New York Rangers eliminated, Calgary takes 3-2 series lead over Anaheim

Jaromir Jagr left 53 seconds into the game after re-injuring his dislocated shoulder, and the New York Rangers could not recover Saturday night. New York lost the game 4-2 to the New Jersey Devils, and was eliminated from the series 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Patrick Elias scored 2 goals and an assist and piled up 6 hits for New Jersey. Goaltender Martin Brodeur made 31 saves on 32 shots for the win.

The Rangers were surprised by the post-game reaction from the usually partisan crowd at Madison Square Garden: Early Exit for Jagr, and an Embarrassing One for the Rangers - NY Times.

For the Rangers, the most enjoyable part of the postseason came after it was over. A fan base famous for its taunts and jeers applauded the Rangers in the final seconds, not to mock them for their meager playoff beards, but to honor them for an inspired regular season. Several players said they were as surprised by the gesture as they were moved.

"Cheering for us even though we lost the game — that means a lot," defenseman Darius Kasparaitis said. "Usually they boo us."

This was the rare occasion that a New York crowd took the long view. Rangers Coach Tom Renney chose not to analyze every misstep, but to focus on the greater significance of the season. Picked to finish last in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers scored 100 points and completely made over their public image.

Hockeybird posts a final salute from NY, the hockey blogosphere's elder statesman Rangerpundit was one of a number of Ranger fans calling for Sandis Ozolinsh to be benched, the NY Post's Larry Brooks notes that Henrik Lundqvist hid a hip injury which may have hurt his team and that Rangers went 8-4-3 their 15 games with Ozolinsh in the lineup, RangerfanCentral covered the media reaction throughout the 4-0 sweep, Hockey Rodent writes that the Clutch and Grab is here to stay. The Rangers took 6 penalties to the Devils 7 in game 4, and the Devils scored the first three goals on special teams [Scott Gomez-PP, Patrik Elias-PP, Brian Gionta-SH].

Broken Mirror, Broken Record - Blue Shirt Bulletin.

The Presidents Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings find themselves down 3-2 in a tight first round playoff series with the Edmonton Oilers. Defenseman Chris Pronger tallied 3 assists and nearly 30 minutes of ice time [27:29], as the Oilers edged past Detroit 3-2. Lost in much of the playoff euphoria is just how successful Chris Pronger's return from a gruesome wrist injury was this season. Pronger's 56 point regular season [12G, 44A] was his best since 1999-2000, and his 7 points in 5 playoff games tie him for 9th this postseason. Exclusive Sharkspage Pronger photos here and here.

Colby Cosh notes that Pronger should be considered for a Hart Trophy, not the Norris Trophy.

In the first of the five games that the Oilers and Red Wings have played so far, Chris Pronger played 38½ minutes and scored a go-ahead goal. It's the only time in the series he hasn't been named one of the three stars of the game: he was the first star Sunday and Tuesday, second star in the Oilers loss Thursday, and first star today. In the five games he has 7 points (2g, 5a), has averaged 36 minutes of ice time a night, has blocked 16 shots, and has served zero penalty minutes.

Zero penalty minutes, Oilers will advance. A repeat of 2004 is unlikely. Edmonton Police Service, a goaltender in 30 minutes or your money back. From the Michigan Live Snapshots blog, The American and Canadian press is salivating over the Wings' so-called imminent demise. Video of Chris Pronger flattening Detroit's Daniel Cleary, thanks to Offwing for the link.

Red Wings Bulletin declares that the onus is on Detroit head coach Mike Babcock, and notes that Edmonton's Craig MacTavish is making needed adjustments.

MacTavish wasn't afraid to declare, somewhat cryptically, before the series that the Oilers would be better off playing the Red Wings than Dallas, which has beaten them like a drum it seems like forever. From Game 1, he instilled confidence in his players that they can beat the heavily favored Wings.

He took a major gamble by deploying the neutral-zone trap. He knew that wouldn't go over well in Edmonton, which practically invented high-tempo, exciting hockey. And he knew he'd be second-guessed to no end if it backfired.

But, so far, it has worked brilliantly. Forget about the misleading shot totals, the Oilers have done a terrific job of keeping the Wings on the perimeter, forcing them to take low-percentage shots from the outside.

Oilers 3-2 in Game and Series, Oilers score three in second period for win - EdmontonOilers.com.

J.S. Giguere

Ducks nearly done after loss - Orange County Register.

The Calgary Flames wrested control of the clubs' opening-round Stanley Cup playoff matchup by scoring three times in just more than 21 minutes and hanging on for a 3-2 victory at the Pengrowth Saddledome.

The Flames, who seized a 3-2 series lead, will go for the clincher at 8 p.m. Monday at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. A Ducks victory would return the series to Calgary for a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

The Mighty Ducks outshot the Flames 28-27, but Anaheim had trouble generating quality scoring chances after Calgary built up a three goal lead in the first two periods. Calgary earned a 3-1 win in front of a sea of red fans, and leads the Ducks 3-2 in the opening playoff series.

The Flames were able to wear down Anaheim and smother a quicker team with stifling defense and Miikka Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff made 26 saves on 28 shots for his third win of the series. Anaheim goaltender J.S. Giguere was replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov, who stopped all 19 shots he faced after coming into the game in the second period.

More from the Battle of Alberta. Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times reports that the focus is now squarely on J.S. Giguere after an uninspiring peformance in Game 5. Calgary defenseman Robyn Regehr took a foolish penalty in the third period. At the tail end of a hit, Regehr drove Teemu Selanne's head into the boards with his elbow. John Buccigross described it as a "people's elbow" on SportsCenter. Rob Niedermayer converts on the power play to make it 3-2, and the Flames make the finish a lot closer than it needed to be at the end of the game.

The Ottawa Senators earned a 3-2 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, and eliminated them from the playoffs in 5 games. Martin Havlat scored a power play goal and an assist, and Ray Emery made 26 saves on 28 shots for the win.

Tampa Bay head coach John Tortorella was quoted by TSN saying that changes need to be made. He took the very uncommon step of calling out his starting goaltender John Grahame.

It was that kind of year for Grahame, an unrestricted free agent July 1 who probably won't be back with Tampa.

"I thought Johnny Grahame would be able to do the job," said Tortorella. "I think honestly at times he did, and other times he didn't. And that's not good enough in the National Hockey League right now.

"That's just an honest assessment and I think a very fair assessment. So that's something we have to talk about as an organization. That's a very important position and we'll have to see how that goes."

Coaching Exits - Damien Cox.

Tampa Bay Lightning's Todd Wright blogs about the 2006 playoff atmosphere compared to that of 2004. John Fontanta of Boltsmag noted Thus endeth the reign. New goaltender, same result.

Chris McMurtry of Hockey Country notes the good and bad from the Ottawa Senators in Game 5.

THE GOOD: Martin Havlat. Without question the best Sen all series, he was explosive every time he touched the puck. Led all Sens in shots on goal and made every one of them count.

THE BAD: Anton Volchenkov. The A-Train continues to disappoint. Very discouraging play.

[Update] On NBC today: Philadelphia at Buffalo [11AM], Colorado at Dallas [11AM]. On OLN tonight: Sharks at Predators [5:30PM]. On Comcast online streaming tonight: Montreal at Carolina [4:30PM].

Image of the Day, Home Sellout Photo

San Jose Sharks fans home sellout flickr Karl Qi

Photo of fans filtering through the front doors of HP Pavilion for a playoff game in San Jose. Originally uploaded on Flickr by Karl Qi. Photo used with permission.


Feel the Playoff Buzz

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with members of the local media prior to Thursday night's 5-4 San Jose win over the Nashville Predators in Game 4. John Ryan (aka Morning Buzz) of the Mercury News recaps Bettman's interview.

[Q] When you talk about growing markets, growing the game, what if you do everything you can and then you find out this is what we are -- 15,000 to 20,000 people in every market who care rabidly but we can't go beyond that? (Buzz note: Our question again. He didn't offer us a job.)

[A] Twenty million people went to our games, setting an all-time attendance record. We're a business that grosses over $2 billion a year. I think people tend to lose sight of exactly how strong this league is dating back to 1917. I think people tend to take for granted, as the prognosticators did a year ago, saying we were out of business and we couldn't come back, how truly strong and vibrant this game is and how great our fans are. This is a terrific game, and now with the right model and partnership with our players, it's a strong business model. And we can grow from this. But it's still pretty good stuff.

A lowball estimate of 15,000 fans in each market is lower than the capacity of all 30 NHL arenas, assumes zero radio and television penetration, and assumes zero youth/college/recreational participation.

San Jose boosted attendance at home this year by almost 1,000 fans over the 2003-04 mark. Regular season television ratings for FSNBA were up 175% in December according to the Toronto Star, and local playoff television ratings look forward to an expected three to sevenfold boost according to the Contra Costa Times. Minor league teams in California also set ECHL regular season and playoff attendance records this year.

"Rabid" hockey fans in San Jose have neither thrown a syringe at a player, thrown batteries on the ice, or taunted an opposing player to the point that he threw a chair into the stands. Full disclosure, Nashville fans did launch at least one catfish.

Reporters also asked Gary Bettman about the new NBC/OLN television contract, how the NHL plans to grow the fan base, the financial outlook, if they officiate the game differently with him in the building, the rash of recent questionable penalties, and if a playoff shootout could be possible.

Ryan prefaced the Bettman Q&A with "To hear him now, The Man Who Killed The NHL needed only one night to see that he had saved it". It takes two people to kill a national sports league, former NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow prefaced the NHL lockout with "There will be no salary cap".

[Update] Back-to-back games on NBC this weekend, the West Coast should get Edmonton vs Detroit Saturday April 29th [12PM], and Colorado vs Dallas Sunday April 30th [11AM]. On OLN tonight, Tampa Bay at Ottawa [4PM] and bonus coverage of Anaheim at Calgary [7PM]. Streamed online via Comcast tommorow, Montreal at Carolina [4:30PM].


Marleau scores hat trick, Sharks edge Predators 5-4 in a dogfight

Nashville Predators goaltender Chris Mason

Patrick Marleau scored a playoff hat trick as the San Jose Sharks edged past the Nashville Predators 5-4 in a dogfight on Thursday.

San Jose rookie Patrick Rissmiller scored his first NHL playoff goal with a nifty behind the body deflection 7 minutes into the first period. Paul Kariya answered with his first goal of the postseason on the PP to even the score at 1-1. Patrick Marleau and Mark Smith combined for 4 unanswered Sharks goals in the second and third as San Jose successfully pierced a tight Predators forecheck.

Nashville fought back in the third period, outshooting the Sharks 14-3. Mike Sillinger and Scott Hartnell put pucks by Vesa Toskala to make it 5-4. The Sharks had to withstand a relentless barrage at the end of the game. In a span of 25 seconds, Kimo Timonen and Marek Zidlicky unleashed 3 point shots that resulted in pileups in front of the crease.

With the Sharks up 3-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series, both teams head back to Nashville for game 5 on Sunday. Vesa Toskala made 26 saves on 30 shots for his third win in the playoffs. Patrick Marleau's third career hat trick gives him a league-leading 6 postseason goals. Marleau scored two hat tricks in a first round playoff series against St Louis in 2004.

Sharks in Charge, San Jose holds on to go ahead 3 games to 1 - SF Chronicle.

San Jose exploded for three goals in a 5:55 span of the second period but needed to hold on for dear life Thursday night for a 5-4 victory in Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead over the Predators in the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal in front of a deliriously loud sellout crowd at HP Pavilion.

Pat Trick - San Jose Mercury News.

- Notes: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman watched the Thursday night game from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Neil Young and Lars Ulrich were in the stands, Predators defenseman Marek Zidlicky started his first postseason game after practicing 4 days straight to return from a shoulder injury, Jordan Tootoo and Scott Nichol were scratched for defenseman Shea Weber and forward Scott Upshall, 3 Stars of the Game: Patrick Marleau, Mark Smith, Kyle McLaren.

- From the blog of Nashville Predators color analyst Terry Crisp prior to game 3 at HP Pavilion in San Jose:

I'm sitting here in the "Shark Tank" in San Jose where tonight the Predators face the Sharks in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series. The first two games of the series, obviously, were dominated by specialty teams. Power plays. Eight of the 10 goals scored by the two teams were power play tallies. So when you're seeing that many power plays, obviously you're taking that many penalties. In the playoffs, it's the bane of all coaches. Throughout the season you preach discipline. You hammer discipline. And obviously in all the playoff series it's becoming so, so paramount to stay out of the penalty box because the referees are not laying off on the calls. So the players realize and the coaches all realize that a five-on-four could become a five-on-three--boom--just like that and the referees won't blink or hesitate to call it.

Added the Nashville Predators and Terry Crisp blogs to Team Blogs, scroll down on the right.

- Defensive defenseman Sean O'Donnell scored 1:36 into overtime to give the Anaheim Mighty Ducks a 3-2 win over Miikka Kiprusoff and the Calgary Flames. The win ties the series at 2-2. More from the Orange County Register: Ducks beat Flames in OT 3-2, A rare goal by Sean O'Donnell in overtime gets the Ducks even against the Flames.

O'Donnell, a veteran of 771 regular-season games and 48 playoff contests, had a total of 26 career goals, only three of them in the postseason, before he converted a diagonal pass out from Chris Kunitz at the most opportune time.

"It was a great pass," O'Donnell said. "I put my head down and hit it as hard as I could. That was an interesting feeling when I saw it go through his (Kiprusoff's) legs, knew the game was over and I was the one that shot it. It was a nice feeling, a little strange, but I'll take it."

- Other games on Thursday evening: The Detroit Red Wings downed the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 to tie the series at two, and Ottawa defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2. Leading the series 3-1, the Senators need only 1 more win to knock off the defending Stanley Cup Champions. John Fontana of Boltsmag notes that the better team won on Thursday night.

No new updates from the Edmonton Oilers photoblog.

- Without Jagr, Rangers Try to Find Inspiration - NY Times.

Just before the playoffs, Jaromir Jagr received a shipment of hockey sticks that he should have immediately tossed into the trash. The name "Jarg," next to the No. 88, was painted on all the sticks. Jagr, as he is known to most of the world, wears 68.

At the time, Jagr laughed at the errors. But when he walked into the Rangers' locker room Tuesday afternoon, he said, "See what happens when I play with that stick?"

For Jagr and the Rangers, the playoffs have been one gigantic misprint. The Rangers have been blown out twice by the Devils and they cannot count on their superstar to save them in Game 3. Enough time has passed since Jagr injured his left arm in Game 1 that he is able to talk about it, but he does not feel comfortable playing with it.


- The New York Rangers and the Dallas Stars are the only teams down 0-3 in the first round of the 2006 playoffs. Winning four straight games against a Martin Brodeur or a Jose Theodore is not going to happen. The NY Times focuses on Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist drawing support from goaltender coach Benoit Allaire. Eric McErlain notes that the Dallas section of the hockey blogosphere may already be sounding the siren call of Toronto Maple Leaf fans everywhere, all is lost.

On a serious note, departing Toronto head coach Pat Quinn exits the Maple Leafs with grace after releasing a personal statement to the team and the media. Class act.

- ESPN launched a podcast center where you can download episodes of PTI, SportsCenter, Dan Patrick, Baseball Today, and more. No hockey content. That is ok, there are 40+ radio and hockey podcast links on this blog, including one where you can find hockey commentary from ESPN radio. Note: Link gone, that was quick.

- In addition to his appearance in San Jose, Gary Bettman also was a guest recently on the Best Damn Sports Show. Bettman talked about his relationship with NBA David Commissioner Stern, Jeremy Roenick, Lil John with the Stanley Cup, and more. Video from MSN is available here.

- Interesting website, hockeymusic.ca.

- Owners lost $285 million since buying team in '99 - ESPN.

- Jamie Fitzpatrick of About.com disagrees with those who think there is a problem with too many penalties in the postseason, The Refereeing Crisis That Wasn't.

This law-and-order campaign is slippery as an eel. There’s no telling who will be getting away with what a couple of weeks from now, or a couple of years. But for now, at least, it's up to the players to keep their sticks and hands to themselves. "We knew they were going to be looking to call penalties, so we've got no one to blame but ourselves,'' said Predators' goalie Chris Mason, after San Jose racked up a trio of power play goals in game two. "You can question a couple of them, but that's the same every game."

The same every game, every night, at every rink for time immemorial. No, the refereeing issue won't go away anytime soon. Not as long as people play games and other people watch them.

The Nashville-Sharks series is a poor example to use to support this theory. Former Nashville Predators blogger Jason Kirk offers up a dissenting opinion.

The quality of the officiating is, frankly, sickening. Scott Hartnell steps over the blue line and drags the puck back in? No offsides call. A San Jose player skates into Brendan Witt's leg? That's a tripping call. A Predators player skates into the zone with Milan Michalek right next to him? That's a hooking call on Michalek. Kyle McLaren delivers a late hit to Martin Erat on the boards and Erat shoves back? Penalty to the little guy for roughing.

Exciting hockey doesn't come from just adding more power plays to the game. Calling ticky-tack penalties just gives an unearned advantage to whichever team the referees happen to favor on a given night. There's nothing exciting about allowing the referees to decide games. There's nothing exciting about watching consistent 5-on-3 power plays.

More from Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, although he seems to have a problem with 2 specific refs, and former Detroit Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman [via Kukla's Korner].

- Game 5 Nashville-Sharks blackout probable - Nashville Tennessan.

Predators Vice President Steve Violetta said the team will exercise its right to black out Sunday's playoff game on local television in Nashville unless about 1,600 tickets are sold by tomorrow at 11 a.m. Game 5 of the Predators-Sharks playoff series is set for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in Gaylord Entertainment Center, and is scheduled to be televised by OLN.

But Violetta said the Predators still had about 2,600 tickets remaining to the game as of yesterday afternoon. He wants 1,600 sold by tomorrow at 11, when he has to notify OLN and the NHL of the team's decision.

"I've talked to both OLN and the NHL and obviously they'd both prefer that we lift the blackout in Nashville because it would make the ratings better," Violetta said. "But they both support us, as much as it pains everyone. "We know we need to grow the game, and in order to do that, you need to televise some exciting playoff hockey. But we also need to sell more tickets."

One reason expressed to me by Predators fans is that many of the remaining tickets are in the higher price ranges. It has also been reported that Nashville suffers from a lack of corporate purchases.

According to Ticketmaster, there are no two seats available together in the 5 lower price ranges, and there are seats available together in 4 of the 6 higher price ranges. You can order tickets for Nashville-Sharks game 5 on Ticketmaster or from Nashvillepredators.com.

Game 5 may also be blacked out from Comcast's online playoff streaming.

[Update] The San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators are headed back to Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville for game 5. Nashville local photographer Michael Davis sent in this beautiful photo of the arena, and this gallery of Predators images including a few taken with goaltenders Tomas Vokoun, Pekka Rinne, and Chris Mason. Another interior photo of the Savvis Center in St Louis is here.

[Update2] Better NHL player website Darcyhordichuck.com or Kevinweekes.com? If you get past the first page of each site it is a tough call.

[Update3] Alternate Shark head youtube video, this time from game 4. Posted by McLarenfan.

Playoff Statistical Leaders to date

Stats as of games played 4/28:


1. Jason Spezza, OTT, 9 PTS
T-2. Martin Havlat, OTT, 8PTS
T-2. Peter Forsberg, PHI, 8PTS
T-2. Patrik Elias, NJ, 8PTS
T-2. Dany Heatley, OTT, 8PTS
T-6. Patrick Marleau, SJ, 7PTS
T-6. Brad Richards, TB, 7PTS
T-6. J. Langenbrunner, NJ, 7PTS
T-6. M. Schneider, DET, 7PTS


1. Patrick Marleau, SJ, 6 goals
2. Martin Havlat, OTT, 5 goals
T-3. Peter Forsberg, PHI, 4 goals
T-3. H. Zetterberg, DET, 4 goals
T-3. Rod Brind'Amour, CAR, 4 goals
T-3. Martin St. Louis, TB, 4 goals


1. Jason Spezza, OTT, 7 assists
T-2. Dany Heatley, OTT, 6 assists
T-2. M. Schneider, DET, 6 assists
T-4. Patrik Elias, NJ, 5 assists
T-4. Brad Richards, TB, 5 assists
T-4. J. Langenbrunner, NJ, 5 assists
T-4. Paul Kariya, NSH, 5 assists
T-4. Eric Staal, CAR, 5 assists
T-4. Shawn Horcoff, EDM, 5 assists
T-4. C. Ehrhoff, SJ, 5 assists
T-4. Tom Preissing, SJ, 5 assists


1. Peter Forsberg, PHI, +6
T-2. Shawn Horcoff, EDM, +5
T-2. Simon Gagne, PHI, +5
T-2. Mike Knuble, PHI, +5


1. Ben Eager, PHI, 26 PIMS
2. Pavel Kubina, TB, 24 PIMS
3. Ville Nieminen, SJ, 20 PIMS
T-4. Chris Dingman, TB, 19 PIMS
T-4. Denis Gauthier, PHI, 19 PIMS
T-4. Ryan Hollweg, NYR, 19 PIMS


1. Chris Pronger, EDM, 36:31 ATOI
2. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET, 33:23 ATOI
3. S. Niedermayer, ANH, 29:56 ATOI
4. Jaroslav Spacek, EDM, 28:54 ATOI
5. M. Schneider, DET, 28:10 ATOI


1. Pierre Turgeon, COL, 74%, 14-5
2. Mike Sillinger, NSH, 71%, 52-21
T-3. Jason Arnott, DAL, 69%, 52-23
T-3. Jerred Smithson, NSH, 69%, 9-4


T-1. Vesa Toskala, SJ, 3-1
T-1. Ray Emery, OTT, 3-1
T-1. Martin Brodeur, NJ, 3-0
T-1. Jose Theodore, COL, 3-0


1. Martin Brodeur, 0.67GAA
2. Cam Ward, CAR, 1.89GAA
T-3. Vesa Toskala, SJ, 2.27GAA
T-3. Manny Legace, DET, 2.27GAA


1. Martin Brodeur, NJ, .975SV%
2. Cristobal Huet, MON, .936SV%
3. Dwayne Roloson, EDM, .929SV%


1. Ottawa, 38.9, 7-18
2. New Jersey, 28.6, 6-21
3. Montreal, 27.8, 5-18
4. Detroit, 23.3, 7-30
5. San Jose, 21.9, 7-32


1. New Jersey, 93.8, 1-16
2. Calgary, 88.9, 3-27
3. Buffalo, 85.7, 3-21
4. Ottawa, 85.2, 4-27
5. Philadelphia, 84.4, 5-32

Sources: NHL, ESPN.

New NHL "My Stanley Cup" Marketing Campaign

NHL My Cup Martin Brodeur

The NHL launched a new "My Stanley Cup" marketing campaign to coincide with the start of the playoffs. Included in the initiative are new contests, promotions, charitable donations, and a marketing effort centered around the NHL playoff atmosphere.

In addition to player and celebrity commercials, advertisements featuring Martin Brodeur, the Montreal Canadiens, the Carolina Hurricanes, Henrik Lundqvist, and Steve Sullivan are being used to promote the game. Not included here are ads featuring Jason Arnott, Anson Carter, Kris Draper, Peter Forsberg, Mike Grier, and the Los Angeles Kings.

More is available from the official website: NHL to launch 'My Stanley Cup' Advertising Campaign.

New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Nashville Predators forward Paul Kariya and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Martin St. Louis are among the National Hockey League players who will be featured in a new marketing advertising campaign that will celebrate the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Players from each of the 16 playoff-bound teams will appear in the 'My Stanley Cup' ads, which will debut during the April 8 NHL on NBC broadcast and will be shown throughout the United States and Canada, including primetime programming on NBC and cable networks.

[Update] Sports cable channel OLN changes name to "Versus" - Reuters.

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - OLN, the cable channel known until last July as the Outdoor Life Network, will change its name to Versus in September.

More from The Puck Stops Here.


2006 San Jose Grand Prix update

2005 San Jose Grand Prix

The latest S.J. Grand Prix grid notes are up. Included are notes on Sebastien Bourdais's season opening win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a profile of the first woman to win a major open wheel event in the U.S., new Champ Car PKV Racing driver Katherine Legge, and volunteer information for the San Jose Grand Prix.

Bourdais and Legge won the Champ Car and Toyota Atlantic races in San Jose last season. The San Jose Grand Prix weekend will be held this year on July 28, 29 and 30th. More information is available from sanjosegrandprix.com, and champcarworldseries.com.

Short video clips from San Jose and Long Beach are available here, photos and blog notes from San Jose are available here. More on the Long Beach Grand Prix is available from the Long Beach Press Telegram.

[Update] An even better youtube video of Champ Car qualifying in San Jose was posted here by Daniel Perish.

[Update2] Upcoming races at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma: the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown May 19-21st, the NASCAR Dodge/Save Mart 350 June 23-25th, and the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma August 25-27th.

Upcoming races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey: the U.S. Sports Car Invitational May 5-7th, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23rd, and the Monterey Sports Car Championships including the American Le Mans Series finale October 20-22nd.

[Update3] Itinerary for the Gumball 3000 race which starts in Londan April 30th, manages to make a stop in Thailand, and finishes in Los Angeles May 7th.


Photo on OLN

NHL on OLN photos

OLN posted this photo of Sharks fans from last night's game. The fan zone on OLN allows you to ask questions of OLN commentators, download podcasts of nightly NHL highlights, and submit your photos from the game.

Tonight on OLN: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers (HD) 4PM PT, Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche 6:30PM PT. The third game of the volatile Flyers-Sabres series should be available online from Comcast at 4PM PT.

Last week the Montreal Gazette also published a photo from this blog.

[Update] More Sharks fans:

San Jose Sharks Nashville Predators Game 3

Nashville Predators stumble in game 3

Nashville at San Jose Game 3

The Nashville Predators fell to the Sharks 4-1 at the HP Pavilion on Tuesday night. With the game 3 win, San Jose leads the best-of-seven playoff series 2-1.

The Sharks controlled play in the first, but Chris Mason made 14 saves on 14 shots, and Kimo Timonen scored a short handed goal to put the Predators ahead 1-0. In the second, the Marleau-Bernier-Michalek line combined for a regular strength and a power play goal. Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau topped it off in the third to make it 4-1. Advantage San Jose.

Predators manhandled again, trail Sharks 2-1, Penalties play part in 4-1 loss - Nashville Tennessean.

San Jose's physical forwards cycled the puck repeatedly and kept the Predators penned in their own zone for much of the contest, creating scoring opportunities or forcing Nashville into penalties.

Sharks center Joe Thornton dominated puck possession and drew four Nashville penalties all by himself.

"He's like a beast out there when he has the puck," Sharks Coach Ron Wilson said. "He holds the puck for 30 seconds, then he makes his move and out comes a stick and there's a penalty."

Like I said earlier, at times on the ice Joe Thornton looks like Meadowlark Lemon and opponents look like the Washington Generals. If Thornton could palm the puck, and then dish it behind the back to Cheechoo, he would.

The better team is emerging - Ray Ratto.

Well, it took a while, but we finally have a sense of the Sharks-Predators Stanley Cup playoff series, and it can be safely reported that it is better to be a Shark.

This is a fairly poor example of deduction, given that the Sharks won Game 3 on Tuesday night 4-1 and can take full command of the series by repeating the feat Thursday evening. I mean, winning is still the preferred option, correct?

No comment.

Christian Ehrhoff had a very solid game last night [3 assists, +2, 1SOG, 2BS, 7:20PP/10:26EV/0:47EV]. Ever since he returned to San Jose after playing for the German Olympic team, he has been a different player. Christian is poised on his own blueline, and he is not afraid to go end-to-end to create a scoring chance if the Sharks are down. I pegged gaining confidence as a key goal for the Olympics, but unfortunately I predicted it would happen for Evgeni Nabokov.

With the blueline scoring leader Tom Preissing, and Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle joining Ehrhoff, the offensive firepower this defensive core brings the ice is very underrated. Another key is how the Sharks use Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren. Both are going to log around 20 minutes a night [Hannan: 23:55, 22:50, 24:12; McLaren: 15:23, 21:10, 20:03], but the more that figure climbs near 30 the more it might be a factor down the line.

Sharks score a knockdown - San Jose Mercury News.

Late in the second period, Toskala delivered a big save on Scott Walker to defuse a two-on-one situation for Nashville. Defenseman Matt Carle coughed up the puck just inside the Sharks' blue line, and the Predators quickly bolted the other way.

Toskala exploded to his left and stoned Walker with the tip of his left foot. It was the save of the game. Afterwards, the crowd unanimously reacted with an "ooooh". They were not booing Paul Kariya or cheering for Jonathan Cheechoo. Former 49'er safety Ronnie Lott used to say he knew a hit was big when the crowd reacted that way. Lott had "oooh" hits, Toskala has "oooh" saves.

Rookies take huge steps Ehrhoff, Bernier help Sharks to Game 3 win - Inside Bay Area.

If the top line of Ekman-Thornton-Cheechoo is the production or trophy line, then the second line of Michalek-Marleau-Bernier needs a monicker. MMB?

[Update] Bonus Vesa Toskala photo, by request:

San Jose Sharks Vesa Toskala

[Update] Former Predator's Den blogger Jason Kirk commented on Game 3. Jason has covered a number of World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker Events for Bluff Magazine.

Did you watch the game last night? I didn't see a complete domination the way all the press did. What I saw was a game that was almost even for two periods (advantage SJ in the 1st, advantage Nashville in the 2nd), in which the referees had a much larger impact than they should've.

When SJ scored its second goal, for instance - the power play they were on resulted from a phantom tripping call. The SJ player who was "tripped" (Michalek, I believe) actually stepped on Mark Eaton's stick and fell down. There was also a hooking call on Scott Nichol against Joe Thornton, where Thornoton fell down beside the Nashville net - when was the last time you saw a guy 5'10" pull down Joe Thornton with no leverage?

There was one other thing that the refs blew - Toskala kicked the net off its moorings twice when attempting to make saves. Shouldn't there be at least *one* delay of game penalty?

This year has been a sea change for the National Hockey League in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If games are called this tight in the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, it will open up the ice and allow more offense. The problem is that a few players have adapted quickly to the officiating, and are effectively manipulating the system.

Preds lose 4-1, fall behind 2-1 in series - Nashvillepredators.com.

The Shark drops at home for the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Shark drops at home for the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[Update] More from Kukla's Korner.


Hockey Notes - April 25th

- Tonight on OLN: Ottawa Senators at Tampa bay Lightning 4PM PT, Edmonton Oilers at Detroit Red Wings 7PM PT [bonus coverage]. Video highlights from yesterday including the OLN Stanley Cup Playoffs nightly review are available here.

- Video from the first game of the Buffalo-Philadelphia series, Brian Campbell flattens R.J. Umberger at the blueline. It is painful to watch. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, after the hit Umberger failed a baseline neurological exam and was held out of the second game of the series.

Thanks to Jes Golbez for the link.

- Game 2 between the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers became ugly early. The Sabres scored 5 goals in the first period to chase netminder Robert Esche before the end of the period. Antero Niittymaki came in for relief and allowed 3 more goals on 18 shots in a 8-2 loss. Ryan Miller made 20 saves on 22 shots for the playoff victory.

The game was punctuated by a rough hit by Denis Gauthier that sent a Sabre head over heels into the boards. The Flyers took 17 penalties, Gauthier was ejected, goaltender Robert Esche challenged 2 Sabre's to a fight, Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said the Flyers "played like idiots", and Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock responded according to ESPN "Tell Lindy to [expletive] off, to mind his own [expletive] business." Much more from the Buffalo News.

- Bob McKenzie on Denis Gauthier's hit for TSN:

A player like Denis Gauthier of the Philadelphia Flyers has a reputation in the National Hockey League. When a player like that hits someone hard, many like to jump to conclusions.

That being said, Gauthier's hit from behind on Toronto's Kyle Wellwood near the end of the regular season was a blatant cheap shot and it earned him a two-game suspension. He can say sorry all he wants but, obviously, Gauthier didn't learn his lesson, because on Monday night he did it again against Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres. It was a dangerous play that resulted in a five minute major.

- Michael Ryder scored 2:32 into the second overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 6-5 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night. The win puts Montreal up 2 games to 0 in the first round playoff series. Ryder described his goal for the Montreal Gazette:

"I started to take a step out to get the angle on the shot when three guys were on me," said Higgins. "They had their back to Ryder and they didn't see him move into position."

"It's the biggest goal I've scored, at least in this league," said Ryder, who slipped the puck between the pads of Cam Ward, who was called on to replace Martin Gerber after the Carolina starter gave up three goals before the game was 15 minutes old.

The Carolina Hurricanes finished the regular season with a record of 52-22-8 for 112 points. While both teams were tied at 52 wins, Carolina trailed Ottawa by a point in the standings for the best record in the Eastern Conference. Hurricanes goaltender Martin Gerber finished the regular season 38 total wins [4th], with a 2.78 GAA, and a .906 SV%.

James Mirtle labeled this the game of the night. Red and Black Hockey called the loss a heartbreaker. Acid Queen is spewing venom at le Blue, Blanc et Rouge, and Casonblog says the Canes are down, but not out. Habsblog is bullish on the Canadiens chances in game 3, and notes that they are overcoming recent playoff trends while doing so.

- The New York Rangers mixed things up going with goaltender Kevin Weeks instead of Henrik Lundqvist. John Madden, University of Michigan 1993-96, scored a hat trick for the New Jersey Devils. With a reputation as a defensive forward, Madden equaled 1/4th of his regular season goal total in the 4-1 playoff win over the NY Rangers. Jaromir Jagr and defenseman Darius Kasparaitis did not suit up for the Rangers.

Down 2-0 in the series, the NY Post's Mark Everson paints a bleak outlook for the Rangers:

Embarrassed on Saturday with [Jagr], and last night without [Jagr], the Rangers are already deep in soup they've never before sailed against the Devils. They've never trailed New Jersey by two games in a playoff series, and the Devils have never blown a two-game lead to lose a series to anyone.

Devil's Due pulls an insightful quote from New Jersey forward Patrick Elias:

"Would we rather play a team with Jagr or without Jagr?" Patrik Elias said with a smirk, crystallizing the obvious. "Yeah. We'd rather play without Jagr."

Hockey Bird asks Is there Hope?, and Hockey Rodent questions head coach Tom Renney's benching of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and the Ranger's weak performance on a 5-on-3.

Joe Sakic Colorado Avalanche

- The Dallas Stars forgot to follow the first rule of Sharkspage Monday night, Don't let Joe Sakic Score! Joe Sakic scored the OT game winner 4:36 into overtime, assisted by John-Michael Liles and Milan Hejduk.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jose Theodore made 21 saves on 25 shots for the 5-4 OT win, and a 2-0 series lead over Dallas. Andrew's Starspage notes that three key matchups got it done for Colorado [Turco-Theodore, advantage Theodore; Modano-Sakic, advantage Sakic; Zubov-Blake, advantage Blake]. Stephanie Peete made a case for Sergei Zubov winning the Norris Trophy in the regular season. He will need a monster game 3 to help Dallas get back into the series.

Dallas Morning News writer Mike Heika notes that sudden line changes by Dallas head coach Dave Tippett may be a concern.

Tippett decided he had to "coach" in Game 2 of the first-round playoff series with Colorado. He inserted Janne Niinimaa into the lineup and took out Trevor Daley, only the second game Daley has missed this season. He inserted Jaroslav Svoboda and took out Jeremy Stevenson.

And he shuffled his lines in a way he probably has not done in his three seasons with the team. Brenden Morrow played with Niko Kapanen and Jere Lehtinen. Stu Barnes was combined with Jason Arnott and Antti Miettinen. Niklas Hagman took the left wing on a line with Mike Modano and Bill Guerin.

If it worked, pundits in Dallas would be calling him a genius. Nature of the beast. More Sakic notes from the internet magazine that predated NHL.com, blogs and ESPN.sportszone.com, LCS Hockey. Stats are pre-2006 playoffs.


Player, Team G
1. Joe Sakic, Colorado 78
2. Steve Yzerman, Detroit 70
3. Jaromir Jagr, NY Rangers 67


Player, Team PTS
1. Steve Yzerman, Detroit 181
2. Joe Sakic, Colorado 169
3. Sergei Fedorov, Columbus 163

Update from the Associated Press: In OT, Sakic puts Colorado up 2-0. "Sakic broke a tie with former Montreal star Maurice "Rocket" Richard for the most overtime goals in the playoffs. It was Sakic's 79th goal in 12 playoff seasons."

- Stanley Cup Playoffs, Sharks just half the team of '04 - SF Chronicle.

The Sharks play their first home playoff game in almost two years tonight, and they hardly resemble the group that lost their last four postseason games on home ice in 2004...

Ten of the 20 players who suited up for Games 1 and 2 in Nashville are different from the Sharks team that was eliminated in the West finals against Calgary, which swept the three games of a best-of-seven in San Jose in the season played before last year's lockout.

- Partial list of professional hockey teams in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Blackhawks 1929-31 (CalHL), Oakland Checkers 1930-31 (PCHL), Oakland Clippers 1936-37 (PCHL), San Francisco Shamrocks 1944-50 (PCHL), Oakland Oaks 1944-50 (PCHL), San Francisco Seals 1961-67 (WHL), Oakland/California/California Golden Seals 1967-1976 (NHL), San Francisco Shamrocks 1977-79 (PHL), San Jose Sharks 1991-2006 (NHL), Oakland Skates 1992-96 (RHI), San Jose Rhinos 1993-99 (RHI), San Francisco Spiders 1995-96 (IHL), Stockton Thunder 2005-06 (ECHL).

- Scoreboard Races: Minor Leagues And Other Sports - Deadspin.

- The Sacramento Bee is retooling its baseball coverage this season. According to public editor Armando Acuna, the Bee is going to stop filing home and away game articles and use wire reports instead. The Sacramento Bee wants to focus on feature writing. The Sacramento Kings are naturally the focus of the Bee's sports section, but they expect to cut costs by 15% and continue to deliver unique and compelling content.

- The latest Power Play Post Show covers the end of the 2005-06 AHL regular season. The upcoming show will cover the first round playoff matchups. The PPPS has the best intro of any radio or podcast show linked on this blog.

- 16 teams remain on the road to the Cup - TheAHL.com.

- Notes from TSN's Ice Chips: Philadelphia's Keith Primeau might be avaiable for game 3 or 4 with the Flyers down 2-0 in the series, Jean-Sebastien "Vitamin G" Giguere is probable for tonight's game against Calgary in so-Cal, and Sharks center Alyn McCauley did not skate in practice yesterday. McCauley missed an extended period at the end of the season with a lower body injury.

- Jonathan Last of the Philadelphia Inquirer has this to say about blogs:

Take out these two essentials - news-gathering and prose style - and what are you left with? A medium that values speed, volume, and vehemence. While none of these traits is antithetical to good journalism, none of them is particularly conducive to it, either.

As a long-term proposition, I don't buy the superiority of blogs and the New Media any more than I bought the notion that America Online was more valuable than Time Warner. The Old Media - the New Yorker, the New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Atlantic Monthly - add to the store of public information in ways which seem irreplaceable. Do they have problems? Sure. Are some journalists bad at their jobs? Absolutely. But taken as a whole, the Old Media performs an enormous and valuable function that the New Media is neither able, nor inclined, to emulate.

And the marketplace is slowly coming to understand that.

One writer's opinion. I could cite a dozen examples of niche markets where blogs either add to the "store of public information", or in some cases cover stories that the mainstream media does not have an interest in following. Since this is a sports blog, an article and a website on the issue I would recommend: Sports industry learning how to best use blogs - Sports Business Journal [subscription only], and Blogging the Sports Summit: Dusting Off the History Books - Poynter.org. Scroll far down the article for more.

There is a second blogs-and-journalism conference I will attend this summer and write about here. Three years ago at a Stanford blog conference, many of the top technology, personal and political blogs met with a number of reporters and journalists from the mainstream media [NY Times, AP, Washington Post]. One consensus I believe was reached by many: While hard news gathering maybe difficult or even impossible for some blogs without access, offering solid analysis and opinion is very possible. Blogs also added a fourth category, acting as a news filter gathering information and putting links and news items into context.

More on this at a later date. The perspective that should matter most is what is of value to readers.

- Audio interviews with Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala, captain Patrick Marleau, ESPN analyst Barry Melrose, Drew Remenda, and Jonathan Cheechoo are available from KNBR's Instant Replay.

Not on Instant Replay, a drive time interview yesterday with head coach Ron Wilson on the Razor and Mr T homepage. Brent Jones, a member of the Sharks board of directors, and Ralph Barbieri team up for a very entertaining interview.

From Ron Wilson:

If you can say I did anything yesterday with any intelligence, it was putting Patrick Marleau on the point on the power play... He took advantage.

- Eric McErlain at Offwing details the television broadcasting situation between OLN, Center Ice, Dish Network and Comcast. A lot of people have been emailing about certain games being blacked out. Questions On NHL Blackout Rules - Offwing.

The crux of the problem here is between Dish Network and OLN. Like it or not, those two companies haven't been able to work out an agreement up to this point, so Dish customers are up the creek when it comes to NHL games airing on OLN.

Vito Forlenza, a sports editor for Comcast, says that the subsciber only requirement for online Comcast NHL broadcast has been dropped for the playoffs. You can access the games online here. Live webcasting schedule from Comcast here.

- OLN, DISH Network reach agreement - NHL.com.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. and STAMFORD, Conn. - EchoStar Communications Corporation and its DISH Network and OLN on Monday announced a multi-year agreement which restores the channel to DISH Network customers.

"It was important that we negotiated a fair contract, enabling DISH Network to remain a tremendous value for our customers," said Eric Sahl, senior vice president of Programming. "We understand that this has been a difficult period for our customers, and we thank them for all their patience. We look forward to a long relationship with OLN in which we can provide the network to our customers."

- We're making calls for playoffs, NHL draft - John Buccigross.

- Islanders' co-owner Sanjay Kumar pleads guilty to fraud - AP via SLAM Sports.

- Welcome to the new advertisers on Sharkspage: The Clarion San Jose airport hotel, TickCo.com, and Vividseats.com. The Clarion San Jose hotel features a playoff hockey special, and is the host for the Fight Night at the Tank boxing weigh-ins. Please support the advertisers on this blog. For more information, contact Sharkspage here.

[Update] Canucks fire Crawford: report - Globe and Mail.

[Update2] From ESPN's Darren Rovell, a look at the Gatorade commercial starring Sidney Crosby that is a huge hit in Canada.

Gary Radnich interviews Drew Remenda on Kron 4

Gary Radnich joined local television station Kron 4 in 1986. Radnich anchors the evening sports broadcasts for Kron, and hosts a long running sports radio talkshow on KNBR 680AM. Drew Remenda is a former San Jose Sharks assistant coach from [1991-95], and worked as a Sharks radio color commentator before joining the FSNBA television crew as a color commentator.

Gary Radnich interviewed Drew Remenda on a Monday evening sports segment for Kron 4:

Gary Radnich: Are we, and I say we here in the Bay Area. Are we real hockey fans, or are we just seizing the moment once again?

Drew Remenda: No, their back. The Bay Area has become hockey fans. It has been 15 years since the San Jose Sharks have come to the Bay Area and the Bay Area Fans have learned, they have become more sophisticated. There is still the rabid core.

Gary Radnich: Didn't you grow up where, Saskatoon?

Drew Remenda: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Gary Radnich: So when you talk to someone from the Bay Area, in general. Do you get the same feeling when you talk to someone from Saskatchewan? Do they know the ins and outs?

Drew Remenda: I get a better feeling, because people in Saskatoon, people in Canada, when they look at the game everyone is a coach in Canada. Everyone is pretty negative when it comes to hockey from a Canadian point of view. Americans, especially people in the Bay Area, are much more enthusiastic. Much more positive about hockey.

The San Jose Sharks open the playoffs on home ice at HP Pavilion today, tied with Nashville 1-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Radnich and Remenda also discussed Joe Thornton for MVP, Jonathan Cheechoo, the non-scandal involving Wayne and Janet Gretzky, and competing against each other for a Northern California Emmy Award. Drew Remenda also hosts a radio show on Saskatoon's CKOM 650AM.

[Update] Sharks' buzz building, Support picking up steam as team ties playoff series, returns to S.J. - San Jose Mercury News.


Liveblogging Game 2, Nashville vs San Jose Western Conference Quarterfinals

- From the Nashville Tennessean: a slideshow from the game, a possible explanation for the parade referees Bill McCreary and Kelly Sutherland lead to the penalty box, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman watched the Sharks-Predators game 2 from the Gaylord Entertainment Center suite, more Bettman, Nashville Predators defenseman Mark Eaton is blogging for the playoffs and mentions that they have not scored an even strength goal in the series, and a timeout gamble by Sharks head coach Ron Wilson.

- Final post-game analysis from OLN host Bill Clement and analyst Eddie Olczyk:

Bill Clement: Patrick Marleau talked about tweaking, especially on the power play. Today those tweaks looked effective.

Eddie Olczyk: I think really the key was on the 5-on-3's. What they were trying to do was have Thornton and Cheechoo working the puck down low. They were trying to work those passes through the paint in front of goaltender Chris Mason. It wasn't working. The defenseman for the Nashville Predators were doing a very good job of knocking down those plays.

So what did they do? They moved the puck out to the point. What does that do? It brings the Nashville defenders out, get pucks to the net. And we saw on the first goal, Marleau made a great pass over to Cheechoo. Now all of a sudden, Nashville doesn't know what the Sharks are going to do. So again, changing it up on the fly. A good transition for the [Sharks] power play.

One of the highlights also showed a Nashville player without a stick on the 5-on-4 Sharks power play goal. So effectively the Sharks scored on three 5-on-3 power plays in their 3-0 win.

- Nashville pulls Chris Mason, Vesa Toskala 15 seconds away from his first playoff win, and his first playoff shutout. Toskala made 25 saves on 25 shots, and the Sharks earned a 3-0 win in Nashville to even the Western Conference Quarterfinal series at 1-1.

- The shift charts by NBC for Thornton and Kariya are good. It makes it easier to follow the star players on the ice. But the placement is too far down the middle of the screen and detracts from the play on the ice. Any on-ice graphics should be minimal, and far off to the side on either the top or botom of the screen.

- Big save by Vesa Toskala on a low point shot by Mike Sillinger. Penalty ends as the Sharks skate the puck up the ice. With two men on either side, Joe Thornton throws a shuffle step and draws the puck back into his body before pushing it forward and splitting the two opponents. He dishes the puck to a wide open Jonathan Cheechoo to the left side of Chris Mason. Cheechoo has to gather the puck on his backhand before shooting, and Mason makes an easy save.

- After killing off one power play, San Jose Sharks forward Milan Michalek takes an interference penalty to give them another chance. Nieminen just took down Kariya to the right side of the net, not a good interference call, but marginal. Nashville will have an 88 second 5-on-3 power play. Misconduct, so Rissmiller will have to serve the penalty in the box. Crunch time for the Predators.

- NBC11.com is advertising an online "Sharks Live" post-game show after today's game. According to the website, "NBC11's Raj Mathai and Daryl Hawks will have game highlights and live interviews".

- Point shot through traffic as two Predators crowd Vesa Toskala in front of the crease. Toskala saw the puck the whole time and was able to make a clean glove save. NBC just aired a short clip of highlight saves from Toskala from earlier in the game. What is noticeable is how much of the net he covers down low. Visit my scouting report on Toskala for more.

- Penalty on Joe Thornton early in the third. A Predators forward got between Thornton and his stick while he was trying to clear the puck from behind his own net. The Nashville player flopped on top of Thornton's stick and drew a penalty.

- Nashville finishes the second on the penalty kill again. Scott Hartnell takes a roughing penalty for Nashville 19:13 into the period. Michalek-Marleau-Bernier take the opening power play shift, with #44 Christian Ehrhoff and Scott Hannan on the point. Ehrhoff keeps the puck in at the right side of the blueline, and drives it deep around the boards. Marleau and Bernier cycle it around to the left, and Hannan gets a point shot on net. Michlek takes a hard check but manages to get a stick on the puck and put a quick shot on Mason. Predators goaltender Chris Mason makes the save and exits the period without any more damage.

- Another power play for San Jose. 8 minor penalties so far for Nashville with 5 minutes left to play in the second period. A list of the calls: (1st) Legwand-high stick, Sillinger-high stick, Markov-hooking, Witt-holding, Smithson-kneeing. (2nd) Legwand-hooking, Witt-interference, Eaton-hooking. San Jose has taken 4 minor penalties so far, and outshot the Preds 15-7 in the first period.

San Jose is 3-8 on the PP with 12:03 on the man advantage. Nashville is 0-4 on the PP, with 6:21 on the man advantage. All stats are available from the NHL here.

- NHL Stanley Cup playoff schedule from OLN details all the broadcasts on both OLN and NBC. OLN also has a new fan zone with playoff trivia, a podcast, and a submit your own fan photo feature.

- Quote by Ray "Chicken Parm" Ferraro from the NBC intermission show:

If there is one team you don't want on the power play in the NHL, it is the San Jose Sharks. Joe Thornton controls the puck so well on the half boards.

Analyst Eddie Olczyk also noticed the adjustments San Jose made on their 5-on-3 power plays. Not sure what Olczyk noticed, but both 5-on-3's had a San Jose forward complete a long cross ice pass across the slot for a one timer.

- Nashville defenseman Kimmo Timonen launched a rocket of a shot from the point on a Predators power play, it was gloved by Vesa Toskala. The Sharks are giving Nashville a lot of room to move the puck around the outside on the power play.

- Middle of the second period, the Nashville Ice Crew just picked up a large stuffed catfish a fan threw on the ice.

- Joe Thornton took a shift with Mark Smith and Patrick Rissmiller. Thornton is able to get the puck deep and maintain possession before a Nashville defenseman clears the puck.

- Another power play goal, this time the reverse of goal #2. The Sharks set up in Nashville's zone. Cheechoo has the puck at the left point, and fires a cross ice pass across the slot to San Jose checking line center Mark Smith. Smith one times it up high past Mason. Score: 3-0 San Jose. Third power play goal of the game for the Sharks.

- Thornton out wide to the left of Chris Mason, head up, looking for the home run pass he has connected on all year. Thornton connects with Jonathan Cheechoo at the right of the crease, who taps the puck across the goal mouth. Puck squirts out in front of the slot, and Patrick Marleau hammers home the second 5-on-3 goal of the game.

- Another bad penalty for Nashville, #55 defenseman Danny Markov tries to check Patrick Marleau off the puck behind the net. Markov follows with a hard knee to pin Marleau up against the boards and takes him down. Another 5-on-3, this time for a minute. Cheechoo-Marleau-Ekman on the ice, Marleau will be on the point.

- Bad turnover by #26 Steve Sullivan in his own zone ends up in a quick shot on Nashville goaltender Chris Mason. Brendan Witt takes a bad holding penalty on Patrick Rissmiller pulling on his shoulder behind the net with both hands. Third minor penalty on Witt in the series.

- NBC sideline reporter, "You can really see the speed of San Jose when you are down on the ice. They are gaining so much speed in the neutral zone."

- 5-on-3 for the San Jose Sharks for a minute and twenty seconds. Key moment of the game. Pass out to captain Patrick Marleau at the point, Marleau drills a long pass through the slot to Cheechoo, who is parked at the side of the crease. Cheechoo directs it past Mason. Sharks take a 1-0 lead on a power play goal.

- San Jose Sharks vs Nashville Predators game 2 on NBC. Ross McKeon reports for NBC that opponents can not stop Sharks center Joe Thornton.

Even with their new centerpiece player and clicking along impressively, San Jose still trailed the final playoff spot by eight points as late as March 6. But when the games in-hand were played out, Thornton's Sharks whizzed past Phoenix, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Edmonton, Colorado and Anaheim like they were standing still.

And just like the Predators may soon find out, if not the rest of the playoff teams in the West, Thornton could not be stopped.

- Alexander Ovechkin's Nashville-Sharks series prediction:

Nashville vs. San Jose - "San Jose in five. The loss of Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun will simply kill Nashville. It is difficult enough to control the duo of Thornton and Cheechoo, so without their goaltender, I assume that Nashville has no chance."

Former Sharks enforcer Andrei Nazarov's Nashville-Sharks series prediction:

Nashville vs. San Jose - "Nashville vs. San Jose - "San Jose in seven. I have faith in my former team, or more precisely, in Thornton, Cheechoo, and Nabokov."

Predictions were based on translated interviews from Sports-express.ru. Thanks to beachballinc and James Mirtle for the link.


Long Beach scores 4 goals in turbulent second period, forces game 7 against Bakersfield

Bakersfield Condors Long Beach Ice Dogs ECHL playoffs

Bakersfield Condors Long Beach Ice Dogs ECHL playoffs

A photo gallery from the 6-2 Long Beach win over Bakersfield is available here.

In the minutes before gametime Friday, Condors head coach Marty Raymond commented on the possibility that Bakersfield could clinch its first ECHL franchise playoff series victory with a win over the Long Beach Ice Dogs. "The last game to win is always the toughest. Long Beach has their backs against the wall and they are a wounded animal" Raymond said.

Bakersfield brought a 3-2 series lead into the evening, and the buzz outside was noticeable. 6,853 fans filtered through the front doors of Rabobank Arena to see game 6 of the ECHL Kelly Cup Pacific Divison semi-finals. The Ice Dogs struck first as captain Sean McAslan scored 5:10 into the period on the powerplay. Bakersfield came back to tie the game at 1-1 on a powerplay goal by Kevin Kotyluk, with assists by Sean Venedam and Kevin St. Jacques.

The wheels fell off the Condors momentum in the second period, as the wounded animal struck. Both teams combined for 8 minor penalties, and Long Beach tallied goals from 4 different players [Urquhart, Knopp, Goldie, and Beeman].

The glass in Bakersfield is of the crystal clear, hard, and non-flexible variety. This makes for an elegant view from any seat in the building, but it also results in no give when a player is checked into it. Shortly after a Condor's player shoved an Ice Dog face first into the glass, Long Beach forward Ben Knopp drove in and tucked a goal past Marty Magers to make the score 3-1. Picking himself up off the ice, Knopp skated over a few feet and pounded on the same pane of glass in the photo with both hands.

Message received.

James Sanford scored his second goal of the playoffs, to give the visitors a 6-1 lead 5:33 into the third period. The crowd tried to remain into the game, and they were rewarded with an unassisted goal by defenseman Tyler Scott. The final score was 6-2 Long Beach. Bakersfield playoff history would have to remain for another night.

[Update] Bakersfield media director Devin Rossiter mentioned that the Condors were impressed by the work of a local Bakersfield hockey blogger covering the team, and that an audible emergency system warning of impending lightning strikes preceded the Ice Dog's 4 goal 2nd period. Mike Griffith of the Bakersfield Californian notes that 6,853 fans was the largest attendance figure so far in the ECHL playoffs.

[Update2] It took 798 franchise games for Bakersfield, but the Condors finally earned a playoff series win with a 4-3 final over the Long Beach Ice Dogs on Saturday. Forward Joel Irving scored the game winning tally 7:40 into the third period. Marty Maggers [2-1-1] made 16 saves on 19 shots for the win. The Condors will face the Fresno Falcons in the Pacific Division Finals (PDF file).

2004 Stanley Cup Playoff flashback

2004 Stanley Cup NHL playoff flashback pictures

A few images from the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs in San Jose. The Sharks face the Nashville Predators Tuesday and Thursday at the HP Pavilion.

Tonight's schedule on OLN: Game 2 - Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars 6:30PM PT, and Game 2 - New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils (HD) 4PM PT. Video recaps and highlights of the previous day's Stanley Cup playoffs are available from the OLN video gallery.

Nice to see veteran Al Trautwig in the OLN studio as well. Barry Melrose on ESPN Sportscenter broke out the glow puck for an Edmonton Oilers vs Detroit Red Wings highlight. More of a strobe puck, the puck flashed each time it went off a body or a player before going into the net.

One problem with the playoffs so far, players on two different teams yesterday admitted going down to draw a call. This is an issue that needs to be addressed.

[Update] Short video from inside HP Pavilion. From the University of Michigan alumni section during a 5-1 San Jose victory over Detroit.


Nashville Predators vs San Jose Sharks playoff preview

Nashville Predators flickr photo

A mini-preview of the Nashville Predators vs San Jose Western Conference Stanley Cup Quarterfinal playoff series will be posted instead of a full one. Wifi in so-cal is a little more difficult to come by than in Silicon Valley.

Initial thoughts on the series

San Jose: San Jose is going to bring two explosive offensive lines to the postseason instead of a balanced three line attack it used in 2003-04. Teams that key on Ekman-Thornton-Cheechoo often have no anwer for Patrick Marleau [6-2, 220 pounds], Milan Michalek [6-2, 225 pounds], or Steve Bernier [6-2, 230 pounds]. Sharks starting goaltender Vesa Toskala does not have a long playoff resume, but Vesa is patient and gobbles up space on shooters faster than most. The concern for San Jose is a young blueline. More potent offensively with Preissing-Ehrhoff-Carle, will they be able to contain the Predators long enough to give the big guns time to build momentum? Hannan and McLaren are going to be keys 5-on-5 and on special teams.

Nashville: The Nashville Predators have been following the laws of natural selection. When one weapon falls [Vokoun out with blood disorder], goaltender Chris Mason comes in and finishes the season on a six game roll. Mason faced 155 shots in those 6 games, and stopped all but 6 [not including 1 shootout goal]. If perennial Shark killer Steve Sullivan does not get the start, Nashville will need production from left wings Paul Kariya [31G, 54A] or Martin Erat [20G, 29A]. The loss of Marek Zidlicky [out with shoulder injury] may be un-overcomeable if that is a word. One point removed from a 50-point regular season [12G, 37A, 49PTS], Zidlicky is a catalyst for the Predators offense from the blueline, as well as the most difficult name to spell in the NHL. Defenseman Kimmo Timonen [11G, 39A, 50PTS], is going to have to pick up the load.

Special Teams: San Jose regular season PP [18.2%, tied 11th], PK [80.7%, 23rd]. Nashville regular season PP [18.4%, 10th], PK [84.6%, tied 5th]. San Jose took the third least penalties in the NHL [399], and Nashville is tied for third with Pittsburgh for the most penalties in the NHL [533]. Nashville is strong on the PP but will not get a lot of opportunities to flex on San Jose. 2006 Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle and the second leading regular season defensive scorer in Sharks history, Tom Preissing [11G, 32A], will quarterback the San Jose Sharks power play.

Outcome: San Jose will throw the kitchen sink at Nashville from the drop of the puck. They have been playing desperate hockey for 2 months just to make it into the postseason, look for it to continue in game 1. Trying to repeat the 2004 Western Conference Quarterfinals against St Louis, the Sharks want to control the series early and make Nashville change their game plan to catch up. Two options for the fourth seeded Predators, who are almost universally labeled as a first round underdog. The Predators could try to close down time and space on Joe Thornton, and they would fail like everyone else who has tried the tactic.

My suggestion for Nashville, throw the kitchen sink back at San Jose. Crash the net, pinch in on the blueline, and try to capitalize on turnovers. Create your own chances instead of waiting for them to come to you via a power play or a turnover. Won't work. Chris Mason will steal two games but San Jose will win the series in six.

Visit the excellent flickr photo gallery by Sean Russell, or his website at predatorshockey.net. More from Nashvillepredators.com.

SF Chronicle: Pair of matchups key to Sharks-Predators series Goalies will count big, but value of playoff netminders is hard to read.

San Jose Mercury News: Five Sharks players not named Joe who got the team to the playoffs, Purdy: No (prehistoric) bones about it: Sharks win in six, Sharks vs. Predators: Victor Chi breaks down the matchup.

[Update] Lombardi will try to rebuild Kings - NHL.com.

[Update2] Party time in Opry-ville, Preds excited about being in playoffs, not happy about being picked first out - Edmonton Sun.

"In reading the clips," said Preds coach Barry Trotz. "It seems like all of a sudden we're the team that everyone wants to face. That's a little slap in the face because we're a pretty good hockey team. When people don't think you can do things, that can be a great motivating factor."

Preds vs. Sharks: Who's got the bigger bite? - Nashville City Paper.

[Update3] Youtube video of the Scott Parker vs Brendan Witt fight from the regular season. A brief recap:

Game of the year candidate, 2 Sharks rookies Bernier and Michalek fight Witt and Nichol in the first. In the second, Parker given an elbowing call on Tootoo, argues with the refs, and then is ejected. On Parker's way to the lockerroom, he hops up on the boards and trades blows with Brendan Witt over the plexiglass separating the two benches.

More Blog/Analysts from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

CBC follows the Toronto Star with its own NHL Stanley Cup Blogger panel featuring Tyler of mc79hockey.com, Chris McMurtry of Hockey Country, Patrick Angello of Colorado Avalanche Blog, and David Lee of Red and Black Hockey.

The panel discusses how the playoffs will be officiated, what is wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and if this year could see an early playoff exit from the Colorado Avalanche.

Playoff penalties, What's wrong with the Lightning, An early exit for the Avs? - CBC.

Playoff Predictions

Playoff Predictions for the Stanley Cup Conference Quarter-Finals.

Eastern Conference:
Ottawa Senators [1] over T.B. Lightning [8] in 5
Carolina [2] over Montreal Canadiens [7] in 6
New Jersey Devils [3] over NY Rangers [6] in 4
Buffalo Sabres [4] over Philadelphia Flyers [5] in 7

Western Conference:
Detroit Red Wings [1] over Edmonton Oilers [8] in 6
Dallas Stars [2] over Colorado Avalanche [7] in 6
Calgary Flames [3] over Anaheim Ducks [6] in 7
San Jose Sharks [5] over Nashville [4] in 6

Blogger predictions: James Mirtle, Colby Cosh, Tom Benjamin, Eric McErlain, and Jes Golbez East | West.

Media predictions: Ross McKeon of the SF Chronicle, John Buccigross of ESPN, Ted Montgomery of USA Today, Bill Clement of MSNBC, and Adam Proteau of the Hockey News.

Current playoff matchups are listed here courtesy of ESPN. To my knowledge, no one worked armadillo racing into their Stanley Cup Playoff predictions this year. Original NJ prediction was backwards, fixed now.

[Update] Time to welcome Jim Kelley of Sportsnet.ca to the hockey blogosphere. Sportsnet recently added a large lineup of bloggers to the website, with at least six contributing hockey commentary.

[Update2] Want to follow each playoff series by the home town blog? Eric McErlain posted a playoff breakdown of each team by blog for the Carnival of the NHL #21.

More playoff predictions from Abel to Yzerman, start at the top and keep scrolling. Video predictions from TSN's Darren Pang, Bob McKenzie and Pierre McGuire are here.

[Update3] NHL playoff roundtable, part II - JABS blog.

BENJAMIN: Hockey has always seen the league divided into about five groups - call them Elite, Above Average, Average, Below Average and Bottom Feeders. The new CBA is designed to eliminate the top group and the bottom group. If that happens - and I think it will - teams will be able to go from one group to the next in a single bound (or slide). A few above average teams will catch the breaks and look like they are elite for a season. A few below average teams will see everything go wrong and they will be bottom feeders for a season. If that is the case, spectacular turnarounds (and spectacular flameouts) will be the norm.

Interview with Bakersfield Condors Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations Devin Rossiter

Bakersfield Condors Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Devin Rossiter agreed to answer a few questions about the Condors, the ECHL, and the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Bakersfield heads into a crucial game six at home tonight against the Long Beach Ice Dogs with a 3-2 series lead in the Pacific Division Semifinals.

[Q] Who would be your vote for MVP of the ECHL during the regular season, and your vote for MVP of the Bakersfield Condors?

[DR] In a year where the West dominated, I'd have to say that you'd give the award to the best player on the best team. Right now, that's Matt Underhill, the goaltender for the Alaska Aces. Ridiculous numbers and a confident poise in front of a potent offense. For the Condors, you might argue that a main reason that Bakersfield has been successful over the last couple of months and was able to make a run at first-round home ice was Dave Bonk, who scored 19 points in 18 games during March in a period where injuries beset some of the team's top players.

[Q] Bakersfield finished 40-26-6 for 2nd in the Pacific Division, what are two or three key points in the regular season that have helped the Condors into the playoffs?

[DR] The penalty kill has been the Condors' sturdiest characteristic; they've ranked in the top ten all season in the category thanks to players like Scott Borders and Josh Liebenow and have a good number of shorthanded threats in Andrew Ianiero and Alexandre Bolduc, who has rejoined the team after two separate stints with Manitoba in the AHL.

There's been some solid veteran leadership throughout the year: Sean Venedam tied for 2nd in the lead in power play goals (16) and acted as team drill sergeant for the injured reserve while he was on the 30-Day IR ("The Sean Venedam Boot Camp"). Kevin St. Jacques is the locker room leader and carried the team on his shoulders during his approach to his 1,000th career point.

Finally, there's confidence in close games as the minutes tick off the clock. Bakersfield played a franchise record 21 games past regulation and won 15 of those (9 by shootout).

[Q] It was a tight game 5 at Long Beach in the first period, Bakersfield was able to tie it at 1-1 on a short handed goal by Andrew Ianiero. Both teams put a lot of shots on net. What are your thoughts on the 4-1 win, and where does that put the Condors for game 6 or 7 in Bakersfield?

[DR] Game 5 was strange in that there were most shots on net than any other game in the series but fewer hits than we've seen between the two teams. It was ugly hockey with plenty of play in the neutral zone, but it fit the Condors well on the road. Bakersfield has the chance to close out the series at home, where they set a team record with 24 home wins.

[Q] What are your thoughts on Mathieu Brunelle's play and his 3 goals and 4 assists in 5 playoff games? Who needs to get hot or stay hot for the Condors?

[DR] Brunelle has surprised a lot of people who didn't think his experience in last year's playoff series would carry over to this season. With his performance alone, Brunelle has added himself to the list of all-time Bakersfield playoff performers. Brunelle works well with Bonk as capable scorers AND playmakers along with Joel Irving on the second line, and as long as they keep producing the other forwards will feed off that.

[Q] What is the goaltender situation in Bakersfield?

[DR] Ryan Munce was the starter for the series, having started each of the seven regular season meetings with Long Beach (including a 2-1 shootout win in which Munce made team record and ECHL season-high 63 saves on the road). In Game Four, Munce gave up a couple of early-period goals and was pulled for Marty Magers, who picked up the start and the win in Game Five. In the absence of a dramatic event, Magers will start Game Six and possibly Game Seven.

[Q] Any upsets or surprises you have noticed in the first round of the playoffs so far?

[DR] The biggest surprise of the postseason has been Idaho's early lead over Las Vegas. The Wranglers held one of the best home records in the ECHL and Idaho took the first two in Vegas. Even more surprising was the Wranglers' dominant comeback from a 3-1 series deficit.

[Q] Who is Bakersfield's biggest rival in the ECHL or the pacific division?

[DR] Traditionally, Bakersfield fans see San Diego as their main rival, dating back to some brutal showdowns in the WCHL. Gulls fans went up in arms when longtime San Diego and NHL veteran Mark Pederson retired to join the Condors coaching staff this offseason.

[Q] Scott Gomez brought out a lot of fans to games in Fresno and Long Beach last season. Was there a big turnout to see him in Bakersfield? Were there any highlights on or off the ice?

[DR] The Condors faced off against Gomez in the first round of last year's playoffs. In Game Four, Gomez headed to the Alaska bench for a line change and had the puck come to his feet. Gomez went to pay the puck, and Bakersfield's Ashlee Langdone hit Gomez into the boards. Gomez went hip-first into the corner of the open end of the doorway and fractured his pelvis, ending his season. Bakersfield eventually won the game to force a deciding Game Five in Anchorage, but was besieged with threatening phone calls from angry Aces fans. The team required a police escort in Alaska before, during and after Game Five, which the Aces won 6-2.

Needless to say, the intensity of a potential Condors-Aces playoff rematch would rip both towns apart.

[Q] Last question, what is your prediction for the Kelly Cup finals?

[DR] Alaska is the best team in the league, but Las Vegas is riding a ton of momentum into the West Division Finals. I'd take Vegas in six over Gwinnett in the Cup Finals.

More information is available from bakersfieldcondors.com and the ECHL. A pay-per-view internet broadcast will be available from B2 Networks 10 minutes prior to game time.

[Update] Closing time - Bakersfield Californian.

[Update2] L.B. seeks another momentum shift - Long Beach Press Telegram.

It's taken the Ice Dogs, up and down all season long, six months and 77 games to finally dig a hole they might not be able to climb out of. The Ice Dogs go into tonight's Game 6 of their ECHL Kelly Cup playoff series against the Bakersfield Condors needing a victory at Rabobank Arena or see their season come to an abrupt and disappointing end...

"It is do or die," defenseman Derick Martin said.


San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, Nashville Predators captain Greg Johnson NHL chat transcripts

Patrick Marleau

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau and Nashville Predators captain George Johnson participated in a conference call as part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs media day on Wednesday.

Patrick talked about the emergence of Vesa Toskala between the pipes, how he will fare in his first playoff series as the #1 goaltender, and what the focus on Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo means for the line of Michalek-Marleau-Bernier.

Greg Johnson discussed how the Predators will approach the series with Tomas Vokoun out, how his team needed to focus more on defense, what Brendan Witt brings to the blueline, and how Nashville intends to stop Thornton and Cheechoo.

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon with the National Hockey League's public relations department. I'd like to welcome you to the last of eight conference calls being conducted this afternoon as we prepare for the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This call we are featuring Series H between the San Jose Sharks and the Nashville Predators. The two teams will open their series on Friday at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville at 8 p.m. E.T. on TSN.

With us we have San Jose captain Patrick Marleau, who finished with the season with 34 goals and 52 assists for 86 points in 82 games played. And from the Predators we have captain Greg Johnson, who scored 11 goals and 8 assists for 19 points in 68 games played this season.

Thanks to both Patrick and Greg for taking the time to join us today and answer your questions. Operator, we'll open it up now for questions.

Q. Patrick, could you talk a little about the improvement in Toskala this season and how he's managed to win the starting job for the Sharks.

PATRICK MARLEAU: Always knew Vesa was a good goalie. He was able to get his opportunity to play this year, he basically stood on his head for us and helped us get into a playoff spot.

Q. Do you think it's a little unusual to see two goalies, neither with playoff experience, starting in the series?

PATRICK MARLEAU: Actually, I would usually say it is. I think all over the league this year, there's a lot of goalies that don't have playoff experience. That being said, these goalies know how to win games. It's not going to be that much different for them.

Q. Patrick, could you talk a little also about what the attention on Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo has meant for you and your line? Has it been able to make you guys more effective?

PATRICK MARLEAU: Yeah, I think so. I think especially, when other teams, they have to pick their poison to see basically who they want to match their lines up against, it gives me and my line an opportunity to play against some different players. Sometimes they can't get out always against Joe.

I think it's good both ways like that. Even our third and fourth line, they get a little help that way, too.

Q. Greg, did the team do anything differently with the knowledge that Tomas Vokoun won't be your starting goaltender and Chris will? Do you have to do anything different?

GREG JOHNSON: I don't think we want to do a ton different. We were at one point a couple weeks ago giving up way too many shots, 40 to 45 a game. It didn't really matter if it was Tomas, Chris, whoever it would be, we weren't going to go very far the way we were playing.

We've started to get shot and scoring opportunities defense down. We've been playing better defensive hockey of late. That's going to have to continue in the playoffs if we want to go anywhere regardless of who's in net.

Q. You talked about playing good defensive hockey. What has Brendan Witt's acquisition meant?

GREG JOHNSON: He's been great. We have a lot of puck-moving, skating defensemen. He's brought some grit and toughness to our D, can kind of punish some players in front of the net, finish checks. He's been a great addition on the ice and in the dressing room.

Q. How do you stop a guy like Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo who have been ripping up the league definitely?

GREG JOHNSON: Obviously, two of the hottest players in the league. Joe is probably the best player in hockey right now.

We're going to try and close time and space on him as quick as possible. The key is going to be to take his options away. If we can take away his passing options as far as his wingers and D jumping in, then somehow try and close on him, we think we've got a chance to contain him. He's a great player, he's going to get his points. We just want to contain him as best as possible.

Q. I imagine that's where a guy like Brendan Witt comes in?

GREG JOHNSON: Absolutely. It's going to be key for us. As I said, for us to be successful, we're going to have to contain them. But at the same time the Sharks are a very well balanced team, Patrick getting 86 points, Alyn McCauley. They've got some good players. It is important also for us not to focus too much on the one line and kind of sit back and relax when the other line's on the ice. They have a very good, well-balanced team. We're going have to play well all four lines and all six defensemen.

DAVID KEON: Thank you very much guys. Good luck in the playoffs.

Source: NHL Media

Patrick Marleau also participated in an interesting livechat with NHL fans on January 25th. When asked who has influenced him the most in his career, Marleau answered:

A few people have over the years. When I was younger, I'd say my dad. My first year here, I was with Kelly Hrudey. I learned a lot from him and a few years ago I was with Adam Oates. I've played with Gary Suter and Tony Granato. All great guys that you learn a lot from.

[Update] For links to NHL Media Day transcripts from all the 16 NHL captains in the playoffs, visit Kukla's Korner. Mike Modano, Joe Sakic, Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Derian Hatcher, Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, Scott Niedermayer, Rob Brind'Amour, Saku Koivu, Daniel Alfredsson, Brad Richards, Steve Yzerman, and Jason Smith all discuss the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting Friday.


Sharkspage in the Montreal Gazette

Duke goaltender Shawn Brenhouse

An article by David Yates in the Montreal Gazette profiled Duke goaltender and Montreal native Shawn Brenhouse today. It describes what it is like to play hockey in North Carolina, how Duke captured an ACC D2 championship, and offers Brenhouse's description of U.S. hockey fans; "Mainly, they cheer the bodychecks and the fights".

The photo the Montreal Gazette used was from Sharkspage.

[Update] Several bloggers held a hockey playoff roundtable chat with the Toronto Star's Chris Young on the JABS blog. Eric McErlain off Offwing, the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle, Chris McMurtry of Hockey Country, and Tom Benjamin of Canucks Corner and Paul Kukla of Kukla's Korner all contributed their thoughts and opinions on the lasting effect of the NHL lockout, whether the league is suffering from a lockout backlash in the U.S., the affect of new rules changes on the game, and what was the most "noteworthy" development this season.

The upcoming part 2 will offer their Stanley Cup predictions. Very cool. Link from Paul at Kukla's Korner.

[Update2] Report: Former Sharks GM Dean Lombardi may be named President/General Manager of the Los Angeles Kings according to Sportsnet. For a brief recap of Lomardi's trades/drafts/coaches in San Jose, visit this post.

San Jose linemates Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo win NHL scoring titles

The NHL made it official yesterday, Sharks center Joe Thornton earned his first career Art Ross Trophy as the regular season NHL points leader. Linemate Jonathan Cheechoo was named the Maurice Richard Trophy as the League's top goal-scorer. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff earned the Jennings Trophy as the goaltender for the NHL team with the lowest team goals against.

Art Ross Trophy Leaders (points)

1. Joe Thornton, San Jose, 29-96--125
2. Jaromir Jagr, NY Rangers, 54-69--123
3. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington, 52-54--106
4. Dany Heatley, Ottawa, 50-53--103
5. Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa, 43-60--103

Maurice Richard Trophy Leaders (goals)

1. Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose, 56
2. Jaromir Jagr, NY Rangers, 54
3. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta, 52
3. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington, 52
5. Dany Heatley, Ottawa, 50

William Jennings Trophy Leaders (min. 25 GP to be eligible)

1. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary, 200 team goals against
2. Manny Legace/Chris Osgood, Detroit, 209 team goals against
3. Dominik Hasek/Ray Emery, Ottawa, 211 team goals against
4. Manny Fernandez, Minnesota, 215 team goals against
4. Henrik Lundqvist/Kevin Weekes, NYR, 215 team goals against

More details are available from the NHL on the Art Ross trophy [top point scorer], Hart Memorial Trophy [NHL MVP], Jack Adams Award [coach of the year], and the Maurice Richard Trophy [top goal scorer].

[Update] Two Sharks enjoy their trophy lives - SF Chronicle.

Thornton and Cheechoo thus become only the third set of teammates in the last 25 seasons to win the points and goal-scoring titles, respectively. Peter Forsberg (106 points) and Milan Hejduk (50) goals were the last to do it with Colorado in 2002-03. Edmonton linemates Wayne Gretzky (215) and Jari Kurri (68) did it in 1985-86.

[Update2] Sharks tandem locks up trophies, Thornton (125 points), Cheechoo (56 goals) Top NHL - SJ Mercury News.

Long Beach and Bakersfield deadlocked at 2-2 in ECHL playoff series

Long Beach Ice Dogs ECHL Bakersfield Condors

The Long Beach Ice Dogs and the Bakersfield Condors are deadlocked 2-2 in the first round of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs. Center Christian Larrivee scored a game winning goal 12:57 into OT to give Long Beach a 5-4 overtime win on Sunday.

Both teams drop the puck at Long Beach Arena for game 5 tonight at 7PM. Tickets are available from the official Ice Dogs website. A winamp audio feed is also available at the bottom of the Ice Dogs home page.

Condors bitten in OT - Bakersfield Californian (subscription only).

Time and again, the Condors had an opportunity to deliver a crippling blow to the Long Beach Ice Dogs Sunday evening. Instead, it was the Ice Dogs delivering a punch to the gut of the Condors with a 5-4 overtime victory.

Christian Larrivee scored with 7:03 left in overtime as the Ice Dogs evened the best-of-seven ECHL Pacific Division semifinal playoff series at two games apiece.

The game-winning shot, from above the right face-off circle, trickled under the left leg pad of Marty Magers, who had replaced Ryan Munce early in the third period.

[Update] Defending Champ Car series champion Sebastien Bourdais won the Long Beach Grand Prix on Sunday, April 9th. Rookie Katherine Legge finished 8th in her first time on the big circuit, the best finish by a woman in a Champ Car. More from the Long Beach Press Telegram.

Two messageboard photo galleries from photographers at the race are available here and here. Two exclusive high resolution Sharkspage videos are available on Youtube: a view from high over the track here, and another of a Mariachi band and Tecate girls here.

San Jose Sharks franchise attendance figures to date

Updated this post detailing the Sharks year-to-date attendance figures from 1991-92 to 2005-06:

1991-92 | 40 | 435,520 | 10,888
1992-93 | 41* | 452,859 | 11,045
1993-94 | 41* | 680,407 | 16,595
1994-95 | 24 | 412,560 | 17,190
1995-96 | 41 | 704,790 | 17,190
1996-97 | 41 | 714,238 | 17,420
1997-98 | 41 | 701,494 | 17,109
1998-99 | 41* | 693,029 | 16,903
1999-00 | 41 | 708,925 | 17,291
2000-01 | 41 | 716,196 | 17,468
2001-02 | 41 | 714,237 | 17,420
2002-03 | 41 | 711,386 | 17,351
2003-04 | 41 | 649,261 | 15,836
2004-05 | No season
2005-06 | 41 | 690,095 | 16,831

* Neutral site home game not included
[-] 1991-93 Attendance at the Cow Palace in S.F., CA.
[-] 1994-95 Attendance for 24 games due to NHL lockout.
[-] 2004-05 NHL season cancelled.

Sources: NHL Media, ESPN, Kenn Tomasch.

In 41 home games this season the San Jose Sharks finished 16th in the NHL in average attendance with 16,831 fans, 96.2% percent of capacity. Montreal finished first in the NHL with an average of 21,273 fans over 40 games. The NY Islanders finished last with an average of 12,661 total fans over 40 games. The HP Pavilion in San Jose opened in September 1993, and seats 17,496 for hockey.

[Update] NHL Sets Records For Total, Average Attendance - NHL.com.

NEW YORK -- National Hockey League fans returned in record numbers in the 2005-06 regular season. A total of 20,854,169 and per-game average of 16,955 attended the 1,230 games, 2.4% ahead of the 2003-04 figures (20,356,199 and 16,550) and 1.2% ahead of the previous record season of 2001-02 (20,614,613 and 16,760). In all, NHL teams played to 91.7% of capacity.

"We can't thank our fans enough for the record support they showed," Commissioner Gary Bettman said. "For all our Clubs, a terrific season was made even better by the enthusiasm and encouragement our fans displayed night after night. We are deeply appreciative."

[Update2] For first-year Thunder, a season worth remembering - Stockton Record.


Night at the Tank

San Jose Sharks Los Angeles Kings

Photo of fans filtering in through the front door of HP Pavilion for the final game of the regular season.

The Los Angeles Kings finished the season with a 4-0 win over San Jose and snapped the Sharks 8-game winning streak. Luc Robitaille played his last game as a Los Angeles King, and finished with 1394 points in 1430 NHL games. The fans in San Jose gave Robitaille a long standing ovation during a video highlight played at the first intermission.

The Sharks finish 5th in the Western Conference, with a record of 44-21-11. A photo gallery from the Mercury News is here.

[Update] During an OLN preview of the Sharks-Kings broadcast, host Bill Clement, analyst Keith Jones, and analyst Pierre Maguire broke down the upcoming San Jose [5] vs Nashville [4] playoff series, and discussed Joe Thornton's post-trade affect on San Jose and Boston.

On Nashville vs San Jose:

Keith Jones: This would have been a very huge matchup if Tomas Vokoun was in goal. Chris Mason is going to come in, he has played nicely, but without Vokoun it is going to be difficult. Zidlicky [is out] too...

Pierre Maguire: That is the biggest one for them, Zidlicky. If they don't have Marek Zidlicky [as a PP QB], and the breakout pass. When you look at the Nashville Predators right now, they have the offense that can compete with San Jose, but they don't have an answer to go against Vesa Toskala. I think Vesa Toskala has been an unbelievable story for San Jose. Keith Jones nailed it. No Zidlicky puts too much pressure on Kimmo Timonen. That is a gigantic problem for Nashville.

On the post-Thornton trade affect for the San Jose Sharks and the Boston Bruins:

Bill Clement: Any way you look at it, the season Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo have put together is sensational.

Keith Jones: And for anyone who would question whether or not he could play in big games, every game since he went to San Jose has been important. They were chasing a playoff spot since the time he arrived. You saw his assist totals, he is going to lead the NHL in points. He is going to be the first player in NHL history to be traded mid-season, go to a new team, and lead the National Hockey League in points.

Pierre Maguire: It has become so fashionable now to say what a great trade this was by San Jose. For all of you bashing Joe Thornton, especially you in Boston, [wild fishing motion] retract. Now Joe Thornton got alienated by that organization, he got run out of Boston on a rail. What a terrible trade for that organization, it sets them back 3-5 years.

There were very few people who questioned the Joe Thornton to San Jose trade from a Sharks point of view. This blog post from December 1st rounds up the news and opinions from media and the fans when the trade went down. This blog post from January 11th covers the abbreviated Joe Thornton return to Boston, where he was tossed 5:13 into the game after checking Boston defenseman Hall Gill into the boards. In both instances, fan reaction was overwhelmingly pro-Thornton.

The bottom line is that Boston was farther away from being a postseason franchise than the Sharks were. Instead of building on a fleet Marco Sturm, and the new #1 defenseman Brad Stuart, the Bruins waited until it was too late to address the problems of being an older and slower team. San Jose was able to retool midseason with Thornton, and clinch a playoff berth with a 5-4 overtime victory against the Vancouver Canucks in the 78th game of the season.

[Update2] And now for the anti-Thornton perspective. For that I direct my gentle readers to one Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe: What went wrong here?

What I think, above all, is that the remaining powers that be on Causeway Street should use Thornton's transformation, from Jumbo Joe to Joltin' Joe, as the means of analyzing whatever inner workings still exist in Bruins management. Golly, and shazam, Thornton finally turned into something truly resembling a franchise player, and I'll remind readers that he never came close to approaching that status during his protracted, and oft-frustrating, tenure in the Hub of Hockey.

That is about as coherent as it gets. Dupont varies wildly in the following paragraphs from a strained Thornton relationship with former general manager Mike O'Connell, to a lack of surrounding talent, and finally... wait for it... the Boston media. Kevin Paul Dupont has been raining fire and brimstone down on Thornton for years and apparently only now realizes what caliber of player he helped run out of town.

Dupont gives Joe Thornton an overall grade of B- for his time in Boston. The National Hockey League will give him the Art Ross equivalent of an A+ for his time in Boston and San Jose this regular season.

[Update3] The final word goes to Joe Thornton. From an April 18th media conference call transcript:

[Q] Looking back on it, what do you think of the trade in retrospect? Has it gone even better than you expected?

[JOE THORNTON] Thinking of the trade, yeah, I'm glad they sent me out here to play with Cheech and the Sharks. They just treat me real nice out here. I love northern California. Yeah, I just couldn't ask for a better place to go play.

[Q] Are there any hard feelings left over from your time with the Bruins?

[JOE THORNTON] Oh, zero. The only hard feeling I had was that night, and after that you get over it and move on. Absolutely none.


Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo tie for NHL offensive player of the week title

A press release from the NHL:

Sharks' Thornton, Cheechoo Share Offensive Player Of The Week Honors; Flames' Kiprusoff Is Top Defensive Player

NEW YORK/TORONTO (April 17, 2006) -- San Jose center Joe Thornton (one goal, 11 assists) and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo (seven goals, four assists), who figured in 16 of 19 Sharks goals in four victories, have been named co-winners of the NHL’s Offensive Player of the Week award for the period ending Sunday, April 16. Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who posted a 2-0-1 record, a 0.32 goals-against average, .988 save percentage and two shutouts, is the League’s Defensive Player of the Week.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Mats Sundin (6-3--9 in four games) and Florida Panthers center Joe Nieuwendyk (4-3--7 in three games) were runners-up for offensive honors, while goaltenders Curtis Joseph of the Phoenix Coyotes (2-0-0, two shutouts), Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres (3-0-0, 1.00 GAA, one shutout) and Chris Mason of the Nashville Predators (3-0-0, 1.01 GAA, one shutout) were runners-up for the defensive award.

Thornton had four multiple-assist games, beginning with two in a 3-2 victory in Phoenix April 10. In consecutive games against Vancouver, Thornton tallied four assists in a 5-4 overtime road victory April 12 and three assists in a 5-3 win in San Jose the following night. He finished the week with a goal and two assists in a 6-3 victory over Anaheim April 15. Thornton leads all NHL scorers with 125 points (29-96--125).

Cheechoo recorded three multiple-goal games, vaulting him into the NHL goal-scoring lead with 56. He tallied two goals and one assist in a 3-2 victory over Phoenix April 10, added two goals and one assist against Vancouver April 13 and notched three goals and two assists in a 6-3 victory over Anaheim April 15. Cheechoo ranks 10th in League scoring with 93 points (56-37--93).

The Sharks have clinched the fifth seed in the Western Conference with 99 points (44-26-11) and will open the playoffs in Nashville against the Predators later this week. Kiprusoff, who captured Defensive Player of the Week honors for the third time this season, made 32 saves in a 3-0 victory over Anaheim April 11, 23 saves in a 2-0 victory over Colorado April 13 and stopped 25 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss at Los Angeles April 15.

Kiprusoff improved to 42-20-11 in 74 games. He leads NHL goaltenders in shutouts (10) and goals-against average (2.07), is tied for first in victories and ranks fourth in save percentage (.923).

Calgary has clinched the Northwest Division with 103 points (46-24-11) and will open the playoffs at home against either Anaheim or Colorado.

Joe Thornton will participate in a media conference call today at 12 noon. Thornton leads the NHL in points with 125, and in assists with 96. Since joining the Sharks on November 30th, Joe Thornton has 20 goals and 72 assists for 92 points in 57 games.

San Jose finishes the season with a game tonight against the Los Angeles Kings before face off against the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

[Update] Joe Thornton was named the 2005-06 Seagate "Sharks player of the Year" today. The award was voted on by members of the Bay Area media and will be presented to Thornton prior to the start of the Los Angeles Kings game tonight at HP Pavilion. Milan Michalek was announced as the Playstation "Sharks rookie of the Year". The San Jose right wing has 17 goals and 18 assists in 79 games played this season.

[Update2] Double-header tonight on OLN: Dallas Stars vs Detroit Red Wings tonight at 4PM, Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks tonight at 7:30PM. Look for video highlights here after the games.

Updated Sharkspage Archives

Highlights of six years of hockey blog posts and local sports coverage have been added to the archives.

My favorite post still has to be this Asia League Ice Hockey update from 2005 where fans from Korea, Japan, and Eastern Russia sent in brief reports on their local teams.

Jayson Justin from Canada sent in photos of Esa Tikkanen and described the play of the Korean club Halla Winia [named after a refrigerator company], SCLA photographed a hockey triple-header including the Japanese Nikko Ice Bucks at Yoyogi Arena, and Igor Saranchin emailed notes and photos of the Russian High League and the ALIH team in Khabarovsk City [eastern Russia], the Golden Amur.

New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury completed the four country ALIH internet tour a few weeks later with an article on his visit to Chinese teams in Harbin and QiQihar. Milbury wrote about his experience in China for ESPN:

My mission was to evaluate the hockey teams of Harbin and QiQihar. Each city has a team that plays in the Asian Hockey League (AHL), an entity with clubs in Japan, Korea and China. The Chinese teams have struggled in AHL play and I have been sent to consider ways that we might help them. Since the Chinese national team consists entirely of players from these two teams, it might be indirectly helped as well. The thinking is that if these two teams and the national team can achieve some success, hockey in China can regain some needed attention and perhaps some private and governmental sponsorship.


Monster night at HP Pavilion, Sharks down Anaheim 6-3 to clinch 5th place

The Ducks headed into HP Pavilion Saturday on a two game skid which left them 1 point behind the Sharks for 5th place in the Western Conference.

The ice was heavily titled in San Jose's favor early. The Ekman-Thornton-Cheechoo line connected for a regular strength and a power play goal, and rookie power forward Steve Bernier added a short handed goal to earn his 8th point [4G,4A] in the last 10 games.

After a quick snap shot on goal during a scramble in front of Anaheim goaltender J.S. Giguere, Jonathan Cheechoo gathered the rebound against the side of the net and tucked it around the post for his second goal of the game. The Mighty Ducks converted their 6th power play opportunity on a goal by Ryan Getzlaf, and Nils Ekman also scored to make it 5-1 at the end of two.

Anaheim switched to backup goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to start the third period. The Mighty Ducks outshot San Jose 14-4 in the final period, and capitalized in the first ten minutes with 2 goals by right wing Joffrey Lupul and center Andy McDonald. Down 5-3, Jonathan Cheechoo scored an empty net goal with two seconds left to complete the hat trick. The referees dropped the puck on the final two seconds while the ice crew was still clearing hats off the ice.

This was Cheechoo's fifth hat trick of the season, the third against Anaheim, and his 54-55-56th goals left him two ahead of Jaromir Jagr for the NHL lead. Joe Thornton earned a goal and two assists to give him 125 points on the season. Three points ahead of Jaromir Jagr, Thornton is the favorite to take home the Art Ross trophy with one game left to play in the season.

Joe Thornton notes that the Sharks are peaking at the right time:

"We like playing all these games," Thornton said. "We're peaking at the right time and everyone's excited we've been playing this well. We'd like to keep it up for a couple more months now."

Sharks set franchise mark with eighth straight win - San Jose Mercury News.

Suddenly, Ducks Are Limping to the Finish, With playoffs looming, Anaheim loses its third in a row, 6-3 to San Jose. Cheechoo gets hat trick - Los Angeles Times.

With the crowd chanting "M-V-P, M-V-P" at times, Thornton continued to build a case for winning the Hart Trophy with three more points to up his total to a league-leading 125. San Jose was 8-12-4 before trading for the big center Nov. 30 and 36-14-7 since.

"I don't think there's been any player in the league that's been better than Joe Thornton in all aspects of the game," Shark General Manager Doug Wilson said. " … It was like a clean slate for us [after the trade]. It's like we've had two seasons in one."

The Los Angeles Times reports that Kings CEO Tim Leiweke met with former Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi on Friday. Current Los Angeles Kings general manager Dave Taylor may be let go after a second year of missing the playoffs. On March 21st, the Kings fired head coach Andy Murray and replaced him with interim head coach John Torchetti.

E.J. Hradek notes a rumor that Phoenix Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky may be an option.

Hardly quiet on the Gretzky front - E.J. Hradek's ESPN blog [PPV].

I was driving home after doing a spot on Saturday morning's SportsCenter. I thought I was headed for a quiet afternoon. Then, the cell phone rings. St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer Tom Wheatley is on the other end of the line. He tells me he just talked to a team exec who says he heard that Wayne Gretzky could be going to LA to replace Dave Taylor as the Kings GM. Now, if you're a hockey writer and you hear Gretzky's name, you start making calls.

Looking for the Sharks, finding Tim Kawakami

A short transcript from the Last Honest Sports Show featuring comments by Rick Quan from CBS-5, San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami, and Contra Costa Times columnist Joe Stiglich.

[RQ] When we come back at least one local team has qualified for the playoffs but does anyone care? We'll go looking for the Sharks next.

[RQ] The Sharks clinched a playoff spot against Vancouver, but how much excitement is surrounding the Sharks going to the postseason? Tim, you are down in the South Bay, are the people...

[TK] Oh, we are crazy, we are going nuts over the Sharks, that's all we talk about...

California kids, they don't grow up with hockey. It's hard to get your blood boiling over hockey until they get into playoffs. I think, to see them win a round, maybe some fun hockey, get to the next round maybe play against a famous team like Detroit or something, Colorado, maybe a rivalry.

I think Joe Thornton helps. It helps me I will tell you that. Then you can figure out there is a superstar, Patrick Marleau is a second superstar. Cheechoo's feeding off Thornton. Then you can figure out how the sport goes. Thornton's going to have to lead them into the playoffs. How is he going to do in the playoffs. That is how I am looking at it. It is much easier for me to look at it that way.

[RQ] We all heard about the big trade when they got Thornton. Joe, are you surprised at all he has had such a huge impact on the team the way he has?

[JS] Not really, you see it on other sports when a guy comes in from a trade. Baron Davis sort of had that effect for awhile.

[TK] And he has also had that effect this year.

[JS] Yes, his absence. He had that immediate effect on the team. Joe Thornton has done it this year. They got him awhile ago. His influence has helped the team most of the season.

[TK] I will tell you what, in California, in hockey we need stars. I was in L.A. when we got Gretzky. You need identifiable, you can't identify with a checking line or the third line. You need to identify with stars because you need to see who is on the ice, and how that affects the game. It really helps me, it has really helped me to understand how the shifts works or how the game works because off of that one superstar.

I am a dumby on hockey, I always admit that, but I am willing to understand it and like it more because of a superstar.

[RQ] It makes it easier for all of us.

Interesting exchange between several members of the local media. "Where is the excitement" and "Does anyone care" have been used several times in the last few weeks to describe the Sharks playoff run. There are a few major factors that differentiate fan and media interest from those on the East coast or in Canada, but most of the recent commentary does not appear to stray too far from personal opinion.

More on this soon.

The date of taping for this episode was not listed, but this program aired on the same day Jonathan Cheechoo scored a hat trick with two assists to become the NHL goal scoring leader with 56 goals, Joe Thornton scored a goal and two assists to take over the NHL overall points lead at 125, and the Sharks notched their eighth straight win 6-3 over Anaheim to clinch 5th place in the division.


Jonathan Cheechoo, from James Bay to San Jose

Globe and Mail Jonathan Cheechoo

Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail published a front page article today on San Jose Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo. Mason describes Cheechoo's journey from the first time he left home to play hockey to scoring his 52nd and 53rd goals in the NHL, his chemistry this year with center Joe Thornton, and how hard work and determination have led to his success.

There have been lots of great stories in the NHL this season. The return to form of Jaromir Jagr. The brilliance of Alexander Ovechkin. The greatness of Sid the Kid. But there hasn't been a warmer one than that of Jonathan Cheechoo, the Cree Indian from Moose Factory, Ont., who Thursday night scored his 52nd and 53rd goals of the season.

As of yesterday morning, Mr. Cheechoo was second in the goal-scoring race, one goal behind Mr. Jagr with two games to go for both players in the schedule. His San Jose Sharks, meantime, were fifth in the Western Conference and riding a hot streak heading into the playoffs.

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson may have also coined a new label, hardest working 50 goal scorer in the business. Move over Alexander Ovechkin.

Sharks coach Ron Wilson has been around enough 50 goal scorers to know what they look like and think like and act like. There was Pavel Bure in Vancouver, Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya in Anaheim and Peter Bondra in Washington.

"They all made it look so easy," Mr. Wilson says about the ability of those players to score goals. "Cheech [Cheechoo] makes it look so goddamn hard."

Thanks to the inestimable James Mirtle for the link, and newseum for the photo. If you can handle the audio, a fan posted this clip of Jonathan Cheechoo highlights on Youtube.com.

[Update] Colby Cosh works hard to prevent the needless suffering for fans of bubble teams like Edmonton. Fans of the Vancouver Canucks are in their third day of shock after dropping back-to-back games against San Jose to eliminate themselves from the playoffs.

[Update2] Domink Hasek update from the morning Hockey Informer goaltender rollcall. Hockey Informer is 2144 for 2380 (90.1%) picking which goaltenders will start an NHL game this season.

Dominik Hasek, Ottawa Senators - Hasek, who apparently suffered a setback in his recovery from an abdominal/groin injury, has practiced the last two days since, reports the Toronto Star. However, he went through the drills very gingerly and either couldn't drop down to stop shots or simply refused to. Hasek was originally hoping to play in today's game against the Maple Leafs, but the Senators are now hoping he can play in the final regular season game on Tuesday but if he can't even stop shots yet, then we feel that even that is very doubtful. The paper went on to report that Ray Emery has apparently been told privately that he will be the starting goalie once the playoffs commence.


Back-to-Back wins over Vancouver Canucks ensure San Jose Sharks playoff berth

Todd Bertuzzi

- Sharks 5, Canucks 3 Thursday, April 13th.

The Sharks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks from playoff contention with a 5-3 win at HP Pavilion. Rookie defenseman Matt Carle scored the game winning goal on the power play 11:24 into the third period. Jonathan Cheechoo scored goals #52 and #53 to put him one behind Jaromir Jagr for the NHL goal scoring lead. Joe Thornton picked up his 7th assist in two nights. His 121 total points ties him with Jagr for the NHL scoring lead.

Mercury news photo slideshow from the game.

With 2 games remaining, San Jose is in fifth place [97pts] in the West, Anaheim is in sixth [96pts], Colorado seventh [94pts], and Edmonton [93pts] is in the final playoff spot with 1 game remaining against Colorado. Current playoff matchups from ESPN: Detroit vs Edmonton, Dallas vs Colorado, Calgary vs Anaheim, Nashville vs San Jose.

Evgeni Nabokov [16-8-7, .886SV%, 3.08GAA] made 17 saves on 20 shots for his first win since March 19th. According to the AP, it was also his first appearance in 8 games, and only his sixth since his impressive performance for Team Russian in the Olympics.

Key of the game from the Vancouver Canucks liveblog: take away space from Joe Thornton. Sharkspage keys of the game: stay out of the penalty box, pressure Vancouver in the Sharks defensive zone and do not let them cycle the puck down low. Vancouver gave up 3 leads, and allowed 3 unanswered goals in the third period.

Let the recriminations begin. Calls for Naslund and Bertuzzi to be traded have already begun. The spotlight on Vancouver Canucks head coach Marc Crawford will be intense. Unless the media can wrap their heads around the playoffs or the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver June 24th, it may be all she wrote for the Belleville, Ontario native.

Fat lady sings for Canucks - The Globe and Mail.

Before the game, Vancouver general manager Dave Nonis noted his team needed to play with confidence and purpose against the surging Sharks.

"They're a very similar team to ourselves," Nonis said... "The style of game they play is fairly open and they have some offensive weapons,"

No playoffs for the Canucks - CBC.

Shock on the Left Coast - Damien Cox.

It's hard to believe, meanwhile, that the stunning end to Vancouver's playoff hopes won't mark the end of Marc Crawford's coaching rein in Vancouver and the conclusion to Todd Bertuzzi's career as a Canuck. If that's the case, it will be fitting, for the inability of those two men to control themselves led to the horrible Steve Moore incident of two years ago, and the Canucks have failed to be a team of substance ever since.

GM Dave Nonis will be heavily scrutinized as well, for none of the players he acquired at the trade deadline - goalie Mika Norenen and defencemen Eric Weinrich, Sean Brown and Keith Carney - made a decisive difference to a team that couldn't keep the puck out of its net when it mattered.

Shark with teeth, Thornton giving San Jose new life - Vancouver Province.

Joe Thornton

- Sharks 5, Canucks 4 [OT] Wednesday April 12th.

Joe Thornton put together his most dominant game of the season in a playoff-clinching win on the road in Vancouver. Thornton piled up 4 assists, hit Grant Stevenson with a home run pass to start the comeback in the first period, skated for half a shift with his shoulder pads and jersey pulled over his head, and fed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in the slot for the game winning goal in overtime.

San Jose won its sixth straight game, and moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings. The Sharks can finish the season in no lower than 7th position. San Jose received goals from 5 different scorers: Stevenson, Ekman, Michalek, Hannan and Ehrhoff. Vesa Toskala [22-7-4, .900SV%, 2.55GAA] made 20 saves on 24 shots for his 22nd win of the season.

The Mercury News notes that they are in with the win, and the SF Chronicle reports that the Sharks are only the 5th team to qualify for the playoffs after being 8 points out after New Year's. Many are revisiting a Thornton for MVP campaign over Jaromir Jagr.

The Vancouver Canucks liveblogged the game. The fateful entry in OT:


00:34 - Game over…… San Jose clinch a playoff spot……. Thornton over the line and the coverage breaks down…. He centres for Ehrhoff who beats Auld top shelf over the glove hand…….. SJS - Ehrhoff(5) (J.Thornton, Preissing) 00:34…….. 5-4 SJS.

Bertuzzi was watching me, then he just went away - Vancouver Sun.

Not long ago, the Vancouver Canucks were invincible when Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi played together. Now, it seems impossible for the Canucks to win when their highest-paid players occupy the ice at the same time.

After this season, they may never play together again. But that didn't help the Canucks Wednesday in overtime when Naslund and Bertuzzi, the minus men who had strong games on separate lines, were unfathomably reunited by coach Marc Crawford in time for San Jose Shark defenceman Christian Ehrhoff to be left wide open for a 30-footer he buried 34 seconds into the extra frame as Vancouver blew a third-period lead and lost 5-4.

As Ehrhoff explained: "Bertuzzi was watching me, and then he just went away."

[Update] Brendan Witt hopes to help soften the loss of Tomas Vokoun - NHL.com.

[Update2] Lil Jon meets the mother of all pimp cups in Atlanta. He strapped Lord Stanley's Cup into his car, posed for a few photos outside, and talked about following the old school Atlanta Flames before the expansion Trashers came to the ATL.

[Update3] Inside Edges, Worth Every Penny - The Hockey News.


Interview with KGO radio host Ronn Owens

Trying to write an introduction for KGO radio host Ronn Owens is difficult. A 30+ year veteran of local radio, Owens has interviewed a wide variety of celebrities, politicians, and athletes with the same even keel style he uses with those who call into his show. Drawing an estimated audience of several hundred thousand listeners per week, he hosts one of the largest radio programs in the Bay Area.

Ronn answered a handful of questions about his morning show, sports personalities he has interviewed, the outlook for Bay Area sports this year, and how closely he is following the San Jose Sharks playoff run.

[Q] How did you get your start in radio, and how long have you been on the air with KGO?

[RO] I started while in Graduate School. Came to KGO in 1975 and have been here since.

[Q] For those outside of the area, how would you describe your radio show. A cross section of news, politics and tech? How much do you focus on local sports?

[RO] About half the show has guests (celebrities, politicians, authors, people in the news) and the other haalf is simply the listeners and me. We'll talk current events (international/national/state) all the way to gadgets, sports and just fun stuff.

[Q] What are three of your interviews with sports figures that stand out from your time at KGO?

[RO] Mickey Mantle
Willie Mays
Whitey Ford
Magic Johnson
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Steve Garvey
Tony La Russa (many many times)
Jerry Rice
Joe Montana
Bill Walsh (many times)
Carmen Policy (many times)
Joe Kapp (not for good reasons!)

....on and on and on. Can't pick three. Maybe a hundred, but these are some.

[Q] The Bay Area suffered through non-playoff seasons with the Raiders and Niners, Warriors, A's and Giants. The 2004-05 NHL season was cancelled due to a labor impasse. What kind of year was last year for Bay Area sports?

[RO] Disappointing, obviously. Positive signs for the Giants and A's, nothing too hopeful for '49ers, Raiders, hope for Sharks if they get into playoffs.

[Q] Has the steroid controversy surrounding Bonds and Major League Baseball clouded your opinion of opening day this week?

[RO] Somewhat. I find Bonds despicable... yet as a Giants fan, I'd cheer if he hits a homer. That's a dilemma for all Giants fans. I was at the Opener...I didn't cheer, I didn't boo.

[Q] Final question, what do you think of the Sharks run to the Western Conference finals against Calgary? Do you think a possible Joe Thornton MVP campaign, a 50 goal season by Jonathan Cheechoo, or a similar playoff run can capture the same excitement this season?

[RO] The honest answer is I don't follow hockey and basketball as much as football and baseball, so I can just say I'm rooting for the Sharks.

Ronn Owens won a Marconi award by the National Association of Broadcasters in 2003, and was nominated for the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2005. His first book was published in 2004, Voice of Reason: Why the Left and Right Are Wrong.

Visit his website at ronn.com for more information and an excellent collection of Bay Area links. The show airs weekdays on KGO 810AM from 9AM to 12PM. Upcoming on the program: San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome on Monday, Oakland Athletics left-hander Barry Zito on Tuesday.
Why the left and right are wrong


OLN gearing up coverage for the Stanley Cup playoffs

OLN NHL Stanley Cup playoff coverage

OLN recently released a number of details about the network's coverage of the upcoming NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. OLN plans on broadcasting 15-20 games for the conference quarterfinals April 21st to May 3rd, 15-20 games for the conference semi-finals from May 5th to May 17th, 7-12 games for the conference finals from May 19th to June 2nd, and the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final on June 5th and June 7th. OLN will then hand off coverage of the Stanley Cup Final to NBC for the rest of the series.

OLN also announced a video-on-demand feature that will deliver a complete highlight package the morning after each night of NHL action. OLNtv.com currently streams goal highlights and post game interviews in as part of their NHL video gallery. Starting April 21st, they will ramp up coverage to include more video features and exclusive content.

Complimenting the hockey broadcasts will be a selection of "hockey-themed" content which includes NHL classic games, "Legends of Hockey", a documentary on Lord Stanley's Cup narrated by Dennis Leary, Mark Messier's Fantasy Camp, "Team Spirit", a documentary on Inuit brothers Jordin and Terence Tootoo, a hockey satire titled "The Tournament", and the classic movie "Youngblood".

Hockey Calendar from the AP:

April 18 - Regular season ends.
April 21 - Stanley Cup playoffs begin.
May 6-21 - World championships at Riga, Latvia.
June 19 - Last possible day for Stanley Cup final.
June 24 - NHL entry draft at Vancouver.

[Update] Canucks season hangs in balance - The Globe and Mail.

Crawford might consider reuniting his former top line of Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison. Except for power plays, Bertuzzi has been playing on a line with youngsters Ryan Kesler and Alexandre Burrows.

The coach rationalizes his line combinations by noting it's harder for opposing teams to counter Naslund and Bertuzzi when they're on separate lines. The strategy hasn't exactly worked, as scoring production is down.

Vancouver's top line for several weeks has been the irrepressible Carter, playing alongside the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. The unit had several glorious scoring chances against Anaheim, but hit posts or shot wide.

[Update2] Bluelines: DiPietro's fighting words and GM rumor buzz - Stan Fischler.

Fischler notes Matt Carle's Hobey Baker win, Carle's training by Alaska-based power skating coach Laura Stramm, the Alaska Aces regular season ECHL points championshop, and the fact that the rumors are picking up around Dean Lombardi for the Boston general manager position.

Link from Canucks Corner.

[Update3] The ECHL Fresno Falcons trailed the San Diego Gulls 3-1 heading into the third period of their opening playoff game on Tuesday Night. Fresno center Peter Fregoe and defenseman Vincent Macri scored to tie the game at 3-3. John Wroblewski scored top shelf over San Diego goaltender Tyler Weiman to give the Falcons a 4-3 OT win. Jamie Holden made 27 saves on 30 shots for the win, Tyler Weiman made 49 saves on 53 shots in a losing effort.


Hockey Notes, San Jose 5-0 edition

San Jose Five 0

- Please listen to this audio file while reading this post. Somehow the Hawaii 5-0 theme is lost in translation when played by a band from Edmonton.

- Updating the Western Conference playoff bubble after Monday's games:

5. Anaheim [42-24-12], 78GP, 96 points
Remaining games: at Calgary, at Edmonton, at San Jose, Calgary.

6. San Jose [41-26-11], 78GP, 93 points
Remaining games: at Vancouver, Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles.

7. Colorado [42-28-8], 78GP, 92 points
Remaining games: Phoenix, at Calgary, at Vancouver, at Edmonton.

8. Edmonton [39-27-13], 79GP, 91 points
Remaining games: at Detroit, Anaheim, Colorado.

9. Vancouver [41-31-7], 79GP, 89 points
Remaining games: San Jose, at San Jose, Colorado.

10. Los Angeles [40-34-5], 79GP, 85 points
Remaining games: at Phoenix, Calgary, at San Jose.

San Jose continued its dominant play in the final sprint to the Stanley Cup playoffs. After wacking a Modano-less Stars team at home in a game that was not as close as the 4-1 score appeared, San Jose traveled to Phoenix to play a team that has beaten them in six of seven tries this season.

San Jose downed Phoenix 3-2 to win their 5th straight game. Jonathan Cheechoo notched his 50th and 51st goals of the year, which were as important to the Sharks playoff run as they were for the history books.

Nils Ekman converted from the foot of the crease on a nice feed by defenseman Matt Carle to open the scoring against Phoenix. Mike Comrie tied the score at 1-1 in the middle of the second period before Jonathan Cheechoo marched into San Jose history with 2 power play goals in 44 seconds. Number 50 came on a 5-on-3 quick release bullet from the slot. Cheechoo's 51st was assisted by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Vesa Toskala made 23 saves on 25 shots to increase his record to 21-7-4.

Phoenix was not done, and Steve Reinprecht continued his blinding scoring tear against San Jose. In his last three games, Reinprecht scored 6 goals in 3 games to help the Coyotes sweep the Sharks in two back-to-back games at HP Pavilion. San Jose was able to hold on for the win and vaulted into sixth place as a result.

The Vancouver Canucks faced the surging Anaheim Mighty Ducks in a game that could define their season. Anaheim erased any doubt in the first two period, scoring 4 unanswered goals. Ryan Kesler and Sharkspage favorite Anson Carter scored on the power play to make it respectable. The 4-2 Anaheim win leaves them only two points out of 4th place for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Knowing the media glare that this team is under in Vancouver, it is only going to get worse unless they win out. The Canucks finish with a crucial home-at-home with San Jose, and a finale against the Colorado Avalanche.

Canucks have backs against a wall, Ducks clinch playoff spot - Globe and Mail.

The Ducks used their exceptional team speed to advantage at the start of the game before falling back in a defensive mode.

"It's a different hockey game now and all about moving that puck through the neutral ice and establishing a strong fore-check," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle noted after the morning skate. "We've had some success doing that, [while] other parts of our game we need to work at.

"We're a hockey club that's probably in a transition period of trying to find ourselves -- if we can maintain this pace."

- At 51 goals, Cheechoo is tied for second in the NHL with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk. Jaromir Jagr leads the league with 53. Joe Thornton leads the NHL in assists with 87, and trails NHL point leader Jagr by 4 points.

- The Edmonton Oilers published a Western Conference playoff feature. With three games remaining, the Edmonton Oilers project themselves to make the playoffs with 95 points.

- Bryan Marchment: Leader? Mentor? - Teal Sunglasses.

- The AHL Cleveland Barons lost their last home game in Cleveland 4-3 to the Hamilton Bulldogs in front of 7,961 fans Saturday night [box score]. The Barons named Patrick Rissmiller as Team MVP, and Josh Hennessy as rookie of the year.

Next year the Sharks Cleveland affiliate will move East to become the Worcester Sharks. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is awaiting a vote by the AHL Board of Govenors May 16th which would transfer ownership of the dormant Utah franchise to his ownership group. Pending approval, the team could begin play at the Quick Loan Arena in Cleveland for the 2007 season.

Visit clevelandprohockey.com for more information, and thanks to the fans from Cleveland who emailed in tips all season long.

- Photos from the final Cleveland Barons home game, from Melissa Hess.

- Blood clot sidelines Tomas Vokoun for season - TSN.

- From Kukla's Korner, a report from the Chicago Tribune on a personal tragedy involving former Shark Curtis Brown:

Curtis Brown has injured his knee, nearly had his nose severed and may have been knocked out for the rest of the season after suffering a concussion while colliding with a teammate.

But Brown would gladly suffer those physical injuries in order to avoid the tragedy he and his wife, Ami, suffered in September when their daughter Aubri died of sudden infant death syndrome.

- Los Angeles Kings veteran Luc Robitaille will announce his retirement today live at noon from Los Angeles. The press conference at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo is open to the public and will be streamed online from lakings.com.

- Finnish goaltender update: With the win over Phoenix, Vesa Toskala [21] moves into third behind only Antero Niitymaki [22], and league-leading Miikka Kiprusoff [40].

- Can NHL broaden its fan base? - Neil Hayes for the Contra Costa Times.

Can the new and improved game clutch and grab casual fans needed to build TV ratings and broaden the game's appeal?

The product is better than ever and playoff excitement is building in NHL arenas throughout North America. The game's biggest problem is that the excitement doesn't always resonate far beyond the arena door.

That's especially true in nontraditional markets such as San Jose, where the Sharks are in the midst of the type of thrilling late-season playoff surge many had predicted for the Warriors.

The Sharks are playing inspired, desperate hockey since acquiring Joe Thornton, the first legitimate MVP candidate in franchise history, in a blockbuster trade Nov. 30. They have a compelling cast of characters and are acquiring the look of a team that could be dangerous in the playoffs.

Yet for much of the Bay Area sporting public, the buzz that surrounds Sharks games remains muted.

There is a theme around the Bay Area right now by some in the media: Where is the excitement for the Sharks playoff run? In my experience, San Jose is not a "microcosm of the dilemma facing the league" for non-traditional markets. The Bay Area lives in its own media bubble, and what the exists inside the bubble does not always accurately reflect the views of public in my opinion. If that were so, then Barry Bonds would warrant his own reality show on ESPN. Bad example. More on this will be in a later post on the subject, a few upcoming interviews, and the next news blurb.

- No excitement here.

- From the April 4th Morning Buzz podcast with Mr. Morning Buzz John Ryan and San Jose Mercury News sports editor Craig Lancaster:

[JR] The game before that was the perfect monument to the season. They fall in this huge deep hole 3-0, all of a sudden they rally furiously to tie. And then they give up a goal and they don't get the other point.

[CL] You know there is something about hockey here. I am a huge fan of the idea we have got this pro team in San Jose. Our big team. But, where is the excitement? If this were football, baseball, or basketball, things would be at a fever pitch right now. I am not sure how to account for that.

[JR] Yes, you know I think all of our winter sports people are seeing this rain, they see the snow in Tahoe, they are up there.

Interesting exchange.

- This blog's stats for yesterday: Successful requests for files: 36,373, Successful requests for pages: 5,141. Big sports blogs on the net usually average around 10,000 visitors a day. Half of that for a local hockey blog on a Monday is not bad. That is a little excitement.

- Cool website: vintagehockeyphotos.com.

- Scars healing, painfully - The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

[Update] My Alexander Ovechkin - The Ice Block.

Marketing the game of hockey is great, but the NHL product isn't just hockey, and it's not generic-looking hockey players in alternating color jerseys with the NHL logo on it. The product comes from 30 NHL teams comprised of the best players in the world. It's as though the NHL is paranoid about putting the players first, giving them too much marketing power, but the players and the plays these players make is what makes the game compelling.

Sell the players. My NHL commercial involves ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas breaking down Flyer Fan Chris Falcone's fall through the plexiglass into the penalty box with Tie Domi in 2001. Tag line: The NHL, be a part of the action!



Ovechkin pie in the face

Alexander Ovechkin took a shaving cream pie in the face from a teammate during a post-game interview Monday night. Ovechkin scored his 49th goal of the season 3:30 into overtime to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins.

Video highlights should be available on OLN later tonight. Best part was Ovechkin trying to be polite and answer the reporter's questions.

[Update] More from Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonis and Eric McErlain at Offwing.

[Update2] Ovechkin's OT Goal Gives Him 100 Points - Washington Post.

New Jersey's Scott Gomez named NHL offensive player of the week, San Jose's Vesa Toskala named defensive player of the week

Scott Gomez

A press release from the NHL:

NEW YORK/TORONTO (April 10, 2006) -- New Jersey center Scott Gomez, whose eight points (four goals, four assists) in three victories helped the Devils extend their winning streak to seven games, has been named the NHL’s Offensive Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday, April 9. San Jose goaltender Vesa Toskala, who led the Sharks to four victories with a 0.98 goals-against average, .950 save percentage and one shutout, is the League’s Defensive Player of the Week.

Buffalo Sabres right wing Maxim Afinogenov (2-7--9 in four games), Carolina Hurricanes right wing Justin Williams (5-3--8 in four games) and Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza (0-8--8 in four games) were runners-up for offensive honors, while goaltenders Sean Burke of the Tampa Bay Lightning (3-0-0, 0.97 GAA) and Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames (2-0-2, 1.70 GAA) were runners-up for the defensive award.

Gomez matched a season high with four points (one goal, three assists) in a 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins April 5, scored two goals, including the game-winner, and added an assist in a 3-2 victory at Montreal April 8 and notched one goal in a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers April 9.

Gomez raised his season scoring total to 31 goals and 77 points, both career highs. The 26-year-old Anchorage, Alaska native ranks second on the Devils in scoring, trailing linemate Brian Gionta (44-35--79). The Devils (42-27-9, 93 points), sixth in the Eastern Conference, visit Carolina tomorrow, host Philadelphia Thursday and Sunday and finish the regular season next Tuesday at Montreal.

Toskala, who captured Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time in three weeks, made 16 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Dallas Stars April 3 and turned aside 25 of 26 shots in a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche April 5. The 28-year-old Tampere, Finland native made 14 saves for his fourth career NHL shutout in a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings April 6 and finished the week with 21 saves as the Sharks defeated the Dallas Stars 4-1 April 9.

Toskala improved to 20-7-4 in 34 games, including a 16-2-2 mark in his past 20 appearances. The Sharks (40-26-11, 91 points), seventh in the Western Conference, visit Phoenix tonight and Vancouver Wednesday before finishing the regular season with home games against Vancouver, Anaheim and Los Angeles.

Scott Gomez

Scott Gomez held a conference call with the NHL media today, highlights below:

[Q] Can you say that you and the team have had to go through some distractions and adversity to get to the point where you are right now?

[SG] Yeah, I think so. You were here to see all what was going on in the beginning of the year with the coaching, with certain players getting sent down and stuff. I think the team's gone through a lot.

But, you know, one thing about it, we knew the potential of this club and we stuck with it. I think that's been the main goal, is just every game we just want to improve, we want to get better. We got some guys that know what it takes to win the ultimate. I think that's been the mindset...

[Q] You were weak defensively in your early years. You certainly weren't very good on faceoffs. Now you're adept at faceoffs and you've become very responsible defensively. How do you account for the turnaround in both areas?

[SG] Well, the faceoffs were just kind of one of those things that come in the league, coming from Major Junior, you're taking faceoffs against 15-year-old kids and you're dominating them, then the tide is kind of reversed on you. It was one thing that I probably really didn't take too serious, you know, coming in. We always had guys like Bobby, Arnie, those big boys would take all of the important draws. John Madden, also I mean.

I guess you realize as you get older how important the faceoffs are, how it's more time possession with the puck. Yeah, you have to -- it's one of the more important things, even though I still blame my wingers for my early struggles with it.

Then with the defensive zone, I mean, yeah, I guess you just -- you know, the offense is always there. Mr. Lamoriello is always trying to get it through my head the more you take care of your defensive zone the more you'll have offensive opportunities. I guess I've kind of taken that into account.

It's a growing process. Obviously with the team we've always had -- like I said, I was always kind of looked on to provide the offense or help out with the offense, then the defense, we always had guys for that situation. The older I get, the more responsibilities I guess I have...

[Q] What is it like having Lou Lamoriello behind the bench?

[SG] I guess we can put Mr. Lamoriello in a different category. He's probably one of the most intimidating men in the league. When you mess up on a play or something, he'd be across the ice, you knew you wouldn't have to hear about it till the next day. Now that he's two feet behind me, it's a little different.

I give all the credit to him, Johnny Mac, Lappy. It's not what everyone expected. I mean, Lou has been nothing but positive behind the bench. He'll put his input in, but at the same time he's really let the reins go to Johnny MacLean. Johnny Mac has done a wonderful job.

At first it was, "Oh, man, is he going to ring my neck when I come back to the bench?" I think he adds a little more to the bench. It's been great. It's been a great experience. I think everyone -- he's obviously done a tremendous job out there, too...

[Q] Gionta is the guy who made the comment. You refer to him as a four-foot John LeClair. Has he ever said anything funny about you?

[SG] No. Probably 'cause, you know, he's smarter than that, because he know whose gets him the puck.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Final Men's College Hockey Poll Released

A press release from USA Hockey:

University of Wisconsin Finishes 2005-06 Season At No. 1 On USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Wisconsin claimed the No. 1 spot on the final USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll of the 2005-06 season. Last weekend, the Badgers captured their first NCAA championship since 1990 and their first 30-win season since 1999-2000. Wisconsin defeated No. 4 University of Maine, 5-2, in the NCAA Men's Frozen Four semifinals last Thursday (April 6) before knocking off No. 2 Boston College, 2-1, in the championship game two days later.

NOTES: Wisconsin spent the most time of any team in the No. 1 spot on the poll this season, holding the position for nine weeks, including seven straight weeks between Nov. 28 and Jan. 16 ... The Central Collegiate Hockey Association had eight different teams crack the poll throughout the season, leading all conferences ... Eight teams (Boston College, Colorado College, Cornell University, University of Maine, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of North Dakota and University of Wisconsin) held a spot on the poll throughout the entire season.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 11th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the official publication of USA Hockey.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #26

(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week, Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1. U. of Wisconsin, 510 (34), 1, 30-10-3, 26
2. Boston College, 475, 3, 26-13-3, 26
3. U. of North Dakota, 435, 2, 29-16-1, 26
4. U. of Maine, 401, 4, 28-12-2, 26
5. Boston U., 363, 5, 26-10-4, 16
6. Michigan State U., 318, 6, 25-12-8, 17
7. Cornell U., 312, 7, 22-9-4, 26
8. U. of Minnesota, 276, 8, 27-9-5, 26
9. Miami (Ohio) U., 214, 9, 26-9-4, 22
10. Harvard U., 161, 10, 21-12-2, 12
11. Colorado College, 158, 11, 24-16-2, 26
12. U. of Michigan, 142, 12, 21-15-5, 26
13. U. of New Hampshire, 135, 13, 20-13-7, 24
14. College of the Holy Cross, 108, 14, 27-10-2, 2
15. St. Cloud State U., 22, 15, 22-16-4, 3

Others receiving votes: University of Denver, 22; University of Nebraska Omaha, 13; Northern Michigan University, 10; Dartmouth College, 4; Bemidji State University, 2

Deadspin posted an informative preview of the Frozen Four Championship game.

ESPN reports that Special teams carry Badgers past BC to NCAA title. Robbie Earl and Tom Gilbert scored for Wisconsin, with Sharks 2003 7th round draft pick Joe Pavelski picking up 2 assists. Boston College goaltender Cory Schneider turned in a sparkling 37 save performance in a losing effort. Wisconsin successfully killed off 6 penalties to keep the PK streak at 36, and Tom Gilbert's power play goal at 9:32 in the third gave the Badgers the game winning goal.

Wisconsin defeated Bemidji State 4-0, Cornell 1-0 in three overtimes, Maine 5-2 in the Frozen Four, and Boston College 2-1 in the NCAA Championship game. More: NCAA Sports gamecenter recap from the championship game, CHAMPIONS!!! -Wisconsin Hockey Blog, Red State - Inside College Hockey, Wisconsin hockey roadtrip - Flickr.

[Update] Say hi to Mike Ricci, Shane Doan and Grandma B tonight!


Stockton Thunder downs San Diego 4-2 in season finale, earn ECHL attendance record in inaugural season

Stockton Thunder San Diego Gulls ECHL

Stockton Thunder San Diego Gulls ECHL

Hockey fans wrapped around all sides of the Stockton Arena prior to the Stockton Thunder's (18-40-14, 50 points) 4-2 win over the San Diego Gulls (34-30-8, 76 points) on Saturday night. Needing 5,539 fans to surpass the Florida Everblades for the ECHL attendance title, the Stockton Thunder drew 9275 fans to blow past the record. Stockton averaged 6,343 fans at every home game, 228,364 fans total for their inaugural season.

Ned Havern opened the scoring for Stockton at 2:27 of the first with assists by Maris Ziedins, an Jeff Lang. San Diego center Steve Hildebrand, whose 7-game scoring streak [5G, 6A] ended the night before against Phoenix, scored on a breakaway 22 seconds later to tie the game at 1-1.

Left wing Bobby Cunningham gave San Diego a 2-1 lead with a power play goal in the middle of the second period. After two unsuccessful 5-on-3 power plays, Maris Ziedins hammered home a rebound in the second period, and then struck early in the third with a short-handed goal to put the Thunder up 3-2. Aaron Foster scored an empty net goal late in the game to seal the 4-2 win and leave roaring crowd on their feet for the final 50 seconds of play.

Stockton goaltender Jake Moreland (14-19-8, 3.14GAA, .919SV%) earned his 8th win in his last 15 games, making 45 saves on 47 shots. San Diego's Kris Mavotte made 33 saves on 36 shots in a losing effort.

The Stockton Thunder players circled the ice thanking the crowd at the end of the game, and the Thunder organization honored leading scorer Joel Irwin, captain Dean Stork, goaltender Jake Moreland, and head coach Chris Cichocki in a post-game ceremony.

Photo gallery from the Stockton Thunder 4-2 win over the San Diego Gulls on Saturday night. Final box score from the ECHL.

Thunder rewards loyal fans with one last victory lap - Stockton Record.

And one last victory was the the least the Thunder could do to reward its fans for their unwavering support.

"This was the most enjoyable season I've had in hockey," Moreland said. "They were with us - win, lose or draw. There was a special relationship between the fans and this team."

Stockton Thunder President Dan Chapman recalled the Thunder's repeated come-from-behind victories, the 4-0 opening night win over Phoenix, and the season finale to clinch the league attendance title as highlights for the inaugural season.

As of April 8th, Stockton goaltender Jake Moreland finished tied for first in the ECHL with 5 overtime wins. Moreland was also tied with 2 others [Holden-FRE, Michaud-UTA] for second place with 4 overtime losses. Maxime Daigneault lead the league with 5. Stockton right wing Nick Greenough lead the ECHL with 26 major penalties, and defenseman Jason Metcalfe [pictured above] lead the ECHL in minor penalties with 80 minutes. Left wing Mike Lalonde finished with 29 goals and 23 assists for 52 points to go along with his ECHL allstar game appearance. Lalonde leads all rookies with 308 shots on goal.

Who could have guessed this was a hockey haven? - Stockton Record.

The folks in blue-collar Stockton related to this blue-collar team that had to work and and grind it out every night. They roared their approval night after night, from the sellout crowd on opening night to the near-capacity crowd on Saturday.

The Thunder provided a unique athletic show. The fans provided an unbelievable atmosphere.

Stockton Thunder open new arena with a 4-0 win over the Phoenix Roadrunners - Sharkspage.

[Update] Thunder rolls in season finale - Stockton expansion team tops ECHL in attendance - Stephen Roberson for the Tri-Valley Herald.

Modesto hammers Stockton Ports 16-1

Travis Bucks Stockton Ports Oakland

Stockton right hander Michael Rogers began the late afternoon game with Modesto retiring 10 of 11 batters. A 3rd inning home run by Modesto's Doc Brooks was matched in the 4th with a long Travis Buck shot to right center field. Tied at 1-1 as the sun set, I left to watch the Stockton Thunder's season finale.

According to the official website, Modesto scored 6 runs in the fifth inning, 2 in the sixth, and 7 in the ninth. It was difficult to find a box score, so no details are available. The Modesto Nuts apparently brought the pain.

The Stockton Ports fielded six first round draft picks on opening night. The Oakland A's Class A affiliate features shortstop Cliff Pennington from Texas A&M, and Travis Buck from Arizona State in addition to several other prospects. Two thumbs up for the ballpark, which has a short grass hill over the right field fence, nice seating, and a mascot named Splash which could be either a radish or a tomato.

Modesto bats pummel Ports - Stockton Record.


National Anthem spotlight

National Anthem Stockton Arena

A singer's soulful rendition of the national anthem is given to 9,275 fans and 1 blogger prior to Saturday's Stockton Thunder vs San Diego Gulls ECHL hockey game. Photos, notes and an interview will be posted tomorrow.

One minute after the photo was taken, I saw this man walking through the concourse with a huge smile on his face.


San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle named the Hobey Baker award winner

A press release from the San Jose Sharks:

SHARKS MATT CARLE NAMED HOBEY BAKER AWARD WINNER, All-American Defenseman Becomes Denver University's First Hobey Winner

SAN JOSE, CA - San Jose Sharks defenseman and former University of Denver junior All-American Matt Carle has been named as the winner of the 26th Hobey Baker Memorial Award; it was announced today by the Hobey Baker Award Executive Committee. The award is given annually to the college hockey player who best exhibits strength of character on and off the ice, contributes to the integrity of the team and displays outstanding skills in all phases.

Carle, who became DU's first Hobey Baker Award winner, made his NHL debut with the Sharks on March 25 at Minnesota and scored his first NHL goal. He is the fifth Hobey Baker Award finalist in Pioneer history and second in four seasons. Goaltender Wade Dubielewicz was named to the final 10 in 2002. Other DU finalists for the prestigious award include Ed Beers (1982), Dallas Gaume (1986) and Dave Shields (1990).

Carle recently completed his junior season with the Pioneers where he earned a number of accolades including: WCHA Player of the Year, WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All WCHA. He became the first player in WCHA history to garner both the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the same season. He led the nation with 1.08 assists per game and tied for 10th in scoring at 1.36 points per game.

He also finished first among all NCAA Division I blueliners in points (53), assists (42) and second with 1.36 points per game. He led all WCHA defensemen in points, goals and assists in league play. Carle set DU's single-season assist record for defensemen at 42 and his 53 points rank second on DU's single-season points list for defensemen. In addition, Carle was named to the All-WCHA All-Academic Team for the second consecutive season. A real estate and construction management major, he carries a 3.30 grade-point average.

In addition to winning the Hobey Baker Award, Carle was NCAA Player of the Year for both InsideCollegeHockey.com and USCHO.com along with Defenseman of the Year. He was also first-team All-American for both sites.

Carle helped DU to back-to-back NCAA National Championships in 2004 and 2005 and became the first American born hockey player to capture a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships and win an NCAA title in the same season. He netted a career-high 53 points on 11 goals and 42 assists in 39 games this season. He leaves DU as the fourth-most prolific scoring defenseman in school history after netting 122 points on 29 goals and 93 assists in 112 career games.

In 2004-05, Carle was a consensus All-American after scoring 44 points on 13 goals and 31 assists. In 2003-04, he was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team after scoring 25 points on five goals and 25 assists in 30 games.

The six-foot, 195-pound native of Anchorage, Alaska was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the second round (47th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He has posted three points (2-1=3) in six games with San Jose this season.

Carle Wins 2006 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, Two-time All-American defenseman becomes DU's first Hobey winner Denver Pioneers.

"It's kind of a shock right now," Carle said. "I'm just happy to be up here representing my team and my great school at the University of Denver. We kind of had a rough loss there at the end of the season. Hopefully this will put a bright spot on the season for the guys back home and it's a great honor for myself, too."

[Update] Sharks rookie wins top college honor - SF Chronicle.

Interview with Dallas writer, blogger, and radio personality Stephanie Peete

zany sports lady miss kelly poster

Sharkspage interviewed Dallas writer, blogger, and radio personality Stephanie "Zany Sports Lady" Peete this morning. She talks about the Dallas Stars, the NHL, and her background online and on radio. Stephanie makes predictions for the Western Conference playoff race, and makes a case for Dallas defenseman Sergei Zubov winning the Norris trophy.

[Q] How long have you been a hockey fan, and how long have you followed the Dallas Stars?

[SP] I have loved the sport of hockey since watching Lake Placid in 1980. I was 7 years old when that happened. I have loved it ever since. I have loved the Stars since I moved to Dallas in 1998. I was fortunate enough to watch them win the cup and I hope to see it again soon.

[Q] You mentioned the Stars turnaround on your blog. After a rough start, how did the Stars and Turco turn it around this season?

[SP] I believe it became a matter of focus and team unity. It was a shaky start for many teams, coming back after such a nutty lockout and so many trades. We got some good blood in with the Finns and they were catalysts in the team getting re-energized (I believe). I also see Turco as one who got more focused too. We will see if this focus holds on for the playoffs.

[Q] Lehtinen and Arnott have reached the 30 goal mark, and Modano was on pace for 30 before the knee injury Thursday against Anaheim, but many figured that Bill Guerin would play a bigger part in Dallas's offense. Why do you think he has not been more productive?

[SP] It has been tough for me to watch Billy struggle because I know he is capable of so much more. His problems have certainly not been because of a lack of work ethic - as he has sincerely put forth a lot of time for his game. I think that so much of the game is mental and he has that bug that has clenched on for dear life. He is trying to get it back (his game)... I see that. I hope that he can turn it up for the playoffs.

[Q] What is the latest you have heard on Modano?

[SP] I have heard that it is not serious - that it was merely aggravating something that was previously hurt. I hear he will practice in Phoenix and he will not be seeing an orthopedist.

[Q] I noticed a calendar on your website with you and a friend in hockey pads. That was an excellent photo. How did that come about. Are you still selling them on cafe press?

[SP] Yes, actually we are. There's a poster too. That is myself and Miss Kelly (my photographer). We were having some fun and thought it would be a fun thing to do. The great thing about that pic is that gear we are wearing is actually our gear. Mine is kept in the trunk of my car.

            zany sports lady dallas stars ticket

[Q] The last time I visited your blog I saw a picture of you on a Dallas Stars ticket. Tell me about that, and who took the photo?

[SP] That was an actual ticket that Kelly and I made it onto. The Dallas Stars had a promotion called "real hockey - real fans" and Kelly submitted the picture of us. We ended up getting picked and the season ticket holders got to see us.

[Q] Also on your website, you mention that you got your start in radio as a frequent caller on Tony Bruno's radio show. What topics did you focus on when you called in, and when did you realize that you want to do more in radio? How do you deal with hecklers?

[SP] I love Tony Bruno. He is the greatest guy ever and I am proud to know him. He allowed me to bogart my way onto his airwaves for a year and a half where I talked about all sorts of Dallas sports. Everything from Cowboys to Longhorns to the Stars - we talked about it.

I have always loved doing radio. It has been a secret passion of mine - Tony just gave me a chance to get to do it.

Hecklers are an interesting lot. Thankfully I haven't had to deal with too many of them.

[Q] For those outside of your area, describe your radio show, and what station it is on? Who has been your favorite guest?

[SP] My full time gig is on a music station in Collin County (north Texas). We play music but I get to talk about my love of sports and every listener knows how nuts I am for hockey. I have also done a CFL show and various guest spots on sports radio around North America.

We have a lot of fun having Tony Curtale on our show. He is the head coach and general manager for the Texas Tornado - a Junior A hockey team based in Frisco, Texas.

[Q] 2 weeks left in the NHL season, who do you think will make it in the Western Conference, and how do you see the Stanley Cup playoffs shaking out? Dallas and Detroit in the Conference Final, or will there be an upset?

[SP] The obvious contenders in the West are Dallas and Detroit. With the point differential, I would be hard pressed to pick an upset from folks like Calgary. I honestly see Dallas and Detroit battling this one out (for the WC) and hopefully Dallas won't renew their old fears in the Red Wings.

[Q] Sharks vs Stars = big rivalry, competitive opponent, or something else?

[SP] I think its a good rivalry, absolutely.

[Q] Should Dallas Stars defenseman Sergei Zubov [12G, 54A, 72GP, +20] win the Norris trophy for the NHL's best defenseman?

[A] Oh heavens yes! Sergei Zubov is an extremely underrated defenseman. He does so much and continually flies under the radar. A constant and humble contributor to his team and to every play he is a part of. To not recognize Zubov with this trophy would be a shame.

[Q] Finally, where did the zany nickname come from?

[SP] A friend and I were kicking around ideas for my nickname, years ago. I honestly don't remember how the topic even came up but I do remember her saying that she thought I was one "Zany Sports Lady" --- I laughed, but it stuck. I have answered to "Zany", "Zany Brainy", and "Zeddie" by my Canadian friends.

Visit the Zany Sports lady store at Cafe Press, the main zanysportslady.com blog, or her zanyradiolady.com home page for more from Stephanie Peete. Congratulations go out as well for her engagement to Lee Hastings.

The Dallas Stars play the Coyotes in Phoenix on Saturday night before flying to San Jose for a 5PM game on Sunday.

Hockey Notes - April 7th

- Western Conference playoff bubble update:

5. Anaheim [40-24-12], 76GP, 92 points
Remaining games: at Los Angeles, at Vancouver, at Calgary, at Edmonton, at San Jose, Calgary.

6. Colorado [41-27-8], 76GP, 90 points
Remaining games: St Louis, Minnesota, Phoenix, at Calgary, at Vancouver, at Edmonton.

7. San Jose [39-26-11], 76GP, 89 points
Remaining games: Dallas, at Phoenix, at Vancouver, Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles.

8. Edmonton [38-26-13], 77GP, 89 points
Remaining games: at Chicago, at St Louis, at Detroit, Anaheim, Colorado.

9. Vancouver [40-30-7], 77GP, 87 points
Remaining games: Calgary, Anaheim, San Jose, at San Jose, Colorado.

10. Los Angeles [40-33-5], 78GP, 85 points
Remaining games: Anaheim, at Phoenix, Calgary, at San Jose.

Start to finish, the San Jose Sharks dominated the Los Angeles Kings en route to a 5-0 win on Thursday. It was a must-win home game for the Kings, and they simply did not show up. Mathieu Garon made 29 saves on 34 shots in a losing effort, but made spectacular saves to keep the home team in the game for the first two periods. Cheechoo scored his 47th and 48th goals of the season. Scott Thornton, Joe Thornton and Steve Bernier also registered goals for San Jose as the Sharks moved into a tie for 7th place. Vesa Toskala made 14 saves on 14 shots for his second shutout of the year.

Stephane Veilleux scored in the first period to give the Minnesota Wild a 1 goal lead over the Edmonton Oilers. Ryan Smith scored a short-handed goal early in the second to tie the game at one. Michael Peca apparently shot a puck that eeked past Roloson and across the blueline. The refs disallowed the goal. After a scoreless overtime, Brian Rolston wristed a shot past his former Wild teammate Brian Dwayne Roloson to earn a 2-1 Minnesota SO win.

Four Finns powered the Dallas Stars past the Anaheim Mighty Ducks 5-4 in Anaheim. Niko Kapanen [Hattula, Finland] scored twice, Niklas Hagman [Espoo, Finland] added a goal and an assist, Jussi Jokinen [Kalajoki, Finland] and Antti Miettinen [Hameenlinna, Finland] also scored for Dallas. The Four Finn offense capitalized on 2 of 7 power plays, and Marty Turco picked up his league leading 40th win of the seaosn. Stars captain Mike Modana was checked akwardly into the boards, and left the game with a knee injury.

- More on the Dallas Stars later today.

- NCAA Men's Frozen Four hockey semifinal scoreboard:

Boston College 6, North Dakota 5
Wisconsin 5, Maine 2

Collins Gets Tricky, BC gets to title game behind three goals from its leader - Inside College Hockey.

Boston College forward Chris Collins is widely regarded as the least-likely of the three remaining Hobey finalists to be hoisting a trophy on Friday. But in the first Frozen Four semifinal, Collins greatly increased his chances of hoisting a trophy on Saturday.

Collins recorded his third hat trick of the season Thursday afternoon as Boston College never trailed, staking a not-as-close-as-the-score-indicates 6-5 win over North Dakota and earning a trip to the NCAA title game.

Home Bodies: Badgers Reach Title Game With Win Over Maine, Elliott, Special Teams Propel Wisconsin Past Black Bears - U.S. College Hockey Online.

In a battle of special teams, Wisconsin scored both with the man-advantage and on the shorthand and killed all seven of Maine's power plays to advance to the national championship game. The Badgers will face Boston College in Saturday night's final.

Blogging the Frozen Four - USCHO.com.

- Boston College will face Wisconsin in the Men's NCAA final Saturday, April 8th at 7PM ET. On Friday, the Hobey Baker Trophy will be awarded to the nation's top collegiate hockey player live on ESPNU. The finalists are: Denver defenseman Matt Carle [JR], Boston College forward Chris Collins [SR], and Wisconsin goaltender Brian Elliott [JR].

Chris Collins and Brian Elliot will face each other in the NCAA Championship game on Saturday. Matt Carle will fly to San Jose and face Pacific division leading Dallas Stars on Sunday.

Wisconsin NCAA Womens hockey champions

- Congratulations to the University of Wisconsin Women's hockey team for winning the 2005-06 NCAA title. The lady Badgers blanked Minnesota 3-0 to take home the championship. Minnesota Governor Jim Doyle declared March 27, 2006 "UW Badger Women's Hockey Team Day" in the State of Wisconsin. More is available on the official Wisconsin website.

- Updated the Sharkspage archives with the last 2 years of interviews, photo credits, and blog archives. Will add individual posts and highlights from the previous years soon.

- The Stockton Thunder and Alaska Aces combined for 12 total goals on Wednesday night in front of 6,296 fans. Alaska earned a 7-5 win, but Stockton remains on pace to lead the league in total attendance during their inaugural season. Strong crowds will be needed for the final two home games Friday against Bakersfield, and Saturday against the San Diego Gulls if the Thunder want to overtake the ECHL leading Florida Everblades.

- When the grand daddy of the blogosphere links to a website it creates an Instalanche. When Vesa Toskala earns his second shutout of the season it creates a Vesalanche. Welcome to all the visitors from Tampere, Kurkimki, Helsinki, Voutila, Vaasa, Pori, Porvoo, Lahti, Rovaniemi, Oulu, Mustasaari, Rovaniemi, Nybacka and Uusikyl!

Hyvää huomenta! And, Iso tuoppi!

- New Sharks blog from Fox Blogs, The Nemesis. He has an interesting take on the CBC's Toronto Maple Leaf bias:

For the Americans out there, I'll start by telling you about the CBC. CBC is the television station that broadcasts Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) across the country. It is also government funded, as a means of maintaining the distribution of Canadian-origin programming in a day and age where satellite, cable, and good old fashioned rights purchases bring an ever increasing number of American networks and programs into Canadian homes. The key thing to keep in mind is that when I say the CBC is government funded, I mean that is federally funded. People from BC all the way to Newfoundland, and up in the Territories all contribute to the CBC when they pay their taxes.

The problem that is created in the wake of this is that every Saturday night, HNIC airs two games in a doubleheader. An eastern time zone game around 4pm pacific/7pm eastern, and a pacific/mountain time zone game around 7pm pacific/10pm eastern. So Canada has 6 teams, 3 in the east (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal) and 3 in the west (Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton). Therefore everything should balance out and all the teams should get equal exposure, right? WRONG. The eastern game is always, always, always (as in close to 98% of the time) a Toronto Maple Leafs game. This means that the other two eastern Canadian teams only get HNIC time when they play the Leafs, and once every three years when the Northeast division (containing all 3 eastern Canadian teams) plays the Northwest division (containing all 3 western Canadian teams.)

- Now online, hockeysfutureradio.com. Go there, for it is good.

- Might as well make this an all Finland post. "They live among us" is a great read by NHL.com blogger Risto Pakarinen.

However, this season there are some 40 Finnish players in the NHL, and that, my friends, is more than from any American state. It's a good amount, but not quite enough to cover all the NHL team, so I can't be sure of a Finnish Stanley Cup winner this year, either. (Almost sure that some Swede will be on the winning team). There are still some white spots in the Finns on the NHL map. But they'll be filled, in time...

It's only been 40 years since Tommi Salmelainen became the first European player to be drafted to the NHL, and 29 years since Matti Hagman became the first Finnish-born and -trained player to play in the NHL. It's only been six years since Alpo Suhonen became the first European head coach in the modern era. And, the first European GM may also be a Finn -- if St. Louis Blues' current assistant GM, Jarmo Kekalainen, gets his wish.

- SM-Liiga playoff photo gallery: 25.3.2006 Playoff 2, Blues-Karpat 1-4.

- Finnish goaltender update: Vesa Toskala is 14-2-2 in his last 18 starts. Toskala [19 wins] trails Kari Lehtonen [20 wins] of the Atlanta Thrashers by 1 win, and Flyers goaltender and Olympic MVP Antero Niitymaki [22 wins] by 3 wins. Miikka Kiprusoff [39 wins] leads his countrymen, but trails the overall NHL leader Marty Turco [40 wins] by one decision.

[Update] Sharks have playoff bite, now they just have to get in - ESPN.

[Update2] A Finnish SM-Liiga playoff update, posted with permission from Make#89:

Ässät - Kärpät 3-1 (0-0,1-1,2-0) 60.00
26.05 0-1 Petr Tenkrat (Mika Pyörälä)
34.12 1-1 Mika Rontti (Matti Kuparinen, Juha Kiilholma)
46.07 2-1 Matti Kuparinen (Juha Kiilholma, Patrik Forsbacka)
59.22 3-1 Juha Kiilholma (Justin Forrest, Kristian Kuusela) EN

Ässät Juuso Riksman 17+8+11=36
Kärpät Mika Pietilä 14+14+3=31

Ässät leads the series 2-0.

HPK - HIFK 2-1 (0-0,1-0,0-1,1-0) 72.37
20.21 1-0 Jukka Voutilainen (David Schneider, Jukka-Pekka Laamanen) PP
43.42 1-1 Kim Hirschovits (Tony Salmelainen, Pasi Saarinen) PP
72.37 2-1 Pasi Nielikäinen (Ville Leino) OT

HPK Karri Rämö 8+8+10+3=29
HIFK Jan Lundell 17+11+14+11=53
The series is tied at 1-1.

Visit the official SM-Liiga website for more information.


Western Conference playoff update - April 6th

Updating the Western Conference playoff bubble after Wednesday's games:

5. Anaheim [40-23-12], 75GP, 92 points
Remaining games: Dallas, at Los Angeles, at Vancouver, at Calgary, at Edmonton, at San Jose, Calgary.

6. Colorado [41-27-8], 76GP, 90 points
Remaining games: St Louis, Minnesota, Phoenix, at Calgary, at Vancouver, at Edmonton.

7. Edmonton [38-26-12], 76GP, 88 points
Remaining games: at Minnesota, at Chicago, at St Louis, at Detroit, Anaheim, Colorado.

8. Vancouver [40-30-7], 77GP, 87 points
Remaining games: Calgary, Anaheim, San Jose, at San Jose, Colorado.

9. San Jose [38-26-11], 75GP, 87 points
Remaining games: at Los Angeles, Dallas, at Phoenix, at Vancouver, Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles.

10. Los Angeles [40-31-5], 77GP, 85 points
Remaining games: at Anaheim, San Jose, Anaheim, at Phoenix, Calgary, at San Jose.

The Colorado Avalanche came out firing against San Jose on Wednesday night, outshooting the Sharks 11-8 in the first period and putting the first goal up on the board [12:24, Andrew Brunette 23, assists by Milan Hejduk and Joe Sakic]. Including the remains of a Turgeon hooking penalty at 19:50 of the first period, the Avalanche gave up 6 power play opportunities in the second period which San Jose did not convert on. The Sharks controlled the tempo in the second and third, and earned a 2-1 win on goals by Joe Thornton and Marcel Goc [who snapped a 50 game goalless streak].

Goc ends goal drought with a winner in Denver, with victory, Sharks in tie for 8th place - SJ Mercury News.

"We struggled in the first period," Coach Ron Wilson said. "First of all, Colorado always plays well, especially at home, in the first period. They end up stretching out your shifts, and you get tired. You've really got to play short, disciplined shifts in this building if you're going to be successful."

"In the second, we were much better because we were pressuring the puck and we got some power plays. That changed the momentum. Even though we didn't score, we had chances and we used that to kind of wear down their top people."

On Tuesday night, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks hammered a reeling Los Angeles Kings club 6-2 converting on all 4 of its power play opportunities. Sharkspage favorite Samuel Pahlsson continued his offensive tear with 2 goals, giving the center 5 goals in his last 3 games.

Ducks Pile It on Kings in 6-2 Win, Selanne, Pahlsson score twice for Anaheim, which gets four goals in the third and edges toward fourth place - Los Angeles Times.

The last time Teemu Selanne saw his friend and former teammate Paul Kariya, the Mighty Ducks were in the process of dealing the Nashville Predators a thorough beating. At the time, the Ducks had just worked their way into the Western Conference playoff picture.

"I told Paul when they were here you guys better start playing better or we're going to catch you," Selanne said. "He laughed. I don't think he believed me. But I don't think he's laughing anymore."

More from a LA Times playoff standings correction:


Hockey standings: The Sports section recently began running NHL standings in conference playoff format. However, the order of some teams has been incorrect. The top eight teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs. Division leaders are seeded first through third. The remaining five seeded teams are placed according to point total. If teams are tied in points but have not played the same number of games, then the one that reached the point total in the fewest games is seeded higher. If those tied teams have played the same number of games, then the one with the higher number of wins has the higher seeding. If teams are also tied in wins, then whichever one has more points obtained in head-to-head matches is seeded higher. The final tiebreaker would be goal differential. (March 31, 2006)

The order of the last playoff update was incorrect on this blog as well, thanks to reader Aaron for the pointer. More on the tiebreaker scenarios as they apply to each team will be posted on the next Western Conference update.

[Update] Knowing Vancouver via its captain, Once good leader, Naslund mirrors team's sorry state - National Post.

[Update2] Sharks better playoff picture, Goc's rare goal beats Avs' rookie - SF Chronicle.

Old School - Basketball

1905-06 Basketball MJRs

This photo is of my great-grandfather Otto Klewin [left] with a traveling professional basketball team from New Jersey in 1905-06. A second photo shows Otto with the 1911-12 Americans, but neither the MJRs or the Americans are listed on any of the basketball research websites.

Professional Basketball Leagues and Teams 1898-99 to Present - Association for Professional Basketball Research.

[Update] More old school basketball from an Eric Neel archive piece on UCLA head coach John Wooden's 95th birthday, Forever Coach.

Old School - Hockey

Grant Fuhr

The Spruce Grove, Alberta native, Grant Fuhr was drafted 8th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1981 entry draft. In 20 NHL seasons, Fuhr played for the Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, St Louis Blues, and Calgary Flames. Fuhr led the Edmonton Oilers during their 5 Stanley Cup winning championship run in the late 80's. Grant Fuhr won the Vezina Trophy with Edmonton in 1987-88 with a 40-24-9 record, 4304 minutes, 3.43GAA, .881sv%, after playing in 75 games.

Fuhr manned another ironman season in 1995-96 for the St Louis Blues. After playing in 79 games, including 76 straight according to the HHOF, Fuhr registered a 30-28-16 record in the regular season before suffering a knee injury two games into the playoffs.

Grant Fuhr was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. A HHOF photo gallery spanning Fuhr's career is available here.

"I would have to say the best moment was getting drafted into the NHL by the Oilers," he said. "Yes, the Stanley Cups and Canada Cups were great, but there was something special about getting picked by the team that I followed since day one. I knew that I was going to get the chance to play at home. Playing in front of family and friends, it made things easier for me, I didn’t have to go to a city where I had to deal with strange places and people. Everything was familiar to me."

More is available from the Edmonton Oilers Heritage website, including a photo of Fuhr with his Edmonton predecessor, Andy Moog.


MLB lowest ticket prices in survey of 4 major sports

According to a recent study by Team Marketing Report, Major League Baseball leads all 4 major sports leagues in average affordable ticket prices:


NFL - $58.95
NBA - $45.92
NHL - $41.19
MLB - $22.21

Also available from Team Marketing Report, the Fan Cost Index which measures the cost of attendance for a family of four. It includes the price of four average cost tickets, four small soft drinks, two small beers, four hotdogs, two programs, and two hats.

The San Jose Sharks have the 6th lowest average ticket prices in the NHL [$33.00], and the 6th lowest figure in the overall fan cost index [$219.02] down -9.11% from the previous season. The Carolina Hurricanes finished with the most affordable average ticket prices [$26.15] and the most affordable fan cost index for a family of four [$170.61]. The New Jersey Devils finished with the highest average ticket prices [$54.67], and the highest fan cost index for a family of four [$309.68].

[Update] Ticket prices going, going...up, Survey finds 5.4 percent increase in average baseball ticket prices, though big jumps aren't as bad as they initially appear to be - CNN.

The survey, conducted by industry trade publication Team Marketing Report, showed a $22.21 average price for a major league baseball game this year. That's a fraction of the cost of the average ticket for any other major team sport, and the 5.4% increase is also slightly less than the 6.3 percent rise in average ticket prices found in the 2005 survey...

But the ticket price hikes aren't as steep as they would first appear.

For example, the Oakland Athletics posted a average price increase of 25.2 percent, the biggest jump in the majors. But a big part of that increase comes due to a 14,000-seat reduction at the team's stadium, which closed off most of the upper deck, thus reducing the supply of the cheapest seats. The cheapest seats left increased to $9 from $8 a year ago, a 12.5 percent increase, while the most expensive seats rose about 7 percent, to $32 from $30.

[Update2] Taken out at the ballgame: ticket prices continue to rise - Kansas City Star.


Tight Western Conference playoff race intensifies

San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup playoffs

Updating the Western Conference playoff bubble after Tuesday's games:

5. Colorado [41-26-8], 75GP, 90 points
Remaining games: San Jose, St Louis, Minnesota, Phoenix, at Calgary, at Vancouver, at Edmonton.

6. Anaheim [39-23-12], 74GP, 90 points
Remaining games: Los Angeles, Dallas, at Los Angeles, at Vancouver, at Calgary, at Edmonton, at San Jose, Calgary.

7. Edmonton [38-26-12], 76GP, 88 points
Remaining games: at Minnesota, at Chicago, at St Louis, at Detroit, Anaheim, Colorado.

8. Vancouver [40-30-7], 77GP, 87 points
Remaining games: Calgary, Anaheim, San Jose, at San Jose, Colorado.

9. Los Angeles [40-31-5], 76GP, 85 points
Remaining games: at Anaheim, San Jose, Anaheim, at Phoenix, Calgary, at San Jose.

10. San Jose [37-26-11], 74GP, 85 points
Remaining games: at Colorado, at Los Angeles, Dallas, at Phoenix, at Vancouver, Vancouver, Anaheim, Los Angeles.

The Colorado Avalanche scored two goals in the last minute of play to down the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in regulation. Rob Blake fired a power play goal past Nikolai Khabibulin to tie the score at 3, and Dan Hinote scored his 4th of the season with 12 seconds left. The win gives the Colorado Avalanche 90 points with 7 games left to play. A loss would have left them tied for 7th place, 3 points away from being out of playoff position. A post-game Rob Blake interview and video highlights are available from OLN.

Edmonton erased all doubt about the Phoenix Coyotes playing spoiler in the second period Tuesday night. Four separate Oilers scored in the second period, seven overall, to give Edmonton a 7-1 win over Phoenix. Dwayne Roloson [12-24-4, .907sv%, 2.87GAA] made 33 saves on 34 shots, and picked up his fourth win in his last six starts.

A pivotal game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks would influence the fate of the all the teams on the Western Conference playoff bubble. The Kings were able to take advantage of a Pavol Demitra power play goal in the second period on a nice feed by Joe Corvo. Mathieu Garon turned in a sparkling 23-save shutout performance. The 1-0 win gave the Los Angles Kings 85 points, and tied them with the San Jose Sharks for 9th place in the standings.

The defending Pacific division champion San Jose Sharks hit the road to face the current Pacific division leading Dallas Stars. San Jose had lost three straight games, one in overtime. A loss would have dropped the Sharks a place in the standings, and possibly put their playoff destiny in the hands of another team. Leading 2-1 with six minutes left in the third period, the Sharks stopped pressuring the Dallas Stars offensively, and it hurt them. Jason Arnott missed two point blank scoring chances earlier in the game, but the third time was a charm as he scored a goal to tie the game at 2-2 with 1:47 left in final period.

Sharks forward Milan Michalek drew a hooking penalty on Niko Kapanen in the overtime period. Joe Thornton scored at 4:39 in OT to give the San Jose Sharks [1-7] a 3-2 OT win and keep Jussi Jokinen [9-12] and the Dallas Stars [11-1] from going to penalty shots.

[Update] The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle updates The playoff push: 95 points or bust. Mirtle notes that 2 losses from Vancouver, and losses from Toronto, Atlanta, and Flordia in the East has flushed out the playoff picture a little better.

Countdown to the Playoffs: 15 days left in the regular season - USA Today.

Wednesday's big game:

San Jose at Colorado. The Sharks, still not yet in a playoff spot, have three games in hand on Vancouver and two on Edmonton. But they have to win those games. The Avalanche still have the opportunity to finish first in the Northwest.

Mike Chen examines the playoff standings prior to Tuesday's games and concludes that 96 points might not be the make-or-break figure for Western Conference teams making the playoffs.

The one thing that you can gather from this analysis is that it may actually not take 96 points to make the playoffs. All of these teams have fairly rigorous schedules except Edmonton. With teams like Columbus and Phoenix successfully playing spoiler, it could be that all of these teams won't be overly successful, making the playoff cutoff at 94 -- it doesn't seem like much, but at this time, every point counts.

Kevin Gibson's Tueday hockey report - 640 Toronto.

I mentioned yesterday that the Canucks could be in trouble with a loss against LA. And it happened, Vancouver is now only two points ahead of San Jose and the Sharks have three games in hand. Vancouver has five games left, including a home and home with San Jose, that mini series will probably decide who gets in at eight in the West. San Jose plays four of their next five on the road before ending with three home tilts at the shark tank.

[Update2] Shootout rule pointedly has hurt the Sharks - SF Chronicle.

[Update3] Tonight on OLN: Philadephia vs NY Rangers at 4PM.


Highway 99 Finale: Stockton Thunder shock Fresno 2-1 in OT

Jamie Holden Fresno Falcons

Stockton Thunder Fresno Falcons

Defenseman Geno Parrish scored the game winning goal at 4:21 in the overtime to give the Stockton Thunder their first win over Fresno in 10 games [1-6-3]. On paper, this looked like it would be a goaltender duel, with the first goal being the probable deciding factor. It became evident early that this was going to be physical in-your-face affair between two teams who have seen a lot of each other this season.

Less than four minutes into the game, several Thunder players crashed the net looking to put home a loose puck. A rugby scrum ensued with bodies scattered around the crease. Fresno goaltender Jamie Holden landed a few punches on a restrained Nick Greenough, who has amassed 238 PIMs in the ECHL this season. Three Stockton players and three Fresno players were sent off for roughing [Holden's roughing penalty was served by Jason Weaver]. Fresno left wing Rob McFeeters was the lone player cited for a non-roughing call [hooking].

The refs tried to get a handle on this game early, but the Highway 99 rivalry set a tone that lasted until the final minute. Fresno right wing Fraser Clair was a boo magnet, drawing attention from fans even during breaks in play.

Fresno's Shawn Weiman opened the scoring with an unassisted goal late in the second period. The Thunder answered in the third with an Aaron Foster goal at 2:33, with an assist by Kevin Gardner. Geno Parrish's goal in overtime was assisted by Kevin Gardner and Aaron Foster. Stockton goaltender Jake Moreland [13-18-8] earned first star of the game with 41 saves on 42 shots for the win. Jamie Holden [19-6-5] made 33 saves on 35 shots.

6732 fans attended the Sunday matinee game at the new Stockton Arena. Stockton is fighting for the lead in ECHL attendance in its inaugural season. As of 4/2/06, Stockton trailed the Florida Everblades by 41 fans in average attendance per game [Florida 36 openings, 6,239 average; Stockton 33 openings, 6,198 average]. Stockton finishes the season with 3 home games against the league leading Alaska Aces on Wednesday, the Bakersfield Condors on Friday, and the San Diego Gulls on fan appreciation night Saturday.

Close and cigar this time, Stockton finally gets the better of Fresno - Stockton Record.

Fresno coach Matt Thomas led the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies last season and was interested in the job in Stockton, but the Thunder hired Chris Cichocki. Thomas brought eight former Bullies with him to Fresno and won the Pacific Division title.

Thomas said he wasn't surprised that the teams had another tense, close game Sunday.

"This is going be a rivalry for a very long time because of the locations of the teams, but I've done my part to get the rivalry going," Thomas said. "We've had great games with them, even though we won the series, and I know they want to beat us as much as we want to beat them."

A photo gallery from the game is here. Joe Tasca's pre-season interview with Jamie Holden is here. For more information visit stocktonthunder.com, or the ECHL's official website. All the photos above were shot through the glass, 1/500, f4, 800iso.

[Update] Stockton slips past Falcons - Fresno Bee.

[Update2] What to watch: Blackhawks vs Avalanche tonight at 6PM on OLN. Sharks vs Dallas tonight at 5:30PM on FSNBA.


Sharks score 3 goals in third to force OT, Reinprecht hat trick seals win for Phoenix

In all of the deals made prior to the NHL trade deadline, the February 1st trade of center Steven Reinprecht and goaltender Philippe Sauve from Calgary to Phoenix for Brian Boucher and Mike Leclerc might have had the biggest impact against the San Jose Sharks playoff hopes.

In two back-to-back games in San Jose, Reinprecht scored 5 goals for Phoenix, including the game winner in the 4-3 overtime win on Saturday night. The Sharks [36-26-11] gain a point in the standings, but trail the final 8th playoff seed by three points.

Calgary's 4-1 win over Edmonton, and Roenick's game winner in LA's 1-0 win over Dallas lock the Sharks and the Kings in at a tie for 9th place in the Western Conference with 83 points. San Jose has two games in hand on Los Angeles and Edmonton.


Key plays from Saturday Night:

Big goal: Steve Reinprecht displays quick hands in front of the net, firing home a rebound with 9 seconds left on a power play in overtime. Calgary wins 4-3 in OT, Reinprecht has 5 goal in 2 straight games at HP Pavilion.

Big save: In the second period, Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala dives behind him and to the right to sweep a puck off the goal line. Toskala saves the momentum after the goal by Matt Carle, and the Sharks gain a 5-on-3 which they did not convert shortly thereafter.

Big hit: Building on Toskala's save, Jonathan Cheechoo crushed Paul Mara in the corner. The play sparked several big hits from both sides, notably from San Jose's Ville Nieminen who was elevated to the top line along with Cheechoo and Thornton. To be judicious in condemnation of the referees, Cheechoo took several strides before hitting Mara.

Big non-penalty/penalty: Kyle McLaren is taken down by Phoenix's Mike Comrie as he is driving the net in OT on an odd man rush. Play transitions to the other side of the ice, Sharks rookie defenseman Matt Carle is called for taking down Geoff Sanderson after he makes a play along the boards that misses the puck and catches the man.

The Phoenix Coyotes are 6-1 against the San Jose Sharks this season, including one win in an overtime shootout and one loss in overtime. The teams meet for the final grudge match in Phoenix on April 10th.

Ross McKeon in the SF Chronicle reports of Sharks head coach Ron Wilson's displeasure after poor officiating in the 4-3 loss to Phoenix.

"McLaren goes to the net and gets tackled and if that's not interference and this little thing is interference? Give me a break," Wilson said.

"Wayne Gretzky was yelling at them on every shift, if I put (Scott) Parker on the ice (he was) screaming at the referee so he gets penalties. A call like that (Carle's), that's not the way you'd like to see a game decided in overtime. You expect good officiating in a big game for us and unfortunately we didn't get it," he added.

NHL Rulebook - NHL.com.

Theme for the day is salvage. The Mercury News notes that Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren was also unhappy with the non-call in OT. The Arizona Repulic reports that the Yotes have jumped the Shark in OT.

The article also had a reactions on the game from Phoenix Coyotes head coach Wayne Gretzky and Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren:

"Emotions got really strong and hard and high in the third period, but that's how you gain experience," Gretzky said. "Their team turned it up a notch in the third, but it was nice to see us find a way to squeeze out a victory. We're going in the right direction, and it makes us feel good."

From Kyle McLaren:

"I'm wondering why it took us so long to get started, especially in the battle we're in," defenseman Kyle McLaren said. "It's inexcusable. We've got to get better, because there's only nine games left."

[Update] Gretzky disappointed, but expects to keep job - SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] Officials playoff picture not so black and white - ESPN