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Posts Tagged ‘Anaheim Ducks’

State of the Sharks: Disappointed

Posted by davefowkes on 05/14/2009

Disappointment, anger and frustration, those are the emotions the San Jose Sharks and their fan base continue to feel after the Sharks first round upset loss to Anaheim. The Sharks held their annual “State of the Sharks” event with their fans. CEO Greg Jamison, GM Doug Wilson, head coach Todd McLellan and players Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski were on hand to face questions from a crowd estimated in the three to four thousand range.

The mood of the crowd was mostly upbeat. There were standing ovations for the players and the coach as they were introduced. Overall the mood of the event was jolly. But the underlying current of disappointment was certainly felt in the questioning and certainly in the answers.

“I thought the anger and disappointment would diminish by now but watching all these other game sevens, it has not,” Wilson said. “We built this team with high expectations and we will never lower them. We have some difficult decisions ahead.”

Wilson has spent the last few weeks since the end of the season as he says conducting an autopsy of the Sharks season. “I should not use that term but it is how it feels.”

While nobody would give details on what went wrong or what changes are to come, there was a clear theme that developed: The Sharks must improve their mental toughness.

“It takes a physical and a mental commitment,” Coach McLellan said. “We are close physically but Detroit is ahead of us on mental toughness. How do we help players be mentally tougher? I don’t know the answer to that. We can look inside the organization and we can look outside the organization. We have to be mentally tougher. Will this (a first round playoff exit) make us mentally tougher or will we wither away? I think we will be in the first group.”

The comparison to what Detroit has gone through was another regular theme. McLellan pointed out that the Red Wings stumbled a number of times before finally breaking through to the top.

Players were the focal point of a number of questions early on. Joe Thornton was asked why he did not shoot more? How can he play more angry in every game like he did in game 5? And why did he lead the league in getting thrown out of the face-off circle?

But while some of the questions were filled with laughs, and the players were able to have fun, the elephant in the room never left.

“This is a better hockey team then we had in Tampa,” Dan Boyle said comparing this team to the one he won a Stanley Cup with. “Come playoffs everyone has to step up. The top guys take a lot of heat but everybody needs to step up. Goaltending needs to be better, our top guys have to be better, and our second guys have to be better. I think this is a better hockey team but we have to come together. I look forward to getting back on the ice.”

“We take the blame,” team captain Marleau said on Anaheim’s top line out playing them. “We need to be better. Why did this happen? That is the soul searching we are doing.”

Thornton added, “They did out play us. Their power play was better than ours. They are three big guys that played well down the stretch. We should have played better.”

In the end the question that all Shark fans will be asking though is what will the Sharks do to improve themselves next year? While the answer to that question was evident in the Sharks management will clearly be looking to improve the team’s mental toughness, it was not clear how they would go about doing that. Will there be changes? It certainly sounds like there will be some.

“Who will be with us (next year)? I don’t know. But we will look into the mirror and we will do what it takes to get it done. We will bring back people committed to get where we want to go,” Wilson said. “The next couple of months will be uncomfortable. I like the players here but we need those who will fight through this. We want more guys like Mike Ricci.”

Ricci who is a member of the organization received a standing ovation when he emerged to take questions after the players left. “I wish I could put guys like Ricci and (Brian) Marchment (who is also with the organization) back in the lineup,” Wilson proclaimed.

One thing about the Sharks that is apparently very different from Detroit was this State of the Sharks event. “I can’t believe how many people are here tonight,” McLellan said as he compared it to his days in Detroit. “It strikes me just how passionate you are as fans. I came from a place they call hockeytown and I guaranty you, this would not happen there! Be proud!”

The event lasted well over two hours. In the end there were not grand gestures, there were no clues as to the Sharks offseason plans, but what was clear is that the Sharks management is trying to put together a winning team. The next step will be to improve the mental toughness of the team. The Stanley Cup question though is, will that mental toughness come from inside the organization or will it come from outside?  In all likelihood, a little of both.

Disappointment, anger and frustration, those are the emotions the San Jose Sharks and their fan base continue to feel after the Sharks first round upset loss to Anaheim. The Sharks held their annual “State of the Sharks” event with their fans. CEO Greg Jamison, GM Doug Wilson, head coach Todd McLellan and players Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski were on hand to face questions from a crowd estimated in the three to four thousand range.

The mood of the crowd was mostly upbeat. There were standing ovations for the players and the coach as they were introduced. Overall the mood of the event was jolly. But the underlying current of disappointment was certainly felt in the questioning and certainly in the answers.

“I thought the anger and disappointment would diminish by now but watching all these other game sevens, it has not,” Wilson said. “We built this team with high expectations and we will never lower them. We have some difficult decisions ahead.”

Wilson has spent the last few weeks since the end of the season as he says conducting an autopsy of the Sharks season. “I should not use that term but it is how it feels.”

While nobody would give details on what went wrong or what changes are to come, there was a clear theme that developed: The Sharks must improve their mental toughness.

“It takes a physical and a mental commitment,” Coach McLellan said. “We are close physically but Detroit is ahead of us on mental toughness. How do we help players be mentally tougher? I don’t know the answer to that. We can look inside the organization and we can look outside the organization. We have to be mentally tougher. Will this (a first round playoff exit) make us mentally tougher or will we wither away? I think we will be in the first group.”

The comparison to what Detroit has gone through was another regular theme. McLellan pointed out that the Red Wings stumbled a number of times before finally breaking through to the top.

Players were the focal point of a number of questions early on. Joe Thornton was asked why he did not shoot more? How can he play more angry in every game like he did in game 5? And why did he lead the league in getting thrown out of the face-off circle?

But while some of the questions were filled with laughs, and the players were able to have fun, the elephant in the room never left.

“This is a better hockey team then we had in Tampa,” Dan Boyle said comparing this team to the one he won a Stanley Cup with. “Come playoffs everyone has to step up. The top guys take a lot of heat but everybody needs to step up. Goaltending needs to be better, our top guys have to be better, and our second guys have to be better. I think this is a better hockey team but we have to come together. I look forward to getting back on the ice.”

“We take the blame,” team captain Marleau said on Anaheim’s top line out playing them. “We need to be better. Why did this happen? That is the soul searching we are doing.”

Thornton added, “They did out play us. Their power play was better than ours. They are three big guys that played well down the stretch. We should have played better.”

In the end the question that all Shark fans will be asking though is what will the Sharks do to improve themselves next year? While the answer to that question was evident in the Sharks management will clearly be looking to improve the team’s mental toughness, it was not clear how they would go about doing that. Will there be changes? It certainly sounds like there will be some.

“Who will be with us (next year)? I don’t know. But we will look into the mirror and we will do what it takes to get it done. We will bring back people committed to get where we want to go,” Wilson said. “The next couple of months will be uncomfortable. I like the players here but we need those who will fight through this. We want more guys like Mike Ricci.”

Ricci who is a member of the organization received a standing ovation when he emerged to take questions after the players left. “I wish I could put guys like Ricci and (Brian) Marchment (who is also with the organization) back in the lineup,” Wilson proclaimed.

One thing about the Sharks that is apparently very different from Detroit was this State of the Sharks event. “I can’t believe how many people are here tonight,” McLellan said as he compared it to his days in Detroit. “It strikes me just how passionate you are as fans. I came from a place they call hockeytown and I guaranty you, this would not happen there! Be proud!”

The event lasted well over two hours. In the end there were not grand gestures, there were no clues as to the Sharks offseason plans, but what was clear is that the Sharks management is trying to put together a winning team. The next step will be to improve the mental toughness of the team. The Stanley Cup question though is, will that mental toughness come from inside the organization or will it come from outside?  In all likelihood, a little of both.

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Sharks Misery

Posted by davefowkes on 04/24/2009

It has taken me all day to come up with the effort of typing over last night’s game. As a San Jose Sharks fan it just made me angry to watch the 4-0 loss to the Ducks. Losing the game is one thing. Had the Shark s come out and put forth a great effort only to see a few breaks go against them and lose the game, so be it. But last night was supposed to be a desperate game. An opportunity for the Sharks to even up the series coming back home.

Instead, the Sharks just looked like they were skating in mud. There was no urgency, there was no consistency, it just looked like there was no effort. The star players, the classy veterans, the young guns, nobody had good games last night. The Sharks laid a giant egg.

I have no excuse for it and I am pretty sure the Sharks themselves have no excuses for it. It just does not make sense to me how they could pull out that type of game in what was clearly states as their most important game of the year.

When the Sharks get eliminated there will be many questions asked. How do you blow up a President’s trophy winning team. I am glad I am not Doug Wilson. Because it seems clear that despite the regular season success, the Sharks current roster is just not capable of making a deep run into the playoffs. Is it the quiet leadership of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton? Is it the lack of raw-raw guys? There is just something about Shark hockey that just does not let them mentally take it to the next level.

In the past it has been 2nd round exits. This sure looks like a huge first round disappointment instead. If that truly happens (and being down 3-1 in the series it is hard to imagine it not happening at this point) then Doug Wilson is going to have some very big questions to deal with after the season.

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Sharks get their bite back

Posted by davefowkes on 04/22/2009

Great win for the Sharks last night. It was a must win game and the team came out and won the game. Not the typical result for a Sharks playoff team.

I said before the game (not in this blog) that for the Sharks to climb back in the series they would need two power play goals per game. Patrick Marleau’s game winner was the second power play goal in three tries. So much for the 0-for-12 in the first two games.

The Sharks brought energy from start to finish, Dan Boyle played his butt off, and most importantly the Sharks showed the urgency that lacked in the first two games.

The only downside to the game was that Evgeni Nabokov was not as sharp as needed, but he did get better as the game went along, making some great saves after the third goal he allowed.

Now the Sharks trail 2-1 in the best of seven series. If they continue to play like they did last night, I think the Sharks have a great chance of coming back to win. But if they revert to the style of play they had at the Shark Tank the first two games, then last night will just turn into a small glimmer of hope.

I will stick with my original prediction, if the Sharks play their best, they will win the series. But there is no margin for error against the Ducks!

OTHER NOTES:  Great to see Torey Mitchell back in the lineup. I thought it was a huge gamble by Todd McLellan to put him into the lineup in such a desperate game, but I thought it paid off. His minutes were down, but when he was on the ice you could see his speed take over and he created a couple of turnovers. Not too bad for a guy playing his first game of the season after recovering from a broken leg.

— The addition of Mitcherll really allowed McLellan to use four lines on a very quick tempo. Shifts were short, fast and sweet. At times it led to confusion, but mostly it meant the Sharks on the ice had fresher legs than the Ducks. It will be interesting to see how Anaheim reacts to that.

–Dan Boyle could do no wrong last night. Two goals and an assist are obvious but his play on defense was outstanding and his quarterbacking the puck on the offensive charge was a difference maker. Anyone remember….um…what’s his name?….that guy from Chicago the Sharks traded for last year….um….Soupy?  Boyle proved his worth last night!

–The star of the night goes to Todd Marchant’s wife. She delivered a baby boy on Monday, was relaesed from the hospital on Tuesday morning, and was at the game last night! Now that is playoff urgency! Talk about grit! Props to her!

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Sharks Drop Game One

Posted by davefowkes on 04/16/2009

(San Jose, CA) The Sharks skated hard, played physical, were solid on defense and got shots on goals, but despite all that they could not get the puck in the net. The Anaheim Ducks take game one of the first round playoff series with a 2-0 win over the Sharks quickly ending the Sharks home ice advantage.

Rookie Jonas Hiller made 35 saves and the Sharks went 0-6 on the power play as their offensive woes continue. The Sharks out shot the Ducks 35-17, but could not get that decisive goal that they needed.

Scott Niedermayaer scored on the power play and Ryan Getzlaf added a late goal in the third period to provide the offense for the night.

There power play was better than ours, that is what it comes down too,” Joe Thornton said. “We stressed that before the series started. Whoever has the better special teams will probably win the series. They got one and we did not, and that was the difference.”

Evgeni Nabokov did not need to work too hard in stopping 15 shots but finally midway through the third period he gave up a power play goal that would prove to be the winner.

“We felt like we had the majority of play, but that is just hockey,”Thornton said of the team’s efforts. “We just have to keep going to the net and getting shots and hopefully some of them will go in for us.”

What it lacked in shots it made up for in hits. 35 hits were registered between the two teams in what was a very physical, defensive period. Douglas Murray really pushed a few Ducks around with some crowd pleasing hits. “It is the playoffs,” Murray said. “That is playoff hockey. You have to bring the intensity, everybody does. Those that don’t usually hit, hit and those that do play physical like myself have to be even more physical. It is playoff hockey.”

The game was so tight in the first period that there was one span of 7:50 without a shot on net.

In the second period, the Sharks best opportunity came as the puck slid across the goal crease. With Jeremy Roenick virtually pinning Hiller to one side of the net, the puck was there for the taking, but Marcel Goc fanned on his poke attempt through the defense, and the puck skidded out of danger for the Ducks. There were a couple of loose pucks on both sides of the ice where players would be left to think about what could have been?

Finally five minutes into the third period the Ducks would score. Jonathan Cheechoo took a tripping penalty which would set up the Ducks power play. Niedermayer scored on a slap shot from the face off circle through traffic. It was the type of game where it felt like the team that scored first would probably win. Niedermayer’s goal would prove to be the game winner.

The Sharks could not mount much pressure despite getting two more power play opportunities in the third period. “We finished third overall (on the power play this season) but tonight we were out of psync and we did not convert on our chances,” Dan Boyle said. “The power play let us down tonight.”

The Ducks put the game away when Ryan Getlaf took a turnover and beat Nabokov between two defenders on a great wrist shot.

The Sharks need to find a way to generate offense in this series, something that they have struggled to do the last couple of months of the season. Since the all-star break, the Sharks are the third worst team in scoring on 5-on-5 play, the other two teams did not make the playoffs.

In general the Sharks players seemed up about the way they played, they just know the must find a way to convert on opportunities, especially on the power play.

Game 2 is Sunday night at 7pm in San Jose.

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Sharks Vs Ducks Weekend!

Posted by davefowkes on 04/04/2009

An interesting weekend has arrived for the San Jose Sharks as they go toe-to-toe with the Anaheim Ducks! It starts tonight in San Jose and ends tomorrow down south. The Sharks are playing much better right now, and are getting healthy, but the Ducks are hot and they are desperate!

The Sharks have opened up a 6 point lead over Detroit with 5 games left to play. It looks good for San Jose. The Alberta sweep this week was nice. Getting four points north of the border, playing some solid defense and getting some key goals. That is what the Sharks were good at earlier in the season that they had lost track of the past month or so.

It is also nice to see the Sharks start to get healthy just in time for the playoffs. Jonathan Cheechoo was back and contributed right away. Rob Blake played Thursday. Jeremy Roenick is in the lineup. Thomas Plihal is expected back tonight. More of the walking wounded are due by the end of the week, most specifically Patrick Marleau and Ryan Clowe. They are both needed for the Sharks to make a deep run in the playoffs.

But while the Sharks are getting better again, and playing for that President’s Cup trophy, here come the Ducks. A few weeks ago it looked for sure like Anaheim would be booking tee times for the end of April. But now they have won 8 our their last 10 games. They are in 7th place and need to keep winning to keep the playoff dream alive in what is a very close race that will go down to the final days for those last few spots.

The Sharks are sharpening their teeth. They look to continue to improve, and continue to get healthy. The but Ducks will bring their best of their best because it is do or die time for them!

It makes for an interesting two game match up. I look for the teams to split the next two games. But it is hard to predict in situations like this. It won’t quite be playoff hockey, but it could be really close!

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Sharks Clinch Playoff Spot

Posted by davefowkes on 03/16/2009

In the old days, the headline alone would be cause for celebration. But with this latest edition of the San Jose Sharks, it just makes official what we already knew. The Sharks are playoff bound! Now it is just a matter of when, where, seeding, etc.

The big news from the Sharks 1-0 shutout of the Ducks was the win itself and now a two game win streak. The Sharks are back!

Okay, so maybe that statement is a bit strong. The Sharks still have a few holes in the lineup due to injury. They are still struggling on offense scoring two goals in two games, and they failed to tally a power play goal during that same stretch. But the Sharks have a two game win streak!

After a very cold stretch where they gave away the best record in the West to Detroit, the Sharks are doing the little things to win again. They are starting to win the 5-on-5 battles. They are playing solid defense now. They are competing for the full game rather than just dominating for 20 minutes or so. And of course they are getting stellar goaltending again!

It can not go unnoticed that this dramatic shift occurred when a fresh and rested Evgeni Nabokov returned to net for the Sharks. He has been brilliant the first two games limiting an underrated LA Kings team to one goal and just one goal in an 8 round shootout, and then responding the next night with his 6th shutout of the year. Nabby is back!

And with him, so are the Sharks. It was not pretty. It was not their best. But it sends the Sharks back on the winning track with an opportunity to gain some confidence and taste some of the glory they had at the beginning of the year. Improvement is still needed, but they found a place from which they can start to build!

With the playoffs a month away, now is the time for the Sharks to get on a roll, find some good health, get some confidence, and heat up heading into the playoffs! This weekend was a good start.

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Sharks Make Deadline Trade

Posted by davefowkes on 03/04/2009

The San Jose Sharks have made a trade before the deadline picking up experience at the wing and on defense. The Sharks make the trade within the division with the Anaheim Ducks acquiring winger Travis Moen (4 goals, 7 assists) and defenseman Kent Huskins (2 goals, 4 assists) in exchange for two prospects.

Sharks acquire Moen and Huskins

This deal is just what I expected from the Sharks. With Jeremy Roenick and Mike Grier both going down with injuries for a significant amount of time, you had to know that the Sharks would bring in some veteran depth. Neither Moen or Huskins would qualify as highlight real players, but they both bring Stanley Cup Championship rings with them and should fit in well in the depth positions for the Sharks. One would think Moen is a lock to slide into the third line in place of Grier.

San Jose has a really good team. They are obviously a Cup contender. There was not way the Sharks would rock the boat with a huge deal. But with youngsters like Lukas Kaspar and Brad Staubitz showing they are not quite ready, this type of trade to add experience and depth was expected and needed!

I also wonder what role Claude Lemieux will have in the stretch run as he has been a scratch two of the last three games.

–UPDATE: Kyle McLaren has reportedly been traded to Philadelphia for a 6th round pick. The veteran defenseman has been trying to earn a trip back to the big leagues by playing in Worcester all season.

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