Saturday, March 31, 2007

3/30 SHARKS 4, phoenix 2

The 2006/07 San Jose Sharks earned their 99th and 100th point last night, boldly going where no Sharks team has gone before (well, once before, in 2003/04 when they earned 104 points, but still, they got to 100 points, big fancy round number).

The Teal pleased the 17,496 present last night, with the unsung heroes getting some time to shine. Patrick Rissmiller had a pair of points (1g, 1a), Mike Grier had two points as well (0g, 2a), and defensemen Christian Ehrhoff and Scott Hannan each recorded a goal as well. On the defensive side, the Sharks PK unit was big, killing 16 minutes of penalties, including a 6-on-3 (goaltender pulled for Phoenix) situation in the last 63 seconds of the game. Evgeni Nabokov looked good again, making 25 saves and earning his 22nd victory of the year.

The 1st period took a while to get moving, as through 7 minutes of play there was only one shot on goal, but the rest of the opening frame was pretty entertaining, despite being goalless. Rissmiller got the Sharks on the board a few minutes into the 2nd [6], finding himself with the puck and a whole lot of space right in front of Phoenix tender Curtis Joseph, and ripped a wrister right past (Grier, Curtis Brown). Ehrhoff made it 2-0 [10] with his trademark cannon slapshot from the point (powerplay) (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mark Bell). The Coyotes made it 2-1 before the end of the 2nd, but the Sharks took control in the 3rd with goals from Scott Hannan [4] (Grier) and Jonathan Cheechoo [32] (Joe Thornton, Rissmiller).

This was the second game since I was on the air, and yet again, I was graciously congratulated and complemented on my appearance on FSNBA, and again, I must thank all of you who have come up to me and said such nice things, as nice words are never out of style.

The Sharks conclude this roadstand on Sunday with an NBC regional matinee vs the Los Angeles Kings (3:00 pacific). The Kings were just here on Tuesday, and their presence was very welcome, as the Sharks officially clinched a playoff spot with a 3-1 victory over them just 5 days ago. The Kings come back to town with their highly touted defensive prospect Jack Johnson (not the musician). Look for JJ to sport #33, and hopefully get the warm welcome that only the Tank can deliver.

Go Sharks (BEAT LA AGAIN!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

3/27 SHARKS 3, los angeles 1

If I may be biased and exuberant here for a second: PLAYOFFS!!! (ok, so it was known that they were going to make the playoffs for a couple weeks, but it's always nice to clinch.)

The Sharks came home from their final real roadtrip of the year (the one last road game doesn't count as a trip) to face the much hated Kings, and had the opportunity to clinch a playoff spot against them, which they were able to do. Despite a lackadaisical second period that saw the Sharks relinquish a 1 goal lead, the Sharks were able to put together a couple nice plays in the 3rd to take and extend their previously taken lead and went on to win the game 3-1.

Over the last few games, the Milan Michalek-Joe Thornton-Jonathan Cheechoo line has carried the team with their great production, but last night the Sharks were able to get it done with just 1 point from that line, and instead received three points from defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (3 assists). Patrick Marleau [31] started the Sharks off with a beautiful one-timed shot off a Ehrhoff shot turned rebound (powerplay) (Ehrhoff, Marc-Edouard Vlasic). Brian Willsie tied the game at 1 midway through the second, leaving the game tied after two periods of play. Bill Guerin found himself all alone in front of Kings goalie Sean Burke, and soon thereafter received the puck on his backhand from Ehrhoff, and then quickly flipped it to his forehand, and shot it past Burke [36], recapturing the lead for the boys in teal (Ehrhoff, Marleau). Captain Marleau put the icing on the cake and opened the doors to the postseason when he recieved an absolute beauty of a backhand pass from Michalek that beat a pair of Kings and found himself with just Burke to beat, and beat him he did [32] (Michalek, Ehrhoff). Evgeni Nabokov rebounded from his shaky performance in Carolina to make 24 saves, earning his 21st victory on the year.

As some of you may know, I was interviewed by Randy Hahn and Marty McSorley during the 1st intermission of the Sharks/Hurricanes game last Saturday, the 24th. Well, many Sharks fans knew this, and happened to see me while I was on, and were very gracious and kind enough to come up to me last night and give me props (young people speak for congratulations) on a job well done. To those of you who happened across my blog and gave me such nice words last night, thank you for that. When I become a famous TV personality, you should take comfort in knowing that you knew me first, and will get to be first in line to kiss my feet (just kidding, I'll never forget you little people [sarcasm again]).

A couple more days of rest are in store for the Teal and Black, and then on Friday they will welcome their Pacific Division rival Phoenix Coyotes into town for the final meeting of the year between the two teams (7:30 pacific). The Sharks lead the season series with the 'Yotes 5-2, taking 3 of 4 in Phoenix, and 2 of 3 in San Jose. With a playoff spot formally clinched, the only thing left for the Sharks is playoff positioning, which, at this point, is a pretty large crapshoot. The only real guarantee is if the Sharks can surpass the Anaheim Ducks for first place in the division, then (on top of a shiny new division championship banner) they will have home ice advantage for their first round matchup. The chase for the division continues Friday.

Go Sharks (We BEAT LA)

Next Avalanche game - Who cares, see above

Sunday, March 25, 2007

3/24 CAROLINA 6, sharks 4

The Sharks lost last night, but they looked like a playoff team (at least in my eyes) while doing so. Sure, they went down 3-0 early, and that early deficit ended up costing them, but unlike the coast jobs (read = lazy, passionless play) that the Sharks have pulled a few times this year, the Sharks continued to fight, a frame of mind that will help them come playoff time.

After going down 3-0 following just one period of play, Bill Guerin [35] took a slapper off a pass from Captain Patrick Marleau on the powerplay (Marleau, Matt Carle). Eric Staal made it 4-1 shortly thereafter, but the Sharks kept fighting. The Sharks fought back and struck back on the scoreboard just 2:42 into the 3rd when Jonathan Cheechoo [31] collected a rebound and pushed it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward (Craig Rivet, Joe Thornton). The Sharks brought themselves within one goal when Steve Bernier [14] cut across the crease and collected a pass from the aforementioned Grier (Grier). With momentum in hand, things looked good until Guerin's stick accidentally climbed up the stick of Niclas Wallin and popped him in what appeared to be the mouth, earning Guerin a 4 minute double-minor for drawing blood with a high stick with just under 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd. Andrew Ladd then scored his second goal of the game to give the Hurricanes a 5-3 lead with 2:40 left. But, like all the other times, the Sharks kept fighting. Cheechoo stormed towards the net with the puck, but was held by defenseman Mike Commodore, drawing a penalty on the Ogie Oglethorpe look-alike. The Sharks promptly took advantage of the powerplay when, just six seconds in, Joe Thornton [21] ripped a one-timer past Ward to bring the Sharks back within one (Marleau, Rivet), but that was as close as the Sharks would get. Cory Stillman sealed the deal with an empty netter with just 4 seconds left to play. Both tenders made 7 saves, Evgeni Nabokov faced 10 shots in the 1st, and Vesa Toskala faced 9 shots in the latter 40 minutes.

This year, as you know, I have been attending each Sharks game, this one was road game #40 on the season, but, unlike the previous 39, this one was a bit different. Upon entering the RBC Center (a very nice building), I was approached by the producer of the Sharks TV, who was interested in putting me on TV. Being an amateur journalist and not even being able to dream of being on a live broadcast this year, I of course said yes and what happened at the intermission, of course, is history (including insulting a Sharks sponsor on live TV).

The RBC Center is a beautiful building located in the heart of a very large parking lot in rural Raleigh, North Carolina, right adjacent to Carter Finley Stadium, home of the NC State Wolfpack. The aforementioned parking lot is home to many a tailgater all the way up to game time, and plenty of tailgaters following the game as well. Cars and trucks are decorated with Hurricane car flags and stickers (not to mention big actual hurricane warning flags), people are decorated with Hurricane jerseys and sweatshirts and t-shirts and hats and every other piece of Carolina gear available.

Inside the arena is very nice. The lower concourse is super wide, allowing for easy maneuvering. Plenty of food stands and a good mix of available eats, with a couple mini stores around the concourse. The seating area is very nice as well. It is a pretty symmetrical bowl with bright red seats to match the rest of the attire in the stands.

Without a good place to mention it, the Canes also have a wicked loud goal horn, loud crowd when they score, a pig as a mascot ("ice hog", I've been told), Ric Flair the wrestler screaming "WOOOOOO", cheerleaders (ugh), and a sound system that, when they score, sounds like a rumblin earthquake type thing (I'm a Californian, apparently I know these things).

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed my hockey experience in Raleigh, and would suggest a game to anyone who wants to believe that hockey in NC doesn't have a fan base.

On a bit of a side note, I had the opportunity to ride in a cab Sunday morning with a big man. I shared a cab with a big guy, who had an Oilers duffle bag. I shared a cab with a guy who graciously paid for the cab for me. I shared a cab with Dave Semenko. So, in the span of 10 hours, I was in the presence of both Marty McSorley and Dave Semenko. And I wasn't even trying to get near Wayne Gretzky, either.

The Sharks return to California, where they will play their final 6 games of the regular season (only one on the road). The 3 game homestand begins Tuesday, with the third visit of the year by the Los Angeles Kings (7:30 pacific). The Sharks lead the season series with the Kings 4-2, winning 3 of 4 games played at the Staples Center while splitting the 2 games played in SJ. The Sharks currently sit tied with Dallas for second in the Pacific, 4 points back of the division leading Ducks, and, with a Vancouver win and a win of their own, will clinch a playoff spot tonight. A couple times this year, the Sharks have slacked a bit in the first home game after a long roadie, but they seem to be in playoff mode, so hopefully that'll be different tonight. Here's to celebrating a playoff spot at the end of the night.

Go Sharks (BEAT LA)

Sharks Magic Number Counter - 3 points
Next Avalanche game - 3/27 vs Vancouver 6:00 pacific

The RBC Center, off in the distance. Making the long trek across the parking lot.

Right outside the Sharks TV room, directly following my live TV debut.

The red and black eye of the storm sitting so calmly on the ice. (Some people refer to this logo as the glorified toilet bowl logo. By some people, I mean me. It is a wicked awesome logo though.)

Stormy the ice hog. Yes, you heard me.

Friday, March 23, 2007

3/22 sharks 5, ATLANTA 1

WHATTT? YEAH!!! OKAAAYY! (Gratuitous Lil' Jon references[rapper from Atlanta with long dreadlocks, one of the mainstream "Crunk" Rappers] for being in Atlanta)

The Thrashers had a 7 game home winning streak coming into last night, but I don't think the Sharks much cared. Jonathan Cheechoo recorded a hat trick, his second of the year, to lead the way for the Sharks, winners of 8 of their last 10. Joe Thornton also showed little signs of fatigue (from playing the previous night in Chicago), tallying 3 assists for the Teal. Vesa Toskala made 18 saves for his 26th win of the season.

Strangely enough, those words I listed up top (in all their Crunk glory but relative broadness in nature) can accurately describe parts of the game, so, bear with me as I integrate these words into this post. In chronological order:

Pascal Dupuis got the game going for the Thrashers a few minutes in, (WHATTT??) taking a nice one-timer (quick shot that is timed and shot upon recieving) from Bobby Holik to beat Toskala. Later in the 1st, the Thrashers appeared to clear the puck from the defensive zone ever so slightly (easy to tell in super slo-mo), but the linesman, who only had the assistance of quick current time, wasn't able to see that, and the play went on, resulting in a Cheechoo one-timer from Thornton tie the game at 1, albeit controversially (WHATTT??, YEAH!!!) [28] (Thornton, Milan Michalek). Milan Michalek gave the Sharks the lead with just under a minute to play in the 1st [23] (Jonathan Cheechoo, Thornton). Cheechoo struck again midway through the 2nd, when he crashed the net on a Thornton shot, only to have the rebound bounce off his skate (WHATTT?? OKAAAYY!) [29] (Thornton, Milan Michalek). Bill Guerin made it 4-1 a couple minutes later when he found himself with the puck with just Lehtonen to beat, and beat him he did, with a nice deke (YEAH!!!) [34] (Mark Bell, Patrick Marleau). Cheechoo completed the hat trick on another one timer, this one from defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who, upon gathering the rebound from the initial shot by Thornton, dished it off to #14 who wristed it past back up goaltender (and former Shark) Johan Hedberg (Lehtonen was pulled after the 4th Sharks goal) (YEAH!!!, OKAAAYY!) [30] (Ehrhoff). Much to the dismay of the hometown Thrasher fans, the 3rd was entertaining, but unfortunately scoreless, and the game ended 5-1. The final Crunk-speak of the game came after the game, when the 3 Stars were announced, and despite Cheechoo getting the 1st Star and Thornton the 2nd Star, the 3rd Star was strangely given to Pascal Dupuis (WHATTT??)

Thrasher Heads that spit fire, the P.A. guy announcing offsides, handpasses, icings and all other minor infractions (not penalties), and waaaay too much powder blue at a hockey game? Just another night in Blueland, the self-named home of the Atlanta Thrashers. Blueland makes it's home in a very nice arena called the Philips Arena adjacent to the CNN building in downtown Atlanta. Famous for the structural spelling of the city name (ATLANTA in fake beam looking things is very cool actually), the Philips Arena is a very one of a kind building. The main entrance to Philips is at the end of the CNN building atrium, a food court that is a very popular hangout for Thrasher fans before the doors open.

Once inside, the originality continues. Food in the Philips Arena is for sale everywhere, however, if you go to the right once entering the arena, you will find a food court with tons of different places and menu items, and plenty of tables to eat said menu items at. To get upstairs, one must go up the grand staircase, a set of stairs and an escalator to take you to the middle level of the building, where there are video games and other interactive stuff, like an inflatable shoot the puck thing. There are two escalators to take you up to the upper level of the arena, which seem to be the only way to get to the upper level of seating.

The seating area is also very unique, as the whole side of the arena behind the penalty boxes are club seating downstairs and 3 levels of luxury boxes above the lower level. It is why the arena is set up like it is, with the main entrance and upper level entrance across from from the luxury seating as it is. The concourses are also effected, as neither the upper or lower concourses are complete circuits, making it harder to walk around the arena, since the arena is not round. However, it is pretty easy to get to your seat, as each entrance from the concourses are marked with large signs, and each entrance is given a different portal number. Tickets have corresponding portal numbers, for the best way to get to one's seat. The concourses are very different from one another, as the lower concourse is stupid wide, while the upper concourse is wicked small.

The Philips Arena is a nice place, with a moderately loud goal horn, for those that aren't tucked away in the dark like I was. For the best seat upstairs, sit on the side, where you aren't behind one of two full endzone length video boards. The building could be worse as it is very nice, but it's not the Tank (maybe slightly biased). I would visit this building again gladly, as I now know a better place to sit.

The Sharks wrap up this roadie, and play their last road game out of the Pacific Division tomorrow night when they take on the defending Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes (4:00 pacific). Relocated from Hartford, CT in 1997, the Hurricanes enjoyed recent success with their first Stanely Cup Championship last year over the Edmonton Oilers 4-3. This year has not been so rosy for the Hurricanes, as they currently sit in 8th place in the East, battling just to make the post season this year. The Sharks look to get one step closer to clinching a playoff spot, and keeping their great streak going. Get ready for some HNInC (Hockey Night in North Carolina).

Go Sharks (the Thrashers got Crunked)

Edited to include games through 3/23

Magic Number - 3 points
Next Avalanche game: 3/25 Colorado @ Vancouver

Guess what city this is in? Go ahead, take a wild guess.

The Georgia brown thrasher, encased in frozen H2O.

A full view of the Philips Arena. Suites to the left, peons to the right.

Giant fire-spitting thrasher heads. Scary stuff.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

3/21 sharks 4, CHICAGO 1

As a youngster, you are taught to shoot the puck at the net, and when you do, the best place to stand is in front of the net. That point was hammered home last night 5 times (although some may not count the Chicago goal, since it wasn't for the benefit of the good guys, er, Sharks). Joe Thornton led the way with three assists, skating with both Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, who each recorded a pair of goals for the Teal. The win gave the Sharks the season series sweep over the Blackhawks, winning all 4 games between the teams this year. Evgeni Nabokov stood tall in net, making 28 saves and earning his 20th win of the year.

The Sharks drew first blood, when Joe Thornton skated circles around the Blackhawk players and zone before dishing the puck to defenseman Scott Hannan, who promptly tossed it down to Cheechoo [26], who took his time, and slipped it past Hawk tender Patrick Lalime (Scott Hannan, Joe Thornton). A Patrick Sharp goal tied the game late in the 1st, and the game remained tied until Milan Michalek struck on the powerplay [21] (powerplay) (Matt Carle, Craig Rivet). Cheechoo struck again 5 minutes into the 3rd, [27] (powerplay) (Matt Carle, joe Thornton), and Milan Michalek sealed the deal 7 minutes later [22] (Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo).

The Teal victory was their 45th of the year, setting a franchise record for wins and with the win, the Sharks are now 7 points away from clinching a playoff spot.

The Sharks go for #46 tonight with their second-to-last back-to-back of the year, taking the road trip to the south for a Peach State matchup with the Southeast Division leading Atlanta Thrashers (4:00 pacific). The Thrash are 8-2 since acquiring former St. Louis Blue Keith Tkachuk, and are the Southeast division leaders (hooray for monotony). Tonight marks the first game between former Blues teammates Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin (let's hope the latter gets the last laugh).

Go Sharks (deep dish domination)

Magic Number - 7 points
Next game for the Avalanche - 3/23 Edmonton @ Colorado

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jess's dad gets a taste of the Odyssey

(Special guest post by Jess's dad.)

The Sharks Hockey Odyssey is Jess's world. The rest of us just get to visit. Last week, I got to accompany Jess to Phoenix for my own personal Odyssey experience.

It was to be a quick trip: down to the desert on Thursday morning, then back to San Jose on Friday morning. I chose Phoenix for several reasons, including these:

- The new building in Glendale (Phoenix) sounds cool.
- Baseball Spring Training is going on.
- The SJC-PHX flight is pretty short.

We arrived at fancy-schmancy Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, where I noticed that all the public address announcements were made by a synthesized voice (yes, I'm that much of a geek). The standard Odyssey budget does not allow for renting a car, but I invoked special parental privilege, so we headed for the Avis counter and scored a ride. Our trip got off to a rousing start when, as I was driving out of the rental lot, the gate arm came down on the windshield. Surprise! Luckily, it bounced off harmlessly. But that sure woke us up.

Speaking of surprise, our first destination was a baseball game between our beloved San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at the shockingly named Suprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona, a Phoenix-area city that's the spring training home of both the Royals and the Texas Rangers. We found Surprise Stadium to be a wonderful minor-league style ballpark, complete with outfield seating on a grass berm. Our seats, however, were in the shade, which made the 94 degree desert weather very pleasant, and we got to see the Giants A-squad whack 6 solo homers, including a Barry Bonds laser beam over the right field wall, and a nice start by Barry Zito. The fact that the Giants lost 7-6 didn't seem so bad here in spring training.

Following afternoon baseball, we were on a tight schedule to make it to our hotel in Glendale in time for the 7:00 faceoff at Glendale's unfortunately named Arena. After a quick dinner at Cottos, a fine local sandwich shop, we started walking the few blocks back to our hotel. As we walked we noticed some ominous signs: a fire chief's car speeding through an intersection, a helicopter hovering nearby, then three helicopters. We turned the corner and saw enormous plumes of smoke that seemed to be right over our hotel, along with a line of fire hoses blasting water into the smoke. As we got closer, we determined that the fire was actually down the road from our hotel, across an overpass. So we got ready for the game and left, just as the smoke was settling over the hotel and the fire seemed to be out.

After we parked, I donned my Bernier #26 Sharks jersey (which I borrow from Jess) and we walked to the arena plaza. This was the first time in my life I ever wore the visiting team's colors to a sporting event (something Jess has done more than 30 times this season), and I felt very strange, like everybody was looking at me. This feeling soon dissipated, in part because I met many other similarly attired Sharks fans.

I really enjoyed watching the pregame skate with dozens of other Sharks fans. The arena itself is spectacular. The seats rise steeply, the roof is high, and there's plenty of lower bowl seating. The place looks strong and solid. The colors include the omnipresent southwestern brown, set off by deep red seats. The visuals are clear and the sound is loud -- in fact, the horn is REALLY loud (as Jess warned me), and I think I'd tolerate the Coyotes' trademark howl a little more if it didn't sound kind of a like a rooster with a sore throat.

When you travel with Jess, you realize there are two kinds of people you run into: Jess's friends, and strangers that Jess will talk to. I marvel at Jess's outgoing nature, his ability to spark a conversation with anybody, and often make a new friend. I'm happy and proud that Jess has this wonderful skill.

The game itself was great fun. The Sharks scored early and dominated the first period, but only led 1-0 at the break. The second was more competitive, but the Sharks began to pull away in the third, eventually going up 3-0, then 4-1 before winning 5-1. Throughout the night, we were unmolested by Coyotes fans. I think that's because there weren't a whole lot of them, unfortunately, and those that were there are aware that the Coyotes are having a terrible season. I'm sure the Coyotes will rise again, but this is not their year.

One individual did fight the Sharks all night: Howler, the mascot. This creature spent the second intermission and the entire third period schlepping around an inflatable, jersey-wearing shark, which he repeatedly hit, kicked, strangled, hurled to the ground, and danced upon. This act got tired pretty quickly. The only time it was funny was when Howler decided to start messing with some Sharks fans, who managed to steal the shark briefly before Howler got it back. That little scene was actually more entertaining than the game, which was waning at the time.

After the game, we headed back to the hotel and debated getting a pizza or something, but decided to make do with hotel vending machine food, as Jess had an early morning the next day. (It turns out that my one regret is I didn't get to experience the Odyssey tradition of late-night, post-game pizza. But I'll deal with it.)

That early morning arrived with a 5:30 AM wake-up call so Jess could prepare for his weekly radio stint on KFOG. I had a rare front row seat to watch Jess make the radio magic, and he ordered me not to fall asleep, lest I snore all over his broadcast. Halfway through the call I was surprised when the KFOG crew, learning that I was present, asked to talk to me. I mumbled a few words incoherently before handing the phone back to Jess, who finished his bit. My "contribution" notwithstanding, it was really fun to be right there while he did his KFOG thing.

Soon enough, it was off to the airport for our return to San Jose. This wrapped up my quick visit to the Sharks Hockey Odyssey. I gained plenty of empathy for Jess on my short trip: I learned to appreciate the travel and other logistics he has to deal with, that writing a blog post for every game is no easy task, and that being awake, articulate, and entertaining on the radio is much harder than it seems.

I also learned that SJ Sharkie is a really good mascot.

3/18 COLORADO 4, sharks 3 OT

Well, at least we ended Paul Stastny's 20 game point streak (record for a rookie).

The Sharks have had great goaltending over the past couple weeks, but sometimes, it takes more to win, and the Sharks learned that the hard way last night losing to the Avalanche in OT. Evgeni Nabokov made 36 saves, and received his 16th loss of the year for his troubles, despite playing very well.

Joe Thornton led the charge on the offensive side of the puck (Thornton, good on offense, big surprise) with a goal and an assist. Thornton put the Sharks on the board first [20] when he picked up a rebound and slapped it past keeper Peter Budaj (powerplay) (Matt Carle, Milan Michalek). After a Tyler Arnason goal tied the game at 1, Michalek untied the game just 27 seconds into the 2nd [20] with a wrister that was out as quick as it went in (Thornton, Scott Hannan). Bill Guerin made it 3-1 [33] just a couple minutes later (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Patrick Marleau). The Avs, came back however, and eventually won it on an iffy penalty to Jonathan Cheechoo with just 14 seconds left in regulation.

On this trip, I've experienced a Sharks loss in almost every Western Conference building, but only after leaving the Pepsi Center did I find what I have awarded the rudest fans of the Odyssey. All throughout my solemn walk to the parking lot did I have to deal with such taunts as "Hey Cheechee, better luck next time" or "Cheechoo this" or "WOOOOOOOOOO AVALANCHE AHHHHHHBLALBLBLBAAAAH".

Now, I have absolutely no problem with being taunted, I expect it, but even in Canada, where hockey is in the food, water, and bloodstream of everyone, was I taunted with a bit of respect. Not to mention, it was done to my face, accompanied by a smile, and a laugh afterwards, with fun conversations all around. But in Denver, no way, (san) Jose. They talk the big game from ten feet away and behind you, not wanting to say anything of actual substance, and then they walk away (keep in mind of course, no one says anything until AFTER the game ends). Oh well, I guess this just gives me another reason to dislike the Avalanche (besides all 87 banners hanging in the rafters).

The Sharks have a couple days off before playing again, but when they do, it'll be in the very windy city of Chicago, for the final meeting with the Blackhawks (5:30 pacific). The Sharks have won all three matchups against the Hawks, with the last one coming last week by a score of 7-1.

With just nine games left, the Sharks have a magic number of 9 points to clinch the postseason (magic number, a combo of points earned by the Sharks, and points not earned by the Avalanche). It is at this time that I wish to introduce the magic number countdown to postseason counter at the bottom of each post.

Go Sharks (boo avalanche fans)

Sharks magic number - 9 points
Avalanche next game - 3/21 vs Edmonton

Outside of the Can.

Patrick Ruhwah's retired number.

Longtime Avalanche member Raymond Bourque and his retired number. (Bourque was a member of the Colorado sqaud for a year and a half, prompting endless criticism when the Avalanche retired his number).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

3/16 SHARKS 3, columbus 0

No Evgeni Nabokov, no problem. Resting the currently scorching Nabokov was a necessity last night, as he's played a lot recently, and last night would have marked twice in two nights. It was necessary to rest him, but Vesa Toskala almost made it seem like a pleasure because of his solid play in his first game in about a month (he was injured and hadn't started since Feb 14th in Nashville). The skaters, however, didn't get the time off, but were still able to grind out another should-win type game against the Jackets 3-0.

All 3 periods were pretty tightly contested, and, despite being outshot 28-18 in the last 40 minutes of the contest, played strong defensively, employing a nice backcheck, and were quick to clear loose pucks from the slot, even if they were just shot to the boards. Joe Thornton got the game's first goal (and eventual game winner) on a nice wrister that beat the left pad of goalie Fredrik Norrena [19] (Craig Rivet, Milan Michalek). Ryane Clowe made the game 2-0 [16] on what looked like a puck's imitation of a butterfly, twisting and flipping in the air (ok, so maybe not a butterfly, but a flying something), finding its way past Norrena with just over a minute left in the 2nd (Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Pavelski). Scott Hannan sealed the victory and the two points (given for a win) by taking advantage of the empty net and the ability to ice the puck (Sharks were on the penalty kill) with a shot from behind the Sharks goalline that traveled the near 200 feet to the back of the twine and iron house on the other end of the rink [2] (unassisted) (whoa, sorry, got a little poetic there). Vesa Toskala made 35 saves in the win, earning his 25th win of the year, and his 4th shutout of 06/07.

While the Tank prepares for some sports of the college basketball regional championship variety, the Sharks embark on their final road trip of the season. The first stop (Sunday) is the city they had to build in the mountains, Denver, CO, and the Colorado Avalanche (5:00 pdt). While the Sharks are fighting for playoff positioning, the Avalanche are still pushing to get into the second season, and have gotten close (6 points behind 8th place Calgary with 1 game in hand) from great play lately (7-0-1 in last 8 games). The Sharks lead this series 2-1, winning the one game played at the massive Pepsi Center, and splitting games in SJ, with the Sharks winning the most recent contest (January 15th) by a 3-1 score. The Av's (what an Av is I still don't really know) played last night in Phoenix and defeated the Coyotes by a 6-3 score, so here's hoping that they're a bit tired for tonight.

Go Sharks (Vesa Tosk-ala)

Friday, March 16, 2007

3/15 sharks 5, PHOENIX 1

Love. The. Desert. The Sharks made their last trip to the wonderfully named Arena in Glendale (suburb of Phoenix), Arizona with a 5-1 defeat of the Phoenix Coyotes. As the Patrick Marleau line lead the charge on Tuesday, the Joe Thornton line stole the show last night. Thornton lead the way with 4 points (1 goal and 3 assists), Jonathan Cheechoo had 3 points (2 goals and 1 assist), Milan Michalek also had 3 points (0 goals and 3 assists). The defense was also pretty big, allowing just 21 shots on net while blocking 17. Evgeni Nabokov stood tall yet again, making 20 saves for his 19th win of the year.

Cheechoo got the game started real quick, scoring just 78 seconds into the game [24] (Thornton, Michalek). Despite pouring 10 shots onto goalie Mikael Tellqvist in the first 5 minutes of the first, the Sharks could just muster that one goal in the first 20 minutes of the game. Cheechoo struck again 4 minutes into the 2nd [25], taking a nice pass and popping it past Tellqvist(Michalek, Thornton). Bill Guerin recorded his 4th goal in 2 games [32] (Patrick Marleau, Mark Bell). Matt Carle [11] (powerplay) (Michalek, Thornton), and Thornton [18] (Cheechoo, Kyle McLaren) also scored for the Sharks, winners of 5 of their last 6 games.

The Sharks have been a great road team this season, even when conditions like last night's caused it to feel much more like a home game. Granted, the game wasn't played in San Jose, wasn't played at the HP Pavilion, and there was a disembodied coyote head at center ice, but the large amount of Sharks fans in the crowd last night made the game a lot more fun. It's always nice to see familiar faces, even if they're faces you've never seen before, and when out of town fans meet at an out of town game, everybody is sure to be friendly.

Speaking of friendly faces, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Edie, the very nice TSA woman from Phoenix Sky Harbor again. I had the pleasure of catching her at her lunch break, so I was able to say hello, and got to talk for a few minutes. I (along with my father Scott who made the short trip with me to Phoenix), also got to meet Lori, a coworker of hers. Both are part of the great D gate security, so if you ever find yourself in the D gates, say hello to either of these great agents.

The Sharks return home tonight, finishing off the back-to-back with a matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 pdt). The Sharks have obviously been playing well, winning 5 of their last 6 games, and have outscored their opponents 23-4 in that time frame. The Jackets are struggling, as they have all year long. They do have a tough as nails coach in Ken Hitchcock, however, and should put up a decent fight, but if the Sharks can continue to play their solid brand of hockey, this is a contest the Sharks can win.

Go Sharks (no more ah-awooooo)

Out front of the Arena. Not sure why, but there is no sign out front the building. Hmm. Maybe it's because THE NAME OF THE BUILDING IS THE JOBING.COM ARENA

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

3/13 SHARKS 7, chicago 1

Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo "PIZZA!". Ah, the familiar sounds of the Tank when bellies are rumbling in victory. It's been a long time since Round Table has had to give out 17,496 free personal pan pizzas (37 days to be exact), but a scoring surge lead by Bill Guerin made it so. Guerin recorded his first goal (and second, and third, for that matter) in a Sharks jersey and added an assist as the Sharks ran rampant on the hapless Blackhawks 7-1 last night. Guerin, playing in his 7th game for the Teal, had nary a point to his name since coming to SJ a couple weeks ago, despite having a few good scoring chances along the way. He recorded goals # 29, 30, and 31 on the evening, with the latter coming on a penalty shot with just 12 seconds remaining in the game (he now has the Sharks lead in goals, Patrick Marleau is second with 30).

Guerin got the game started with a rush up the wing, and a backhander that trickled past goalie Patrick Lalime to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead (Christian Ehrhoff) (Guerin was so happy he "hugged" [read = crashed into] referee Kerry Fraser). Guerin's second came late in the game, and was the game's lone power play goal (powerplay) (Patrick Marleau, Scott Hannan). The hat trick came on a penalty shot granted by referee Kerry Fraser on what seemed to be a generous call (that hug makes more sense now). Consensus was that it should have been a 2 minute minor for hooking (but no Shark fan is complaining). Guerin split the wickets on Lalime, giving him his first hat trick as a San Jose Shark. Mark Bell [9] (Matt Carle, Guerin), Milan Michalek [19] (Joe Thornton), Joe Thornton [17] (Hannan, Jonathan Cheechoo) and Mike Grier [15] (Michalek, Thornton) also scored for the Sharks. Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves, earning his 18th win of the year, and 4th in his last 5 starts.

Now, I've talked a few times about how silly it seems to me that people would leave a hockey game, or any sporting event, before it's conclusion. The few people who have engagements the next morning or later that night the exception, but the streaming of people looking like they're running towards the exits to escape a fire with minutes left on the clock dumbfound me. Case in point, Bill Guerin records the final tally of his hat trick with 12 seconds remaining, and the building goes nuts. Or at least that's what should have happened. Instead, a few thousand fans decided to leave with minutes left on the clock, and missed out on screaming and yelling and supporting the Sharks deadline acquisition that is thought to be the final piece to the championship puzzle. Maybe the people who decided to leave early, and miss out on the celebration have learned their lessons, but I guess we'll just have to find out Friday who leaves prior to that final horn.

The Sharks take their recent string of strong hockey to the desert for the final time this season to take on the poor Phoenix Coyotes (7:00 pdt). The 'Yotes season didn't quite pan out as they had hoped, as they have spent most of the year towards the bottom of the division and the conference. The Sharks lead the season series 4-2, picking up 2 of 3 games played at the ill named Arena in otherwise glorious Glendale (a suburb of Phoenix). The Sharks have outscored their opponents 18-3 in their last 5, while the 'Yotes have been outscored 15-17. On paper this is a game the Sharks should win, but, if it was that easy, well, then I wouldn't have to travel to see the game played out on ice.

Go Sharks (boo people who leave early)

Monday, March 12, 2007

3/11 SHARKS 3, edmonton 0

It's been a month, so let me reintroduce the words into your vocabulary. Sharks-win-at-home. Simple as that. 37 days after their last home victory, the Sharks did it again, by winning in the Tank on Sunday 3-0. Granted, this was only the 5th game since their last win at home on February 2nd over the Chicago Blackhawks, (in that time they went 0-2-2), but home is supposed to be the one place you can always pull out the two points (what you get for a win), something the Sharks have had trouble doing lately.

The Oilers have given the Sharks fits over the past couple seasons. We all know what happened last April, and that stigma carried the Oilers to victory in the first two meetings this year (6-4 in Edmonton, and 3-2 in SJ). Since then, the Oilers have cooled off, dropping 5-1 to the Sharks at Rexall Place in January, and have hit a huge skid since the trading of Assistant (or Alternate, which ever way you like it) Captain Ryan Smyth. Dubbed Captain Canada (because of his roles for Team Canada in the World Championships), the Oilers have not been the same since trading Smyth, and it showed last night. The Oilers managed just 22 shots, none of which were taken with a Smyth screen in front of Evgeni Nabokov, and subsequently none of which were taken by Smyth on the rebound.

Jonathan Cheechoo kicked a puck in midway through the 1st, waking up the crowd, despite not counting on the scoreboard. Steve Bernier changed that [13], whacking in a rebound to give the Sharks a legal 1-0 lead (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Ryane Clowe). The game remained 1-0 until 16:09 of the 3rd, when Kyle McLaren picked a tiny spot top shelf on Oilers goalie Dwayne Roloson [5], and promptly put the puck there (Patrick Rissmiller, Curtis Brown). A rare empty net powerplay goal by Matt Carle [10], sealing the game in favor of the teal (Craig Rivet, Joe Thornton). Nabokov made 22 saves for his 17th win of the season, 3rd shutout in the last 4 games, and 7th overall.

The Sharks finish this homestand on Tuesday with a match against Tuomo Ruutu and the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 pdt). McLaren took a Ruutu elbow towards the end of the Sharks/Hawks game in Chicago on 2/21, a hit that hasn't been retaliated on yet. The Sharks lead the season series 2-0, with wins in SJ (4-2 on 2/3, and 2-0 in Chicago on 2/21).

Go Sharks (beat the Oil finally)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

3/9 vancouver 2, SHARKS 1 OT


Rackin' frackin' Roberto Luongo (redux). 26 shots on goal, and just 1 goes in. A great defensive effort by the Sharks, coupled with a great effort from Evgeni Nabokov was quashed by the play of the enormous Canuck goaltender, and the decent defense in front of him. The Sharks won two straight on the road with their stifling D, but returned home to be beaten by a similarly stifling D.

Two scoreless periods saw entertaining hockey, but a 0-0 game into the third. Taylor Pyatt gave the 'Nucks a 1-0 lead just a minute into the period, seemingly looking to have scored the only goal of the game, but a goal from the Captain, Patrick Marleau [30] (powerplay Joe Thornton, Matt Carle) knotted the game at 1 with just under 5 to play. The goal was set up by a Henrik Sedin tripping call. He redeemed himself 3 and a half minutes into the extra period (Overtime) however, when he crashed the net on his own rebound, and jammed home a loose puck to give the Vanucks the extra point and the W. Nabokov made 35 saves, and received his 17th loss of the year.

Along with the great many Sharks fans in the Tank (Sharks fans in the Sharks home building, go figure) were plenty of crazy Canuck fans, many with wigs of all kinds. As I found out from one group, they made the trip all the way down from BC, and were on their second stop of the three game roadie. I also spoke with the TV voice of the Canucks, Jim Hughson. Hughson is also the play-by-play voice of the EA Sports NHL series, and a very nice guy to talk to.

The Sharks continue this homestand on Sunday with an afternoon game with the toothless Edmonton Oilers (5:00 PDT). The Oil have lost 5 straight since trading Ryan Smyth, and have been outscored 20-4 in that stretch. The Sharks have won 2 of their last 3, and have outscored their opponents 8-2 in that time (slight discrepancy). The Sharks have 14 games left until the playoffs, and they could use all the points they can get to solidify a high playoff spot. Sunday begins a stretch of 6 consecutive games against teams currently out of the playoffs, and those should be easy points, but with the Jekyll and Hyde Sharks, who knows. Here's to some Jekyll hockey on Sunday (assuming Jekyll = good).

Go Sharks (Boo-ongo)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

3/6 sharks 3, MINNESOTA 0

The Sharks were so happy with the way they played on Sunday, it was worth an encore for the capacity crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul last night. Another solid defensive effort by the boys in teal lead to a second consecutive victory, and a second consecutive shutout for the team, and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov looked strong when he needed to be, making a few key saves (26 in all), including two saves on Wild shorthanded breakaways, earning his 16th win of the season, and 6th shutout of the year.

The Sharks were able to hammer out three second period goals in a span of 5:51. Milan Michalek [18] crashed the net at 7:57, redirecting a Joe Thornton cross-ice pass right past goalie Niklas Backstrom (Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic). Ryane Clowe [15] picked up a rebound and flipped a shot past Backstrom (Steve Bernier, Scott Hannan) and Jonathan Cheechoo [23] took a drop pass and ripped a shot top shelf (Michalek, Thornton) to cap the scoring for the Teal.

Minnesota, dubbed "The State of Hockey" is definitely a state that loves its hockey. In fact, going on now is the State Championships for high school boys hockey. But, even the State of Hockey is not immune to my worst pet peeve, leaving the game early. I can understand leaving because you have plans the next day, but leaving a game before it has reached its conclusion, regardless of the score, is disgusting. And when a building of 18,568 empties out with 7+ minutes remaining on the game clock, while simultaneously being congratulated for being "The greatest hockey fans in the world" for their intense support and ever growing sellout streak (which started on day 1, and includes all games, even exhibition), well, that's just plain silly. If your team is behind, if your team is ahead, it should not make a difference. If you pay money to go to a hockey game, you should stay for the hockey game. THE ENTIRE GAME. [/ end angry soapbox rant]

The Sharks are done with their second to last roadtrip (the one gamers in Phoenix and in Anaheim are just that, one gamers), and will return home for a three game homestand beginning Friday against the Vancouver Canucks (7:30 pst). The series is tied at 1 game a piece, splitting contests at the Garage (GM Place) in Vancouver. The Sharks won the inital contest 6-4, and the Canucks won the most recent game 3-1 on January 28th. Although both teams currently sitting pretty in the playoff hunt, both are looking to continue good play in order to get the all important home ice advantage for the post season.

Go Sharks (NO MORE COLD!)

Xcel Energy Center, the out front.

Postcard from the State of Hockey, on the front door.

Yeah yeah, our fans are #1. Heard that before.

Minnesota is the State of Hockey. Know why? Cause the banner with the blinding lights said so.

Monday, March 05, 2007

3/4 sharks 4, DALLAS 0

Well, another game another... wait a minute, a win? For the Sharks? Awesome. And if they can play like that more often, we could be in for a fun ride this spring.

The Sharks, having dropped 4 straight, 7 of their last 9, and 11 of their last 17 coming into the night (afternoon), looked to greatly amend those numbers, starting with a solid victory. This win was a bit different however, as, they didn't dominate solely on the offensive side of the puck, but playing Stars style hockey, with the strongest of play coming on defense. The Stars outshot the Sharks 26-18, but the Sharks shone defensively by blocking 23 shots. The 19 year old beast known only as "Pickles" (those unworthy must call him Marc-Edouard Vlasic) lead the effort by blocking 6 shots all by his little self.

By playing strong defensively, the Sharks got themselves plenty of scoring chances. They had just one shot on goal in the 1st, and they made it count. Curtis Brown [8] had the lone shot, wristing it up and over the shoulder of Marty Turco (Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Grier). Ryane Clowe [14] (Patrick Rissmiller, Marcel Goc) picked up a rebound and stuffed it into an open net past Turco, and Joe Pavelski added a pair of goals [13,14] (Jonathan Cheechoo, Matt Carle) (Clowe, Cheechoo). Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 26 shots he faced for his 15th win of the year, and 5th shutout this season.

The Sharks have now completed their series with the Stars, with Dallas having won the season series 5-3. Having been to 4 regular season games at the Hangar (not to mention the ASG and festivities), I am both happy and sad to not be seeing any more games in this massive arena. I will miss the decent food, the great view, and the crazy techno music played, however, that freakin horn, and the P.A. guy , Bill Ollerman, well, let's just say, no tears for them. The Sharks and Stars have a great rivalry that make games between them fun, whether I get to do the booing because the game is in SJ, or whether I get booed for being the Stars house, it's a fun atmosphere.

The Sharks wrap up this roadtrip, their second to last of the year, on Tuesday in St. Paul for the final game of the year with the Wild. The Sharks lead the series 2-1, having taken the one game played at Xcel (2-1 on 11/29). It was really nice to see the Sharks play well again, here's to them keeping it up on Tuesday.

Go Sharks (sorry Bill but, hooray for no more Ollerman)

It's far away, but it's the American Airlines Center, minus the All-Star stuff.

See, American Airlines.

See, American Airlines Center. Says so, right on the building. Told ya so.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

3/2 ANAHEIM 3, sharks 1

Yeah, another loss, but hey, at least somebody finally got the script right. A few thousand Sharks fans made the trip to SoCal to see their Teal take on the Duck L'orange at the Ponda, and, at least from a new player perspective, they got their money's worth (I'm tryin real hard to be positive about this game, cause the stupid Duck "fans" were quacking at me all night long). The Sharks new addition on defense, Craig Rivet, recorded his 7th goal of the season, and first goal as a Shark, in his first game as a Shark, unlike somebody else I know (hint hint, Bill Guerin). Rivet had the lone goal for the Sharks (Matt Carle, Joe Thornton), a small bright spot in an otherwise dreary game.

The Sharks, beat up by injuries (no Marleau, Hannan, or Smith for this one) have been struggling as of late, this one being their fourth straight loss, and 7th in their last 9 games. With just 17 games left, the Sharks are looking to get their stuff together for the playoffs, assuming they don't totally fall apart and miss them altogether.

The Sharks continue this roadtrip on Sunday with another matinee with the Dallas Stars (12:30 pst). The Stars lead the series 5-2, winning the last 3 contests between these teams. Simply put, the Stars seem to be on their way up, and the Sharks seem to be on their way down, but, trends can change easily, and when it's not playoffs, the trends don't matter as much. Here's hoping that the trends end Sunday.

Go Sharks (short post because I'm cranky)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

2/28 nashville 4, SHARKS 3 SO

Somebody really has to shoot that script messenger, because they failed again, big time. Trade deadline acquisition Bill Guerin, making his debut in the teal (jersey #13), was supposed to come into San Jose, play against the best team in the NHL, and, in triumphant fashion (yes, again with the triumphant fashion), defeat the Nashville Predators, while scoring 15 goals for his new club. Instead, the 17,496 who filled the Tank saw a very entertaining hockey game, but unfortunately for them, it was neither one that the Sharks won, nor one that had Guerin scoring 1 goal, let alone 15.

The fourth and final matchup between the Preds and Sharks this time was a seesaw game that never saw a lead of more than a goal all night long. Steve Bernier [12] got the Sharks off to a good start on the powerplay (Milan Michalek, Matt Carle), and just two minutes after a Vernon Fiddler redirect tied the game at 1, Matt Carle [9] added another powerplay goal (Christian Ehrhoff, Joe Thornton). After a scoreless second, the Predators put up 2 goals in the 3rd to take a 3-2 lead, before Pickles the Great (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) tied the game with just over 4 minutes remaining [3] (Bernier). An entertaining but scoreless overtime lead to a shootout, where goals from Alexander Radulov and J.P. Dumont were enough to oust the Sharks in 4 rounds (Joe Pavelski scored for the Sharks). Evgeni Nabokov, despite some shaky play lately, looked real solid last night, making quite a few amazing saves, stopped 29 shots while earning his 16th loss of the season (technically, he got his first OT loss, but a loss is a loss).

Bill Guerin, who played with Thornton and Kyle McLaren in Boston a few years ago, found himself on a line with Thornton and right winger Jonathan Cheechoo for most of the night. He logged himself 20 minutes of time, and took 3 shots on goal, all the while looking pretty comfortable out there. Guerin is not the only new Shark, as defenseman Craig Rivet (formerly of the Montreal Canadiens) will (probably/hopefully) make his debut on Friday in Anaheim.

Last night I found myself out of my normal seat for the first time this season, as I joined a group of chatters on one of the Sharks message boards I frequent. (Inside Sharks Hockey) made its presence felt and heard (quite loudly) last night in section 226. 25 people who know each other from the online social community got together to experience drinks beforehand, and an excellent hockey game as well. Many thanks to those who came and made the game fun (I had the pleasure of sitting next to [handle names, not real names, I hope] DrFeelGood and Teal Zebra for the whole evening.

The Sharks head back out to the road, a place all too familiar to them recently, for a Friday night affair with the Anaheim Ducks (7:00 pst). The Ducks lead the season series 4-2. The teams have split games at the Honda Center this season.

Go Sharks (welcome to San Jose Billy Guerin)

A Stanley Cup made of pucks. Yeah, simple caption, I know.