A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 55

Quite the electrifying game tonight as the Sharks slayed the Sabres 5-2. Lethargic people need not apply as this game was high octane from the outset. Eastern Conference teams seem to bring out the best in the Sharks skating abilities, and tonight was no different.

The Sharks escaped from the grind-it-out clutches of Western Conference teams and put on a show for the sellout crowd.

Buffalo was on a tear before this game with a record of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games. It looked like it would be another victory when the Sabres came out flying and executing. The scorching hot Tim Connolly scored his 13th goal of the season putting the Sharks down just seven minutes in.

After being outshot 14-5 in the first, San Jose came out with a different mindset; it was their turn to blow by the Sabres. Joe Pavelski notched his 11th goal to start with a bang, and Dany Heatley joined the 30-goal club to end with a bang.

Throughout the second, scrums formed, but no fights materialized. You could tell each team wanted to prove they were the best in the NHL.

Like a true elite club, the Sabres never backed down. They scored just 18 seconds into the third on the power play to end a Sharks streak of around 35 straight penalties killed.

A boxing match broke out in HP Pavilion; both teams threw haymakers at each other. It was toe-to-toe folks. Would one fighter tire out? Yes.

Mama said knock you out! (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sabres’ legs became spaghetti as Pavelski slammed home his second goal of the game six minutes in.

Another right hook came from the Sharks when Jed Ortmeyer scored his career-high sixth goal of the season off a one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Not wanting to concede defeat, the Sabres squeezed every ounce of energy into the final minutes of play, but the Sharks defense was too strong. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov blocked every punch to close out the game.

Ortmeyer completed the KO with an empty net goal, sending the Eastern Conference challenger back to the training room.

The Sharks got better as the night went on and the third period was one of their best third periods of the season. Buffalo forced them to step their game up, and the Sharks actually responded. Whether it was Douglas Murray throwing Sabres to the ice with ease or Patrick Marleau shifting into hyperspeed, the Sharks proved they can play at an entirely different level — one perhaps they didn’t fully realize they could.

Unfortunately, there’s a four-day layoff between now and the next game. That could be huge considering the next game is a battle against the always-pesky Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have had the Sharks number so far, so it’ll be crucial for San Jose to bottle this energy and unleash it again Thursday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  BUF 23; Scott Nichol led with seven.

Buffalo outshot the Sharks 40-24. Nabby played outstanding.

Chicago is in town next Thursday. No Sharks fan wants to remember the last time Chicago was in HP Pavilion. A 7-2 loss. Perhaps that can be used as extra motivation for the players.

–Ray

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January 24, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 52

Quite the absolute annihilation, destruction and obliteration tonight as the Sharks pummeled the Calgary Flames 9-1. Nine players had multi-point nights, and eight different players scored a goal. Joe Pavelski led the pack with four points (1 goal, 3 assists).

Coach Todd McLellan’s decision to move Ryane Clowe down one line and bring Manny Malhotra up one line might be the best idea of the season.

He wanted secondary scoring, and boy did he get it. Only two goals came from the top line. Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer both amassed three points, and linemate Clowe added two more for a total of eight points. I never thought I’d see the third line do that — not even on their best night.

Maybe Devin Setoguchi breaking his scoring drought opened the flood gates for the rest of the team. It was Ortmeyer’s first goal in 28 games and Nichol’s first goal since November 17. Let’s hope they save some of this firepower for the playoffs.

The second line notched eight points (3 goals, 5 assists). This is an oddity because Joe Pavelski and Manny Malhotra are both natural centers. They’re playing off each other so well, though. Pavs takes faceoffs on the right side; Malhotra takes them on the left side. Add in their domination of the faceoff circle, and the second line is almost guaranteed to start with the puck.

This is what happens when an unstoppable force and an immovable object have a baby. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Only four players failed to get a point, but they contributed as well. Torrey Mitchell fought Rene Bourque late in the game, Jody Shelley had four hits, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a +2 and Kent Huskins was a +3.

This was the worst I’ve seen the Flames in a long time. I can’t tell you how much I love pounding Alberta teams into the dirt. Granted the Flames played the previous night, but this was a team who gave up early on. Goalie Mikka Kiprusoff became Mikka Kovalev with his lack of effort.

By the way, the Oilers got crushed 6-0, so Alberta lost tonight by a total of 15-1. That’s just plain redonkulous.

It’s about time the Sharks crushed someone like this; they’ve usually been on the wrong side of these games. Unfortunately, the Sharks couldn’t score one more, much to the chagrin of the fans who chanted “we-want-10!”

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 34  CGY 30; Brad Staubitz led with seven. Bitz also fought Brandon Prust early on in the game.

The Sharks travel to Los Angeles tomorrow to take on the Kings.

–Ray

January 19, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 47

Quite the S.S.D.D. performance by the Sharks as they once again lose to the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. There must have been some rule put in place after the lockout not allowing the Sharks to ever beat Detroit. If they do, they get fined.

What’s most annoying is the Wings always play their best against San Jose. The Sharks can never crush them because they always play their worst against Detroit. This completely sucks. I can’t stand Detroit. I really hope they miss the playoffs, but that won’t happen.

Their goalie Jimmy Howard has been hot lately and that continued as he made 31 saves. As much confidence as this may give Wings fans, Howard will ever be a number-one goalie. He is not that good. Just watch how quickly they switch to Chris Osgood in the playoffs.

For the first five minutes, the Sharks looked ready to blow out Detroit. They looked like a Michael Johnson racing Rosie O’Donnell. They cashed in midway through the first, then everything fell apart faster than Tiger Woods’ image. Mailing it in would be an understatement. Nobody shined through the complete dismay. Everyone played poorly.

Jason Demers was called up, but even he played terrible. One of his two dumb turnovers led to a breakaway goal. Turnovers plagued all Sharks though. Ryane Clowe’s big turnover led to a breakout resulting in another Detroit goal. For the second straight game, the Sharks recorded 20 giveaways. Two games is a trend, so if it happens next game, the Sharks are in deep trouble.

Oooooooo, rubbery. (From SJSHARKS.com)

But I want to go back to this mentality the Sharks have against the Red Wings. After all the playoff failures, so many fans, media, and even coaches told the players to mimic the Red Wings. I think it’s wore on them so much and with every game against Detroit, they put so much pressure on themselves to beat them. It backfires; they lose and feel like everything they’ve been taught failed.

The only way the Sharks are going to be successful is to find their own style, and they haven’t done that in coach Todd McLellan’s tenure. He brought over Detroit’s style of play and used it throughout his first year; get people in front of the net, put 40+ shots on net, out-skate people. It worked enough to earn a President’s trophy. After being bounced in the first round, McLellan realized this isn’t Detroit. These are different players.

So this year, he’s emphasized playing the gritty style of play, which I associate mostly with the Nashville Predators. Management even brought over two Predators, Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer, to further bring the tough style to fruition. The jury won’t be out until playoff time, but I don’t like the how the Sharks always strive to be someone else. Ultimately it’s up to the players to decide who they want to be, but that’s not enough. The players must battle to achieve their goals, not wait for it to come to them.

As much as I hate to say it, this core of players doesn’t seem like they “want it.” They’re too relaxed and non-confrontational. I’m not talking about on the ice; I’m talking about their personalities. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Setoguchi Steamed

Seto got ticked at Dan Cleary for driving him into the net, and the two dropped the gloves. Seto was pumping him with fists before Cleary chickened out by throwing himself on top of Seto.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 24  DET 18; Nichol led with five.

The Sharks have lost two of three, and they will travel to Los Angeles on Monday.

–Ray

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 40

Quite the Duck: It’s what’s for dinner game for the Sharks as the stomped Anaheim 5-2. The victory makes the Sharks 4-0 against their most-hated rival and continues to help eliminate thoughts of last year’s playoff matchup.

The Sharks received all the breaks and all the deflections. Nothing worked for the Ducks. They needed their goals from Sharks mistakes.

San Jose now rides a four-game winning streak with two of the four coming against Anaheim.

Jed Ortmeyer stayed on the second line tonight with Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski. Ortmeyer is really working his tail off and while he may not score goals, his battling pays off in turnovers and scoring chances. With the move up, it required someone to move down and Devin Setoguchi had the short straw. Coach Todd McClellan demoted him to fourth-line duty. McClellan finally realized you can’t waste time putting a player up on the top line just to jump start them. It’s up to the player to make things happen.

Seto will turn it around at some point, of course. He has been playing well with a power-froward style, hitting and bashing people.

Patrick Marleau scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season tonight. Both were garbage goals, but like everyone says, a garbage goal is worth the same as a fancy goal.

Hey Marchant, does this breakaway make my butt look smaller? (From SJSHARKS.com)

One of Patty’s goals came on the power-play — an area of concern over the last 11 games prior to tonight. In those 11 games, the Sharks were 4-for-43 (9.3%). That changed tonight; the Sharks capitalized on both man-advantage opportunities to improve that statistic to 6-for-45 (13.3%) the last 12 games.

Dany Heatley notched his 23rd goal of the season after being sandwiched between two Ducks. His first shot hit one defender in the face, ended up back on Heater’s stick, and he didn’t miss the second time. I’ve seen and heard a few people criticize him for his work ethic, but that must all be from blind people. I’ve never seen him take a shift off or lazily attack a puck. He wants the puck and does everything he can to get it on his stick.

Clowe and Jamie McGinn were the other goal-scorers.

This was the best game the Sharks have played in a long time. Any questions about responding to no practice for three days were answered in the first 10 minutes. The mental game was there; the physical game was there. Here’s to hoping that continues on this last stretch before the Olympics.

Fight Night at the Tank

Three fights took place. I’ll break this down into judges’ scorecards.

Frazer McLaren vs. George Parros.  29-28, 29-28, 29-28 McLaren.

Scott Nichol vs. Kyle Chipchura. 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 Nichol.

Jed Ortmeyer vs. Matt Beleskey. 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 Beleskey.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  ANA 38; Douglas Murray led with seven.

Despite the domination, the Sharks were once again outshot by an opponent. This time the shot totals were 32-25 for the Ducks.

The Coyotes come to town on Monday.

–Ray

December 27, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

 

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 26

Quite the suhweeeet performance by the Sharks in their 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Sharks withstood the punches and counterpunches, both figuratively and literally, and sealed the win.

The man of the match was Dany Heatley who notched his ninth career hat trick and second with the Sharks. Winning co-man of the match was Joe Thornton who received the primary assist on all three Heater goals and added a fourth assist.

It was just an unbelievable game all around. The Flyers haven’t beaten the Sharks since 2000, but the games are always entertaining. They bring out the best in both teams, and I hope this is a Stanley Cup Finals preview.

Everything for the Sharks worked tonight: the even strength forecheck, the power play, the penalty kill. All exceptional. Well, I may be wrong about everything working. The defensive zone giveaways were enough to give fans and coach Todd McClellan migraines. If it weren’t for those, it would be a 6-0 victory.

Philly sure didn’t like Sharks ice. They saw it as a slip-and-slide, with public enemy #1 Chris Pronger as the main slip-and-slider. One of his slips ended up being a Heater goal. It really was home-ice advantage tonight.

Heatley’s hat trick was the EPS Trifecta (trademark pending). Even strength, power play and shorthanded goals. Two were carbon-copies. Joe would receive the puck in what looked like a perfect shooting opportunity, but it he would stop right to the side of the crease, wait, wait, wait for the defenseman to make a move, then BAM! Pass to Heater’s stick and it’s as easy as an Ovechkin toothless smile.

Dany Heatley notched his second hat trick as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

San Jose now has its top two lines set in stone for at least the next month. McClellan saw some great play between Heatley-Thornton-Marleau last game and decided to start them tonight. That choice proved epic as every time they took the ice, something good happened. Remember when everyone shook in fear from the Marleau-Thornton-Cheechoo line? Multiply that by 10,000.

The second line was Malhotra-Pavelski-Clowe and they meshed talent with will. This line will probably be broken up since Devin Setoguchi will come back from injury. Move Clowe to left wing and put Seto on the right. While Malhotra did net a goal tonight, he also netted a goal for the Flyers; for some reason he tried to handle the puck in the crease during a scramble, and instead of just knocking it out, he thought it best to backhand it first — bad idea.

The Sharks still haven’t lost in regulation at home either. Oh, how sweet the confines of HP Pavillion are.

Friday Night Fights

Frazer McLaren, up from Worcester took on Daniel Carcillo and McMan-handled him. I this kid is better than Staubitz and should get a few more looks. And he will because Staubitz is out for a couple weeks with an injury. I wish it were under better circumstances, but whatever the situation, cease your opportunity F-Mac.

Wait…Who? And he’s fighting who?

That’s right, my friends. Marc-Edouard Vlasic showed a nasty side tonight. Don’t know if someone stole this pickles from the pickle jar, but he was angry tonight. He dropped the gloves for the first time in his career with Daniel Briere and earned the win. Vlasic was the only one to throw a punch, and he also took Briere down. Vlasic also was featured in some scrums. I really hope this continues; I don’t want another Thornton situation where a guy plays better angry, but chooses to be angry once every leap year.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 25  PHI 26; Jed Ortmeyer (6) and Douglas Murray (5) led the team.

With the amazing play of the top two lines, the fourth line saw as much action as a young Bill Gates. McLaren played for two minutes, Benn Ferriero played four and Logan Couture played six. That’s fine with me if I can get first-line production like this every game.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim to face the Ducks. In their first meeting, the second game of the Sharks’ season, San Jose pummeled Anaheim 4-1.

–Ray

November 21, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 25

Quite the blinding performance by the NHL, Versus and Comcast by not showing the Sharks-Predators game last night (Nov. 17). There isn’t much for me to describe about the game except to look at the score and stats.

Well, the Sharks lost 4-3 in Nashville to have their 12-game point streak snapped. Thomas Greiss started in goal for the Sharks, and from looking at the bad-quality highlights on the Sharks website, the goals were a combination of bad positioning by Greiss and bad defense; no surprise on the defense side of things.

I can tell you the Sharks outshot the Preds 32-31. Even though they outshot the Preds 14-9 in the second, the Sharks’ best period usually, the Preds outscored San Jose 2-1 in the second frame.

Scott Nichol scored his first goal as a Shark from a tip-in play. He received the feed from Jed Ortmeyer. Other goal-scorers were Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Scott Nichol celebrates his first goal as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

The highlights also showed some huge hits, which is normal for a game between these two.

It was the third road game in four nights for the Sharks, and I’m guessing it caught up to them. Coach Todd McClellan vowed to use the fourth line more in the game, and he did in the first period. After that, they hardly received any ice time.

As for why the game wasn’t on television, to my understanding Versus has some sort of exclusive broadcast window from 7-9:30. I think this game was one of the options to show, but they chose to air the Rangers-Capitals game instead. What a shocker. Come on now. When you look at the schedule in September, did anyone really think Versus would air Sharks-Predators instead of Rags-Caps? Let’s not kid ourselves; East Coast bias at its finest.

Sharks and Preds fans had to suffer. This was absolutely absurd. It’s the year 2009, with all kinds of technology and satellites, and no one wanted to broadcast the game to paying fans?! This is why the NHL needs to stop dry humping Versus and find a new partner.

Other Notes

Brad Staubitz and Devin Setoguchi were out of the lineup with injuries. Bitz had a puck hit him in the eye during practice, and Seto reinjured his leg last game.

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  NSH 19; Douglas Murray led the team with three.

The Sharks play Philadelphia on Friday.

–Ray

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment