A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

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

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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. 13

Quite the fast performance by the Sharks in their 4-3 win over the Atlanta Thrashers. The Sharks just looked quick and agile all over the ice, and Atlanta just couldn’t keep up — despite what the score indicates.

The first period was the opposite of what fans are used to as San Jose scored the first two goals. It was the second time all year the Sharks scored first — not a very good stat at all, huh? Not to mention the first goal was scored only 45 seconds into the game.

After criticizing Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley last game for having a grand total of 0 shots on goal combined, look who gets those first two goals: Thornton and Heatley. For the record they finished with eight total shots (four each).

Patrick Marleau tallied his eighth goal of the year just 55 seconds into the second period and should have had another soon after that. Patty broke away from Atlanta defenders and got pushed into goalie Johan Hedburg. The whistles blew but the replay clearly showed the puck in the net. The referees reviewed and somehow suffered temporary blindness; they called it no-goal. Analyst Drew Remenda was livid, which was amazing to hear because that’s what fans were saying.

The review booth in Toronto passed along that it the goal was called off because the whistle blew before the puck went it. This time it was temporary deafness that officials suffered from. The broadcasters played back the goal real-time with sound, and low-and-behold the whistle was WAY after the puck went in.

I describe this play in detail because right after that, Atlanta scored. The momentum of the entire game changed from a potential blowout into a squeaker.

Patty did get his revenge with his second goal of the night, but things didn’t feel the same.

Dany Heatley works the defense to fire a shot. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Dany Heatley works the defense to fire a shot. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Atlanta put forth a lot of effort into making the score 4-3 but Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov was up to the challenge. The Thrashers racked up 27 shots to the Sharks’ 24.

The Sharks are such a different team shot-wise this year. Remember last year when they put up 40 shots a game, every game? Seems like decades ago. I think the Sharks were trying to be too much like Detroit, and since that’s where coach Todd McClellan came from, the Sharks became Detroit #2.

San Jose is still trying to find their own distinct identity, so that might be a valid reason for their inconsistency so far, but like I’ve said before — no excuses.

Train Wreck

I think this is the third game in a row that I’ve seen two Sharks collide in the neutral zone. They’ve done it at least once a game it seems. What in the blue hell is that all about? I didn’t realize eyes are such a hinderance. Keep your head up or next time you’ll end up like R. J. Umberger in the 2006 playoffs. (If you haven’t seen that hit, take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3Gvfr9GUC0)

Ryan Vesce

He earned an assist tonight bringing his scoring streak to four games. Hes always taking shots, finding open spots on the ice. He’s a pleasure to watch. I do not think his scoring is because of being on the top line. He works his own magic.

Other Notes

Hit-o-meter: SJ 13  ATL 8

Brad Staubitz and Eric Boulton received fighting majors in the first. Not much to report on it, though. By the time the cameras got to them, they were on the ground. I really think Todd needs to choose between Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz. I think another speedy offensive guy could plug in for one of those two tough guys. We don’t need both. Bring up Logan Couture; he’s been on a tear in Worcester.

Next game is tonight against Philadelphia. We’ll see if Todd starts Thomas Greiss in goal because of the back-to-back games.

–Ray

October 25, 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

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. 8

Quite the humdrum performance by both teams in the Coyotes 1-0 shootout win over the Sharks. The Sharks were slapdash throughout the contest not stringing together two passes more often than not. The whole game was a giant hodge-podge. The Coyotes faired no better, and their style of play made for a top-5 contender for most boring game of the year. I really do hate Dave Tippet’s (Coyotes head coach) style of play. I can’t stand the trap — so dull; so monotonous. But Phoenix won with their tedious, mind-numbing play.

At least San Jose got a point.

The Sharks could have used to Drain-O to unclog the neutral zone, because that’s where all the Phoenix players were the entire game. San Jose tried to execute some dump-and-chase plays to get behind Phoenix, but they were always one step ahead of the Sharks.

I’d had to give the MVP to Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. He kept the game 0-0 and made so many spectacular saves — much more crucial saves than Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Phoenix’s shots were more potent and in open ice, while the Shark’s shots were just kind of “blah, here’s a shot, maybe something will happen.”

Scott Nichol and Jamie McGinn were the best players on the ice. They threw their body around and Nichol’s speed and determination were evident every time he stepped out on the ice. I thought the signing of Nichol was suspect, but he’s proven me wrong so far. Nichol had seven hits in the game and was 64% in the faceoff circle. Excellent stuff.

Once overtime hit triple zeroes, I knew the game would end in a Sharks loss. Nabby is so bad in breakaway situations — it’s nauseating. He’s now 13-16 in shootouts I believe. Yikes.

Sharks Goalie Evgeni Nabkov looks for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks Goalie Evgeni Nabkov looks for the puck (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sharks could have really used Joe Pavelski’s amazing shootout skills, as well as Jeremy Roenick’s shootout prowess, but hey, at least they sent out Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and Dan Boyle.

*Cue record scratching sound* Wait, what?

Heatley is awful in shootouts; Setoguchi has only scored one shootout goal; Boyle is 2 for 8. Why did you pick them Todd (McClellan)? Heatley shot the puck into Bryzgalov’s pads, Setoguchi shot it wide, but Boyle did make it. In fact, Boyle looked like an all-star forward with his forehand-backhand move.

The Sharks get a point, though, before heading out to their Eastern Conference road trip. They’re now 3-2-1.

Fight

Jody Shelley continued his punching bag status — this time getting beat up by Paul Bissonnette. It’s getting really old now. Shelley chooses the right time for a fight but doesn’t finish what he started.

Other Notes

Frazer McLaren was sent down to Worcester before the game and Steven Zalewski was called up. It was Zalewski’s first NHL game, but unfortunately for him, he only played five minutes.

The Sharks outhit the Coyotes 31-18 and and dominated the faceoff circle going 35-19.

Next game: At Washington, 7 ET. The Sharks better pick up the speed if they want to skate with the Caps and Alex Ovechkin.

–Ray

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