A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 68

Quite the Jack-in-the-Box game for the Sharks as they exploded in the third period and beat the Nashville Predators 8-5. Yes, there really were 13 goals scored tonight.

It was great watching Nashville practice for 40 minutes; we were all treated to an inter-squad scrimmage. Oh wait, hold on. My sources are telling me the Sharks were actually on the ice for those first 40 minutes. Who knew?

Nashville outshot the Sharks 15-0 in the first 14 minutes of play and outscored 1-0. This crappy play needs to stop. We’ll obviously get to the outstanding third period in a minute, but zoinks this was bad. Preds goalie Dan Ellis vacationed in Cancun, Mexico for a majority of that first frame.

Lo and behold Dany Heatley scored on the Sharks’ first shot of the game.

That didn’t do much for momentum, however, as the Sharks continued popping out rotten eggs like Jon and Kate, in the second period. Nashville increased their lead to 4-2 heading into the final period.

With the music finally exhausted, the weasel popped and jack thrust himself into the world. A six-goal period propelled San Jose to victory. I wonder what coach Todd McLellan said to the guys. Cap that stuff in a bottle and save it for the playoffs, buddy.

Joe Pavelski became a one-man demolition sqaud with four points in twenty minutes (two goals, two assists). Heatley scored his second, Manny Malhotra, Patrick Marleau and Jay Leach tallied goals as well.

It’s the Sharks’ 22nd come-from-behind win, which is now first in the NHL.

Torrey Mitchell received additional playing time, playing alongside Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau at different points in the game. He earned an assist tonight.

I really couldn’t believe that third period. I was chomping at the bit to rip the team for their sorry performances the last seven games or so. They need to finish this homestand off with another win before heading out on a six-game road trip. A winning streak is in the future for this team. I think this is the victory that will spark it.

Nichol/Superman returned to whip his old team again (From SJSHARKS.com)

Who’s Your Nabby?

So I read this article the other day from a Sharks fan about how Nabby’s increased playing time is hurting the Sharks in the playoffs. The horse is not dead yet apparently. The article came complete with pretty-colored line graphs! Oh how I love the visuals. Unfortunately, the stats presented are meaningless. I absolutely love stats, but I know how much they can be manipulated to make any argument. I’ll now try to show stats that cover both sides of the argument, but ultimately I do have a distinct opinion on the matter.

People need to shut their mouths about Nabby’s starts. Seriously. Shut. Up. I love how people will contend Nabby’s play goes down in the playoffs? Really now? Here’s some stats you might want to consider:

In the regular season Nabby has averaged a .913 save percentage and a 2.37 goals against average. Not great, not bad either.

In the playoffs, Nabby has averaged a .915 save percentage and a 2.23 GAA. WHAT?!! Ray, you mean Nabby has better numbers in the playoffs than the regular season? Blasphemy!

Yes, my friends, he does play better in the playoffs. At least, that’s what stats say. Now the eye test is different. Goalies must be able to elevate their play in the postseason or their teams will be doomed. If the Sharks want to win the Stanley Cup, Nabby must elevate his game higher than what he’s been doing. No question.

I just want to rid the world of these ridiculous “Nabby plays too much,” hollow arguments. I’ve seen a few people suggest we let Nabby go and sign goalies like Martin Biron or Dan Ellis. Some of these Sharks “fans” need to check their drinking water. Let’s get rid of a perennial Vezina candidate in favor of Dan flipping Ellis.

I should probably mention that this whole ‘letting Nabby go’ thing is because the Sharks have no cap space to resign all of their free agents this offseason. Nabby commands  a big contract (5.375 mil this year), and Marleau, Pavelski and potentially Blake need to be resigned. Nabby’s contract runs out after this season too, and someone is going to be left out.

San Jose should never have been in this position in the first place. They overpay players like Ryane Clowe (3.625 mil a year) and went out and got Heatley (7.5 mil a year). Trades must happen, regardless if the Sharks win the Cup this year or not. They’re stuck between Douglas Murray and a hard place.

I don’t think letting Nabby go is the right decision. Finding a great goalie is so difficult (just ask Philly), and I’m not ready to rely on Thomas Greiss full time. There are a couple interesting prospects in the system in Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith, but there a long way away from being NHL-ready.

I suggest Thornton or Heatley be traded. Keep Marleau. Thornton will always produce points, but his lack of emotion destroys the team in the playoffs. Heatley is undeniably an elite sniper, but Marleau is better than him defensively and in lighting the lamp (this year).

I’d love to keep this team together, but this money situation sucks. But I’ve digressed.

Here’s an intriguing slew of stats to consider about goalie GAA in the playoffs:

Goalie A: 1.98

Goalie B: 2.09

Goalie C: 2.23

Goalie D: 2.30

Goalie E: 2.45

Obviously, you know which goalie Nabby is (C). The others? A is Brodeur, B is Osgood, D is Roy and E is Fleury. Nabby finds himself in the middle of four Cup winners. I think he’s done just fine; he needs more offensive support to win these games (along with the aforementioned elevation of play).

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  NSH 25; Niclas Wallin and Brad Staubitz led with four.

Florida visits the tank on Saturday.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 47

Quite the S.S.D.D. performance by the Sharks as they once again lose to the Detroit Red Wings, 4-1. There must have been some rule put in place after the lockout not allowing the Sharks to ever beat Detroit. If they do, they get fined.

What’s most annoying is the Wings always play their best against San Jose. The Sharks can never crush them because they always play their worst against Detroit. This completely sucks. I can’t stand Detroit. I really hope they miss the playoffs, but that won’t happen.

Their goalie Jimmy Howard has been hot lately and that continued as he made 31 saves. As much confidence as this may give Wings fans, Howard will ever be a number-one goalie. He is not that good. Just watch how quickly they switch to Chris Osgood in the playoffs.

For the first five minutes, the Sharks looked ready to blow out Detroit. They looked like a Michael Johnson racing Rosie O’Donnell. They cashed in midway through the first, then everything fell apart faster than Tiger Woods’ image. Mailing it in would be an understatement. Nobody shined through the complete dismay. Everyone played poorly.

Jason Demers was called up, but even he played terrible. One of his two dumb turnovers led to a breakaway goal. Turnovers plagued all Sharks though. Ryane Clowe’s big turnover led to a breakout resulting in another Detroit goal. For the second straight game, the Sharks recorded 20 giveaways. Two games is a trend, so if it happens next game, the Sharks are in deep trouble.

Oooooooo, rubbery. (From SJSHARKS.com)

But I want to go back to this mentality the Sharks have against the Red Wings. After all the playoff failures, so many fans, media, and even coaches told the players to mimic the Red Wings. I think it’s wore on them so much and with every game against Detroit, they put so much pressure on themselves to beat them. It backfires; they lose and feel like everything they’ve been taught failed.

The only way the Sharks are going to be successful is to find their own style, and they haven’t done that in coach Todd McLellan’s tenure. He brought over Detroit’s style of play and used it throughout his first year; get people in front of the net, put 40+ shots on net, out-skate people. It worked enough to earn a President’s trophy. After being bounced in the first round, McLellan realized this isn’t Detroit. These are different players.

So this year, he’s emphasized playing the gritty style of play, which I associate mostly with the Nashville Predators. Management even brought over two Predators, Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer, to further bring the tough style to fruition. The jury won’t be out until playoff time, but I don’t like the how the Sharks always strive to be someone else. Ultimately it’s up to the players to decide who they want to be, but that’s not enough. The players must battle to achieve their goals, not wait for it to come to them.

As much as I hate to say it, this core of players doesn’t seem like they “want it.” They’re too relaxed and non-confrontational. I’m not talking about on the ice; I’m talking about their personalities. Hopefully I’m wrong.

Setoguchi Steamed

Seto got ticked at Dan Cleary for driving him into the net, and the two dropped the gloves. Seto was pumping him with fists before Cleary chickened out by throwing himself on top of Seto.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 24  DET 18; Nichol led with five.

The Sharks have lost two of three, and they will travel to Los Angeles on Monday.

–Ray

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 19

Quite the courageous performance by the Sharks, despite losing to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1, in a shootout. It ends their six-game winning streak, but they keep in-tact their seven-game point streak. Thinking about all the adversity the Sharks face coming into this game, it’s hard to be mad at them for not pulling this one out.

Allow me to discuss some of that opposition.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Sharks are injured. It’s like Stalingrad in San Jose. Players injured consist of Ryan Vesce, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski and Rob Blake. None of those guys are expendable. Maybe Vesce, but remember he was scoring like crazy on the top line. Dany Heatley got hit hard in tonight’s game and all fans held their breath. He returned and looked fine, however.

The Sharks called up Derek Joslin and Joe Callahan. Yea, that creates a hell of a lot of opposition when you call up those two.

This was the second of back-to-back games.

The Sharks have been on the road seemingly the whole season. Constant travel and stinky motel rooms will do a number on you.

The Sharks never win in Detroit. This is just a weird fact of life. They have a few wins at the Joe, but San Jose always finds a way to come out with a loss there.

And this is all before opening faceoff! Yet, these guys came out, exhausted, lethargic and earned a point. Outstanding.

Logan Couture scored his first goal of his career tonight on a wrister between the legs of goalie Chris Osgood. I really wish this kid could get a better opportunity with a higher line rather than meandering around with Jody Shelley. With the injuries, he’s going to be sent back down to Worcester, so put him on the top or second line for a few shifts. See what happens.

Picture 9

Logan Couture celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

OK, so let’s jump out of Optimismville and get into some criticism, shall we? Goalie Evgeni Nabokov gives me heart attacks with his puck handling. He’s been giving the puck away to opposition on a consistent basis lately. I realize he wants a quick breakout — maybe because the Sharks’ breakouts have struggled — but Nabby, don’t put your team behind by doing something you aren’t required to do.

The Sharks power play forecheck was abismal tonight. I’m sure part of it was exhaustion, but they allowed a bunch of 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s tonight, while on the man advantage. Patch that up pronto.

The shootout was ugly for the Sharks. They didn’t convert on either chance and Nabby allowed two out of 3 chances. Ryane Clowe used the same exact move he’s used in the last two shootouts. It worked the first time, but the last two chances were easy stops for the goalie. Either come up with a new move for stay on the bench.

Brad Staubitz

Bitz was a healthy scratch tonight, presumably because coach Todd McClellan was angry with his penalties against the Blue Jackets last game. He received 17 minutes worth of penalties after a fight with Jared Boll. He was eligible to return in the game, but Todd kept him benched. As a result, Couture only had Shelley as a linemate. Bitz better keep his head together. I haven’t see Todd keep anyone in a doghouse, but there’s a first for everything.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  DET 32; Scott Nichol, Joe Thornton and Douglas Murray combined for 14 of those.

The Sharks go home for a week, and they will play three games at HP Pavillion against Pittsburgh, Nashville and Dallas, in that order. I think Thomas Greiss needs to spell Nabby for Pittsburgh on Saturday. I know it’s baptism by fire, but Nabby needs a break.

–Ray

November 6, 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