Thursday, January 31, 2008

1/30/08 CALGARY 5, sharks 4

Good news: Owen Nolan had a hat-trick in the Sharks game last night. Bad news: Owen Nolan is not a Shark.

The Teal didn't come away from the 'Dome victorious last night, but they didn't give up either. Yeah, it's a small battle won, but after a snowball quickly rolled downhill in the 2nd, the Sharks brought their best mittens and tried til the end to roll that sucker back up hill. Captain Patrick Marleau netted the opening goal halfway through the first, getting the Sharks on the right foot, Unfortunately, they got off-balance in the 2nd, when former Sharks Owen Nolan and Wayne Primeau scored, capped with a PP goal from Dion Phaneuf. Nolan added goal #2 of the night early in the 3rd, before Tomas Plihal got his first career goal. Not exactly a pretty marker, but hey, they don't draw pictures on the scoresheet. Nolan capped his hatty, and all seemed lost for the Sharks, officially that is. Patrick Rissmiller potted a slapper with just two minutes left, and just 59 seconds later, Jonathan Cheechoo knocked a puck out of mid-air to make it 5-4. Unfortunately, that's all they'd get, but for a team that seemed to fold easily late in blowout games in th first half of the year, it sure was nice to see the boys battle back. Evgeni Nabokov wasn't bad, but wasn't great last night, stopping 24 in the loss.

The Sharks did lose last night, but yet this loss is a bit more palatable because of their win Wednesday night, and their effort in the 3rd last night. The season is awfully long, to dwell on one game for more than about 10 minutes following the final horn will just throw off your focus. Fortunately, or not, we as fans don't need to focus on the upcoming game, so we can dwell on one game, but last night doesn't seem dwell worthy: they came out strong, got outworked by a fresher team in the 2nd, and battled the best they could and made the Flames and their fans sweat a bit, and not because of the high heat in the Saddledome.

Out of the cold, and back home, where a Bay Area chilly 45 seems like Rio de Janeiro, for the Sharks next game on Saturday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks (NOTE, GAME IS AT 2:00PM PACIFIC TIME). The Sharks have won both games against the Hawks this year, 2-1 in Chicago on 10/10 and 3-2 in San Jose 3-2. Chicago comes back to the Tank just 12 days after losing 3-2, the first game in what has turned into a 3 game slide.

On a side note, and I'm not sure how I forgot to mention this yesterday, the Sharks made what would be classified as a minor deal, even though the man they traded for has nothing minor about him. Sending a 6th round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Doug Wilson acquired longtime enforcer of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Jody Shelley. Shelley was a huge fan favorite in Columbus, and apparently is a great character guy, but fell off the depth charts when younger guys with more offensive spark and upside came into the picture. Shelley may be best remembered by Sharks fans as the man who delivered the punch to the back of the head of Brad Stuart, an act that has everyone here in Teal Town believing that is what altered Brad Stuart and totally stunted his on-ice growth. Regardless, that's in the past now, and Shelley is a guy you'd rather have on your side. Welcome to SJ, Jody, hopefully you get to see some time.

GO SHARKS (Again, welcome to not freezing cold San Jose, Mr. Shelley)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

1/29/08 sharks 3, EDMONTON 0

There was one thing that was incredibly cold last night, and, for a change, it wasn't the Teal attack.

The Sharks took advantage of an overmatched opponent to continue just where they left off, playing strong, winning hockey, all the while playing in -8,000,000 weather. Joe Pavelski opened the scoring [11] at 11:48 of the 2nd on a rebound that he shoveled past Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon (Setoguchi, Rivet). Mike Grier, who isn't usually known for his offense, capitalized on a late 2nd Period 3-on-2, slapping a Patrick Rissmiller pass top shelf on Garon [6] (Rissmiller, Mitchell). Rissmiller added an empty netter with just 30 seconds left in the game to seal the deal. Evgeni Nabokov only had to stop 13 saves in the win, his league leading 28th victory this year.

Nabby made his job look real easy last night, partially because, well, his defense made it easy for him. The Sharks blueliners let just 13 shots make their way to the net, while blocking 16 more from even seeing Nabby. They had 6 takeaways, and forced 19 giveaways, playing what looked to be one of their most complete victories this year. They did lack a bit in the faceoff department, an area where they're usually tops, going 15-32 in draws on the evening, a tiny 32% win percentage.

It's too bad the Sharks played so well last night, because that is the kind of game you want to just sit back and smile about, saying, "I only want them to play again if they're gonna play like that". I only say it's bad that they played so well, because they're right back on the ice tonight, a couple hundred miles to the south, visiting the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome (6:30). Calgary is deeply entrenched in the Northwest division race, sitting in 2nd today with 58 points. The Flames enter tonight's contest winners of three straight. The season series is split between the teams 1-1, San Jose winning the contest in Calgary in October (4-1), and the Flames stealing an OT victory on San Jose ice just a couple weeks ago. It's expected to be cold again tonight in Calgary, and fire doesn't usually do so well in such cold. It'll take another strong stifling effort by the Sharks to keep the Flames cold, and get out of frozen Alberta on fire.

GO SHARKS (do it again boys)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

ASG and my announcement

First the ASG, which started off lame, got real interesting, and finished very well. Joe Thornton had a pair of assists, and Evgeni Nabokov pitched a scoreless 2nd Period, stopping all 8 shots he faced, and making a couple highlight reel saves on hometown almost hero Ilya Kovalchuk. The real big news of the weekend is that neither Shark got hurt, and both will be ready for the push for the playoffs and beyond, beginning on Tuesday with Edmonton.

Now, if I can provide a shameless plug here, is my announcement. In a couple weeks, the Sharks hit the road for the normal February road trip. I am proud to say that I'm gonna be there for the majority of this trip, that hits all five Atlantic Division cities in one fell swoop. Even prouder to say that this time, my family is able to accompany me.

The trip begins on February 17th, with an afternoon contest at the arena of all arenas, Madison Square Garden. After a matinee the next afternoon on Long Island, a day off to sightsee through Manhattan and the surrounding burroughs. Wednesday brings a train ride to downtown Newark and a visit to the brand spankin new Prudential Center for the Sharks/Devils game. Thursday I'll head to the city of brotherly love (no brothers must be present at Eagles games [just kidding, please don't kill me]) when the Sharks take on the Flyers. The trip then breaks until Sunday, allowing me time to sample some eats from Philly, and then on to Pittsburgh on Saturday for some more eats sampling. The first half of the trip concludes on Sunday with another early game, this time at the Igloo against the Penguins.

A week off for school, because I gotta pretend like I have a life outside of hockey, while the Sharks head to Columbus for a Wednesday matchup with the Blue Jackets, and then I'll pick up the trip for the last two contests, Friday night in Motown against the Red Wings, and Saturday night against the Blues. I'll post my seat locations in a separate post below, feel free to stop by before, during, or even right after the game. Drop me an email if you want to meet up outside of the games for a pre or post game bite.

Again, the Sharks resume play Tuesday night in Edmonton (6:30). Tune in on Versus for the action.

GO SHARKS (Nice work Nabby and Joe)

Where I'm sitting (2/17/08-3/2/08)

Here are the seats I'll be in for the February roadie. Stop by if you like. Feel free to drop me an email if you wish to meet outside of gametime, some sort of Sharks fan or just general hockey fan solidarity.

2/17/08 Sharks @ New York Rangers
Sec 347 Row F Seats 11-14

2/18/08 Sharks @ New York Islanders
Sec 337 Row E Seats 1-4

2/20/08 Sharks @ New Jersey Devils
Sec 7 Row 6 Seats 1-2

2/21/08 Sharks @ Philadelphia Flyers
Sec 222A Row 3 Seat 7

2/24/08 Sharks @ Pittsburgh Penguins
Sec D7 Row C Seat 1

2/29/08 Sharks @ Detroit Red Wings
Sec 105 Row 1 Seat 3

3/1/08 Sharks @ St. Louis Blues
Sec 324 Row E Seats 11-12

Friday, January 25, 2008

1/24/08 SHARKS 4, st. louis 1

Yes, we can't get too carried away, because it's just one game, but still,

Jonathan Cheechoo possibly broke his schneid for good last night with a pair of Jonathan Cheechoo-esque markers. Milan Michalek added a goal and two assists, and Joe Thornton was, well, Joe Thornton, racking up three assists in the victory. Cheechoo's first goal was a beautifully set up power-play that resulted in a one-timer [8] that found it's way past a beaten Manny Legace (Michalek, Thornton). The second was equally as Cheechoo-y, but wasn't really as pretty, as late in the game, the shaky skater whacked a rebound home [9] (Michalek, Thornton). Michalek had a goal of his own [17] (Thornton, Carle), and Steve Bernier added one as well [13] (Marleau, Rivet). Evgeni Nabokov had another strong performance, making 17 saves in his league leading 27th victory.

Not only did the Sharks play winning hockey last night, but more importantly, they won playing Sharks Hockey. Sharks hockey is what GM Doug Wilson designed this team to play. Hard hitting and quick skating all around, strong emphasis on back-checking by the forwards, lots of passing through the neutral zone and dumping and chasing to penetrate the offensive zone and getting guys in front of the net to deflect shots and bang home rebounds and one-timers. Having the best PK in the league and a top 10 PP isn't too shabby either.

Fact is, at the break, the Sharks sit on top of the Pacific Division with 61 points. Dallas also has 61, and Anaheim is right behind with 60, but the Sharks have played 4 fewer games than both the Ducks and Stars. They're top 10 in both sides of the special teams, a necessity for success in the post-season. Goaltending is still elite, and the defense could be considered underrated, since there aren't really any "big-name" guys lining up on the blueline.

The offense is really the only consistently underachieving part of this team, last night's contest was the third consecutive game in which the Sharks couldn't record a shot in the first ten minutes of the contest. For the Sharks to succeed in February, March, April, and beyond, the goal production really needs to pick up. The top line feasted last night, Michalek (1+2) - Thornton (0-3) - Cheechoo (2-0), a sight that will have to continue. When that line can produce, goals from the likes of Bernier, Marleau, Roenick, Pavelski, Mitchell, and the defense can actually be considered secondary scoring, not a threat to score every night, but definitely not forwards to sleep on either.

There is no hockey until Tuesday, when the Sharks will take on the Oilers (6:30). Edmonton has been king of the shootout this year, going 13-3 in the glorified skills competition. When looked at that the Oilers have just 23 wins this season, that puts them at 13 shootout wins, and just 10 regulation victories. Edmo comes to SJ after touring the SouthEast division, where they went 2-3. The Oil lead the season series 1-0, winning the season opener 3-2 in a shootout on 10/4.

This weekend is the All-Star Game in Atlanta. The Skills competition is on at 4 on Saturday, and the game itself is Sunday at 3. All times Pacific. See you guys after the weekend, pending an announcement I'm working on making shortly.

GO SHARKS (Good luck to Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton at the ASG)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

1/22/08 SHARKS 3, chicago 2

Coming into last night, the Sharks defense had chipped in for just 11 goals all season. That number got ever so slightly higher last night.

Christian Ehrhoff broke through for his first goal of the year, and Sandis Ozolinsh added another, as the Sharks broke their four game losing streak last night. After a Jack Skille goal gave the Hawks an early 1-0 lead, Ozolinsh [3] tied the contest 8 minutes later on the PP with a slick backhand past goalie Patrick Lalime (Rivet, Thornton). Joe Pavelski made his best Torrey Mitchell impersonation when he pickpocket Chicago rookie phenom Patrick Kane, and raced down the ice to tally a shorthanded goal [10] (Ehrhoff). 1:44 later, Ehrhoff struck, again on the PP, with a booming point shot that a screened Lalime really had no shot at stopping. Evgeni Nabokov returned to form, making 28 saves, quite a few of the circus variety, earning his 26th win of the year.

The win broke the Sharks 4 game winning streak, as well as snapping the 4 game winning streak of the Hawks. The Teal recorded a pair of PP goals, upping their total to five goals on the man-advantage in the last two games.

Tomorrow brings the last game before the All-Star Game, a visit from the St. Louis Blues (7:30). The Blues are a much improved hockey team, lead by All-Star goalie Manny Legace, however, they haven't shown it as of late, arriving in San Jose losers of their last 6 games, including a shootout loss tonight in Vancouver. It was awfully nice to win last night, and another win at home would bring the Teal back to .500 when playing at 525 W. Santa Clara. The Sharks sit 2 points back of 1st place Dallas, and 1 back of 2nd place Anaheim, with 4 games in hand on each. Dallas does play tomorow, when they host Buffalo. A Sabres win, coupled with a Sharks win, and we're looking down on the division during the break. Only one thing left to do now.

GO SHARKS (make it happen boys)

Monday, January 21, 2008

1/19/08 detroit 6, SHARKS 3

Detroit came into last night's game as the best team in the league. They left that way too.

Devin Setoguchi did have a goal in his first game since being recalled from AHL Worcester, Jonathan Cheechoo did get off the schneid with a fake wrap-around that was an absolute beaut, and Steve Bernier put a puck past the much disliked "snowangel" tactics of Dominik Hasek, but it wasn't nearly enough for the Teal, who dropped their second straight at home, and 4th consecutive overall. Sandis Ozolinsh had 3 assists in the losing effort, which saw the Sharks strike 3 times on the Power Play. Evgeni Nabokov continued a tough stretch, letting in 6 goals on 28 shots, making just 22 saves.

Saturday's game marks 4 straight losses for the Teal, a stat that has Sharks fans everywhere upset. Just before that, however, we were witness to a team that won three straight on home ice no less, and before a tough OT loss, had gone 4-0 on a calendar year ending roadtrip. Whether it's the parity in the NHL, or just a very bi-polar Sharks club, it's an interesting time to be a fan of the San Jose Sharks, because you truly don't know which team will show up. They have the ability to look so utterly inept at home, but can go into other teams' houses and push them around. They can generate 10 shots per period one night, then finish the next night with just 15 in the entire game. The power play can go 3 for 5 one night, and can go 0 for 10 the next. It is still a long way to April, but each day the path gets one step closer. Last week the Sharks were in 1st in the Pacific, 2nd in the West, and now they've dropped to 3rd and 5th, respectively. They do, however, still hold 4 games in hand on both Anaheim and Pacific leading Dallas, games that will be important to win should they want that division title, #3 seed, and the advantage (or possibly not) of having home ice in the opening round of the post season.

The path becomes one brick shorter after Tuesday night's contest, when the Chicago Blackhawks make their first visit to San Jose in the 2007/08 season (7:30). The two teams have faced off but once, with the Sharks coming out victorious 2-1 in Chicago on 10/10. The Hawks are streaking themselves, winners of 4 straight following a streak of 8 losses. They are missing rookie phenom Jonathan Toews, but still have this year's 1st rounder Patrick Kane in the line-up (#88).

GO SHARKS (win?)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

1/17/08 dallas 4, SHARKS 2

They say it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Boy how right they are.

For the third consecutive game, the San Jose Sharks have scored the game's first goal, and for the third consecutive game, the same San Jose Sharks have lost, yielding the game winning goal in the final period of play (3rd Period/Overtime). Milan Michalek had the opening marker this time, scoring on a broken play started by cement-footed defensive tower Alexei Semenov. After a a pair of goals by the Stars, the Sharks opened the 3rd Period by knotting up the score on a Joe Thornton shot that took a crazy bounce off a defenseman's stick and past goalie Marty Turco. Evgeni Nabokov made the start in net, and stopped 27 shots in the loss.

The Sharks loss to Dallas is their third this year on home ice. Despite that lop-sided stat, however, the season series is now even at 3, as the Sharks have won the 3 games played in Dallas. Home ice advantage? Naw.

Saturday brings a familiar opponent to the Tank, and a formidible one too in the Detroit Red Wings (7:30). The Wings are somehow managing to run all over the league again, despite having guys that are 73 years old (Chelios, Hasek, Osgood). They're currently in 1st in the Central division, 1st in the Western Conference, 1st in the league, and 1st in our hearts (ok, maybe not, thank goodness), however they've cooled a bit recently, losing 3 of their last 5 contests. The Wings lead the season series 2-0, winning 4-2 in SJ on 10/18 and 5-1 in Detroit on 10/26. I don't know many people that are expecting a Sharks win tomorrow, but that doesn't mean they won't be happily surprised.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1/15/08 PHOENIX 5, sharks 3

Well, that sucked.

After the anticipation of the Sharks/Ducks matchup left a sour taste in the mouths of the Sharks and their fans alike, redemption was figured to be had against Phoenix. Yeah, not so much. In one of the sloppier games played by the Teal this year, not a whole lot went right, as shown by the final score.

Jonathan Cheechoo did get off the schneid with an incredibly ugly net-crashing goal i.e. the Cheechoo special, Joe Thornton added a goal, and Curtis Brown scored his first tally of the season, but that wasn't enough, dropping the Sharks record to 21-2 when scoring 3 or more goals in a game. Evgeni "game 1 of a new consecutive streak" Nabokov played goal, in what was easily his worst game this season, making 23 saves in the loss. Whether he is injured, or just out of his groove, he was clearly off his game last night. It'd be nice to have it back for tomorrow.

Last night further proved the parity in the NHL this year, as the team most expected to win not only didn't win, but didn't look very good either. Since Ilya Bryzgalov came to the Coyotes in November, they are now 2-1 against the Sharks, hardly a number the Sharks can be hapy about. As the season gets closer to the end, every point matters for playoff positioning, especially when in the running for a division title.

The race for the division is especially important tomorrow, when the Dallas Stars (boo) come to town (7:30). Dallas currently stis in 3rd in division, but is just 2 points behind the Sharks. The Sharks still lead the season series, 3-2, winning all three games played in Dallas (4-2 on 10/29, 4-3 on 11/14, and 3-2 on 12/5), the Stars (boo) have won both contests in SJ (3-1 on 11/7 and 4-2 on 12/15). As you can see, the home team has yet to win a game when these two face off. Tomorrow can break the trend, I won't mind.

GO SHARKS (stars [boo])

Monday, January 14, 2008

1/13/08 ANAHEIM 4, sharks 3 OT

Hey Alexei Semenov's foot, "you suck".

The ill placed foot of the Russian defenseman provided a big bounce for the Ducks, who just wouldn't go away. The ill-fated bounce came with just 28 seconds left in the game, and although it didn't cost the Sharks the game directly, it swung momentum away from the Teal for good, as the Ducks then ended the game just 33 seconds into OT. With Steve Bernier out, Jeremy Roenick stood in his place on the top line quite admirably, recording career marker #504, adding an assist as well on Milan Michalek's goal in the 2nd. Joe Thornton had an assist on each of the first two goals, giving him 7 helpers in the last 3 games. Torrey Mitchell had the other Teal tally, converting a beautiful pass from Mike Grier on a Sharks 3-on-1 rush on a Sharks PK late in the opening frame.

The real story of the game was the ending of streaks. The loss was the Sharks first on the road in more than a month, ending their 10 game victory streak away from home. Scoring 3 goals and losing was something the Teal hadn't done until last night, bringing their record in such an instance to 21-1. And lastly, and probably largest of all, Evgeni "Iron Man" Nabokov recieved a night off from goaltending, ending his consecutive streak at 43 games this year. Whether it was because of injury, or just to rest the All-Star netminder, rookie Thomas Greiss made his NHL debut, looking a bit shaky, but standing mostly strong, stopping 25 shots in the losing effort.

When reviewing games like these, the idea is real simple. Think about it for about 15 minutes afterwards, then move on to the next one. From one division opponent, to the next, as the brief roadtrip comes to a close tomorrow as the Sharks visit the desert and the Phoenix Coyotes (6:30). Phoenix is not a bad team anymore, as showcased by their surprise shootout win over the Sharks in San Jose in their last meeting. The season series now stands at 4-1 in favor of the Sharks.

GO SHARKS (just gotta move on)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

1/12/08 SHARKS 3, toronto 2

You know the drill.


Vesa Toskala made his return to San Jose last night, looking for a win against his old teammates, and all went real well...for the first two periods of play. The much suffering Maple Leafs have had a less than par season, and a less than par California roadtrip as well. Looking for a win in their first visit to California since '03, the Leafs struck early, on a one-timer from Nik Antropov. Defenseman Pavel Kubina made it 2-0 in the 2nd with a slapper low glove on Evgeni Nabokov. However, after the horn sounded at the end of the 2nd, all started to change. Early in the third, a Patrick Marleau shot trickled it's way past Toskala. Craig Rivet followed that up with an absolute blast, his 3rd goal in the last four contests, and Joe Pavelski capped the scoring when he tipped a Jonathan Cheechoo shot past the former Shark. Evgeni "you kept the right goaltender, Doug Wilson" Nabokov turned 23 shots aside for his league leading 25th victory in the net.

The home win was the 9th of the season for the Sharks, and their 3rd consecutive victory on the sheet at 525 W. Santa Clara. It also caps a tremendous homestand, seeing the Teal capture 7 of 8 possible points. If you had said a month ago that the Sharks would win 3 of 4 games in this homestand, I would have hugged you for two reasons. 1) I would be in admiration of your ignorance of the truth, and blind optimism in your team and 2) You clearly are insane, and are in serious need of some affection. The newly discovered momentum will have to take a break, however, as the Sharks leave the Tank for a brief two game roadie.

The trip begins tonight, on the second end of a back-to-back (a situation in which the Sharks are 6-2 so far this season) when the Sharks head to Anaheim for a showdown with the Ducks (5:00). The season series has tilted to the south with the Ducks winning 4 of the 5 played, dropping only a shootout contest to the Teal on 12/16. San Jose has won 10 straight road contests. #11 anyone?

GO SHARKS (yes please)

It's tradition now.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

1/10/08 SHARKS 3, canucks 1

Guess what...yup...they did it fooling, I promise...see, I even have the visual evidence to prove it.

Told you so. 2 in a row even. May I just say, this calls for another


Jeremy Roenick's powerplay #503 was the difference maker yet again, his 6th GWG of the year, in a 3-1 victory last night. JR crashed the net, backhanding a Craig Rivet shot that bounced right off goalie Roberto Luongo and onto the stick of Roenick. The goal was #503, putting him ahead of Joey Mullen, elevating him to 2nd all-time on the list of American born goal scorers. Rivet had a goal himself, trailing a 4-on-2, getting the pass, and flipping a wrister past Luongo. Milan Michalek had the other goal, a pretty wrister roofed top shelf on Luongo, also on the powerplay, which ended the night going 2 for 7. All-Star center Joe Thornton had a hand in all three goals, and fellow All-Star Evgeni "Evgeni" Nabokov made consecutive start #42, making 20 saves for his league leading 24th win.

The win over the Canucks last night was consecutive home win #2, and their 6th in the last 7. More importantly, as least as it pertains to Vancouver, was their 4th win over the Canucks this year, finishing out the season series at a very clean sweep of 4 games to none. Nobody can fully figure out what it is that allows a team that has been struggling with consistency this year (San Jose) to beat arguably the best goalie in the NHL 3 times (Curtis Sanford started the first game in SJ for an injured Luongo) in the same season. If the playoffs are kind, at least to Teal Town, these two will meet up in the second season, but that's a long way off.

The invite to Spring hockey might come one game closer to landing in the Sharks mailbox after Saturday's run in with cross continent visitors Toronto Maple Leafs (NOTE: GAME IS AT 7:00 PM). The Leafs are going through what could be severely understated as a "less than optimal season". Through 44 games, Toronto has just 16 wins and 40 points overall. Their goaltending savior in Former Shark Vesa Toskala has been strong, but his defense has let him down countless times. The offense isn't bad, but overmatched often. They've won just 3 of their last 13, including coming into town on a 4 game losing streak, most recently getting blown out in Southern California (5-0 in Anaheim on Wednesday, 5-2 in LA on Thursday).

Basically, the Leafs are in shambles right now, and the two points are there for the taking. In the past, the Sharks have looked at games like this, and quickly glanced past their seemingly inferior opponents, like they did last month with the Sabres. Long story short with that one, it didn't turn out too well (7-1 Buffalo victory). Ideally, the Sharks come out tomorrow like they finished Thursday, like gangbusters. If it results in an easy win, great. If it doesn't, then they'll be ready to scrap for the two points like they would anyway. As a friend of mine has coined, get ready for "Hockey Night in San JosEh?"

GO SHARKS (all of Canada is watching, but, hey, no pressure)

Again, too nice to avoid posting twice. And better quality than last time too.

Hey Mr. Modano, someone is coming...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Patzold to waivers

As of this morning, the cushiest goaltending job in the NHL is vacant, temporarily. Dmitri Patzold, the other Kazakh netminder was placed on waivers today, probably just for a shot at playing, whether it be for the Sharks affiliate in Worcester, or elsewhere, should he be claimed. Teams have 24 hours to place a claim on Patzold, and we shall find out midday tomorrow his future in teal. Should he be claimed, he'll head off to his new NHL team. Should he clear the wavier wire, he'll head to Worcester where he'll probably split some time with the other Baby Sharks goalie, Taylor Dakers. Thomas Greiss is more than likely coming up to be Patzold's replacement in SJ either way.

Maybe we'll finally see Nabby get a night off, now that a goalie with high expectations who isn't Nabby is now donning the Teal, Black, and Orange (yeesh). My guess is Greiss will start Saturday night at home when the Toronto Maple Leafs make a visit to the Tank as it's the first night of a back-to-back that sees the boys pay a visit to the Ducks the next night. I can't think that Greiss is fully conditioned for the show, but I imagine that's what we the fans and the front office are going to find out shortly.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

1/5/08 SHARKS 3, columbus 2


Ok, now that we got that out of the way, we can discuss this game thing, which, if you can't tell from above, went quite well actually.

Patrick Rissmiller, goal scorer. Twice over, even. Rissmiller tipped a Matt Carle point shot early in the 2nd, and buried a Joe Pavelski pass past Columbus goalie Fredrik Norrena, who replaced starter Pascal Leclaire at the start of the 3rd. Steve Bernier added a highlight reel half-spinorama late in the 2nd. Evgeni "I have no more nicknames for the ridiculousness of his situation"
Nabokov was present in the San Jose nets, making start #41 (in 41 Sharks games this year), and stopping 21 shots in his league leading 23rd victory this year.

Rissmiller was a big story, Nabokov was a big story, but by far, the biggest story was what was addressed at the top of this post. THE SHARKS WON A HOME GAME, WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Sure, you could say "but Jess, they beat the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, that's not a feat." True, the Jackets aren't world beaters yet, but they aren't crap anymore either. Columbus sits at 44 points, which has them pegged in at 10th in a very tight Western Conference race.

You may also say, "but Jess, the Jackets are now 0-12-1 at 525 W. Santa Clara". Yes, also true. But, to that I say "SHUT UP, PARTY POOPER". The Blue Jackets did win the first matchup between the teams this year albeit in Columbus, and with now 18 points earned out of a possible 40 at home, I'm very happy to take every single point that the Sharks are willing and able to earn.

At the halfway point, the San Jose Sharks are doing well while sucking at the same time. They're on fire away when they're away from home, but getting burned constantly when they aren't. They have people stepping up, but Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau, and even recently, Joe Thornton aren't among them. They went from a strong rotating goaltender system to having a starting goalie and a rumor for a backup netminder.

In short, the Sharks are a conundrum right now. The NHL in the salary cap era is just as advertised thusfar, a league that is seeing strong parity. As of games through Sunday January 6th, 2008, 28 of 30 teams (14 in each conference) seem to still have a strong shot at, the very least, playing for a shot at the post-season come March and early April (sorry to Kings and Lightning fans, if you make it, email me and I'll send you a cookie).

I bring up the issue of parity, because it seems to be what is clouding an unbiased judgement of the Sharks by their fans. As we speak, the Sharks have the third most points in the league (52) behind Ottawa (58) and Detroit (67), and yet, the majority of Teal fans will tell you they are, for the most part, disappointed with how the season has gone thusfar. The team is incredible on the road, owning the best road record in the league, while they are incredibly bad at home, owning the worst home record. The PP is crap, sitting at 23rd in the league, while the PK is supreme, ranked 2nd in the league. The offense isn't producing much, but the defense is making sure others don't produce against them. All in all, something is happening. Whether it's good or bad, it's all up to interpretation. The real measure will be that silvery thingie. If the Boys in Teal are drinking from it come June, it was a good year. If not, then bust out that drawing board again as it'll be a long summer.

The Sharks get a few days off before they try to clear the cloudy picture, but when they do, they'll welcome the Vancouver Canucks to the Tank (7:30). The Canucks are always dangerous, especially with their rock in the form of Roberto Luongo. Luongo, probably in line to win the Vezina (was runner up to Martin Brodeur last summer). Vancouver is in a tight race in the Northwest, and shouldn't be an easy matchup, however, the Sharks have dominated the season series, taking all three games played thusfar (3-1 and 4-2 in Vancouver on 10/5 and 10/15 respectively, and 5-2 in San Jose on 12/13). Whatever should happen on Thursday, I won't be happy unless they win. And the Sharks won't like me, tucked away in the far corner of the Tank away from most people, when I'm angry.


So nice, I added it twice.

Friday, January 04, 2008

1/3/08 calgary 3, SHARKS 2 OT

There's an old saying that goes, "You can never go home again". One can only hope the Sharks are listening.

Well, 2008 began as too many Sharks fans expected, with a loss at home. At least this time they got a point. Jarome Iginla scored twice, including the OT winner, and ex-Shark and constant reminder of a trade gone slightly awry, Miikka Kiprusoff stood large, making 34 saves for the win. Torrey Mitchell showed what happens when you crash the net, and Craig Rivet showed what happens when you put pucks on the net, as each potted goals for the Sharks. Evgeni Nabokov now sits just 4 away from tying the modern day record for consecutive games at 44 with consecutive start 40, stopping 17 pucks in the loss.

Despite the loss, the Teal did earn a point in really what was a pretty strong effort by the hometown kids. Beyond his goal, Mitchell was absolutely the best player in teal, possibly on the ice for both teams, hitting, shooting, forechecking, backchecking, pretty much doing everything a hockey player who isn't a goaltender does. The rest of the squad looked pretty good, until the last minutes of the game. Why they backed off towards the end of regulation, we don't know. What we do know is how frustrating it is to see it time and time again. The home record is now at 6-9-4, which, by my calculations, is about 5 wins too few, 4 regulation losses too many, and 1 overtime/shootout loss too many as well. 13 of the next 17 contests are in San Jose, the first one didn't go so hot, but there's plenty of time to turn it around, they just need to actually turn it around.

A chance to turn it around comes tomorrow night, as the Hitchcockian Columbus Blue Jackets trap their way into town (7:30). Since taking over the team that makes its home in the Ohio capital city, Head Coach Ken Hitchcock has turned his Blue Jackets into a rough, grind-it-out kind of team. The Jackets have won 3 of their last 4, and are 1-1 thusfar on their California swing, winning most recently in LA Thurday evening 4-3. Columbus leads the season series 1-0, winning the lone game, played in Columbus (10/27, a 2-1 win for the CBJ).The turn around needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. Tomorrow works for me, how bout you, Sharks?

GO SHARKS? (pretend you're on the road)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

12/31/07 sharks 3, MINNESOTA 2

Dear Sharks,

Don't come home. Ever. Please.

The fans

Ok, so it's not that simple. But only if it were.

The Sharks ended 2007 in style, extending a franchise long road win streak one game further, getting consecutive road win #10 last night in Minnesota. The Teal played the role of the New Years Eve party crashers, when Jonathan Cheechoo got off the schneid in a big way, scoring the go ahead goal with just 4:28 left in the game, just 10 seconds after the Wild completed a 2-goal comeback that saw Mark Parrish tie things up. Cheechoo was the recipient of a floaty flip pass from the heavens (and the big Swedish guy on defense, Douglas Murray) that landed between the circles. He then picked it up, faked a beautiful backhand, and went forehand on Minny goalie Niklas Backstrom. Steve Bernier and Kyle McLaren had the other two markers for the Sharks, both assisted by Milan Michalek and Joe Thornton. Evgeni "I'll stop starting games when I'm dead" Nabokov made start #39 in the Sharks 39th game this year, stopping 19 shots in the victory, his league leading 22nd of the season.

The win caps a very successful roadtrip for the Sharks, a 4 game trip that saw the franchise complete it's first 4 game clean sweep of a trip, picking up victories in LA (3-2 on 12/26), St. Louis (1-0 on 12/28), Nashville (5-2 on 12/29) and last night's 3-2 victory in Minnesota. The consecutive road win streak hit double digits, leaving them now just two games behind Detroit for the all-time consecutive road win record set at 12.

The win also caps a strange December in a strange opening half to this 2007/2008 season, which will see no more games played in 2007. Last year's Sharks were the best PP team in the league, had one of the most potent offenses around, and were pretty good regardless of where they played, winning 26 at home, and 25 on the road. This year's team, slightly different. With today having been New Years Day and all, I came up with some New Years resolutions for the boys, a list of things to work on for a successful second half to this season.

San Jose Sharks resolutions:

1) Score 3 goals a game.
This season, the Sharks are a slightly tilted 18-0 when scoring 3 or more goals. Yeah. That's a good stat.

2) Allow fewer than 3 goals a game.
Conversely, when the Teal surrender 3 or more goals, they're 1-8 when allowing 3 or more goals, with the lone victory coming 11/14 in Dallas, when the boys won 4-3 in a shootout. NOTE: Both 1 and 2 were calculated omitting final scores that gave the winning team 3 goals.

3) Power Play?
15.2% of the time, the Sharks man-up unit will score, putting them 24th in the league when playing with a man advantage. If they hope to make any noise in the playoffs, they'll really need to start putting pucks on and then in the net when they have the opportunities.

4) Home ice advantage.
It's been said before, but 18 home games have been played. 6 home games have been won. That sucks. As mentioned above, if the Sharks hope to be playing into late April, May, and June, they better start putting up W's at 525 W. Santa Clara. 14 of their next 18 games are at home, so now's the chance to change it up.

5) Use the great team depth.
Nabby has started every game thusfar, and is rapidly approaching his highest season total of 67 faster than you can say Kamenogorsk 5 times fast. The big shiny thing isn't handed out until it gets much warmer, and it usually helps to have your best goalie healthy for that time. It's hard to carry anything, let alone a hockey team, when you have a sore groin.

Up front, Joe Thornton has 46 points, which is great, but a bit scary when you hear that the team has only scored 98 goals, meaning Joe has had a hand in roughly 47% of the Sharks goals this year. It'd be nice if secondary scoring actually meant something beyond double shifting the big man.

6) Continue to do well the stuff you've already been doing well.
This one should be the easiest, at least it is in theory, as it's just maintaining the status quo.
* The PK is 2nd in the league, killing off 87.3% of shorthanded situations, just .4% behind the league leading Dallas Stars.
* Somehow, the faceoff takers are still doing well, with the team winning 52.9% of all draws, tied for 3rd with the Rangers, behind #2 Columbus and #1 Detroit.
* The defense/goaltending has been stifling, putting the team 2nd in the league in overall GAA at 2.12, .03 behind league leading Detroit.
* Wins are worth just as many points, regardless of where they happen. The Sharks 16 road victories is not only tops in the league, but is greater than every team's home record besides that of Detroit.

Now, it might just be me, but this list seems pretty easy (ok, so it probably helps that my contributions to the team come from the last row of the nosebleeds). We've heard so much about how this team is ready and able to go all the way this year. Unfortunately, talk doesn't send you all the way, great play leading to great results do. Don't win stuff on paper, win it on the ice.

The first shot at one of keeping one of those resolutions comes Thursday evening, when the Calgary Flames come in for a visit (7:30). The Flames are in a dogfight for the Northwest lead, bunched up pretty well with Colorado, Minnesota, and Vancouver, who sits atop the division, just 3 points ahead of Calgary. They come into the Tank (pardon me here) red hot, winners of 8 of their last 11. Jarome Iginla leads the attack with 27 goals, scoring 3 goals in his last 3 games. Calgary plays Wednesday evening at home against the Rangers, would be mighty fine by me if they rolled into San Jose a wee bit tuckered out.

GO SHARKS (I guess they can come home, but they better think they're still on the road)