A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 59

Quite the Jesus-Greiss-saves game for the Sharks as they defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-2. Greiss was the man with the plan stopping 35 shots en route to the victory.

Greiss’ patented flailing was toned down tonight — perhaps a good sign — and he looked comfortable in net. That could be for Team Germany’s scouts looking to solidify their starting goaltender for the Olympics. Whatever it is, I hope it continues. Greiss will probably get one or two more starts these next five games to give Evgeni Nabokov extra rest.

The Blues weren’t joking around tonight. They were getting shots through, putting lots of traffic in front of the net, throwing their weight around and skating fast. Those things made it extra tough on the Sharks depleted defense who were once again without Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

So much for Boyle ever being day-to-day. I remember the good ole days where he was only supposed to miss one game. What a sham!

As for the Sharks skaters tonight, they were OK. Patrick Marleau scored 21 seconds into the game after a feed from Joe Thornton.

Ryane Clowe increased the lead to two goals seven minutes later, and it was another early two-goal lead. The Blues rallied two minutes after Clowe’s goal. At that point, I’m thinking, “Here we go again. Just like last game against Detroit.” Those thoughts almost came to fruition several times. The Blues controlled the play and dominated for a good twenty minutes.

D.J., if you skate by me, prepare for urination. Just sayin'. (From SJSHARKS.com)

That brings us to halfway through the second period. The Blues were outshooting the Sharks 8-2 the first half of the second period. San Jose slowly started to get their feet under them. The legs started churning, the pucks started getting deep and whaddaya know? A goal comes about. Devin Setoguchi scored on the power play, swinging the momentum back to the Sharks.

Fortunately, the Sharks withstood a Blues comeback in the third. Scott Nichol sealed the deal with a slapshot.

I guess I should have kept the expectations a bit lower since this was the first game of a long road trip. The Blues have been a mosquito to the Sharks, so I’ll give them dap for swatting them.

Niclas Wallin

The Sharks rumor mill is churning with rumors of Niclas Wallin coming to San Jose within the next 24 hours. What the deal could be has varied. I’ve seen Wallin or a second round pick. I’ve seen Wallin for Jody Shelley and Derek Joslin. Apparently Carolina is gaga over Joslin. Maybe the Canes enjoy public urination and see Joslin as a centerpiece for that fetish. Who knows, but I hope the Sharks don’t give up too much. If they do, Ray Whitney better come over too.

Not Everyone is Like You

So I was visiting ChompBoard.com — a Sharks forum, and saw one of the members said:

“its the bull**** bandwagon fans that dont understand that this is a long ass season and losing 1 or 2 games a month doesn’t mean its the end of the friggin world.. it just shows that the team makes mistakes and there are still plenty of things the team needs to work on before the post season..”

Cool story, bro. Guess what? Not everyone thinks the way you do. I’m sorry, but I’m not just going to sit around and have no emotion for these regular season games. What’s the point in being a fan if you’re just going to go through the regular season indifferent to results? Who is the real bandwagon fan here when you’re waiting for April to roll around to really feel these panicky emotions? Ponder that.

I’m a sports fan; I’m a hockey fan; I’m a Sharks fan. If my team blows a game badly, I’m going to be uncomfortable with it. I want to see fixes as soon as possible. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m impatient. Woe is me for being that way.

You can embrace your “it’s a long season” mentality. That’s fine. A lot of people do. But don’t go around ridiculing other people because they are a different type of person. It’s ridiculous. Yea, what I just said was probably hypocritical, but oh well. I’m on a roll.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  StL 27; Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski both led with three.

The Sharks travel to Nashville, Saturday, for a bout with the Predators.

–Ray

February 5, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 23

Quite the steal-and-run performance by the Sharks in their 3-1 win against the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks were outworked on every part of the ice, but goalie Evgeni Nabokov stole a victory for his team.

I can’t remember the last time the Sharks were this badly outshot (39-17) and still came out with a win. But your goalie has to keep you in games and sometimes steal some. I wouldn’t say Nabby stood on his head though. Despite the huge number of shots, most of them weren’t clear shots at the net. A lot of the times the puck would deflect off someone, and roll around the crease before Nabby covered it.

The game featured a lot of big hits and intensity. Devin Setoguchi plowed two Blues players — Roman Polak in the first and T.J. Oshie in the third. The Blues dished it back in the form of a fight, which was one-sided. Cam Janssen dropped the gloves with Brad Staubitz and Janssen whooped Bitz. No contest at all.

The fight did help spark the Blues as they scored off a bank-shot late in the first.

Unfortunately for the Blues, this game was decided in 16 seconds; that’s all it took for the Sharks to score two goals. They came in the second period; Dany Heatley deked around a Blues defender and beat Chris Mason. Right after that, the Blues turned it over to a waiting Manny Malhotra, who shot the puck off Mason, and Ortmeyer batted in the rebound.

That’s about all the offense the Sharks could muster, except for the empty net goal by Joe Thornton at the very end.

Two of the three goals were on the power play, so that is still hot on the road.

Picture 13

Jamie McGinn tries to skate past Roman Polak (From SJSHARKS.com)

Once again the Sharks’ third period was weak. I wish I had a good explanation for this. Maybe they’re getting tired out there; their best period is the second, so maybe they’re wearing themselves out? I’m not sure. I would love to get in the locker room and ask coach Todd McClellan what’s up with that.

But again, the game belonged to Nabby. This is the front end of a back-to-back, and he’ll probably start again tomorrow against Chicago.

Givin’ You the Blues

Blues owner Dave Checketts ripped the team yesterday for their weak play. That obviously played a huge part in the emotion St. Louis played with tonight. I wonder what Checketts thinks right now about this loss. Gotta be tough, but I concede the Blues deserved this one. But in order to become that elite team, you have to win ugly. Not sure if the Blues have learned that yet.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  STL 18; Patrick Marleau led with four hits, while Seto, Heater and Douglas Murray added three each.

I saw Jamie McGinn on the penalty kill tonight. Can’t say I’ve seen him there before, but it’s good he’s getting rewarded for his hustle. That kid might be Scott Nichol, Jr.

I forgot to mention last game that Torrey Mitchell was reassigned to Worcester for conditioning. Big step for Torrey. Hopefully he gets his legs under him quickly.

The Sharks travel to Chicago tomorrow to take on the Blackhawks. Should be an entertaining match.

–Ray

November 15, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 5

Quite the deflating performance for the Sharks in tonight’s 6-4 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. I use the term deflating because the Sharks went down 0-4, came back to tie it 4-4, only to have a goal scored on them from behind the goal line. It ruined all emotion, including the elation of Dany Heatley’s first goal as a Shark.

I’m also using the rather tame word “deflating” because the offense — particularly the top line — played well and the power play showed up tonight and dominated. San Jose was 4-6 with the man advantage, with Devin Setoguchi scoring two, Heatley with one, and Rob Blake with one.

Now that the good is out of the way, time for some ripping.

The defensemen were awful in every sense of the word, with the exception of Jason Demers and maybe Blake. There were lambasted by the Kings forwards and the dmen had no communication at all. I think three of the Kings goals came from a weak-side forward who was wide open. Inexcusable. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was at fault for allowing the first goal. He tightened up a bit after that goal, but then sunk back into terrible positioning.

Jason Demers goes to the net hard (From NHL.com)

Jason Demers goes to the net hard (From NHL.com)

Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle allowed Ryan Smyth to punch in a garbage goal, weak-side for the second goal. I don’t know how you leave Smyth of all people wide open, as he’s known for being in front of the net.

Murray wasn’t done yet, though! He allowed Jack Johnson to skate right by him and into the front of the crease. Johnson batted a puck out of the air into the net. After the play, Murray gave a little shrug — oh the nerve. It was a pitiful effort by him all night.

The fourth goal was all Nabokov’s fault. Anze Kopitar shot a wicked wrister from just inside the blue line. With that much space, you must pick up the puck in that amount of time. Thankfully, Nabby was pulled after that one in favor of Thomas Greiss. While the dmen were mostly at fault for the previous goals, Nabby has to be a vocal leader back there directing traffic. He is to blame as well.

After the comeback, LA won a faceoff and Teddy Purcell carried the puck BEHIND the goal line, shot it at Greiss’ pads and the puck went in. That is horrid/disgusting/embrarrassing. An NHL goalie can never allow that to happen. Pay attention! What’s so hard about that? Besides that, Greiss didn’t play too bad, making some key saves to preserve that comeback.

Some other notes

Ryane Clowe was abhorrent — completely atrocious. I have no clue what got into him — or out of him in this case — but he did not have anything tonight. His skating was sub-par, his stickhandling was always an adventure (in a bad way) and his decision-making was nauseating. He was always a step behind, passing to Kings players or slipping on the ice. He decided to fight Wayne Simmonds at the end of the game, probably out of frustration from himself, not the team. When walking to the locker room after the fight, he slammed his helmet down. Good. He better. At least he knows he was horrendous.

Manny Malhotra was Clowe Jr. tonight. While not as bad as Clowe, Malhotra played like a slow, full-time AHLer. He actually came out with a firey passion, as did the whole third line, but sadly, it didn’t last. For a faceoff guy, he was second to last in faceoff percentage, with 46%.

Speaking of bad faceoff percentage Patrick Marleau was last with 36%, but this is a different situation. Joe Pavelski injured himself blocking a shot against the Ducks, and will be out for a couple weeks. Marleau moved back to his natural center position tonight, so he probably had some rust. He skated fast as always and played sound defense.

Final thoughts

The Sharks have their home opener against Columbus, Thursday. I hope they can stop being so wishy-washy, and figure out who they are. Individually, players need to limit their mistakes as much as possible. When players have terrible nights like Clowe, coach Todd McClellan needs to pull the plug fast and limit ice time.

October 7, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 4

Quite the dominating performance by the Sharks tonight in a 4-1 win at Anaheim. The Sharks absolutely eviscerated the Ducks on their home ice, spoiling the party for Ducks fans. San Jose won in every aspect of the game — a refreshing experience compared to the horrid Colorado game.

Benn Ferriero scored his first NHL goal to get the game started. What did he do? Went to the front of the net! He found the puck right in front of the crease and buried it behind Jonas Hiller, who got the nod ahead of J.S. Giguere. It was fulfilling to see the Sharks dismantle Hiller, after the debacle that was the 2009 playoffs. Jason Demers and Frazer McLaren picked up assists on Ferriero’s goal, which was their first points of their career.

Patrick Marleau continued his excellence by blocking a Ryan Whitney shot on an Anaheim power play, and beating out Whitney for the puck, leading to a shorthanded breakaway. Patty went forehand-backhand to beat Hiller. Perhaps the ‘C’ on jerseys is an extra 20 lbs, because Patty is playing 20 lbs. lighter. I’m looking forward to him having a career year.

Good news Sharks fans! Dany Heatley showed up tonight and the chemistry with Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton was on. Coming out of the penalty box, he found Jumbo Joe, who also went forehand-backhand on Hiller — looks like we found a weakness in ol’ Jonas, ‘eh?’

The same sort of play happened next period with Heatley along the boards passing to the slot finding Setoguchi who shot a rocket into the twine. Good to see things picking up for the trifecta.

Benn Ferriero celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Benn Ferriero celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Other Observations

It was definitely a scrappy affair as the teams combined for 80 penalty minutes. That’s what I’m talking about! There were only two legitimate fights (which weren’t very good) but a cornucopia of scrums after the whistle. I liked seeing that though, shows the Sharks aren’t taking exception to any kind of Corey Perry-esque activity. Douglas Murray did get a game misconduct for being third-man-in. Murray went to an Ivy League school; I thought he was supposed to be smart.

The third and fourth lines for San Jose looked amazing and completely gelled. They were always fighting for loose pucks and winning for the most part. I think last year, those lines fought but didn’t succeed enough. I guess when coach Todd McClellan said they now had more grit, he was right. A lot more determination out of guys like Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol tonight — both who were involved in fights and altercations.

Improvements

Marleau was 1-8 in the faceoff circle; that needs to improve.

The Sharks were 1-7 on the power play. They didn’t keep a constant forecheck enough and looked sloppy entering the zone. McClellan is supposed to be the power play guru, so hopefully that’s fixed by the next game at Los Angeles.

Overall, I was elated to see us disembowel Anaheim and hear their fans immersed in a deafening silence. Here’s to Anaheim not making the playoffs.

–Ray

October 4, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sharks Report I

6-1.

That is the Sharks record thus far, going into tonight’s matchup against the Florida Panthers. The Sharks are in the midst of their East Coast swing and the spotlight will be on Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich when they head back to Tampa Bay for a game against the Lightning. The Sharks are coming off a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Flyers, via shootout.

Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi scores on Flyer goalie Antero Nittymaki, as captain Mike Richards looks on

Sharks forward Devin Setoguchi scores on Flyer goalie Antero Nittymaki, as captain Mike Richards looks on

The 2008-09 Sharks look extremely formidable. Under new coach Todd McClellan, I can clearly see the difference in style of play, and it is paying huge dividends. Gone are the old Ron Wilson days of dump and chase and don’t shoot unless you see the whole net (exaggeration). All the players are working hard for every puck and through every scrum. I’ll highlight some stats the Sharks have put up this year, good and bad:

34.9 Shots per Game (2nd in NHL) 244 Total Shots (2nd in NHL)

This is one of my favorite stats to see. Last year was so irritating seeing our total shots only end up in the teens. Because of that we hardly scored 3+ goals, even with all of our talent. McClellan has come in and implemented an excellent, and quite obvious strategy that everyone should use. More shots = more goals. Simple as that. The defense has been instrumental in this statistic. Rob Blake and Dan Boyle on the point for the powerplay has been fun to watch. Blake’s shot is a fantastic addition to the PP. Ehrhoff is no longer the lone powerful D-man shot.

169 Total Hits (4th in NHL)

This stat tells me the Sharks are constantly forechecking and keeping up the pressure, and they are actually using their size to their advantage!! Something they wouldn’t do under Ron Wilson.

Faceoff Percentage 56.4% (1st in NHL) Marleau 63.4% (3rd in NHL)

Great stat right here. If you are going to have a consistent forecheck, you must be able to win faceoffs in the offensive zone. San Jose is doing it, and doing it well. This also shows that Marleau is being the player he should be. Being the captain, and helping his teammates get the puck and put it in the net. On that note:

Marleau: Points 8, Goals 4, Assists 4

The captain is doing his job. No slump here. With the media constantly on Patty’s case, it is great to see him rebound from a sub-par year to being on fire. Now, those stats only put him in the lower half of the top 20, but there is a reason for that. The Sharks are getting scoring from everywhere. Every player who has played for the Sharks this year has a shot on goal, even Alexei Semenov. That is amazing stuff. Marleau has 26 shots, as do Rob Blake and Devin Setoguchi. More shots = more goals. Philosophy holds.

No Shark is in the top 30 of total ice time per game

McClellan is rolling all four lines, and not changing lines very much. Last year, Wilson would change lines, oh I don’t know, about 60 times a game until they scored. That is ridiculous. McClellan is preaching patience, and although that is hard to learn, the Sharks are responding. Everyone is staying fresh and ready to go when their name is called. This will bode well for games in March and April, when you need to bring it even more every night.

Power Play 16.2% (16th in NHL) Penalty Kill 79.3% (19th in NHL) 8th in NHL – Power Play Opportunities

Here is the Sharks’ problem. Special teams is not helping them, and letting other teams get back into games. Being in the bottom half of both special teams stats is troubling for a fan to see. The thing I would suggest here is to get more screening going. They have gotten better at it, but still seem a little hesitant on the power play. Make Ryane Clowe watch a 24-hour video on Tomas Holmstrom. He is the guy that needs to pull up a chair in front of the goalie. Joe Thornton should stay there and then you need another dangler/shooter. Cheechoo or Pavelski would be a good addition there. As for the backline, Boyle and Blake should stay. If there continues to be problems, switch it up and try Ehrhoff or Vlasic (to allow no more shorthanded goals).

73 Giveaways 41 Takeaways

This is a tricky stat. I think the giveaways stem from a lot of time in the offensive zone, so there is more of a chance to turn the puck over. Still, protect the puck better and don’t make dumb passes to the middle when no one is there. Cut down that number 73, it does not look good, and another reason why Jeff Carter score 2 SHG on the Sharks on back-to-back nights.

It really is great to see the Sharks show some actual character. When their opponent scores they don’t give up anymore, and when they get ahead by 2, they don’t relax. I cannot tell you how many times I saw that last year. Keep up that pressure, and don’t blow leads. I think McClellan is doing an excellent job so far with the Sharks’ 6-1 record. Continue to progress, evolve, and gel into the best hockey team possible. First thing’s first. Take care of Florida tonight.

– Ray

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment