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

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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 51

Quite the taking-care-of-business game for the Sharks are the beat down the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. This was the best game the Sharks have played against the Oilers all season, and it was topped off with Devin Setoguchi finally returning to form.

Seto’s struggles didn’t have to do with his line, didn’t have to do with a curse; it was because of his…hair? Who would have thought that? Realizing his drought was becoming a bit ridiculous, he turned to his roommate Torrey Mitchell and Mitchell’s girlfriend to shave off his head. The struggles were cut away with every hair follicle to hit the floor. The bald Seto debuted tonight with two goals on eight shots.

Another catalyst may have worked in Seto’s favor: Manny Malhotra. Coach Todd McLellan decided to juggle the secondary lines because of the lack of scoring. Seto’s first goal came with Malhotra and Clowe; his second goal came with Pavelski and Malhotra.

Whatever the true reason for the sudden spark doesn’t matter. Let’s just hope it continues.

Hey Zack, how does it feel being on an awful team and being a goon? Double whammy. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Other goal-scorers were Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton — the more traditional players. It was Marleau’s 32nd and Thornton’s 13th. Marleau scored a career-high 38 goals last season, so he’s going to destroy that.

Thomas Greiss did indeed get the call after Evgeni Nabokov played four games in six nights. Greiss played solid, with a few of his trademark flailing saves outside the crease. Players covered for him though in those situations as they would collapse and all play goalie.

Not much criticism to give tonight. The Sharks did allow a shorthanded goal, but sometimes that happens. Edmonton is 0-5-1 against San Jose in their last six games. It’s always a great day when the Sharks beat the Oilers and to see the boys manhandle the Oilers was amazing.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 19  EDM 26; Scott Nichol led with six.

Malhotra was a perfect 12-0 in the faceoff circle, and the Sharks won the faceoff battle 70%-30%.

The Sharks took just one penalty tonight, and it looks like they figured out taking penalties hampers you immensely.

Another Northwest opponent awaits on Monday when the Calgary Flames visit the Shark Tank.

–Ray

January 17, 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. 45

Quite the wtf game for the Sharks as they lost miserably to the Los Angeles Kings 6-2. Despite outshooting the Kings 47-20, the Sharks couldn’t solve LA goalie Jonathan Quick or make up for their defensive lapses.

Things looked good early for the Sharks. Torrey Mitchell was on the power play and working hard with Devin Setoguchi. The forecheck looked strong, but the Kings struck first when no one marked Michal Handzus, who scored on a wraparound.

Two LA power play goals would follow on similar defensive lapses. Nobody wanted to mark their man or take proper position. It looked like the beginning of the season all over again, as well as the first game against Los Angeles where the Sharks were destroyed.

In the second, the Sharks put their best shots on Quick but nothing would get past him. Quick is something like 3-0-1 against the Sharks now. They really don’t need another Pacific Division goalie giving them problems. Two more LA goals in the period made the score 5-0.

So coach Todd McClellan decided to pull Evgeni Nabokov and try Thomas Greiss in goal to start the third. Thirteen seconds later it was 6-0. Yikes. Credit Greiss, though; he didn’t allow another goal, and the Sharks put two goals on the board to avoid the shutout. (Douglas Murray and Patrick Marleau scored.)

Is this open enough for you guys to score? (From SJSHARKS.com)

We all know this next statement was coming so let’s get right to it. The Sharks were 7-0 with Jason Demers back in the lineup, and now they’re 1-1 since sending him down. What in the world has to happen for the Sharks coaches and management to realize they win games with Demers in the lineup. You are not getting different results by taking him out. You keep losing. For the love of all that is holy, call him up and keep him there. Get it through your thick skulls. Sheesh.

I’d also like to address what a bunch of terrible announcers LA has. The analyst took it upon himself to mock the “Beat LA” chant at the end of the game. Yea, you wouldn’t do that at the beginning of the game would you tough guy? Very professional of you. That’s why the only job you could get was on a terrible franchise’s broadcasting team. We’ll see where your team is come playoff time. Probably on the couches, but if by some divine intervention the Kings make the playoffs, enjoy your first-round exit.

No Fights

In a game like this, I would expect someone to step up and fight, but no one did. Instead of opening the second period with a message, you guys waited to the third to make a goalie change. That was your message? Come on. Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz should have dropped the gloves. What’s wrong with you guys? Did the long layoff make you soft? That is what you are a Shark for; otherwise, demote yourselves to Worcester.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 19  LA 13; Three players had three hits each.

This ends the Sharks eight-game winning streak, and the three first-period goals ends a 10-game streak without allowing one.

The Sharks were No. 2 in penalty killing. They allowed three power play goals tonight.

The Sharks get a chance to rebound, Wednesday, against St. Louis.

–Ray

January 5, 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. 31

Quite the fun game tonight as the Sharks defeated the Ottawa Senators 5-2. Dany Heatley played his former team for the first time, as did Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Things were very spirited in the first period. Those three players definitely tried to make statements to their former clubs, and one was very successful.

Michalek netted two goals, so as far as I’m concerned, only Sharks scored tonight. He looked like a man on a mission to score. He pushed the Sens’ play and forecheck, constantly battled in front of the net. What else can I say? Milan deserved it. Buuuttt, the Sharks are too good.

A fourth man entered the ring to prove something; Patrick Marleau played his 900th game, all with the Sharks, and showed everyone it was a good decision to not trade him after all these years. He scored two goals as well and almost had a third, but lost the puck on a cut-in towards the net.

It was just a fun game to watch. There wasn’t a shortage of effort, maybe lack of intelligence (I think of one player to be named later), but all the players tried hard.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau celebrate after Marleau scores (From SJSHARKS.com)

Frazer McLaren dropped the gloves with Matt Carkner in the first to continue the entertainment. Unfortunately, McLaren dropped another decision. It was close after Carkner ended the fight on purpose by dragging Frazer down, but Carkner had more punches land. Frazer needs to start winning some fights soon and not continue this Jody Shelley syndrome.

Both the second and third periods started off considerably slower than the first period; however, things picked up about halfway through each time.

Ryane Clowe came through with a goal after a tough battle between Manny Malhotra and Sens defenders. My tune is slowly starting to change on Manny. He scored an empty netter tonight and has shown some good speed and toughness lately. But I’m not so quick to change my mind on people. Hopefully this stays consistent.

Thomas Greiss manned the net for the Sharks. He hadn’t started in two weeks so coach Todd McClellan gave Evgeni Nabokov the night off. “Jesus” Greiss sure likes to flail. Reminds me of Magikarp from Pokemon. Both Greiss and Magikarp have one move: Flail. Obviously Greiss is more effective at it. He made some spectacular saves to preserve the lead. This backup situation could get juicy next season. After the Sharks decide whether or not to resign Nabby, will they put all their stock in Greiss as the heir apparent? Or will they look further to stud prospects Alex Stalock and Tyson Sexsmith? Who knows, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.

The Sharks’ top line of Heatley-Thornton-Marleau amassed six points tonight continuing their William-Sherman-March-to-the-Sea trek torching any team in their path.

Douglas Murray

This guy took three penalties in the third period alone. What in the world was he thinking? Maybe he was excited because his grandfather was watching him play for the first time since he was in college. I don’t know, but regardless, this is the kind of thing that gets you in the coach’s doghouse. I mean, almost half of the period was shorthanded because of Murray. Use your friggin’ head, son.

Cheech ‘n’ Seek

Boy has Cheech ever fallen off the radar. He’s a third-liner in Ottawa and has been reduced to scrubbing the poop deck every game. Long gone are the days of him scoring 50 goals. Poor Cheech. Guess you really find out how good Joe Thornton is when the sniper leaves Jumbo’s side.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 21  OTT 18; Scott Nichol (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

Seto and Torrey Mitchell aren’t getting much important action on the fourth line. Torrey received an extra minute compared to last game and Seto’s ice time was decreased. I wonder how much rust these two actually accumulated, because I think we all know these guys are much better than fourth liners. Patience is a virtue I guess. Can’t wait to see them fully recovered.

The Sharks play St. Louis on Thursday.

–Ray

December 2, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 25

Quite the blinding performance by the NHL, Versus and Comcast by not showing the Sharks-Predators game last night (Nov. 17). There isn’t much for me to describe about the game except to look at the score and stats.

Well, the Sharks lost 4-3 in Nashville to have their 12-game point streak snapped. Thomas Greiss started in goal for the Sharks, and from looking at the bad-quality highlights on the Sharks website, the goals were a combination of bad positioning by Greiss and bad defense; no surprise on the defense side of things.

I can tell you the Sharks outshot the Preds 32-31. Even though they outshot the Preds 14-9 in the second, the Sharks’ best period usually, the Preds outscored San Jose 2-1 in the second frame.

Scott Nichol scored his first goal as a Shark from a tip-in play. He received the feed from Jed Ortmeyer. Other goal-scorers were Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Scott Nichol celebrates his first goal as a Shark (From SJSHARKS.com)

The highlights also showed some huge hits, which is normal for a game between these two.

It was the third road game in four nights for the Sharks, and I’m guessing it caught up to them. Coach Todd McClellan vowed to use the fourth line more in the game, and he did in the first period. After that, they hardly received any ice time.

As for why the game wasn’t on television, to my understanding Versus has some sort of exclusive broadcast window from 7-9:30. I think this game was one of the options to show, but they chose to air the Rangers-Capitals game instead. What a shocker. Come on now. When you look at the schedule in September, did anyone really think Versus would air Sharks-Predators instead of Rags-Caps? Let’s not kid ourselves; East Coast bias at its finest.

Sharks and Preds fans had to suffer. This was absolutely absurd. It’s the year 2009, with all kinds of technology and satellites, and no one wanted to broadcast the game to paying fans?! This is why the NHL needs to stop dry humping Versus and find a new partner.

Other Notes

Brad Staubitz and Devin Setoguchi were out of the lineup with injuries. Bitz had a puck hit him in the eye during practice, and Seto reinjured his leg last game.

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 17  NSH 19; Douglas Murray led the team with three.

The Sharks play Philadelphia on Friday.

–Ray

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment