A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 69

Quite the reversal game for the Sharks as they lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime. The gameplay was completely flipped from last game against Nashville.

In the last three games, San Jose trailed going into the third, but each time they came back to win. That was an NHL record. Coach Todd McLellan was all but pleased with the effort of the Sharks though. It’s been tough to find a full 60-minute effort this season.

The Sharks got the message — for the first 20 minutes — and kept pressure on the Panthers throughout the first frame. Things were looking really good; the Sharks scored two goals and held the Panthers off the scoresheet after one.

All downhill from there.

Florida turned the heat up for the remainder of the game, and with Tomas Vokoun making stops at key times, the Panthers were able to tie the game up in the third at 2-2. It seems the Sharks forgot what it was like to have a lead so late in the game.

The Sharks actually attempted to score in overtime, coming as a shock to me. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find the back of the net. A shot from the point doomed San Jose, and they leave HP Pavilion with one point.

It’s like McLellan is a one-period coach. He sure can get the guys ready to play and spark them for one period, but after that, it’s disgusting. That’s not on the coach though. He can turn the key to the ignition, but the players have to step on the gas and keep the pedal down.

I’m just glad this string of crappy play is happening now and not at the very end of the season. That occurred last year and we all know what went down in the playoffs.

Fight!

Brad Staubitz finally decided to appear, in his first scrap since Jody Shelley was traded. He took on Nick Tarnasky, and it was an uneventful affair. The two swung each other in circles before falling to the ice.

Manny Malhotra took it upon himself to defend Joe Pavelski in the third period. Jason Garrison slammed Pavs’ head into the boards, which sent Malhotra off. The two tussled, but it also was dull. Malhotra received an instigator and 10-minute misconduct for it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  FLA 36; Scott Nichol and Dany Heatley both had six.

No photos were posted for the game. Odd.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim tomorrow to take on the Ducks.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 54

Quite the justice game for the Sharks as they took down the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 tonight. The win puts the Sharks 5-0 against the Ducks this season.

Say what you want about regular season games and getting vengeance against teams who ousted you in the playoffs, but this feels awesome. If the Ducks did make it to the playoffs and the Sharks faced them again, these five wins mean nothing, but I’m living in the moment. Cross that bridge when or if they get there. Right now, we beat the Ducks at their best so enjoy it.

First thing that must be addressed was the awful feed of the game on NHL GameCenter. I think the feed is up to the broadcasters and Anaheim did a poor job with their cameras. The game looked like it was being viewed through a smog filter. On top of that it was blurry and you have the boring Ducks announce team. A recipe for a non-fun viewing experience. Nevertheless, I and other Sharks fans endured.

The Sharks had to endure this game without Dan Boyle’s services because of an upper body injury. From the reports I’ve read, he’ll miss the big inter-conference showdown with Buffalo on Saturday, too. He should be back next week.

Being on this hot streak recently, the Ducks tried to send a message with a couple fights and keeping things intense. It backfired.

Ryane Clowe and George Parros had a dance four minutes in. It was a welcome change from seeing Jody Shelley always fight Parros. Clowe beat down Ron Jeremy, Jr., and it started off the game fantastically.

Brad Staubitz and Nick Boynton tangoed six minutes later. Haymaker after haymaker ensued, but Bitz got the best of Boynton putting the Sharks in control of the momentum.

Take seat, duckling. I make Swedish bonesaw--errr, meatballs-- for you. (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Ducks were charged with a four minute high-sticking penalty, and it took 3:55 for the Sharks to convert. Better late than never, of course. Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored off a wrist shot near the blue line.

Anaheim started to build their own momentum, but it was crushed when Rob Blake found the twine. He was set up by an absolutely beautiful pass from Joe Thornton.

As you probably already guessed, goalie Evgeni Nabokov allowed his trademark one goal. Again. The Sharks held on to win.

Penalty Destroyers

No extra-man goals for the Ducks. The Sharks’ penalty kill unit stopped all five chances.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 24  ANA 22; Jody Shelley led with four.

As I eluded to earlier, the Sabres continue their road trip by playing San Jose on Saturday.

–Ray

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 9

Quite the lackadaisical performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Sharks hadn’t lost to the Caps since Feb. 20, 1999, but this new lethargic team ended that streak tonight. It’s the first game this season where not one player showed any sort of spark or effort. It was disheartening. It’d be nice to have a media member ask all the Sharks where their heads our at. But I guarantee they all would say, “I think the effort was there, we just weren’t executing.” Yea right, let’s get real. Maybe Dan Boyle would be honest; he usually is, but that canned answer is what you would get.

Before I continue, let me just explain how I am. Many Sharks fans will point out that it’s just the beginning of the season and they’re still trying to find chemistry.

Sorry, but I’m not like that. I’m not patient at all. And contrary to popular belief, these games mean the same as ones in March. I’ll let you be patient, but allow me the luxury of being impatient.

Anyway, the first period was difficult to watch. San Jose took five penalties during the frame, and were slow. Luckily, the Caps only converted once on a 5 on 3, and the Sharks escaped. Benn Ferriero knotted it up at the end of the first on a nice passing play — that would be the last string of tape-to-tape passes in the game.

Alex Ovechkin scores his second goal in 28 seconds

Alex Ovechkin scores his second goal in 28 seconds (From SJSHARKS.com)

Alex Ovechkin scored two goals in 28 seconds, in the second stanza — his first goals against the Sharks ever. The Sharks lost any sort of mental sturdiness after that sequence; there was to be no magic comeback like there was against the Los Angeles Kings.

The board play was terrible. Sharks players randomly kicked the puck from the halfboards to empty space or Caps players. The offense was non-existent. Players dumped it in with no teammates showing any intention of recovering it. I remember one instance in particular that summed it up: Joe Thornton came down the left side, dumped it in, the puck went around the back of the net, Caps player tied up a Sharks player, and the puck (still rolling from Joe’s dump) went to Brooks Laich, who started a Caps breakout.

I can’t think of a word for the defense. Let’s just keep it simple: bad. Kent Huskins wins dunce of the night for being Kent Huskins. It’s time to bring up Nick Petrecki. Cut the Derek Joslin trash. He is going nowhere in this league, but Petrecki is.

It’s also time to bring up Logan Couture or Ryan Vesce. As much as I like the tough guys, they aren’t doing anything important.

Manny Malhotra is an absolute joke. He has done nothing at all. Time to fish or cut bait, and I’m liking the latter right now. He doesn’t have any skills, so I have no clue how he made the team. Get him out of San Jose, ASAP.

Other Notes

Wish I had some. The Sharks stunk.

I will say if this keeps up, the Sharks are going 0-6 on this road trip. There were no signs tonight of anything positive to make me think otherwise. The Sharks need an 8-0 loss; maybe then they’ll wake up.

–Ray

October 16, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 1

Here it is.

The season is upon us, and the Sharks are set to take ice against the Colorado Avalanche. What seems to be an easy win for San Jose, could easily turn into an ugly affair. With the bottom half of the Sharks offensive line basically brand new, and the addition of Dany Heatley to the top line, chemistry could be a big problem tonight.

Head coach Todd McClellan told the media the bottom 6 players have more grit than last year’s group. I’m trying to figure out how. Last year, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Grier and company seemed to be quite gritty — at least, that’s why management told us. Those players were supposed to be the gritty players we needed to get over the hump. Now we find out they really weren’t gritty enough. Just how exactly do you determine grit? Do you serve the players with bacon, eggs and toast and gauge their reaction?

I keed. I keed.

I was disappointed when McClellan sent Nick Petrecki and Logan Couture back down to Worcester for development. I believe he said they didn’t quite understand the speed of the NHL game. That’s unfortunate. I think we need younger players like that, because right now, the Sharks prospect pool is just deep enough to submerge a puck.

A couple youngsters are still in the running to make the team, though. Defenseman Jason Demers and forward Benn Ferriero remain. I’ve looked at Ferriero as Torrey Mitchell, Jr. A couple years back, Mitchell came out of nowhere to dominate preseason play and so has Ferriero. Both are short, fast and determined. They aren’t calm and collected like most of our top six forwards. Mithcell and Ferriero actually play like it’s their last shift — what I think is the most admirable quality of a hockey player.

Mitchell has tendinitis in his knee and may not be back for a couple weeks, leaving the door open for Ferriero.

As for the Sharks goaltending, I’ve been Evgeni Nabokov’s number one supporter. But his weak goals and 5-hole have weakened me to the point of “eh.” He will play 70+ games barring injury, though, because our young goalie prospects haven’t proven themselves. Goalie is our deepest prospect pool, but the likes of Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith were sent down to Worcester to continue development. That leaves Thomas Greiss, who I have as much confidence in as Katy Perry kissing a girl and not liking it.

Defenseman Rob Blake was named captain of the team yesterday —  a decision a lot of fans don’t like from what I’ve read. Obviously, the team doesn’t see a long-term captain just yet and they want to go with the sure bet. I have no problem with it, especially since Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton will wear A’s. Blake is more than capable and speaks honestly with the media. Boyle does the same so maybe they should have a second C. Regardless, it’s better than having Patrick Marleau as captain. I love Patty, but he was just to quiet and reserved to be captain of a team.

It’s going to be difficult to not think about the playoffs during the 82-game regular season, but I will certainly try to keep things on a game-by-game basis as so many coaches do. (I think we all know that mentality is BS.)

Hopefully, the Sharks can exploit the Avalanche’s weak goaltending and see some offense. With the retiring of Joe Sakic’s jersey tonight, expect a lot more heart from Avs players — for about the first five minutes. Those kind of ceremonies only affect the very beginning of the game, in my opinion.

It’s a shame DirecTV and Versus are still in their childlike squabble, and I have to find some place on the internet broadcasting the game. I’ll cope. Enjoy the games everyone! Hockey’s back!

–Ray

Who’s OUT from last year?

WhosOut

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lace ’em up: The 2008 NHL season begins Saturday

Lace up your skates and hit the ice — it’s hockey time.

Ron Cortes/MCTPittsburg Penguins’ Sidney Crosby celebrates a goal by Ryan Malone during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The NHL season starts Saturday in Prague, Czech Republic, with the New York Rangers taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season begins after numerous offseason signings and trades that are sure to shake up the standings. Will the Detroit Red Wings repeat? How will the local teams, Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, do? Which team is the dark horse? Which team will tumble into the depths of last place? Those questions will all be answered.

Following their Stanley Cup Finals victory, the Red Wings decided it would be best to sign another sniper — Marian Hossa. Surely, this will keep Detroit in the upper echelon of the Western Conference, but things will not be as easy this year. Goalie Dominik Hasek finally retired and defenseman Nick Lidstrom is one year older, as is Chris Chelios. Age has always been a factor for Detroit but they are winners in Hockeytown. However, the Central division, which Detroit is a part of, has been retooled and looks very formidable for the defending champs.

The Chicago Blackhawks are the team to watch in this division, and in the whole NHL. With their two young stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane (both could be sophomores or juniors with us here at Virginia Tech), Chicago could easily challenge Detroit for the division crown. Its defense has been bolstered with offseason acquisition Brian Campbell, bringing offense to their blueline. The question mark for Chicago is its goaltender, Cristobal Huet. If he can match his second half of last season with Washington, Chicago will be in tremendous shape.

Let’s head back east and take a look at the defending Eastern Conference champions — the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens lost quite a few players in the offseason, namely Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone and, of course, Marian Hossa. This is going to hurt them this year. They are in one of the most difficult divisions in hockey, the Atlantic.

Philadelphia is the main opponent for the Pens. There was not much movement by the Flyers except a huge contract extension for young franchise man Mike Richards. The past year allowed Richards and Briere to gel, and let Braydon Coburn break out into a top defenseman.

The Rangers lost a lot with Jaromir Jagr going to Russia. All of that experience and scoring is now halfway around the world. The pressure now solely rests with centers Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, both entering their second year in Madison Square Garden. The Rangers front office did help the loss of Jagr by bringing in Markus Naslund and blueliner Wade Redden. It will be a three-team race for the Atlantic title, but all three will end up in the playoffs. That means the Devils are out.

We will stay in the Eastern Conference and look at the Southeast division, won last year by Washington. Alexander Ovechkin proved again why he is one of the best players in the game, every bit as good as Sidney Crosby. There is a problem for the Capitals, though — the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa yanked Barry Melrose away from ESPN to be head coach, and with a slew of signees things look bright for the Lightning. This is the dark horse for the NHL. It would not be surprising for them to make it to the Eastern Conference finals, if they can sure up the goaltending.

Wrapping up the east is the Northeast division. Montreal goalie Carey Price, said to be the second coming of Patrick Roy, proved his worth last year. The Canadians dumped some useless salary and are still attempting to bring in will-he-or-won’t-he free agent Mats Sundin, your Roger Clemens of hockey. They should finish first in the division.

Montreal’s archrival, Boston is going to turn some heads this year. Barring any more injuries, they will be contenders, along with Ottawa and Buffalo in the division. Ottawa is going backwards, and Buffalo is at a stalemate. Now is the time for Buffalo to make its move. Watch for a big trade deadline deal for the Bruins.

Back out west, we find the Northwest and Pacific divisions. In these two, you will find some of the best goaltending and defense in the NHL. It’s all about hardnosed hockey here, with the occasional sprinkling of offensive firepower in San Jose and Detroit. The Northwest division lost a lot of talent and players shifted around to teams in the same conference. Anybody can win the Northwest — it’s that simple. Every team has a solid defense backed by exceptional goaltending.

The Pacific division is home to a perennial regular season powerhouse, the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks’ problems come in the playoffs, and that is why they fired their coach Ron Wilson last year and brought in one of Detroit’s assistant coaches, Todd McClellan, to give the team a new, winning attitude. This coupled with the addition of a revamped blueline — Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich — means the pieces are once again in place for a deep playoff run.

The Stars and Ducks are going to give the Sharks everything they can handle, though, especially with goalies like Marty Turco and Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Anaheim did not make any huge moves in the offseason, and Dallas lost a few key players from their Conference Finals run. That will not stop them from competing though. Both teams have superior coaches.

With all of that said, this looks to be another fantastic hockey season. More and more fans are tuning in and attending games, bringing back the love for hockey in America. It is truly a great and exciting sport. There is nothing more emotional in sports than seeing players lift the Stanley Cup after a strenuous eight-month journey. That journey begins tomorrow.

– Ray

October 2, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment