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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 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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Will the real Sharks show up?

Posted by davefowkes on 04/15/2009

We have waited 7 months for the regular season to end and let the real season begin! Playoff hockey is here! Now the question becomes, which San Jose Shark team will show up?

The Sharks won the president’s trophy and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs on their body of work. That body looked great a couple of months ago. But of late it has not looked so hot. The Sharks stumbled through February and March with injuries and as players came back it appeared the Sharks got better. However the Sharks ended their season against the 13th, 14th and 15th best teams in the Western Conference and they went 1-2 with that lone win being a 1-0 shootout win at home over Colorado. Not exactly an awe inspiring finish.

Now they square up with the Anaheim Ducks. I think it is safe to say that if both teams play their best, the Sharks will win the series easy. The question is can the Sharks play their best game?

Let’s face it, the team has not had a real meaningful game since December. Can a veteran team like the Sharks just flip the switch now that it is playoff time? They will need to, they can not afford to take any shifts, periods or games off. It is cliche to say, but the Sharks must play 60-minutes of hockey!

It sounds easy, but that is something the Sharks have really been struggling with. If they play their game the whole 60-minutes I have no doubt they will win. But if they get comfortable or take their collective foot of the gas pedal, the Ducks will win.

The Ducks are known for taking penalties. They have had to kill 85 more power plays then they have had this year. So special teams will likely be the deciding measure for this season. The Sharks lost 5-3 in Los Angeles Saturday to end the season, but the fact that the three goals all came on the power play should not be forgotten.

In the end I think this series will be more about how the Sharks play then how the Ducks do. The Sharks could win in 5 or lose in 6. Will Thornton, Marleau, Nabokov and others take their game to a new level?

Officially I will say Sharks win round one in six games. But I am far from confident with that prediction.

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Big Win For Sharks

Posted by davefowkes on 03/10/2009

It was not how you draw it up, but the Sharks got the win tonight 5-4 in overtime over the Wild. For a team that had lost 4 in a row and 5 out of their last 6, the win is truly what is important! Joe Thornton had two goals, Travis Moen and Milan Michalek each scored before Christian Ehrhoff got the game winner in overtime.

But the story of this game for the Sharks was survival. Because this is the second time in a week that the Sharks have blown a three goal lead to Minnesota. Thursday night in San Jose it was the Wild who ended up winning in overtime in one of the worst regular season losses for the Sharks. For San Jose, tonight was a bit of revenge. But more than revenge, maybe it will be a confidence boost.

The Sharks looked great in the first period. Thornton’s goal from the corner deflected in off a stick and you have to think maybe the Sharks luck will change. Patrick Marleau made a great play short handed that turned into a nice hustle goal for Moen who trailed the play and picked up the rebound. After one period it was 2-0 Sharks, the were out shooting Minnesota 8-3 and with the exception of two poor penalties they really controlled the action.

But the Sharks could not maintain. The Wild controlled the tempo the next two periods. It is not like the Sharks went into a shell but the Wild was clearly the aggressor especially after Thornton’s second goal. Give the Wild lots of credit for not giving up again. I have no idea why the Sharks can not maintain their pace for three periods anymore. If you asked them I would guess they are not sure either. But at some point they need to get back to dominating for an entire game.

It’s been awhile since the Sharks have looked like the Sharks of the first half of the season. Tonight they looked the part for about a period. Maybe a win like tonight where they held on after surrendering the three goal lead will lift them back up, and put them on a run again. Let’s hope, because if this team can’t hold on to 3-0 leads, forget about the post season!

In the end the Sharks will be happy with the win and hope for even better next time!

NOTES:

If there is one person that needed to bring the Wild back it was nice to see Owen Nolan be the one to do it. He scored twice in the third period, career goals 400 and 401. For a guy who looked like was going to see the end of his career because of a knee injury, it is nice to see him finding continued success. Hopefully next time it won’t be against the Sharks.

Before Sharks fans panic too much, remember last year’s Stanley Cup Champ Red Wings went 1-8-1 during on February stretch. Let’s just hope the Sharks are getting this out of their system.

Detroit also won in overtime tonight so the two teams remain tied atop the Western Conference.

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Friday Thoughts

Posted by davefowkes on 03/06/2009

A few quick hits to take us into the weekend:

–Great win for Stanford last night. Nice to see the seniors come together and get a road win this year. With three losses by one point and a 24 point blown lead at Cal, this is truly a season of what could have been for the Cardinal! Too bad. But at least they seem poised to finish strong.  Terrible loss for ASU though. A loss to Cal and they would take a four game losing streak into the Pac Ten Tourney and to me that puts them squarely on the bubble.

–Huge win for Cal. There was fear that a three game losing streak and an early ouster from the Pac Ten Tourney could cost them. Forget it, punch the ticket, the Bears are heading to the Madness! As for Arizona though: See ASU. Right now the Cats are out of the picture and looking in.

–Terrible loss for the Sharks last night. Great teams do not blow 3-goal leads at home. The Sharks at one point this season was the best team in the NHL. They are far from that now. That said, I am still a believer. The faces in the locker room were angry and frustrated. If they bring that emotion to Vancouver on Saturday they could run away with it! They need to get back to Sharks hockey, shoot the puck, get in front of the net, and keep the pressure up for 60-minutes! They are slumping now, but I still expect them to right the ship and be ready to roll come playoff time!

–The second line with Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Milan Michalek have really been clicking of late! If the top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi could raise their level of play and sustain it, the Sharks will be dangerous again!

–I love this time of year. Basketball on all the time. As I type this I am watching quarterfinal play in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.  10-days of fun all leading up to the big dance and everybody filling out their brackets. March is fun!

–JT O’Sullivan signed a contract in Cincinnati to back up Carson Palmer. Probably a good place for him and his style to be. Good to see him there and not in San Francisco! Given Palmer’s injury history there is a good chance we could see passes from JTO to Ocho Cinco this year!

–The A’s will be interesting the next week or so to see how they deal with Bobby Crosby. It would be great if Crosby would be open to being a utility infielder. As stated earlier, I actually expect a big year from him this year thanks to a new swing and an expiring contract. I could envision him taking hold of 2B, SS or 3B if one of the starters fall apart. But right now he sounds VERY unhappy about being replaced and does not seem excited to be in camp. It should make for an interesting time in A’s camp.

–If healthy, I love what Justin Duchscherer brings to the table, but as his elbow pain grows so does the comparison to Rich Harden. Great talent but can he stay healthy! The A’s need him out there. But you just have to wonder how many starts he’ll really be able to give them.

–Bye, bye Dave Roberts and thank you for stealing our money! Roberts was released by the Giants who will eat his $6.5 million contract. That free agent signing will not go down as one of Brian Sabean’s finest!

–Great story here about Carney Lansford the Giants hitting coach who had to watch his hitters take on his son who was pitching for  the A’s. Well, everyone else watched!

http://blogs.mercurynews.com/extrabaggs/2009/03/05/why-carney-lansford-went-awol-in-the-fifth-inning-thursday/

–I am out of here for a weekend in the wine country! I’ll be posting again on Monday! Be well!

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Sharks Vs Stars – Live Blog From The Tank

Posted by davefowkes on 03/03/2009

The Sharks return home from a 4 game road trip to play the Dallas Stars tonight. The Sharks went 2-2 on the road trip including a 1-0 win in Dallas to open the trip. The Sharks enter the night tied with Boston for the NHL lead in points and three points better than Detroit. But the Sharks have injury issue. Mike Grier (knee) and Jeremy Roenick (shoulder) are out indefinitely. Brian Boucher will make his third start in a row for Evgeni Nabokov who is out recovering from the flu (or so it is being reported). Claude Lemieux joins them on the bench as a healthy scratch.The last time the Sharks were home between those long road trips, they swept the three game homestand.

Dallas has really struggled. They are coming off a 1-5 homestand. It is the first time they have lost five straight home games since 1978. With 65 points the Stars are now in 11th place in the western conference but that is only 2 points less than 7th place. It is shapping up to be a wild stretch run for those final playoffs spots in the west.

As they experiments continue, I will be back in this blog space with constant updates through the game. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments if you are watching at home:

First Period:

14:40: Welcome back to the big leagues Brad Staubitz! An eventful start for the rookie just called up as an injury replacement. On his first shift with the 4th line, Staubitz drew a holding penalty. Sharks did a nice job killing the penalty giving up two shots. Stars had a couple of nice looks but could not find the net. After the penalty was over Staubitz came out and got in a fight with Krystofer Barch. We gave Staubitz the win but not by much.

13:25: Stars strike first. James Neal had an open net on a rebound from a shot from Brian Sutherby. Boucher did a great job trying to stop it but the defensive breakdown in front of him left too many Stars to cover it all. Stars are up 1-0. It is the 4th straight game the Sharks have allowed the first goal to their opponent.

10:53: That is the way you respond! The Stars take a penalty, the Sharks cash in! Just when we were complaining about how the Sharks would not take a shot, they put together a great play. A nice pass from Setoguchi to Ehrhoff on the side who took the shot that Thornton deflected right in front of the net. Tough to tell whether Ehrhoff was actually shooting or passing to Thornton. Very timely though. Stars game to play. They are out shooting the Sharks 8-3.

5:27: It is getting ugly for the Sharks now. They would really be a much better team if they did not take all these penalties. 4-minute penalties to each side and now Plihal goes to the box for holding. Another kill for the Sharks now.

8: WOW! The rivalry is heating up. Joe Pavelski has just been tossed with a 5-minute “attempt to injure” penalty and a game misconduct.  Daryl Sydor got a two minute penalty so in the second period the Stars will have a 3-minute power play. Pavelski has been in the midst of a few scrums and has really turned up the heat on this game.

End of 1st: The Stars are clearly the desperate team. The Sharks looked good in the first shift of the game. Since then it has been just about all Dallas except for the tying goal. The Stars have more jump and have been more aggressive causing the Sharks to skate on their heels and take penalties. It is clear the team that has lost 5 straight is playing for their playoff lives and the Sharks well, they already have their playoff reservations. The Stars are out shooting San Jose 13-5 and the last two shots for the Sharks came in the final couple of minutes. They’ll need better effort and a few more shots in the next two periods.

2nd Period:

We are still trying to figure out what Pavelski did to get tossed. It looked like the every day punching that always goes on. It should have been a 2-minute roughing or maybe a double minor on the roughing. The game misconduct is a bad call unless something happened that we did not see.

Sharks had a great opportunity when Marleau redirected a shot through is legs, but Turco made a diving stop!

17:33: From bad to worse. Already down a man for three minutes, Rob Blake takes a cross check. This is 5-3 for two full minutes. Huge time in this game!

13:55: Killing a 5-3 for a full two minutes is tough. It looked good for a bit and the crowd was into it, but that was a great pass from Ribeiro to Mike Modano who was dead on with the one-timer. All you can do is tip your cap to them on that play.  Still, only being down 2-1 at this point the Sharks should feel lucky. And just like that the Stars take a penalty. Hopefully the Sharks can get this one back. And maybe THEY CAN STAY OUT OF THE BOX!!!!

5:41: Sharks are still lucky to be down only one. They are taking stupid penalties and basically just not playing well. Give the Stars credit for not fighting back at some of the Sharks who are sniping at them. The referees though appear to be calling this pretty one sided against the Sharks. Some of these calls may be by the book, but calls that only get made once a month or so. The call on Shelly? Very questionable. That said, the last couple of minutes the Sharks have been throwing their bodies around legally! So maybe the wake up call has finally been heard?

End of two: Shots were 9-9 that period. A nice comeback in energy for the Sharks the final 7 minutes or so of that period. They are picking it up a bit. That said, the first half of the period was so lopsided, I am still saying San Jose is lucky to be down just one goal. Without Pavelski, Todd McLellan has Thornton center between Ryan Clowe and Milan Michalek and Marleau centering between Jonathan Cheechoo and Setoguchi. The Sharks are on the power play for the first 36 seconds of the 3rd period. A goal would of course be great, but just keeping up the effort and energy and staying out of the penalty box should be enough for them to climb back into this.

The Red Wings beat the Blues 5-0 cutting the Sharks lead in the Western Conference to just one point at the moment.

Third Period:

13:28: That should do it. Sharks looked good the first minute and a half of this period but then went flat. The game as a whole went a bit flat. But then Dallas turned up the heat in the offensive zone and used tremendous pressure to create a backhanded shot for Brian Sutherby for the 3-1 lead. Man things got quiet in here! Normally I would say the Sharks can score two goals in 13 minutes, but I have not seen anything tonight to make me think this is the game they can do it.

10:45: Sharks are unraveling? Setoguchi turns it over, nice pass from Modano, great shot by Neal! 4-1. Sharks go on the power play but this one definitely feels over to me!

END OF GAME: That was clearly not the Sharks best effort. Very disappointing to have them come back from the road trip and play like this. Give the Stars credit, they are a desperate team and they played like it. The Sharks will need that type of effort in the playoffs. We may see some more games like this in the next couple of weeks. The Sharks need to get back to shooting the puck more and staying out of the penalty box. The cheap penalties are just killing them and the momentum. 4-1 final. Worst home loss of the year. (not that there have been many)

At some point tonight I will post the audio from the locker room for anyone interested in raw audio.

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Sharks Stumble In Hockeytown

Posted by davefowkes on 02/25/2009

That was not quite how we drew it up on this road trip. Lose to Dallas or Ottawa maybe, but Sharks fans wanted that win in Detroit! It was not meant to be. The Sharks did not bring their A game and Detroit played very well across the board letting them defend their home ice with a 4-1 win over the Sharks. The home team in this series goes undefeated in four games this year!

The story for San Jose really were penalties. The Sharks excel when they play on the power play. But instead, they had 9 penalties and spent too much time in the box. Detroit had 8 penalties but for the Sharks they just could not get it going.

Tonight Detroit was just the better team across the board. Better on offense, defense and Conklin out played Nabokov tonight. The better team won the game! It started early when Clearly smashed Thornton into the glass. Thornton would spend a few shifts in the locker room before returning late in the first period. But that one hit, illegal as it was, set the tone for the Red Wings. The Sharks tried to play physical but in the end the Wings just forced them into taking penalties.

It is not to say the Sharks played badly, they did out shoot Detroit 35-33, but tonight Detroit was just the better team on the ice. No excuses, just reality.

The Wings cut the Sharks lead in the Western Conference to 3 points tonight. It seems clear to me that what is best for the NHL is a sharks/Wings rematch in the Conference Finals because I still believe these two teams that faced off tonight are the best in the NHL. It will be a great playoff series if it happens!

Until then, we shake our head in disappointment and move on to Ottawa tomorrow. It is just another regular season game as we set our sights toward the playoffs! Hopefully the Sharks recover with a win tomorrow. Given the home ice advantage in this series, the real fight down the stretch run will be to keep the number one seed! The loss tonight drops the Sharks to 4-26-1-2 all time in the regular season at Joe Louis Arena!

Home ice in the playoffs would seem to be important!

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Sharks Battle Thrashers (Live Blog From Shark Tank)

Posted by davefowkes on 02/21/2009

It feels pretty darn bizarre to be here in the midday. I apologize in advance for any reference I make to “tonight,” a hockey writer’s curse. Anyway, big game today. Sharks wrap up a three game homestand against Atlanta. The Sharks come into the game riding a pair of 4-2 wins. The Sharks still lead the Western Conference by one point over Detroit. They have a four game road trip coming up against Dallas, Detroit, Ottawa and Montreal. It will be a tough grind so getting a sweep on the homestand today would be huge.

It is a winnable game as Atlanta is wrapping up a road trip of their own. The team with the second fewest points in the NHL beat Anaheim, beat the Kings in a shootout, then lost to Phoenix on Thursday in a shootout. The Thrashers actually have a much better record on the road than at home: 12-15-4 vs 9-17-2.  Ilya Kovalchuk has been red hot with goals scored in 6 straight games (9 goals during that stretch)

The Sharks sent some of their youth back to Worcester today. LW Jamie McGinn, RW Brad Staubitz and RW Lukas Kaspar were where all sent to the minors today. That tells me we may see a return of some of the injured today. I do see Jeremy Roenick on the ice for the pregame skate.

Patrick Marleau has been hot for San Jose. He has a 4 game goal streak scoring 6 goals on that streak. Joe Pavelski has a 5 game point streak (4-1=5) and Joe Thornton has a 4 game point streak (1-8=9)

Bad visiting team, early start, I will be curious if we get close to a sellout. Personally I would start Brian Boucher today to get Nabby some rest going on the road, but it is going to be Nabby instead. Coach knows best I guess! That is it for now, more to come with faceoff!!! GO SHARKS!

Jeremy Roenick is in fact back in teh lineup, so are Tomas Plihal and Jody Shelley. Nice to see the Sharks get healthy in time to hit the road!!!

1st Period:

McLellan again has the line of Pavelski, Michalek and Clowe going against the opposition’s top line.

With the return of the injured, the top line is back together with Thornton, Marleau and Setoguchi. Tomas Plihal centers the third line between Cheechoo and Grier leaving a very physical 4th line of Roenick, Lemiuex and Shelly.  That should be fun to watch!!!

We in the press box are guessing that the 4th line might be the oldest front line in hockey. It certainly has to be one of the oldest. Shelly is the baby at 33 to go with Roenick at 39 and Lemiuex at 43. That is what you call experience! 🙂

Not much juice to this first period. Sharks got a delay of game penalty when Vlasic cleared the puck into the stands. They end the period on the penalty kill thanks to a Rob Blake penalty. The crowd is trying to pump the game up but just not much going on. I would say both teams are struggling to wake up with the early start but they both seem to have some jump. Just neither team is using the jump to do anything but skate up and down the ice. The Sharks have a couple of more scoring chances but really not much at this point either way. Even the shot totals are down with San Jose out shooting them 7-5. I’ll hope for a more entertaining 2nd period and hopefully some Shark goals!

2ND PERIOD:

Good way to start the period. Huge save from Nabby and the penalty kill comes to an end. Atlanta now 0-2 on the power play. Let’s see if San Jose can get momentum out of it.

The Sharks are now channeling last year’s club. First power play opportunity and they did not get a single shot on net. This game has gone from wildly unentertaining to flat out sloppy!

FINALLY! Okay, no goal but the Sharks have finally picked up the pace a bit. Over the course of the last five minutes they are outshooting Atlanta 5-0 and more importantly getting some quality shots. Unlike the first half of the game when every shot was at Lehtonen’s belly. The Sharks keep up this pressure they will get a goal this period. Of course the big question, can they keep it going?

Welcome back Jody! now the crowd is pumped. Shelly and Boris Valabik just dropped gloves. Shelley clearly got the win grabbing Valabik’s sweater and then just jabbing him in the face numerous times. The crowd enjoyed, both teams seem to have some fire now.

Well we go to to the third still tied at 0. Fun, fun, fun! Things were definitely more interesting that last 10 minutes but overall the Sharks can not be pleased with this game. Heading on a 4-game road trip, the Sharks just can’t lose on home ice to the second worse team in the NHL. The Sharks need to score early in the 3rd and try to put this one away. The later this 0-0 games the more it opens up for weirdness to happen. We’ll see.

3RD PERIOD:

Now we are talking. I was just telling my colleague the Sharks would score in the first 5 minutes of the period. How about 30 seconds!!! Ryan Clowe did a great job of crashing the net and backhanding in the rebound. Now the Sharks need to put this away so they don’t have something screwy happen in a close game. Here is an opportunity as the Thrashers go back to the box!

That should be the ball game there! nice to see Cheechoo get on the scoreboard again. Power play goal, his 9th of the season and Roenick gets the assist. Do the Sharks now have 3 lines for the power play? Just what the doctored ordered. A quick start to this period, get out of dodge with a win…we hope.  By the way, that assist was career #700 for JR.

Uh oh! This is huge. 1:17 of 5-3 for Atlanta! Thrashers take advantage with one goal. Bad play by Murray. He should have come down and played the puck on Kozlov. By staying out in front he hung Nabby and Boyle out to dry on the shot/pass option. At least the Sharks were able to kill the second penalty to keep the lead.

Okay, I would like to be able to call this game over this time! Very nice pressure by the Sharks on the power play. JT did a great job keeping the puck in the zone. After that it was just like they draw it up: Shot from the defender, dribbles through traffic to the side of the net, JT pokes it home! 3-1!

SUMMARY: Far from the prettiest game. Our expectations are high for the Sharks so 0-0 through 2 periods against the second worst team in the NHL was a bit scary. In the end, the Sharks sweep the three game homestand to right the ship, they get healthy, and now they hit the road for a very difficult road trip!

I am going to try and post Sharks sound at some point soon in case anyone cares about post game interviews.

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Sharks vs Oilers (Blog from the Tank)

Posted by davefowkes on 02/17/2009

The Sharks are back in action at the Shark Tank tonight. They return home after their monster 5-game 10-day road trip. They have been slumping of late. They went 1-1-3 on the road trip, but of bigger concerns to the first place club is just the effort that they have put forth. The penalty kill has struggled the last couple of games. The goals against are up, and so are the losses. On top of that the injuries are up as well. With Marcel Goc out, Coach Todd McLellan decided to mix up the lines. Lukas Kaspar is skating on the first line tonight while Patrick Marleau is playing center on the third line between Mike Grier and Jonathan Cheechoo. The Sharks have traditionally been slow their first home game back from an extended road trip. Should be interesting to see how they react tonight against Edmonton. The road team is undefeated in the two games these two teams have played this year.

PREGAME:

There is some debate among my colleagues and I about whether a few members of the crowd actually booed Nabby. I did not think so but my two neighbors say there was a smattering of boos. Interesting the fans would turn on him after just a few bad games. But in goal it is what have you done for me lately. And when the backup has a 1.79 GAA and 93 percent save percentage, the natives get restless quickly I guess.

1ST PERIOD:

Well that was interesting. The Sharks looked good early. They were forcing the play. Had a couple of nice scoring chances that they could not convert. Then they scored first on a nice shot from Joe Pavelski. First time the Sharks have scored first in 6 games. Unfortunately that is when Edmonton decided to play. The Oilers scored just 2:10 later. But the real back breaker was with just under two minutes to go. On the power play, Sheldon Souray sent the puck in on the boards and as Nabby went behind the net to play the puck, it took a hideous bounce off the boards right out in front of the net for an easy empty net goal for Erik Cole. Terrible play. The Sharks opened good but again they are showing problems trying to keep up their intensity. And unlike in the beginning of the year, when they make mistakes Nabby has not been bailing them out. Now Cheechoo is off in the penalty box putting the Sharks behind the 8-ball again when the second period opens. Apparently the Sharks have not fixed their problems from the road trip!

2ND PERIOD:

That is what I call a wildly entertaining period. Goals, power plays, fights and 56 minutes worth of combined penalty minutes. I am not sure what the original catalyst was but these teams clearly hate each other right now. Just about every dead puck someone would be getting in an extra punch or two to cause a ruckus of one sort or another. Huge props to the Sharks in that period for finally waking up. And you can thank captain Marleau for that. The Sharks looked a bit listless to open the period, but Cheechoo made a pass to Marleau who tipped the puck behind the defender and skated in with a nice shot top shelf to get the crowd roaring. Later in the period after killing off a 5-3 penalty Marleau’s shorthanded goal really erupted things here.

Meanwhile, both benches keep getting thined as the fighters keep rotating through the penalty box. We have not had a great head to head matchup but we certainly have an abundance of scrums. It has been fun to watch. The Sharks used the energy of the goals and the fights to build this 4-2 lead outshooting the Oilers 17-7 in the period. This is the Sharks we have come to know and love earlier in the season! Let’s see if they can keep it going for one more period.

A couple of notes: Marleau’s first goal was his 600th career point. He has 5 goals in his last 3 games.

3rd Period:

After that 2nd period that was a pretty safe and sane 3rd. Not much action. I think both teams were a bit tired after the 2nd period. I expected the Oilers to have more pop since they were down. The Sharks played it just as they needed. Safe. Some nice shots, Nabby made some nice saves. They did what they needed to do.The most excitement came at the end as the Sharks needed to kill off a 6-4 thanks to a delay of game penalty.

All in all a good win for the Sharks. Just what they needed in their home coming!

A few of the game notes for you:

Ø Patrick Marleau recorded his 600th NHL career point as he scored his 31st goal of the season. He finished with two goals on the evening for a career total of 601 points.

Ø Patrick Marleau scored his fourth short-handed goal of the season, tying him for second among all NHL skaters in short-handed goals.

Ø San Jose tallied a single-game season-high of 40 penalty minutes. The previous high for the season was 34 minutes at Nashville on Nov. 17.

Ø The Sharks set a new 2008-09 season high for most penalties in a game with 13. The previous high was 11 penalties, also at Nashville on Nov. 17.

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Time For Sharks to Come Home

Posted by davefowkes on 02/16/2009

Ah, how we have been spoiled by the San Jose Sharks this season! Their regular season has been so spectacular that when they finally hit a little wall, we start to get a little nervous. The fact is, the regular season is VERY long and every team will have a few ups and downs along the way. For the Sharks, it is now about staying healthy, trying to keep playoff seeding, and get ready for the playoffs.

The Sharks are emerging from their long 5 game road trip with a 1-1-3 record. Granted they lost those three games in OT or shootouts, but the way to look at it is they got points in four out of five games on the road trip. Each year San Jose sets sail in February will the Tank plays host to the SAP tennis tournament. Each year it is a long and grueling trip. This year it was only 5 games in 10 days but all on the east coast, against better than average teams with weather delays for their travels, and a team flu being shared.

Lesser Shark teams would have fallen apart. This Shark team is struggling through and at least gaining some points along the way. The injury bug is also riding the train as Marcel Goc went down on the trip. Lukas Kaspar was called up from the minors to help add depth and he went out in the first period of his first game yesterday.

As for yesterday’s wild loss to New Jersey, that looked like a team that was finishing up a very long road trip. Nabokov was clearly not on his game. The rest of the skaters had their moments but I think it is safe to say only Rob Blake looked good to me start to finish. Even the speedy Patrick marleau got beat by speed once for a goal because he had nothing in the tank.

Bottom line, the Sharks are on their way home. It is time to get healthy and happy.  And it is time to start aiming to March as that month that they get hot again. It is a long season, February is always a tough month for those that are playoff bound. Let’s hope some home cooked meals in San Jose will reinvigorate the club and carry them forward. Tough road trip, but I still have faith in this team! There is a long way to go!

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