A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Court-storming complaining should cease

When’s the last time you heard of a serious injury from court storming?

I’ll wait.

If you’re having a little trouble, that’s because they happen as much as you actually starting that diet and exercise routine. A quick Google search yields no incidents post 2004. Every other article’s headline contains the words “before someone gets hurt,” or “potential.” That’s all it is, potential.

This increasingly preventative culture we find ourselves in won’t be satisfied until all seven billion of us live in padded rooms and talk in clichés. Then again, I’ve heard straitjackets can cause those awful pins and needles. Ban them.

The court-storming at the University of Virginia produced zero injuries – well, save for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s bruised ego. Video packages of his kvetching poisoned the airwaves. A simple solution for you Coach K? Quit losing to inferior opponents.

Fans begin rushing the field after unranked Virginia upset then No. 10 Clemson in 2006. The constant complaining over the fans’ enjoyment needs to stop.

It’s ironic this tsunami of prevention doubled in size after the court-storming at U.Va. It directly contradicts Thomas Jefferson’s declaration that all of us have a right to the pursuit of happiness. A novel idea the talking heads should explore.

Court-storming is an exhilarating experience for students. In 2006, I rushed onto the field at Lane Stadium after unranked Virginia Tech knocked off then-No. 10 Clemson. That ranks in my top five moments at college. Football coach Frank Beamer had the players come back out of the locker room to mingle with the fans.

Take that away, and the gluttonous football programs become even more isolated from the college experience (SEE: SEC, which banned field-rushing and court-storming nine years ago).

Arguments attacking the court-storming frequency have more credence but still are misguided. Students yearn for that bliss they see on television when a winless-in-the-Big-10 Penn State team shocks a top-five Michigan team. So, they lower the court-storming criteria.

Let them have their fun. The only people I see complaining about it are the ones who no longer have the chance to participate.

-Ray

March 2, 2013 Posted by | College Basketball, Football | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Column: The Boys Of Summer (Offseason Review)

Nathan Skytta takes some time from his busy summer schedule to take a look at the NHL offseason and its many twists and turns. Note: Article written Aug. 14.

Just over two months ago, fans of the NHL witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1960-61 season.  Now, with the countdown just over fifty days away from the drop of the puck in Helsinki, Finland, the Blackhawks have dismantled their championship team, the most prized free agent is still unsigned and those are just the beginning of the highlights that have made this summer so interesting for the fans of the NHL.

The Kovalchuk Puzzle

If anyone predicted this for Kovalchuk, please tell me my future.

The highlight of the offseason was the signing, or so we thought, of Ilya Kovalchuk by the New Jersey Devils. The agreement was for 17 years and over 100 million dollars, but as soon as it was signed, the NHL rejected it. The arbitrator assigned to the dispute upheld the NHL’s ruling that the contract went against salary cap regulations and therefore was illegal. We are now in the middle of August, and the most heralded free agent on the market this offseason, remains just that.

Nixing Niemi

Getting back to the Hawks, Antti Niemi, who was in net when the Hawks won the cup, won an arbitration hearing and was awarded a 2.75-million dollar salary. Because they are so close to the cap, the Hawks had no choice but to let Niemi, 26, become a free agent. The Hawks had a plan in place just in case they were forced to let Niemi go. The Hawks turned around and signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco. Turco, a three time all-star, had been let go by the Dallas Stars earlier this summer and was looking for a new home. Niemi remains unsigned and there’s no word on where he may end up.

Anybody want a Stanley Cup winning goalie?

Clipping more Hawks wings

Along with Niemi, the Hawks parted way with players such as Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, and Andrew Ladd. When the Hawks raise the banner on opening night against rival Detroit, they will have a roster that has many people wondering if they will be able to repeat.

More Interesting Moves

Some other highlights of the offseason include former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov signing to play in the KHL (Russia), Mike Modano, a Michigan native, heading home to play for the Detroit Red Wings after signing a one-year deal, the Philadelphia Flyers either acquiring or signing every free agent defenseman on the market—not really but at one time they had 10 defenseman on their roster—and Steve Yzerman taking over the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, in hopes of bringing another championship team back to the Sunshine State.

A New Season Emerges

In the last 65 days since Patrick Kane snuck the championship-clinching shot between the legs of Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael Leighton, teams have been revamped, players have changed addresses, and some big names remain on the market. Along with the aforementioned Kovalchuk, players like Paul Kariya, Miroslav Satan, and Lee Stempniak remain unsigned.

In the next few weeks, teams will begin reporting to camp and start writing the script on what they hope is a championship season of hockey. With two outdoor games scheduled this season, a new roster for the Blackhawks, and many teams making changes to their rosters, anything can happen. So fans, get the jerseys out, the hockey packages ordered on your cable network, and get your vocal cords ready for what’s going to be another fantastic season of NHL hockey.

-Nathan

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reviewing the Sharks Offseason Thus Far

It’s been a while since the last hockey game of the 2009-10 season, and the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks (bleh) are being dismantled.

Sharks public enemy No. 1 Dustin Byfuglien was traded to Atlanta, and a slew of other bottom-half forwards left Chicago.

San Jose has gotten in on the fun by signing Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (RFA) to an offer sheet.  Four years, $3.5 million per year.

Not bad, Doug Wilson. Not bad.

Hjalmarsson would be an excellent pickup for the Sharks, whose defense is the weak link of the team. Behind the incredibly bizarre resigning of Niclas Wallin for $2.5 million per year, and Jay Leach being resigned, Sharks fans have been left wondering if DW is really leaving the defense for dead.

There is hope that Douglas Murray or Devin Setoguchi could be traded for Toronto d-man Tomas Kaberle. If DW could somehow maneuver around the cap to sign Hjalmarsson and Kaberle, the defense would be a definite upgrade.

Boyle-Hjalmarsson

Kaberle-Vlasic

Huskins-Wallin

Whether they trade for Kaberle or not, another top-4 defenseman must be added. Former goalie Evgeni Nabokov was not resigned and will now play in the KHL in Russia. DW decided to sign Antero Niitymaki, which again left Sharks fans puzzled.

I’ve always seen Niity as a viable goaltender and hard to beat. Of course, now that he’s on the team, I’m worried about him — especially considering there were other options such as Chris Mason and Marty Turco who have better resumes.

That leaves the offense. Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski were signed for what looks like hometown discounts. The top four players seem to be set in stone. Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi have long been trade bait to fans including this one. If one were traded for a defenseman, that would leave a fairly significant hole to be filled by a youngster.

I’d rather sign another winger as the Sharks have way too many centers to go around. Logan Couture, Torrey Mitchell, Scott Nichol, and now-rumored Mike Modano would be fighting for two center spots on the bottom lines.

Owen Nolan or Arron Asham are options at wing but salary would be the biggest question there.

Either way, I expect one or two trades to clear some space and a few more free agents to be signed.

Hopefully, this new roster will be enough to win the Cup.

–Ray

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

Guest Column: NHL First-Round Predictions

Nathan Skytta is back again — this time with predictions for the first round of the NHL playoffs.

For the first time in almost 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings will not start their run towards the Stanley Cup at home in front of the fans at Joe Louis Arena. In a season that was plagued with injuries, featured a rookie between the pipes, and contained league diversity with no real powerhouse, the Wings struggled out of the gates.

Led by gold medal winning head coach Mike Babcock and a plethora of skill and determination, the Wings overcame their injuries and got their lineup back together. Oh and that rookie in net? Well, he turned out to be a possible rookie of the year finalist.

The Wings finished fifth in the conference and are going to take on the fourth-seeded Phoenix Coyotes, in the first round of the playoffs. The Coyotes will put up a challenge for the Wings, but after finishing the season as one of the hottest teams in the league, the Wings should be favored in advance.

RED WINGS IN SIX.

In another matchup in the Western Conference, it’s the No. 1 San Jose Sharks versus No. 8 Colorado Avalanche — a matchup that will be worth watching. The Sharks barely missed having to face Detroit, but the road to the second round didn’t get any easier when they were paired up against the Avs. The Sharks need to be on their ‘A’ game in order to have any chance of advancing.

SHARKS IN SIX.

The No. 2 Chicago Blackhawks will take on the No. 7 Nashville Predators. This may be the highest scoring series out of the eight first round playoffs because each team has struggling goaltenders and stars that can put up big numbers when given the chance.

PREDATORS IN SIX.

In the last Western series, it will be the No. 3 Vancouver Canucks facing off against one of the scariest teams in the league, the No. 6 Los Angeles Kings. Both of these teams have great goaltending, but it will be the matchup of the Kings defense against the all-star duo of the Sedin twins that determines who comes out victorious.

The Kings are the Cinderella team of the NHL this season and are unpredictable, so this series is one worth watching.

KINGS IN SEVEN.

In the Eastern Conference, it’s the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals versus the Montreal Canadiens. This matchup pits Capitals starting goaltender Jose Theodore against his former mates from Montreal.  The Capitals have too much firepower for the Canadiens and should win this series convincingly.

CAPITALS IN FIVE.

Future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur will lead his No. 2 New Jersey Devils against the No. 7 Philadelphia Flyers, in hopes of clinching another Stanley Cup title. This is the time of year where Brodeur seems to always step up his game — just what any team wants to hear when facing the goaltender with the most wins in NHL history.

DEVILS IN FIVE.

Silver medal-winning goaltender Ryan Miller and his Buffalo Sabres face the Boston Bruins and their rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask. The Bruins are going to have a challenge beating Miller and his teammates, so the Sabres should easily win this series, but at this time of year, anything is possible.

SABRES IN SEVEN.

Last but not least, it’s the No. 4 Pittsburgh Penguins versus the No. 5 Ottawa Senators. Both teams struggled down the stretch, but the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins should advance. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin should lead the charge against the Senators, who lost their star Alex Kovalev to a torn anterior cruciate ligament this past week. The Senators have a challenge ahead of them, but hopefully they can make it an interesting series.

PENGUINS IN FIVE.

Anything can happen in the first round of the NHL playoffs, so tune in and see some of the exciting hockey that the last 16 teams in the league have to offer. Versus and NBC will have all the coverage starting Wed., April 14.

–Nathan

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 56

Quite the don’t-get-your-hopes-up game as the Sharks staged a three-goal comeback only to fall short in overtime 4-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Sharks finish 1-1-2 against Chicago, which is an incredible disappointment. I can already see the bandwagon filling up on both the Blackhawks one and the Sharks-can’t-win-big-games one.

Both probably should be filling up; the Blackhawks once again defeat the “best” Western Conference team, and the Sharks came out to play in sneakers against an elite team.

Four days rest was the devil this time. All that time to focus and plan and winning formula against a Chicago team nearing the end of a long road trip, all went for not. It didn’t help Dan Boyle missed a third-straight game with the always laughable, ambiguous “upper-body injury.”

Chicago came out and took it to the Sharks. Three straight goals in the first 8:23. Yippee ki-yay! I seriously thought this would be a Sharks blowout, but expect the unexpected I always say — or should have.

So down 0-3, I’m thinking this is going to be like the 9-4 win over Detroit a few years back. Yea, nine straight goals ain’t too hard for this team. They scored nine not too long ago against Calgary.

Goal Joe Pavelski. OK, here we go. Just like Mike Grier did against Detroit. Get that first goal before intermission. This will turn the tide teal.

Peek-a-boo! I see you! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Move to the second. Goal Pavelski. Yep, I’m right bro’s. Here comes the comeback.

Goal Manny Malhotra. I must be Nostradamus. Tie game. Pack it up. Here comes six more goals.

Third period. Whoa whoa, Chicago. What are you doing? Trying? That’s not right. I am the Mayan calendar. You do not defy me!

Sharks can’t clear. You could defy me. Sharks still can’t clear and Marleau is flopping around with no stick. You might defy me. Chicago shooting the puck easily. You probably will defy me. With less than two minutes to go, the Sharks take a penalty — only their second of the game. You will defy me.

Unbelievable. The Sharks did manage to hold off the inevitable by killing that penalty, but we all know by now what the Sharks do in overtime. PRE-VENT OF-FENSE, clap-clap, clap-clap-clap.

Joe Thornton decided it’d be best to miss a wide-open net. Following a Sharks turnover, the Hawks scored and sent their bandwagon fans off into the illegitimate sunset. Fan-freaking-tastic.

I’m not sure what’s more deflating — a 7-2 loss or a three-goal comeback only to lose in overtime. You tell me.

Some positives: Logan Couture was called up for this game and played well. He played alongside Jody Shelley and Torrey Mitchell. They stuck to the game plan of getting it deep and keeping it there. Shelley mentioned it in a pregame interview: if you’re in the defensive zone, get it out, the neutral zone, get it in, the offensive zone, keep it in and create chances. Glad to see one line stick to that plan from start to finish.

Pavsleki has five goals and six games. Unfortunately, his hot streak couldn’t solve the Sharks defensive zone problems.

Let’s talk about the more interesting aspect of this game: the negatives. Joe Thornton was terrible. His passes looked like they game off a rubber hose. He passed to Hawks players all night long. He coasted through the night thinking about what photo angle his abs would look best in.

The Sharks can’t clear the puck. This has been mentioned numerous times here on ITSC. I say build a brick wall on the blueline and leave one brick out. Force the players to clear the puck through that tiny hole. Maybe that’ll help them stop clearing the puck right at opposing players. Come on guys. Look for the actual holes in the defense.

The crowd was the worst all season. Man, do I love Sharks fans. They’re incredibly loyal. But tonight, I think someone gave them seditives because there was no noise to speak of. And no, this is not because of Chicago’s 3-0 lead. When the game started, no creature was stirring, not even a mouse. I hear about this marquee matchup all week long — I’m sure they did too — and they come out like a bunch of mutes? Please. If you aren’t going to lose your voice, don’t show up. How ’bout ‘dat, yo?

Injuries!

Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game with an undisclosed injury. He didn’t come back. He better come back. I don’t want no Derek Joslin coming up and ruining my life.

Douglas Murray got injured blocking a shot I believe and left temporarily. He came back though and looked fine. Good news.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 22  CHI 20; Ryane Clowe led with five.

San Jose lost the faceoff battle by a decisive 58%-42% margin. Malhotra was 29%! Wow. One of the best faceoff men in the league got wrecked.

The Minnesota Wild are the next foes as they come to town on Saturday.

–Ray

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 42

Quite the retribution game for the Sharks as the demolished the Washington Capitals 5-2. Three Sharks missed the first meeting between these two teams — Joe Pavelski, Douglas Murray and Torrey Mitchell. All of them made a huge impact on the game.

Joe Pavelski used his insanely accurate shot to score twice and Douglas Murray shut down Alex Ovechkin for most of the game although OV scored at the end. Mitchell notched his first goal of the season in the first period.

Ovechkin became frustrated in the third trying to drop the gloves with Dan Boyle and getting into it with Murray. That just means the Sharks’ gameplan worked amazingly.

Some Sharks fans were booing Ovechkin every time he touched the puck. I have no clue what that was about; he isn’t Chris Pronger; he hasn’t cheap-shotted any Sharks before; there’s no bad blood. It really disappointed me that some of the Sharks fans did that. Now if they booed Crosby, that would be completely different!

What was odd tonight was the Sharks received two penalty shot opportunities and buried both of them. Ryane Clowe took the first one in the second and used his patented forehand-backhand move to beat young goalie Michal Neuvirth.

Get up man. This is no place for a Playboy pose. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Thornton converted the second chance in the third to seal the game.

The turning point in tonight’s game, though, came at the start of the second period. The Caps got a quick five-on-three chance followed by another power-play, but the Sharks’ penalty kill stifled Washington.

The Sharks are showing no signs of slowing down. They’ve brought their A-game throughout the holidays, and this marks the sixth straight victory.

He Said What?

Capitals analyst Craig Laughlin said Dan Boyle was just a tad bit better than Caps defenseman Mike Green. Yea, right. Boyle is astronomically better.

Stat Central

The Sharks haven’t allowed a first-period goal in seven straight games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  WSH 46; Murray led the team with four.

The Sharks have to turn around quickly and play an early game tomorrow versus Phoenix.

–Ray

December 31, 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