A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 78

Quite the bouncy game for the Sharks as they muddled through some rugged play to defeat the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3. You won’t see many more deflection goals in a game than this one.

San Jose needed to step up with the absence of some key players, and the best way to do it is to get some dirty goals. That they did.

Joe Thornton missed his first game as a Shark with a lower body injured. He’s listed as day-to-day, but we all know how that has gone in the past (Vlasic missing 17 games).

Rob Blake didn’t play tonight either. A curious move, but coach Todd McLellan loves to use those “maintenance days.” Jason Demers was called up from Worcester to take his spot.

If that wasn’t enough, goalie Thomas Greiss got the call in nets, so essentially the Sharks sent out their B team.

When you beat a potential playoff team with mainly secondary players, it says something. Maybe this can, at least temporarily, put to rest questions about the Sharks’ depth. Sure Marleau, Heatley and Thornton are the main contributers, but to argue against the talent of Setoguchi, Pavelski and Clowe is futile.

Devin Setoguchi grabbed the role of top performer tonight with two goals — both deflections. His first goal came in the first period in the midst of an Avalanche assault. Colorado pounded the rubber on Greiss tonight with 45 shots.

Pavs watched Karate Kid earlier. Adam Foote stands in amazement. (From NHL.com)

San Jose survived the first period and took a 1-0 lead into intermission.

Colorado continued to shoot the puck in the second, even taking a 2-1 lead. Douglas Murray did not play well for the Sharks tonight. He’s been making some very questionable decisions lately and turning it over. Opponents are capitalizing on it. You won’t see it in the score sheet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Enough was enough though. The Sharks counterpunched in the third period. With blazing speed and a new-found realization of throwing the puck to the net, Dan Boyle and Setoguchi notched goals to give the Sharks the win.

“Jesus” Greiss walked on ice in the closing minutes to seal the deal. He had trouble with rebounds all night but came up big when called on.

It’s McLellan’s 100th regular season win; it only took two seasons to do that. Great job, Todd. Now convert that into playoff success, please. Kthxbai.

Roughing?

In the first, Brad Staubitz and Matt Hendricks did the tango. However, they were both called roughing penalties. Bitz received four minutes and Hendricks two. Clearly I have no understanding of the rules because both dropped the gloves and fought. I’ve seen fighting majors dished out for one second of punching. This one just baffled me.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  COL 29; Murray led with six.

Manny Malhotra suffered a broken nose last game after a puck clocked him right in the face. He was all stitched up and back on the ice tonight. No problems.

San Jose sweeps the short, three-game homestand, and will now travel to Dallas for a game, Wednesday.

–Ray

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March 29, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 76

Quite the vengeance game for the Sharks as they shut out the Dallas Stars 3-0. After last week’s debacle to the Stars, it was great to see the Sharks rebound by blanking them. Enjoy the playoffs from the couch, Stars!

San Jose continued the defensive focus tonight, and with the exception of the early stages of the game, there weren’t many turnovers to report. Hard to believe I know.

The lines were pretty much the same from last time with the big three broken up. I don’t see any reason to bring them back together anytime soon either.

The win helped clinch a playoff spot for the Sharks, but that was already a foregone conclusion. I have this awful feeling the Sharks are going to play Detroit in the first round. That would be the worst luck in the world. I’d much rather see Chicago play them so their fans can endure what we did last year against Anaheim. Bye bye Chicago.

Couture overlooks a dead-looking Turco ready to be buried (From SJSHARKS.com)

It was also goalie Evgeni Nabokov’s 50th career shutout. I’m sure some Sharks fans will say it was bound to happen sooner or later. These would be the same ones saying his play declines with more starts.

Dan Boyle and Rob Blake scored goals in the second period on the power play. Blake was injured at some point during the game as he didn’t play but half a minute in the third. Hopefully, it’s not too serious. The last thing the Sharks need is another defenseman to go down.

Logan Couture scored his second career goal in the third period after Devin Setoguchi made a tough drive to the net. Setoguchi hasn’t been lighting the lamp much at all but his physicality rivals Ryane Clowe this year.

But with all Dallas game, you have to deal with rats like Steve Ott and Stephane Robidas. Robidas already showcased his recklessness last game when he steamrolled Clowe into the boards. This time he went after Couture in the corner and Couture was slow to get up.

It was incredibly disappointing to not see any Shark go after him. This guy deserves some payback and needs his teeth knocked out.

Now Steve Ott thought it would be a good idea to elbow Patrick Marleau in the head behind the play. I am so disgusted by Ott. He is not a hockey player anymore than Lindsay Lohan is straight edge. Ott dropped the gloves with Marleau but Patty was overwhelmed by the goon before he could do anything.

Luckily, Ott was tossed from the game like he should have been. I hope he gets suspended for that elbow; I’m not entirely sure if it was really brutal because the camera didn’t zoom in, but it’d be a good precedent to suspend him following the head shot rule passing today.

A Bitz Late

Brad Staubitz fought Krys Barch in a minor tussle. Bitz got the better of him and took the victory. Been a while since I’ve been able to say that.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  DAL 24; Setoguchi led with three.

The Canucks march into town Saturday.

–Ray

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 73/74

Quite the flatline game for the Sharks are they show no signs of life and lose to the Edmonton Oilers, 5-0. This comes after a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames, so as if two losses weren’t bad enough, they were to Alberta.

It’s the sixth straight loss, and the loss helps propel the Phoenix Coyotes to first in the Pacific Division. You can say that as many times as you want, but I will never comprehend Phoenix at the top of the standings. They have no great players. It’s that stupid trap system.

I’ll go ahead and mention one thing from the Calgary game since I didn’t blog about it. Ryane Clowe decided to fight a “top player” in Jarome Iginla and it was a pretty even match. Other than that, nothing.

What makes the loss to Edmonton so mind-boggling is that it was to a goalie, Devan Dubnyk, who was 1-8-2 in the NHL, with a 3.96 GAA and .874 save percentage. The guy had a shutout until three minutes left in the game! Horrific.

Unlike in previous games where the Sharks played well for 10-20 minutes, this game had no effort to speak of. Despite Marc-Edouard Vlasic returning from injury after 17 games, and three fights, San Jose failed to come up with good play.

Zack! Don't punch me, bro! (From SJSHARKS.com)

The three fights were all Edmonton victories as well. Brad Staubitz, who has dropped off faster than Mount Roraima, Douglas Murray and Scott Nichol all got pounded. I’ve heard so much hype about Murray and his fighting, but Zack Stortini just annihilated him. Everyone can shut up about him now. He’s a bona fide pylon.

Nichol tried his best against Hilary Duff’s beau Mike Comrie, but ultimately got one-punch-KO’d. Staubitz is just a jester now.

There needs to be one of those movie moments where the coach does something drastic and outlandish to get the team to understand their predicament. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening.

The Sharks will win again this season, but it’s looking like it will be all for not.

Unbelievable Nerve

The first goal of the game came when Joe Thornton turned it over into an Edmonton breakaway. Once the Edmonton guy had the puck, Thornton didn’t bother to chase him; he just peeked back and skated to the bench nonchalantly. Wow. That does it for me. I can’t wait to see him off the team. Worthless.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 30  EDM 19; Staubitz led with five.

Next game is Tuesday at Minnesota.

–Ray

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 70/71

Quite the . . . for the Sharks as they proved just how awful they can be with two losses in a row to the Anaheim Ducks, 4-2, and the Dallas Stars, 8-2. I use ellipses because words just can’t describe how angry, disappointed and furious I am with this team.

I should have seen this coming. The last time the team played well might have been in January, and it was going to come to a head sooner or later. Tonight against Dallas was the night. It was the Chicago debacle, part deux (November 25, Sharks lost 7-2 to the Hawks).

Apologies for not having a blog posted for the Anaheim game. Unfortunately, my ride back to college took place during the game, and upon seeing the result, I really didn’t feel like watching it. The highlights were more than enough to enlighten me on the sloppy play.

It figures as soon as I defend Evgeni Nabokov, he starts letting in goals a two-year-old can stop. That was both in Anaheim and Dallas. Thomas Greiss relieved him tonight and looked like a lost redneck in New York City.

Tonight’s performance against Dallas was repulsive, but I can’t help but think about praising the Almighty. We all know by now how stupid and stubborn the Sharks can be, and the only way they learn is the hard way. Winning after playing like crap gives them confidence. That’s great if it happens for a few games in a season. Not 10 games in a row.

Dan Boyle supposedly yelled at the team in some capacity after the Anaheim loss and echoed those statements in the media. Boyle said half the team showed up and that they were “coasting” to the finish line like last season. Yes. That would be correct Mr. Boyle. It might be time for a late-season captain change. Rob Blake’s even-keel attitude has worn thin on me faster than I anticipated. And his stupid penalties game after game are driving all Sharks fans insane.

Boyle isn’t playing perfect either. He’s turning it over a lot lately, but at least he knows the team plays like a pile of manure.

Honest question. Have you ever seen a worse team with this many points? Answer in the comment section, please.

Let’s get into some specifics of tonight’s game while you ponder that question. San Jose didn’t help itself taking a double minor penalty right off the bat. More penalties and Dallas eventually capitalized.

Kyrs Barch dropped the gloves the first of two times in the first period — this one against Ryane Clowe. I expected more out of Clowe. Wild punches were thrown, but I think Barch had the slight edge.

After another Dallas goal in the second to make it 2-0, Barch danced with Jay Leach. No clue what Leach was doing, nor do I think he knew what he was doing; Barch won that handily.

Of course, that fight sparked two more goals from the Stars and it was 4-0. Nabby was pulled and Greiss entered the game.

Some of the Sharks players show their signs to the opponent before heading to the locker room and starting their dance recital (From SJSHARKS.com)

Then we have an interesting development. Stephane Robidas slammed Clowe into the boards — payback for an earlier hit Clowe gave Robidas — and Robidas received a five minute major and game misconduct. What’s hilarious is the Dallas analyst said he thinks the injured player shouldn’t be allowed to return either if the culprit is ejected (Clowe did continue to play).

In what dimension does that make sense? So, Clowe should essentially be “ejected” for being boarded? There’s a new low in human thought. Congrats analyst — I’m not even going to bother looking up your name.

This is where I was looking for Brad Staubitz to do something. Jody Shelley is gone; you’re the enforcer Brad. Do something with your life. It’s seeming like you were a lot tougher with Shelley to hide behind. Safe to say Staubitz’s and the rest of the Shark’s family jewels have retreated back into their stomach or just dropped off all together.

Proving my point about learning the hard way and seeing one of their own get demolished in the boards, the Sharks scored the next two goals to bring the score to 4-2.

The flash of professional-hockey-level play came to an abrupt end when Dallas scored two shorthanded goals in a row. Ah yes, the parallels to the Chicago game continue (Chicago scored three shorthanded goals in a row in the 7-2 game).

Dallas continued the onslaught with two more goals, as the Sharks hung up their skates and put on leotards.

I’ve just about given up hope on this team again. Every year after playoff struggles, I’ve managed to keep the positive thoughts going — even last year when they struggled at the end of the regular season. This time it just seems worse because there is only one major injury (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is skating now). Last year the team was plagued with injuries.

I actually verbally lashed out at my computer screen when the sixth goal was scored. It’s just plain ridiculous.

This team needs to start a brawl. Every player should be required to fight someone. I’d love to see that.

All hail the San Jose Sharks:  Dumb, Dumber, Dumberer, Dumbererer, Dumberererer, etc.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  DAL 29; Jamie McGinn led with four.

The “Minnows” next game is against Vancouver on Thursday — the front end of a back-to-back.

–Ray

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 69

Quite the reversal game for the Sharks as they lost to the Florida Panthers 3-2 in overtime. The gameplay was completely flipped from last game against Nashville.

In the last three games, San Jose trailed going into the third, but each time they came back to win. That was an NHL record. Coach Todd McLellan was all but pleased with the effort of the Sharks though. It’s been tough to find a full 60-minute effort this season.

The Sharks got the message — for the first 20 minutes — and kept pressure on the Panthers throughout the first frame. Things were looking really good; the Sharks scored two goals and held the Panthers off the scoresheet after one.

All downhill from there.

Florida turned the heat up for the remainder of the game, and with Tomas Vokoun making stops at key times, the Panthers were able to tie the game up in the third at 2-2. It seems the Sharks forgot what it was like to have a lead so late in the game.

The Sharks actually attempted to score in overtime, coming as a shock to me. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to find the back of the net. A shot from the point doomed San Jose, and they leave HP Pavilion with one point.

It’s like McLellan is a one-period coach. He sure can get the guys ready to play and spark them for one period, but after that, it’s disgusting. That’s not on the coach though. He can turn the key to the ignition, but the players have to step on the gas and keep the pedal down.

I’m just glad this string of crappy play is happening now and not at the very end of the season. That occurred last year and we all know what went down in the playoffs.

Fight!

Brad Staubitz finally decided to appear, in his first scrap since Jody Shelley was traded. He took on Nick Tarnasky, and it was an uneventful affair. The two swung each other in circles before falling to the ice.

Manny Malhotra took it upon himself to defend Joe Pavelski in the third period. Jason Garrison slammed Pavs’ head into the boards, which sent Malhotra off. The two tussled, but it also was dull. Malhotra received an instigator and 10-minute misconduct for it.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  FLA 36; Scott Nichol and Dany Heatley both had six.

No photos were posted for the game. Odd.

The Sharks travel to Anaheim tomorrow to take on the Ducks.

–Ray

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 61

Quite the Whac-A-Mole game for the Sharks has they pounded the Toronto Maple Leafs back into the the NHL cellar with a 3-2 win. It wasn’t pretty, but the Sharks did enough to withstand the newly energized Leafs.

The game felt like a Western Conference game. It’s always nice to watch the Sharks play Eastern Conference teams since we never see those players. But with the Leafs’ additions of Dion Phaneuf and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, along with Francois Beauchemin, it was like facing the Ducks or Flames.

Astonishingly, Giguere recorded two shutouts in his first two games as a Maple Leaf. After the first period, the streak was still in tact. Toronto led 1-0 at the first break after completely controlling most of the period. Phanuef was throwing his weight around on Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. The Leafs were skating and made the Sharks look very lethargic.

Jody Shelley tried his best to get some emotions going. He dropped the gloves with Toronto tough guy Colton Orr, and Shelley KO’d him with a right. You don’t see that too often — Orr getting dropped or Shelley KO’ing someone. So you might want to favorite that video on YouTube.

Right after was when Toronto notched their first goal. Rob Blake turned the puck over behind the net, and a cross-crease pass found Tyler Bozak’s stick.

The Leafs continued the pressure briefly in the second before the Sharks whacked their first mole. Dan Boyle shot a wrist shot change-up to beat Giguere. Yep, Boyle’s back.

Two minutes later Joe Pavelski wristed one past Giggy, and yet another mole was whacked to oblivion.

All right, Colton. This is going to be a one-shot KO. Jersey Shore Ronnie style. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Brad Staubitz sought redemption against Garnet Exelby for a knee-to-knee hit earlier in the game. The two danced, and it was a close fight. Both fighters landed some punches, and Staubitz claimed the takedown.

The Leafs would score in the last minute of the second to tie the game back up. Curse those relentless moles for popping up.

Remember last game when I gave you the statistic which read the Sharks are 10-0 in games with multiple fights. Well, make that 11-0. Ryane Clowe buried the puck with seven minutes left to give the good guys the win.

Nab-credible

Once again, Mr. Evgeni Nabokov did his best brick wall impersonation, making key save after key save. You just can’t say enough about how great he’s been this year. We’ll have to wait until April to see if he gives the Sharks the real bang for their buck, but if this season is any indication, the Sharks will be living well come postseason.

Welcome Wallin and Helminen!

Newly acquired Niclas Wallin made his debut in the #7 sweater tonight and played as advertised. He didn’t make any mistakes and finished with a +1 rating in 17:03 of ice time. He also recorded one shot, one blocked shot and one hit.

Dwight Helminen was called up for the first time as a Shark. I didn’t hear his name called much, though. He put in nine minutes of work and struggled in the faceoff circle going 1-4.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 26  TOR 34; Scott Nichol led with four.

The Sharks visit the reeling Blue Jackets on Wednesday. It’s the front end of a back-to-back — Columbus and Detroit.

–Ray

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment