Wednesday, April 30, 2008

4/29/08 WCSF#3 DALLAS 2, sharks 1 OT

Before each home playoff game this year, the Sharks have put a heart beat on the jumbotron and ring around the lower bowl, synching it to exciting music and video. Ladies and gentlemen, the Sharks are 60 minutes from flatlining.

On a night that started pretty well, with a pp goal that was disallowed due to poor positioning by referee Don Van Massenhoven, the Sharks still struck first, with a shorthanded goal by Patty Marleau with just 34 seconds left in the first. They were skating, hitting, and playing defense, and actually looked like a team. The second went just as good, and after 40 minutes, the Teal had a 1-0 lead, and looked to be just a period away from making this a series again.

Then the third period came along, and, just like game 2, the lead disappeared quickly, and the Stars just dominated the entire 20 minute frame. A bounce off of JR found it's way past Nabby, who had his strongest game of the series, and just like that, it's 3-0, good night Sharks.

Ok, so the series isn't quite over, but the Sharks, when facing elimination recently (minus Game 7 last series), suck. A quiet 2-0 loss to Detroit last year, a quiet 2-0 loss to Edmonton the year before, and a ever so slightly less quiet loss to Calgary the year before that. Do I expect the Sharks to win tonight? No. Would I like to be surprised and proven wrong? Hell yes.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

4/27/08 WCSF #2: dallas 5, SHARKS 2

On the bright side, Game 2 was not like Game 1. Unfortunately, that's because the Teal made more mistakes, and Dallas played much better. Despite a 2-1 lead going to the third thanks to goals by Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek, the Stars decided to play three periods, while the Sharks were apparently content with just two. Evgeni Nabokov looked unfortunately human, stopping just 21 of 25 shots.

Well, the first two are over now, and I think plenty of people thought this series would be 2-0, but I'm not sure you'll find anyone that thought both games would go to the road team. What seemed like a fluke victory in Game 1 clearly wasn't with a strong showing in Game 2, and, although the series is not complete, it certainly leaves the Sharks with a WHOLE LOT to accomplish in the next two days in Texas.

The Sharks will win the next two if:
* The power play stops being so timid and just begins to let loose. They're getting opportunities, but they're waiting far too long to do anything good with them.
* Nabokov returns to form, starts making big, unexpected saves again. He's looked slow laterally, it could be a groin injury, or just fatigue. The man has played a lot of hockey this year.
* Guys just relax and play their kind of hockey. The Stars play a defensive trap that forces the opponent to get rid of the puck quickly. The Sharks have to find space to make their cutesy passes and stop trying to force things into spaces where there isn't anything to gain.

The bright side, if there is one, is that the Sharks took 3 of 4 from the Stars at the Hangar this year. They also get to play Games 3 and 4 back to back, leaving no time for the Stars to recover if the Sharks can win tomorrow.

Game 3 is tomorrow at 4:30 pm, and is as must win as they get. Win, and it's 2-1, and you have a shot to tie it up and bring it home. Lose, and you're in a slight hole (by slight I mean pretty much over). So, there's a real simple gameplan for tomorrow, win.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

4/25/08 WCSF #1: dallas 3, SHARKS 2 (OT)

Much hyped series, Sharks come up flat in the waning moments, and lose Game 1. I've seen this before.

Despite a strong effort by the Sharks on Friday, the Stars showed up when it counted, and came away with first blood. Brendan Morrow had a pair of goals, Mike Modano had the other, and Marty Turco was stifling. Milan Michalek finally broke his schneid by banging in a puck to take a 1-0 lead early in the 2nd, and Jonathan Cheechoo tied the game late in the 3rd, but a scramble in OT led to a very out of position Evgeni Nabokov, and the game winner.

The good thing is this series isn't over after just one game. The Sharks outplayed the Stars, but Marty Turco stood on his head, and stole the game for the visiting Stars. Play that game again, and with the posts and bounces, it could easily go the other way.

Luckily for the Teal, they will get another chance to play Dallas. Tonight is Game 2 at 6:00 pm pacific, and will be played before an ocean of teal. The Sharks, finally, will be handing out teal t-shirts to everyone in the crowd, in an effort to unify the building in color. Hopefully it works, and the building is a solid upper and lower level of the wonderful half-blue/half-green color that the Sharks have all to themselves. Oh and hopefully the Sharks win too. That's more important.

GO SHARKS (still 12)

On a side note, one of my employers, the San Jose Stealth, won their game yesterday against the Colorado Mammoth, 11-6, securing their first ever Western Division regular season title. With the win, they have home field throughout the playoffs, and could possibly host the Champions Cup game, but that's a few weeks and a couple tough games away.

The first playoff game will be next Sunday, May 4th at HP Pavilion at 3 pm against the Portland LumberJax, and will be done before what would be Game 6 of the Sharks and Stars in Dallas. Tickets are available at ticketmaster, come on out and see some cheap fun lacrosse.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Western Conference Semifinals Preview

The first round was a throwback to 2004, and a lesser extent 1995, with the Sharks prevailing in 7, like they did back in the 90's. This second round matchup is a throwback to the 90s as well, albeit a couple years later. The Sharks and Stars met twice in 3 years (1998, 2000), and, at least one of those series was a big one. Ed Belfour, Owen Nolan, Bryan Marchment, Joe Nieuwendyk, Derian Hatcher, Mike Ricci. Ah, the good ole days.

This series has plenty of storylines too, however.
* Marty Turco - Simply put, the man is bonkers. Much like his predecessor, Ed "Drunky P. Drunkerson" Belfour, Turco is a great goalie, and a great headcase. If the Sharks fans (read FANS, not players) can get him off his game like they did in the last regular season contest, the games in San Jose should be that much more fun. He'll have to outduel Vezina finalist Evgeni Nabokov

* Old guys - If you're an American hockey fan, you'll love this series. The top two American born goal scorers are featured (Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick), and despite being old, both still got it. By it I don't even mean prune juice and a bagel.

* Special teams - The Sharks PK finished right ahead of the Stars PK for the season, with .2 separating the Pacific Division rivals at the top of the league. However, the Sharks PK was abysmal in the first round, while the Stars PK was slightly better. On the other side, Dallas' PP was killer, second highest in the first round behind just the Calgary Flames, who are using their top playoff PP The Sharks man advantage was pretty lackluster in the opening round, and if the Sharks are to win, they'll have to get better.

* Almost like family - The Sharks and Stars played 8 times this year, there's no need for introductions, especially from the last game of the year, each team knows their opponents fists well. Don't expect to see the same timid "feeling out" process that is usually prevalent in the first game of a long series. Each team knows how the other plays, look to see the teams come out flying.

* Even steven - The season series between these teams was split 4-4. Technically, the Stars won the series because they went 4-2-2 against the Sharks, losing two games in extra time, 1 in OT, the other in a shootout. Expect a long series, possibly another one of them pesky Game 7 things.

Quick rundown of sorts

Offense: Draw. Both teams have strong top lines, and strong depth.
Defense: Draw. No real weaknesses on either defensive squad, Stars might get Zubov back for Game 1.
Special Teams: In the regular season, the Sharks had the #1 PK ahead of Dallas, Stars had the better PP.
Stars were middle of the road in PPO and TSH, Sharks had 5th most PPO, and 3rd least TSH. If the Stars can't get power plays, they can't score on them. Look for Dallas pest Steve Ott to try to draw a reaction. A reaction like this perhaps

Be careful what you wish for, Stevey.
Goaltending: San Jose. Marty Turco has had two great playoff series. Unfortunately, he's had a few bad ones too. If he's solid, he'll match Nabokov well. If he's not, Dallas will be at a severe disadvantage.

These teams don't like each other, and these teams fans don't care for each other much either. In Dallas, they have a tradition to scream the word "STARS" each time it is said (twice) in the Star Spangled Banner. Here's the response given by Sharks fans at EVERY SINGLE Sharks/Stars game (not a new tradition, Sharks fans been doing this for a long time).

This should be a great series between two great teams, representing both the Pacific Division, and non-traditional hockey markets that go insane for their ice hockey squad. Can't wait.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

4/22/08 WCQF #7 SHARKS 5, calgary 3 (SHARKS WIN SERIES 4-3)

Jeremy Roenick is God. That is all.

The notion of Sharks/Flames Game 7 throws back to '95, the first time these teams met in the post season, when it was #2 vs #7, albeit in the other direction. Interestingly enough, the difference makers last night were two guys who were playing in '95, for different teams.

JR had a pair of goals, a pair of assists, and a pair of ladies waiting for him after the game (probably not that last one because of the whole married and brought his son to the game stuff, but who knows, he's that godly). Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi, JR's linemates, each had a goal as well, and were the force that propelled the Sharks to a 4 goal 2nd Period, a 5-3 win, and a Game 7 triumph that will bring the slightly disliked Dallas Stars (boo) to town on Friday. Joe Thornton had a goal as well, and Evgeni Nabokov was as solid as he needed to be, making 19 saves in the win.

Before turning focus to the Stars (boo), much respect goes out to the Flames. This was a hell of a series, and deserved to be much more than just a first round matchup. Through the first 6 games, each team had won contests by 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 margins. Jarome Iginla was God (not the real god, cause that's JR, but a slightly lesser god, Go- maybe), Dion Phaneuf was pretty good, and Kipper was Warren Strelow Goaltending Phenom V6.0. Play last night's contest again, and maybe it turns out the same, maybe it doesn't, but that was the great thing about this series, each game could easily go either way. Lucky for Teal fans, it went our way, and Flames fans everywhere can spend the summer dissecting "THE HIT OF THE CENTURY" (Sarich on Marleau in Game 3) over some sexy July blizzard action.

Tomorrow I'll put up my official Western Conference Semi Finals: San Jose Sharks v Dallas Stars Preview Extravaganza Extraordinaire Spiffy Doo-Dah, complete with a lot of words. Even a day after, I'm still celebrating a bit. But that's gotta end, because there's much work to be done. 1 down, 3 to go. Keep it up, men.


Monday, April 21, 2008

4/20/08 WCQF #6 CALGARY 2, sharks 0

Well... that sucked.

From the drop of the puck, it looked like the Sharks were playing for Game 7, and, miraculously, they got their wish. (This statement sounds sarcastic, but isn't really. The Sharks didn't really come out pressing, as if they were saving it for Game 7, and now they get their chance to use it in Game 7).

Owen Nolan continues to haunt the Sharks, and Daymond Langkow had a goal as well, and the Flames answered the call of desperation with plenty of it to force a Game 7 in San Jose tomorrow. The Sharks did very little offensively, generating just 21 shots, and winning 19 of 54 faceoffs. Evgeni Nabokov did all he could in net, making 23 saves in what was easily the most pitiful game by the Teal this season.

There's really nothing fancy to key on here, the Sharks had an opportunity to shut the door, and instead, they slammed it on their backside and it bounced wide open again. Tomorrow is do or die, but it didn't have to be this way. If the Sharks had just stepped it up, and put some effort out, this thing could be over. Instead, they return home tomorrow for a best of 7 series that has been reduced to the ultimate, 1 game for all the glory, and the trip to the second round. If the Sharks win, they'll host Dallas, if the Flames win, they'll head to Detroit. But all that is 60 minutes away.

The game is at 7, watch it, listen to it, attend it. Do something. It'll be the first Game 7 played in San Jose, and hopefully, it'll be memorable for the boys in the hometown teal, and a great experience for the 17,496 in attendance at 525 W. Santa Clara. If not, Doug Wilson will have to, as Ricky Ricardo asked so much of his wife, "have some splainin to do".


Sunday, April 20, 2008

4/17/08 WCQF#5 SHARKS 4, calgary 3

That's how its done, mostly.

After a strong early half to the 3rd, it looked like the contest was over, with the Sharks rolling on their way to a 4-1 win, but the Flames had other plans. Luckily, those plans ended early.

Jonathan Cheechoo had a pair of goals, Patrick Marleau added one, and Joe Pavelski added another, as the Sharks held serve at home. For the first time this series, the Flames lead on the shot counter, making Evgeni Nabokov work for his victory, stopping 33 shots while doing so.

Well, here we are. A chance to move on. Just a week ago, the Sharks blew a 3 goal lead inside the Saddledome in Game 3, and the series and the season seemed lost. Calgary had all the momentum, had the home ice, and had the next game on that home ice, forcing the Sharks to show up. Little did we know that, come Game 4, the Sharks would show up, and swing the series back to the middle, coming home with a chance to take the series lead. They now head back to the Saddledome with a chance to close things out against a very tough Flames squad.

As the old cliche goes, "The fourth one is always the toughest". We've seen the Sharks defeat adversity in Game 2 by evening the series at 1, we've seen them defeat adversity in Game 4, taking a game in hostile territory, especially after dropping the last one in such heartbreaking fashion. We saw them step up and take control of the series in Game 5 with a strong performance, and now we need to see them do what they have struggled to do all year, putting their feet on the neck of the snake, and keeping it there.

Game 6 is scheduled for 5 PM pacific, and has been scratched from Versus, and will only be seen on CSNBA in the States. Just a quick number here, Calgary is 5-14 all time in Game 6, while the Sharks are a mighty 2-10. So tonight's game should be a battle of the suck, with one team overcoming the crushing weight of history. As long as its the team in white, I'll be happy.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

4/15/08 WCQF #4 sharks 3, CALGARY 2

BEST. CALL. EVAR. (sequence begins at 1:40)

Well, hey, that was kinda nice. For once, a team suffers a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs, and its not the Sharks.

Ryane Clowe continued his hot streak, netting his 4th of the playoffs, Patrick Marleau played like a captain and a leader for the fourth consecutive game, and Joe Thornton stuck a foot in the mouths of many hockey analysts, professional and self-proclaimed.

Jarome Iginla kicked things off for the Flames in Game 4 much the way Game 3 ended, by wristing a rebound past a disheveled Sharks defense and a screened Evgeni Nabokov. Ryane Clowe tied things up at 1 midway through the second with a wrister from up top that found its way past a screened Miikka Kiprusoff (a theme). A Dion Phaneuf shot got past Nabokov with just a little more than a minute left in the 2nd, and it was then that it just seemed over, that the Flames were just overmatching the Sharks.

Boy was I wrong.

The 3rd period came along, and you could just see the Flames wanting, wishing, hoping the clock would magically read 0:00. Head Coach Mike Keenan kept looking up, Iginla kept looking up, Kiprusoff kept looking up, the fans behind the benches kept looking up. Everyone wanted it to be over, however, they weren't exactly thrilled with how it ended.

Jonathan Cheechoo picked a perfect corner over Kipprusoff's shoulder that just found its way into the net, a play that started with great work down low from rookie Devin Setoguchi, playing in his first career NHL playoff game.

I was happy it was tied, but dreading what seemed to be inevitable. So many times, the Sharks make a strong effort to tie the game, only to be beaten as the last seconds tick off, leaving in heartbreak, and pretty much packing it in for the year. Last night, it was real nice to see Joe Thornton play Moses, tipping that puck home split the Sea of Red faster than well, something really fast. I'm not into the whole seeing people suffer fetish, but it was just amazing to see someone else have to feel the heartbreak I've felt oh so much in recent years.

Yeah, its a bit overblown because it is only Game 4, but hey, consider the flipside. The Sharks lose Game 4, they come back to San Jose down 3-1, needing to win 3 straight against Calgary. Probably not gonna happen. As it stands now, they need to win 2 of 3, and they get the noise, the crowd, the familiarity with their surroundings for two of them. I'd rather have that one.

Game 5 is tomorrow, and at this point, could go either way. We saw how the Sharks responded to choking away Game 3, and that they have some guts and grit inside them. Now we get to see how the Flames respond to the same situation, choking away Game 4 in heartbreaking fashion and having to face the opponent in their house while trying to win.

Should be yet another dandy.


Monday, April 14, 2008

4/13/08 WCQF #3 CALGARY 4, sharks 3

Didn't see the game because I had a Stealth game, didn't miss anything I haven't seen before.

Sharks come out, control the game play, strike quick and a lot, and then pack it in after getting physically dominated, because obviously 3:33 is all of a hockey game you need to play to win.

Going off of comments from others, the Sharks didn't really lose this one, as much as the Flames just rose to the occasion. Kiprusoff was chased early, and Curtis Joseph played awesome, and wacky bounces went the way of the home side.

Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau, and Douglas Murray all had goals for the Sharks, and Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves in the loss. Marleau was the evening's sacrificial lamb, getting bloodied twice, with no reciprocation from anyone wearing a teal and white sweater.

So, there are plenty of parallels to draw from this game to games past (WCSF Game 3 2006, WCSF Game 4 2007), all of which eventually resulted in a humiliating, embarrassing, and demoralizing loss to a lesser team that just had more desire, but I don't think the towel can be thrown in just yet.

Sure, they buckled under physical pressure. Sure, they sat back after a lead a bit. Sure, they're on the road and have no momentum but what they can create tomorrow, but there are positives. They did take the crowd out of Game 3, it can be done again in Game 4. They did score three goals against Calgary, and shook Kipper's confidence a bit. Patrick Marleau took an absolute whooping on Sunday, and kept right on going. If that doesn't inspire you, you're probably dead.

Speaking of dead, for all the naysayers calling this series over, wait until tomorrow. If the Sharks lose, yell and scream and complain all you like about this team, sell your tickets for Game 5 for whatever price you can get since you can't be bothered to show your support. If they do win tomorrow, then all this Chicken Littling will have been for nothing, because it'll be a 3 game series, evened up once again. It's a 7 game series folks, the thing ain't done until one side gets 4, not 2.

Game 4 is tomorrow at 7, and it might as well be an elimination game for the Sharks. Win, and like mentioned above, the series is once again knotted, and will return to the Tank for the start of a best of three that would see two games take place at 525 W. Santa Clara St, if it went that far. The Sharks can certainly get it done, they've showed their skill in this series. What's the question is if they have the heart. Hockey games are won by teams, and not individuals, if there aren't 18 + 1 guys working their tails off tomorrow, then kiss 2007/08 goodbye.

GO SHARKS (One at a time fellas, one at a time)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

4/9-10/08 WCQF #1 (cgy 3-2) and #2 (SJ 2-0)

Playoff time in hockey is a busy time of year, as much stuff gets decided. Unfortunately, that's the case outside of hockey too. But you don't care about that, this is the hockey odyssey, not the life odyssey. ANYWAYS...

Two games are in the books in the third chapter of Sharks v Flames, the playoff edition, and I think I'm happy with the way they went.

Game 1 brought the Calgary Flames just as expected, rough, gritty, and defensively (goaltending wise) magnificent. Stephane Yelle had a pair of goals for Calgary, Ryane Clowe had a pair for the Sharks. Dion Phaneuf had the other marker for Calgary, who got great goaltending out of Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 37 saves for the win. Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves in the loss.

Playing back to back proved to be a good thing for the Sharks yet again, who really seemed to be able to put Game 1 behind them. Despite being outshot 10-8 in the 1st, they seemed to control much of the play, getting some good scoring chances. The Teal finally broke through the wall that is Kiprusoff on a pretty soft goal by Joe Pavelski, who just kinda threw it at the net and found its way past an oversliding Kipper. Torrey Mitchell banged in a loose puck later in the period on a power play to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead, and ended up winning by the same score. Kiprusoff was stellar again, this time making 41 saves, but in the losing effort. Nabokov made 21 saves in the shutout win, including a couple point blank glove saves that could be some of the best of the entire playoffs.

I say that I think I'm happy with the result of the first two, because these games just further confirmed what I and most people believed.

* The Sharks are the better team. - By better, I simply mean more skilled, as the better team in this matchup will be decided in three more wins.
* If the Sharks have the drive and will to win the series, they will. - The way the Flames play, it tests your will, determination, and just plain desire to win. If you have it, and can exert it for the entire 60 minute contest, you'll probably take the victory.
* Calgary is tough. - Not only tough in the matchup sense, as they aren't an easy opponent for anyone to face, their strong physical style all over the ice makes then a tough group of customers, pretty much what you'd expect of a Keenan/Sutter squad.
* Warren Strelow is a goaltending god. - The man taught plenty of great goalies, and two of the NHL's best in Kiprusoff and Nabokov. It is a real treat to see these two pupils of such a great coach go at it. I hope the rest of the series has some more supreme netminding.
* NHL officiating blows. - The name of the game for the men in stripes in the regular season was just how damn inconsistent they were, and it hasn't changed a bit.
Game 1 was called like a playoff game, five infractions called the entire contest. The dirty play was still there, but thanks to the double standard that exists in this fine game, stuff that happens in the playoffs needs to be done double to get called.
Game 2, however, was called like it was a regular season game, 18 infractions in all.
Personally, I'd rather see playoff games like Game 2, where a penalty is called a penalty. I understand the double standard, that things mean more in the playoffs and handing out 2 minute PPs like candy could decide a game, but I always respond to that excuse with a big "DUH". Penalties aren't supposed to be a good or acceptable thing, they're supposed to be punishment for breaking the rules. You don't want them to decide a game, DON'T TAKE THEM.
* The Tank is a loud building. - Now, before anyone gets angry and says their building is louder, I wouldn't know, but San Jose is pretty loud. I've seen playoff games in 3 other arenas besides San Jose (Colorado, Detroit, and Nashville), and I can say that the Tank is easily the loudest. The standing o for Nabokov after his glove save on Nolan was probably the loudest I've ever heard that place, and I've been there too much.

With the first 2 finished, the series shifts north of the border to the Saddledome for Games 3 and 4. The raucous Flames fans will probably be a factor, just as the Sharks fans had a part in the first two. The last change should also help Flames coach Mike Keenan, who will make sure Joe Thornton sees a complete dosage of the Flames checking line. Just as it was the goal of Calgary to get a split in SJ, you'd have to think it's the goal of the Teal to do that in the C of Red, and at worst come back to the Tank tied at 2. Whatever happens, it is almost certain to be exciting, and if it isn't, then you're lying.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Western Conference Quarterfinals Preview

Game #1 Wednesday, April 9th 7:00 PM HP Pavilion, San Jose
Game #2 Thursday, April 10th 7:00 PM HP Pavilion, San Jose
Game #3 Sunday, April 13th 7:00 PM Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary
Game #4 Tuesday, April 15th 7:00 PM Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary
*Game #5 Thursday, April 17th 7:00 PM HP Pavilion, San Jose
*Game #6 Sunday, April 20th TBD Pengrowth Saddledome, Calgary
*Game #7 Tuesday, April 22nd TBD HP Pavilion, San Jose

Ok, #2 vs #7, Sharks vs Flames. Not in this exact scenario, but we've been here before.

Once in 2004, which everyone in Calgary remembers, because the Flames took that series, the Western Conference Finals, in 6 games and went on to the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 7 games. That series saw the Sharks as the #2 seed, and the Flames coming in at #6.

The other series would be remembered by everyone in San Jose, as it was the second consecutive year of first round magic for the Sharks. That one was a #2 v #7 meeting, however it was Calgary with the #2 seed, and the scrappy Sharks coming in at #7. In short, Ray Whitney scored a double OT winner in Game 7 at the Saddledome, shocking Calgary and the hockey world for the second straight playoff season.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, those series mean nothing now. Its 2008, #2 San Jose and #7 Calgary. Here's how I see it break down.

The Flames are lead by Jarome Iginla, who notched 50 goals this season for the second time in his career. Iginla, the captain, lead the team in Goals (50), Assists (48), and points (98). He also lead the team in +/- (+27). Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow are his top supporting cast, as Langkow is his centerman, and Huselius takes care of business on the second line. Dion Phaneuf gets it done on the back end, finishing the season with 60 points, good for 5th in the league.

The Sharks have been the Joe Thornton show for the year, as he led the team in all three main offensive categories. His 29 goals and 96 points were just team highs, while his 67 assists lead the league. Milan Michalek has been strong most of the year, and Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau have played solid offensive hockey since February.

The teams are pretty even in terms of offensive production, as the Flames outscored the Sharks by just 7 goals in the regular season, 229-222. However, depth may be an issue for Calgary, as one guy (Iginla) was much more involved in scoring than anyone on the Sharks roster. If the Sharks can shut down Iginla, the Flames may struggle for offense.
EDGE: Wash

As mentioned above, the Flames have Phaneuf to lead the blueliners. With him is veteran rough man, Robyn Regehr. After them, however, the D seems to drop off a bit, as Adrian Aucoin, David Hale, Anders Eriksson, Cory Sarich, and Jim Vandermeer are scrappy, but overpowerable.

Without any big names, its easy to say the Sharks defense is lackluster (hell, I say it myself all the time). However, the Sharks finished with the 3rd fewest Goals Allowed in the regular season, so something must be working. Marc-Edouard Vlasic headlines this unknown squad of defensemen, along with Craig Rivet, Christian Ehrhoff, and Douglas Murray. Brian Campbell compliments the defensive side of the defensemen nicely, as he can control the puck well as a defensive maneuver, and is usually mistake free in his own end.

As eluded to above, the Sharks allowed the 3rd fewest goals, a mere 187. Calgary finished a bit lower, 15th to be exact, at 224. The Sharks defense and their system seem to hold the edge here, and look for former 2nd round pick (acquired from Calgary for Miikka Kipprusoff in 2004) Vlasic to play on Iginla all series long. If he can do his job, the Sharks will have the opportunity to win it.
EDGE: San Jose

Not even worth it to split up these amazing netminders, they're both incredible. Both were students of the late Warren Strelow, and both have had strong careers in the league. Kipper has the edge in terms of depth into the playoffs, going all the way to the finals in 2004, but have failed to escape the 1st round in 2 chances since then. Nabby has more experience, leading the Sharks to post-season battle a few times, amassing many post season wins. Nabby has had the better season, leading the NHL in wins, but we've seen before how Kipper can (no pun intended) catch fire in the postseason.
EDGE: Wash

The Flames have done most of their damage 5-on-5 this year, and the numbers have reflected that perfectly. The PP was 19th in the league at 16.8%, and they were in the middle of the pack in PPO (power play opportunities) with 352, good for 16th in the league. The PK wasn't so hot, tied for 20th in the league at 81.4% kill rate, and were tied for 2nd in the league in TSH (times shorthanded) with 388.

The Sharks thrived on their special teams, at least in the 2nd half. The addition of Brian Campbell revitalized the man advantage unit, finishing the season at 18.8%, for 10th in the league. The Sharks have been good at drawing calls, and were 5th in PPO at 372. The PK, however has been strong all year, as the Sharks finished the season atop the league at killing penalties at a 85.8% clip. Just as they don't give up many power play goals, they don't give up many power play opportunities, as they were 28th in TSH at 310.

On paper, it seems pretty one sided here. The Flames commit a lot of penalties, and aren't great at killing them. The Sharks are great at drawing penalties, and are pretty good at capitalizing on them. On the flipside, the Flames draw a fair number of calls, but can't score on many of them, while the Sharks don't get into the box too often, but even when they do, they don't often pay for it. If this continues into the post season, the guys in the teal will look better.
EDGE: San Jose

Crazy man Mike Keenan has won a Cup, mellow man Ron Wilson hasn't. Sometimes, it can be that simple, because once you know how to do something, its real easy to do it again. If you're still waiting for the first sip, however, you just have to keep trying to get it.
EDGE: Calgary

The Sharks are a speedy club with size, the Flames are a big physical team with some speed. Calgary won the season series 3-1, taking both games played in San Jose on OT goals scored by Jarome Iginla, however, the teams haven't played since the Sharks traded for Brian Campbell, and subsequently went 18-2-2 since. Consensus is this is a series the Sharks should win, but if the Flames put the screws to the Sharks hard enough, they might get them to give up, and could scrap out a series win.

I refuse to make a prediction, because I'm that damn superstitious. It should be a good series, I think the Sharks can win it, but if they don't play full 60 minute hockey, it'll be another long summer in Teal Town.

GO SHARKS (douse the Flames)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

4/6/08 DALLAS 4, sharks 2

Quick post on this one because I had work, so I missed the game (yeah, I'm a bad Sharks fan, I know).

Was nice to see the Sharks take part in some rough stuff, since they could afford to in the standings. By sticking up for each other, and even the likes of Joe Thornton and Milan Michalek dropping the gloves and scrapping a bit, the Sharks impressed me, because they showed they could handle that kind of game, something they'll need to be able to do in the playoffs. It also showed that it isn't below them to have fun once and a while.

Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo had goals, Nabby pitched a scoreless period of play, and Boucher had an ok last 40, giving up 4 goals on 15 tough shots and chances. Again, in a meaningless game, the most important stat is that zero people got hurt.

The regular season is over, the practice is complete, now comes the big time. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Minnesota Wild, creating a Sharks first round matchup with the Calgary Flames (now old news). Game 1 kicks off Wednesday night in San Jose, look for a preview before then.

GO SHARKS (Mission 16W, ready go)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

4/3/08 LOS ANGELES 4, sharks 2

Well, it had to end sooner or later, and later would be much worse to the playoff chances.

Thursday night was a night that didn't matter, and it showed. A few big names were scratched, the names that played had much less time, and the emphasis was on not getting hurt. Joe Thornton had a goal 36 seconds in, assisted by Worcester call-up Tom Cavanaugh, making his NHL debut. Joe Pavelski tied the game at 2 early into the 3rd Period, but the Kings' Anze Kopitar potted the go ahead goal with 5 minutes left, and then iced it with an empty netter. Evgeni Nabokov previously occupied that net, making 23 saves in the loss. The loss ends Nabokov's shot at tying Martin Brodeur's single season record for wins with 48. Nabokov still leads the league with 46 wins.

Its real nice to say that a loss doesn't matter, but it really doesn't. All the loss does is give the Sharks the taste of not victory, and how bitter it is, and maybe they'll try to avoid tasting it too much in the playoffs.

Tomorrow it ends. At least the meaningless ones. The Sharks finish up the year in Dallas to face the Stars (boo) at 12 PM. The Sharks lead the season series 4-3, taking all three played in Dallas, and the finale in San Jose last week. Dallas took the other three at the Tank.

GO SHARKS (so bored with regular season hockey, bring on the playoffs)

ON A SIDE NOTE: Tomorrow, the San Jose Stealth host the Portland LumberJax at 4 PM at HP Pavilion. With a win, the Stealth will take over first place in the Western Division, and clinch a spot in the NLL Playoffs. Its Kids Day, and the Festival of Speed, a free carshow in the parking lot with go kart racing. More details can be found at the official website here. San Jose Festival of Speed website

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

4/1/08 SHARKS 5, los angeles 2

Well, I feel appreciated. In addition to the surprisingly nice blanket, free Togo's sandwich coupon, and the free Round Table pizza that comes with a 4+ goal Sharks effort, the Teal gave me a nice present last night, a win.

Last night was a sloppy effort, but since they won, and it was a game that really didn't matter at all, I'm willing to let it slide. Captain Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek were the only expected goal scorers last night, with passy alotty (technical term) defenseman Brian Campbell, and grinders Curtis Brown and Mike Grier notching the other markers. Evgeni Nabokov was appreciatively good in net, making 16 saves for his league leading 46th victory.

Last night was the culmination of a great regular season for the Sharks, and the end of what is hoped to be just a preview to the long second season that awaits the Teal and their fans. The win is the Sharks 4th straight victory, and their 20th consecutive in which they earned a point. Despite the lack of importance, the fans were definitely into the game, including a 17,496 person standing O from 20 seconds remaining until well after the final buzzer.

Needless to say, the fans are ready. They've seen the Sharks play a stretch of hockey that has never before been played in San Jose, and has everyone rightfully excited. The playoffs are set to begin next week, and everyone at 525 W. Santa Clara can't wait to flip their calendars.

Unfortunately, there's two games left before the real season gets going, the first of which is tomorrow night at Staples against the same Los Angeles Kings (7:30). The Kings are still struggling, are still gonna miss the playoffs, and are still a big offensive threat. If yesterday's contest is any indication, however, the game will be a spirited, physical contest between two teams that just don't like each other, which makes for some great hockey. With Tuesday's win, the Sharks lead the season series 4-3, taking all three previous contests at Staples.

GO SHARKS (pretty damn nice blankets too)