A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 63

Quite the weight-off-the-shoulders game for the Sharks as they finally defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 in a shootout. Detroit still wins the series 3-0-1, but the importance of this victory can’t be overstated enough.

Let’s be honest here. Detroit is going to make the playoffs. Yes they’re ninth right now, but come on, it’s Detroit. They will slide into the playoffs and maybe even go on a tear to claim the fifth or sixth spot. Regardless, they are a potential first-round matchup for the Sharks, and losing all four games to Detroit would have been catastrophic. The team already lacks confidence against the Wings as is, and losing here would have surely meant a first-round sweep had they met.

The victory didn’t come without fierce battling and lots of physicality. Detroit didn’t want to give up his undefeated streak against the Sharks so easy. How about 52 shots peppered on Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Nabby stopped 50 of them. He’s the sole reason why the Sharks won this game. Sensing a trend lately?

Despite getting shutout last night, coach Todd McLellan decided to keep the same players on the ice for the game. Ryane Clowe was extra feisty tonight. Within the first five minutes, he was up in people’s grills looking for something. He found it in the third when he and Jonathan Ericsson decided to tango. Ericsson caught him early, but Clowe finished with some power hooks, an uppercut and a takedown.

The Sharks scored their only two goals in the first period. Joe Thornton got on the board 25 seconds after Detroit took a 1-0 lead. Niclas Wallin got his first point as a Shark on Thornton’s goal.

Dwight Helminen once again played extremely well. He notched his first goal as a Shark, NHL 10 style: Torrey Mitchell stopped behind the net, skated out, passed across ice for Helminen who one-timed it in the open net. It’s his second career goal, and here’s some food for thought: Wallin assisted on Helminen’s first goal when they were both in Carolina. That goal was way back on November 2, 2008.

Johan, I'm constipated. Punch me in the gut to force it out. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Detroit controlled the second period, and they controlled the third period by tying the game with seven minutes left in regulation.

So we head into overtime. Oh prevent offense, how I have missed thee. The Sharks took their prevent offense to another level by taking a penalty with two minutes to go. By some divine intervention they were able to kill it off.

In the shootout, Nabby stonewalled all three Detroit shooters. Patrick Marleau, the Sharks’ third shooter, won it.

How sweet it is. My health has deteriorated throughout today, so this was a great temporary remedy to the constant sniffing and overall feeling of crap.

Mickey Redmond – the worst analyst in hockey

If you’re unlucky enough to get a Detroit broadcast, listen to this guy talk. How many things can he get wrong? Let me count the ways:

1. Saying Jimmy Howard made save of the first period when clearly Nabby’s sprawling blocker was.

2. Calling for interference when there was nothing there.

3. Saying Thornton should continue playing with no emotion and should not play angry.

4. Stealing Darren Pang’s phrase, “Holy jumpin’!”

5. Called Kent Huskins, Huselius for five minutes.

6. Saying Rob Blake takes a lot of shootouts for the Sharks (I don’t think he’s taken one).

7. If he says “look out” one more time, I will go off.

Obviously he only has this job because of his past playing in a Red Wing uniform. Shame. Someone else agreed with me too. Check out the #22 comment on David Pollak’s blog.

Stat Pack

Nabby has the worst winning percentage against Detroit since 1980. With this win he’s now 8-17-0-2 against them. Terrible.

The Sharks lost the faceoff battle 51%-49%. I think they’ve lost it a couple times against Detroit. I don’t understand how they can be so dominant in the circle, but lose faceoffs to a team who isn’t that great at them time after time.

San Jose led in all four Detroit games, only garnering one win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DET 34; Scott Nichol led with five.

Thornton started getting angry at Detroit when Datsyuk and Cleary kept being annoying pests. He threw Cleary down with one arm, which was hilarious. Need to see more of that, but we won’t.

San Jose goes to Buffalo for a game with the Sabres on Saturday. It’s the last game before the Olympic break.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 50

Quite the by-the-tip-of-Boyle’s-skatey-skate-skate game as the Boston Bruins beat the Sharks in a shootout 2-1. If it weren’t for Dan Boyle’s skate it would be a Sharks shutout, but that’s how hockey goes sometimes.

The situation came in the second period after Douglas Murray failed to clear the puck. A shot from Boston found its way to Boyle’s skate and deflected in. The goal came right at the start of the second period, after a fast-paced first period.

It was the way hockey should be played — wide-open, crisp passes, good shots on net, great saves, speedy skating. It was a stark contrast from traditional Western Conference games where defense is the name of the game. After the back-to-back games with L.A. and Phoenix, this game was a welcome relief.

Back to the game, though: the Sharks scored about seven minutes after the Bruins when Joe Thornton buried a rebound. That goal changed the style of gameplay for both teams. Realizing the goalies were playing out of their mind, both teams slowed things down not wanting to make a mistake.

Scott Nichol is not a fan of slowing down the play. Scott Nichol wants to pump you up. Scott Nichol annihilated Zdeno Chara in front of the net. Scott Nichol is a beast.

Nichol’s demolition of Chara may have carried some emotion over into the third period when the pace picked back up. Things weren’t quite the same because the whistles started to befall HP Pavilion. During the first 47 minutes of the game, no penalties were called. In the final 13 minutes, four penalties were committed. You can attribute that to fatigue most likely.

LOL guyz, don't worry. I need to do two 360's, the splits, and make coffee before I shoot at your open net. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Penalty kill units reigned supreme and the game headed into overtime. If you’re not a gambling person, you might want to get into it. I can assure you 100% you will win the following bet: the Sharks will play prevent offense, a.k.a crap, a.k.a Edmonton Oilers hockey, in overtime. Book it, Joe-Namath-guarantee it, swear on it, whatever.

Evgeni Nabokov must be furious at his teammates when they pull this mess. I would be. They don’t drive the net, they don’t take calculated risks. They just pitch tents in the neutral zone as if the offensive zone has poisonous gas. Get over it guppies.

Well, the shootout came and went with no Shark able to beat Tim Thomas. Another wasted opportunity to beat an injured team. Wait, deja vu? Didn’t I just see this? Oh yea, against Detroit. Probably the most injured team in the league. San Jose plays terribly against injured teams. I can’t give you an explanation on the Sharks side, but I’m sure the injured teams feel more desperation and work harder. The Sharks don’t respond well at all to that challenge.

Seto Report

No points, no ratings, no nothing for the second line again. Setoguchi keeps trying to weave around two defenders at a time or pull back his wrist shot when there’s someone behind him. Use your brain son. If you pull the puck back with someone behind you, they’re going to take it. Gasp.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 19  BOS 29; Nichol led with five.

The Sharks take on the Edmonton Oilers, Saturday. You might see Thomas Greiss in this game. Nabby’s played four games in six nights.

–Ray

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 43

Quite the end-with-a-bang game for the Sharks as they wrap up 2009 with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. The win snapped Phoenix’s 10-game home win streak and increased San Jose’s win streak to seven.

It also marked the third time these two teams have gone to shootouts out of four meetings. Phoenix is like that annoying sibling you have; you keep closing your door, but they keep opening it, peeking in and asking what you’re doing.

As much as people want to believe the Coyotes are a playoff team, they’re not. They will fizzle out as the season nears the end.

But they did dominate the first period, outshooting the Sharks 18-4. Thomas Greiss got the call to spell Evgeni Nabokov, and “Jesus Greiss” was spectacular. He is the reason the Sharks came out with two points.

Kent Huskins and Dan Boyle were the goal-scorers. Huskins scored on a seemingly harmless shot from the point, but Phoenix defenders screened the perennial thorn-in-the-side Ilya Bryzgalov. Boyle scored in the second period, and that goal was the 100th of his career. Congratulations to Boyle.

How in the world can I score on Jesus Greiss? (From SJSHARKS.com)

The big guys were quiet tonight. Joe Thornton didn’t score a point, which ends his 17-game road point-scoring streak.

One thing I’d like to address again is penalties. The Sharks scored first, followed by two Phoenix goals. After the Coyotes second goal, the Sharks took three penalties. They’ve done this to themselves more than they should lately, and the penalty kill managed to bail them out. I don’t know if it’s pressure or laziness, but if there’s any time not to take penalties, it’s after an opponent scores. Hopefully, this gets addressed.

Also, throughout the overtime period, the Sharks seemed content to go to a shootout. Nobody pressed forward; defensemen skated around in their own zone and didn’t pass. Now this has been an all-year thing. They seem more afraid of making a mistake than making the other team make them.

In the shootout, Greiss stopped everything in his first NHL shootout. It reminded me of Nolan Schaefer a few years back against Calgary, in the first year of shootouts. Ryane Clowe used his infamous backhand move to beat Bryzgalov and send the Sharks into 2010 on a high note.

Zamboni Fail

Before the shootout, the zamboni scrapes the ice in the middle. This time, the zamboni didn’t do a very good job on one side, which put the Sharks players up in arms. Was it intentional? We’ll never know, but it certainly makes you wonder how many teams subtly try to get advantages through the ice crews.

Stat Central

Even though Joe Pavelski missed his shootout opportunity, he is still 16-30 (53.3%) in shootouts.

The Sharks are no 16-1-3.

They haven’t allowed a first-period goal in eight straight games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  PHX 21; Clowe led the team with five.

The Sharks welcome the Oilers to town on Saturday.

–Ray

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 41

Quite the felicitous win for the Sharks as they defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout. The story of Pacific Division goalies trying (and sometimes succeeding) to steal games grew old weeks ago. Leave it to Yotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to keep the story alive.

He was robbing people left and right, up and down.  He definitely made it known his placement on Team Russia is no joke. Sharks goaie Evgeni Nabokov stood taller on this night, however, and legitimized his starting role on Team Russia.

But I’ll stop the Olympics talk there.

This was a fabulous game to watch. It’s why hockey is the best sport in the world — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The game featured defensive struggles, monstrous hits, intricate strategies, fierce battles ending in a pressure-filled one-on-one war between skater and goalie.

Folks, this is hockey.

71 shots

50 hits

36 blocked shots

65 minutes

1 Victor

The Sharks wanted it more tonight, and they’ve been playing this way lately. Only good things come out of a mentality like this.

I'm going to pump -- you up! (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Pavelski played outstanding tonight, notching one shorthanded goal in regulation and the only goal of the shootout. That wrister of his is top-5 in the league.

Douglas Murray played his best game of the season tonight. He just found out the other day he was chosen for Team Sweden (whoops, more Olympics talk). No lapse from him. He crushed people and put on a defensive clinic. His stick was in the right place, his positioning was phenomenal, his intelligence showed. I can’t rag on him at all after tonight’s game.

But I do have to find some criticism. Devin Setoguchi finally scored to end his schnide over the past few weeks. However, he took two bad penalties — one in overtime of all places — that really put the team in a pinch. The Sharks penalty kill stepped up in that four-on-three overtime situation, though. Nabby saved it for the Sharks and for Seto’s job.

Throwing in the Towel

During the overtime period, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett threw a towel on the ice to ask for a timeout. Sharks analyst Drew Remenda (yes I finally got the Sharks feed for the first time in months!) scorned the refs for not calling a delay of game. I’m not sure what to make of the towel, but how hard is it to yell for a timeout like everyone else? I’m sure they’ll be a rule against towels tomorrow, though, knowing the league.

Stats to Chew On

The Sharks are now:

14-1-3 when scoring first.

4-2-5 after regulation (W-OTL-SOL)

4-0 against the Pacific Division after starting out 3-2-4 against divisional opponents.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  PHX 24; Murray led the team with five.

It was a tough game for Joe Thornton; he was slammed into the goal post from behind and was a -2; the lowest on the team.

The Sharks welcome the Capitals to town on Wednesday. The Caps dominated the Sharks in their first meeting, winning 4-1.

–Ray

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 35

Quite the demoralizing game for the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks are now 0-0-2 against Dallas with both losses coming at home in shootouts.

Marty Turco is an annoying little mosquito, and I wish he would just retire. I’m sick of hearing “Save Turco.” He never goes away. I can’t stand him.

Steve Ott should be banished from the league. He isn’t playing hockey out there; he’s playing to get guys hurt, as evidenced by his blatant cross-check on Dan Boyle. Boyle got up and dropped the gloves, but it was Sharks newcomer Jay Leach who attacked Ott after.

Seriously, throw Ott out of the league. He is of no value to the sport of hockey — put him in prison.

Leach’s first game as a Shark was riddled with defensive mistakes. He turned it over in the defensive zone and was out of position. Coach Todd McClellan put Leach and Derek Joslin on the penalty kill, which is probably the worst decision I’ve seen since a World War II sniper decided not to pull the trigger on Adolf Hitler.

Joe Pavelski chases the puck, which will probably end up being a save by Turco (From NHL.com)

But the story of the game was the 11-round barnburner of a shootout. Amazingly, the Sharks scored just once out of 11 tries. That is embarrassing. Turco poke checked four or five guys and they still didn’t learn! Hello! If you see your teammates continuously poke checked, why are you going to attempt a close deke? Just shoot the puck with a quick release. Jesus Greiss.

McClellan should have put Leach out there for the 11th round. When it gets that late in the shootout, expect the unexpected à la Marek Malik against Olaf Kolzig (youtube it).

So now the Sharks finish a dreadful 1-1-3 on their five-game homestand. Surprising to say he least considering many expected a 5-0 homestand.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 29  DAL 38; Joe Thornton led with 6.

The Stars outshot the Sharks 44-35, and if it weren’t for the Sharks blocking 16, it would have been 60 shots against. U-G-L-Y, they ain’t got no alibi.

No time to think about this loss as the Sharks travel to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes, Saturday night.

–Ray

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 32

Quite the playoff atmosphere tonight and while the Sharks lost 3-2 in a shootout to the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks deserved to win. Karma is karma, though. The Sharks stole a game in St. Louis earlier this year and the opposite happened this time.

Blues goalie Ty Conklin is insanely lucky. He simply isn’t this good to make the saves he made tonight. All luck. It’s so frustrating to see amazing chances go by the wayside when a sub-par goalie gets confident. This game should have been 6-1 by the third period, and it could have ended 8-1. But nooooooo, Conklin always decides to play well against the Sharks. Prior to the start of the game, he had a 3-2-1 record against San Jose, with a 1.68 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. Crazy numbers. Geez, this guy is annoying.

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Conklin save for save though. He made a specatcular save with 30 seconds left to keep a 2-1 lead. However, he was unable to stop one more shot with 6.6 seconds left in regulation. That goal tied it at 2-2 sending the game to overtime.

Let’s go back and talk about regulation. What a great game to watch. Both teams played 60 minutes of hockey. No one took any breaks. The Sharks didn’t look sluggish at any point during the game and neither did the Blues. This could very well be a playoff matchup; however, I hope it isn’t because the Blues are like a mosquito to the Sharks.

Dany Heatley scored first from a Joe Thornton pass. He ripped it from a bit inside the blue line and Conklin had no chance.

The Blues got on the board with an awkward, change-up type shot from Jay McClement. Nabby looked like he just saw Ryane Clowe in tights.

Joe Pavelski scored the other Sharks goal in the second period. Douglas Murray took a shot from the point, and Pavs, standing right in front of Conklin, deflected it in.

Joe Pavelski gives Ty Conklin a serving of Wisconsin booty as he scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

That was the only good thing Murray did tonight. He did try hard, but he got burned bad by both T.J. Oshie and David Perron. Two times each. I hope coach Todd McClellan saw that, because Murray needs defensive help. Right now he’s just a pylon taking up space.

The Sharks power play looked outstanding. Unfortunately, they never converted an opportunity. The puck movement was there, passes were quick, decisions were made swiftly and the correct shots were taken. But like I said before, Conklin’s jersey must have had a few thousand four-leaf clovers in it.

This loss is tough to take. I can’t put it any simpler than that. A game-tying goal with 6.6 seconds left, and it was shorthanded — it just sucks. I’m sure the guys are extremely downtrodden in that locker room. Hopefully one of them thinks like me and hopes Conklin never plays against the Sharks again.

I can already hear the postgame quotes now: “Give St. Louis credit,” “You gotta give the Blues credit.” I really don’t want to hear that mess. Just say, “Well that friggin’ blows; that goalie is so lucky.” Stop giving other teams credit.

Shootout

In the shootout, Nabby showed his weakest part of his game – his infamously wide five-hole. Man is that thing big. (Pun intended).

Fight

Right off the bat, Ryane Clowe dropped the gloves with B.J. Crombeen. Mainly a throw-a-whiff affair, Clowe got a few punches to land. Clowe gets the win.

Also, David Backes was being a rat trying to get Heatley to drop the gloves. Heatley didn’t go for it, but Frazer McLaren jumped off the bench and went to beat down Backes. Backes turtled like a true coward, while McLaren got a third-man-in penalty and was thrown out.

Fourth Line

The fourth line of McLaren-Mitchell-Vesce looked really good tonight. Vesce and Mitchell played together down in Worcester and developed some chemistry. I don’t recall any bad mistakes from the line. They always seemed to be on the forecheck wearing the other team down. I hope Vesce stays up.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 23  StL 28; Murray led the team with four.

The Flames come to town on Saturday. It’s the last game before the Sharks begin a streak of 8/10 games against divisional opponents.

–Ray

December 4, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 22

Quite the disheartening performance by the Sharks in their 3-2 shootout loss against the Dallas Stars. The Sharks looked to be on the road to victory until they broke out their trademark lazy third period performance. I’m sensing a trend, and coach Todd McClellan better address it quick.

Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe were the goal scorers tonight. Heatley scored on a behind-the-net feed from Joe Pavelski, while Clowe scored on a wrister from the point. That’s about all the offense there is to report.

The game was all about the goalies. Dallas goalie Marty Turco is probably the luckiest man on earth. He had no right making some of the saves he did. It’s so frustrating to see a goalie beat so many times, yet fling his arms or stick out and make a save. I don’t think that’s skill at all. I can only imagine what it felt like to the Sharks players.

Picture 12

Ryane Clowe screens Marty Turco (From SJSHARKS.com)

Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov matched Turco’s saves to keep the game tight. One of the Stars’ goals was a wacky deflection that Nabby had zero chance in getting. Unfortunately, that goal came back to haunt the Sharks.

Enough about the Stars’ luck, though, this third-period collapse trend is scary. I think it was a couple years back in one of Ron Wilson’s last years, if not his last year as Sharks coach, where they could never hold onto leads well. They also got complacent and lazy, and it’s coming up again. I realize I’m not a professional hockey player, but come on. Don’t you want to beat every team 10-0 every night? Why do you want to take shifts off and not try? Please tell me.

This is a rivalry game. Pummel your opponent.

Pacific Division games are boring, I must admit. I don’t know if every fan feels this way about their teams’ division games, but they put me to sleep. Playing Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dallas is so lackluster. Anaheim is better, but I don’t feel any intensity. Maybe some of the Sharks feel that, I don’t know.

Why did Ryan Vesce only play five minutes in this game? He looks healthy and he was on that point streak before he got injured. Give him more ice time. He deserves it, and he’s earned it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 33  DAL 26; Douglas Murray had six hits. Jed Ortmeyer had five.

The Sharks earn another point by getting into a shootout to extend their point-streak to 10 games.

All five games the Sharks have played past regulation have gone to shootouts. They’re 2-3 in those games.

Next game is Saturday at St. Louis.

–Ray

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