Tuesday, February 27, 2007

2/26 anaheim 3, SHARKS 2






Somebody forgot to give the Ducks the script. Sharks come home from ├╝berlong .500 roadtrip to face off against the hated rivals to the south in front of 17,496 screaming teal clad maniacs, and triumph over them in, well, triumphant fashion. The triumph and subsequent triumphant fashion were met with resistance, as Anaheim back up tender Ilya Bryzgalov made 40 saves, and the Ducks stuffed as many defenders into the crease as often as possible, to steal the show last night, and quack out of SJ with a narrow victory.

For the fifth time in his last six starts, Evgeni Nabokov allowed at least two goals in the first period on less than 10 shots, thus earning him a full time name for this manuever. From here on out, the Sharks Hockey Odyssey will refer to such a feat as the ENS (Evgeni Nabokov Special). After the Dustin Penner sponsored ENS, Milan Michalek singlehandedly tied the game at 2, first with a goal on the powerplay [16] (Matt Carle, Joe Thornton). He followed that one up with another one about 11 minutes later [17] (Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo), and the game was knotted going into the 3rd. Despite constant pressure, Bryzgalov stopped everything that came his way (18 shots in all), and Teemu Selanne buried a cross ice pass from Chris Kunitz, and the Ducks went on to win. Evgeni Nabokov made just 16 saves, and earned his 15th loss of the year.

As I have said all the time when I have come home, it was very nice/bordering insanely wonderful to return home to the Tank that I know and love so much. Everything that comes with the Tank is wonderful in my eyes, which I guess is all that matters, since I get the wonderful pleasure of seeing 41 games there this year. The people, the Shark Head, the fog horn, the popcorn chicken, everything. So glad to be home, for a whole nother game.

The Sharks, with just recently acquired forward Bill Guerin (Craig Rivet is expected to be out still, with immigration issues continuing), take on the Western Conference leading Nashville Predators (7:30 pst). The Predators lead the series 2-1, with both wins coming at the HoP (4-3 on 10/26, and 5-0 on 2/14), the Sharks winning the previous game at the tank (3-1 on 12/9). Excluding playoffs, the home team has won the last 11 games in this matchup, and the Predators have lost 5 straight at the Tank. Tonight, Predators vs. Sharks, Forsberg vs. Guerin, 7:30. GAME ON.

Go Sharks (stupid Ducks)
-Jess

Sunday, February 25, 2007

2/24 CALGARY 7, sharks 4






And, mercifully, the road trip is over.

A valiant effort by the tired Teal, to come back from a 2-0 deficit in the NHL's toughest building to win a road game in (Flames are now 25-6-1 at the Saddledome), only to run out of gas in the 3rd. The Sharks scored 4 times in the 2nd, including trading goals twice in 4 minutes towards the end of the period. Mike Grier, well known by Sharks fans for getting tons of scoring opportunities through his hard work, added to his season total with a nice pick pocket of Dion Phaneufand a huge breakaway, skating down on Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and beating him with a nice backhand roofer stickside [14](unassisted). Matt Carle [8] jammed home a rebound on the powerplay (Mark Bell, Joe Thornton), Joe Pavelski [12] poked in a beautiful cross ice pass from Grier (Grier, Ryane Clowe) and Kyle McLaren [4] threw a wild puck at the net, ringing it off the inside of the post and in (unassisted), doubling his previous season high, with 20 games left. Evgeni Nabokov made 16 saves for his 14th loss of the year.

As the road trip (from hell) ends, happiness begins to ensue. No more sitting on my suitcase to close it, no more wheeling around a 48 lb suitcase, no more crossing of the fingers and hoping my bag comes out of that little tunnel from the underground. For a couple games, I actually get to go to Sharks games where I'm in the majority, can get away with talking trash, and acting nuts, like I've seen so much on this roadtrip. I get to go home to the Tank to see the employees and fellow Sharks fans that I know, I don't have to call cabs or find out light rail or bus schedule to get to and from the game, and I get to eat popcorn chicken with 7 packets of ranch dressing, while only using 3.

I'll miss the little fun things about being on the road, the initial denial of admittance by the ushers in Dallas, the crazy drunks who I sat on the glass with in St. Louis, and that damn song they play in Nashville after a goal (ok, just kidding, won't miss that one, AT ALL). I'll miss the entrances that don't involve skating out of the Shark head, I'll miss hearing goal horns that aren't the best in the NHL (can't beat the fog horn), I'll miss the hush that came over the group of Flames fans as I walked up to the LRT (light rail transit) as they went from their loud conversation to a quiet whisper where every third word was "Sharks fan" (pretend that was whispery). I'll miss all of this, and look forward for what I get to do, because Friday, I'm back on the road again. Two weeks on the road, 3 days at home, nice and balanced.

The Sharks return home (briefly) for a pair of very important games, the first of which is Monday against the division rival Anaheim Ducks (7:00 pst). The Sharks come in just 5 points back of the Ducks, with three games left, and a game in hand on the Ducks, leaving the Pacific Division still wide open. The Ducks lead the series 3-2, with wins coming ( 5-0 in Anaheim on 11/22, 4-3 in San Jose on 12/26, and 7-4 in San Jose on 2/6). The Sharks have won the others (4-3 in San Jose on 12/16, and 3-2 in Anaheim on 2/7). Both teams have been struggling a bit as of late, and hope to be on the up and up as the playoffs near. Well, it all begins tonight.

Go Sharks (Home!!!!!!!??)
-Jess






Sign outside the Saddledome on the +15 walkway from the LRT station.



The retired number of former Flame and Shark goaltender, Mike Vernon.

Friday, February 23, 2007

2/22 sharks 2, CHICAGO 0






I like this winning thing. I might get used to it. It was nice to see a win on Wednesday, but another one last night? Is that allowed to happen? A bit of bitterness, yes, but please attribute that to the end of a long roadtrip in many cold weather cities, and this author running out of space in his suitcase, and nearing the end of a supply of clean underpants.

Evgeni Nabokov, showing signs of recovery from his injury in the always dangerous groinal area, playing a solid game and making 21 saves for his 14th win of the year, and 4th shutout of the season. Not to mention a goal and assist from the mini-slumping Joe Thornton [16] (previously just 1 point in the last four games), and a goal from Jonathan Cheechoo [22], his first in five games.

The game itself wasn't boring, but it wasn't necessarily super exciting. The play was pretty even all night long, even after Thornton (Patrick Marleau, Mark Bell) got the ball rolling for the Sharks with a laser wrister on the powerplay midway through the 1st. Bell, a 5 year Blackhawk, returned to the Windy City for the first time since being shipped to San Jose this past summer. Curtis Brown also made his first appearance at the United Center since signing with the Sharks in the off-season. Patrick Marleau also made his return, but just to the ice, as a case of food poisoning left him out of the lineup on Wednesday.

In addition to the adoration showed for Bell, another player was shown tons of support all night long. Sharks rookie Joe Pavelski, born and raised in Wisconsin, had a fan club of sorts in attendance last night, as 110 excited friends and family filled two full buses and rode 4.5 hours to see the pride of Plover, WI skating for the Teal. I had the pleasure of meeting a few of this very excited group (aunt and sister Pavelski), all of which were very proud of their Joe.

The United Center, located just north of the Hospital District (I hear they have a great nightlife) around UIC (the University of Illinois at Chicago), is a large concrete colored building made of, well, concrete. The front is adorned with simple imprinted logos of the two teams that call the United Center it's home (the NBA's Chicago Bulls and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks), and simply lit red signs showing the name of the building. In a relatively new area still, the United Center (and it's parking lots) are the only thing directly surrounding the building, a far contrast from the metro setting of the Verizon Center in DC.

The inside of the building is full of history, hanging from it's rafters and otherwise, and the atmosphere does a perfect job of making you feel like you're in a building that's been around for 100 years (it's more like 10, I think), but shows no wear (because it's only 10 years old). From the old style font of the signage around the wide concourses, to the simple layout of said walkways, to the great organ that was played all night (not as great as the one at Chicago Stadium, I was repeatedly assured), to the many banners that hang from the rafters, both Bulls and Hawks pennants of triumph.

The seating area is pretty big, as the building holds somewhere around 18,500 (a number not seen in a while, as the ownership is causing the attendance to sag for this historic franchise). With a very nice jumbotron and ribbon display, the loyal Hawks fans who make the trip out have some beautiful electronics to look at. When full, I imagine the United Center gets a rockin, I just hope for their sake it happens real soon.

The roadtrip (from hell) concludes tomorrow night in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for the second game of a double header HNiC (Hockey Night in Canada) that features a showdown between the Calgary Flames, and your San Jose Sharks (7:00 pst). The Sharks have won both games in this series, taking both 1 in Calgary (4-1 on 10/9) and in SJ (4-1 as well on 12/23). Both teams have deep playoff aspirations, and this game between two of the Western Conference's elite shouldn't disappoint.

Go Sharks (Hooray for Don Cherry)
-Jess






Chief Blackhawk at Center Ice.




The three Stanley Cup Banners won by the mighty Blackhawks.




The lower bowl was mostly full, not so much upstairs. All those banners in the background are the Bulls many many banners.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

2/21 sharks 3, WASHINGTON 2 SO






Winning a shootout? Comeback from a 2 goal deficit? Evgeni Nabokov stops two penalty shots (shootout) and Jonathan Cheechoo scores on one? Who is this team, and when is the next time they can wear Sharks jerseys?

Ok, overreacting a bit, but still, on a night that saw a whole heaping helping of Sharks fans populate the Verizon Center, the fashion in which the Teal took the two points was a bit shocking. On a road trip that has seen the Sharks drop 3 straight, it was nice to see that they still know how to win one every now and then. The Caps leapt out to a 2-0 lead just 10 minutes into the game, a lead they held until Mike Grier lead a 2-on-1 rush the other way, throwing the puck across the slot to Patrick Rissmiller [5] (Mike Grier, Evgeni Nabokov), who prompty roofed it past goaltender Brent Johnson. The game remained that way until the 3rd when Matt Carle [7] stuffed in a rebound on the powerplay (Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Pavelski), knotting the game at 2. The game remained that way until the shootout, when Nabokov pokechecked the puck from Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin rang the crossbar, and both Pavelski and Cheechoo capitalized on their chances, earning the two points for the boys in teal. Matt Pettinger scored for the Caps, and Ryane Clowe was unsuccessful for the Sharks. Evgeni Nabokov, making the start for the ailing Vesa Toskala (flu and groin), made 24 saves for his 13th win of the year.

The Washington Capitals play in downtown DC, in the pretty new, pretty modern Verizon Center. From the outside, this building looks just like one, a regular, ordinary building. Sure, there are windows to see into the multiple (4) concourses, a large TV screen out front, and two giant signs that say "Verizon Center" vertically along the sides of the arena. Inside, it's just a regular run-of-the-mill arena, complete with beer and program carts, souvenir stands, and red, yellow, and purple walls. Ok, that last one is not normal, but it adds to the cool atmosphere. The concourses are relatively wide, at least both of the walkways I had official access ( government speak for ability to enter) to visit.

Once inside the bowl, it is also nice, and it keeps with the purple motif (seats, seat fabric, and jumbotron). Four levels of seats make for a loud, but very expansive seating area. I sat in row E upstairs, behind the net that the Sharks attacked twice. Great view, as the case appeared to be all over the arena. The seats were pretty nice, and kinda wide, but the other amenities weren't so stellar. They do have the LED ribbon display (well, not ribbon, but more "strip" as they were two separate boards on the sides, with nothing behind the net, rather than one continuous circular board). The sound system and jumbotron, however, were less than stellar. The sound was muddy, and the jumbotron was just, ok (which isn't bad, it's just not the HD board in Vancouver). It was great to know, though, that the sound system and jumbotron are no better than what is present in my favorite arena (the one in San Jose that I go to so often).

The building, on this night, wasn't full, but was plenty loud during key points, for both the Sharks and the Capitals (that's right, noise for the Sharks). See, on this night, there were plenty of fans who either, 1) live in the area permanently, 2) live in the area temporarily but are from the Bay Area (like Jamie, and the other college age kids studying a semester abroad in our nation's capital), 3) have nothing better to do than travel 3000 miles for the game (like some lazy slacker I know [hint: it's me]), or 4) have a really cool teacher who, to finish off the traditional (for us west coasters, at least) 8th grade East Coast Trip by seeing their hometown hockey team in Washington D.C.

30 some 8th Graders from Moreland Middle School (boo Cougars, go RHMS Eagles) in Campbell/San Jose (it's all the same, anyway), spent the last night of their trip to see all that's governmental about the United States in the building that really matters, the Ice House (it's a good pun, cause Ice sounds like White and House sounds like House). With some help from the Sharks, all the kids got white t-shirts to wear proudly as they screamed for the Teal all night long (had some good chanting wars with a bunch of kids cheering for the Caps in the section next to them).

The second back-to-back of the road trip comes to an end tonight as the Sharks are in the Windy City to face the Blackhawks (5:30 pst). Sharks lead the series 1-0, having won the only game played by a score of 4-2, played in San Jose on February 3rd. Like the Capitals last night, the Blackhawks are struggling, losers of 4 straight. Hopefully, for all Sharks fans, the Hawks get blown away tonight (yet another bad joke).

Go Sharks (hoo boy, what a long one, but thanks for hanging in there, cause you all made it)
-Jess





The famed "sqaushed bug" logo of the Washington Capitals.




Slapshot, the face-slapping-with-his-tail eagle, mascot of the Caps.




Yvon Labre (7), Dale Hunter (32) and Rod Langway (5) immortalized in the Verizon Center rafters.




The Moreland kids ready to celebrate a Sharks shootout victory.

Monday, February 19, 2007

2/18 DALLAS 5, sharks 2






A couple things.

First, they scored. Twice even. After going 190:22 without a goal, two goals in that time frame, not to mention two goals in 12 minutes.

Second, the Stars didn't score enough goals that I got a free thingie, but mainly because Dallas has no free thingie deal in place, so that was good.

As expected, this game was supposed to be a difficult one for the Teal to get the 2 points, as Dallas is a decent team, strong at home, and has played the Sharks tough all year long. With a few injuries still, the Sharks just looked like a tired, even partially uninspired team. However, the physical game looked quite strong, as Kyle McLaren, Douglas Murray, and Joe Thornton (among others) laid the lumber all night long, knocking guys down left and right.

Mark Bell's goal [8] at 1:52 of the 3rd period (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Milan Michalek), ending the Sharks ├╝ber schneid at 190:22, or about 9.5 periods of goalless hockey. Mike Grier [13] (Joe Thornton, Patrick Rissmiller) recorded the other goal for the Sharks, who opened the second half of their road trip in less than optimal fashion. With 3 games remaining (2/21 @ Washington, 2/22 @ Chicago, and 2/24 @ Calgary), the Sharks are 2-3 on this current road trip, having lost 3 consecutive games (5-0 Nashville, 3-0 Columbus, and 5-2 Dallas). Evgeni Nabokov started his second consecutive game, again making 16 saves, and receiving his 13th loss of the year.

Each of the last two trips has allowed me to meet a bunch of Sharks fans, and this time was no different, although I also got to meet a Stars fan this time around. Justin, a longtime Stars fan and reader of the Odyssey, stopped by for the very offensively eventful 3rd for the Sharks (not meaning to rub it in, but it was the one real bright spot in an otherwise pitch black situation), Josh, a Shark fan and the runner of DFW Sharks (look at the sidebar for the address for all you DFW area Sharks fans) stopped by for the 2nd, and Sean (or maybe Shawn), another Shark fan, stopped by to say hello. Thank you to all who stopped by to say hello, and those who I had the pleasure of talking to before the game during the pregame skate.

The Teal get a few days to tend to their wounds, and by Wednesday, when they face off against the Washington Capitals (4:00 pst), we could be seeing some numbers we haven't seen in a while. 8, 16, 26, 37, and 94. Any of: Joe Pavelski, Mark Smith, Steve Bernier, Curtis Brown, and the recently reacquired Alexander Korolyuk could be in uniform for the Sharks when they hit the ice at the Verizon Center come Wednesday night. All will be useful, regardless of their return, and, with the recent slump, each of their returns is highly anticipated. This matchup between the Teal and the Caps is the one and only contest between the two this year. The last meeting was last year in San Jose (Sharks win 4-1).

Go Sharks (broke the goal schneid, now time for the win schneid)
-Jess

Sunday, February 18, 2007

SPECIAL PROGRAM NOTE

A revised travel schedule has Jess on puddle-jumpers all day Monday to get to our nation's capital for the next Sharks game. Please watch for his post on Sunday's Dallas game late Monday.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

2/16 COLUMBUS 3, sharks 0






Well, I guess the one positive from this game is, they only have four more games on the road. The "best road team in hockey" (put in quotes because it's a title the boys aren't living up to currently) just added another great performance to their list with road loss, issue X (roman numeral for 10, not mysterious like Racer X from "Speed Racer"). The offense continues to struggle, getting shut out for the second consecutive time, with the last goal coming 148:30 ago (Cheechoo scored at 11:30 of the 2nd in St. Louis). Evgeni Nabokov, making his first start in 2 weeks (last start Feb 1st in SJ versus the Stars [boo]) stood semi-tall in the net, making 16 saves, and earning his 12th loss of the year.

The game was fairly boring, which (unfortunately for the "New NHL") has become a stereotype for a Ken Hitchcock coached team. Big on defense, with a splash of O in between (the Jackets had just 19 shots on net). I'd go on more about this game, but I kinda fell asleep a few times in the middle (not true, but a good exaggeration).

While in Columbus, I had the pleasure of meeting a resident Sharks fan for the Ohio area. Brian is on one of the Sharks message boards, Chomp Board, and through the magic of that, I was able to meet up with him for a couple meals throughout my stay, and gracious rides from place to place (including a ride on the wonderful icy highways of Central Ohio with Good Ole John). If you fancy a time with a real-life Borat Sagdiyev (the fake Kazahk journalist with the recent movie), go eat a meal at Goody Boy's (located down the block from OSU [GO BUCKS] on High St. Just bring your open minded sense of humor, and a bit of thick skin (eh, Sharky boy?).

From the cold of Columbus to the warmth (kinda) of Dallas. The Teal will play a matinee of sorts tomorrow afternoon here in Big D against the Dallas Stars (boo) [12:30 pst]. The season series has slanted in the direction of the Stars (boo), with Dallas winning 4 of the 6 games played against the Sharks, 1 at the AAC (1-0) and the other 3 in SJ (3-0, 3-2 SO, and 4-2). The Sharks have won twice, New Years Eve in Dallas (4-2) and once at the Tank (2-0). Both teams are looking to catch the division leading Ducks (Sharks 3 points back, Dallas 6 points), and solidify a spot in the second season, that begins in just under 8 weeks. Here's once of many many times hoping that at least one of those teams makes it there (guess which one I mean).

Go Sharks (3 goals in Columbus by the Jackets equals a giveaway)(A WENDY'S BOWL OF FINGER, ER... CHILI!!!)
-Jess






Snow still on the ground outside, but as the sky indicates, it was pretty nice this night.



The aforementioned Darche.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

2/14 NASHVILLE 5, sharks 0






I don't like it, I don't love it, and thank god I don't have to hear anymore of it (small tweak on the Nashville Predators goal song [read twangy crooning]).

Well, it's pretty safe to say tonight didn't go according to plans, unless the plans called for all 13,000 Predator fans to lose their voice screaming for goal after goal after goal. A semi-decent effort by the Sharks fell by the wayside as each and every one of their mistakes seemed to be capitalized by those guys in the mustard shirts (pardon me, but do you have any grey poupon?) on the other side of the ice. The Sharks are now 2-1 on this 8 game roadie, and are now 7-2 on the second night of a back-to-back, with both losses coming to the Nashville in the House of Predators (HOP) here in the Music City.

They did have a great night killing all 12 minutes worth of Nashville powerplay time, and Evgeni Nabokov even played half decent in his first game back since a groin injury and his wife's birth of their second child, making 25 saves in 50 minutes of action (and allowed 3 goals). Vesa Toskala made 3 saves (and allowed 2 goals), and was given the loss (his 9th of the year) for just 10 minutes of crappy play. But just too many mistakes by the Sharks led to great scoring chances by the Predators that they were able to capitalize (a little too easily, or so it seemed).

Nashville is still a budding hockey city, and still struggles to sell out the weeknight games, despite frequent weekend sellouts. It is a shame to me, as the Predators are currently one of the NHL's elite teams, and so many people in the Nashville area don't even know what high level of puck they're missing out on 41 times a year. That shouldn't say that the fans who do show up (13,836 on this evening) aren't loud, annoying, and rambunctious, perfect for hockey. A few more years, and maybe there won't be such uproarious behavior in the stands every time a Predator falls down (fall down doesn't mean penalty). As mentioned in my previous Nashville post, most of the chants and other fan related fun to get the team going originates in the Cell Block, Section 303. Check out their website at Section 303 .

Teal invades Columbus tomorrow night as the Sharks take on the Blue Jackets (4:00 pst). The teams have met twice this season, both games going to the Sharks (3-0 in Columbus 10/23, 5-2 in San Jose 1/6). The Sharks will get a much needed days rest, allowing goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala (unknown who will start, but should be Nabby), and forwards Joe Pavelski and Mark Smith an extra day to heal, and allow recent callup Mathieu Darche (pronounced DARSH) an opportunity to get in from the bad winter weather that left him stranded and unable to play last night, and possibly the ability to get into the lineup for tomorrow.

Go Sharks (but don't worry about me, cause I got me a freakin taco last night) (TACO!!!!!)
-Jess






Unfortunately, tonight was lived by me. Not a fun night to live Sharks hockey.



Cell Block 303, before the game.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

2/13 sharks 6, ST. LOUIS 5






To borrow a line from my father, "Hi, I had a heart attack ... but I'm better now".

In a game that ended up having entirely too much action and entertainment for the hometown crowd, the Sharks were able to escape with the narrowest of victories. The ugly, nasty winter weather outside provided a nice foreshadowing for the game, which saw both the Blues and the Sharks take turns playing games that would be properly identified as either of those first two adjectives (the Blues in the 1st and 2nd periods, and the Sharks in the 3rd). Alas, the Sharks were able to clamp down in the 3rd (allowed 2 goals, kind of a clamp) to hold onto a hard fought first 40 minutes.

Jonathan Cheechoo continued his goal scoring streak (whopping 3 games [gotta start somewhere]) recording the Sharks 6th and final goal [21] (Joe Thornton), which ended up being the difference in the game. He led the team with 4 points, along with Thornton, who had a goal [15] (Christian Ehrhoff, Jonathan Cheechoo) to go with his 3 assists. Matt Carle [6] (Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Thornton), Ryane Clowe [13] (Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo), Mike Grier [12] (Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek), and Captain Patrick Marleau [29] (Mike Grier, Milan Michalek) also scored for the Sharks. Vesa Toskala, starting his 4th consecutive game (Nabokov out due to injury/ birth of his second child, Andrei) made 18 saves for his 24th win of the season.

St. Louis has long been a big sports town, like many in the midwest. Long have the people of St. Louis cheered for the Cardinals (baseball), Cardinals (football, unoriginal, yes) and Cardinals, er, Blue Cardinals, er, Blues (hockey), but recently, the Blues fans have been under fire for not filling their building night in and night out. On this night, (which was just recovering from a nice dusting of 6 inches with plenty of ice too) the paid attendance was 9,235 (capacity is somewhere around 18,000 I believe). Far from full, yes, but this crowd was different than that from many buildings I've seen. The Blues were down at one point 6-2, but nobody left. The Blues were down 6-5 with a few minutes left, but nobody went home. These fans, who ventured out in the crappy weather on this evening, stayed until the end of the game, even though their team didn't win. They filed out of the building as soon as the game ended, but very few people vacated the premesis prematurely.

To further my discovery and point of expressing the dedication of the St. Louis fans, let me introduce Exhibit B, the "St. Louis Gametime". It's an underground publication in it's second year under the current editor, who goes by the pen name of Gallagher (I believe it to be his last name). Gametime columnist Chris Gift wrote a very nice column about me and the Odyssey in Volume II, Issue XXX. Once it's uploaded, it should be available online at St. Louis Gametime . Basically, it's a privately funded underground newspaper, updated for each Blues game during the winter, and each Cardinals game during the summer. Sold right outside Scottrade Center and Busch Stadium, respectively, for just $4, it's a cool publication, created by true fans, and purchased by people of similar fanaticism. With equal parts knowledge and humor, it's a must read for St. Louis sports fans and visitors to Blues and Cardinals games alike.

I had an opportunity to meet up with some friends that I met in Dallas during the All-Star Game. I met up with the Blues fans whom I stayed across hallway from at the Hotel Lawrence. I also had the pleasure of running into Mr. and Mrs. Thornton again, who made the trip by car from their home in Ontario, and will be in attendance both tonight here in Nashville and Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.

The Sharks complete their 9th back-to-back tonight in Nashville (5:00 pst). Team Teal is 7-1 on the back end of games on consecutive days, with the only loss coming in the HOP (House of Predators) here in Nashville back on October 26th (Sharks lost 4-3). This is the 3rd game against the Predators this year, each team winning the game played in their home building (10/26 Nashville 4-3, 12/9 San Jose 3-1). Assuming the Sharks decide to show up for 60 minutes tonight, this should be a good contest.

Go Sharks (hooray for no more snow... for a day [Columbus is still snowy])
-Jess





The outside of the Scott, and yes, that is a banner for a sign.



My father bought my ticket for this game, and didn't realize he bought me a seat on the glass. Which is funny, because the building was at a level of fullness tonight that would have made it not difficult to sneak down to the glass anyway. The following shots are from my seat on the glass.





Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The streak has ended

A quick note before I embark on the day.

As the title implies, my streak has ended. What streak you ask? Why, the streak of 112 days (every day since this thing started way back on October 5th) that I've gone without having to wear (close-toed) shoes. I like to wear my flip-flops alot, and have been asked in many cities on this trip as to how crazy I am for exposing my toes in extreme cold and rain, but the freezing rain/snow in good ole Saint Louie today has forced me to hide the ten little beasts that are my toes.

Yes, I am a winter weather wimp, California born and raised. Give me cold, but hold the ice.

Gametime 5:00 pst, don't miss it, should be a good one.

Go Sharks (what is a shoe?)
-Jess


A few pictures from the Gateway Arch, a glorious 660 feet off the snowy ground.




Thursday, February 08, 2007

2/7 sharks 3, ANAHEIM 2






Hoo buddy. That was a hockey game. There were flashes of exciting hockey on Tuesday in San Jose, but last night's game was what we were all expecting each and every time these teams were to meet on an NHL sheet. Good skating, good hitting, good goaltending, and two strong PK units that were able to handle their stronger PP counterparts (except for the game winner). A game that was appreciated by all (except the Ducks "fans" who left with 11, 6, and 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd, and some of those who remained to do nothing but hound me and fellow Sharks fans with poor sportsman like whining after the game). The second leg of a back-to-back (home and home yet), the Sharks improved to 7-1 in such games (record in back end of consecutive games this season).

Jonathan Cheechoo (who,before Tuesday's game, had gone 7 games with out a goal) continued his recent hotness, recording 2 more goals [19,20] (Joe Thornton, Ryane Clowe) (Ryane Clowe, Joe Thornton). Both goals were in and out of the net within, what seemed like, a millisecond. The first one came out so quick, neither the goal judge (red light guy) nor the referee called it a goal immediately, and it was not called a goal until a couple minutes later after play stopped and the goal was reviewed. The second goal, however, was seen by both the goal judge (red light guy) and the ref, who acknowledged the tally right away. Milan Michalek [15] notched the other goal, the eventual game winner (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Ryane Clowe), a powerplay goal tip off a Vlasic shot, slipping through the pads of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Vesa Toskala played the second end of the back to back, showing little signs of fatigue, stopping 20 of 22 shots for his 23rd win of the season.

It's pretty safe to say (now that it's over, of course) that the second visit to the Pond(a) was much more fun than the first. 1) The score was much closer (5-0 Ducks and 3-2 Sharks). 2) Sharks fans were out in full force (maybe not quite as many as last time, but still alot) to witness a great game, and a big win. 3) After getting shown up on home ice, it was nice to steal one in Anaheim, a building that has only seen a Ducks loss 10 times (5 regulation, 5 overtime).

Entering the two game set, the Sharks were 3 points back of the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division, equal in Games Played. The aftermath of the games could have seen the Sharks up by 1 point, tied for first, or behind the Ducks by anywhere from 1 to 7 points. Call it a reasonable compromise, having lost the first one on home ice, to come out of the set just as they had entered, 3 points back of first place, with the same number of Games Played.

The Sharks now take (what seems like a year is really just) 6 days off to regain some composure, and hopefully build on their solid game play from last night. They will return home, in actuality, while not playing another home game for a long time. This break will rest them (and me) for something, I have just called "The Trip" (from hell). Simply put, it's 7 games (7 cities) in 13 days. In that time is a stretch of 4 games in 6 days, tough to do anywhere, tougher on the road. The Trip (from hell) begins on Tuesday, February 13th in St. Louis. The final meeting between the teams this year, the Sharks hold a 2-1 edge, splitting games in SJ, and taking the one game played at Scottrade Center by a score of 3-0. The most recent game saw the Blues squeak out a 1-0 win in the Tank on January 20th. In the next couple days, look for the last two installments of the arena reportcards, as I have nothing else to do but pack in that time.

Go Sharks (oh, and, if I can whine here for a second, the Pond(a) sounds like ambient noise from a kid's birthday party. There's horns, and cowbells, and duck calls, and tambourines, and a giant white duck with a old school goalie mask and no pants. Scary stuff)
-Jess

The Trip (from hell)

Tue 2/13 St. Louis
Wed 2/14 Nashville
Fri 2/16 Columbus
Sun 2/18 Dallas
Wed 2/21 Washington D.C.
Thu 2/22 Chicago
Sat 2/24 Calgary





Nighttime outside the Honda Ponda

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

2/6 anaheim 7, SHARKS 4






All throughout the seats and councourse of the HP Pavilion tonight were the cries of "Ducks Suck". Unfortunately, I don't believe the team skating around in the black jerseys tonight heard them (Ducks wore dark jerseys tonight, Sharks to wear dark tomorrow in Anaheim). For the third time this season, and the second consecutive time at home, the Ducks bested the Sharks, and, for the third time this year, the Ducks looked like a great team.

To their credit though, the Sharks didn't play all that bad, they just had a few lapses, unfortunately, each of their lapses either cost the Teal a great scoring opportunity (5 shots at a Giguere-less net and 2 of the largest posts ever attached to an NHL net) or lead to an Anaheim goal. They did have 38 shots, and they even spelled their powerplay drought on two consecutive powerplays (before the first PP goal at 1:19 of the 3rd, the Sharks were 1-40 and 0 for their last 31 man-advantages) in the third period. Jonathan Cheechoo came off the schneid as well tonight (broke a 7 game goalless streak) with a pair of goals [17,18] (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton), (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton) (deja vu), and was less than 2 and 3/8 of an inch (post) from a natural hat trick. Mike Grier scored a wacky goal [11] that seemed to be booted in by the back of Jean-Sebastien Giguere (somehow assisted by Mark Bell and Curtis Brown) and Patrick Marleau recorded his team leading 28th goal [28] (Ryane Clowe, Marc-Edouard Vlasic). Vesa Toskala made 24 saves in his 8th losing effort this year.

As was mentioned before, the rousing chants of "Ducks suck" complete with duck call prompting were obnoxious (good) and abundant (also good) all throughout the first period and intermission. The booing of former Shark Teemu Selanne and longtime Shark arch-nemesis Chris Pronger whenever they touched the puck (known simply as "The Treatment") was also quite boisterous in the 1st. Unfortunately, the noise came to a halt after the 2nd, when the Ducks pulled away with the lead. It is for this reason that I am looking forward to tomorrow's game in the Ponda.

The last time the Sharks played in Anaheim, they played in front of 15,013 (2,100 short of a sellout). At that time, the Ducks were, as they have been all year, regarded as an elite NHL club, skilled enough to challenge for Lord Stanley's Cup, and playing like it too. Unfortunately, the Anaheim locals decided not to fill the building that night, something they haven't done often this season, at least until now. Tomorrow's game, along with the majority of their remaining home games, have been sold out, or are near sold out. I for one, am excited to see the crowd that fills the Honda Center of Anaheim (couldn't resist). For the good of the NHL, I hope they are loud, excited, and there to stay. As much as it pains me to say it, if the Ducks are going to be a good team, which it seems they will be for a few years to come, it would pain me even more if they don't play in front of a sold out building each and every night. I am a Sharks fan yes, but I'm also a fan of the NHL, and the sport of hockey, and any growth for a team is growth for the whole league, and the game.

The Sharks have played their last game at home for 20 days. Due to other events happening at the Arena (SAP Open, Disney On Ice), the Sharks play on the road for quite a while, including a 7 game in 13 day roadtrip beginning next Tuesday, but we'll get to that soon enough.

The Sharks wrap up this home-and-home tomorrow night in Anaheim (7:00 pst). The Ducks now hold a 5 point lead over the Sharks in the Pacific Division, with four games left to play in the season series. If the Sharks can continue to build and feed off their momentum from the 3rd period tonight (3 goals on 18 shots, inlcuding 2 powerplay goals), it should be a great game. If they cannot control themselves, then duck and cover. Oh, oops.

Go Sharks (Hey Jess, your team just lost, what are you going to do now?)(I'm going to Disneyland!)
-Jess

Sunday, February 04, 2007

2/3 SHARKS 4, chicago 2






The afternoon hockey game is always a strange occurance, as is really doing anything inside during such a beautiful day, but, as strange as it is to play or attend an afternoon hockey game, it is ridiculously horrible to be a fan of a losing team in such an occurance. Thank god that didn't happen yesterday in Teal Town, or thank Goc rather. A Marcel Goc shorthander [5] (Patrick Rissmiller, Vesa Toskala), complete with goals from Curtis Brown [7] (Scott Hannan, Vesa Toskala), Patrick Marleau [27] (Ryane Clowe, Joe Thornton), and Milan Michalek [14] (Jonathan Cheechoo), and voila, a win, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

You may have noticed, as I was recapping the goals and assists there, Vesa Toskala's name appeared a couple times. Albeit a couple of fluky plays, Toskala becomes the first Sharks goaltender with multiple (2) assists and points in a game. In his first game as the official #1 (since Nabokov is out for a week or so), Toskala impressed not only offensively with a pair of assists, but with 20 decent saves for his 22nd win of the season.

Also, abnormal to the scoresheet (however, increasingly disturbing by the game) was the lack of a Sharks powerplay goal. The man "advantage" (that's what it's supposed to be, but I haven't seen any such thing lately) unit has just 1 goal in their last 38 tries, stretching through their last 7 games. Again, I can't really complain, as the team is playing pretty well, and just going through a rough patch, but if the Sharks are to catch the Wings, Ducks, and possibly even the Predators in the regular season, or make much noise in the post-season, they're just gonna have to do better than that.

The Sharks have a couple days off, followed by two big games, nay, two huge games. The Sharks trail the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division by just 3 points, with both teams even at 53 games played. The Sharks open a back-to-back, home-and-home series with those same Ducks on Tuesday evening in the Tank (7:30). The Ducks lead the season series 2-1, with the last game going to the Ducks 4-3, played in San Jose on December 26th. The Sharks took the other contest in SJ, also by a score of 4-3. With the Ducks healthy now, and the Sharks reeling a bit without defenseman Kyle McLaren (IR, eligible to come off any day), forwards Steve Bernier (IR in Worcester. Minors still count, he'd be here if he wasn't injured), Joe Pavelski (day-to-day, could play Tuesday), and Mark Smith (also day-to-day, could play Tuesday), and freshly injured #1a goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, it should be interesting to see if the Sharks can close the gap on their SoCal rivals, and possibly even open up a gap on the other side (but we'll get to that later). Tuesday couldn't come soon enough.

Quick note, the National Lacrosse League's San Jose Stealth (professional indoor "box" lacrosse) played last night, and were beaten by the Calgary Roughnecks by a score of 15-11.

Today is the granddaddy of the professional football games. The Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts face off in SuperBowl XLI in Miami. Bring on some football, and bring on some commercials.

Go Sharks (go Bears)
-Jess

Friday, February 02, 2007

2/1 dallas 4, SHARKS 2







Well, that was fun. Oh wait, no, it wasn't. The Sharks failed to match the effort of their Pacific Division counterparts for the second consecutive game, losing a crucial two points to their rivals from Dallas. As the season progresses, the games get more important, but by watching the Sharks last night, you wouldn't be able to tell. After dropping a tough one on Tuesday, one would have expected the team to play angry, but yet the only people angry in the Tank Thursday night were the 17,496 sitting in the stands. Mark Bell [7] (Joe Thornton, Ryane Clowe) and Patrick Marleau [26] (Joe Thornton, Christian Ehrhoff) each recorded a goal, and Vesa Toskala, making a relief appearance for Evgeni Nabokov, made just 6 saves on 8 shots, but gave up the 3rd Stars goal of the night, which turned out to be the game winner, giving him his 7th loss of the year.

The powerplay looked pitiful, as they had a devil of a time trying to even penetrate the zone, and when they were able to get it in, there was a Star right there to dump it back out. The powerplay drought extended to 1-for-32 in their last 6 games, as the Sharks went 0-for-6 last night.

The Sharks have now lost 3 in a row, and 4 of their last 5. It isn't quite panic time yet, but that button looks more and more tempting each and every time the Sharks lose. The trade deadline is approaching, and, while the Sharks aren't playing at 100% (Kyle McLaren, Evgeni Nabokov, Scott Parker, and Joe Pavelski are all injured), it's clear one or two additions are necessary to this roster should they have Stanley Cup dreams for this year (they better, cause all us fans do).

The Sharks, thankfully, don't play the Stars tomorrow (Saturday). Instead, they have their first meeting of the year with the Chicago Blackhawks (1:00 P.M. PST). An afternoon affair, it is the Sharks first daytime game this season, making space for the local professional indoor lacrosse team, the National Lacrosse League's own, San Jose Stealth. I suggest, if you have nothing else to do tomorrow, pay the $10 (it's a special, downstairs seats are all $10) and come down and enjoy some hard hitting, high scoring lacrosse at 7:30 pst. I'll be there, section 121, row 10, seats 19 and 20. If you make it down, please stop by and say hello.

Go Sharks (go Stealth too)
-Jess