Wednesday, May 09, 2007

5/7 WCSF Game 6: detroit 2, SHARKS 0

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a season.

The Teal, who were just 33 seconds from leaving 525 W. Santa Clara with a 3 games to 1 lead just last Thursday, limped out of that same building Monday night, losing their third straight game, and finding themselves eliminated by the gritty Red Wings 4 games to 2. Another summer of what-if's, what-could-have-been's, and-where-do-we-go-from-here's await the Sharks and their fans, as this off-season unfortunately follows another post-season failure.

The summary to this game is pretty simple and currently still too painful to go into much detail, but can easily be described. Former Shark Mikael Samuelsson dealt the Sharks not one but two death blows 4 and a half minutes apart, and Mike Grier did his best Teemu Selanne impersonation by missing an open net on a puck playing gaffe by otherwise solid goalie Dominik Hasek. Evgeni Nabokov was as he's been all post season, great in between the pipes (20 saves). Unfortunately, he wasn't in charge of scoring goals, as his offense was non-existent, putting 28 shots on Hasek to no avail.

The Tank was in a weird mood Monday night, as there was both electric anticipation of the possibility of stretching the series to Game 7, and the underlying fear that the Sharks would succumb to elimination and begin their summer prematurely. The fans, for the most part, were loud and supportive all night long, despite the few who felt the need to trickle out of the doors prematurely on what could have been the Sharks final night of the 2006/07 season. Unfortunately for the 17,496 in attendance, the Teal did bow out to the Wings, and were eliminated that night, but, much to my delight, the Sharks left the ice that night to a round of cheers, a standing O of claps from the majority of the sellout crowd still in attendance.

There is always October, when Sharks hockey will return, and 23 guys wearing the pacific teal will set out to hoist the cup colored Lord Stanley silver. However, who those guys are come the 10th month of the year has yet to be determined. While most of the team should be back in the fall, there are a few Sharks who have seen their current contracts end. Trade deadline acquisitions Bill Guerin and Craig Rivet are UFA's (unrestricted free agent), along with longtime Sharks Scott Hannan and Mark Smith. All four are free to sign with whomever they please, but apparently all have expressed interest in remaining in San Jose, something only the coming weeks will tell for sure.

All that we know for now is that the 2006/07 San Jose Sharks season has come to an end that no one wanted, and that very few predicted. This year hurts because this was supposed to be "the year", and, obviously, it wasn't. Furthermore it hurts as the Sharks core inches one year closer to the possible demolition of this team, as contracts for (among many others) Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton come to an end after next season, probably ending their time together, but we'll come to that brigde in a long year from now. It hurts for me, on a personal level, of course, as it abruptly ends my Odyssey. 7 games short of 100, and 10 wins short of the ultimate goal (and probably a movie deal for my life story). The Odyssey was an awesome trip, and will always be that way, despite it's incorrect ending. No Cup this year for Sharks fans, but for me, it means no more traveling, no more hotels, no more cab rides, no more being in the minority fan base at an arena and no more hockey for 5 months. Haven't figured out yet if that's a good thing or not yet. I'll let you guys know.

More mushy reflection of my journey in a future post to come real soon. Keep checking back, as I have a few more posts in me, and will get them out soon.

Go Sharks (only four months til training camp)

The coolest tradition in all of sports.

More of that.

Even more.

6 wins, and yet, not even close. Maybe next year.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

5/5 WCSF Game 5: DETROIT 4, sharks 1

Well, Happy ****ing Cinco de Mayo.

There was something about this game, the fifth installment of this Sharks/Wings series. Maybe it was losing another game after scoring the first goal, maybe it was letting Wings run rampant in the crease with no cover, maybe it was the heart-dropping-in-a-blender-and-set-to-puree giveaway by a Sharks netminder into the oncoming pursuit of the forechecker. Game 5 was a game not unique, it contained nothing never seen before by Sharks fans. Rather, it was a mish-mash of all the gut-stomping ways to lose a hockey game neatly packaged into a nice little 143 minute ball of pain (for those of us wearing teal, that is).

The Sharks came into the Joe tied at 2 games a piece, and started off decent enough, as they were skating hard, hitting harder, taking shots, and even putting one past the Snow Angel... er, Dominator (Dominik Hasek). Just 5 minutes in, Marcel Goc [2] put a simple wrister on net, and it found its way past Hasek (Grier, McLaren). The rest of the 1st was a pretty solid effort by the Teal, but, unfortunately, it was the last of that for the afternoon.

The 2nd period began, and with it came the Detroit Red Wings Show. Over the final 2 periods, the Wings outshot the Sharks 25-15, and outscored them 4-0 in the final 40 minutes of play. The Tomas Holmstrom-Pavel Datsyuk-Henrik Zetterberg line (the line that can score like mad at home, but has been invisible on the road) carried the load, as the three players combined for 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists). Hasek and his snow angel style stood tall (or laid down tall, as the case was) making 23 saves. Among the goals scored were three defensive breakdowns that saw a Wing with the puck and WAY too much space in front of the net, and a goal that was painful in its execution, yet unoriginal in its technique. Put simply, a loose puck was coming towards Evgeni Nabokov, and he made his way out to play it. As he did so, Datsyuk was rushing towards the netminder. Trying to slip the puck past Datsyuk, Nabokov played the puck, however, it hit Datsyuk in the arms and with Nabokov out of position, Datsyuk easily put it in the net. This series, recently, has drawn similarities to last year's 2nd round dispatching by the Edmonton Oilers, a comparison the Sharks and their fans want no part of, but that Nabokov giveaway goal can't do anything but reek of last year, when Vesa Toskala played the puck right into the body of Sergei Samsonov, and the Sharks meltdown was on then. If the Sharks want to shed comparison from last year, there will be no meltdown in subsequent games. Nabokov did the best he could, stopping 29 shots in the losing effort.

Speaking of subsequent games, Game 6 is Monday night (at 6:00 Pacific, THANKS VERSUS). The Sharks sit 60 minutes from elimination, and a summer of what-ifs, how-could-theys, and who's-gonna-pays. The keys to the game are simple: Score first, keep the lead, think about something besides hockey AFTER THE GAME. Simple as that. Do those, and win. Don't, and the Tank closes it's doors for hockey until October. If you're going to the game Monday, be loud. Be more than loud, be LOUD. Let your boys hear you, cause they need it now more than ever. If you're not attending the game, be LOUD anyway. You're further away, so you gotta be louder for them to hear you.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

5/2 WCSF Game 4: detroit 3, SHARKS 2 OT

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is, just like last round, how you defend your home i... wait, what? The Sharks did WHAT? AGAIN? No really, they, they did it AGAIN? OH ****.

No, the series is not over, no the Sharks aren't finished, but it's definitely not the 3-1 edge that was 33 seconds from happening. The old adage says "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, and I'll probably lose the series", or something like that.

The light at the end of the tunnel got a bit dimmer and further away last night, as the Sharks put a couple goals on the board, and then sat back a bit and watched as the Red Wings stormed back for 3 consecutive goals, (sounds kinda familiar), including the game winner that unfortunately was redirected by the body of a diving Patrick Rissmiller. Despite a solid game from #20 (Evgeni Nabokov), the Teal were not able to take the 7th step towards the silver chalice of greatness last night, unfortunately stumbling instead.

The game began pretty evenly, each side getting a couple chances early on, with Dominik Hasek's snow angel tactic almost exploited a number of times, but it was a standing Hasek that was eventually beaten. With the puck turned over to the Sharks, Jonathan Cheechoo dished to Milan Michalek, who tossed it ahead to The Playmaker himself, Joe Thornton (7 consecutive games with a point, what a playoff choker). Thornton fed a pearl of a cross-ice pass to Cheechoo [3], who simply whacked it across the little red line and into the twine (Thornton, Michalek).

Despite being outshot in the 1st, the Sharks looked decent, controlling the play for the most part, and leading the game. The lead was extended 8 minutes into the frame when a seemingly harmless Marcel Goc [1] slapper, did, in fact, slap the helmet of Wing Dman Andreas Lilja, and knuckle its way over the head of Hasek, and into the net (Rissmiller). A Kyle McLaren cross check with just 9.9 seconds remaining in the 2nd put the Wings on the PP, and with just 5 seconds remaining, Tomas Holmstrom baseball swung his way into the game and the series, when he chopped the puck at waist level past Nabokov.

The 3rd seemed harmless enough, as the Sharks started shooting again, only being outshot 3/2, however, it was the one goal that made the difference. With the game almost iced, the Teal made a very undisciplined mistake, as, down by a man (Hasek was pulled for the 6-on-5), three Sharks were on the offensive side of the puck. With the puck on the blueline, and three fifths of the Sharks on the ice on the wrong side of that puck and blueline, the Wings were able to capitalize, as Valtteri Filppula (easy to spell) flipped the puck up to Robert Lang, who ripped a shot past Nabokov, much to the dismay of the 17496 (well, there were a few Wing fans, but they don't count) teal clad crazies in attendance.

Overtime was a tense one, as most overtimes are. The Wings outshot the Sharks (surprise) 12-6 in the period, but really didn't outchance the San Jose squad. In fact, it was an otherwise harmless attempt that ended up costing the home town team. With Craig Rivet in the box for a delay of game (flipping the puck over the glass) penalty, Scott Hannan made a clearing attempt up the middle that was caught by Mathieu Schneider. Schneider took a shot, but Sharks PKer Rissmiller was there to step up and lay down to block it. Unfortunately, he didn't get enough of the shot, and instead of halting its course, he redirected it severly, past the vast traffic in the slot, sneaking by Nabokov and into the net. Nabokov was amazing yet again, making 46 saves.

There were more Wings fans in attendance last night, and, unfortunately, more happy Wings fans too. I got to talk to a few fans of the Winged Wheel, and they were very nice, talking about what a scary squad the Sharks are, and how from the beginning, they thought the series will go at least 6, if not 7, but were slowly beginning to write off their Wings, thinking 5 games would be it (keep in mind this was prior to the Wings forcing at least 2 more games). Even afterwards, the Sharks got much praise from the Detroit fans I talked to, with them saying that the series is still far from won. I also ran into and briefly got to thank/praise the GM of the Sharks, the man responsible for assembling such a scary great roster that is chock full of talent, Mr. Doug Wilson. The original Captain of the Sharks and a huge fan favorite from that, he hasn't made himself any less liked in SJ with the masterful work he's done with the roster, ensuring what looks to be great success in many years to come.

As much as I hate to agree with a Wings fan, this series is not over (feel free to step down from the ledge). It is knotted at 2, and the Wings definitely have some momentum going home, but momentum has meant little in this series, as the team that has scored first has lost 3 of 4 games. With Nabokov playing lights out in goal, hard work will bring bounces, bounces will bring goals for the Teal, and, coupled with some defense and a full on, 60 minute effort, wins will be on their way. Wins can be had, and, until someone gets 4 games, anyone can win the series. On a bit of a side note, I will be breaking in my newest Sharks jersey, one of the old teal unis, circa 1995/96 season, when one Jeff Odgers (Don't leave your seat during play, or Jeff Odgers will break your face) was the Captain of Team Teal. Look for me at the Joe, Section 224, Row 6, Seat 3. I'll be the guy (hopefully) not getting beat up by thousands of Wings fans.

And, on one last note, after the Sharks first goal last night, some meatball threw a dead shark onto the ice. Throwing a dead version of your team's nickname, genius. Leave the tossing of the dead stuff to a city in which it means something (Detroit with octopi, and Florida with plastic rats). It just looks goofy and a little classless, because it makes so little sense. If you are the meatball, please don't do it again, and if you saw what the meatball did, please don't emulate that meatball. Meatball.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

4/30 WCSF Game 3: SHARKS 2, detroit 1

Man, there's nothing I hate more than boring playoff games. Which makes it a good thing that last night's game wasn't anywhere close to boring. The Sharks returned home from the Joe with a split, ready to defend their home ice. There can only be one winner of last night's game, but yet if you could, you would award each team a split of the contest, as the game was a pretty even effort, with the Wings winning the first 30, and the Sharks owning the latter 30. Just like Game 2, the team that jumped to the lead in the 1st wasn't the team that ended up winning the game, much to the dismay of statisticians (who keep their crushing weight of the world stats like the team who scores first wins x% of the time) everywhere.

With almost two weeks off in between games played at 525 W. Santa Clara, one might think the Sharks forgot how to do it at home, and, at least early, they were right. Just as the Sharks came out with a big jump in Game 1 and 2, the Wings were the energized ones at the start of Game 3. The climax of their energy came just more than midway through the 1st, when Nicklas Lidstrom found the top corner on Evgeni Nabokov, giving the Wings a 1-0 lead on the powerplay. Fortunately for the Sharks, that one goal was all the blood the Wings would draw on this night, but let's not get ahead of ourselves yet.

The 2nd began with the Wings still on top, and still controlling the play, but not for long. A Robert Lang penalty almost 6 minutes into the period began to shift the momentum towards the Teal, despite the Sharks not scoring on the man advantage. With the Sharks buzzing, a Matt Carle shot bounced off the leg pad of Dominik Hasek, and right to the stick of Ryane Clowe [4], who flicked a backhand past the outstretched glove of Hasek and into the net (Carle, Joe Thornton).

Despite beginning the 3rd tied, Clowe's goal clearly had a double effect, deflating the Wings, and pumping up the Sharks. The Wings played a very defensive game after Lidstrom's goal, trapping at times, but after Clowe tied the contest, their trap broke, as well as what seemed to be their spirits. The Sharks came out in the 3rd dominating the way they did against Nashville, putting the puck in deep, grinding out the pucks in the corners, and just doing whatever they could to tire out the Wings, and eventually, they capitalized. A mistake by a grizzled playoff veteran in Kris Draper (a hold on Joe Thornton) led to a holding penalty on it. (It should be noted at this time that the pregame contest that gives away $1,000 to a lucky contestant should a specific event happen in the game, had, on this night picked out for the Sharks to give away $1,000 for a Sharks powerplay goal in the 3rd period.) Just as the first Sharks goal was scored, Kyle McLaren took a shot that bounced off the pad of Hasek, right to Jonathan Cheechoo [2], who deked Hasek out of his skin (in defense of Hasek, anyone would have been deked out there), and proceeded to slip the puck in the net AS SLOWLY AS HE POSSIBLY COULD, turning on 17,496 human amplifiers and thusly blowing the roof off of the arena (powerplay) (McLaren, Clowe). The Sharks proceeded to handle the rest of the period, and netting the 1 game advantage in the series, going up 2 games to 1. Nabokov was solid in nets again (NA-BBY, NA-BBY), making 29 saves in the victory effort.

It was nice to win Game 3, but the job isn't done yet, Game 4 comes Wednesday night (7:00 pm). As important as Game 3 was (73% of Game 3 winners playing in a 1-1 series end up winning the series), Game 4 is even moreso. A Sharks win will send the series back to Hockeytown with the threat of ending hockey there for the next few months, while a Wings win will breathe even more life into this series, with it becoming a best of 3 contest, that would see two of the three at the Joe. Both teams will see forwards return, as Tomas Holmstrom will be back for the Wings (#96 in white) and the Sharks will see Mr. Rock Star, Mark Smith, make his return (#16 in teal). The Wings came out with a big jump in the 1st last game, and it didn't work too well. Maybe tonight they let the Sharks jump to a 3-0 lead, and proceed to let the Teal dominate (a boy can dream, can't he?). Game 4 should be another good one, with someone's good guys coming out on top.

GO SHARKS (Let it be our good guys, por favor)