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)


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