A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 52

Quite the absolute annihilation, destruction and obliteration tonight as the Sharks pummeled the Calgary Flames 9-1. Nine players had multi-point nights, and eight different players scored a goal. Joe Pavelski led the pack with four points (1 goal, 3 assists).

Coach Todd McLellan’s decision to move Ryane Clowe down one line and bring Manny Malhotra up one line might be the best idea of the season.

He wanted secondary scoring, and boy did he get it. Only two goals came from the top line. Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer both amassed three points, and linemate Clowe added two more for a total of eight points. I never thought I’d see the third line do that — not even on their best night.

Maybe Devin Setoguchi breaking his scoring drought opened the flood gates for the rest of the team. It was Ortmeyer’s first goal in 28 games and Nichol’s first goal since November 17. Let’s hope they save some of this firepower for the playoffs.

The second line notched eight points (3 goals, 5 assists). This is an oddity because Joe Pavelski and Manny Malhotra are both natural centers. They’re playing off each other so well, though. Pavs takes faceoffs on the right side; Malhotra takes them on the left side. Add in their domination of the faceoff circle, and the second line is almost guaranteed to start with the puck.

This is what happens when an unstoppable force and an immovable object have a baby. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Only four players failed to get a point, but they contributed as well. Torrey Mitchell fought Rene Bourque late in the game, Jody Shelley had four hits, Marc-Edouard Vlasic was a +2 and Kent Huskins was a +3.

This was the worst I’ve seen the Flames in a long time. I can’t tell you how much I love pounding Alberta teams into the dirt. Granted the Flames played the previous night, but this was a team who gave up early on. Goalie Mikka Kiprusoff became Mikka Kovalev with his lack of effort.

By the way, the Oilers got crushed 6-0, so Alberta lost tonight by a total of 15-1. That’s just plain redonkulous.

It’s about time the Sharks crushed someone like this; they’ve usually been on the wrong side of these games. Unfortunately, the Sharks couldn’t score one more, much to the chagrin of the fans who chanted “we-want-10!”

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 34  CGY 30; Brad Staubitz led with seven. Bitz also fought Brandon Prust early on in the game.

The Sharks travel to Los Angeles tomorrow to take on the Kings.

–Ray

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January 19, 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. 46

Quite the insipid performance by the Sharks in their 2-1 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues. After coming off a blowout loss to the Kings, I expected a bit more heart tonight. There wasn’t much intelligence either.

The Sharks had over 40 shots for the second straight game with the final shot clock being 44-29, but like so many times last year, shots were taken with no traffic in front of the goalie. Chris Mason saw every shot that came to him and didn’t give up many rebounds. Instead of planting themselves right in Mason’s eyes, they’d stay off to the side waiting for a rebound off his pads. That’s just being lazy and cowardly. Maybe Dan Boyle getting hit in the face with the puck earlier in the game got to them, but that’s not an excuse.

For the first time in years, Patrick Marleau was playing really bad. His passes were off the mark and careless. He just didn’t have it. However, he made up for it with in the third period with the game-tying goal. It came off a one-timer from the point that deflected past Mason.

Not too long after that, the Sharks had a fantastic chance to take the lead. The puck flew into the air after a shot, landed behind Mason and was just asking to be slammed home. Barret Jackman, defenseman for the Blues, put his hand over the puck to keep it out — a penalty that should be rewarded with a penalty shot. Of course the referees didn’t see it despite one being right behind the net. Karma’s gotta kick in though right?

It would in overtime. Dany Heatley found himself on a breakaway with a minute left in the extra frame; he sped away from defenders and buried it in the twine.

Hey Winchester, those croissants go right to hips, ya? (From SJSHARKS.com)

That was all fine and dandy, but the four minutes before that, the Sharks played to not lose. I’ve mentioned it before, but something is going on with this prevent defense in overtime. I’d like to know if its coach Todd McLellan’s philosophy or just the players being too tentative. The fans actually started to boo them, which was spectacular. At least they recognize it as well.

This isn’t the way to rebound from a bad loss, but it’s a starting point. And the Sharks better speed up to the finish line because there’s a showdown with Detroit on Saturday.

Spelling Error

So I realized the other day I’ve been spelling Todd McLellan’s name wrong. I’ve been spelling it with an extra ‘C’ because I saw it like that when he first became coach. I don’t know where I saw it, but it’s stuck with me. My brain’s been so used to it, I’ve not noticed the correct spelling. Well, something clicked and I saw it yesterday. I verified it, and now I feel like an idiot. Mistakes happen to everyone I guess.

Torrey Mitchell

He’s been getting good amounts of ice time on the power play lately. Not just seconds at the end either. He’s been playing with Marleau and Heatley. It’s been a good combination as he complements their talent with hard work and determination.

Finally A Fight!

Jody Shelley dropped the gloves with Cam Janssen, in the second period, for a 90 second slugfest. Jersey jabs galore and a few attempted haymakers. Shelley handled Cam pretty well and earned the win.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 29  StL 23; Devin Setoguchi led with five.

Giveaways: SJ 20  StL 6; Yikes. That’s a scary statistic.

Detroit comes to town on Saturday.

–Ray

January 7, 2010 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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. 42

Quite the retribution game for the Sharks as the demolished the Washington Capitals 5-2. Three Sharks missed the first meeting between these two teams — Joe Pavelski, Douglas Murray and Torrey Mitchell. All of them made a huge impact on the game.

Joe Pavelski used his insanely accurate shot to score twice and Douglas Murray shut down Alex Ovechkin for most of the game although OV scored at the end. Mitchell notched his first goal of the season in the first period.

Ovechkin became frustrated in the third trying to drop the gloves with Dan Boyle and getting into it with Murray. That just means the Sharks’ gameplan worked amazingly.

Some Sharks fans were booing Ovechkin every time he touched the puck. I have no clue what that was about; he isn’t Chris Pronger; he hasn’t cheap-shotted any Sharks before; there’s no bad blood. It really disappointed me that some of the Sharks fans did that. Now if they booed Crosby, that would be completely different!

What was odd tonight was the Sharks received two penalty shot opportunities and buried both of them. Ryane Clowe took the first one in the second and used his patented forehand-backhand move to beat young goalie Michal Neuvirth.

Get up man. This is no place for a Playboy pose. (From SJSHARKS.com)

Joe Thornton converted the second chance in the third to seal the game.

The turning point in tonight’s game, though, came at the start of the second period. The Caps got a quick five-on-three chance followed by another power-play, but the Sharks’ penalty kill stifled Washington.

The Sharks are showing no signs of slowing down. They’ve brought their A-game throughout the holidays, and this marks the sixth straight victory.

He Said What?

Capitals analyst Craig Laughlin said Dan Boyle was just a tad bit better than Caps defenseman Mike Green. Yea, right. Boyle is astronomically better.

Stat Central

The Sharks haven’t allowed a first-period goal in seven straight games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 32  WSH 46; Murray led the team with four.

The Sharks have to turn around quickly and play an early game tomorrow versus Phoenix.

–Ray

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 37

Quite the back-on-track game for the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Nothing cures losing-streak pessimism like a win over your most hated rival. It wasn’t pretty; it wasn’t flashy. It was good ole fashioned hard work.

Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere tried to steal the show with an amazing performance, but the Sharks were too much down low. The Sharks actually used their sized around the crease to manhandle the Ducks defensemen. I think by now we can acknowledge that this type of performance probably won’t happen for another month or two. But it was nice to see the effort and garbage goals.

Leading the way with effort down low was Joe Thornton — yes the big man doin’ his thang around the crease. He caused a lot of havoc 6’4″ 230 lbs frame. He notched four points (2G, 2A) tonight. Jumbo has been throwing his weight around recently and that’s translating into a power forward style we’ve long awaited for.

Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi were the other goal scorers. Patty’s goal came on a deflection, while Seto’s was a wicked wrister. Seto’s goal broke his seven-game point drought. Coach Todd McClellan put him on the top line with Patty and Jumbo to jump-start his production. It was a move criticized by many considering the huge numbers Heatley-Thornton-Marleau put up.

Clowe delivering the "Newfoundland Haymaker" (From SJSHARKS.com)

With Seto scoring, I wonder if McClellan will stay with Seto on the top line. Heatley is much more dangerous than Seto, and now that he’s out of his slump, his mentality will change. And it’s now really a downgrade playing with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe on line two.

One thing I want to mention is before the game Derek Joslin was sent back down to Worcester and Jason Demers was called up. Isn’t it funny how the Sharks all of a sudden win with Demers back? Call it coincidence if you want, but you can’t deny the losing streak included Joslin. Joslin goes bye-bye and the losing streak ends. Hmmm… Just take that home and chew it.

Clowe breaks the ‘Bank

Clowe dropped the gloves with Sheldon Brookbank in the second period. One-sided affair. Clowe threw haymakers, and Brookbank was in way over his head.

Torrey! Torrey! Torrey!

It might have been Torrey Mitchell’s best game since coming back. He showed his blazing speed in picking up a penalty shot (unfortunately he didn’t convert) and forced turnovers. The lone Ducks goal was on the power play, again building the argument for a penalty-kill change. Torrey should get some more PK time in the coming games.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 31  ANA 39; Setoguchi and Douglas Murray led the team with five each.

San Jose is now 3-0 against the Ducks this season.

The Sharks have another three days off before traveling to Dallas for the first game of a back-to-back. The second game is against Chicago.

–Ray

December 18, 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