A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 55

Quite the electrifying game tonight as the Sharks slayed the Sabres 5-2. Lethargic people need not apply as this game was high octane from the outset. Eastern Conference teams seem to bring out the best in the Sharks skating abilities, and tonight was no different.

The Sharks escaped from the grind-it-out clutches of Western Conference teams and put on a show for the sellout crowd.

Buffalo was on a tear before this game with a record of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games. It looked like it would be another victory when the Sabres came out flying and executing. The scorching hot Tim Connolly scored his 13th goal of the season putting the Sharks down just seven minutes in.

After being outshot 14-5 in the first, San Jose came out with a different mindset; it was their turn to blow by the Sabres. Joe Pavelski notched his 11th goal to start with a bang, and Dany Heatley joined the 30-goal club to end with a bang.

Throughout the second, scrums formed, but no fights materialized. You could tell each team wanted to prove they were the best in the NHL.

Like a true elite club, the Sabres never backed down. They scored just 18 seconds into the third on the power play to end a Sharks streak of around 35 straight penalties killed.

A boxing match broke out in HP Pavilion; both teams threw haymakers at each other. It was toe-to-toe folks. Would one fighter tire out? Yes.

Mama said knock you out! (From SJSHARKS.com)

The Sabres’ legs became spaghetti as Pavelski slammed home his second goal of the game six minutes in.

Another right hook came from the Sharks when Jed Ortmeyer scored his career-high sixth goal of the season off a one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Not wanting to concede defeat, the Sabres squeezed every ounce of energy into the final minutes of play, but the Sharks defense was too strong. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov blocked every punch to close out the game.

Ortmeyer completed the KO with an empty net goal, sending the Eastern Conference challenger back to the training room.

The Sharks got better as the night went on and the third period was one of their best third periods of the season. Buffalo forced them to step their game up, and the Sharks actually responded. Whether it was Douglas Murray throwing Sabres to the ice with ease or Patrick Marleau shifting into hyperspeed, the Sharks proved they can play at an entirely different level — one perhaps they didn’t fully realize they could.

Unfortunately, there’s a four-day layoff between now and the next game. That could be huge considering the next game is a battle against the always-pesky Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have had the Sharks number so far, so it’ll be crucial for San Jose to bottle this energy and unleash it again Thursday.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  BUF 23; Scott Nichol led with seven.

Buffalo outshot the Sharks 40-24. Nabby played outstanding.

Chicago is in town next Thursday. No Sharks fan wants to remember the last time Chicago was in HP Pavilion. A 7-2 loss. Perhaps that can be used as extra motivation for the players.

–Ray

January 24, 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. 10

Quite the flashes-of-competence performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the New York Islanders. It was the Sharks’ third 4-1 game of the year already; they’ve won two of three. The game wasn’t very pretty — the good play was spotty, but when they did play well, they scored.

The whole first period looked like the Washington game. San Jose looked lost and uninterested. Perhaps getting dominated by the Islanders (who haven’t won a game yet) woke them up during intermission. Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, playing in his 500th game, played amazing in the first. He was the sole reason the Sharks were still in the game and he deserves a lot of credit for his stellar play so far.

The second period allowed Sharks fans to see more sustained pressure and a better forecheck. There were less one-and-done forechecks, as analyst Drew Remenda put it. That’s been the main problem I’ve noticed — the Sharks take a shot but can’t find the rebound or keep the pressure.

The power play looked solid as the Sharks pocketed two goals on the man-advantage. Patrick Marleau got on the board with a nifty backhand shot from the slot past goalie Martin Biron. Guess who scored next?

Ryan Vesce (#53) celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryan Vesce (#53) celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Ryan Vesce! The man I suggested the Sharks call up, and while I obviously had nothing to do with it, it was nice to see my suggestion come up and score — not to mention it was his first NHL goal. Congratulations to Vesce. He’s such a hard worker and a lot of Sharks veterans could learn from him. I hope he stays up for a long time.

The third period showcased the Sharks best play. Joe Thornton actually took a shot and it went in. I guess he wanted more than the two assists he already had so far.

Devin Setoguchi scored late in the game on a nice solo effort from down low. Seto might have been the hardest working Shark of the night. He was flying around on the ice. Why? He was demoted to the second line, consisting of Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau. Maybe that sparked something.

Ryane Clowe

Clowe notched his first point of the year, finally, on Seto’s goal. Clowe also fought Tim Jackman: Clowe took care of him fairly easily. I think Clowe needs to be demoted to the third line. It worked for Seto; it might work for Clowe. Putting him with Scott Nichol and Benn Ferriero/Jed Ortmeyer could help his work ethic. Those guys never quit and don’t get down on themselves. Clowe is struggling mentally and needs a change of scenery.

Other Notes

Hit-o-meter: SJ 19  NYI 14

The Islanders outshot the Sharks 32-29, but the Islanders blocked 24 shots. New York also got a majority of their shots in the first period when they had 19.

The Sharks now face the Rangers, Monday. San Jose has only won two in a row once this year, so I’ll be expecting another bad performance. That’s the Sharks — win-loss-win-loss. Very annoying. But, here’s to change.

–Ray

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

NHL Power Rankings

1. San Jose Sharks 13-3-0
Entering Nov. 11, the Sharks boast the NHL’s loan undefeated record at home (9-0). The “Shark Tank” as fans call it, has been a dead zone for opposing teams as well as an imminent loss. Under the new coaching regime, the Sharks offense is reaching is potential, with the most goals for in the league. The defense has stepped up with the offseason acquisitions of Rob Blake and Dan Boyle, providing leadership and guidance for the Sharks fairly young defense. Most importantly, San Jose has shown character in being able to come back in games in which they trail, something absent the last few years.

2. Detroit Red Wings 9-2-2
The defending Stanley Cup Champs find themselves at number two in the power rankings. Marian Hossa has been exactly what they expected, netting 8 goals and adding 9 assists, in only 13 games played. Detroit is still playing as advertised, with a tough defense led by Niklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Goalie Chris Osgood has split time with backup with Ty Conklin and neither has put up stellar numbers, making it difficult on Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings offensive juggernauts. Both carry the Wings offense again this year, although Datsyuk has only put in 3 goals. With right-winger Johan Franzen coming off injury, Detroit is going to start spreading the wealth.

3. New York Rangers 11-5-2
After 18 games played, no one would think that youngster Nikolai Zherdev would lead the team in points, but that is just the case with 5 goals and 9 assists. Markus Naslund, a big free agent signee, has been doing his part with 5 goals and 8 assists. With the exception of a hat trick last week, center Chris Drury has been struggling. Scott Gomez has had problems with finding the net, only scoring 3 goals thus far. Drury and Gomez are key to the team’s success. They have to improve, but with a goalie like Henrik Lundqvist and his 1.99 goals against average, the Rangers will be in every game.

4. Montreal Canadiens 8-2-2
Left wing Alex Tanguay leads the team in points with 14, along with defenseman Andrei Markov. Montreal is fourth in the league in the goals per game category with 3.42. With the combination of that offense and goalie Carey Price, the Canadiens are a very dangerous team. Price has a 2.61 GAA and .917 save percentage, keeping games close. The problem the Canadiens have is on defense. With the exception of Markov, not many defenseman are contributing. Roman Hamrlik has 5 points, but the rest have 2 points or less. The offense will not be able to carry the team the whole season. The defense must get involved if Montreal expects to win the tough Northeast division.

5. Boston Bruins 8-3-3
Archrival Montreal got the nod over Boston because of their head-to-head matchup earlier in the season, a shootout victory for the Canadiens. Boston has been a very formidable opponent and the record shows that. On average, the Bruins get outshot every game, but goalie Tim Thomas has been exceptional, boasting a 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. For the offense, Marc Savard is the unquestioned leader of the team with 16 points. The next best offenseman has only 9 points. Savard is also second on the team in penalty minutes, putting added pressure on the penalty kill unit. With Savard being off the ice constantly, more players have to step up if the Bruins are to legitimately challenge Montreal.

6. Buffalo Sabres 8-3-3
Buffalo has one of the best penalty kill units in the game, which helps them cover their own mistakes. Along with doing that, goalie Ryan Miller has a GAA just over 2. Buffalo is a team that just gets it done and they score when they have to. Their records at home and away are virtually identical making them a team to bet on every night.

7. Washington Capitals 8-4-2
It’s been a breakout year for Alexander Semin so far, leading the league in points with 22 (11G 11A). Alex Ovechkin has been an assist man this year, with 7 helpers and only 3 goals. It’s safe to say an Alex is going to score every night the Caps play.

8. Chicago Blackhawks 7-3-3
Captain Jonathan Toews has been having a tough time lately, with only 1 goal in 13 games played. Patrick Kane has picked up the slack, however, leading the team with 18 points (7G 11A). The problem for Chicago is goaltending. Nikolai Khabibulin has started seven games and Cristobal Huet has started six. Rumors are swirling that Khabibulin could be traded at any time, but with a 7-3-3 record, it doesn’t look like it is much of a distraction.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins 8-4-2
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin only have a combined 7 goals, yet lead the team in points. How is that possible? Both have a staggering number of assists. Malkin has 18 assists on the year, and Crosby has 13. As good as it is to see both helping their teammates, Malkin and Crosby need to start being more selfish and put the puck in the net if Pittsburgh wants to get better.

10. Anaheim Ducks 9-7-1
After such a terrible start, Anaheim has climbed back into the hunt for the Pacific division and the Western Conference. Over the last ten games, the Ducks are 7-2-1, making them one of the hottest teams in the league right now. A troubling stat, though, is they have more goals against, then for. They better get that straightened out quickly.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment