Sunday, April 29, 2007

4/28 WCSF Game 2: DETROIT 3, san jose 2

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what can go wrong when you sit back with a 2-0 lead in a game. For the second game in a row, the Sharks shock the Joe (Louis Arena) and the Red Wings by striking twice in the 1st, but find themselves unable to strike again, and this time, the Wings were able to fight back. Another solid game by the boys in teal, but the Wings were able to get just the right bounces, including a Henrik Zetterberg shot that deflected off the skate of Kyle McLaren, and Pavel Datsyuk finding himself in the right place at the right time to backhand the game winner past an outstretched Evgeni Nabokov.

It took just 36 seconds for the scoreboard to be touched, as a McLaren shot touched the stick of Jonathan Cheechoo [1], netting him his first goal of the playoffs (McLaren, Joe Thornton). A Dominik Hasek puck playing adventure led to the second goal, as a poor attempt by Hasek wound up on the stick of Milan Michalek, who fed a pass to Thornton [1], that was one-timed into the back of the empty net (See how it's done Teemu?) (Michalek). With just a couple minutes left, Zetterberg scored to bring the Wings within one, when a puck thrown at the net bounced off McLaren and past Nabokov.

The second period was a scoreless one, but the 3rd, unfortunately for the Teal, wasn't. A bad breakout attempt by the Sharks found the stick of Daniel Cleary, who brought the puck right in, and rifled it past Nabokov to tie the game at 2. With just a couple minutes left and the game tied at 2, extra time seemed to be on the horizon, until a hard crashing play by Pavel Datsyuk changed the score. (It should be noted at this time that I was asked by the Wings fans sitting behind me who I thought would score the eventual game winner, and upon mentioning my picks, I said that the goal was going to be of the garbage variety. As it turned out, I was right. Lucky me.) With 90 seconds left, a shot by former Shark Mikael Samuelsson was stopped by Nabokov, but, while the defense was out gambling at Greektown or Windsor or some other casino (or doing something else that wasn't standing in front of the net), Datsyuk slipped in front of the net to pick up the puck, and flip it over the flopped netminder, netting the go-ahead-goal, and the series tying win for the Red Wings. Nabokov made 19 saves in the losing effort.

All season long, it has amazed me how insecure hockey fans can be. At almost every venue I have been to, other than the Tank, my simple presence in my Sharks jersey garners some sort of reaction, usually of the attempted snide/funny/trash talk variety. If I bother you, show how little I mean to you by not giving me the time of day. Opening your mouth to let me hear the stupidity oozing from your face only makes me giggle, and if that is your ultimate plan, well then, mission accomplished. Besides, you're the dude wearing a red lugnut hat on your head, so the teasing seems a little hypocritical.

It's not a 2-0 lead, but the Sharks did what any road team should plan to do in the first two games of a series, and that's split the first two, swinging home ice advantage towards themselves, and forcing the home team to take one on the road in their building. And that brings us to Game 3. The third installment of this year's Sharks/Wings matchup comes on Monday, April 30th, from the Tank (7:00 pm). Back home, the Sharks can pick their matchups, as they have the last change, and also will have 17,496 individual human amplifiers causing audible trouble for the Winged Wheelers. If the Sharks can shake the cobwebs they got from slowing their game seen on Saturday, it should be a good one for those in attendance. One can expect the Wings to have some confidence to go along with their momentum, so if the Sharks can't control the play, it could be a long one for those very same people in attendance. Either way, it is the playoffs, so it should be a good one.


The giant Rally Al sitting out front of the Joe.

Al Sobotka, the man for whom Rally Al is named, is picking up an octopus. Boy, I want his job.

Oh, how cute. He's waving a smelly dead sea animal over his head. How... awesome?

Friday, April 27, 2007

4/26 WCSF (Round 2) Game 1: sharks 2, DETROIT 0

The old adage goes something like "Defense wins championships". Well, last night's defensive effort brought no championship, but it put the Sharks one step (still 11 steps to go) closer to said championship. Two goals 24 seconds apart in the middle of the 1st period proved to be enough, as the Sharks D (with goalie Evgeni Nabokov, of course) shut down and shut out the Red Wings. Clogging the neutral zone and the defensive zone, the Sharks forced 27 Wing giveaways, and blocked 18 shots (the Wings had 1 blocked shot).

Game 1 began pretty evenly, with each team having opportunities to set up their offense, and get some shots on net, but it was a Nicklas Lidstrom hook that gave the Sharks the first powerplay of the game. A minute went by before the Sharks got their signature play set up, but once they accomplished the set up, the followthrough was perfect. Craig Rivet stood at the top of the zone (right inside the offensive zone blueline), and dished a pass to the right wing, where a waiting Ryane Clowe was standing. Clowe flipped the puck to Joe Thornton, who was standing in Joe Thornton Country (behind the net, for those of you watching Joe for the first time). Thornton then, looking at Clowe, threw a timed, blind pass through the crease to a net-crashing Matt Carle [2], who firmly deposited it past Wing goalie Dominik Hasek (Thornton, Clowe). Just as I was settling back into my extremely cramped seat (quite tiny), the Mike Grier show made an appearance at the Joe (Louis Arena).

Just 24 seconds after Carle gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead, hard forechecking by the Patrick Rissmiller-Curtis Brown-Mike Grier line lead to a second one. After chasing the puck behind the net, Grier pressured Detroit defenseman Mathieu Schneider, resulting in a poor clearing attempt by Schneider, intercepted by Brown. Brown tossed it to Rissmiller, who backhanded a pass towards the net and slapped by a spinning Grier [2], and tucked it low just past the right pad of Hasek (Rissmiller, Brown).

The rest of the game featured the Red Wing offense and the Shark defense. Up 2-0 at the Joe, the Sharks seemed content with their lead, and spent the remainder of the game playing defense, and playing it well. Despite allowing 34 shots, the solid play in the middle of the zone forced the Wings to take nothing but outside shots. The Wings missed their front-of-the-net staple Tomas Holmstrom, who recorded 30 goals this year by standing in front of the opposing net, screening the goaltender, collecting rebounds, and deflecting shots past the netminder. His return is unknown, a good thing for Sharks fans, as he is never one you want to see on the ice, because of his great skill.

Playoff time brings added energy to the rink, and added emotion as well. The night began on a high note for Wing fans, as the purple Octopus (named Al) was lowered from the ceiling, specially fitted eight armed red Red Wing jersey and all. It was then that a "Round 1" pendant was placed on the line hanging from Al's underside, complete with six scratched tally marks (because of the 6 games it took to dispatch Calgary in the 1st round). I even got a chill when the traditional octopus was thrown onto the ice prior to the singing of the US National Anthem. (The octopus is a tradition started in the 1950's when it took 8 wins to win the Stanley Cup, same number of arms on an octopus. It was such a symbol that it sticks with the team today, and is a great piece of hockey tradition). Throughout the game I got the normal dirty looks that one receives when wearing an opposing jersey, and I was very happy to not receive beer or soda or peanuts or popcorn or any other sort of anything as a result of a projectile (despite hearing a Wing fan say after the game "he should be happy I don't have a beer, otherwise I'd throw it at his head"). I got a few people's respect by making the trip out, the mark of a loyal fan in their eyes (even though I had to prove to some that I wasn't a Michigander, just out to cause trouble).

It's nice to win Game 1, even nicer when it's a shutout, even nicer still when it's on the road, and impossibly nice when it's at the very intimidating (and very cramped) Joe Louis Arena, but it is just one game, out of the four necessary to advance. Thankfully, more hockey is on the way, and Game 2 is just around the corner. Puck drops from JLA on Saturday at 12 PM Pacific, and can be seen on NBC. With home ice already wrested away from the Wings, the Sharks look to come home with a good sized 2 games to none lead over Detroit, which would force them to win 4 out of 5, but, as good as the Wings are, this series can only be taken one game, one period, one shift at a time.

On a side note, how bout them Giants? The Orange and Black were swept at home by the Dodgers a couple weeks ago, but graciously returned the favor last night, taking 3 at Dodger Stadium, and extending their win streak to 8. They head to the desert to take on the Diamondbacks for a three game series beginning tonight. The San Jose Stealth of the NLL (indoor lacrosse played in the National Lacrosse League) head to Phoenix as well to play the Arizona Sting on Saturday night (7:30 pm) for the Western Division Championship (the winner will advance to the Champions Cup game to be played in two weeks). And the Warriors play Game 3 against the Dallas Mavericks tonight at 7:30 Pacific time, the first playoff game in Oakland since 1994. Not sure what the A's are doing, but then again, I'm a Giants fan, so I care not (would you expect any different? Because I bet A's fans feel the same way towards the Giants, and well they should, it's a rivalry, not a friendship). It's a good time to be a Bay Area sports fan.

GO SHARKS (and Giants and Stealth and Warriors)

Rally Al the Octopus.

Rally Al again, this time in the pregame ceremony.

The round 1 pendant hung from Rally Al.

One last shot of Al.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

4/21 stealth 15, MAMMOTH 14 OT

On the way back from Nashville, where the Sharks were victorious in 5 games, I took in another playoff game, of the box lacrosse variety. The National Lacrosse League's Champions Cup playoffs, first round matchup between the defending champion Colorado Mammoth (12-4), and your (well, maybe just mine) San Jose Stealth (9-7).

As the defending champions, nobody really thought the Mammoth were going to lose this game, however, the Stealth had an incredible second half of the season, going 6-2 in their final 8 games, including a season-ending victory over this same Mammoth club.

The game got going real quick, as Callum Crawford put the Stealth out front just 1:06 into the game. However, that was really the only brightspot for the Stealth in the whole first half, as the Mammoth answered with 4 goals, followed by 3 more after a Gary Rosyski goal made it 4-2 in favor of Colorado. Jeff Zywicki ended the quarter with a goal, and after 15 minutes, the Woolly Fuzzies had a 7-3 lead.

The 2nd Quarter was much better, as the Stealth outscored the Mammoth 5 to 4, including a pair of goals from both Zywicki and Luke Wiles, making the score at the half 11-8 in favor of Colorado.

The 3rd Quarter was the Anthony Cosmo show, as Coz stopped all 12 shots he faced. Zywicki added another pair of goals, and Colin Doyle added another, knotting the game at 11 after 3 quarters of play.

The 4th Quarter was the best quarter, as each team struck on the scoreboard. Zywicki scored first, for the Stealth, and Jamie Shewchuk answered back for the Mammoth. Dan Carey gave the Mammoth the lead 13-12, and Rosyski tied it back up on the powerplay. Cam Sedgwick gave the Stealth the 14-13 lead with just under 4 minutes remaining, but Brian Langtry evened the score 58 seconds later. The 14s would hold, as the 4th Quarter would end, sending the game into sudden death overtime.

Each team had a few chances to score, including the 'Froed defenseman/transition man for the Stealth, Ian Hawksbee. But it was Z, who struck yet again. Jeff Zywicki put a roller past Mammoth netminder Chris Levis that ended the game, sent the Mammoth home for the summer, sent the Stealth into jubilation, and sent all three Stealth fans (myself one of them) home real happy.

Zywicki lead the attack, tallying 7 goals to go with 1 assist. Doyle added 10 points as well (1g, 9a), and Rosyski had 7 points (2g, 5a). Coz played the majority of the game, making 35 saves on 46 shots in 48 minutes and 45 seconds of play, getting the win. Aaron Bold played the other 15:57, making 12 saves on 15 shots.

Detroit is looming, but for now, congrats to the Stealth.


One of the old fashioned "paint-the-opposing-team-name-on-an-old-car-and-let-kids-beat-the-crap-out-of-it-with-a-sledgehammer" cars.

Another shot of the car.

Woolly, the Mammoth mascot, with the Woolly t-shirt cannon.

"Get in the Box" signs were handed out at the door. People seemed to know what to do with them.
More shots from the Stealth/Mammoth game on 4/21

Friday, April 20, 2007

4/20 WCQF Game 5: sharks 3, NASHVILLE 2

Nashville Predators, we hardly knew ye. Second year in a row, second 5 game series in a row won by the Boys in Teal. In another series that saw the Predators come to the table without all their eating utensils (Steve Sullivan is the spoon that kept the Preds from eating their soup), the Sharks took advantage of the depleted Nashville squad, and dispensed of them in 5 games.

Replicating their feat from a year ago, the Sharks scored the first goal, then came back to tie and win it late in the game. Ryane Clowe [4] got the Sharks on the board first when he jammed home a Steve Bernier rebound that snuck just under Tomas Vokoun (Bernier, Marcel Goc). The rest of the period worked in the Sharks' favor, as they continued to outwork the Predators, rightly reflected by a 14-8 margin in shots on the board.

Despite looking good in the 1st, the Sharks let the fact that they were just 40 minutes from advancing to the second round get to them, as the Predators woke up and scored a pair of goals, giving them a lead just 4:26 into the middle period. All seemed to be going well for the Preds until 14:58 of the frame, when, Scott Nichol, having had enough of Christian Ehrhoff knocking him down, decided to spear him right in the Christian Ehrhoffs with the blade of his stick, earning himself 5 minutes for spearing, and an automatic game misconduct. The subsequent 5 minute powerplay led to the Sharks second powerplay goal of the series, a great pass from Billy Guerin across the crease to Captain Patrick Marleau (2), who promptly pushed it into the open net, past goaltender Tomas Vokoun (Guerin, Craig Rivet). The score remained tied at 2 after 40 minutes of play.

The 3rd was tight, each team only getting a couple scoring chances, but there was only one that really mattered. With just over 4 minutes left, Scott Hannan dumped a pass deep behind the net to Joe Thornton. Thornton took the puck, and backhanded a pass in front of the net to a waiting Marleau, who put it past Vokoun to give the Sharks a lead, and start the countdown to Round 2 at 4 minutes and 21 seconds. A Rivet double-minor with just 25 seconds left put the Sharks down a man, but they were able to weather the storm and dump the puck with about 10 seconds left, to win the game and the series. Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves for his 4th victory of the playoffs

Despite the 4-1 series score, the games were pretty close, and very entertaining. Both the Sharks and the Predators were fast and physical, but the overall size of the San Jose roster seemed to grind down the smaller Predators, with each game coming down to the waining minutes. Vokoun was a stud for the Preds, and without him, the series would have been much less entertaining. In the off season, the Predators got better and attempted to adapt to playing a team like the Sharks, so it is unfortunate that their demise came to the team that they retooled to beat.

I have wrapped up my time in Nashville, but not without meeting some great hockey fans in the process. David and his son, who sit in 114, Michael, who graciously sold Brian (a Sharks fan from Ohio who I met earlier in the Odyssey) and I seats to Game 5, Steve the usher from Section 103/104, and all the Preds fans who were gracious in defeat, coming up to me after Games 1 and 5, shaking my hand, and complimenting the Sharks. Thank you for showing courtesy, it's never out of style, even at a hockey game. I'd also like to thank the guy who wears a Blue Predators jersey # 43 "Loco", cause without you, I might have thought no one in Nashville gets angry. Your clip to my back after Game 1, definitely not representative of your fellow fans. Shame on you. And to the Sharks fans I met as well, the group of Sharks fans from Indianapolis, thanks for makin the trip for the team (and thanks again for the puck, Justin).

Nashville is no more, but, celebrations mean little yet. Next up is the other powerhouse (and only other playoff team) from the Central Division, the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings come in as the #1 seed in the West, having discarded the Calgary Flames in 6 games. The season series went the way of the Teal, with the Sharks sweeping in San Jose, and splitting games in Detroit. Game 1 is Thursday night from Motown. The Odyssey will be there, Game 1 @ The Joe, 4:30 pm. 4 down, 12 to go.

GO SHARKS (Beat the Wings)

The sem-nice sign welcoming Predator fans to the Nashville Arena.

The Predator head.

The thank you message to the screaming 17,113 who filled the building for what, unfortunately for them, was their final game of the 2006/2007 NHL season.
Additional pictures from Game 5 of the 1st round vs. Nashville

Thursday, April 19, 2007

4/18 WCQF Game 4: SHARKS 3, nashville 2

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you hold home ice. Score some hard nosed goals, make some big time defensive plays, have a goalie steal some shots he has no business stopping, and feed off the energy of 17,000 crazies wearing the same color shirts that you are, and presto, two crucial wins at home against a very good opponent. Last game taught us to screen the goalie to get tip-ins, last night was a showcase of crashing the net. In a game with 5 goals, 4 of them were scored by a guy with the puck in about as close as one can get.

Just as in Game 3, Game 4 began on a more solemn note, as the Sharks honored one of their own. Gaetan Duschene, a former Shark, passed away earlier this week while at the gym exercising. The Duke was a big part of the Sharks success in '94, during their playoff run that eventually succumbed to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 7th game of the second round.

Once underway, the Sharks carried out the same gameplan seen just two days earlier, hit, grind, and no slacking. Their hard work paid off early, as just 3:29 into the game, Milan Michalek [3] capped a series of scoring chances when he finally whacked home a loose puck during a front-of-the-net scramble (Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo).

Mark Bell, who spent most of the year on the ice, found himself in the press box again as Joe Pavelski played yet again in his spot. The move paid off, as Pavelski [1], using Greg Zanon as a screen, scored the only non-net crashing goal of the night, when he rocketed a shot past Zanon, and past the screened Tomas Vokoun, giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead (McLaren, Hannan). Shortly after Pavelski stretched the lead to two, Jason Arnott's net crashing (told you it was a showcase) paid off, as a perfectly timed J.P Dumont pass from behind the net found Arnott's stick, which promptly propelled the puck to the back of the net. With the lead back at one, the Sharks got back to work, striking again, about 10 minutes later. A scramble in front and behind the net saw Michalek [4] throw a puck in front of the net that, rather than bouncing off the stick of Cheechoo (who was crashing the net), found the skate blade of Predator defenseman Kimmo Timonen, and past Vokoun (Thornton, Cheechoo).

The game remained 3-1 until the desperate, waning moments of the game. With about 3 and a half minutes remaining, and the Predators already on the powerplay, Vokoun was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. Just 20 seconds after that, Scott Hartnell scored (when he, you guessed it), bringing the Predators back within one. Some great defensive work by the Sharks helped them clamp down on the lead, much to the delight of the 17,496 in attendance. Evgeni Nabokov stood tall (and stretched wide) all night, making 23 saves.

Before the playoffs began, you'd have been hard pressed to get me to believe that either team, San Jose or Nashville, would be up 3 games to 1 after the first four games. But yet, here we stand, having seen four contests in this best of seven series, and the Sharks have the commanding 3-1 lead. While it's very mathematically unlikely that the Sharks will lose this series, the games are played on ice, rather than paper, for exactly that reason.

It is this that has me, as a Sharks fan, just a tad worried. Too many times before have we seen the Sharks take an overmatched opponent lightly, and it's always come back to bite them. For those keeping score at home, you will recall, just last year we saw such a feat. The Sharks played big against the Edmonton Oilers in Games 1 and 2, holding their home ice. But when the series shifted to Alberta, a Triple OT game turned the tide of the series, as it was the first of four heartbreaking losses to the Oilers, and a disappointing end to an otherwise bright potential post-season run.

So, this series against the Predators may be 3-1 in favor of the Sharks, but it is only 3-1 in favor of the Sharks. 3 games get you nowhere, as it is the 4th one that is the most important. This Predator squad was tied with the Sharks for the most wins in the West in the regular season (51), and I'd be very surprised if we don't see why that was in Game 5.

Speaking of Game 5, Friday night brings the prospect of elimination to the forefront, and the Predators are teetering over the edge of it (6:00 pm Pacific). Tonight is the first in a series of 3 consecutive "Win or go home" contests for the Predators, who would get the advantage of playing 2 of 3 at home. In the Sharks locker room, despite being up 3-1, the mentality should be exactly the same. Having the Predators reeling from two games in which their offense was suffocated, desperation will be at the top of the Nashville gameplan tonight, as they now have absolutely nothing to lose. Although the Sharks are up 3-1, people and teams can do scary things when they are desperate, and that has me excited and worried at the same time. Here's to tomorrow's post reporting the good news (from the Teal POV).

GO SHARKS (Get ready for some HNIMC) (Hockey Night In Music City)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

4/16 WCQF Game 3: SHARKS 3, nashville 1

Ah, playoff hockey in the Tank, oh how we missed you. The Sharks brought their game back to the basics in front of 17,496 of their loudest supporters last night, and by 60 minutes of grind it out, forecheck, backcheck, and body check laden hockey, they got the job done. Facing a Nashville offense that scored 9 goals in the first two games, the Predators were shut down by the Sharks D, only mustering one goal.

The night began on a very somber note, as the Sharks recognized a couple losses, one internal, and one very external. Moments of silence were held for both Warren Strelow (Sharks goaltending coach) and the victims and families of those affected by the massacre at Virginia Tech University. After about 15 seconds, the quietest period of time I have ever witnessed anywhere, let alone the San Jose Arena, the anthem was sung, and the game began.

From the opening faceoff, Ron Wilson clearly had a gameplan for his troops, and that was to hit. Hit early, hit hard, hit often. Despite some strong play early, the Predators were able to strike first, on a beautiful goal that saw two cross-ice passes, the latter ending on the stick of Ryan Suter (yes, Suter, as in nephew of former Sharks defenseman Gary Suter), who was able to tap it in for a 1-0 lead. The Predators had to fight off a pair of powerplays towards the end of the 1st, but held on to the slimmest of margins, and took it into the locker room after 1.

As hard as the Teal pressed in the 1st, they came out even harder, registering 18 shots in the 2nd frame. At 8:38 of the period, a seemingly harmless wrist shot by Craig Rivet deflected off the stick of Milan Michalek [2], who was waiting in front for the shot, and tipped it past Tomas Vokoun, tying the game at 1 (Rivet, Joe Thornton). The Sharks were unable to score on 6 power plays during the game, but at 12:18 of the period, they capitalized on a mistake by Paul Kariya. Kariya, who had seen his penalty expire 10 seconds earlier, decided to go to the bench and make a change, rather than jump into the play and help his teammates fend off the Sharks attack. With the even strength man behind the play, Christian Ehrhoff found Matt Carle behind the net, and Carle found Ryane Clowe [2] waiting in the slot, who picked his spot and wristed it past Vokoun, giving the Sharks a 2-1 lead, a score that would stand after 40 minutes of play.

The Predators got a pair of chances with the man advantage in the 3rd, the first carried over from the end of the previous period, and the second came 6 minutes in. Both, however, were unsuccessful, and at 15:34, Bill Guerin wristed a shot at the net that was perfectly tipped by Captain Patrick Marleau [1], and sealed the deal for the Sharks (Guerin).

Having now seen playoff games in both Nashville and San Jose, it's hard to really determine the louder building, however, being a Sharks fan, I think I'd have to give the tiebreaker to the HP Pavilion (Compaq Center or San Jose Arena works too), just because I have to answer to more Sharks fans than Predator fans. Both buildings are very happy to have playoff hockey, and both are filled to the hilt with crazies, and that's all that really matters.

With Game 3 in the books, Wednesday will bring the 4th installment of this series (7:00 Pacific). Game 4 will see the return of Alexander Radulov, back after serving his one game suspension for a check from behind on Steve Bernier. Radulov was a spark plug in the 1+ games he played in Nashville, recording 3 goals, and should be a big part of the Predator attack once again. As crucial as Game 3 was, Game 4 is that much more important. While a Predators win will give them the SJ split, and send the series back to Nashville as a best of 3 with 2 games to be played in Tennessee, a Sharks win will give them a commanding 3 games to 1 lead, forcing Nashville to win 3 consecutive games or race for a good tee time on the course. Let's hope it's the second one, eh?

GO SHARKS (#17 [Hartnell] and #47 [Radulov], get ready for some serious booing action)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

4/13 WCQF Game 2: NASHVILLE 5, sharks 2

Ok, so it wasn't a two game sweep in their house, but we got one, that's a good start. Game 2 of this series went down not quite as smooth for Sharks fans, as it wasn't a win, and it wasn't overtime. The extra blow of losing another guy doesn't help, as this time a Shark went down with an absolute no doubter kind of shot, getting drilled between the numbers while standing on the boards, an absolute hockey no-no. The one thing to remember, sports fans, is that this is but one game, one loss, one step on a long road to the end of the cliff.

Unlike Game 1, the Sharks played much less physically, and, in many instances, were just plain outmuscled by the smaller Predator squad. Rather than play the slow, deliberately paced game the Teal usually roll out, they tried to skate too much with the Preds (that's how the locals call 'em, still not sure what a Pred is though), and it cost them big time.

Craig Rivet opened the scoring for the Sharks, [2] when he took a pass from Patrick Marleau on a play that looked a bit similar to Patrick Rissmiller's deciding goal in Game 1, flipping the puck over the outstretched Tomas Vokoun (Marleau, Matt Carle). Alexander Radulov tied the game at 1 just a couple minutes later on a very soft play by the Sharks defense. Vern Fiddler, beating Marc-Edouard Vlasic down the left wing, pushed the puck into the slot where, after sitting there for a moment, was snatched up by Radulov and deposited past Evgeni Nabokov. Peter Forsberg got on the board towards the end of the period, as he picked up a rebound off the back of the boards, and slipped it past the back of Nabokov, giving Nashville the 2-1 lead.

Midway through the 2nd, the Sharks lost another forward to a questionable hit, as this time Radulov left his feet to deliver an elbow/shoulder to the middle of the numbers on Steve Bernier's back as he was standing, facing the boards, knocking Bernier down, and possibly out for the remainder of the series (Bernier was seen skating on Sunday 4/15, but at this time, his availability for Game 3 is unknown). The Sharks were not able to convert, however, and towards the end of the penalty, J.P. Dumont rushed the puck up the ice, and wristed one past Nabokov, making the score 3-1. Later in the period, the Predators got a break when they dodged a roughing infraction, giving them a 5-on-3 chance rather than a 4-on-3. On the ensuing 2-man advantage, Dumont struck again, on a perfect passing scheme by the Predators.

Ryane Clowe brought the Sharks within two midway through the 3rd period [1] when he gobbled up a rebound and snuck a snapshot upstairs on Vokoun (Jonathan Cheechoo, Christian Ehrhoff), however, that was the closest the Sharks would get. A Forsberg empty netter and fights by Clowe, Mike Grier, and Scott Hannan closed up the game, which turned out to be much more disappointing than it looked when Rivet drew first blood way back in the 1st period. Nabokov made 17 saves in the losing effort.

Cheechoo returned for the Sharks, despite not looking 100%, and should play in Game 3, getting an extra couple days to rest his knee. The return of Bernier is still unknown, but we'll know soon enough. Radulov was suspended by the NHL 1 game for his hit on Bernier, and will return for Game 4.

For Games 3 and 4, we shift to San Jose, the home of the Sharks, and one very happy blogger (me). Game 3 will take place on Monday, the 16th (7:00 pacific). With the series tied at 1, punishment carried out by the league on a dirty hit in an attempt to stem further hits, and a bit of aggression out of the way in the form of some old time hockey fighting at the conclusion of Game 2, the stage is set for another classic between two of the Western Conference's finest. If you have the ability to obtain a ticket to the event taking place at 525 W. Santa Clara St. tomorrow night at, oh say, 7 o clock sharp, stop on by, wear your finest teal, scream your head off, and enjoy some hatred fueled hockey. I know 17,495 other people that'll do the same right beside you.

GO SHARKS (Get Well Bernier)

Friday, April 13, 2007

4/11 WCQF (Round 1)GAME 1: sharks 5, NASHVILLE 4 2OT

A full day later, and it's still a big win. Overshadowed by the loss of Jonathan Cheechoo for who knows how long (playoff diagnosis: Cheech has the flu), the Sharks pulled one out in Nashville on Wednesday in their first playoff overtime, and therefore, the longest game in Nashville Predator history. Big hits, incredible saves, beautiful goals, and a giant, walking blue ice tiger thing, it must be playoff time.

Joe Thornton has been said to be a perennial playoff "choker", and he lived up to his billing in Game 1, as he only recorded 2 assists (horrible, I know). Patrick Marleau recorded a pair of assists, as well, and Mike Grier also had 2 points, tallying a goal and an assist. Evgeni Nabokov was huge in net for the Teal, making 39 saves for the win.

Even before the game started, you could tell the 17,113 that filled the Nashville Arena were ready for some playoff hockey, as they provided the loudest ovation for the pre-game injury report that I've ever heard. Despite their noise level (those stupid blue clapper things didn't help quiet the building at all), the Sharks found little difficulty in taking the lead kinda early, as Matt Carle [1] bounced a shot in off the skate of Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter (Thornton, Craig Rivet), and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead that stood til the 1st intermission.

The Predators came out hard early in the 2nd, getting goals from Alexander Radulov and J. P. Dumont 81 seconds apart to give Nashville the lead just 4 minutes into the middle frame. Grier tied the game at 2 just a minute and a half later [1], taking a great one-time pass from Patrick Rissmiller, who had drawn attention towards him behind the net (Rissmiller, Brown). Playoff games aren't without controversy, and this one was no different. At 9:00 of the 2nd, Scott Hartnell came in for a check on Cheechoo, and Cheech, who wasn't in possession of the puck, had his head down, and was turning to go to the bench. Hartnell continued his hit, and connected with Cheechoo, knocking knees as he passed. At this time, the exact diagnosis of Cheechoo's injury is unknown, but he is listed as "Highly Doubtful" for this evening's game. Hartnell was assessed a 5 minute major for kneeing, and was booted from the game with the subsequent game misconduct. The Sharks received a 5 minute power play, an opportunity that didn't go to waste. Craig Rivet [1] blasted a shot from the point that found it's way past Tomas Vokoun, that returned the lead to the hands of the Fin (powerplay) (Marleau). Milan Michalek [1] made it 4-2 when he took a Thornton pass from behind the net and potted it past Vokoun (Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic).

The game remained 4-2 until Radulov deked the life out of Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren, and ripped a wrister past Nabokov. The game looked to be almost won when, with 50 seconds left, Dumont tipped a Shea Weber blast that tied the game at 4. The contest remained tied through the first extra period, despite great scoring chances, including a breakaway from Predator Jordin Tootoo. In the second OT, Marleau had his own breakaway, but that was broken up by the defensive play by Dan Hamhuis, and a save by Vokoun. But at 8:14 of Double Overtime, the game was finally decided on a nice little play set up by Grier to drop a pass to Marleau at the blue line, who then dished it ahead to Rissmiller [1], who popped it over the shoulder of Vokoun (Grier, Marleau).

The fans here provided a great atmosphere for Game 1, and Game 2, which gets underway in just over 7 hours, should be no different. It was nice to be present, even in a foreign building, for a playoff game in which my team was victorious, but as everyone knows, it's a best of 7 series in hockey, not 1, which means there's just a bit of hockey left to be played (bit = way too much for my comfort). If Wednesday night's contest was any indication, this series is real close, way too close to call definitively either way until it comes to an end sometime next week or beyond.

Speaking of Game 2, it's tonight (5:00 pm Pacific). Same two teams, same place, same time. Now, if it's the same result, I'll be two things, both happy and dead. Happy because the Sharks were once again victorious, and dead because my heart won't be able to handle another 2 OT game. Regulation would be fine by me.

GO SHARKS (At least I didn't get a clapper to the head)

Out front of the former Gaylord Entertainment Center, now Nashville Arena.

See, no more GEC. The Nashville Arena getting a chance to Live It in the playoffs.

The Pred head, spotlighted in a yellow only a Predator fan can love. (Mmm mmm, gotta love that mustard).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

End of Season Report Part IV: Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks @ Honda Center 11/21, 2/7, 3/2 & 4/5:
Building: B-. Nice place, but too big and not too easy to maneuver around.
Seating area: C. The seats are nice and wide, but the sightlines are not great upstairs, I didn't pay to see the back of a head.
Atmosphere: C. The fans were able to get kinda loud when the Ducks scored, but the chants and energy just weren't there.
Concessions: D+. Only a few stands, I did find them, but the food was no good (hot dogs, pretzels, Rubio's grill).
Hospitality: C. Got a few dirty looks, but with all the teal in town, that's not surprising. Got razzed once, AFTER the game.

Overall Grade: C. Maybe come playoff time this place can rock, but until then, the place just doesn't seem terribly imposing. It's an okay place to watch a hockey game, but be ready to lean around the guys 6 rows in front of you blocking your view.

Dallas Stars @ American Airlines Center 12/4, 12/31 2/18 & 3/4:
Building: B. Ho-lee crap this place is big. Walking the wicked nice concourses make forget you're at a hockey game.
Seating Area: B. Any seat is a good seat in the aptly named Hangar, but those stupid cup holder armrests, too small.
Atmosphere: C+. Aside from the "Stars" screamed during the anthem, this place is tumbleweed city except after goals.
Concessions: B-. The downstairs has most of them, but the couple upstairs aren't too bad, and the Dr. Pepper Plant is cool.
Hospitality: B+. Haven't talked to many Stars fans, but all I talked to were nice and ribbing me with a smile on their faces.

Overall Grade: A-. This building is as nice as it is big (very). Ok food, great beer and soda selection (gotta get an RC at the Dr. Pepper Plant), and tons of Sharks fans, can't go wrong. The building and the seats make up for the horrid PA announcer, and the Dallas Stars song gets me pumped, even as a Sharks fan. American Airlines is as good as it can be, for being so far away and having to visit four times.

Los Angeles Kings @ Staples Center 11/9, 11/13, 12/12 & 1/11:
Building: B. Big, nice building with decent sized concourses. The right amount of glitz and glamour for LA.
Seating Area: B. The bowls are very big, the upper level provides an awesome view of the ice. Purple and black seats a plus.
Atmosphere: C+. Those who come try to get loud, but the cavernous building with empty seats makes it hard to do so.
Concessions: B-. Not the greatest selection, but the prices aren't bad, and they do have Panda Express, Chinese for yummy.
Hospitality: C+. Except for the building wide "San Jose Sucks" chants, Kings fans weren't too bad, except for the Prius kids.

Overall Grade: B. Nice arena, nice seats, nice location, not so nice team. The Staples Center is a very comfortable building, and the fans deserve to sit in comfort. Staples is still mainly a scene for the Lakers, but it's a fun and nice place to see a hockey game. Plus, the organ is played by the one and only Dieter Ruhle from Saturday Night Live fame (and was the former organist for the Sharks).

Phoenix Coyotes @ Arena 11/11, 12/30, 1/13 & 3/15:
Building: A-. Beautiful un-arena looking arena from the outside, nice wide concourses inside. Great colors too.
Seating Area: A-. Upstairs is nice and steep, downstairs pretty steep too, seats just a nudge small, and they're red too.
Atmosphere: B. Kids howl, adults howl, TOO MUCH HOWLING. But they're into the game, and that damn howling too.
Concessions: B-. Decent selection of food, good prices, and they have a Hooters in-house. Not enough beer choices though.
Hospitality: B-. Not much communication either way, but the ushers were nice to me as a Sharks fan.

Overall Grade: B+. I thoroughly enjoyed my four trips to the Glendale ( Arena, and will definitely go back in the future. The arena is one of, if not the, nicest in the league, and once the area is surrounded by the restaraunts and shops and condos currently under construction, it'll make for one of the best touristy buildings in the league. Once the 'Yotes get good, this will be a fun rivalry, in an AWESOME BUILDING.

This is the end of the rink report, I'm on my way to Game 1 now. Here's to getting to go to my 21st arena of the year in a few weeks.


End of Season Report Part III: Northwest Division

Part 3, Northwest Division.

Calgary Flames @ Pengrowth Saddledome 10/9 & 2/24:
Building: C+. The place looks like a submarine from the outside, the inside is not as nice, but it's not bad.
Seating Area: B. I didn't sit in the 300's, but from where I did sit, the view was great.
Atmosphere: B+. The "C" of Red, very cool and imposing, but the noise level was not great, possibly the game (SJ 4-1)
Concessions: C-. A few stands, pretty easy to get to, but the food was the generic stuff.
Hospitality: D. Hopefully it was just this one time, but the only contact they made with me was a thrown beer that did miss.

Overall Grade: C+. Finding my seat in 205 was difficult, but that was because the sign for it was laying on the ground. The building wasn't too tough to walk around, but the narrow concourses were. The fans seem like great fans, given the opportunity to be loud, and, except for that beer that ended up hitting the people behind me, they're not hostile, just not hospitible.

Colorado Avalanche @ Pepsi Center 11/15 & 3/18:
Building: A-. Huge outside, huge inside, but not too difficult to find your way, each entrance has an escalator right there.
Seating Area: B-. The view is great, but the seats are a bit narrow for me, especially with those cup holders on either side.
Atmosphere: C-. Quiet, not too energetic, and a quarter empty. Cheering loudly for icing and offsides, doesn't make up for it.
Concessions: A. Plentiful, tasty, and not too pricy, great combo. And those little toasty doughnuts? Who needs hockey?
Hospitality: D+. First time was fine, but unnecessarily rude behavior towards me after the second game.

Overall Grade: C+. The place is beautiful, the inside is large, the banners are a bit imposing (so many division banners), and the Pepsi ball that comes down from the scoreboard at intermission is just so dang cool. The food is good, the music is rockin, if only the fans on a whole were a bit more knowledgable (they initally cheered three penalties that they thought were on the Sharks, when they were really on the Avalanche), it would be an even greater experience.

Edmonton Oilers @ Rexall Place 10/12 & 1/26:
Building: C+. Not a bad building, but it's not the best either. The walkways are waaaay too cramped, it's quite silly.
Seating Area: C+. Sightlines aren't bad, but to be a grown man (or extra grown in my case) in the seats is a really tight fit.
Atmosphere: A. The fans are friendly, funny, educated, and most importantly, loud. The group rendition of "O Canada"? Wow.
Concessions: B-. Wasn't a terribly large selection of food, but all that there was had reasonable prices.
Hospitality: A+. Some of the nicest fans I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and all razzing is polite and done with a smile.

Overall Grade: B. I thoroughly enjoyed my trips to Rexall, despite the extremely cramped seating upstairs. The great fans who fill this building make it totally worth it. During my last trip, there was a arena wide sing-a-long of "The Good Ole Hockey Game", another testament to how fun a hockey atmosphere it was. I would love to go back to Edmonton to see another game, but the Sharks do so poorly there, I wouldn't mind returning for a Teal-less game.

Minnesota Wild @ Xcel Energy Center 11/29 & 3/6:
Building: B+. Very nice arena, but the signage to get upstairs is non-existent. Walkways are nice and pretty wide.
Seating Area: B. Nice, wide seats, and the sightlines aren't bad, but sitting in the dark upstairs on the ends sucks.
Atmosphere: B-. The fans show up every night wearing the garb, are kinda loud, but leave early like most of the buildings.
Concessions: B-. Nothing special at the stands, bu the food and prices are decent. Gotta try the cheese curds, awesome.
Hospitality: B-. The normal people screaming "Sharks suck" at me, but more nice fans who were willing to converse nicely.

Overall Grade: B. Very nice building, and the whole "State of Hockey" thing really gets you in the mood for some puck. I can't help but think it's maybe a tad too big, because any arena that needs mood lighting is a little too large for it's britches. I like the lighthouse and the kid who comes out and plants the State of Hockey flag at center ice, but it's so far away. It's better than outside at least.

Vancouver Canucks @ GM Place 10/13 & 1/28:
Building: B+. Super nice place, super large too. The concourses aren't terribly wide though, and therefore packed.
Seating Area: B-. The upper level has great sight lines, and the lean bars are great, but turn on the lights please.
Atmosphere: B+. Canuck fans are totally insane, and insanely passionate, and despite their extreme drunkenness, nice too.
Concessions: C+. Nothing too special upstairs, and the lines and prices are quite intimidating anyway.
Hospitality: A-. The fans were very exuberant, and did some razzing, but they were very kind and inviting to me.

Overall Grade: B+. GM Place is a beautiful building, and, despite it's size, is truly great. Inside, the scoreboard is a stupid beautiful 100% HD board and almost worth the trip alone. The only real downside is for opposing fans, as the Canucks fans love their Canucks, and also love their beer, alot. Some of the upper level can be very rowdy, and a bit of a buzzkill for a fun evening of hockey.

Only a few hours til the Game 1 with the Nashville Predators, got some time to kill here in the Music City, takin in a Nashville Sounds AAA (Milwaukee Brewers affiliate) ballgame at 12 (10 am pacific). Look for the Pacific Division later this afternoon.

End of Season Rink Report Part II: Central Division

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks @ United Center 2/22 and 3/21:
Building: A. The outside is a plain concrete fortress, but the inside takes you to a world of history and sports. Old timey too.
Seating Area: B+. Very big symmetrical bowls, but not a bad seat in the house. Red seats for a red team, also a plus.
Atmosphere: B-. Gotta give the 10,000 fans that did attend a hand, because they were knowledgable and actually watched.
Concessions: B. Good, varied choice of food and drink, and the 309 Ironworks is a very cool area.
Hospitality: B. These guys love their Hawks, but they razz on them more than the other team. Smart fans, fun to talk to.

Overall Grade: B+. Chicago is a fun city, and a big time sports town. It's a shame that the Hawks suck right now, as they are a storied team, but they will get better, and Bill Wirtz (the old, crotchety owner who no one likes) will die (eventually), and the fans will return, to make this place fun. The history, the tradition, and the organist, a great package.

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Nationwide Arena 10/23 & 2/16:
Building: A-. The largest building I've been to, the place is flat out cool. The signage for the escalators is good too.
Seating Area: B-. Not a bad seat in the barn, but the seats are way too narrow for fat Mr. Odyssey. Armrest cupholders = bad.
Atmosphere: B-. The fans here tried oh so hard to get the team going, but they never responded. Loud even when behind.
Concessions: C-. Not too many, and not too varied a selection, but the food was pretty good, and prices not too steep.
Hospitality: B. Had a good conversation with a mother/daughter, the latter was a huge fan of Nikolai Zherdev. NIce people.

Overall Grade: B. Big is beautiful in C-bus. Loaded with tradition in the lobby (high school and college hockey jerseys), great views, and a successful revitalization of the area (the Arena District has tons of good food and even some homes nearby too), the Nationwide Arena is a great place to visit.

Detroit Red Wings @ Joe Louis Arena 10/25 & 12/2:
Building: C-. Old, plain, inconvenient, and cramped walkways. Outside ain't much prettier, but it holds some great history.
Seating Area: C-. The seats aren't too wide, ain't too much legroom, and that 4 foot tall kid 10 rows up looks like a mountain.
Atmosphere: C+. It's a decent atmosphere. The fans show up late and leave early, but those banners pick up their slack.
Concessions: C+. Not alot of variety at the stands, but you can bring an Icee, or a large Little Caesar's pizza to your seat.
Hospitality: B-. They notice me, boo me when I walk by, on the stairs or concourse, and are pretty nice to talk to in my seat.

Overall Grade: C. I can't give the Joe a horrible grade, but it isn't the best building out there, which is helped by the fact that it is 30 years old. The ten banners that are painted on the walkway that goes over the street adjacent to the arena set the mood of this place perfectly, and the sea of red banners hanging from the rafters continue it. The Tubby's down the street makes this trip 100% worth it, before that, it's stll about 75%.

Nashville Predators @ Gaylord Entertainment Center/Nashville Arena 10/26 & 2/14:
Building: B+. From the outside, the GEC looks like a spaceship, complete with the blue spire thingie. Inside is pretty too.
Seating Area: B-. Pretty big inside, but the sightlines are good. Again with the smallish seats, I get the message already.
Atmosphere: B+. It wasn't full when I was there, but the 13 thou that made it were loud, boisterous, and drunk off $2 beers.
Concessions: C. Didn't explore too much, but the 300s were pretty bare concessionwise. Seemed to be variety downstairs.
Hospitality: C+. The drunk guys who screamed in my ear all night wasn't too pleasant, and 303 is rightfully unsettling.

Overall Grade: B. Nashville is still a budding hockey town, and they definitely have the pieces to succeed. A great team, a great building, and a great location. The fans in 303 are great, and they've really influenced the crowd to get loud and crazy all game long, making the building pretty intimidating. I get to come back in a couple weeks, and am looking quite forward to it. That Tim McGraw song followed by the high school chant to Rock and Roll Part 2 is pretty grating though.

St. Louis Blues @ Scottrade Center 11/28 & 2/13:
Building: B-. Outside it's pretty nice, inside is strikingly different. It has an old time feel, a clean, not broken down old feel.
Seating Area: B+. The sightlines are awesome, the seats are pretty wide upstairs, and they're just plain nice.
Atmosphere: C+. The building was pretty empty, but the fans started a few chants, and were pretty into the game.
Concessions: C-. Didn't see much variety, but the bar in the Top Shelf area was cool, and so were the cheese fries.
Hospitality: C. Wasn't taunted or talked to, so this got a neutral grade. Maybe it'll be different next time round.

Overall Grade: C. When I was here, the team wasn't doing so hot, but since then, they've been doing better, so hopefully there'll be more people next month. St. Louis is a great sports town, and they have a great arena as well. The cheese fries are enough to look forward to, and a possibly full-er Scottrade helps alot. Alot of past history, and plenty of history yet to come.

Next: Northwest Division

End of Regular Season Rink Report, Part I: Southeast Division

Southeast Division

Atlanta Thrashers @ Philips Arena 3/22:
Building: B-. Super nice building, but the funky layout makes it a pain to walk around since there's only one real entrance.
Seating Area: B-. Very unique layout inside, however, upstairs, the angles aren't steep enough, and they leave the lights off.
Atmosphere: B. Everyone here loves their Thrashers, and are loud about it, with decent amounts of chanting throughout.
Concessions: B+. There's a huge food court next to the grand staircase, but upstairs the food is sparse. Good prices though.
Hospitality: B. Same as most other SE buildings, they aren't used to SJ fans, so no hate, but the "Sharks suck" is still here.

Overall Grade: B. Nice arena, definitely unique and therefore memorable. The layout inside, however, isn't the best, as sitting upstairs behind either net means sitting in the dark, and behind one of the endzone screens. The giant "ATLANTA" out front let's you know what city you're in, and the baby blue Thrasher jerseys everywhere let you know you're in Blueland. The Thrashers host their first ever playoff game on Thursday, and I'm sure it'll be quite a scene for all those in attendance.

Carolina Hurricanes @ RBC Center 3/24:
Building: A-. Very wide walkways, very easy to navigate, however, I didn't get to explore upstairs so I can't evaluate up there.
Seating Area: A. Nice, symetrical upper and lower bowl, nice, wide seats, and pretty decent sightlines, and they're red, too.
Atmosphere: A. EVERY caniac wears something Hurricanes, not to mention tailgates prior to the game, and loud during it.
Concessions: NA. Due to me being on TV and such, I wasn't able to check out the concessions much, but I had a good soda.
Hospitality: A. The only place where I got no negativity at all, was given complements on my Irbe jersey, and were just nice.

Overall Grade: A. Probably my favorite building/atmosphere combo on the trip (Edmonton was a great atmosphere, but poor building), I would love to attend another game out here again. These NC hockey fans love their 'Canes, and aren't shy about it. At the same time, they're respectful of opposing fans being fans of opposing teams in their building, caring just about hockey, as it should be. Kids playing hockey in the parking lot, awesome.

Florida Panthers @ BankAtlantic Center 10/31:
Building: B+. Relatively normal sized, lots of glass the only real downside are the multiple concourses.
Seating Area: B. Good steep sightlines upstairs, big emphasis on sitting downstairs, one of the larger lower bowls I've seen.
Atmosphere: C. The few fans that there were on this night were loud and decked out in Panther Garb.
Concessions: B. Several bar areas, even more food court areas, great selection upstairs and down.
Hospitality: B. In South Florida, they don't see many Sharks fans, so they weren't mean at all, cept for that drunk Ranger fan.

Overall Grade: B. Beautiful building, great concessions, and a cool entrance to the team store in the lobby (giant panther head), it's a shame that this place has to be in the middle of a swamp. One step outside, even at 10:00 p.m. and the weather makes hockey the last thing that comes to mind. The few thousand that cheer for the Panthers night in and night out are good fans, it's a shame they can't draw more in such a great building.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ St. Pete Times Forum 10/29:
Building: C+. Nice and huge outside, nice and huge inside, but it was impossible to find the damn escalator.
Seating Area: B+. Even with room for 19,500, the Pete has great sightlines everywhere, even way up in the rafters.
Atmosphere: A. Constant chants from loud, energetic, knowledgable, properly outfitted fans. In Florida, no less.
Concessions: C-. Not a very large choice of food, but a large drink was only 3 bucks.
Hospitality: B+. Only spoke to one Lightning fan, but he was very nice and complemented my team on a good game.

Overall Grade: B+. A great building, great fans, and a wicked loud horn. A fun place to watch a game, despite sitting in a plastic chair. Some good eats nearby, and with the poor concessions, it might be the best way to get rid of that hunger before or after a game.

Washington Captials @ Verizon Center 2/21:
Building: B-. Beautiful outside, funky inside. Pretty decent sized concourses, but pretty barren at the same time.
Seating Area: B. Nice, symmetrical upper and lower bowls, and a pretty decent view. All purple seats though?
Atmosphere:B-. There weren't many people in attendance, but they cared and paid attention, and that's what matters.
Concessions: C-. Nothing special, just the normal food. But they did have kinda cheap beer (5 bucks for a 16 oz cup).
Hospitality: B. The main Cap fan interaction was with the mascot, Slap Shot, who way upstairs just to whack me with his tail.

Overall Grade: B-. Nice building, centrally located in the Chinatown Area of DC. Metro runs right under the arena, tons of food and drink around the building, and, if you didn't know to look for the Booth, you'd walk right by it. The Caps fans deserve a good team, and when this current team matures, the great fans here will come back. They could use a bit more food options though, inside the arena, for those with mid-game munchies.

Next up: Western Conference, Central Division

Sunday, April 08, 2007

4/7 vancouver 4, SHARKS 3 OT

Ok, so it wasn't a win to finish the season, but it was a solid hockey game from the teal clad hockey team (8th in a row, by my count), and a game that leaves fans ready for a deep run in the playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks, a very strong team, showed their strength, and the Sharks showed theirs. Ultimately, it was the Canucks who prevailed, but in a very tight game, it was still fun to watch. Joe Thornton led the way with 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) and also led the Sharks in hits (4). Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek each recorded a goal as well, and Evgeni Nabokov, making his 7th consecutive start, made 26 saves and earned his 4th overtime loss, 20th loss overall.

The game got off to a quick start, as the Canucks scored twice in the first 5 minutes of the game, carrying that through the first 20 minutes of play. Just 48 seconds into the 2nd, Michalek tipped a Thornton shot [26] that found its way past Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo (powerplay) (Thornton, Cheechoo). Towards the end of the 2nd, the Sharks had a 5-on-3 with several good chances. A Patrick Marleau shot was not one of those, but the rebound on to the stick of Thornton and subsequent goal was [22] (powerplay) (Marleau, Joe Pavelski). Kevin Bieksa gave the Canucks a 3-2 lead with just over 13 minutes remaining in the 3rd, a score that looked to remain for the rest of the contest, however the Sharks, that wasn't good enough. With just 33 seconds left in regulation and the extra attacker on, the Sharks were the recipients of luck, good bounces, and Cheechoo's stick at just the right place at just the right time, all three huge factors in the game tying goal [37] (Michalek, Thornton).

With this being the last regular season game of the year, and therefore the final regular season game of the Odyssey, closure is in order, however, to avoid angering the hockey gods, seeing as the season is not over yet, I will not provide such written closure until the end of the year. So all you prodders, with your prodding of me to provide such closure, wait for the end of the season, all the closure you could ever want. Until then, I will provide a completed list of my rink reports. I fly to Nashville tomorrow, so expect them by late tomorrow night.

Speaking of Nashville, welcome to round 1 of the playoffs. A rematch from last year, the Predators should be a bit angry and hungry at the same time. Keep in mind the Sharks victory over the Predators prompted the Preds to make the changes to their roster that they did make this off-season. The series begins Wednesday in Nasvhille at 5:00 pm Pacific time. Full schedule below. Rest your heart now, cause it'll only get crazier from here.

Go Sharks (Y'all ready for this, y'all?)

Game 1: 4/11 @ Nashville 5:00 Pacific FSNBA TSN VS
Game 2: 4/13 @ Nashville 5:00 Pacific FSNBA TSN VS
Game 3: 4/16 @ San Jose 7:00 Pacific FSNBA TSN VS
Game 4: 4/18 @ San Jose 7:00 Pacific TSN VS
*Game 5: 4/20 @ Nashville 6:00 Pacific FSNBA TSN VS
*Game 6: 4/22 @ San Jose 7:00 Pacific FSNBA TSN VS
*Game 7: 4/24 @ Nashville TBD FSNBA TSN VS

Myself with the always popular Drew Remenda.

Friday, April 06, 2007

4/5 SHARKS 4, calgary 3

Welcome to the best Sharks team (record wise) in 15 years of hockey in the Bay. The Sharks 51st win of the year (and 5th consecutive victory) was an easy one, that is until the Sharks decided to sit back in the final 10 minutes of the 3rd and make it unnecessarily interesting. The second night of the final back-to-back of the season saw the Sharks wearing their traditional all black alternate jerseys for Black Thursday (one could say the Sharks played black-to-black games, oh and did I mention, I love the black jerseys). After coming home victorious in a shootout from Southern California (Disneyland country) over the Pacific Division leading Ducks, the Sharks had another tough team to face in the Calgary Flames. To my eyes, the Sharks really only showed fatigue with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd, when they allowed the Flames to make a game of it, closing a 3 goal gap to just 1.

As the score accurately told, last night's contest was a hard fought, playoff like game between the teams. The first period went scoreless, despite a bit of chippy play, and a handful of scoring opportunities for either side. After the first twenty minutes, however, the game was not quite as scoreless. Milan Michalek [25] crashed the net at just the right time, picking up a rebound from a broken play and rifling it past goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (Matt Carle, Joe Thornton). Just under two minutes later, Mark Bell did that same crashing the net stuff [11], and found the puck sitting loose after a couple nice saves by Kiprusoff, but found him sprawled on the ice, and just shot it over him to make it 2-0. Kristian Huselius cut the lead in half less than a minute later, and it stood at 2-1 after two. 3rd period goals from Mike Grier [16] (Curtis Brown, Kyle McLaren) and Jonathan Cheechoo [36](Thornton, Michalek) gave the fans pizza (four in the net, pizza you get) and the Sharks a 3 goal lead midway through the 3rd and final period, but a pair of Jarome Iginla goals brought the Flames back within one. Despite some solid offensive play by Calgary, the Sharks stood tall, holding to their 4-3 lead until time expired. Evgeni Nabokov won his fifth consecutive game, making 29 stops, earning his 25th win of the year in the process.

Another game, another thank you to everyone who had such kind words for me at the Tank last night, I love all the critiquing I get, both positive and negative, and it really makes me feel good to get so much positive feedback.

The Sharks conclude the 2006/07 regular season with a Saturday afternoon matinee with the Vancouver Canucks (1:00 pacific). The Canucks lead the series 2-1, splitting in Vancouver, and the Canucks have taken the one game played in SJ. The Canucks have been carried by the unconscious play of goaltender Roberto Luongo (bingo bango bongo), however, with just one game left, the Canucks find themselves needing to win in order to stave off the charging Minnesota Wild in order to claim the Northwest Division crown. The Sharks are still in a Division title race themselves, as the Anaheim Ducks fell in the shootout yet again, this time to the Dallas Stars. The OTL give the Ducks 108 points, which is the maximum number of points the Sharks can finish with. With a Sharks win, and an Anaheim loss in regulation on Saturday (they are playing in Columbus and are 1-2 against the Jackets this year), the Sharks will become the 2006/07 Pacific Division Champions. Anything less will see the Ducks win their first Division title in franchise history.

Go Sharks (Go Blue Jackets)

Sharkie, who was as ready to put out the Flames as the Sharks were.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

4/4 sharks 3, ANAHEIM 2 SO

50! (Ok, so it was a shoot out win, but it was still a win, and that's what ultimately matters.)

The Sharks, playing their final road game of the season (and, coincidentally, the Ducks final home game of the season), gave the visiting fans a show, dropping to a quick deficit, and then battling back to tie it against one of the Western Conference elite, ultimately pulling ahead in the shoot out (boy I hate shooto... oh wait, maybe I don't).

The Teal (well, Black last night. Yes, those stupid black jersesy found their way onto the backs of the Sharks on the road) found themselves down 1-0 early in the game, as Andy McDonald put one past goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Scott Niedermayer made it 2-0 a few minutes later, seemingly setting the tone for a very rough game for any San Jose supporters in the building. However, Head Coach Ron Wilson must have said something to his players, as they came out in the 2nd with a second wind. Scott Hannan finally broke through the Ilya Bryzgalov wall [4], when his slap shot from the point found it's way through legs and sticks and eventually found twine (Marcel Goc, Mike Grier). Steve Bernier tied the game at 2 when he found himself with the puck and some time and space in the slot (a theme for Sharks goals, recently), and roofed a backhander past Bryzgalov [15] (Kyle McLaren, Goc).

The 3rd period was an exciting one, as each team had opportunities to score, but a Craig Rivet hooking call with just 35 seconds left in regulation looked to spell doom for the Sharks. As the game creeped into OT, the Ducks were prepared to play 4-on-3 for the first 1:25 of the extra period, but Ron Wilson, pulling a gutsy, veteran move, fixed that, by calling for a stick measurement on Teemu Selanne. If Selanne's stick was found illegal, he would recieve a 2 minute minor for an illegal stick, and the teams would skate 3-on-3 for 95 seconds, and if it was found as a legal stick, the Sharks would get the 2 minute minor, and the Ducks would have a 5-on-3 for those 95 seconds. Well, fortunately for Fin fans everywhere, Ron Wilson's gamble paid off, Teemu's stick was found to be illegal, and he received the 2 minute minor that goes with it, alleviating some pressure on the Sharks. Each team had a couple chances to win the game, but the Ducks posessed the puck for most of the 4th period, taking 6 shots on net to the Sharks 2. In the always painful (which is now only the almost always painful) shoot out, the Sharks took advantage of their situation. Ryan Getzlaf took the first shot, and made it look awfully easy to score on the Sharks netminder, walking right in and putting it right past Nabokov. Jonathan Cheechoo, however, knotted the shoot out at 1 on his attempt. Selanne, next up, possibly showed how comfortable he was with his illegal stick, over-gripping his stick and and over-snapping his wrist shot, sending it way wide. Ryane Clowe buried his opportunity, sticking his backhander where momma hides the cookies ((top shelf) Sorry, I just had to do that). McDonald needed to score to lengthen the shoot out, but was unable to score as he was unable to even hold onto the puck (probably an ice problem), ending the shoot out and ending the game (ok, so on this night, the shoot out and the black jerseys weren't all that bad, but they still suck). Nabokov, in all, made 37 saves, not including causing both Selanne and McDonald to miss on their attempts, earning his 24th win on the season.

As this was the final game in the Pond on the year, I can't say that I'll miss it here. Not that I don't like it, but I don't care for the fans, who either yell and scream at you because they're winning, or yell and scream at you because you won. The real kicker to me is that most of these people don't really know from what they scream, but the fact that they care is what's important for this game. To also reflect upon this being the final road game for the year, I must say, it's been a bit insane. From walking across the street to the arena to walking through rain and snow for a few blocks to another, from talking with fans in Edmonton for the duration of a game, to getting yelled at by a homeless man for wearing a "very nice" (substitute those with the word that begins with the letter before "N" and ends with the letter after "Q"), it's been quite a trip on the road. I hope this doesn't even scratch the surface of my stories, as the most important session of hockey has yet to come.

A victory is only to savor until the next contest, and that next contest comes tonight (Thursday) for the Sharks, who return home to face the Calgary Flames (7:30 pacific). The Sharks lead the season series 2-1, splitting games in the Saddledome, and taking the one played in San Jose way back in December 4-1. With 104 points, the Sharks, who have tied an all-time franchise high in points, sit just 2 points back of Nashville for 4th in the West (equal in Games Played). The Predators also play tonight, visiting the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Go Sharks (Go Blues)

The Honda Ponda, in the kinda cloudy daylight.

This statue harkens back to the days when the NHL team in Anaheim got no respect, because they had funky colors, a really bad logo, and a wimpy sounding name. It's a good thing the black and gold, name for a logo, Ducks aren't that now. No, not at all.

Monday, April 02, 2007

4/1 SHARKS 6, los angeles 2

No April Fool's Day here, just another solid offensive barrage by the Boys in Teal. Jonathan Cheechoo recorded his 3rd hat trick of the season, and 8th of his career, as the Sharks kept pace with the rest of the West, burying the Kings 6-2. The Sharks looked pretty solid again, despite a shaky stretch in the second half of the 1st period. Their victory gives them their third consecutive win, and sixth consecutive win at 525 W. Santa Clara (the address of the Tank). Joe Thornton was his usual self, recording four assists, and defenseman Craig Rivet added a pair of helpers too. Evgeni Nabokov, making his fourth consecutive start in the blue paint, wasn't tested too much, as he needed to make just 18 saves to earn his 23rd win of the year.

Mark Bell got the Sharks off to an early start, as he, with the puck and both A TON of space and time, buried a shot past netminder Sean Burke [10] (Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski). A Thornton non-goal that was rifled off the post kept the momentum firmly on the Sharks side, but the Kings wrestled it away late in the 1st when a Mike Cammalleri wrister nicked the inside of the post and went in, tying the game at 1 (the closest this game was after the opening faceoff). Ron Wilson must have had some strong words for the Sharks, as they came out on fire in the 2nd. Cheechoo recorded all three of his goals [33,34,35] ([powerplay] Craig Rivet, Thornton) ([powerplay] Rivet, Thornton) (Thornton, Matt Carle), and Milan Michalek added another [24] (Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic), giving the Sharks a 5-1 lead after two. Alexander Frolov made the game 5-2 midway through the 3rd, but Patrick Rissmiller [7] stretched the lead back to 4 with a goal just a few minutes later (Mike Grier, Curtis Brown).

As was alluded to before, yesterday's game was indeed played on April 1st, which is known as April Fool's Day. There were no real jokes played, however Cheechoo's hat trick was awarded in a tricky way. Originally given credit for just the Sharks 2nd and 5th goals, he had two as the 2nd period ended. However, after reviewing the fourth Sharks tally, he was given credit for the goal that ricocheted off of a leg or two, but was originally shot off of his stick. The 17,496, just returning for the third period of play, were greeted with this news with about 30 seconds left before the start of the frame, but, once Joe Ike (the Sharks PA Announcer) announced the scoring change, the fans knew exactly what to do, tossing hats of all kinds onto the ice surface.

The Sharks have just three games remaining, and, unfortunately, none of which are against teams that are missing the playoffs (like the Kings or Coyotes or even the Kings). Their next contest comes on the road, their last road game of the year, in the house of the Pacific Division leading Anaheim Ducks of Anaheim (7:00 pacific). The Ducks are 4 points ahead of the Sharks, and each team has 3 games remaining. While the Sharks can still win the division, losing this game is not an option in order for that to happen. Wednesday can't come soon enough.

Go Sharks (We BEAT LA AGAIN)