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

Philadelphia wins… unfortunately

Nathan was nice enough to give the nice side of the story but I will not.

I was willing to be nice to Philadelphia but after the owner of the Phillies told fans to congratulate the Rays on a good season, more than 75% of the fans booed.  Show some class.  You have obtained the title as worst fans in the world (although you kind of already had it).  You beat a team who came from worst-to-first, dethroned the Red Sox (who you would have easily got beaten by), and you boo them.  That is truly disgusting.  Enjoy not winning another title for another 25 years.  That is your kharma.

I have nothing against the players, though.  I have always been a Cole Hamels fan (not just because his wife is hot), and it was good to see Brad Lidge get the save, after everything in Houston.  I hope his streak ends soon, however, because I am not a fan of someone being undefeated.  I like to see people humbled.

As much as I want to shout the Phillies suck, I can’t because they really are good.  Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, etc.

As for the Rays, they are not going to be good like this again next year.  I picked them in this World Series because most of the time, heart beats skill, but not this time.  They are the new Colorado Rockies (remember they were in the Series a year ago).  Next year is Toronto’s time to shine.  Halladay deserves it.

For all the Philly fans, two words: JOE CARTER!!!

Go Blue Jays!!!

Epic Win

Epic Win

-Ray

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTHWWT – Week 7 (Ray)

Well, what do you know? I actually have a great week in picking! Sad thing is I almost changed my Dallas pick to St. Louis, but didn’t. Damn. The Pack crushed the Colts and didn’t allow Peyton to throw a TD. When is the last time that happened? Virginia Tech standout Aaron Rouse had a 99-yard pick-six too! Great stuff.

Chicago 48 Minnesota 41

I have pretty much ran out of stuff to say on the Bears and Vikings seeing as I write about one every week. Both teams need to figure out who they are and stop being inconsistent. The Vikes had more total yards, but Gus Frerotte threw 4 interceptions. That is not going to get anything done. Adrian Peterson ran well, but because of Gus’ stupidity, Minnesota goes down. As much as I don’t like the Bears, I like Kyle Orton, always have. I wonder if anybody remembers Rex?

St. Louis 34 Dallas 14

This is another one of the games I am thrilled to write about. The Cowboys got absolutely thrashed and I got to watch it. Brad Johnson, playing for the injured Romo, was probably the worst quarterback to replace him. He played dreadful and should just go ahead and retire. What is Drew Henson doing these days? Dallas is screwed if they keep getting injuries; the latest is safety Roy Williams who is done for the season. One thing I do want to mention is why ESPN is telling us Wade Phillips job is safe. Of course it is. Why would you even bring that up to Jerry Jones? It is not Wade’s problem that everyone is getting injured. Stop trying to make stupid drama when there doesn’t need to be. Seriously, leave the man alone.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Dissecting the Blue Jays

This Blue Jays team as of late has shown the MLB what it can really do once it gets rolling. It was necessary for GM J.P. Ricciardi to fire then manager John Gibbons. He had shown the Jays’ potential but could never really activate the potential when need be. So it was time for a change. Former Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston replaced him and had a goal of a .500 record before the All-Star break. Toronto came close but did not achieve the .500 mark, but the message had been sent. The Blue Jays could come back into the AL Wild Card Race.

The Blue Jays lead the MLB in ERA with 3.55 and complete games (13). Ace Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett have been carrying the work load combining to pitch 437.1 innings and a combined 412 strikeouts. Unfortunately, their records have not really shown that with Halladay being 18-11 and Burnett 18-10. Still, the long innings these two pitch have helped to craft a very young bullpen still getting the hang of things. The only big name in the ‘pen is B.J. Ryan and has converted 30/34 save opportunities with 57 K – a solid season coming off Tommy John surgery. So, if you have pitching, you should be able to win games, right?

Well, let’s look at fielding, which was a problem for the Jays last year. After bringing in a slew of NL players in the offseason, the Jays are 6th in fielding percentage at .986. The defense is good, the pitching is fantastic. And the have a great offense already don’t they? With Rios and Wells? Not exactly…

Here is the struggle for Toronto: Offense. You can’t win games if you can’t get runs. Halladay doesn’t get you 5 runs for throwing a complete game, so the offense has needed to step up. Unfortunately, it has a little too late. Toronto is batting .265 on the season, good for 14th in the majors. A big problem has been missing ad that is a big bat in the lineup. Without Frank Thomas to protect young Rios and Wells, there have only been 117 homers hit out by Jays players: 25th in MLB.

Let’s focus a little bit more specifically on the offense. Believe it or not, there is not one Blue Jay that has 20 HR. The closest is Alex Rios with 17. Pitiful. Unacceptable in this day and age of the long ball. GM Ricciardi MUST address this in the offseason. If it means giving up a young pitcher or two, do it. You have got to manufacture runs. Keep in mind though, the Blue Jays have been bitte by the injury bug a lot this year, which they have the last two years. Only 3 players have played over 106 games (Overbay, Rios, Scutaro). Rios has been the money man for the Jays though, leaving me wondering if the Rios for Lincecum deal would have went through in the offseason if the Jays could do anything offensively. Rios has hit the most home runs, hits, doubles, and stolen bases. He can’t do everything though. He has got to have help. OF Vernon Wells just has never been the same since that huge deal a couple years ago.

There has been hope though! The last 30 days, the Jays are 4th in batting average, 4th in hits and the top 10 for most hitting categories in the MLB. They can do it. As much as I hate saying wait until next year, Jays fans, we are going to have to. Ricciardi will lose the big Burnett salary and hopefully can bring in some serious hitters, while keeping the main core of pitching together (Halladay, Marcum, McGowan, Litsch). Perhaps maybe bringing in a good arm or two for the bullpen. Maybe the slogan next year will be “Not the Rays, it’s the Jays!” Boston continues to get old, and the Yankees are a complete mess. It could very well be the Rays and Jays becoming the new Boston and New York. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

-Ray

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Baseball | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment