A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 23

Quite the steal-and-run performance by the Sharks in their 3-1 win against the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks were outworked on every part of the ice, but goalie Evgeni Nabokov stole a victory for his team.

I can’t remember the last time the Sharks were this badly outshot (39-17) and still came out with a win. But your goalie has to keep you in games and sometimes steal some. I wouldn’t say Nabby stood on his head though. Despite the huge number of shots, most of them weren’t clear shots at the net. A lot of the times the puck would deflect off someone, and roll around the crease before Nabby covered it.

The game featured a lot of big hits and intensity. Devin Setoguchi plowed two Blues players — Roman Polak in the first and T.J. Oshie in the third. The Blues dished it back in the form of a fight, which was one-sided. Cam Janssen dropped the gloves with Brad Staubitz and Janssen whooped Bitz. No contest at all.

The fight did help spark the Blues as they scored off a bank-shot late in the first.

Unfortunately for the Blues, this game was decided in 16 seconds; that’s all it took for the Sharks to score two goals. They came in the second period; Dany Heatley deked around a Blues defender and beat Chris Mason. Right after that, the Blues turned it over to a waiting Manny Malhotra, who shot the puck off Mason, and Ortmeyer batted in the rebound.

That’s about all the offense the Sharks could muster, except for the empty net goal by Joe Thornton at the very end.

Two of the three goals were on the power play, so that is still hot on the road.

Picture 13

Jamie McGinn tries to skate past Roman Polak (From SJSHARKS.com)

Once again the Sharks’ third period was weak. I wish I had a good explanation for this. Maybe they’re getting tired out there; their best period is the second, so maybe they’re wearing themselves out? I’m not sure. I would love to get in the locker room and ask coach Todd McClellan what’s up with that.

But again, the game belonged to Nabby. This is the front end of a back-to-back, and he’ll probably start again tomorrow against Chicago.

Givin’ You the Blues

Blues owner Dave Checketts ripped the team yesterday for their weak play. That obviously played a huge part in the emotion St. Louis played with tonight. I wonder what Checketts thinks right now about this loss. Gotta be tough, but I concede the Blues deserved this one. But in order to become that elite team, you have to win ugly. Not sure if the Blues have learned that yet.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  STL 18; Patrick Marleau led with four hits, while Seto, Heater and Douglas Murray added three each.

I saw Jamie McGinn on the penalty kill tonight. Can’t say I’ve seen him there before, but it’s good he’s getting rewarded for his hustle. That kid might be Scott Nichol, Jr.

I forgot to mention last game that Torrey Mitchell was reassigned to Worcester for conditioning. Big step for Torrey. Hopefully he gets his legs under him quickly.

The Sharks travel to Chicago tomorrow to take on the Blackhawks. Should be an entertaining match.

–Ray

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November 15, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 22

Quite the disheartening performance by the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks looked to be on the road to victory until they broke out their trademark lazy third period performance. I’m sensing a trend, and coach Todd McClellan better address it quick.

Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe were the goal scorers tonight. Heatley scored on a behind-the-net feed from Joe Pavelski, while Clowe scored on a wrister from the point. That’s about all the offense there is to report.

The game was all about the goalies. Dallas goalie Marty Turco is probably the luckiest man on earth. He had no right making some of the saves he did. It’s so frustrating to see a goalie beat so many times, yet fling his arms or stick out and make a save. I don’t think that’s skill at all. I can only imagine what it felt like to the Sharks players.

Picture 12

Ryane Clowe screens Marty Turco (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Turco’s saves to keep the game tight. One of the Stars’ goals was a wacky deflection that Nabby had zero chance in getting. Unfortunately, that goal came back to haunt the Sharks.

Enough about the Stars’ luck, though, this third-period collapse trend is scary. I think it was a couple years back in one of Ron Wilson’s last years, if not his last year as Sharks coach, where they could never hold onto leads well. They also got complacent and lazy, and it’s coming up again. I realize I’m not a professional hockey player, but come on. Don’t you want to beat every team 10-0 every night? Why do you want to take shifts off and not try? Please tell me.

This is a rivalry game. Pummel your opponent.

Pacific Division games are boring, I must admit. I don’t know if every fan feels this way about their teams’ division games, but they put me to sleep. Playing Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas is so lackluster. Anaheim is better, but I don’t feel any intensity. Maybe some of the Sharks feel that, I don’t know.

Why did Ryan Vesce only play five minutes in this game? He looks healthy and he was on that point streak before he got injured. Give him more ice time. He deserves it, and he’s earned it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 33  DAL 26; Douglas Murray had six hits. Jed Ortmeyer had five.

The Sharks earn another point by getting into a shootout to extend their point-streak to 10 games.

All five games the Sharks have played past regulation have gone to shootouts. They’re 2-3 in those games.

Next game is Saturday at St. Louis.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 16

Quite the statement game by the Sharks tonight in their 3-1 win over their Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are getting so much hype this month and it was awesome to see them beaten.

Avs goalie Craig Anderson tried to steal the show, especially in the first, but the Sharks would not relent. Even after a scoreless first period and a few spectacular saves, the Sharks didn’t give up.

There’s no one better that represents that mentality than Ryane Clowe. Clowey finally scored a goal — his first in 21 games — tonight late in the second period. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen someone so happy to score a regular season goal. Everyone could see all the weight jump off his shoulders. Right now, it looks like that shootout goal sparked something.

The third period was a complete team effort from the Sharks. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov was sharp, with the exception of a big rebound leading to a Matt Duchene goal. He made key stops at key times and kept the Sharks in it.

Dany Heatley scored on a tip-in goal and Jamie McGinn drilled a wrister past Anderson to put the game out of reach.

The Sharks hot power play was stymied, though. The Duchene goal was during a power play at all. So, if there’s anything to improve on, that would be it. Make sure the line changes are crisp and defensemen are in position.

Picture 6

Ryane Clowe celebrates his first goal of the season (From SJSHARKS.com)

I’d like to address the Avs. What a joke. Why people believe they will be something good this year is beyond me. It’s just one month. It’s a looooonnnggg season, and Avs fans are proclaiming playoffs. Sorry, but the Avs will miss the playoffs this year.

Anderson is a backup goalie at best, and is just experiencing a hot streak. Everything will settle down and the Avs will sink to the bottom of the Western Conference. The Sharks pulled no punches tonight and showed the Avs how to be the best. The Avs couldn’t respond. Enjoy your mediocrity Colorado. San Jose will send you a postcard from the playoffs.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  COL 13

Joe Thornton received a puck in the face that knocked his tooth out. He became quite angry the rest of the game and ended up leading the team (along with Jed Ortmeyer) in hits with four. If only the Sharks could get that angry Joe every game. It’s a great sight.

The Sharks hit the road again for three games against Carolina, Columbus and Detroit. Carolina is first and that game is Sunday.

–Ray

October 31, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 14

Quite the wide-open performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday. It wasn’t a dazzling display, but it was efficient, and that’s all you can ask for.

First, I need to give credit to Manny Malhotra for scoring two goals tonight, his first two of the season. One goal was all hard work and the other was a nice wrist shot from the faceoff circle. Don’t expect another multi-goal game any time soon from him because I think he’ll dive back into mediocrity next game.

The game belonged to Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss, however. He made several spectacular/lucky saves to preserve the win. He outdueled Philly backup Brian Boucher, who was with San Jose last year. I really hope Greiss gets a lot more looks after this performance. Evgeni Nabokov is a stubborn guy, but it’s time he start conceding to Greiss more.

Goalie Thomas Greiss looks on as a battle for the puck ensues (From SJSHARKS.com)

Goalie Thomas Greiss looks on as a battle for the puck ensues (From SJSHARKS.com)

I want Greiss to get at least 25-30 games in barring any Nabby injury. Greiss stopped 37 Flyers shots and looked extremely comfortable in net. He was very aggressive, challenging every Flyer player who dare enter his area.

The Sharks scored first for the second game in a row — which was stunning — but it didn’t take long for Philly to knot it up at 1. The whole first period was back and forth and physical. Jody Shelley fought Ian Laperriere and actually won. By my count, that’s his first victory of the season.

After the first period, though, things got really slow. I’m going to say that’s because of the back-to-back situation for both teams. They were feeling it. The game sort of dragged on with no team securing a fair amount of time in the offensive zone.

Jed Ortmeyer scored his third goal of the year to finish off the Flyers. Analyst Drew Remenda said it was his best game as a Shark. Jed accounted for three shots and three blocked shots. As balanced as you can get. Good stuff.

Jason Demers — Tough Guy?

Jason was roughing up Ole-Kristian Tollefson in the second period. As surprised as many fans were, he did really well in handling the situation. Nice to see such a calm-demeanor type guy taking care of business.

Logan Couture and Jamie Mcginn

Logan and Jamie were called up to replace Ryan Vesce and Devin Setoguchi, who were both injured against Atlanta. Jamie was his usual speedy self, while Logan didn’t do much. In his first NHL game, Logan had two shots, two PIMs and was 60% in faceoffs.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 15  PHI 18

The Sharks were outshot again; this time it was 38-28 Flyers. They’re playing solid defensively and capitalizing on minimal opportunities. No reason to be worried about that yet.

The Sharks finally come home Wednesday, October 28, to face the Los Angeles Kings.

–Ray

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 12

Quite the puzzling performance by the Sharks in their 5-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning. I can’t really articulate what happened. The Sharks seemed to try but nothing ever came to fruition.

For the first two periods, the Sharks were giving an acceptable amount of effort, but they couldn’t put it in the net. Very frustrating for fans and the players, I’m sure.

Things started off 30 seconds in when the Lightning scored from a weakside play. Dan Boyle was the culprit this time by not covering his man.

The Sharks got a power play opportunity shortly after and I absolutely loved the lineup. Heatley-Vesce-Clowe. What a great line along with Boyle and Vlasic on the man advantage. To have a selfish (in a good way) shooter and two guys who go for rebounds was an excellent idea from head coach Todd McClellan. He ended up keeping Clowe and Vesce together for the rest of the game, rotating the third forward. I hope that keeps up.

San Jose was down 0-2 after the first after sustaining a nice forecheck throughout.

Brad Staubitz tried starting a fight when the second period started, but the Lightning showed could patience to not join Bitz in a dance.

Jason Demers and Todd Fedoruk battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

Jason Demers and Todd Fedoruk battle for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sharks finally got on the board with Ryan Vesce. He started the play with a steal in Tampa’s zone, had a breakaway but was blocked by goalie Mike Smith. The Sharks kept it in with some D-to-D passing, shot it into a crowd, and Ryan was there. I tell you what, (wo)man. This kid is the epitome of scrappy and never-say-die. I’m going to look into cloning and see if I can’t field a team of 18 Ryan Vesce’s.

Unfortunately, Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov decided to misplay the puck, and d-man Jason Demers got tangled up with Ryan Malone, leaving Steven Stamkos with a wide open shot, which he scored. I think Nabby could have taken a much better angle on it.

That goal was the turning point as the Sharks came out in the third with a “whatever” attitude. Nabby seemed to echo that sentiment x1000 when he let in a wrister from the blue line. Sure, it was slightly deflected, but he had plenty of time to adjust. This was worse game of the season. He just seemed lost.

One thing I really want to point out was an embarrassing play by Joe Thornton. Coming out of the zone, in the third period, he nonshalantly handled the puck, glided into the neutral zone, and a Lightning player easily stole it. What a joke. I don’t ever want to see that from any NHL player. No matter what the score. As an alternate captain, you are bound to give your best and set a great example. Not that crap.

The Sharks showed up again with about seven minutes left when Boyle netted a power play goal. Too little, too late, of course.

Thornton and Heatley

0 combined shots

Other Notes

Hit-o-Meter: SJ 17  TB 16

Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra switched lines. I completely disagree with this. Nichol has played excellent on the third line with Ortmeyer and Ferriero. I don’t know if it was the lack of ice time or if the move got to him, but I saw nothing out of him. Shame. He’s been so good, so far.

I can’t wait until Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell are back. I can’t friggin’ wait.

Atlanta Thrashers are next on Saturday, October 24.

–Ray

October 23, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power Play

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

MVL

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

Other Notes

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

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

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 10

Quite the flashes-of-competence performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. It was the Sharks’ third 4-1 game of the year already; they’ve won two of three. The game wasn’t very pretty — the good play was spotty, but when they did play well, they scored.

The whole first period looked like the Washington game. San Jose looked lost and uninterested. Perhaps getting dominated by the Islanders (who haven’t won a game yet) woke them up during intermission. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, playing in his 500th game, played amazing in the first. He was the sole reason the Sharks were still in the game and he deserves a lot of credit for his stellar play so far.

The second period allowed Sharks fans to see more sustained pressure and a better forecheck. There were less one-and-done forechecks, as analyst Drew Remenda put it. That’s been the main problem I’ve noticed — the Sharks take a shot but can’t find the rebound or keep the pressure.

The power play looked solid as the Sharks pocketed two goals on the man-advantage. Patrick Marleau got on the board with a nifty backhand shot from the slot past goalie Martin Biron. Guess who scored next?

Ryan Vesce (#53) celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryan Vesce (#53) celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryan Vesce! The man I suggested the Sharks call up, and while I obviously had nothing to do with it, it was nice to see my suggestion come up and score — not to mention it was his first NHL goal. Congratulations to Vesce. He’s such a hard worker and a lot of Sharks veterans could learn from him. I hope he stays up for a long time.

The third period showcased the Sharks best play. Joe Thornton actually took a shot and it went in. I guess he wanted more than the two assists he already had so far.

Devin Setoguchi scored late in the game on a nice solo effort from down low. Seto might have been the hardest working Shark of the night. He was flying around on the ice. Why? He was demoted to the second line, consisting of Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau. Maybe that sparked something.

Ryane Clowe

Clowe notched his first point of the year, finally, on Seto’s goal. Clowe also fought Tim Jackman: Clowe took care of him fairly easily. I think Clowe needs to be demoted to the third line. It worked for Seto; it might work for Clowe. Putting him with Scott Nichol and Benn Ferriero/Jed Ortmeyer could help his work ethic. Those guys never quit and don’t get down on themselves. Clowe is struggling mentally and needs a change of scenery.

Other Notes

Hit-o-meter: SJ 19  NYI 14

The Islanders outshot the Sharks 32-29, but the Islanders blocked 24 shots. New York also got a majority of their shots in the first period when they had 19.

The Sharks now face the Rangers, Monday. San Jose has only won two in a row once this year, so I’ll be expecting another bad performance. That’s the Sharks — win-loss-win-loss. Very annoying. But, here’s to change.

–Ray

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