A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 63

Quite the weight-off-the-shoulders game for the Sharks as they finally defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout. Detroit still wins the series 3-0-1, but the importance of this victory can’t be overstated enough.

Let’s be honest here. Detroit is going to make the playoffs. Yes they’re ninth right now, but come on, it’s Detroit. They will slide into the playoffs and maybe even go on a tear to claim the fifth or sixth spot. Regardless, they are a potential first-round matchup for the Sharks, and losing all four games to Detroit would have been catastrophic. The team already lacks confidence against the Wings as is, and losing here would have surely meant a first-round sweep had they met.

The victory didn’t come without fierce battling and lots of physicality. Detroit didn’t want to give up his undefeated streak against the Sharks so easy. How about 52 shots peppered on Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby stopped 50 of them. He’s the sole reason why the Sharks won this game. Sensing a trend lately?

Despite getting shutout last night, coach Todd McLellan decided to keep the same players on the ice for the game. Ryane Clowe was extra feisty tonight. Within the first five minutes, he was up in people’s grills looking for something. He found it in the third when he and Jonathan Ericsson decided to tango. Ericsson caught him early, but Clowe finished with some power hooks, an uppercut and a takedown.

The Sharks scored their only two goals in the first period. Joe Thornton got on the board 25 seconds after Detroit took a 1-0 lead. Niclas Wallin got his first point as a Shark on Thornton’s goal.

Dwight Helminen once again played extremely well. He notched his first goal as a Shark, NHL 10 style: Torrey Mitchell stopped behind the net, skated out, passed across ice for Helminen who one-timed it in the open net. It’s his second career goal, and here’s some food for thought: Wallin assisted on Helminen’s first goal when they were both in Carolina. That goal was way back on November 2, 2008.

Johan, I'm constipated. Punch me in the gut to force it out. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Detroit controlled the second period, and they controlled the third period by tying the game with seven minutes left in regulation.

So we head into overtime. Oh prevent offense, how I have missed thee. The Sharks took their prevent offense to another level by taking a penalty with two minutes to go. By some divine intervention they were able to kill it off.

In the shootout, Nabby stonewalled all three Detroit shooters. Patrick Marleau, the Sharks’ third shooter, won it.

How sweet it is. My health has deteriorated throughout today, so this was a great temporary remedy to the constant sniffing and overall feeling of crap.

Mickey Redmond – the worst analyst in hockey

If you’re unlucky enough to get a Detroit broadcast, listen to this guy talk. How many things can he get wrong? Let me count the ways:

1. Saying Jimmy Howard made save of the first period when clearly Nabby’s sprawling blocker was.

2. Calling for interference when there was nothing there.

3. Saying Thornton should continue playing with no emotion and should not play angry.

4. Stealing Darren Pang’s phrase, “Holy jumpin’!”

5. Called Kent Huskins, Huselius for five minutes.

6. Saying Rob Blake takes a lot of shootouts for the Sharks (I don’t think he’s taken one).

7. If he says “look out” one more time, I will go off.

Obviously he only has this job because of his past playing in a Red Wing uniform. Shame. Someone else agreed with me too. Check out the #22 comment on David Pollak’s blog.

Stat Pack

Nabby has the worst winning percentage against Detroit since 1980. With this win he’s now 8-17-0-2 against them. Terrible.

The Sharks lost the faceoff battle 51%-49%. I think they’ve lost it a couple times against Detroit. I don’t understand how they can be so dominant in the circle, but lose faceoffs to a team who isn’t that great at them time after time.

San Jose led in all four Detroit games, only garnering one win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DET 34; Scott Nichol led with five.

Thornton started getting angry at Detroit when Datsyuk and Cleary kept being annoying pests. He threw Cleary down with one arm, which was hilarious. Need to see more of that, but we won’t.

San Jose goes to Buffalo for a game with the Sabres on Saturday. It’s the last game before the Olympic break.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 45

Quite the wtf game for the Sharks as they lost miserably to the Los Angeles Kings 6-2. Despite outshooting the Kings 47-20, the Sharks couldn’t solve LA goalie Jonathan Quick or make up for their defensive lapses.

Things looked good early for the Sharks. Torrey Mitchell was on the power play and working hard with Devin Setoguchi. The forecheck looked strong, but the Kings struck first when no one marked Michal Handzus, who scored on a wraparound.

Two LA power play goals would follow on similar defensive lapses. Nobody wanted to mark their man or take proper position. It looked like the beginning of the season all over again, as well as the first game against Los Angeles where the Sharks were destroyed.

In the second, the Sharks put their best shots on Quick but nothing would get past him. Quick is something like 3-0-1 against the Sharks now. They really don’t need another Pacific Division goalie giving them problems. Two more LA goals in the period made the score 5-0.

So coach Todd McClellan decided to pull Evgeni Nabokov and try Thomas Greiss in goal to start the third. Thirteen seconds later it was 6-0. Yikes. Credit Greiss, though; he didn’t allow another goal, and the Sharks put two goals on the board to avoid the shutout. (Douglas Murray and Patrick Marleau scored.)

Is this open enough for you guys to score? (From SJSHARKS.com)

We all know this next statement was coming so let’s get right to it. The Sharks were 7-0 with Jason Demers back in the lineup, and now they’re 1-1 since sending him down. What in the world has to happen for the Sharks coaches and management to realize they win games with Demers in the lineup. You are not getting different results by taking him out. You keep losing. For the love of all that is holy, call him up and keep him there. Get it through your thick skulls. Sheesh.

I’d also like to address what a bunch of terrible announcers LA has. The analyst took it upon himself to mock the “Beat LA” chant at the end of the game. Yea, you wouldn’t do that at the beginning of the game would you tough guy? Very professional of you. That’s why the only job you could get was on a terrible franchise’s broadcasting team. We’ll see where your team is come playoff time. Probably on the couches, but if by some divine intervention the Kings make the playoffs, enjoy your first-round exit.

No Fights

In a game like this, I would expect someone to step up and fight, but no one did. Instead of opening the second period with a message, you guys waited to the third to make a goalie change. That was your message? Come on. Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz should have dropped the gloves. What’s wrong with you guys? Did the long layoff make you soft? That is what you are a Shark for; otherwise, demote yourselves to Worcester.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 19  LA 13; Three players had three hits each.

This ends the Sharks eight-game winning streak, and the three first-period goals ends a 10-game streak without allowing one.

The Sharks were No. 2 in penalty killing. They allowed three power play goals tonight.

The Sharks get a chance to rebound, Wednesday, against St. Louis.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 31

Quite the fun game tonight as the Sharks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2. Dany Heatley played his former team for the first time, as did Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Things were very spirited in the first period. Those three players definitely tried to make statements to their former clubs, and one was very successful.

Michalek netted two goals, so as far as I’m concerned, only Sharks scored tonight. He looked like a man on a mission to score. He pushed the Sens’ play and forecheck, constantly battled in front of the net. What else can I say? Milan deserved it. Buuuttt, the Sharks are too good.

A fourth man entered the ring to prove something; Patrick Marleau played his 900th game, all with the Sharks, and showed everyone it was a good decision to not trade him after all these years. He scored two goals as well and almost had a third, but lost the puck on a cut-in towards the net.

It was just a fun game to watch. There wasn’t a shortage of effort, maybe lack of intelligence (I think of one player to be named later), but all the players tried hard.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau celebrate after Marleau scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

Frazer McLaren dropped the gloves with Matt Carkner in the first to continue the entertainment. Unfortunately, McLaren dropped another decision. It was close after Carkner ended the fight on purpose by dragging Frazer down, but Carkner had more punches land. Frazer needs to start winning some fights soon and not continue this Jody Shelley syndrome.

Both the second and third periods started off considerably slower than the first period; however, things picked up about halfway through each time.

Ryane Clowe came through with a goal after a tough battle between Manny Malhotra and Sens defenders. My tune is slowly starting to change on Manny. He scored an empty netter tonight and has shown some good speed and toughness lately. But I’m not so quick to change my mind on people. Hopefully this stays consistent.

Thomas Greiss manned the net for the Sharks. He hadn’t started in two weeks so coach Todd McClellan gave Evgeni Nabokov the night off. “Jesus” Greiss sure likes to flail. Reminds me of Magikarp from Pokemon. Both Greiss and Magikarp have one move: Flail. Obviously Greiss is more effective at it. He made some spectacular saves to preserve the lead. This backup situation could get juicy next season. After the Sharks decide whether or not to resign Nabby, will they put all their stock in Greiss as the heir apparent? Or will they look further to stud prospects Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith? Who knows, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.

The Sharks’ top line of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau amassed six points tonight continuing their William-Sherman-March-to-the-Sea trek torching any team in their path.

Douglas Murray

This guy took three penalties in the third period alone. What in the world was he thinking? Maybe he was excited because his grandfather was watching him play for the first time since he was in college. I don’t know, but regardless, this is the kind of thing that gets you in the coach’s doghouse. I mean, almost half of the period was shorthanded because of Murray. Use your friggin’ head, son.

Cheech ‘n’ Seek

Boy has Cheech ever fallen off the radar. He’s a third-liner in Ottawa and has been reduced to scrubbing the poop deck every game. Long gone are the days of him scoring 50 goals. Poor Cheech. Guess you really find out how good Joe Thornton is when the sniper leaves Jumbo’s side.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  OTT 18; Scott Nichol (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

Seto and Torrey Mitchell aren’t getting much important action on the fourth line. Torrey received an extra minute compared to last game and Seto’s ice time was decreased. I wonder how much rust these two actually accumulated, because I think we all know these guys are much better than fourth liners. Patience is a virtue I guess. Can’t wait to see them fully recovered.

The Sharks play St. Louis on Thursday.

–Ray

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 15

Quite the meh performance by the Sharks in their 2-1 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings. As exciting as the shootout was, the regulation was that much more boring.

The Kings dominated the first period and it was looking as if the Sharks were hungover from that long road trip and multiple days off. Everyone was out of sink, nobody was giving high-quality effort, and play was ugly. Well, Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov pulled up his pants and fastened his belt, and played really well. He is the sole reason the Sharks won this game.

They say you need to have a goalie who can keep you in it and steal one; Nabby stole this one. His positioning was solid and although his rebound control was a bit off, he directed the rebounds toward the half-boards.

Ryane Clowe skates up the ice (From SJSHARKS.com)Patrick Marleau scored the only goal for San Jose in the second, after Alexander Frolov put the Kings on the board. Patty’s goal looked Dany Heatley-esque with the windup and ensuing slapshot. Something Heater taught Patty? Maybe.

I’m really disappointed Logan Couture didn’t play much tonight. He received eight shifts for a whopping 6:42 of ice time. I realize it’s close game and he’s a rookie, but this was a situation where a young guy can prove himself. I want to see what this kid can do.

Ryane Clowe was crap. In regulation. Let me clarify that first. I’ve never seen so many fanned shots with no one around in my life. Something is wrong with Clowey’s head. Coach Todd McClellan put him on the top line; I assume it was to help his offense playing with Joe Thornton. Needless to say it didn’t work at all. This guy needs to be healthy scratched or put down on the fourth line.

OK, now, Clowey scored the game-winner in the shootout. A beautiful move to beat Jonathan Quick. I hope that was what he needed to get out of this funk he’s in. Just knowing he put it in the net can pay huge dividends for his mentality. Let’s see how he responds.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  LA 12

There were just four penalties in the game — all in the first period. Two against each team.

LA blocked 28 shots and Jody Shelley won a faceoff. Oh boy. Hello apocalypse.

Next game is Friday versus the Avalanche.

–Ray

October 29, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 6

Quite the explosive performance for the Sharks tonight as San Jose defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 6-3. Dany Heatley had a hat trick in the home opener for the Sharks, making all the fans ecstatic. It is so nice to have a pure sniper on the team now. Sure, we had Jonathan Cheechoo and we still have Devin Setoguchi, but I always saw those players as needing a Joe Thornton. Heatley doesn’t need anyone but himself to score goals, and that’s what kind of player the Sharks have needed.

Heatley had 3 goals, 1 assist, finished +5 and had 2 PIMs — a good night for Heater, to say the least.

Heater’s first goal came on a hard-fought shift behind the goal line, then he scored on a wraparound. His next goal came from a Dan Boyle pass from the defensive zone all the way to the Jackets’ blue line. Heatley wristed it by Steve Mason. For the hat trick, Heatley was tripped in front of the net that led to a penalty shot. He calmly deposited it 5-hole, and the fans made it rain with hats.

Dany Heatley celebrates with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi (From: SJSHARKS.com)

Dany Heatley celebrates with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi (From: SJSHARKS.com)

Ryane Clowe

After the tongue-thrashing (or type-thrashing in this case) I gave Clowe last game, he came out and was on fire. He was hitting as many players as he could find (he led the team with 5 hits). His skating was fast and agile, and his shooting was spot-on. I could tell he wanted to prove last game was a fluke. There’s nothing I respect more than a guy getting pissed off at his performance, then come out next game and dominate. Clowe also had a fight tonight, which leads to…

Fights

Two fights tonight, both coming in the second period. First fight pitted Clowe vs. Michael Blunden. This was no contest. Clowe carried his emotion into his fists as he busted Blunden’s head wide open. Blunden bled profusely from his left temple.

The second fight involved Shark Frazer McLaren and Jacket tough guy Derek Dorsett. McLaren got his arm stuck inside his jersey and struggled the first half of the fight. Dorsett capitailzed with a couple left hooks, but McLaren finally got free of his jersey and proceeded to pound the living daylights out of Dorsett. I’m sure if Dorsett has some chips, he can dip them in his head because his brain is a nice mushy salsa now.

Defensemen

Two d-men got on the scoreboard tonight, goal-wise. Dan Boyle did his usual pinching, and shot a wicked wrister top-shelf past Mason. Boyle assisted twice as well.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the culprit allowing the Jackets first goal — another weak-side positioning error. He made up for it with a slapshot from the point through traffic. Good to see him make up for that mistake.

Demers struggling?

You can’t be perfect. It was Jason Demers’ worst night of the young season, against Columbus. His first passes out of the zone were being intercepted or blocked. His puck control was suspect — at one point, Rick Nash stole the puck in the Sharks’ defensive zone. I’m sure Jason will clean up those mistakes though.

Other notes

Brad Staubitz was suspended for one game due to making excessive physical contact on an icing play against the Los Angeles Kings. Jamie McGinn filled in for him. There wasn’t much to report for McGinn. He was fast as usual, but that’s it.

Columbus goalie Steve Mason was pulled after the Sharks’ fifth goal. At the time, he had allowed five goals on 20 shots.

Joe Thornton quietly picked up four assists — Joe being Joe.

–Ray

October 9, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NHL Power Rankings

1. San Jose Sharks 13-3-0
Entering Nov. 11, the Sharks boast the NHL’s loan undefeated record at home (9-0). The “Shark Tank” as fans call it, has been a dead zone for opposing teams as well as an imminent loss. Under the new coaching regime, the Sharks offense is reaching is potential, with the most goals for in the league. The defense has stepped up with the offseason acquisitions of Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, providing leadership and guidance for the Sharks fairly young defense. Most importantly, San Jose has shown character in being able to come back in games in which they trail, something absent the last few years.

2. Detroit Red Wings 9-2-2
The defending Stanley Cup Champs find themselves at number two in the power rankings. Marian Hossa has been exactly what they expected, netting 8 goals and adding 9 assists, in only 13 games played. Detroit is still playing as advertised, with a tough defense led by Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Goalie Chris Osgood has split time with backup with Ty Conklin and neither has put up stellar numbers, making it difficult on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings offensive juggernauts. Both carry the Wings offense again this year, although Datsyuk has only put in 3 goals. With right-winger Johan Franzen coming off injury, Detroit is going to start spreading the wealth.

3. New York Rangers 11-5-2
After 18 games played, no one would think that youngster Nikolai Zherdev would lead the team in points, but that is just the case with 5 goals and 9 assists. Markus Naslund, a big free agent signee, has been doing his part with 5 goals and 8 assists. With the exception of a hat trick last week, center Chris Drury has been struggling. Scott Gomez has had problems with finding the net, only scoring 3 goals thus far. Drury and Gomez are key to the team’s success. They have to improve, but with a goalie like Henrik Lundqvist and his 1.99 goals against average, the Rangers will be in every game.

4. Montreal Canadiens 8-2-2
Left wing Alex Tanguay leads the team in points with 14, along with defenseman Andrei Markov. Montreal is fourth in the league in the goals per game category with 3.42. With the combination of that offense and goalie Carey Price, the Canadiens are a very dangerous team. Price has a 2.61 GAA and .917 save percentage, keeping games close. The problem the Canadiens have is on defense. With the exception of Markov, not many defenseman are contributing. Roman Hamrlik has 5 points, but the rest have 2 points or less. The offense will not be able to carry the team the whole season. The defense must get involved if Montreal expects to win the tough Northeast division.

5. Boston Bruins 8-3-3
Archrival Montreal got the nod over Boston because of their head-to-head matchup earlier in the season, a shootout victory for the Canadiens. Boston has been a very formidable opponent and the record shows that. On average, the Bruins get outshot every game, but goalie Tim Thomas has been exceptional, boasting a 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. For the offense, Marc Savard is the unquestioned leader of the team with 16 points. The next best offenseman has only 9 points. Savard is also second on the team in penalty minutes, putting added pressure on the penalty kill unit. With Savard being off the ice constantly, more players have to step up if the Bruins are to legitimately challenge Montreal.

6. Buffalo Sabres 8-3-3
Buffalo has one of the best penalty kill units in the game, which helps them cover their own mistakes. Along with doing that, goalie Ryan Miller has a GAA just over 2. Buffalo is a team that just gets it done and they score when they have to. Their records at home and away are virtually identical making them a team to bet on every night.

7. Washington Capitals 8-4-2
It’s been a breakout year for Alexander Semin so far, leading the league in points with 22 (11G 11A). Alex Ovechkin has been an assist man this year, with 7 helpers and only 3 goals. It’s safe to say an Alex is going to score every night the Caps play.

8. Chicago Blackhawks 7-3-3
Captain Jonathan Toews has been having a tough time lately, with only 1 goal in 13 games played. Patrick Kane has picked up the slack, however, leading the team with 18 points (7G 11A). The problem for Chicago is goaltending. Nikolai Khabibulin has started seven games and Cristobal Huet has started six. Rumors are swirling that Khabibulin could be traded at any time, but with a 7-3-3 record, it doesn’t look like it is much of a distraction.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins 8-4-2
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin only have a combined 7 goals, yet lead the team in points. How is that possible? Both have a staggering number of assists. Malkin has 18 assists on the year, and Crosby has 13. As good as it is to see both helping their teammates, Malkin and Crosby need to start being more selfish and put the puck in the net if Pittsburgh wants to get better.

10. Anaheim Ducks 9-7-1
After such a terrible start, Anaheim has climbed back into the hunt for the Pacific division and the Western Conference. Over the last ten games, the Ducks are 7-2-1, making them one of the hottest teams in the league right now. A troubling stat, though, is they have more goals against, then for. They better get that straightened out quickly.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sharks Report II

I feel as though I need to write something after the Sharks’ 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers. Watching the game, a concern of mine just grew, and that would be our defense.

Ryane Clowe attempts to get the puck past Panther goaltender, Tomas Vokoun

Ryane Clowe attempts to get the puck past Panther goaltender, Tomas Vokoun

The first report was mainly focused on the offense and how much they have improved. But with that improvement, the Sharks are forgetting what has made them successful the last 3 years — their defense. The defenseman are now playing so far into the offensive zone that they are forgetting their first responsibilities. This has led to so many breakaways, its making my head spin. Nabokov is definitely not the best goalie when it comes to facing breakaways and 2-on-1s.

Nabby has let in 14 goals the last 3 times, when usually that number would be around 4 or 5. Scary.

The Sharks had 50 shots on goal and still lost! This just shows that you can have 100 shots on goal and the other teams gets 4 or 5 breakaways and coverts, you will lose. I do give Vokoun credit, he played well.

I mentioned in the last post that Clowe should be the Sharks’ version of Tomas Holmstrom. Well, he is doing that more often, but Cheechoo seems to be taking over that role. Every game, it looks like he is less scared of planting himself in front of the net, which is great to see. The D feeds the shots from the point and Cheechoo and Clowe get the garbage goals. They still count as 1. “Weak” or not.

Alexei Semenov played awful last night. One play he slapped the puck back between his legs which went right to a Panther, and that led to a pass and goal. Douglas Murray needs to get healthy and get back there. Semenov doesn’t cut it. At least cut his ice time. Vlasic needs more. He is our best defensive defenseman. Hopefully, the Sharks can limit Tampa’s goals tonight to 2 or less, and show a better defensive mold than what they have put on the ice the last couple games.

– Ray

October 25, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment