Saturday, April 28, 2007

Game 2

Tough game, tough loss. One good thing, I don't think the Sharks took the early lead for granted this time, they way they did in game 1. They produced quality scoring chances throughout the game, and the Thornton line in particular was very troublesome for the Wings D.

But they didn't score, and that reduced the margin for error to a razor's edge. Which went the other way in the 3rd on a couple of bad giveaways.

Random thoughts:

  • Get Bell out of there. I know he's supposed to be a physical presence and all that, but he was pretty much invisible. I'd rather have Pavelski's skill then Bell's (occasional) physical play. Clowe can take care of the rough stuff, and he's got decent hands. Bell's puckhandling is painful to watch.
  • The officiating seemed really bad. There were some non-calls on both sides that didn't make sense. Especially when the McLaren and Bertuzzi calls seemed ticky-tack. Didn't decide the game, but it still sucked.
Apropos to nothing- what's up with all the people that stand up in the crowd when the puck gets near? They turn around, on their cell phones, and wave. If you're playing a truckload of cash for a playoff seat and the jagoff in front of you stands up to wave for his mom, doesn't that deserve a beating?

I'm disappointed, Wings fans, not chastened. I picked the series to go 7. Which isn't to say I wouldn't be thrilled to see the Sharks go back to Detroit up 3-1 like the Nashville series.

The one that got away.....

Will the come from behind victory by the Red Wings haunt the Sharks for the remainder of Round Two?

Will this game go down as "the one that got away" by Sharks fans across the Bay Area?

My answer is, simply, no.

Relax Sharks faithful. Remember, we lost Game Two to Nashville in more embarrassing fashion than this afternoon's loss. I thought the Sharks did some things well today. We dictated play for the first period and the score could have been easily 4-0 if not for Hasek's friend "the post". Even after the Sharks lost the lead, I thought they had control of the third period. A blunder by Nabby on an attempted clear proved to be the decider. I agree with Mike - Mark Bell needs to sit and Pavelski should return. Other than that one change (which I don't think Ron Wilson will make) there is no need to panic. Both teams played good, solid hockey and this day happened to belong to the Wings.

We got what we wanted - one in Motown. The Tank will be jumping and Shaved Ice will be there. I don't think there's any tickets Puckheads, not like a Red Wings game where you can walk up and buy a $90 nosebleed.

I'm not worried. I'm not even sweating. This game will not be remembered. There is something magic in the Bay Area water right now. The Warriors have the Dallas Mavericks on the ropes. The Giants had an eight game win streak. Even the 49ers had a good draft today.

"The one that got away" will be a minor speedbump on our road to the Cup.

P.S. If we put video of that fat man waving an octupus over his head in a time capsule, people in 400 years will think the Puckheads of Detroit were the cast of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Wait - there's going to be no Detroit in 400 years. Global Warming. Al Gore told me so.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Game 1

Random thoughts on the game:

  • Bertuzzi has really lost something. He was a one-man wrecking crew when he had the breakout season in Vancouver, then whole Steve Moore thing and a panoply of injuries. It's strange to see Jiri Hudler being more physical in the Sharks zone than Bertuzzi. Maybe he really is rattled about the Moore incident, and can't conduct his game with the same nasty edge as before.
  • Big Joe looked nervous at first- man, he sure had a bunch of give aways right at the beginning, didn't he? But settled down quite a bit in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Would have been nice to see him rush through the neutral zone a bit more.
  • Vlasic- does anything bother this kid?
Funny, even though the score was 2-0, the big problem for the Sharks was offense. They seemed to retreat a bit into their shell after the 1st, and not pursue dump ins as aggressively, if at all. There were few attempts to carry the puck into the zone, something Michalek and Marleau are fairly adept at. This will increase the number of our power play chances, because Detroit is disciplined, and will not take penalties in the offensive zone.

The defense had a similar strategy against Nashville. Detroit is an even better possession team than Nashville, and the D's job was to keep them on the boards, block shots, and not let any passes through the middle. I give an A+ in this regard. There were a couple of fat rebounds, but the coverage was stellar, not allowing clear shots. The redirect that Lidstrom missed was really the only uncontested open chance I remember. Every other scoring opportunity Nabby was nice and square. It was so good I'm not sure how much of an impact Holmstrom would have had. On several occasions Cleary or Bertuzzi were camped out, but no pucks got through.

No doubt game 2 will be a lot different. If the over-under is 5.5, I'll take the over.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Do we have your attention Motown?

Now, now. I know hockey is new to us ignorant Cali-forn-i-a folk. We don't know anything about hockey. We just like to wear buttless chaps, make sourdough bread bowls and watch our beloved Sharks while sipping fine Napa Valley merlot. Let's get it straight Motown. I'm certainly smart enough to realize this series has only just begun but......ah, hell.....I can't resist.


I'm not going to gloat or boast or dress up in my teal thong and ride down the Castro into a rainbow of hockey happiness. That would be dumb because we still have to whip your ass three more times. It is going to happen. Just like we said. The Sharks are bigger and stronger. The Sharks defense is better. And the Sharks had one power play and, guess what Puckheads, they scored. Just like Mike and I said they would.

I could continue to berate you Puckheads, but I'm showing uncharacteristic restraint. Maybe it's the Girl Scout in me? Maybe it's the case of Jack Daniels I just drank? Maybe it's because I have to get up early to help Dominick Hasek close his five hole....

I just wanted to make sure we have your full attention Motown.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Does the Draper match the Cleary?

Our friend in Motown has spoken again and made some valid points. He calls our beloved Sharks "The Team We Don't Speak Of". A clear sign of fear, admiration and, dare I say, jealousy. Let's break down this series, shall we?

Detroit fans can recite this mantra until they are blue....I mean red....I mean blue in the face. "We have Cup experience. We have players who know how to win. We have delicious hot spiced apple cider." These may all be true, but the Sharks have been a team on the rise for three straight years now. They have won four playoff series from 2003-2007 with this core group of players in comparision to the Wings who have won two playoff series. "BUT WE WON THE CUP" you Puckheads will say. Yes, yes you did. But those players aren't there anymore. Hull and Luc are drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon on a moose farm with Paul Coffey. The old farts you still have are a shell of their former selves. Hasek is one split away from another groin tear....more on this painful sack strain later.

The Sharks have better defensive defensemen. This is a fact. Hannan is a shutdown blueliner who will get most of the time against the Wings top line. McLaren, Rivet and wonder-kid Vlasic are beyond steady. The Wings have the two best offensive defensemen in the league. I admire them, I really do. Chelios is still functioning, god knows how. After that, I am not afraid. "BUT YOU CLEARLY HAVEN'T WATCHED THE WINGS PLAY. THEY ARE GOOD. THEY ARE GOOD" you Puckheads will say. Um...I have. I wasn't impressed with how Calgary played offensively. They made the Wings look good with the fact that they are completely "Corky" on the road. Playfair should be fired, by the way. I think I saw Sutter vomit in his mouth.

The Wings will be unable to stop Thunder Joe. They will be unable to deal with the size of the 220 pound ++ Sharks forwards. Joe will dominate but the difference in this series will be the line of Bernier/Clowe/Goc. Remember those names, Puckheads. They are going to make your life miserable the next two weeks. I don't need to fill you in on who these babies will know them soon enough.

Now for my three predictions.

1) Hasek will injure himself sometime in the first three games and not return for the rest of the series. He will later be arrested for betting on the World Championships with Rick Tocchet.

2) The Sharks power play (#2 in the NHL) will find its groove again versus the Wings. The Sharks struggled against the Preds (the #3 PK team), but it just didn't matter...did it? We whipped their ass anyways, power play be damned. There's no way the leagues second best PP can be on ice forever.

3) The Sharks will win in six. Sharks/Ducks live out the movie California Dreamin: Ron Wilson's Revenge. All you Puckheads will be crying in your Eastern time zone beers, talking about the glory days and how San Jose hasn't won any Cups. The end.

Excuse me....I have a girl scout meeting. Anyone want to buy some cookies?

2nd round picks

I hate to divert from our spirited debate with Abel to Yzerman, but I have to get my 2nd round picks in. Short and sweet.

Wings vs Sharks. Sharks- too big. Wings- too old. Sharks in 7.

Anaheim vs Vancouver. Not scoring against Dallas- we can still win. Not scoring against Anaheim- smell ya later. Ducks in 6.

Sabres vs. Rangers. Rangers beat up an overrated team, but have good goaltending. Sabres will turn it on after wandering a bit versus the Isles. Sabres in 5.

Devils vs. Senators. Normally I'd pick the Devils, my second favorite team for reasons that make little sense. But their injuries are too numerous to ignore against a streaking Senators team. Sens in 6.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ode to a Lonely Wings fan

John Bucigross: Sharks in seven.

Congratulations to Abel to Yzerman for finding our little blog out here in beautiful California. We welcome you with open arms but a word of caution: this eleven year old girl has Barbies with playoff beards, nasty hip checks and a few comments of her own.

Scott Burnside: Sharks in seven.

As you know, California is the land of fun and sun, and although we don’t have as much of a storied hockey history as your legendary Red Wings, Sharks fans do have the foresight to recognize that our time is now and the Red Wings are only treading water in our tank.

Linda Cohn: Sharks in six.

Like Mama Cass, the Red Wings love a good choke job. They’ve been here before. Here is how I would break down a typical Red Wing hockey season formula. Number one seed + Home Ice = Early Exit. Let’s face it, the boys will be doing Chris Chelios a favor. The prescription for his osteoporosis meds runs out in early May.

E.J. Hradek: Sharks in six

This is not a good match up for Detroit. Your so called “deepest D in the league” has looked really sharp this year against San Jose, allowing eighteen goals to them this season. Just in case you forgot, and I doubt you have, here were the scores.

Thursday, October 19th Sharks 5 Red Wings 1
Wednesday, October 25th Sharks 1 Red Wings 2
Saturday, December 2nd Sharks 3 Red Wings 2
Thursday, January 4th Sharks 9 Red Wings 4

Barry Melrose: Sharks in six

Sorry. I did watch the Red Wings/Flames series. I had some extra time because, you see, my team won their playoff series in five games.

David Amber: Sharks in seven

The Sharks are deep, deeper than Scottie Bowman’s bowl at all you can eat pasta bar. Bertuzzi is already making plans for Gretzkyland next season. Hasek has booked his ticket for the next flight back to Retireslovakia. The Sharks are your biggest nightmare and in two weeks, you and your readers will hang up your octopi and ponder one of life’s great questions: Will the Lions win four games this year?


Not Bad

So I was 7-1 picking the 1st round series- my only mistake was picking Calgary to win against Detroit. Calgary's complete inability to win on the road spelled doom for them. Note to NHL teams: if you are to win without any wins on the road, you have to have home ice advantage. Calgary didn't, and they didn't. I picked two 'upsets' correctly- the Sharks and Rangers. I didn't think Atlanta was so bad they'd get swept, but I did pick the winner and number of games correctly in the New Jersey and Anaheim series.

I think the next round will be easier to pick winners, but I'm still going to hold off on that post until later today or tomorrow, so I can study the matchups more. I hope to be better with picking the number of games as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Why we want to play Detroit....

The Sharks need to play Detroit next. The Red Wings have been beaten down, bruised and frustrated by a physical Calgary team. They are poised for their annual postseason collapse, which would have happened in Round One if Calgary could have mounted any sort of offensive attack. We need the Wings now because tackling the Ducks in Round Two will be too emotional. If...wait, I mean when we beat the Ducks, and we will beat the Ducks, it will be a huge accomplishment. I fear our guard could be down and a hungry Dallas/Detroit winner will take advantage.

The Ducks have to be the final step before we play for Lord Stanley. It is hockey destiny. GO CANUCKS!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward

So I have to say I'm surprised that the Sharks won in five games. As you remember, I picked the Sharks to win in 7, and I wasn't exactly confident in my pick. A few reasons why I think the Sharks won in such a convincing fashion:

  • Good timing. They scored goals at crucial times, Patrick Marleau's goal in game 5 being the most obvious.
  • Frustrating defense. The Preds did get the cycle going, as I said before, but the D did not allow passes to go through the middle, or allow guys in the slot an unimpeded whack at the puck.
  • Great goaltending. Nabby came up huge a number of different times, times where the momentum could have really shifted. Instead the Sharks could attack and counter-attack knowing they have a Smythe-quality goalie backing them up.
So now we look ahead to the conference semis. I have to assume if the Sharks keep winning, they will have to play Anaheim sooner or later, so do we want sooner or later? Here's the pros and cons of playing them now:
  • The Sharks have only played 5 games, are relatively injury free (Cheech is still not himself) and will be rested for round 2. Playing Dallas or Detroit could be a long series, leaving them tired and battered for the conference finals.
  • Nabby is on his game, and could easily steal one or more games.
  • Most of the lines are clicking right now, and we'll need balanced scoring to win against the Ducks.
  • They're the Ducks, and we're only 3-5 against them this season.
  • They are also rested and healthy. The longer they play, the better the chance that one of their grey-beards (Selanne, Pronger, Niedermayer) will get hurt.
  • Our power play is sucking ass, and Anaheim takes a lot of penalties. We'll need to make the most of the PP.
Given all this, I'd have to say I think I'd rather play the Ducks next, assuming we will have to play them. In the most likely scenario, they could roll over Vancouver in 4 or 5 games, and the Detroit series could be long. The last thing we want is to limp into a series against a rested, ready Duck team. Our best chance to beat them is right now.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on Games 3 and 4

I know this is a really original thought, but man, there's nothing like playoff hockey. The play is quicker, harder, and much more intense. The mood of the crowd is nervous- eager to cheer at the slightest good fortune or play. And on the flip side, the Sharks crowd gets pretty quiet when Nashville is running their power cycle in our zone.

Which happened pretty often.

Last night especially, the Preds could cycle deep in our zone almost at will in the first and second periods. Kariya would have it at the half-boards. Dump it low. Forsberg would be there, maybe go behind the net and kick it out to the point, which would shoot or go around back to Kariya. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. To the Sharks' credit, they had strong coverage in the middle, and didn't let a forward have a good swipe at an open puck (there weren't many, thanks to Nabby) or slip out to the weak side and look for a pass.

At least in game 4, I think it just came down to better goaltending, and more clutch performances. If you looked at every possession that didn't result in a goal and had to predict the score, you'd probably predict Nashville 4-1 or maybe worse. But Nabby came up huge, and the Sharks had good bounces and plays. Especially Pavelski's goal. He really created something out of nothing there.

So the question is- is it really the Sharks' size, as Rusonowsky and Baker are saying on the radio? Or is it Nashville's horrible road playoff record (0-7)? Since the Sharks did take one in Tennessee, I have to think it's a bit of both. I'm making a bold prediction here, but I think game 5 could be a decisive Sharks victory, not a nail-biter like the last two. Nashville will come out in full-court press mode, and will try to cycle and push. If the Sharks stay disciplined and counter-attack, they could put up goals quickly. And I think Nashville, after their all-or-nothing trades this year, could get desperate and take penalties. The San Jose PP has to start scoring soon, you don't want to wake the sleeping giant. It might just wake up on Friday.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cheech, and dirty hits

So I make it a point to read the Mercury News coverage of Sharks hockey, since it is the hometown paper here on the Sharks, and I have to agree with Mark Purdy. Mark, please do me a favor- STOP REFERRING TO THE SHARKS AS "LOS TIBURONES". It was old about a decade ago, and it hasn't exactly taken the country by storm. Anyway, Purdy's column talks about how Barry Trotz said hit shouldn't have even been a penalty, and opines that Hartnell should have been suspended.

First things first. Trotz, while not having a neck, is sticking up for his guy, and is completely ridiculously wrong. It's a dirty hit. It came late, and was a bush-league effort. It was not designed to put body on body- it was intended to block Cheech by taking his feet out. As Purdy said, Trotz would be outraged if Forsberg or Kariya was on the receiving end of such a hit. So outraged he might actually grow himself a neck. Sorry, but that joke is just too damn easy.

Check out this post. It has stills from the video. Clearly Hartnell has his right knee forward, and from the video, we know he is gliding. That means he's trying to hit Cheech with his knee. We also see his elbow contacting Cheechoo's head. I believe Hartnell when he said that he didn't try to take Cheech's knee out, but it's hard to argue that he wasn't trying to take him out in a extraordinarily reckless way. He got 'unlucky' and took Cheech's knee out, but did successfully elbow him in the head, knocking out a tooth.

I'm not getting my righteous indignation on here, because this kind of thing can and does happen to a lot of players. Hartnell is a tough, gritty player that made a shitty play. He deserves a suspension, and more than one game. He wasn't calculating the attack angle on Cheech's knee to determine maximum ACL damage, but it was a dirty hit that could have had career-ending consequences. Ask Cam Neely about how easy that happens.

Monday, April 09, 2007

First Round Predictions

The East

  • Buffalo(1) vs. Islanders(8). Buffalo clearly overmatches Islanders in every category except possibly goaltending, but that's only when DiPietro is healthy and he's not. Polish up them 9-irons, you'll be using them soon. Sabres in 4.
  • New Jersey(2) vs. Tampa Bay(7). Can the creative and explosive Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards overcome a Devils defense that is designed to turn creativity and explosiveness into a yawning, 100-neutral-zone-turnovers-per-game snoozefest? Probably not, but New Jersey might have trouble scoring, now that half their team are nursing injuries. Plus the Lightning goaltending sucks. Devils in 6.
  • Atlanta(3) vs. Rangers(6). Atlanta made deadline moves for Tkachuk, Zhitnik, Dupuis, and Belanger, and won the season series 3-1, but I think Lundquist being hot, and unmistakable scoring power in Jagr and Shanahan will be enough to stumble the playoff first-timers. Rangers in 6.
  • Ottawa(4) vs. Pittsburg(5). Probably the most exciting series of the first round. You need a full hand to count the superstar scorers involved- Crosby, Malkin, Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson. Ottawa are 'chokers' in the first round, but Pittsburg's lack of defense will be their undoing. Crosby doesn't give up, but he'll have more trouble with Phillips, Redden, and Mezsaros than Heatley will have with Gonchar(who doesn't play defense) and Orpik (who?). Ottawa in 6.

The West
  • Detroit(1) vs. Calgary(8). Detroit's gaudy record is fluffed by playing 24 games against the dregs of the west, St. Louis, Columbus, and Chicago. Zetterberg and Kronwall are out, and the Wings will hurt for scoring with only Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and the inevitable Nik Lidstrom with over 60 points. Calgary can finally score, but their D is weaker than years past. Yet they have perennial Vezina candidate Kipper to back them up, while the Dominator could go down at any time, he's 42. And yes, I'm still bitter about the Kiprusoff trade, even though we drafted Vlasic with the pick we got. Calgary in 6.
  • Anaheim(2) vs. Minnesota(7). Some people have picked Minnesota in an upset, and while I hate the Ducks as much as any Sharks fan, those people are on friggin' crack. The Ducks, while not playing in a Jacque Lemaire-inspired robotic trance, are better at every phase except maybe PK. Every time Gaborik and Demitra are on the ice, they'll be staring down the barrel of two Norris winners. Have fun with that. Ducks in 5.
  • Vancouver(3) vs. Dallas(6). Vancouver was the matchup I didn't want, and I'll happily watch Dallas go down like a sack of dirt. They might be able to stop the Sedins for a while, sooner or later they will score, while Dave Tippett will be cursing management for saddling him with Ladislav Nagy. Turco would have to stand on his head, something he's never done in the playoffs, but oh yeah, he's against the Vezina favorite, Roberto Luongo. Later Stars. Vancouver in 5.
  • Nashville(4) vs. Sharks(5). While the Vancouver matchup would be worse, this one is plenty bad. As Sharks fans all know, San Jose has a dismal record against all the other playoff teams, 1-3 against Nashville. This year we get the pleasure of facing Vokoun instead of Mason, and Forsberg added to their already-powerful lineup. If Cheech and Nabby can stay hot, we can win the series. But I'm so far away from objective it isn't even funny. Sharks in 7.

Coming Soon

Before Wednesday- full prediction of the first-round matchups.