A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

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

 

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 29

Quite the come on Sharks performance in their 5-4 shootout win over the Edmonton Oilers. After the 7-2 debacle last game against Chicago, I expected a bit more effort tonight, but alas, this is San Jose. Effort is harder to come by than a 2012 convention at your local church.

Patrick Marleau scored a hat trick with Joe Thornton as the set-up man on all 3. And every goal of Patty’s looked similar. All involved Joe being at or behind the goal line and throwing the puck to Patty in front of the net. Easy pickings for Marleau, who also tallied an assist later for a four-point night.

Ryane Clowe was the other goal scorer. He and Joe Pavelski camped out in front of the net, and Clowe pocketed the rebound.

Not many Sharks showed up tonight, unfortunately. And since all my angry emotions are drained from the Chicago game, I won’t be going off on them as much.

Please tell me why you wouldn’t play as hard as you could after a crappy performance. Your manhood was tested and you come back tonight with another ball-less act. You’re making a joke of yourselves. This should have been a blowout. Edmonton is destined for the NHL cellar and you guys needed a shootout to beat them? Really now?

I’ve avoided the Todd McClellan criticism, but this goes on him. I still don’t know what he’s like in the locker room, but if he doesn’t yell, that needs to change. This was inexcusable.

Joe Pavelski fights for position (From SJSHARKS.com)

OK, I’m really tired of talking about defensive letdowns but tonight it was as blatant as ever. One Edmonton goal came when Dan Boyle tried to bring the puck into the Oilers’ zone and was pickpocketed. A breakaway later, the Oilers were on the board. Another time, Jason Demers attempted a stretch pass, which was promptly intercepted. An offensive breakout later, another Oiler goal.

I guess I should just accept these kinds of things because that’s what Boyle and Demers do — try to create offense — but it’s just so annoying seeing it EVERY SINGLE GAME.

Tell Me Why

Kent Huskins and Derek Joslin were on the ice in overtime for a 3 on 3 situation. For the love of all that is holy, give me one good reason why those two have any business being out there.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  EDM 22; Douglas Murray and Ryane Clowe led with 3 each.

Torrey Mitchell returned to the lineup for the first time this millenium; however, we didn’t get to see much from him. He accumulated 6:25 of ice time with one shot.

The Sharks play Vancouver on Sunday.

–Ray

November 28, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 28

DISCLAIMER: Minor language. Proceed with caution.

Quite the piss poor, I-feel-like-disowning-you “performance” by the Sharks in their 7-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks should have just stayed home in their cribs and choked on their pacifiers rather than “play” tonight.

Joe Thornton: Hey guys, let’s step on the ice.

*SILENCE*

Team: …and do what Jumbo? Are you going to finish that thought?

Thornton: Ya know, step on the ice and succeed with good ol’ fashioned California chillin’.

Team: OMFG, you iz brilliant Jumbo! Why didnt us think of that?! LOLZ.

Give me a damn break. This was disgusting. Absolutely putrid. Um, helllllooooo? Um, hi? You little children play professional hockey. Sounds kinda cool when you think about it. How about you actually play the game. And try. Just try.

What the hell happened during this long layoff to make the Sharks play like a beer league team? They allowed three, THREE shorthanded goals. Two of them were on the same power play!

Nobody wanted to play, everyone played with jocks on their heads. Turnover after turnover, fail after fail. If there was any doubt left about our defense, those were put to rest. From now on, if anyone tells you the Sharks defense is good, go ahead and tell them to remove their secret Ducks jersey or to go watch the NBA.

What a joke. Jason Demers played his worst game of his career. Dan Boyle felt like playing with an injured foot because this was a big game. He did end up scoring very late in the game, but it’s refreshing to know he waited 56 minutes to do something with his life. He finished with a -4 rating.

Also joining Pimple — I mean Boyle — with a -4 rating were Thornton and Dany Heatley. For all the great stuff they’ve done recently, this game shat all over it. Good gracious, it was atrocious. They must be stunned to know you have to play defense too. What a concept!

Manny Malhotra does his best pylon impression (From NHL.com)

With five minutes left to go in the second period, the shots were 26-7 Chicago. What in the blue hell is that about? Seven shots after 35 minutes? I could get eight shots on net by doing cartwheels the whole time.

At that time it was 4-0 and after the fourth, Ryane Clowe took it upon his messed-up-nose self to take a penalty. Brilliant. What a smart hockey player. Take a penalty and you show those bad guys you can beat them even with a man down. Ryane Clown. Blow me up a balloon while you make a joke of yourself.

Let’s go ahead and give credit to Chicago. They came in with an exceptional gameplan and their coach Joel Quenneville and perfected it. Sharks coach Todd McClellan was lost in the Tao of Joel’s stache.

This is the Blackhawks’ eighth win in a row and they’re no signs of slowing down.

LOL WUT?

Frazer McLaren managed a +1 for the Sharks. Ha ha ha ha.

AHL

Five AHL players were in the lineup: Jamie McGinn, Benn Ferriero, McLaren, Steven Zalewski and Derek Joslin. Certainly looked like Worcester was playing.

Kent friggin’ Huskins…

…was on the power play. Yes. On the power play and caused the turnover that led to a Chicago goal. Don’t EVER put that guy on the PP again.

Optimism Corner

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  CHI 17

Faceoff Percentage: SJ 56%  CHI 44%

The game ended.

Other Dreadful Notes

The Sharks’ injuries are plaguing them so badly now. Rob Blake, Devin Setoguchi, Jody Shelley, Brad Staubitz, Torrey Mitchell need to come back.

Per NHL rules, the Sharks are required to play again. They play Edmonton in Edmonton, Friday.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 27

Quite the methodical win for the Sharks as they defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-2. The Sharks are two-for-two against Anaheim this season, and while this game wasn’t as dominating as the first, the result was the same: a win. Also remember this is the second time San Jose beat Anaheim at Anaheim.

It was KISS night in Anaheim. I can’t think of a stupider promotion. I was forcefed two makeup artists during the Ducks broadcast. I will say the makeup was more fun to look at than listening to the commentators.

There wasn’t anything flashy about this game; it was all hard work and determination. Both teams made mistakes — of course a few Sharks giveaways in their own zone stick out to me. But I’ve come to expect that, unfortunately, from the Sharks.

Douglas Murray was bad tonight. Don’t let the +1 rating fool you. He had so many giveaways and positioning errors — one of them led directly to a goal ten seconds later. He also took a penalty late in the second period, and the Ducks converted 11 seconds later. Dan Boyle was just a step behind tonight and couldn’t cover for Murray’s mistakes.

Frazer McLaren and George Parros get busy. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Things were frisky early with a quick fight out of the gates: Frazer McLaren vs. George Parros. Frazer won the first half of the fight, and Parros won the second half. Draw. Good to see Frazer making an impact with such a minute amount of ice time.

It looked to be another boring, close game after a scoreless first period. But the red lights were tiring out from four goals in the second. Ryane Clowe got on the board with a shot from the point. It’s his second straight goal from the point. Not the place you usually see him scoring from, but hey, whatever works.

Dany Heatley scored to keep his title of goal-scoring leader (18). It came off a Joe Thornton shot and rebound. I don’t think Anaheim was expecting Joe to shoot after his passes last game. That’s probably why the play worked.

But Anaheim hung in there, leaving the second period tied at 2-2.

The third period resembled the first, and I started getting deja vu; the game looked a lot like the playoff series between these two from last year. The difference? The Sharks were the ones who willed a goal out of themselves. Heater played passer and found Thornton coming up the side. Jumbo pocketed the puck perfectly to the far side to put the Sharks up for good.

People questioned coach Todd McClellan’s move to keep Evgeni Nabokov in goal for back-to-back games. He didn’t look as sharp as he usually does, but he was competent enough to earn the W. He’ll get a long rest because the Sharks won’t play again until Wednesday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 20  ANA 19; Scott Nichol (4) and Joe Thornton (3) led the team.

Every Sharks player who was on the ice for an Anaheim goal redeemed themselves; No Shark had a negative +/-.

The Sharks battle the Blackhawks, Wednesday at HP Pavilion.

–Ray

November 22, 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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 24

Quite the what-comes-around game for the Sharks in their 4-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks stole a few games from Nashville and St. Louis lately (what goes around), and in this game, they were in position to win, but couldn’t hang on. The lack of defense is starting to rear it’s ugly shark head.

While Sharks defensemen are good offensively, they are mediocre defensively; that goes for defensive defensemen Douglas Murray and Kent Huskins. They are competent, no question, but they are now shut-down quality. It hurts having Rob Blake out, but the Sharks have always lacked a star shut-down defenseman.

I don’t think it’s pertinent to acquire one, but perhaps some of the current players should attend a few hockey camps and learn some defensive fundamentals — specifically not to leave your man! Their eyes are always on the puck looking for a breakout. As much a fan of the couterattack as I am, if  you don’t stay with your man, they’re going to score on you.

They also need to learn how to clear the puck better. The d-men were terrible in the beginning of the season at it, they got better but the problem is starting to come back. There must be some secret way of clearing that can help them. I’m tired of seeing them exert so much effort for no reason.

The Chicago game was back and forth. Very entertaining to watch. Once again the Sharks scored two goals right after another. It took 45 seconds this time, compared with 16 seconds yesterday, to put up two goals. Tonight those two scorers were Jason Demers and Patrick Marleau.

It was Jason’s first career goal and it’s about time. He’s played so well dishing out assists, and he deserves this goal.

The Sharks got on the bad side of a controversial goal call. Joe Thornton batted a puck off the back of Cristobal Huet. He raised his hands him to signal goal, but upon further review, it looked as though the puck dropped and stuck on the goal line. That allowed the Hawks to come back and tie it.

Picture 14

Jason Demers (#60) celebrates his first NHL goal with Dan Boyle (From SJSHARKS.com)

Goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s rebounds haunted him tonight. The Hawks knew he comes out to challenge players a lot, and their game plan of getting shots and burying rebounds work. Hopefully no other team was watching because it worked marvelously. Rebounds left Nabby flailing like Hasek, and of course d-men were not in position to clear out the garbage.

The game ended up going to overtime, but Brent Seabrook ended things very quickly — 41 seconds into the extra session. Seabrook found open ice and received the puck cross-ice. He buried it past Nabby. Nabby tried to do his patented double-pad stack, but it failed miserably. If he would have stayed up and just pushed off his right skate more, it could have been an easy stop because Seabrook’s shot was kind of weak.

The third-period woes continue. The Sharks are not finishing teams; they’re letting them hang around in the third. They once again played well in the second, but I got deja vu seeing this same team get tired in the last period. I won’t put too much emphasis on that from this game because it was the back-end of a back-to-back.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  CHI 21; Patty led the team with three.

Dan Boyle was the goat tonight as he had the worst plus/minus rating (-2). Demers’ +1 was the only positive marker on the team.He added an assist along with his goal.

The Sharks point-streak remains in-tact. It stands out 12 games.

The Sharks travel to Nashville for a rematch with the Predators on Tuesday, just one week after defeating the Preds 4-3 at HP Pavillion.

–Ray

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments