Thursday, November 29, 2007

11/28/07 los angeles 3, SHARKS 2 (SO)

Oh look, a loss, at home, to the Kings. Only the third time this year that's happened. In three chances no less. Well, at least this time they got a point.

A Joe Thornton slapper and a Craig Rivet power play goal were the tallies for the Teal on a night that saw the Sharks lose their third game to their SoCal rivals this month, and 5th home loss in November. Evgeni Nabokov (which, in Kazakh, means "the one and only stopper of pucks") stood between the pipes in his 23rd start in the Sharks 23rd game of the year, stopping 31 shots in the skills competition loss. Despite goals from Joe Pavelski and Jeremy Roenick in the glorified breakaway challenge, Nabby failed to stonewall attempts by Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Patrick O' Sullivan (Milan Michalek took the other attempt for the Sharks, but failed to score).

Where as the Sharks had one goal in each of their past two games, they managed to splurge last night, doubling their output from the last two contests in just 60 minutes of play. Now, two goals in 60 minutes is not great, but it's better than one, so that's not too bad. Offense has been a problem for the Sharks, seemingly lacking the drive and the creativity necessary for a major output of scoring, especially with the man advantage. Sitting in the middle of the pack, the power play is operating at 17.1%, netting 19 goals in 111 opportunities. The team has potted just 59 goals in their 23 games, averaging 2.52 goals a game, good for 22nd in the league. On the plus side, however, the Sharks defense is largely impressive this year, allowing just 2.05 goals a game, which plants them firmly in 2nd in the league in that category (the Rangers lead with a team GAA of 1.84).

The strong Sharks defense has a chance to show up one of it's former members tomorrow night when Scott Hannan and the Colorado Avalanche come to town. Hannan is making his first return to the Tank since leaving over the summer for the thin air of Denver, home to, well, thin air, and, uh, Coors beer (from nearby Golden, CO), and, uh, uh, uhhhh, Woody Paige from ESPN's Around the Horn (5pm Eastern Monday - Friday). Denver is also near the snowy ski resort areas of Aspen and Vail, as well as 4.5 million reasons for each of the next four seasons (18 million in all) why Mr. Hannan should make his professional home in the Mile High City. Once dubbed "The Minister of Defense" (by some lame something or other), Hannan returns to his draft city sporting a team low -14. By contrast, the Sharks are lead in +/- by the √úbertap himself, Douglas Murray, who is a +13. The Avalanche crushed the Sharks in a 6-2 landslide in early October, tomorrow would be a nice time for redemption.

GO SHARKS (Scott who?)

Hmm, beat L.A. you say? So that's what we should be doing to them. I'll be sure to pass that along.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/24/07 los angeles 2, SHARKS !

Call the Sharks turkeys, because on Saturday, they got stuffed.

The ugly stat that was 1-5-1 (the Sharks record in games when having more than 2 days of rest beforehand) got one number larger in the middle, as the Teal decided to show up for just the final 7 minutes of the contest Saturday, falling one goal short. Evgeni Nabokov introduced Thomas Greiss to the backwards cap/chair combination, as Nabby got his 23rd start in 23 games this year. Milan Michalek had the lone goal for the Sharks, a beauty snapshot off a faceoff won by Joe Pavelski.

Michalek's goal Saturday was just the Sharks second in their last two games. For a team that was supposed to be the offensive juggernauts of the league, the Sharks sit second in the league in least goals allowed, a position no one thought they'd be in. Despite their lack of firepower thusfar, the Sharks superb defense and goaltending has kept them mostly afloat.

At Saturday's game, I had the pleasure of sitting behind a young boy and girl with their parents. I'm unsure about the adults, but the kids were attending their first hockey game. Now, it was heartbreaking that these youngsters didn't get to see the Sharks win in their first hockey game, but both kids seemed to enjoy themselves, which is all that matters.

On a side note, today I grabbed a Subway sandwich for lunch, and I encountered a man wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs sweatshirt. Unaware of what the Leafs did last night, I asked the man how the Leafs finished. After pausing for a few seconds, he looked down at his sweatshirt, proclaimed "oh, right" and said,"I'm sorry, I don't know how they did".

This is what I miss most about my trip, especially my time in Canada. When someone in Canada wears a hockey related piece of clothing, and that team played the previous night, they could tell you who won, who scored, probably even run down the summary of the penalties, all in french. Now, this isn't a knock against hockey in the States, just a longing for what hockey was like in Canada. Oh well, maybe again someday.

The Sharks get back to hockey tonight, after another decent layoff, to find the same faces on the opposite side of the ice that they fell to four days ago, when they take on the Kings again tonight (7:30). The Kings are 2-0 at the Tank this year, usually a fortress for the Sharks, however it's been a fairly penetrable castle this season, especially for the purple and black royalty from the south. Thomas Greiss is back in Worcester, meaning everyone's favorite door opener, Dmitri Patzold, is back at the helm, making sure the portal to the bench is closed tight. With some times to clear the cobwebs back out, the Sharks should be able to build on the momentum gained from the end of the contest on Saturday, and buzz early.

GO SHARKS (BEAT LA... please?)

Starting them young, just as you should.

Monday, November 19, 2007

11/17/07 anaheim 2, SHARKS 1 (SO)

Two games against the Ducks, two shootout losses.

Sandis Ozolinsh did everything he absolutely could to assure the Sharks would get the W on the evening, besides actually scoring a goal. He did take the slapper that was redirected by Torrey Mitchell and found it's way past J.S. Giguere and made the save of the evening and possibly the save of the year by plucking an Andy McDonald shot off the goalline with a diving backhanded stop.

Despite outplaying the Ducks for some of the game (when not on the poweplay, of course), the Sharks were not able to shut the door on the So Cal Fowl all the way, taking a point in the skills competition loss. Mitchell had the aforementioned Sharks goal, and Chris Kunitz had the lone goal for the Ducks, both deflections that neither goalie had a chance to stop. Besides each tally, both netminders were awesome, making 28 regulation and overtime saves a piece. Nabby made the start again, his 21th in 21 games this year. The Dmitri Patzold hologram on the bench could not be reached for comment, as, well, holograms don't have vocal chords.

Saturday, we saw yet again that the two teams thought by most to win the Cup out of the Pacific are terribly heartbreakingly equal. Anchored by strong goaltending and steady defense (well, most of the time), these teams haven't even really begun to get scary on the offensive side of the puck. When that happens, may the rest of the Conference look out. These two teams will meet thrice in a one week period in December (16 at Anaheim, 18 and 22 in San Jose), and it is at that point we will see truly where these teams stand, however, at this point, I like where the Sharks are, as they definitely seem to be coming together.

Well, the Sharks have a long time to come together, as they now take a full week off. When they return from their extended Thanksgiving break (not league mandated, but nice), they will host game #11 of the PacDiv 12 when the other LA team, the real LA team, the Kings, come to town (7:30). The Kings really are just the Kings, however, they're finally starting to get good. They can get good all they like, it'd just be preferable if they waited until after they play the Sharks.


Sandis's save, courtesy of Yahoo Sports

Friday, November 16, 2007

11/15/07 sharks 6, PHOENIX 0

I love Phoenix, I love Phoenix, I love Phoenix, I love Phoenix, I love Phoenix, (let's see, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, oh yeah) and I love Phoenix. The unbalanced scheudle is the best thing ever. I wish the Sharks could play the Desert Dogs 8 million times a year.

3/4ths of the way to redeeming for Coyote Ugly last year (which was the last time the Sharks lost to the Yotes, 6-0 in last 6 meetings), the Sharks went into Phoenix, and finished the demolition of the Coyotes that began last Saturday when Jeremy Roenick assisted on his 500 goal that was truly scored by Phoenix goalie Alex Auld. Joe Pavelski had a pair of tallies, while Steve Bernier, Patrick Rissmiller, Jeremy Roenick, and Devin Setoguchi added the others. Roenick's goal, the 501st of his career, went down as yet another GWG (game winning goal), bringing his GWG season total to 5, leading all of the NHL in the category. Evgeni "in Russian my name means 'God of durability' and I will always live up to it" Nabokov made his 20th start in 20 games this year for the Sharks, and wasn't tested much for his 11th win and 3rd shutout of the year, needing to make just 15 saves in the winning effort.

Tomorrow concludes the Sharks busy portion of the month, as they will play the end part of their fourth "3 games in 4 nights" segment, totaling 7 games in 11 nights, and their 10th consecutive Pacific Division contest when they host the Anaheim Ducks. Sharks/Ducks games never really meant too much before last year, as neither team was really all that competitive at the same time. Majorily, the Sharks were the better squad, and beat up on the Ducks, then Mighty in name only. When the Ducks have been good (which has been rare), the Sharks haven't, so there really hasn't been too much of a rivalry. However, with both teams being good for the third consecutive year, the hatred is starting to really form, and the blood is reaching the boiling point, both with the fans and the players. Both the Sharks and Ducks are reaching a point in the season where they're starting to come to the form that they were predicted to be in when hockey analysts almost unanimously picked either team to win the Silver in June. The Ducks took last game in a shootout last week (3-2), but with the Sharks fully focused and confident, a better result for the Teal seems attainable.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

11/14/07 sharks 4, DALLAS 3

Not only did the Sharks win a game in which they gave up a lead, not only did the Sharks (the worst shootout team in the NHL) win a shootout, not only did they win a shootout against the best shootout team in the NHL, not only did Evgeni Nabokov (who's never been good stopping a shootout) stop two of the best shootout specialists in Sergei Zubov and Jussi Jokinen, not only did Patrick Marleau (0-7 previously in the shootout all-time) score a goal on Marty Turco (who is usually good in the shootout), but all of that happened on the same night. (Hell of a sentence, eh?)

That pretty much covers last night's contest, the Sharks third consecutive victory (Phoenix, Phoenix, and now Dallas). Captain Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi scored in both regulation and the shootout, and Torrey Mitchell added another in regulation to give the Sharks their 5th division win of the season, and second W in as many tries at the American Airlines Center this year. Evgeni Nabokov made consecutive start number 19 (in the 19th Sharks game of the year), and made 26 saves for the win.

The tail end of the back-to-back comes tonight, as the Sharks travel to face a team totally unfamiliar to them this year, the Phoenix Coyotes (6:00). The Yotes are probably pretty tired of seeing teal, as they've been outscored by the Teal 9-1 in the last 120 minutes of hockey against them. The Sharks looked real good against the Yotes over the weekend, and played real well until their third period hiccup last night. Tonight is their time to return to form. Look for Dmitiri Patzold to probably start in net, as Nabby played last night and is probably tire... oh who am I kidding. The San Jose Sharks are the Evgeni Nabokov show, for now and for always.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

11/12/07 SHARKS 5, phoenix 0

Can we see Phoenix every night please? For those of you keeping score at home, that's two, count 'em two whole wins IN A ROW. Another dominant performance by the Teal, following up a dominant performance on Saturday.

Ok, fine, so it was the Phoenix Coyotes. But still, we've seen two straight games, two straight wins, two home wins, 120 minutes of effort. They're not there yet, but they certainly seem to be headed in the right direction. Devin Setoguchi had a pair of beautiful tallies, Joe Thornton added a pair as well, and, for the second time in two games, the Sharks struck shorthanded (Torrey Mitchell on Saturday, Mike Grier last night)

Evgeni Nabokov, the one and only goaltender of the Sharks (apparently Dmitri Patzold was eaten by SJ Sharkie), made his 18th start in 18 games this year, stopping all 25 shots he faced (dating back to last season, Nabokov made his franchise record 25th consecutive start, breaking a record held by Chris Terreri who pulled off the feat in the 95/96 season). Despite not making any really spectacular saves, Nabby stopped every shot, something no one will really complain about.

Last night was a big night for Sharks fans, as we welcomed the becomingly more famous, and not quite yet fully grizzled traveler, Steve Williamson, of 30 Games in 30 Nights, made his 18th stop in a trip around the league. Even for a Monday, I'm glad we were able to show Steve a good time, complete with goal horns, Sharkie, even grown men on tricycles, not to mention free Round Table Pizza (four in the net, pizza you get, unless you're flying to Calgar... oh wait). His write-up for his experience swimming with the fishes in the Tank can be found here.

With this weird double Yote extravaganza over (not that I'm complaining), the Sharks head out on the road for some more Pacific Division action, taking their sticks back to Big D for a game with the Stars (boo) on Wednesday (5:30). 7 games have been played in this PacDiv injection, and the Sharks sit at 4-2-1 through it thusfar. SJ sits on top of the division currently, but leads Dallas by just 3 points. Wednesday's game will be a pivotal one for this point of the season, and with each team already taking a win in the other team's building, the season series is ready to really be opened up.


If I can get minorly patriotic and gushy here for a second, I would like to give thanks to the brave men and women of our armed forces, who allow us the ability to spend time wasting our emotions, our money, our lives on what in the long run, is just a game, just a way to pass the time. Yesterday was Veterans Day in the US and Remembrance Day in Canada, but every day should start with the memory and the thanks to those who allow us the freedom that we sometimes all too easily take for granted. Thank you today, thank you tomorrow, thank you for yesterday and the day before, thank you always.

Monday, November 12, 2007

11/10/07 SHARKS 4, phoenix 1

Goals, saves, physical play all over the ice, history, and, most importantly, free personal pizzas at Round Table. Just another fun night at the Tank.

Ok, so it was the Phoenix Coyotes, but a great 60 minute effort is a great 60 minute effort. The Sharks worked hard for an entire game, outshooting the Yotes 28-23. The lesser paid Sharks tallied the goals, rookies Devin Setoguchi (3) and Torrey Mitchell (2) each had a marker, Sandis Ozolinsh had his first goal in a Sharks uniform since a really long time ago, and some young guy by the name of Jeremy Roenick got a goal. Evgeni Nabokov made the start (shocker), his 17th in 17 games, showing no signs of fatigue (besides the goal he allowed), and making 22 saves for the win.

About that Roenick guy, congratulations to him. Roenick's goal was the 500th of his career, tying him for 40th on the all-time list of goal scorers with Lanny McDonald, and making him just the third American with 500 career goals. He sits 2 behind Joe Mullen for second on the American list, and 11 behind the currently active Mike Modano.

The Sharks face off against the Coyotes again on Monday (7:30). With this being the second of three matchups between the teams this week (they face off again Thursday in Glendale), expect this game to be a little big more agressive, as the Yotes will be a bit unhappy being beat up on Saturday. Expect Nabby in the net for the Sharks (Dmitri who?), and probably Mikael Tellqvist for the Coyotes, as neither tender has established himself as the #1 yet.

Monday's game will also be special because of one of the attendees. As devoted a fan as I was last year, Steve Williamson has one upped me. Williamson is a big Tampa Bay Lightning fan, but is in the middle of a journey that is taking him to a game in all 30 NHL arenas in one season. As if that wasn't enough, he's doing all 30 arenas in consecutive days. His website, 30 Games in 30 Nights, has a blog, a schedule, and a mission statement. His stop in SJ tomorrow will be his 18th game, and his last in the home of a Pacific division team. He started in Detroit on October 26th, and will finish at his local barn, the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa on November 24th. Keep an eye out for Steve, he'll be wearing a black Tampa Bay Lightning jersey that says "30 games in 30 nights" on it.

GO SHARKS (Congratulations JR, Welcome Steve)

Damn right.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

11/9/07 ANAHEIM 3, sharks 2 (SO)

Ok, so it was technically a loss tonight, but the boys are finally starting to look like a team. Almost 65 full minutes of effort, hitting from everyone (even that Captain fellow who's had a tough go of it lately), a decent forecheck, pretty good funnel backcheck, and even a couple goals.

Torrey Mitchell tipped home his first career NHL tally, and Milan Michalek screened Anaheim goaltender J.S. Giguere on a Joe Thornton shot. The Sharks created a few strong chances in the extra period, but were unable to convert. In the breakaway challenge, the Sharks faltered (surprise), failing to connect on either attempt (Joe Pavelski hit the post and Jonathan Cheechoo hit Giguere square in the chest pad). Evgeni Nabkov, strong in the normal game, was his usual sieve-y self, giving up goals to Ryan Getzlaf and Andy McDonald.

5 games into this stretch, the Sharks are 2-2-1, amassing 5 points, while allowing 6 to their division opponents, but if any positives can be gathered from Wednesday's loss and the SOL tonight, (not **** Outta Luck, you crazy pessimists) it's the Sharks are finally showing signs of playing like they can. No, they have not been winning non-stop. No, they're not dominating the standings, but they are dominating game play. In their last five games, they have been outscored by their opponents 12-13 (tonight's third goal doesn't count really), but they have outshot their opponents 173-121. The goals aren't there yet, but the chances are, and goals will not come without chances, and, thanks to the Statistics class I've been taking this semester, I've learned about probability and such, and the probability that the Sharks will score more if they have more chances is, well, um, put in simple terms, GREATER (three big cheers for the college education system). As long as the Sharks keep creating scoring chances, they will better their chances of scoring, and as long as they have the puck, their opponents won't, bettering the liklihood they don't give up many goals.

Phew, that was a big, logic filled paragraph. The Sharks return home from Orange County tomorrow night (Saturday) to face the Desert Dogs, the Phoenix Coyotes (7:30). Now, logic would state that the Sharks should destroy the 'Yotes Saturday night, but two things: A) Sharks wins have not been a sure thing, and 2) (there's that college edcuational system again) the Yotes have been ok this year. A young team with maybe a bit of a direction, the Coyotes are looking to be no longer a pushover. Hopefully, they forget that direction over the next two games, as they are in SJ for a rare doubleheader, with games at the Tank both tomorrow and Monday. A SOL (still not for **** Outta Luck) tonight wasn't great, but a win Saturday night would feel much better.


Friday, November 09, 2007

11/7/07 dallas 3, SHARKS 1

There were two milestone markers up for the breaking on Wednesday night, however only one was broken. Unfortunately for Sharks fans, it wasn't the guy in teal that broke it.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007 will be a day to live in American Hockey history as Mike Modano, however much his team and maybe he himself are hated, became the highest scoring American-born player in NHL history.

Two vintage Mike Modano goals (a streak up the left side/mega-accurate slapper and a short-handed breakaway tucking the puck 5-hole) proved to be the difference despite a 39 shot effort from the good guys. Matt Carle had the lone goal for the Fins, an absolute lighting bolt wrister from the point with the man-advantage. The Evgeni Nabokov games started counter hit 15 in the Sharks 15th game of the year, Nabby making just 12 saves in the losing effort.

Sometimes teams are beaten by a better effort by their opponents, sometimes teams are beaten by their own mistakes, and even sometimes teams are beaten by poor officiating. The Sharks, on Wednesday, were beat by all three.

Modano's excellent offense coupled with Marty Turco's excellent goaltending stood out huge for the Stars. Too many shots not followed up by crashing the net in the offensive zone, and just way too much sloppy play with the puck in the defensive zone lead to too many turnovers.

And lastly, a poor double minor call on Steve Bernier accompanied a kinda-iffy no goal call and another poor double minor call on Steve Bernier didn't cause the loss for the Teal, but it sure as h-e-double hockey sticks (never thought I'd actually use that) didn't help anything.

This game brings the division record to 2-2, and keeps things tight in the Pacific. With the Phoenix win last night, the entire division is separated by just two points. Dallas leads with 16, the Ducks and Sharks have 15, and the Kings and Yotes taking last with 14. There is a lot of hockey left to be played, but all five of these teams could be real close for the next couple months.

Game 5 of the Pacific Division Binge, or the PDB for short, comes tonight, Friday, when the Sharks visit Orange County and take on the struggling Ducks (7:00). Anaheim is coming off of a 6-5 OT loss to the Coyotes on Wednesday, when both Ilya Bryzgalov and J.S. Giguere struggled in net for the Ducks.

The break even predictor has the Sharks winning tonight, but the common sense factor has the Ducks with the home ice advantage. I hope the common sense factor is wrong.

Small side note: Since their inception in Dallas, the Stars fans have screamed "STARS" and "STAR" at the appropriate points in the US National Anthem. As an answer, for the last few years or so, when the Stars come to SJ, the Sharks fans have acted accordingly, booing both parts of the song where the Dallas team name is mentioned. Last night was the first of four times us Sharks fans get to do that this year, and needless to say, it's incredibly fun. In the grand scheme of things, it's meaningless, but it's just another thing that adds to the fun of being a sports fan.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

11/3/07 sharks 3, LOS ANGELES 1

499 came to a chorus of boos. And a small part of Jeremy Roenick probably liked it. The former LA King got within one goal of 500 at glamorous Staples, where he spent one less-than-glamorous season. Oh yeah, and the rest of the Sharks played pretty well too. Joe Pavelski the tone with a PP goal from Joe Thornton, and Jonathan Cheechoo capped the night with a goal from Thornton (that Thornton guy ain't too shabby). Evgeni Nabokov, making his 14th start in 14 games for the Teal, stopped 24 of 25 shots for the win.

This game was radio only, so I have only to go on what Jamie and Dan told me happened, but the Sharks sounded like a good team on Saturday, which is great, but it only begs the question, "where was this a night earlier when they were shown up at home by the same team?" Consistency has been an issue with this team for the past couple years, and it's almost like the San Jose Sharks wouldn't be complete without a bit of said inconsistency. It's just an element of their game. Not a good element, but an element none-the-less.

To further illustrate the point, the Sharks record through 14 games is as follows: 7-6-1, the game log goes: L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W, W, L, L, W, L, W. Save for twice, the Sharks have alternated wins and losses through the first 14. The road/home split is interesting as well, as the Sharks, usually a great home team, are just 1-3 when playing on the sheet at 525 W. Santa Clara, and instead are 6-3-1 on the road. It's great to perform well on the road, but if you're only gonna win half of your games, you'll make the people paying your salary feel a little better if you do it in front of them.

A fourth of the division binge is complete, and the Sharks are 2-1 thusfar, defeating Dallas and LA on the road, and falling to the Kings in SJ. Game 4 of this stretch of 12 comes on Wednesday night, when the Stars (boo) come to San Jose (7:30). Mike Modano sits one point from tying Phil Housley for most points scored by an American born player, Jeremy Roenick sits 1 goal from becoming the third American born player with 500 goals, and 3 from tying Joe Mullen for 2nd on the all-time goals list by an American born player. If you are an American, your eyes should water red, white, and blue tomorrow night at all the great american talent on the San Jose ice.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

11/2/07 los angeles 5, SHARKS 2

Facing the opposition's back-up goaltender. 47 shots. New guys making debuts in front of the home crowd (Kaspar, Ozolinsh, Setoguchi). Home ice. Loss?

J.S. Aubin was deservedly the first star of the night, stopping 45 shots last nigt against a Sharks club that, for much of the game, looked like they just didn't want to be there. Patrick Marleau scored a goal in the 1st that was the Sharks only lead of the night, and Joe Thornton added a garbage time marker with 76 seconds remaining. Evgeni Nabokov made his 13th start in 13 games for the Teal, who apparently have an actual back-up netminder. At this point though, said netminder is solely a rumor, and totally unconfirmed to exist.

So here we sit, 13 games into the season, frustrated with our team. An underperforming offense, a still physically dominating deficient defense, a coach who's post game quotes are as stale as his coaching flexibility, and a goalie who just needs a rest. The offense and defense need to look different. The schemes and styles used are old, tired, and way too predictable. Every Sharks loss looks exactly the same, as teams are learning how to beat them.

I'm not sure how to fix the Sharks, because if I did, I'd be behind the bench screaming quotes from Will Ferrell movies. All I do know from sitting in my seat in the upper reaches of 213 is that the Sharks are a very talented bunch of guys who are playing a very uncoordinated style of hockey. When the boys have a direction on the ice that hasn't been recorded on video 300 times, that's when we'll see a major improvement.

After a bad loss, the best remedy is another shot at it. Luckily (hopefully it's luckily) the Sharks get a chance to avenge last night's loss when they line up against the Kings again tonight, this time at Staples (7:30). Tonight will probably see Jason LaBarbera and Dmitri Patzold (he's our back-up guy, supposedly) in the nets. There might be personnel changes for the Teal, but it's anybody's guess currently as to who (hint: scratch everybody but Mitchell and Pavelski).