A Fan of the Game

Sports Talk, Straight Talk

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 67

Quite the persistence pays off game for the Sharks as they finally solved Steve Mason and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-1. It was looking bad early on, but Mason finally cracked.

I’ve definitely been a part of these games before — while playing video games of course — especially against Roberto Luongo. I try all different button combinations to set up the perfect pass and still get stoned by the goalie. That’s probably how the real players felt tonight against Mason.

It had been over seven periods since the Sharks last scored on Mason. Columbus shut out the Sharks right before the break, but the Sharks looked awful that night. This time around, San Jose swarmed the Blue Jackets and put on unrelenting pressure.

The team reacts to Jumbo saying he'll keep his shirt on for interviews (From SJSHARKS.com)

I really hope these types of games stay in the Sharks’ minds. When playoff time comes, you’re going to be down — no question. They may be just regular season games, but knowing you can come back against a hot goalie could pay huge dividends.

Dany Heatley scored the first goal, which came in the third period on the power play. A gigantic sigh exited HP Pavilion. Joe Pavelski skated around the back of the net and scored to take the lead.

A few timely saves by Evgeni Nabokov, specifically in the final seconds, sealed the victory.

Nichol Update

Scott Nichol, who was cheap-shotted last game, will be out 7-10 days with a shoulder injury. Ryan Vesce was called up to take his place. Vesce played seven minutes and amassed three hits.

Maxim Lapierre was suspended four games for the hit.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 36  CBJ 32; Douglas Murray led with six.

The Sharks’ next game is Thursday against Nashville, at home.

–Ray

March 7, 2010 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. 30

Quite the just-like-old-times performance for the Sharks in their 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks roster finally looked like it should be with a couple exceptions. And with the added aspect of facing former Sharks, Christian Ehrhoff and Steve Bernier, it was a reunion of sorts.

Got to mention the injuries, returns and transactions. Devin Setoguchi and Rob Blake returned to the lineup tonight; Benn Ferriero and Jason Demers were sent down to Worcester because of that. Of course this was Torrey Mitchell’s second game back so he’s still getting used to NHL-level speed.

Jody Shelley and Brad Staubitz are still out with injuries, so Frazer McLaren played on the fourth line. Derek Joslin retained his spot on the defense upon Demers’ reassignment.

OK so the game — a slow back-and-forth game. One team would control for 10 minutes, then things would switch. Vancouver got on the board early in the first and controlled the play. McLaren scored his first NHL goal to tie things up before the first ended. He took a big hit behind the goal-line but stayed on his feet and kept his stick on the ice. Joe Pavelski found him and it was an easy tip-in. Glad to see Frazer add his name to the list of first-time scorers this season; Ferriero, McLaren, Demers, Logan Couture and Ryan Vesce all have scored their first NHL goal so far this season.

The Sharks dominated the second period, outshooting Vancouver 15-4; however, they only managed one goal, which came from Dan Boyle on the power play. It was a cool goal to watch on the replay because you saw how much Boyle moves on the man-advantage. One second he would be up high at the point, five seconds later he was down low. Always keeps his skates moving in a very fluid motion.

Captain Rob Blake made his return against Vancouver (From SJSHARKS.com)

San Jose backed off during the last frame but withstood a fierce Canucks forecheck. The Sharks capitalized on a counterattack, as Manny Malhotra deked — yes deked — goalie Roberto Luongo fairly easily. Thirteen seconds later Jamie McGinn notched his fourth goal of the season after Jed Ortmeyer battled beyond the goal line and sent the puck to the crease.

Let’s go back to the decision to send Demers down to Worcester. Coach Todd McClellan cited bad play in the defensive zone as the reason for the reassignment. Demers and Joslin were battling for the final defenseman spot with Rob Blake returning and T-Mac said Joslin played better over the last 10 games. Demers has definitely not played up to par lately. I think back to last game where Demers attempted a stretch pass only to have it intercepted and turned into an Edmonton goal.

T-Mac said before he likes how Demers takes risks, and now he’s going back on that? I don’t get it. Demers is clearly learning from Boyle how to be an offensive threat and doing a pretty good job at it. He has one goal and 12 assists in 27 games. He’s been one of the league’s most surprising rookies and you choose Joslin over Demers? I’m sorry, but this is a dumb move by T-Mac. Joslin is a joke of a player and isn’t going to amount to anything.

Perhaps it will help Demers not to play with Kent Huskins and actually someone good down in Worcester. Huskins was on the power play tonight again. Stop doing that T-Mac. Just stop. Demers needs to be on the power play and Huskins needs to be sent down. No one will claim him off waivers.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  VAN 14; Jamie McGinn (4) and Devin Setoguchi (3) led the team.

The Sharks wrap up November with a 9-2-3 record and are the first team to reach 40 points.

All eyes will be on San Jose on Tuesday when the Sharks battle the Ottawa Senators. Dany Heatley versus his ex-girlfriend. Should be good.

–Ray

 

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 21

Quite the underachieving performance by the Sharks, even though they won 4-3 over the Nashville Predators. The Sharks didn’t play like the hot team that they are. They played down to their competition, yet still came out on top.

Devin Setoguchi and Ryan Vesce returned to the lineup tonight after being injured. Vesce only received eight minutes of ice time, so I couldn’t gauge how good he looked. Seto scored a goal in the third period, after looking one step behind all night. That’s two games in a row where players returning from injuries scored.

Joe Pavelski, who did that last game, scored the first goal of the night. Patrick Marleau sped around the net and backhanded it to Pavs, who easily slotted it past goalie Dan Ellis.

But like I said before, the Sharks played down to their competition. Patty, Pavs, Seto and Scott Nichol were the only ones who looked like they wanted to play tonight. The others were content with playing at Nashville’s level. My best guess is they’re coming off two games against Stanley Cup Finals teams (Detroit and Pittsburgh) and just didn’t get pumped up to play the Predators. While I understand that mindset, you can’t come out with it. Not in the National Hockey League.

Picture 11

Joe Pavelski scores a goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

Again, the Sharks didn’t impose their will and their style of play on Nashville. They allowed the Preds to play a slower pace game with controlled breakouts. Nichol tried a bunch of times to spark the team with his speed, but that only seemed to spark Nichol himself to keep doing it.

No team led by more than one goal. The Sharks were trying to be too fancy with their passes and dekes instead of just shooting at the net and getting rebounds. There were a few three-on-twos where the extra passed doomed any chance of scoring. Someone besides Heatley needs to be a little selfish.

Speaking of Heatley, he and Joe Thornton were invisible tonight. Couldn’t find them. Thornton’s mind was elsewhere. I don’t know if it was the communication or him, but he was passing to empty space consistently.

I think San Jose finally woke up when Nashville took the lead 3-2 in the third. Then things started to speed up, checks were finished and more shots were taken.

Seto became selfish and blasted a slapshot past Ellis to tie the game.

Leave it up to ol’ Danny Boyle to finish things off with his patent full-ice skating. A little give ‘n’ go and Boyle took a shot that went through the five-hole of Ellis, with one minute left.

The Sharks survive and are now on a nine-game point streak.

Nashville Commentators

How do these guys have a job? It’s pretty unanimous that these are the worst in hockey. They are so boring to listen to and do not research anything.

If there’s anything that irks me, it’s when a commentator says a guy’s name wrong. Boy, did that happen tonight. Play-by-play guy Pete Weber kept saying VEESEE when it’s pronounced VEH-SEE, and both commentators said Nabokov’s name with emphasis on the first syllable. Wrong. It’s not NAH-ba-kov. It’s Na-BAH-kov. Your whole job is to say people’s names and if you can’t do simple research to see if you’re saying it right, get out of the business.

Also, another research tidbit. Weber said Jason Demers was up with the Sharks only because of Rob Blake’s injury. Are you joking me? He’s been up the whole season! Check a stat sheet and you’ll see he’s been in every game. Sheesh. Do Nashville a favor and quit.

They also compared Seto to Jordin Tootoo. Best non-intentional joke ever.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 16  NSH 19

It was Thomas Greiss’ second NHL start and he looked decent. He made some awesome saves, but was out of position at times. It’s a learning process. “Jesus Greiss” will continue to get better.

The Sharks battle division rival Dallas on Thursday.

–Ray

November 11, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 19

Quite the courageous performance by the Sharks, despite losing to the Detroit Red Wings 2-1, in a shootout. It ends their six-game winning streak, but they keep in-tact their seven-game point streak. Thinking about all the adversity the Sharks face coming into this game, it’s hard to be mad at them for not pulling this one out.

Allow me to discuss some of that opposition.

Let’s start with the obvious: the Sharks are injured. It’s like Stalingrad in San Jose. Players injured consist of Ryan Vesce, Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell, Joe Pavelski and Rob Blake. None of those guys are expendable. Maybe Vesce, but remember he was scoring like crazy on the top line. Dany Heatley got hit hard in tonight’s game and all fans held their breath. He returned and looked fine, however.

The Sharks called up Derek Joslin and Joe Callahan. Yea, that creates a hell of a lot of opposition when you call up those two.

This was the second of back-to-back games.

The Sharks have been on the road seemingly the whole season. Constant travel and stinky motel rooms will do a number on you.

The Sharks never win in Detroit. This is just a weird fact of life. They have a few wins at the Joe, but San Jose always finds a way to come out with a loss there.

And this is all before opening faceoff! Yet, these guys came out, exhausted, lethargic and earned a point. Outstanding.

Logan Couture scored his first goal of his career tonight on a wrister between the legs of goalie Chris Osgood. I really wish this kid could get a better opportunity with a higher line rather than meandering around with Jody Shelley. With the injuries, he’s going to be sent back down to Worcester, so put him on the top or second line for a few shifts. See what happens.

Picture 9

Logan Couture celebrates his first NHL goal (From SJSHARKS.com)

OK, so let’s jump out of Optimismville and get into some criticism, shall we? Goalie Evgeni Nabokov gives me heart attacks with his puck handling. He’s been giving the puck away to opposition on a consistent basis lately. I realize he wants a quick breakout — maybe because the Sharks’ breakouts have struggled — but Nabby, don’t put your team behind by doing something you aren’t required to do.

The Sharks power play forecheck was abismal tonight. I’m sure part of it was exhaustion, but they allowed a bunch of 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s tonight, while on the man advantage. Patch that up pronto.

The shootout was ugly for the Sharks. They didn’t convert on either chance and Nabby allowed two out of 3 chances. Ryane Clowe used the same exact move he’s used in the last two shootouts. It worked the first time, but the last two chances were easy stops for the goalie. Either come up with a new move for stay on the bench.

Brad Staubitz

Bitz was a healthy scratch tonight, presumably because coach Todd McClellan was angry with his penalties against the Blue Jackets last game. He received 17 minutes worth of penalties after a fight with Jared Boll. He was eligible to return in the game, but Todd kept him benched. As a result, Couture only had Shelley as a linemate. Bitz better keep his head together. I haven’t see Todd keep anyone in a doghouse, but there’s a first for everything.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 27  DET 32; Scott Nichol, Joe Thornton and Douglas Murray combined for 14 of those.

The Sharks go home for a week, and they will play three games at HP Pavillion against Pittsburgh, Nashville and Dallas, in that order. I think Thomas Greiss needs to spell Nabby for Pittsburgh on Saturday. I know it’s baptism by fire, but Nabby needs a break.

–Ray

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inside the Shark Cage, Vol. 14

Quite the wide-open performance by the Sharks in their 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Sunday. It wasn’t a dazzling display, but it was efficient, and that’s all you can ask for.

First, I need to give credit to Manny Malhotra for scoring two goals tonight, his first two of the season. One goal was all hard work and the other was a nice wrist shot from the faceoff circle. Don’t expect another multi-goal game any time soon from him because I think he’ll dive back into mediocrity next game.

The game belonged to Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss, however. He made several spectacular/lucky saves to preserve the win. He outdueled Philly backup Brian Boucher, who was with San Jose last year. I really hope Greiss gets a lot more looks after this performance. Evgeni Nabokov is a stubborn guy, but it’s time he start conceding to Greiss more.

Goalie Thomas Greiss looks on as a battle for the puck ensues (From SJSHARKS.com)

Goalie Thomas Greiss looks on as a battle for the puck ensues (From SJSHARKS.com)

I want Greiss to get at least 25-30 games in barring any Nabby injury. Greiss stopped 37 Flyers shots and looked extremely comfortable in net. He was very aggressive, challenging every Flyer player who dare enter his area.

The Sharks scored first for the second game in a row — which was stunning — but it didn’t take long for Philly to knot it up at 1. The whole first period was back and forth and physical. Jody Shelley fought Ian Laperriere and actually won. By my count, that’s his first victory of the season.

After the first period, though, things got really slow. I’m going to say that’s because of the back-to-back situation for both teams. They were feeling it. The game sort of dragged on with no team securing a fair amount of time in the offensive zone.

Jed Ortmeyer scored his third goal of the year to finish off the Flyers. Analyst Drew Remenda said it was his best game as a Shark. Jed accounted for three shots and three blocked shots. As balanced as you can get. Good stuff.

Jason Demers — Tough Guy?

Jason was roughing up Ole-Kristian Tollefson in the second period. As surprised as many fans were, he did really well in handling the situation. Nice to see such a calm-demeanor type guy taking care of business.

Logan Couture and Jamie Mcginn

Logan and Jamie were called up to replace Ryan Vesce and Devin Setoguchi, who were both injured against Atlanta. Jamie was his usual speedy self, while Logan didn’t do much. In his first NHL game, Logan had two shots, two PIMs and was 60% in faceoffs.

Other Notes

Hit-O-Meter: SJ 15  PHI 18

The Sharks were outshot again; this time it was 38-28 Flyers. They’re playing solid defensively and capitalizing on minimal opportunities. No reason to be worried about that yet.

The Sharks finally come home Wednesday, October 28, to face the Los Angeles Kings.

–Ray

October 26, 2009 Posted by | Hockey | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment