Sharks Finally Put a Game Together

Bianca distracts the shooter.

Bianca distracts the shooter.

Aw shit, do you really want me to tell you about San Jose beating a team with an equally mediocre record? You do don’t you.  The big dogs for Los Tiburones got off the schneide porch, scoring and beating up a sorry Habs team, 5-2.  Logan Couture scored twice, Pavs got his first goal, Tomas Hertl with a PP tally and Jumbo with,,, yes you guessed it an empty net goal!!!

Martin Jones outdueled the Greatest Goalie in the World Carie Price

Streaking Sharks Shutout Smashville, Continue Hot Streak

With one loss in their last eight games, San Jose is riding a hot streak of late and have vaulted into a playoff spot after last night’s victory over a surprisingly tough Nashville team.  With Pekker Rinne back in world class form, the Preds are in third place in one of the tougher divisions in hockey with a 19-7-2 record before last night’s game.  San Jose scored first as Tomas Hertl continued his resurgence back into a goal scoring power forward.  Anti Niemi returned from a minor injury to outduel his Finnish countryman by shutting out the Preds 2-0.

The only blemish for San Jose in the last eight contests was a loss to Edmonton last Sunday to break their 11 game losing streak.  The Sharks are getting stellar goaltending from Niemi and Alex Stalock, with the team looking comfortable no matter who is in net.  Watching San Jose in their first 22 games, one could determine that San Jose was indeed in a rebuilding mode.  They had a sub .500 record, were wildly inconsistent and could NOT hold a lead.  They also gave up the first goal or two often and could not seem to get the breaks or finish off great chances.

However, following an ugly home loss to Calgary on 11/26, the Sharks followed that up by beating the league leading  Ducks 6-4, sending them on this great run to get back in the playoff conversation.  Beating the Bruins at home and Calgary on the road were sweet victories for them and has given them some confidence.  Joe Pavelski is playing some his best hockey and Joe Thornton continues to look ageless as he leads the team in points.

Edmonton came to town Thursday, fresh off the firing of beleaguered coach Dallas Eakins. It remains to be seen if Craig MacTavish taking the reins once more can help this reeling franchise regain their mojo. The Oil has won once in 17 games, the one victory coming against San Jose.  The Oilers opened the scoring in the first and it remained 1-0 through the first period.

In the second, two goals 47 seconds apart by James Sheppard and Logan Couture gave the Sharks the lead.  However, this wouldn’t last as the Oilers got two greasy goals in front of Anti Niemi to retake the lead, 3-2.  The Sharks would respond again, this time in the middle of the third period with two quick ones by part of the “youth movement  players”, rookies Barclay Goodrow and Matt Tennyson to go in front again.  Tennyson’s first NHL  goal would hold up as the winner, although Edmonton would have several good opportunities down the stretch, including a Jordan Eberly chance with thirty seconds left.

Can you imagine losing twice to the worst team in the league?  You maybe thinking they already did that when they lost two to Buffalo, two to Columbus AND two to Florida.  You would be right!  Glad the Sharks didn’t as they look forward to St Louis tonight.

Big test for Los Tiburones as the Blues play the same heavy game that most of the Western Conference plays, with Vladimir Tarasenko leading the team in goals and an All Star defense corps, led by Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk.  Should be some big time smackin and a good barometer for San Jose to judge whether they are back to elite status or just pretendin.

From Outta Left Field, Why Good Teams Lose

Reilly stickhandles in the backyard.

Reilly stickhandles in the backyard.

San Jose, CA

OK, this idea for a column developed from my frustration with a good team that was finding new ways to lose, the Sharks.  I decided to fund a research study to figure out why the Blues, the Hawks, the Sharks and even the Mighty Anahymen have had protracted losing streaks.  Back Out East, even the Bruins have lost more than a couple of games where they looked like they had it all locked up then wilted.

Let me set the scene for you in my mind: its the last 15 games of the season and the above mentioned teams have held a playoff position high in the standings, either leading the division or second.  The vaunted Western conference has had its way with the East this year, winning around 63% of the games played, perhaps not germane to the discussion but a factor in the gaudy records.

My theory is related to the WAY or MANNER in which these teams win close games, often tied at the end or one goal affairs.  Take San Jose for instance, they have 10 shootout wins and seven OT or shootout losses, and have played in a total of 43 one goal games.  Stay with me, I know your eyes are glazing over.   Over half of their games are decided by one goal.  Their record in one goal games, including shootout wins is  25-18.

To have a great record you have to win close games in addition to winning games by 2 or more.  Then, I noticed who they lost to and believe me I am a little blown away by the teams on the list.  Buffalo twice, Carolina two times, and in sucksession Calgary, Washington, Florida, Winnipeg!  They hit the rough patch in March, but they hit one earlier in the year where they lost 5 of seven.  All teams not in the playoffs.

What does it say about your team if it can’t or doesn’t beat the “bad teams” consistently? Well, there are a couple ways of looking at it.  If you play a lot of close games, chances are you have good goaltending and good defense.  Check.   As a fan, I want my team to be “in the game.”  You want your team to score clutch goals, you want them to beat good teams.  All of that is good,  so by extension, your team is good right?

Not so fast.  We all know that the NHL season is long, and focus can be disrupted and the players aren’t robots.  How do these bad teams beat the Blues, Sharks, Hawks, Ducks and Avs?  Perhaps the definition of bad needs to re-examined, perhaps the bad guys get up to play the “elite” teams, but I don’t think so.

I think the W/L records can be deceiving and just because a team is 43-25, while their opponent is 30-38  doesn’t mean the sub .500 is going to be a pushover.  The media makes it out to be a surprise when the “inferior” team wins, yet guys on the “good team” are consistently beaten to loose pucks or can’t score enough to win.

The Blues have lost 5 straight, the Sharks lost 6 outta 8 recently, the Hawks just WON their first OT game this YEAR.  Do you see my point?  I’m gettin there..  Here’s another one to ponder: San Jose loses to Florida, giving up 3 in the second and can’t recover losing 3-2.  The Panthers next game, they play LA and get smoked 4-0. Is LA that much better than San Jose?  Nope, its one game, small sample size.

As the season winds down, the media says each game is so big, but I think the players don’t see it that way.  I think that down the stretch, teams assured of a playoff spot aren’t willing to give up as much of their bodies to win, preferring instead to not get injured going in to the playoffs.  If you watch as much hockey as I do, you can see it and not just one team either.

To sum up what I think I’m sayin, the W/L of a given team is not indicative of who is going to win on a nightly basis and media and fan expectations can be unrealistic.  Each game is its own little holy war and each one stands on its own.  Record is not predictive of future success.  Ask the Kings, they won the Cup from the 8 seed.

Fins Find First Finally, Beat the Islanders

Reilly T. the Hockey Dog

Reilly T. the Hockey Dog

 

Reilly the Hockey Dog and I were walking out to the back stoop to chew on a stick, mine from Nicaragua and Reilly’s from the redwood tree in the back yard.  He looked at me and said, “How do you feel about the Sharks bein in first place”? Well, I said “I wounldna thunk they could pull it off.  Ducks were ten points up on the Sharks about three weeks ago”..

San Jose is on a bit of a tear right now, going 7-1-1 against the Eastern Conference, vaulting them past the Hated Ducks of Anahymen for first place in the Pacific Division.  Trying to keep it light tonight.  Furthermore, the resurgence in the play of the captain,  C Joe Thornton and  Patrick Marleau has this observer amazed.

In an earlier post I mentioned that Marleau’s biological Stanley Cup clock was ticking, and I have to think that so is Thornton’s.  Both of them aren’t going to get many more chances, so why not win one this year?  They are both doing the little things, yes I know it sounds cliche, that win games.

There is a nice blend of skill, youth, speed, experience and goaltending on this team that gives them a real shot this year.

Rolling four lines as Todd McClellan has done can be a big help come playoff time and guys like Marty Havlat and James Sheppard are clicking on the third line.  Logan Couture is back along with the fearsome Raffi Torres for added scoring punch.

St. Louis is the favorite in my book, but in spite of their gaudy point total they have a couple of issues, like San Jose swept em this season! Perhaps the Sharks are playing more relaxed because they weren’t anointed the Cup winners in the preseason polls, as they have often been in the past.

Don’t know why, just keep it up.

Sharks Give St. Louis the Blues.. Again

Hey sports fans, welcome to a long overdue post about the San Jose Sharks, quite possibly one of the best teams in the NHL but also one of the most maddening.  The Sharks have been in a bit of a funk lately, only one win in five and demonstrating a lack of ability to close out wins when they have a team on the ropes.  On their recent homestand, they lost to a team that had lost TEN straight, the New York Isles after taking a 2-0 lead into the third.  But I digress, last night’s opponent was the powerful St. Louis Blues who play a punishing style under Ken Hitchcock.  They were a bit banged up, missing their captain David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko but they still had most of their weapons.  Jaroslav Halak was in net and the Sharks traditionally have trouble beating him.  St. Louis had played the night before in Ottawa and lost in a shootout, so they may have been a bit tired from travel, but hey who am I kidding?  These guys don’t have to do anything except get on a plane. 

The game stated with a lot of offensive zone time for the Sharks and they were rewarded for their efforts with a goal off a designed play that utilized the lively yellow dasher board.  On a shot from the point that was purposely directed wide the puck came to the Big Pavelski just to the left of Halak and he did not miss giving the Sharks a 1-0 lead.  Three minutes later, on a rush by D man Matt Irwin who dropped the puck to Brad Stuart, the puck came off those darned boards again and onto Irwin’s stick who put it home for a 2-0 lead.  The Sharks were out shooting the Blues by a wide margin and looked good going into the second. They took a 3-0 lead early in the second and were cruising along when the Blues began to up the tempo, pinching their defensemen and on a terrible giveaway by Andrew Desjardin, Kevin Shattenkirk made them pay with a nice wrister that eluded Niemi.  Jay Bowmeester got the Blues within one with only 24 seconds left in the period on a shot past the screened Sharks netminder. 

Things seemed dire for our beloved Tiburones, but I think there might have been some screaming from Todd McClellan between periods because the Sharks upped their game and Marty Havlat added an insurance goal off of a sweet pass from the Captain.  There were a few nervous moments near the end when Logan Couture somehow put the puck over the glass with his hand? in the Sharks own zone  (weird play, never seen it happen).  But that actually was good because they played a strong penalty kill and made several nice clears even though they were outnumbered 6-4.  All in all, a great road game, especially when they haven’t been great holding leads lately.  Tonight they play the Kings in LA, where they haven’t won a game in a long time.  Go get em boys!!