubborn the Sharks can be, and the only way they learn is the hard way. Winning after playing like crap gives them confidence. That’s great if it happens for a few games in a season. Not 10 games in a row.

Dan Boyle supposedly yelled at the team in some capacity after the Anaheim loss and echoed those statements in the media. Boyle said half the team showed up and that they were “coasting” to the finish line like last season. Yes. That would be correct Mr. Boyle. It might be time for a late-season captain change. Rob Blake’s even-keel attitude has worn thin on me faster than I anticipated. And his stupid penalties game after game are driving all Sharks fans insane.

Boyle isn’t playing perfect either. He’s turning it over a lot lately, but at least he knows the team plays like a pile of manure.

Honest question. Have you ever seen a worse team with this many points? Answer in the comment section, please.

Let’s get into some specifics of tonight’s game while you ponder that question. San Jose didn’t help itself taking a double minor penalty right off the bat. More penalties and Dallas eventually capitalized.

Kyrs Barch dropped the gloves the first of two times in the first period — this one against Ryane Clowe. I expected more out of Clowe. Wild punches were thrown, but I think Barch had the slight edge.

After another Dallas goal in the second to make it 2-0, Barch danced with Jay Leach. No clue what Leach was doing, nor do I think he knew what he was doing; Barch won that handily.

Of course, that fight sparked two more goals from the Stars and it was 4-0. Nabby was pulled and Greiss entered the game.

Some of the Sharks players show their signs to the opponent before heading to the locker room and starting their dance recital (From SJSHARKS.com)

Then we have an interesting development. Stephane Robidas slammed Clowe into the boards — payback for an earlier hit Clowe gave Robidas — and Robidas received a five minute major and game misconduct. What’s hilarious is the Dallas analyst said he thinks the injured player shouldn’t be allowed to return either if the culprit is ejected (Clowe did continue to play).

In what dimension does that make sense? So, Clowe should essentially be “ejected” for being boarded? There’s a new low in human thought. Congrats analyst — I’m not even going to bother looking up your name.

This is where I was looking for Brad Staubitz to do something. Jody Shelley is gone; you’re the enforcer Brad. Do something with your life. It’s seeming like you were a lot tougher with Shelley to hide behind. Safe to say Staubitz’s and the rest of the Shark’s family jewels have retreated back into their stomach or just dropped off all together.

Proving my point about learning the hard way and seeing one of their own get demolished in the boards, the Sharks scored the next two goals to bring the score to 4-2.

The flash of professional-hockey-level play came to an abrupt end when Dallas scored two shorthanded goals in a row. Ah yes, the parallels to the Chicago game continue (Chicago scored three shorthanded goals in a row in the 7-2 game).

Dallas continued the onslaught with two more goals, as the Sharks hung up their skates and put on leotards.

I’ve just about given up hope on this team again. Every year after playoff struggles, I’ve managed to keep the positive thoughts going — even last year when they struggled at the end of the regular season. This time it just seems worse because there is only one major injury (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is skating now). Last year the team was plagued with injuries.

I actually verbally lashed out at my computer screen when the sixth goal was scored. It’s just plain ridiculous.

This team needs to start a brawl. Every player should be required to fight someone. I’d love to see that.

All hail the San Jose Sharks:  Dumb, Dumber, Dumberer, Dumbererer, Dumberererer, etc.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DAL 29; Jamie McGinn led with four.

The “Minnows” next game is against Vancouver on Thursday — the front end of a back-to-back.

–Ray

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March 17, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 68

Quite the Jack-in-the-Box game for the Sharks as they exploded in the third period and beat the Nashville Predators 8-5. Yes, there really were 13 goals scored tonight.

It was great watching Nashville practice for 40 minutes; we were all treated to an inter-squad scrimmage. Oh wait, hold on. My sources are telling me the Sharks were actually on the ice for those first 40 minutes. Who knew?

Nashville outshot the Sharks 15-0 in the first 14 minutes of play and outscored 1-0. This crappy play needs to stop. We’ll obviously get to the outstanding third period in a minute, but zoinks this was bad. Preds goalie Dan Ellis vacationed in Cancun, Mexico for a majority of that first frame.

Lo and behold Dany Heatley scored on the Sharks’ first shot of the game.

That didn’t do much for momentum, however, as the Sharks continued popping out rotten eggs like Jon and Kate, in the second period. Nashville increased their lead to 4-2 heading into the final period.

With the music finally exhausted, the weasel popped and jack thrust himself into the world. A six-goal period propelled San Jose to victory. I wonder what coach Todd McLellan said to the guys. Cap that stuff in a bottle and save it for the playoffs, buddy.

Joe Pavelski became a one-man demolition sqaud with four points in twenty minutes (two goals, two assists). Heatley scored his second, Manny Malhotra, Patrick Marleau and Jay Leach tallied goals as well.

It’s the Sharks’ 22nd come-from-behind win, which is now first in the NHL.

Torrey Mitchell received additional playing time, playing alongside Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau at different points in the game. He earned an assist tonight.

I really couldn’t believe that third period. I was chomping at the bit to rip the team for their sorry performances the last seven games or so. They need to finish this homestand off with another win before heading out on a six-game road trip. A winning streak is in the future for this team. I think this is the victory that will spark it.

Nichol/Superman returned to whip his old team again (From SJSHARKS.com)

Who’s Your Nabby?

So I read this article the other day from a Sharks fan about how Nabby’s increased playing time is hurting the Sharks in the playoffs. The horse is not dead yet apparently. The article came complete with pretty-colored line graphs! Oh how I love the visuals. Unfortunately, the stats presented are meaningless. I absolutely love stats, but I know how much they can be manipulated to make any argument. I’ll now try to show stats that cover both sides of the argument, but ultimately I do have a distinct opinion on the matter.

People need to shut their mouths about Nabby’s starts. Seriously. Shut. Up. I love how people will contend Nabby’s play goes down in the playoffs? Really now? Here’s some stats you might want to consider:

In the regular season Nabby has averaged a .913 save percentage and a 2.37 goals against average. Not great, not bad either.

In the playoffs, Nabby has averaged a .915 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA. WHAT?!! Ray, you mean Nabby has better numbers in the playoffs than the regular season? Blasphemy!

Yes, my friends, he does play better in the playoffs. At least, that’s what stats say. Now the eye test is different. Goalies must be able to elevate their play in the postseason or their teams will be doomed. If the Sharks want to win the Stanley Cup, Nabby must elevate his game higher than what he’s been doing. No question.

I just want to rid the world of these ridiculous “Nabby plays too much,” hollow arguments. I’ve seen a few people suggest we let Nabby go and sign goalies like Martin Biron or Dan Ellis. Some of these Sharks “fans” need to check their drinking water. Let’s get rid of a perennial Vezina candidate in favor of Dan flipping Ellis.

I should probably mention that this whole ‘letting Nabby go’ thing is because the Sharks have no cap space to resign all of their free agents this offseason. Nabby commands  a big contract (5.375 mil this year), and Marleau, Pavelski and potentially Blake need to be resigned. Nabby’s contract runs out after this season too, and someone is going to be left out.

San Jose should never have been in this position in the first place. They overpay players like Ryane Clowe (3.625 mil a year) and went out and got Heatley (7.5 mil a year). Trades must happen, regardless if the Sharks win the Cup this year or not. They’re stuck between Douglas Murray and a hard place.

I don’t think letting Nabby go is the right decision. Finding a great goalie is so difficult (just ask Philly), and I’m not ready to rely on Thomas Greiss full time. There are a couple interesting prospects in the system in Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith, but there a long way away from being NHL-ready.

I suggest Thornton or Heatley be traded. Keep Marleau. Thornton will always produce points, but his lack of emotion destroys the team in the playoffs. Heatley is undeniably an elite sniper, but Marleau is better than him defensively and in lighting the lamp (this year).

I’d love to keep this team together, but this money situation sucks. But I’ve digressed.

Here’s an intriguing slew of stats to consider about goalie GAA in the playoffs:

Goalie A: 1.98

Goalie B: 2.09

Goalie C: 2.23

Goalie D: 2.30

Goalie E: 2.45

Obviously, you know which goalie Nabby is (C). The others? A is Brodeur, B is Osgood, D is Roy and E is Fleury. Nabby finds himself in the middle of four Cup winners. I think he’s done just fine; he needs more offensive support to win these games (along with the aforementioned elevation of play).

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  NSH 25; Niclas Wallin and Brad Staubitz led with four.

Florida visits the tank on Saturday.

–Ray

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 53

Quite the vicegrip game for the Sharks as they clamped down on the Los Angeles Kings and won 5-1. It was the Sharks best performance and third win against the Kings this season. The two previous wins were 2-1 affairs.

San Jose has outscored their last three opponents 18-4 and have found their groove.

This has to be one of the best stretches the defense has played all year. They’re keeping their sticks on the ice, using good positioning and locking down opposing teams’ best players. That’s a recipe for success.

Jay Leach has really surprised me. He’s learned the system and playing great defensively; he’s also been seen pinching in the offensive zone. Even his partner Kent Huskins, who I enjoy ripping, is playing well. He was second on the team in ice time tonight with 20:23. Wow! Perhaps I underrated him? Hahaha, no.

Patrick Marleau started things off quickly with a power play goal just five minutes in. Power plays were the name of the game. The Sharks were 3-3 on the man advantage and held the Kings to no power play goals on five opportunities.

Patty would score another power play goal in the second period; it came just after a Kings shorthanded breakaway that goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped. Nabby couldn’t find the magic for a shutout though, like usual. I tell you what — the Sharks are like me playing NHL 10. I always manage to allow at least one goal and never get shutouts. It’s the same story in real life. I wonder if Nabby is wondering if he’ll ever get one again. We’ll never know because he’ll just tell the media it’s about the win. Don’t just take that answer. He’s a prideful Russian.

Aaaaahhh! Get your wooden stake away from me, mortal! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryane Clowe scored two goals as well, making it his first two-goal game since Nov. 11, 2008. Guess who was on the ice and notched the primary assist. Manny Malhotra! OK, this is the one thing I was definitely wrong about. Manny is an amazing catalyst right now especially, but he’s provided so much to the team. Every line he ends up on scores. Joe Thornton, Jr. anyone?

Maybe my favorite part of the night was the third period. Again the Sharks kept their teeth on the jugular. Dan Boyle attempted to fight Dustin Brown, but the refs wouldn’t allow it. This star player protection needs to stop. Let these guys fight. The biggest excuse is “but we don’t want them to get hurt.” I rarely ever see players get hurt in fights. Injuries happen much more after bonecrushing hits or cheap elbows.

That wraps up the season series with L.A. thankfully. The Sharks finally solved them. It only took four months to do so.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 18  LA 28; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks look to continue their Sherman-like march on Thursday when Anaheim travels to San Jose.

–Ray

January 20, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 48

Quite the grueling performance by both the Sharks and Kings, but it was the Sharks who earned a 2-1 victory, their first regulation victory over the Kings this season.

Coach Todd McLellan held a meaningful practice after the debacle against Detroit. More drills about competing and hard work. It helped the Sharks through the first two periods. They actually looked like a team that wanted to win.

The Sharks got on the board just four minutes into the game when Dan Boyle wristed a shot toward net; it went in after being deflected.

They took a couple penalties forcing the penalty kill unit to halt a fierce Kings power-play. Despite being pelted with pucks and fatigued from constant forechecking, the PK held its ground all game. The Kings finished 0-5 on the man advantage. Excellent work by the PK.

Once again the Sharks started a period on a good note — this time on the power-play when Dany Heatley batted his own rebound out of the air and into the net.

Perhaps not being used to a two-goal lead hampered San Jose a bit. Just one minute after Heatley’s goal, the Kings cashed in on a juicy rebound to keep the score tight.

You guys ever notice there's a unicorn in your rafters? (From SJSHARKS.com)

And then the Sharks showcased a problem that’s been bugging the team for two months: the lack of a killer instinct. San Jose has made a habit out of keeping opponents in games. The last time the Sharks beat a team by at least four goals was all the way back on Nov. 7 against Pittsburgh (5-0). Wow. It’s something I haven’t thought much of because of the recent winning streaks, but that’s intriguing. Does it mean much? Maybe. Maybe not. But it sure has been a long time since seeing the Sharks blow someone out of the water.

I mention all this because tonight in the third period, the Sharks reverted back to their Wings game. They were outshot 12-0 to start the final frame and couldn’t clear the puck. Kings goalie Erik Ersberg could have written a memoir before the Sharks tallied a shot.

Another difficulty the Sharks faced tonight was, surprisingly, in the faceoff circle. You don’t see this often, but the Sharks were beaten by the Kings in faceoff percentage. It wasn’t by much (51%-49%), but the Kings were winning the important draws on the power-play and in the offensive zone. I wouldn’t read too much into this, as I think it’s a one-game deal, but it’s worth noting.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 25  LA 44; Scott Nichol led with five.

I’d like to see Jay Leach get some ice time with Jason Demers in a game. Scratching Kent Huskins might go against the laws of McLellan, but it won’t be the apocalypse if you try it out. After all, Huskins almost scored on his own net tonight.

It’s a back-to-back for the Sharks. They travel to the desert to battle the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow.

–Ray

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 44

Quite the facile game for the Sharks as they easily dispatched the Edmonton Oilers, 4-1. There was no doubt about the outcome tonight. The Sharks imposed their will on the wounded Oilers.

Three Sharks were back in the lineup for the first time in a long time: Brad Staubitz, Jody Shelley and Jay Leach. They replaced Manny Malhotra who is injured, Frazer McLaren and Jason Demers who were sent down. Demers was sent all the way down to the ECHL for some reason. I assume for money reasons and convenience since the ECHL affiliate is in California.

All three made a noticeable impact. Leach fought Steve Staios late in the game, but there’s nothing much to report though as it was a bear hug match. Shelley led the team with seven hits, and Staubitz had an assist.

Woohoo! This is too easy, guys! (From NHL.com)

Despite sloppy passes early, the Sharks struck first with Jamie McGinn and Douglas Murray four minutes apart. Both goals started off hard work and sheer will. I never grow tired of seeing battling like that.

San Jose tightened its grip with two more goals in the second period by Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, proving that the top line can score along with the secondary lines.

Also in the second, Ryane Clowe destroyed Jason Strudwick in a fight with an enormous uppercut.

There’s not much else to say about this game; it’s just one of those easy games that great teams are supposed to win. The Sharks came out, did not look past their opponent, and put them away early.

Perhaps it’s a good tune-up/confidence-builder heading into a big showdown with Los Angeles on Monday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 30  EDM 38; Shelley led the team with seven.

The Sharks have now won eight games in a row.

As I said, the Kings come to town on Monday. The Sharks are 1-1-1 against the Kings this season.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 35

Quite the demoralizing game for the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks are now 0-0-2 against Dallas with both losses coming at home in shootouts.

Marty Turco is an annoying little mosquito, and I wish he would just retire. I’m sick of hearing “Save Turco.” He never goes away. I can’t stand him.

Steve Ott should be banished from the league. He isn’t playing hockey out there; he’s playing to get guys hurt, as evidenced by his blatant cross-check on Dan Boyle. Boyle got up and dropped the gloves, but it was Sharks newcomer Jay Leach who attacked Ott after.

Seriously, throw Ott out of the league. He is of no value to the sport of hockey — put him in prison.

Leach’s first game as a Shark was riddled with defensive mistakes. He turned it over in the defensive zone and was out of position. Coach Todd McClellan put Leach and Derek Joslin on the penalty kill, which is probably the worst decision I’ve seen since a World War II sniper decided not to pull the trigger on Adolf Hitler.

Joe Pavelski chases the puck, which will probably end up being a save by Turco (From NHL.com)

But the story of the game was the 11-round barnburner of a shootout. Amazingly, the Sharks scored just once out of 11 tries. That is embarrassing. Turco poke checked four or five guys and they still didn’t learn! Hello! If you see your teammates continuously poke checked, why are you going to attempt a close deke? Just shoot the puck with a quick release. Jesus Greiss.

McClellan should have put Leach out there for the 11th round. When it gets that late in the shootout, expect the unexpected à la Marek Malik against Olaf Kolzig (youtube it).

So now the Sharks finish a dreadful 1-1-3 on their five-game homestand. Surprising to say he least considering many expected a 5-0 homestand.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 29  DAL 38; Joe Thornton led with 6.

The Stars outshot the Sharks 44-35, and if it weren’t for the Sharks blocking 16, it would have been 60 shots against. U-G-L-Y, they ain’t got no alibi.

No time to think about this loss as the Sharks travel to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes, Saturday night.

–Ray

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 32

Quite the playoff atmosphere tonight and while the Sharks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks deserved to win. Karma is karma, though. The Sharks stole a game in St. Louis earlier this year and the opposite happened this time.

Blues goalie Ty Conklin is insanely lucky. He simply isn’t this good to make the saves he made tonight. All luck. It’s so frustrating to see amazing chances go by the wayside when a sub-par goalie gets confident. This game should have been 6-1 by the third period, and it could have ended 8-1. But nooooooo, Conklin always decides to play well against the Sharks. Prior to the start of the game, he had a 3-2-1 record against San Jose, with a 1.68 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. Crazy numbers. Geez, this guy is annoying.

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Conklin save for save though. He made a specatcular save with 30 seconds left to keep a 2-1 lead. However, he was unable to stop one more shot with 6.6 seconds left in regulation. That goal tied it at 2-2 sending the game to overtime.

Let’s go back and talk about regulation. What a great game to watch. Both teams played 60 minutes of hockey. No one took any breaks. The Sharks didn’t look sluggish at any point during the game and neither did the Blues. This could very well be a playoff matchup; however, I hope it isn’t because the Blues are like a mosquito to the Sharks.

Dany Heatley scored first from a Joe Thornton pass. He ripped it from a bit inside the blue line and Conklin had no chance.

The Blues got on the board with an awkward, change-up type shot from Jay McClement. Nabby looked like he just saw Ryane Clowe in tights.

Joe Pavelski scored the other Sharks goal in the second period. Douglas Murray took a shot from the point, and Pavs, standing right in front of Conklin, deflected it in.

Joe Pavelski gives Ty Conklin a serving of Wisconsin booty as he scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

That was the only good thing Murray did tonight. He did try hard, but he got burned bad by both T.J. Oshie and David Perron. Two times each. I hope coach Todd McClellan saw that, because Murray needs defensive help. Right now he’s just a pylon taking up space.

The Sharks power play looked outstanding. Unfortunately, they never converted an opportunity. The puck movement was there, passes were quick, decisions were made swiftly and the correct shots were taken. But like I said before, Conklin’s jersey must have had a few thousand four-leaf clovers in it.

This loss is tough to take. I can’t put it any simpler than that. A game-tying goal with 6.6 seconds left, and it was shorthanded — it just sucks. I’m sure the guys are extremely downtrodden in that locker room. Hopefully one of them thinks like me and hopes Conklin never plays against the Sharks again.

I can already hear the postgame quotes now: “Give St. Louis credit,” “You gotta give the Blues credit.” I really don’t want to hear that mess. Just say, “Well that friggin’ blows; that goalie is so lucky.” Stop giving other teams credit.

Shootout

In the shootout, Nabby showed his weakest part of his game – his infamously wide five-hole. Man is that thing big. (Pun intended).

Fight

Right off the bat, Ryane Clowe dropped the gloves with B.J. Crombeen. Mainly a throw-a-whiff affair, Clowe got a few punches to land. Clowe gets the win.

Also, David Backes was being a rat trying to get Heatley to drop the gloves. Heatley didn’t go for it, but Frazer McLaren jumped off the bench and went to beat down Backes. Backes turtled like a true coward, while McLaren got a third-man-in penalty and was thrown out.

Fourth Line

The fourth line of McLaren-Mitchell-Vesce looked really good tonight. Vesce and Mitchell played together down in Worcester and developed some chemistry. I don’t recall any bad mistakes from the line. They always seemed to be on the forecheck wearing the other team down. I hope Vesce stays up.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  StL 28; Murray led the team with four.

The Flames come to town on Saturday. It’s the last game before the Sharks begin a streak of 8/10 games against divisional opponents.

–Ray

December 4, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment