Interview with Detroit Red Wings beat writer Ansar Khan

Michigan Live and Booth Newspaper beat writer Ansar Khan agreed to answer a few questions about the Detroit Red Wings prior to Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Monday:

[Q] How long have you been covering the Wings and the NHL for Mlive, Booth Newspapers, and the Oakland Press?

[AK] Six years for Booth and about 10 years before that for the Oakland Press.

[Q] What is the farthest you have had to travel to cover a story?

[AK] Furthest travel would be anywhere on the west coast -- LA, San Jose, Vancouver are all about the same distance from Detroit.

[Q] What was the most implausible trade rumor you have heard in that time?

[AK] I've heard literally hundreds of ridiculous trade rumors over the years, but the best came this year. Not sure where it originated, but it was mentioned a couple of days before the deadline that the Wings were trying to acquire Curtis Joseph. I can just imagine the conversation in the front office: "Having Cujo and Dom here at the same time worked so well for us in 2004, why not try it again, since they're such good pals?" Some of the people tossing around these trade scenarios need to put a little more thought into them.

[Q] In the first two games of the WCSF series between Detroit and San Jose, the Red Wings took control of the ice for much of the second and third periods. That is kind of a reversal for San Jose, who normally wear down opponents and then try to capitalize on mistakes or hesitancy late in games. Any explanation for Detroit's late game success?

[AK] The Wings have been a strong second, and especially third period team all season. They've had problems with slow starts this season. I think their puck-possession game simply tires teams out in the third period. Opponents have expended so much energy chasing around after them. And, despite their age, they are a well-conditioned team. In fact, their oldest players (Chelios, Hasek, Lidstrom, Schneider, Draper) are some of their best athletes.

[Q] How would you describe the Red Wings offense in a couple of words? The Sharks generally use a puck possession offense, but will dump it in and simplify their game in tight situations.

[AK] In a couple of words: Puck possession. That's been their trademark for a dozen years, ever since Scotty Bowman put together the Russian Five in 1995-96. They have incorporated some chip-and-chase to their game this season.

[Q] A lot of people look at Nashville's first round loss to San Jose, and judge their postseason as a failure after acquiring Peter Forsberg and having such a solid regular season. But for the second straight year the Predators had serious injuries to star players. Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat, and Jordin Tootoo all missed games, and several others played hurt.

Detroit has a similar problem with injuries to Thomas Holmstrom and Brett Lebda, and a possibly less than 100% Henrik Zetterberg and Kyle Calder. Do the Red Wings have enough depth to overcome its injury problems, or do they need a full squad to knock off San Jose?

[AK] That's a tough call. Lebda, despite his speed, I don't think is missed much because Kyle Quincey is a solid, safe player who's not going to get caught up ice like Lebda sometimes does simply because he doesn't take chances. Holmstrom is a big loss, though there's a chance he might return for Game 4 or 5. Zetterberg's back is clearly bothering him. He's played remarkably well in spite of it. But how long can he keep it up? I think Kyle Calder is hurting. I think past Wings team wouldn't be able to overcome these injuries, but this group has more resiliency, so I wouldn't bet against them.

[Q] I have heard the stories of Chelios on an exercise bike in a sauna a few times now. I also have heard of legendary workouts he undertook with other athletes in past offseasons in Southern California. Any stories that would explain his longevity in the NHL, and how long do you think he can continue to contribute? And will he go into the Hall of Fame as a Blackhawk or a Red Wing?

[AK] He's amazing. And he's having his best playoffs since the 2002 Cup run. I don't know how he does it other than, like you mentioned, his workout regimen. A fierce competitor and about as determined a player there is, I can see him easily playing a couple of more years.

Unlike baseball (because of players/managers caps), the Hockey Hall of Fame doesn't require players to choose a team. Every team they spent any reasonable amount of time with is represented in their display at the Hall. But, if he had to choose, I'm sure he'd go as a Wing. He won a Cup here and will likely finish his career here. Even though he was born in Chicago, he gets booed there every time he goes back.

[Q] You mentioned that a few empty seats for playoff games against Calgary was not a surprise, but empty seats for games 1 and 2 against a popular Sharks team was the smallest attendance you have seen in almost a dozen years. Many mentioned a slowdown in the economy, which industries in Michigan are losing jobs? And do you think playoff ticket prices have outpaced the NHL's blue collar fanbase in Michigan?

[AK] The auto industry is hurting badly in Detroit and it's affecting other businesses as well. In my neighborhood alone, there's so many people who've been forced to relocate and have been trying to sell their homes and can't. Those who manage to sell are taking a big hit. How can they possibly afford to buy tickets at those prices? No question the prices have outpaced much of their blue-collar fan base. They're going to need to lower the prices next season if they expect to pack that building again.

[Q] Will this be a tight checking, but for the most part, above board affair, or does this playoff round have the chance to devolve into a Sharks-Predators or Wings-Flames altercation?

[AK] I think it'll be a fairly clean series. The only reason the Calgary series deteriorated in Game 5 was because Flames coach Jim Playfair lost control of his players, not that he ever had much control to begin with. I've seen a lot of lousy coaches over the years and Playfair has to be near the top of the list. Calgary's abysmal road record alone indicates this guy's inability to manage his bench properly.

Thanks to Ansar Khan for taking the time to answer a few questions, and for providing a little insight on the Detroit Red Wings. You can follow more of his coverage of the playoffs on the Red Wings Bulletin blog.

[Update] Here is an article from a few years back that details the intensity of the workouts Chelios subjected himself to at Venice Beach, and a video post on Sharkspage that details a few of the Sharks training exercises.


Detroit Red Wings sunday practice

Detroit Red Wings practice in San Jose
Detroit Red Wings practice in San Jose
Detroit Red Wings practice in San Jose

The Detroit Red Wings and head coach Mike Babcock worked with his team on the transition game in the neutral zone, taking and receiving passes off the boards while changing direction, breakaways, and long cross ice triangle passes during a light practice at HP Pavilion in San Jose on Sunday afternoon.

The mood for the team was good after a 3-2 win at Joe Louis Arena in game 2. Several players wore a constant smile, Dominik Hasek practiced his patented back on the ice pad save, and a few others cheered every time Chris Osgood made a stop in a 1-on-10 semi circle.

A photo gallery from Detroit's Sunday practice at HP Pavilion in San Jose is available here.

[Update] Wings penalty-killiing stymies Sharks - Michigan Live.

"That was key to the game," Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek said. "We were talking about staying aggressive and today we were aggressive. We blocked the shots. I don't know if they had any big chance on the power play. They made maybe a few shots, but overall our penalty-killing was great. We didn't back off."

The Wings pressured the points, taking away time and space from the big shooters. They made it difficult for San Jose to enter their zone and they did an excellent job of clearing the puck. And when the Sharks managed to get some scoring chances, Hasek came up huge.

Notes from Anser Khan on his blog after Sunday's practice: Tomas Holmstrom did not make the trip to see an eye specialist in Detroit but may be in San Jose in some capacity for game 4, defenseman Brett Lebda may miss at least the next two games with a sprained ankle, and Henrik Zetterberg is recovering from the flu.

Khan also mentions the Detroit Red Wings final regular season meeting against San Jose at HP Pavilion on January 4th. After scoring 3 times in just over 10 minutes and chasing Evgeni Nabokov, the Sharks responded with 9 unanswered goals for Vesa Toskala. San Jose finished with a franchise record 6 power play goals on 9 opportunities during a 9-4 win.

[Update2] A fish story: Sharks let big one get away, Wilson blames it on dumb mistakes - Detroit Free Press.

"We had opportunities throughout the game and (Dominik) Hasek made some huge saves," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said. "But I think about the dumb mistakes we made in the third period that you can't make in a playoff game. A turnover on the power play, just the whole last shift, when they scored the goal, we didn't do one thing right on the shift. You've got veterans on the ice you expect a lot more from."

[Update3] Red Wings get physical, even series - Spector for FOXSports.com.

Detroit comes from behind to win 3-2, series tied with San Jose at a game apiece

Joe Thornton Johan Franzen

The second game of this Western Conference Semifinal started out a lot like the first one, the Sharks burned bright early and then the Red Wings took control down the stretch. The result was different for Detroit, with a 3-2 win on home ice that evened the series at 1-1. The Red Wings came from behind with 3 unanswered goals, outshooting the Sharks 19-10 in the final two periods on Saturday, after outshooting them 23-9 in the final two periods on Thursday.

Detroit's prospects looked bleak early. Left wing Kirk Maltby tried to hit Cleary up ice with a home run pass, but Kyle McLaren intercepted the puck and sent it back in the zone. Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo cycled down low before Thornton found McLaren open on the point. Mclaren beat Domink Hasek cleanly to open the scoring only 36 seconds into the game. Later, Dominik Hasek tried to play the puck up the center of the ice instead of ringing it around the boards. Hasek shoveled it directly to Sharks left wing Milan Michalek, who found Joe Thornton in front of the crease for an empty net goal. Less than five minutes into the game the Sharks are rolling, Hockeytown fans are voicing their displeasure, and San Jose has a 2-0 lead.

Henrik Zetterberg put the Red Wings on the board at the end of the first period with his third goal of the playoffs to make the score 2-1. It was a goaltenders duel in the second period. Evgeni Nabokov held the Sharks in the game making a highlight reel glove save at the top of the crease, followed a few shifts later by stacking the pads in tight against the left post. Nabokov is peaking at the right time for San Jose. Dominik Hasek was not tested often, but a sprawling save and a puck that just trickled wide kept the Sharks off the scoresheet.

The play of the night came on Detroit's third period short handed goal by Dan Cleary. Trying to break out of their own zone, the puck bounced in the middle of three Sharks players just inside the Sharks blueline. Cleary jumped on it, took a few strides towards the crease, and then snapped a shot passed Nabokov to tie the game at 2-2. A collective Silicon Valley was not happy.

After Nabokov denied several Detroit shots on a strong cycle with less than two minutes to play, former Shark Mikael Samuelsson broke in again on the left wing. The Wings were applying constant pressure to try to win the game. Samuelsson wristed a shot off Nabokov's pads which deflected directly to an unchecked Pavel Datsyuk in front of the crease. Datsyuk converted the layup to give the Red Wings a 3-2 lead, and to reinvigorate an up to this point forlorn Hockeytown.

[Update] Game 2 multimedia bonanza - George James Malik.


Shooting the game: Grega Juvancic

World Championship Ljubljana
World Championship Ljubljana

These photos are from the World Championship Group B tournament earlier this month in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Grega tells me these were shot with a Nikon D70 and Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens (there was not enough light to use his 2x teleconverter). He deflected compliments on his photos, and said the players on the ice deserve all the credit for a very competitive tournament.

The official IIHF Group B World Championship website from the tournament in Ljubljana, Slovenia is available here. The host country, Slovenia, finished undefeated with 5 wins and a +24 goal differential (29GF, 5GA). Los Angeles Kings rookie Anze Kopitar, the lone Slovenian player in the NHL, lead all scorers with 1 goal and 13 assists.

Grega Juvancic's photo galleries from Ljubljana: SLO-Romania, SLO-Hungary, SLO-Great Britain, SLO-Japan, SLO-Lithuania, closing ceremony.

A brief recap of Slovenia's games against Japan and Great Britain:

Slovenia vs Great Britan 4-0 (0-0, 3-0, 1-0) Shots 36-18:

After a rock'n'roll 1st period,where was a lot of penalties and little 5-on-5 hockey and either team could score (but neither did), the Slovenians dominated the rest of the game (with an occasional chance for the Brits). Anze Kopitar was brilliant yet again, notching 3 helpers and was also very much involved in the 4th goal (they didn't credited him with an assist but he did a lot of the work). It's clear he's an alien in this Division I worlds.

Slovenia vs Japan 7-1 (3-1, 1-0, 3-0) Shots 33-19:

Slovenians started the game at a high pace, scoring the 1st on a delayed penalty when D-man Vidmar knocked in a juicy rebound from up close. 2nd was scored of a beautiful play from 3rd line, Japan came close just 50 seconds later when Suzuki found himself infront of the net by a brutal mistake of Slo D. Just 26 seconds later Anze broke down the left and fed a perfect pass to the right slot where Razingar one-timed it home. Simple game from here on with the exception of a few break aways and a couple of 5-3 PPs for Japan (incl. a full 2 min 5on3) which they couldn't capitalize. Anze almost got a couple of SH breakaways. Also if any danger, man of the match Hocevar was brilliant in Slo net. Japan tried to play phisical but found themselves laying on the ice rather than their opponents more often than not. One such play resulted in capitan Marcel Rodman getting injured when a Japan D-man pushed him into the side of the net spraining his ankle. Rodman returned about 5 minutes later to assist on the 6th goal.

Watch out Canada, the Lynx are coming!!!

Grega Juvancic also has posted galleries from the 2005 World Championships, and the 2006 Inline Hockey Championships from Budapest. Photos and text were used with permission.

The local portal Siol.ne has more photo galleries from Slovenia's games with Romania, Hungary, and Great Britain. A youtube video clip of the Slovenian national anthem from the tournament is available here.

Information from this post was gleaned from a thread on LetsgoKings.com, quickly becoming the home for all things Slovenia and Anze Kopitar related online. More information on the 2007 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships underway now will be posted tomorrow.

[Update] Hockey Night in Latvia, from the 2006 IIHF World Championships in Riga, Latvia.

Shooting the game: Elizabeth Choi

Christian Ehrhoff germany
Nashville Predators Jordin Tootoo

On February 28th I met Elizabeth Choi, a San Jose photographer who was shooting her first NHL game. The Predators met the San Jose Sharks for the last time in the regular season, and left HP Pavilion with a 4-3 overtime shootout victory. The Sharks later eliminated the Nashville Predators 4-1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Elizabeth posted a photo gallery which is available here, and emailed a few comments about taking photographs at a Sharks game:

With half a second left to go in overtime and Paul Kariya poised to take a shot, I was such a nervous wreck that I did not know whether to keep on snapping photos or start crossing my fingers. Before I could choose either, the crowd roared to life in a cheer as the puck emerged from the glove hand of Nabby. I could finally take a deep breath before the overtime shootout. Although Nabby and the Sharks would go on to lose the game, already a different demeanor and character could be seen from the team. One that has continued to form throughout the month of March, and now in the playoffs.

Shooting with my Nikon D70 rinkside, I could not have asked for a better night as a special buzz was in the building due to the passing of the trade deadline just a few hours before. I used a Nikon F/2.8 70-200mm lens for the entire night, and fared well. After being able to tour the bowels of the entire arena, I would have to say some of the best seats in the house are located near the rafters where the media sit. They see how plays develop, and are able to get a bird's eye view of the game.

At the end of the night after sifting through photos, if there is one thing I walked away from the whole experience is... as much as I would absolutely love to shoot hockey for a living; a few days off every now and then to sit and just be a fan would definitely have to be included somehwere within the fine print of my contract. I love being a fan of hockey first. The passion, athleticism demonstrated, hand-eye coordination, the atmosphere (the list goes on), is leaps and bounds above any other sport. Go Sharks!

Thanks to Elizabeth for sending these in, and to official Sharks team photographers Don Smith and Rocky Widner for giving her the opportunity to shoot a very hard fought and exciting game.

Note: Another one of these posts is coming up in a few minutes from a photographer in Slovenia, as soon as I can figure out how to decipher a few of the tournament results, and then game notes from the WCSF Game Two will be up later tonight.


Sharks open series with solid 2-0 road win over Detroit

Back-to-back goals 24 seconds apart in the first period provided the San Jose Sharks with all of the offense they needed to defeat the Detroit Red Wings 2-0 in the first game of this Western Conference Semifinal series. Joe Thornton found rookie defenseman Matt Carle with a back door pass on the power play for the first goal of the game. After struggling with a 2-30 power play against Nashville, San Jose converted on their only man advantage in game 1. Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom, who only registered 46 PIMs in 80 games during the regular season, was called for the hooking penalty.

The shift after a team scores is normally a time to be wary, but San Jose doubled up with a goal on a determined effort by Mike Grier. The 6-1, 225 pound Sharks forward missed Mathieu Schneider with an initial forecheck attempt behind the Detroit goal, only to regroup and finish his check on Schneider again in the corner. Grier then skated to the front of the crease as Curtis Brown re-gained possession at the blueline. Brown slid the puck to Patrick Rissmiller, who defelected the puck towards Grier. Grier beat Schneider and Andres Lilja to the puck, and hacked one past Dominik Hasek for a 2-0 lead.

Evgeni Nabokov made several incredible stops as the Sharks let up slightly in the second and third periods. Nabokov finished with a 34 save, shutout performance against the top seeded team in the Western Conference. Dominik Hasek made 17 saves on 19 shots in a losing effort.


Western Conference Semifinal Preview - Detroit Red Wings vs San Jose Sharks

Detroit's Hockey Town Cafe and Fox Theatre
Detroit Red Wings
Joe Louis Arena Flickr photo

The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs begins tonight for the top seeded Detroit Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks. The original six franchise was home to an astonishing run of 3 Stanley Cups in 6 years (97, 98, 02), but Hockeytown has not been able to advance past the second round in three seasons. The Sharks took a step back from a Western Conference Final appearance against Calgary in 2004, with a WCSF loss to Edmonton last season. Reigning NHL MVP Joe Thornton will lead the Sharks on the next stage of a Stanley Cup or bust mission.

Western Conference Semifinal Preview
Detroit Red Wings (4-2) vs San Jose Sharks (4-1)
Joe Louis Arena, 4:30PM

The story of this series will be the 5-on-5 play of San Jose, and the defense in front of Dominik Hasek. The Sharks have 3.5 legitimate scoring lines, and will look to use its size and speed advantage to out-muscle and out-position the smaller Detroit defensive corps down low. San Jose will come at Detroit in waves, wear them down, and work to create turnovers and mistakes late in the game. The average size of the top 12 Sharks forwards = 6-2, 215 pounds. The average size of the top 6 Red Wings defenseman = 6-1, 199 pounds. The list of power forwards that will take the ice for San Jose is an imposing one: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Bill Guerin, Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Ryane Clowe.

The Red Wings will need an inspired playoff performance from Pavel Datsyuk. The Russian center started the regular season with a slow October and November (23GP, 3G, 11A), only to turn it on and finish with 27 goals and 60 assists. Datsyuk registered 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 WCQF games with Calgary, but was held scoreless in 3 games on the road, 2 of them losses. The Wings will look to take the puck to the net on the rush, and capitalize on scoring chances to create an early momentum. With agitating forward Tomas Holmstrom day-to-day with an eye injury, and possibly out for the series, will Todd Bertuzzi take over his role on the bench and in the paint making life miserable for Evgeni Nabokov? Or will Detroit revert to the patented Nashville/Edmonton/Calgary Hack-a-Shark mode and awaken a slumbering Sharks power play?

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there are two Conn Smythe Trophy winners left in the Western Conference Playoffs: Anaheim goaltender J.S. Giguere, and Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom. The four-time Norris Trophy winner (2001, 2002, 2003, 2006), and three-time Stanley Cup Champion (1997, 1998, 2002) is one of the few defenseman in the league who can play the puck and the body at the same time, similar to what a former Boston Bruins assistant coach said about Ray Bourque. Superior positioning defensively, and a catalyst for the Red Wings offense, year in and year out Nicklas Lidstrom has adapted to fill whatever role the team needs to win big games. The Wings will also rely on 37-year old Mathieu Schneider and 45-year old Chris Chelios to deliver in key situations with Kronwall/Lebda out, and hope Danny Markov and Andres Lilja can whether the pending storm aimed in their direction.

The Sharks trade deadline acquisition of Montreal Canadiens defenseman Craig Rivet may have been the tipping point that turned a talented team into a dominant one. In 17 regular season games after the trade, Rivet scored 1 goal (7A). In the first two games of the WCQF series with Nashville, he doubled that with 2 goals (3A). The only right hand shot on the blueline, Rivet gives the Sharks offensive more options, but it is what he brought to the table defensively that has been his biggest contribution. He plants himself between opponents and the crease, makes the high percentage plays to clear the puck, and he steadies the team when all hell breaks loose. Which so far this postseason has been often. Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren will be counted on to fill shut down roles. Rookie Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a de facto veteran, and Ron Wilson will use him in all situations. Christian Ehrhoff and Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle add a level of speed and offensive punch that is scary when talking about your 5th and 6th defenseman.

Dominik Hasek - 4-2, .922 SV%, 1.57GAA in the playoffs. Evgeni Nabokov - 4-1, .902 SV%, 2.39 GAA in the playoffs. Hasek's goaltending resume includes 6 Vezina trophies, consecutive Hart trophies, 1998 Olympic Gold Medal and 2006 Bronze for Czech Republic. Nabokov's goaltending resume includes Calder Memorial Trophy winner as the top NHL rookie in 2001, 5-2 record for Russia in the 2006 Olympics with 3 shutouts. Scouting Report: Hasek - Veteran experience in countless big games, never gives up on a play, unorthidox flopping style that took advantage of his quick reflexes has morphed into sound higher percentage fundamentals. Nabokov - Agressive, early setup, plays far out at the top of the crease, excellent glove hand, will take chances making the first save when confident defense will clear the puck in front of him.

Playoffs: Detroit - power play 5-38, 13%, penalty kill 28-34, 82%. San Jose - power play 2-30, 7%, penalty kill 19-22, 86%. Regular Season: Detroit - power play 68-401, 17% (21st), penalty kill (28-34) 84.6% (6th). San Jose - power play 92-410, 22.4% (T-2nd), penalty kill 55-330, 83.3% (14th). According to Victor Chi in the Mercury News, the Sharks scored 3 goals within 20 seconds of the end of a penalty and twice on delayed penalties in the WCQF.

Sharks won regular season series with Detroit 3-1 (5-1, 1-2, 3-2, 9-4). Top SJ scorer against DET; captain Patrick Marleau - 4GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, (4G, 2A on the PP). Top DET scorer against SJ; defenseman Mathieu Schneider - 4GP, 2G, 3A, (2G, 2A on the PP). Only one Red Wing registered more than 2 points against the Sharks in the 4 game series. Ten Sharks scored more than 2 points. San Jose Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala earned 3 wins (3GP, 1.43GAA, .932SV%). Evgeni Nabokov earned 1 loss (2GP, 4.27GAA, .902SV%) and was pulled once. Dominik Hasek, Chris Osgood and Joey MacDonald each saw action in 2 games against San Jose for the Detroit Red Wings. Hasek finished 1-1 (4.84GAA, .824SV%, 111:38 TOI), Osgood 0-1 (10.48GAA, .600SV%, 22:54 TOI), MacDonald 0-1, (2.85AA, .900SV%, 105:22 TOI).

Detroit - Kyle Calder (hand) probable, Mikael Samuelsson (hand) probable, Tomas Holmstrom (eye) out, Niklas Kronwall (back) out, Brett Lebda (ankle) out. San Jose - none.

TV: TSN (HD), VERSUS. RADIO: Free FM 97.1, KFOX 98.5 FM, NHL Radio, Sirius channel 126, XM channel 205.

Hasek steals a game in Detroit and San Jose, but there are too many Sharks and not enough water for the Red Wings. The injuries to Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, and the pounding administered by San Jose, will eventually force the top seed in the Western Conference to wilt.

Sharks in 6 games.


Sharks vs Detroit Western Conference Semifinal Schedule

The San Jose Sharks vs Detroit Red Wings Western Conference Semifinal schedule:

Detroit Red Wings (1) vs San Jose Sharks (5)

1 THUR APR 26, 4:30PM, Joe Louis Arena, VERSUS
2 SAT APR 28, Noon, Joe Louis Arena, NBC
3 MON APR 30, 7:00PM, HP Pavilion, FSN-HD
4 WED MAY 2, 7:00PM, HP Pavilion, VERSUS
5* SAT MAY 5, 11:00AM, Joe Louis Arena, NBC
6* MON MAY 7, TBD, HP Pavilion, TBD
7* WED MAY 9, TBD, Joe Louis Arena, TBD

*If necessary

Games 1 and 4 of this WCS series will be on Versus, and games 2 and 5 will be Saturday afternoon contests on NBC. According to the Morning Buzz blog by John Ryan, games 3-6-7 of the Sharks-Wings series will be on FSNBA. Also noted was the local reach of Versus, reported to be 71 percent of Bay Area households.

NHL: No hip leadership, Bettman blind to real TV issue - SJ Mercury News.

Game 3 of the first-round series, on Fox Sports Net Bay Area, drew a 2.5 local rating (60,000 households). Game 5, a 2.5 rating. Game 4, on Versus, a 1.3, or 31,000 households.

Versus has the entire conference finals and first two games of the Stanley Cup finals. So if the Sharks advance, tens of thousands of interested viewers could miss the very best of the product.

Versus growing, slowly, NHL ratings still low; visibility is up - Raleigh News and Observer.

The difficulty in finding Versus has been the biggest complaint about the cable TV deal the league signed after the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season. While viewership was up 31 percent this season, to more than 200,000 viewers per game -- more than the numbers posted by ESPN in 2003-04, the final year the network carried the NHL -- ratings remain a low 0.2. And, the channel is available in only 72 million homes, fewer than ESPN's 102 million or ESPN2's 89 million, known as "clearance" in the business...

The network also has shined this postseason, offering wall-to-wall coverage of the NHL playoffs this season including Canadian broadcasts of West Coast games and a compelling studio show beyond what ESPN ever gave hockey fans...

"This is not going to be a decision easily judged in the short term. This will be a decision where we're going to look back in three or four years and decide whether or not it was the right decision. As we sit here today, I still maintain that for this game, long term, this was the right decision." (NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman)

Link via Paul Kukla.

In Bay Area markets without Versus and city-wide wifi, Sunnyvale for example, online streaming from Yahoo or Comcast, or the NHL's new reduced price Center Ice Online are limited options.

[Update] The Detroit Red Wings will face the San Jose Sharks on NBC at 12 noon, Saturday April 28th. The Countdown to Faceoff pre-game show from 30 Rockefeller Center will be streamed online at 11:30AM.

[Update2] Versus announces NHL Playoffs Semifinal schedule - Versus.com.

VERSUS, the national cable television home of the NHL, today announced the network's schedule for the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoff Conference Semifinal round, which begins on Wednesday, April 25 with VERSUS pre-game studio show "Hockey Central" at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by a double-header at 7 p.m. ET when the Buffalo Sabres host the New York Rangers and at 10 p.m. with Vancouver at Anaheim. Each week night VERSUS will feature one to two playoff games, as well the studio wrap-up show, "Hockey Central".

VERSUS anticipates airing up to 52 playoff games, as well as the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. The number of playoff games will vary depending upon the length of each individual series.

[Update3] A press release earlier this week from the NHL:


SEATTLE and NEW YORK CITY (April 23, 2007) — Just in time for the NHL playoffs, hockey fans can now watch full-length games whenever and wherever they want through the Amazon Unbox digital video download service. The National Hockey League (NHL) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that hockey fans can download full-length regular-season, post-season and classic games through Amazon Unbox.

Amazon Unbox will offer three or more of the most exciting NHL games each week during the regular season and playoffs, as well as classic NHL games. The first set of games from the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs are now live and available through Amazon Unbox. Games are available for download as soon as 48 hours after the final buzzer for just $2.99. Dozens of classic games from the NHL’s rich history also are available, including the 1994 Stanley Cup Final in which the New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks, the 1993 Western Conference Final game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings featuring Wayne Gretzky, and the 1997 Stanley Cup Final in which the Detroit Red Wings topped the Philadelphia Flyers.

Eric McErlain of Offwing offers a first hand reaction on using Amazon Unbox to download games to a Tivo digital video recorder here, here and here.


Its the Stanley Cup Playoffs, time to get fired up

New York Rangers center Ryan Hollweg displays the proper procedure for firing your team up in the locker room. The New York Rangers will face the Buffalo Sabres in the second round after a 4-0 sweep of the Atlanta Thrashers.

[Update] Ben Wright, of the Atlanta Thrashers official Blueland Blog, posted notes and photos from Atlanta's unsuccessful trip to NYC. Ben also has excerpts from an "exit day" press conference with Atlanta's Executive VP and General Manager Don Waddell and head coach Bob Hartley.

"The team that played the best got the breaks. It's as simple as this. There's the one game that was unacceptable where we took a 7-0 beating. But the three other games- this series could be 3-1 for us or 2-2 but today it doesn't matter. It's over and we know it. It's not about what we could have done or should have done. That's too easy. We're proactive people and we have to learn from it. I think that for the young players- they all have playoff experience right now.

It's obviously a huge disappointment because we thought we would collect way more playoff experience than we did. Four playoff games- it's not up to our standards. We have a better team than this and we could have done better, but losing three games by one shows you that being close doesn't count in the league. You have to be better than the other team and we were not. Full marks to the Rangers. They deserved it and they beat us fair and square." - Atlanta Thrashers head coach Bob Hartley

[Update2] Brodeur peaks, Lightning packs; Devils against Ottawa - New Jersey Star Ledger.

[Update3] 2007 Stanley Cup Conference Semifinals Open Wednesday - NHL.com.

Golden Gate Fields opens spring season on Wednesday

Golden Gate Fields Bay Meadows Horse Racing

Golden Gate Fields in Albany opens its 2007 spring racing season on Wednesday, which runs from April 25th through June 10th. The highlight of the schedule is the 58th annual $300,000 San Francisco Mile, the season's only grade II race, which will be held this Saturday.

The photo above is from a three abroad photo finish in the 4th race race at Bay Meadows on Saturday. Beautiful Dixie (#5), ridden by Dennis Carr, won the wet 1-mile turf race by a nose. Logan Avenue Linda (#3), and the Russell Baze ridden Gemstone Rush (#6), finished second and third. Bay Meadows closed out the spring season on Sunday, and will open for possibly the last time in 73 years during the fall 2007 season.


Predators lose composure with another ejection, lose game, and lose series 4-1 to San Jose

Michael Davis Nashville Aviation Photographers

With the season on the line game 5 held true to form as the Predators took 9 penalties, including a Scott Nichol 5 minute major and game misconduct for spearing Christian Ehrhoff. The Sharks capitalized with a second period power play goal by Patrick Marleau, and another game winning goal by Marleau late in a 3-2 win over Nashville. San Jose head coach Ron Wilson experimented with a line of Marleau-Thornton-Guerin, three players with a combined 794 career regular season goals, and the Predators could not shut them down.

Ryane Clowe opened the scoring for San Jose. Steve Bernier one-handed the puck while stiff arming his way around a defenseman, and shoveled it towards Vokoun. Clowe split two Predators to slam the rebound home. The Predators held a 2-1 lead for 13:20 after goals by Jason Arnott (PP) and Vernon Fiddler, 29 seconds apart in the middle stanza. It would not hold.

Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves on 24 shots, to pick up his 4th win of the playoffs. Tomas Vokoun made 34 saves on 37 shots, and faced an average of 32.6 for the series. The Sharks will fly home to the friendly confines of HP Pavilion in San Jose and wait for the second round playoff matchups to shake out after hotly contested battles between Vancouver-Dallas (Canucks up 3-2), and Calgary-Detroit (tied 2-2). The Ducks clinched a second round berth with a 4-1 take down of the Minnesota Wild.

The Predators finish the postseason leading all playoff teams with 148 penalty minutes in only 5 games. Nashville general manager David Poile will have to make tough decisions with the future of head coach Barry Trotz, after 3 consecutive first round playoff defeats, and a who's-who of impending free agents including Peter Forsberg, Scott Hartnell, Paul Kariya, and captain Kimmo Timonen. Jordin Tootoo was scratched from game 5 after a late collision into the boards with Milan Michalek on Wednesday night. Martin Erat, Steve Sullivan, Vitaly Vishnevski and AHL callup Pat Leahy were also scratched.

Post-game comments from Nashvillepredators.com:

Nashville head coach Barry Trotz on San Jose:

"Take nothing away from San Jose. They played a real strong team game. They’re big, they're fast. They’ve got all the elements, you know they got all the elements to win the Stanley Cup, there is no question. Their depth, their four lines, that's what makes them real strong".

Peter Forsberg on his future in Nashville and the NHL:

"I don't know. I don’t even know if I'm going to play next year. I have to take my time off. I struggled so much all year. Coming here though, I had a lot of fun. It's a great group of guys. It's just sad we had to leave and go out so early".

San Jose head coach Ron Wilson on the line of Thornton-Marleau-Guerin:

"I made the change….putting those guys together sometimes really gets Patty (Marleau) going. I didn't think he was effective in the first half of the game. The idea was to get a spark first of all on the power play, then I was thinking of making that change anyway and so we carried it through to the third period".

The archive photo of Nashville Arena above by Michael Davis of Nashville Aviation Photographers was used with permission.

[Update] More media notes:

Sharks intermission host John Schrader gathered Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton together at the bench after San Jose clinched a berth in the Western Conference Semifinals. After a playoff elimination game against one of the top teams in the NHL, Marleau and Thornton looked relaxed, confident and excited about the next round. They mentioned that there was no pre-game discussion about a Thornton-Marleau-Guerin line, Ron Wilson just threw them on the ice. "The coach just said go out there and have some fun" according to Marleau. Joe Thornton called the series with Nashville physical from day 1, mentioned that the fourth win in a series is always the toughest to get, and that he was going to take a day off Saturday and watch some hockey. About a second round matchup, "It doesn't matter, we will play anybody" Thornton said.

The San Jose Mercury News is wall-to-wall hockey on Saturday. Victor Chi reports on a series repeat by the Sharks in the first round, and notes a Jonathan Cheechoo redemption after a mistake that lead to the Predators second goal. David Pollak posted a Game 5 Rewind with the big hits, big saves, and big plays from each period.

It looks like Mark Purdy filed his thoughts on Game 5 from Nashville, Tank nearly empty, Thornton hits top gear. I would like to know how well he was received by Predators fans and head coach Barry Trotz after throwing gas on the fire writing about Patrick Marleau's response to the hit on Cheechoo in Game 1. That column left an aftertaste in Nashville. And if you are outside of the Bay Area, make sure to take a look at the FROZEN IN TIME (PDF files on right sidebar) full page photos of game action, with thought bubbles from players describing what happened. The best to date was the goalcam shot from the venerable Bruce Bennett in Game Two.

Behind 3-2 Victory, Sharks Advance to WCSF - SJsharks.com.

Tickets go on sale for the second round playoff matchup Tuesday at 10AM.

[Update2] Pony up to party Bay Meadows, Famed track ends season with celebrations; will close for good in November - SF Chronicle.

Get those wagers ready, as this weekend provides the last opportunity until fall to bet on horses at Bay Meadows racetrack in San Mateo. The horse track, which opened in 1934 and once was home of the famous thoroughbred Seabiscuit, closes for the spring season Sunday.

Post time is 12:45 on Saturday and Sunday, more information is available from baymeadows.com. Hockey notes and a report on the European hockey leagues is coming up Monday.


Rough 48 hours for California ECHL teams; Stockton and Fresno out of playoffs, Long Beach out of the ECHL

It has been a rough 48 hours for three of the four ECHL teams located in California:

The second year Stockton Thunder exited their inaugural Kelly Cup playoff series with a 6-1 blowout loss to the Idaho Steelheads. Highly regarded Edmonton prospect Devan Dubnyk (6-5, 209lbs) made 26 saves on 32 shots in a losing effort.

Stockton may ice a significantly different lineup next year, with the Edmonton Oilers signing a 3-year affiliation with the AHL Springfield Falcons. This season the Oilers held a primary affiliation with the ECHL Stockton Thunder, and 5 secondary AHL affiliations with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Hamilton Bulldogs, Iowa Stars, Milwaukee Admirals, and the Wilkes-Barre Penguins. One result of this odd setup was a few AHL caliber players playing in front of packed crowds in Stockton. The Oilers have not had a primary AHL affiliate since the 2004-05 Edmonton Roadrunners (seen here in San Jose during the lockout).

The Thunder drew 244,085 fans (6,780 average) to Stockton Arena this year to lead the league in attendance for the second straight season. Stockton also was recently named as the host of the 2008 ECHL All-Star game.

The Frenso Falcons, an ECHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, lost four straight games to the Bakersfield Condors to bow out of the best-of-seven playoff series 4-2. The Falcons were heavily outshot (60-22, 36-19, 42-20, 46-32) in the last four games by a Bakersfield club that got stronger as the series progressed. Fresno Falcons head coach Matt Thomas described the 2006-07 season to the Fresno Bee as "mediocre".

Left wing Luke Curtin lead the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs in scoring after 6 games with 2 goals and 9 assists. Curtin finished the regular season with 20 goals and 54 assists in 55 games played. Sharks 2003 7th round selection, right wing Jonathan Tremblay, finished the regular season with 2 assists and 133 penalty minutes in 63 games played. Sharks 2002 5th round selection, 6-0 200 pound Harvard defenseman Tom Walsh, scored 2 goals and 7 assists for Fresno before being called up to the AHL Worcester Sharks. Walsh had 1 goal and 8 assists in 29 games with Worcester in the regular season.

The Worcester Sharks face the Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs.

The ECHL announced today that a special meeting of the Board of Governors has been adjourned. Topics included the approval of an expansion Elmira Jackals franchise in New York, a voluntary suspension request for the Toledo Storm, an approval for the Pensacola Ice Pilots to begin play in 2007-08, and that Long Beach Ice Dogs owner Ted Foxman informed the Board that the Ice Dogs would not play in the Long Beach Arena in 2007-08.

According to the LB Press Telegram, all of the Ice Dogs employees were laid off on Tuesday. The Long Beach franchise has struggled to bring fans in for several seasons, often drawing less than 1000 for a game. The ECHL team had been based in Long Beach for 9 years. Last season the San Diego Gulls closed up shop, despite strong attendance numbers, after the team owner was unable to find a buyer.

[Update] Beauchemin Shuts Out Falcons 4-0; Condors Advance to Round Two Against Alaska, Game 1 Monday Night in Anchorage Against Defending Champion Aces - Bakersfield Condors.

[Update2] Alaska Aces to face the Condors - Anchorage Daily News.

Warriors make playoffs for the first time in 13 years, a Golden State pledge

Golden State Warriors

After the Golden State Warriors last made the playoffs in 1994, Bay Area basketball fans have been subject to 13 years of grinding futility. The longest playoff drought in the NBA.

A feud between rookie Chris Weber and Don Nelson lead to the departure of both, a dismantling of the floor pounding up-and-down Warriors style "Run TMC" made famous, and a succession of head coaches for whom an NBA Championship was more of a positive thinking exercise than an obtainable goal (Bob Lanier 1995, Rick Adelman 1995-1997, P. J. Carlesimo 1997-1999, Garry St. Jean 1999-2000, Dave Cowens 2000-2001, Brian Winters 2001-2002, Eric Musselman 2002-2004, Mike Montgomery 2004-2006).

Nellie returned this season after problems in Dallas. Then on January 17th, a massive 8-player deal with the Indiana Pacers sent overpaid and under-motivated Troy "Trade Rumor" Murphy, Mike Dunleavy and their boat anchor contracts east, for Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson. After problems in Indiana, Jackson started with a clean slate and an open hardwood canvas in Oakland. He responds, and quickly becomes a fan favorite. The season went down to the wire, but Don Nelson, a healthy Baron Davis, and a solid starting five achieved the impossible, a first round NBA playoff matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks. About time.

If the Warriors can win a first round playoff series, this blog will turn blue, re-name itself Warriorspage for a day, and will ever so politely celebrate in the comments section of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's Blog Maverick or DallasMavericks.com websites. Congratulations to the Golden State of Mind Warriors blog for outliving the curse.

[Update] 2007 Warriors Playoff Central - Golden State Warriors.

[Update2] Warriors Back in Playoffs After 12 Years - SF Chronicle.

[Update3] I kept playing this song by G Love and Special Sauce yesterday: Shooting Hoops.

I can fake to the left
or penetrate like Mike
360 degrees in the air
as Dominique might

I can pass like Magic
and I can shoot like a Bird
after a Dr J dunk
the courtside drunk said good lord

They shooting hoops
They playing basketball


Game 4 pre and post game quotes

Ron Wilson
Barry Trotz
NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson (post-game):

(on the first period) They came out, and wanted to turn it into a track meet, which would be better for their team, be to their advantage. If it is going back and forth, they don't have to pay a price down low in their end. After we scored a couple of minutes into the game, I think we were content, kind of drunk with our own success "Hey, we'll try this game". And then we were hitting the post as well. We had two in the back and forth match that was going on, we hit the post a couple of times. That is not our game. Over the course of time, they are probably better playing that style of hockey than we are.

(on the second and third periods) I think our guys realized that is not going to be successful in the long run, and got a little bit closer to playing our game. We drew some penalties. Again, started that puck possession game in there end and wore them down. In the third period, I thought we were even better tonight, until we took the penalty, than we were the other night. I don't think they had a chance until they got that last power play. A lot of their offense, they need their defense involved in the play. We they have to work so hard just to get a puck out of their end, they are not going to have the legs to join the attack. Where you are going to see it, is hopefully in the third period of a game. If you can not give away too many outnumbered attacks in the first half of the game, the energy is probably not going to be their in the second half of the game. I think that was evident tonight. But these games seem like they last 6 or 7 hours when you are coaching them.

(on Joe Pavelski) He has got a knack for scoring big goals. I know I was reading a SI article on Chris Drury in Buffalo about these players that always seem to play on winning teams, and nobody can explain why. And they always score big goals, and nobody can explain why. Other than the kind of rinkrat quality he has, Joe Pavelski is a little bit like that too. He loves to play, loves to be around the rink. Doesn't quite look like the perfect hockey player, but he finds ways to get the puck. He has got a sneaky hard shot which they found out tonight. He is always around the puck. It seems to follow him.

Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz (post-game):

(on shutting down the Sharks power play, and being down 3-1 in the series) We can be frustrated, or we can get more determined. Tonight we did not get the result we wanted. I thought we played a game where we should have got that result, but that didn't happen. It's over and we have to move forward. If we waste our energy on this game, it will be useless. You have to be totally focused on the next game. See if we can bring it back here to San Jose. If we can duplicate a number of the things we did here tonight, with this effort and the things we did, hopefully there will be a different result.

(on penalties) We have to cut those down. In playoff hockey you don't want to take any careless penalties. We cut them down. There is one I questioned a little bit, but I am not the referee.

(plan for tomorrow) We are going to go back to Nashville. That is the plan.

(status of Jordan Tootoo) He played tonight. He played very well actually.

(on the first period) I wouldn't say frustrated. We have to keep doing that. If we keep doing that we will get a good result. Obviously we would like a different result based on the way we played in the first period. We didn't. That is part of the game. I don't think we played as well last game, and I think we were up 1-0 for the first 30 minutes.

(on the third period) Some of our passes, we tried to push something that wasn't there. Sometimes you try to hit the home run when you want to hit a bunch of singles to get the same result. That may be a little inexperience or anxiousness by some of our guys. But take nothing away from San Jose. They did a great job defending it.

NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman (pre-game):

(about SJ) It is nice to be in San Jose, especially come playoff time. I don't have any startling, late breaking or significant news. I try to get around to as many buildings as possible. I think the building, and the atmosphere is great. From its success, it has been well run, and well received in this marketplace. The attendance, the fans here are great.

(about Nashville) Two things. One, attendance has surged throughout the league. Which is why we set another full season attendance record. There were a number of stories early on in the season, in October and November, that attendance is down, something is wrong. I said it is too early to write an attendance story. That turned out to be the case. The reason was obvious. October and November tend to be our weakest months. But a year ago, the season was abberational. I am glad to see attendance is up. The team needs, and deserves the support of the marketplace. Nashville fans are great.

(about the physical play in the series) It is interesting, the series is intense. Each series tends to find their own rythymn, their own momentum. I think both teams are now more concerned with winning than they are with anything else. When you have two teams that both had great regular seasons, like these two teams, there is a lot at stake. If you look at this whole organization top to bottom, they are extremeley passionate. This is a good series to demonstrate how passionate they are.

(on officiating when the commisioner is in the stands) What is said, and what is fact, sometimes are not the same. I once did a little study of my own. I don't think the penalties called, if you look at my track record overall, varied to any great extent.

(on game misconducts) There are two consequences to game misconducts. What happens that game, and what the discipline requires. Officials have a very tough job, and it helps much more if they get it right. The benefit of having a subsequent review, the benefit of hindsight and video, and everything else that is going on to get it right, to prevent a result from the wrong determination. But the officials have a tough job.

(on Sharks fans) Extremely passionate. I remember going to games in the Cow Palace. Knowledgable, very connected to the team and the game. I speak at the season ticket holder forum, and the questions are always very good and insightful. As I said in my opening remarks, that is a testament to how well run this franchise has been run since its inception. This franchise has become part of the community. The team has been consistently competitive. Some years better than others, but they are always putting an entertaining and competitive team on the ice. The community has responded incredibly well. And for that we are greatful.

(on Versus) They are continuing to grow. Ultimately it is a question of how good a decision this is. There have been a lot of people who have questioned it from day 1. I think you can't make that judgement for another two to three years. At the end of the day, Versus increased its distribution. It is a more prominent outlet it terms of where we need to be, in more households. It turned out to be the right thing to do, because through them we are moving up. From our standpoint, if we had to make this decision all over again, we would make that decision. Because this is the great treatment, the important treatement, that we get.

(on local analog residents without Versus) The people can go through their cable operators. They can talk to Direct TV, you can get Versus. We had an issue in Buffalo, and the people of Buffalo stood up and said we want it, and they got it. The cable operators responded. So part of growing the network is going to be that when fans want to be heard on a subject, they can be heard. The fans need to make their preferences with cable operators well known. They can go to Direct TV.

A number of questions asked of Bettman not printed here illicited a predictable response. It would have been nice to ask him about the NHL's partnership with Google and Youtube, and about the streaming partnerships with Yahoo and Comcast. This is Silicon Valley by the way. There was a question about Versus airing game 4, which a handful of local communities do not receive in the Bay Area. With citywide free wifi in some areas (like MetroFi in Sunnyvale), streaming a game is an option. I also would have liked to ask him what is the NHL working on to improve the televised broadcasts. Last October I discussed that issue with 2 cameramen at a game against Dallas.

Defenseman Craig Rivet (pre-game):

I think at some point you need to let justice be served. The league has done what they have done, so you have to put that on the back shelf and move on. It is not something we want to get caught up in and get distracted about. I think it is important to go out there and treat (Hartnell) like any other player. If we have to make a physical play on him, we will. I don't think it is important to go out there any get revenge by any means. It is more imprtant to get revenge on the scoreboard at the end of the game. That is more important than anything.

I also asked Rivet about the playoff experience in San Jose as compared to the one he witnessed in Montreal. He said he was surprised at how loud the fans were, and how much support the fans gave the team on the ice. It would be nice to have a full quote, but my digital audio recorder likes to decide for itself which interviews it will or will not record.

[Update] Post-game video of the the press conferences, Mike Grier's interview on Versus, and player interviews from the locker room are available from SJsharks.com and KNTV-11. Game highlights are available from Versus and Youtube.

Convincing win gives Sharks 3-1 series lead in Western Conference Quarterfinals

San Jose Sharks vs Nashville Predators
San Jose Sharks vs Nashville Predators
San Jose Sharks playov fan

Notes from Game 4, and pre and post-game press conference quotes will be posted soon. A photo gallery from game 4 is available here.

Flashback, Joe Pavelski

center Joe Pavelski

The fact that San Jose rookie center Joe Pavelski scored a critical goal in only his second playoff game on Wednesday night should not be surprising. Pavelski has been getting it done at every level from Stevens Point High School (SPASH), to a 2006 NCAA Men's National Championship with the Wisconsin Badgers, to a breakout performance as a rookie in the NHL (4 goals in first 5 games).

Sharkspage co-contributor, and fellow Wisonsin native, Max Giese profiled Pavelski in September:

In Wisconsin, there has been a buzz about Pavelski ever since he scored the game winning goal at a state high school hockey tournament. With an end-to-end rush, Joe displayed sick dangle... In his second year with the USHL, Pavelski captained the (Waterloo) Blackhawks as they won the Clarkson Cup. His play matured nicely, and he learned to become more of a leader on the ice... Pavelski again silenced the critics by leading the (NCAA Wisconsin) Badgers in scoring during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He proved to be a winner by leading the Badgers to the National Championship. Not just noticeable on the statsheet, Pavelski impressed with his leadership, his hockey sense, and a two-way game which included leading the Badgers forwards in blocked shots...

It is no mistake that at every level, his teams have won a championships. With a guy like Joe Pavelski, a natural winner on the roster, the Sharks might take home that elusive first Stanley Cup.

Pavelski finished with a goal and 3 shots in a 3-2 win over Nashville Predators on Wednesday night. In 2 games played, he is 8-8 (50%) from the faceoff circle. In a post-game press conference, Sharks head coach Ron Wilson compared Pavelski to another consummate winner, Chris Drury. David Pollak in the San Jose Mercury News quoted Pavelski on sitting out the first two games of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series. "The best players play, and I want to be in that lineup" Pavelski said.

Many mentioned the depth of talent for San Jose when breaking down the series, but one look at quality of players not in the lineup is an indicator of how well built the Sharks are for a long playoff run. As Doug Wilson said previously in a radio interview, the Sharks can withstand the loss of any one key player and keep rolling. That may be the difference between the contenders and the pretenders in a Western Conference filled with playoff heavyweights.

[Update] In the previous profile, Max Giese repeatedly mentioned skating concerns scouts had in the past about Joe Pavelksi. In the 2006 Pacific Division shootout rookie tournament between prospects from the Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Coytotes, I noted that Pavelski was one of the faster players on the ice. Not at an overall level, but as a player who was always skating at his top speed every shift. From the drop of the puck, or late in the game. Just an example of how opinions expressed on this site, and in interviews conducted with others, can differ from person to person.


San Jose Sharks foundation holding silent auction during playoffs

Evgeni Nabokov goalie mask
Vesa Toskala goalie mask

The San Jose Sharks are holding a game used equipment auction running through the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The items above are the game used goalie masks from Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala. Current bids are $3000 for Nabokov's, and $2000 for Toskala's mask, and new bids can be made until the last playoff home game. The proceeds will support the Sharks Foundation.

For an interesting note on the origin of Tomas Vokoun's goalie pad design, take a look at this post from March: From Fan to Factory to the NHL, a tale of one goalie pad's journey to the big show. Word from Eagle Hockey is that Vokoun might move on to new pads after the playoffs.

I can't drive 205, Long Beach Grand Prix update

Sebastien Bourdais overcame a crash into the wall on the first day of qualifying, the quirks of the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car chassis, and fellow Frenchman Tristan Gommendy on lap 68 to win his third straight Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach race on Saturday.

The Long Beach Press Telegram has an extensive race section online here. Make sure to take a look at photo galleries of George Lucas with Stormtroopers in tow, the Miss LBGP contest, and the pictures from the final race day.

The ship visible in the video above is the RMS Queen Mary. The view from that hotel room actually extends furthur to the right so you can see the hairpin turn 11 as well. Amazing hotel room.

Champ Car heads to the streets of San Jose on July 25-29th. More information is available at sanjosegrandprix.com.

[Update] Highlights of the 2005 and 2006 San Jose Grand Prix races, also won by Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, can be found here and here. Scroll down from each post for more.

[Update2] A number of on the track racing video clips from the different events at Long Beach were posted on Yotube here.


Second period pivotal as momentum shifts to San Jose in game 3

Evgeni Nabokov Scott Nichol collision
Nashville Predators goaltender Tomas Vokoun
Versus television network NHL

The most contentious series in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs calmed down slightly for Game 3 Monday night, as the San Jose Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1 at HP Pavilion. There were solid checks, errant high sticks, and equipment malfunctions, but no replay of the questionable hits unleashed against Jonathan Cheechoo and Steve Bernier in the first two games.

Each team held serve for the most part in the opening period. On a line change, Mike Grier carried the puck into the offensive zone against three players. Grier protected the puck with his body, and carried it behind the net, and almost drew a penalty in the process. Shortly after he makes it to the bench, J.P. Dumont skates up ice and stops just past the Sharks blueline. Dumont fed Legwand on the left side, who sent the puck back across the ice to Ryan Suter for the first goal of the game. Beautiful tic-tac-toe play, no chance for Nabokov on the shot. Score 1-0 Nashville.

The game began to shake out to its final conclusion in the second period. Nashville took 5 minor penalties against a team that was tied for 2nd with Anaheim in power play percentage (22.4%) during the regular season. Compounding the issue was an injury suffered by left wing Martin Erat after he was checked into the boards in the second period. According Nashville head coach Barry Trotz, Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya also had to return to the lockerroom to repair equipment issues. The Sharks scored twice in the second, with Milan Michalek tipping a Craig Rivet point shot past Vokoun, and Ryane Clowe converting on a nice cross ice feed by Matt Carle. Score 2-1 after two.

Bill Guerin jumped on a late third period turnover by Peter Forsberg in his own zone. Guerin reversed direction, and fired a high shot on net. Marleau punched it past Vokoun for the Sharks third goal of the game, the first for Marleau in this playoff series. Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves on 20 shots, and picked up his second win of the playoffs. Tomas Vokoun made 38 saves on 41 shots, and held the score close for 55 minutes. San Jose finished the game 0-6 on the power play, including 1:19 with a 5-on-3, but also scored directly after a penalty and on a delayed call.

There were a few issues raised before and after the game that deserve a closer look:

- Tod Lewis and Bill Berg offer a very detailed technical analysis of the Sharks 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators for the NHL On the Fly daily highlight show. They broke down a few of the careless penalties taken by Nashville in the second period that "took them out of the game", examined Tomas Vokoun's superior rebound control (important when facing 41 shots), and brought out the telestrator to break down a persistent forecheck by Patrick Marleau that directly lead to his insurance goal in the third period.

NHL OTF is streamed online for free at NHL.com, and also airs on Versus after the playoff hockey games. Highly recommended.

- Jamie Baker, the Sharks radio color commentator, pointed out the matchups Ron Wilson was setting up with the last change on home ice. Every time the Forsberg line was out, defenseman Scott Hannan and Marc-Edouard Vlasic would be matched up against them. Joe Thornton, Milan Michalek, and Ryane Clowe were put out against Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis and Greg Zannon. Have to take a look at the shift chart for game1 and game2 to see Barry Trotz's line matching strategy.

- Interesting comments by Ron Wilson in the post-game press conference. He talked with some of the players who have never played at HP Pavilion in front of a deafening playoff crowd, one that was several decibles louder than last season. Wilson said, "The adrenaline rush you kind of get off that, when you know they are cheering for you, can sometimes tighten you up a little bit." He mentioned that playing a dump and chase will simplify the game and negate a lot of pressure, something that the power play could use as well.

- Barry Trotz on game 3 at the Shark tank after the game: "We got through the first period. We knew the energy level would be great in this building. Just like ours, there is a lot of energy people bring to the building here at the Shark tank. I think we bent, and did not break, and scored a goal on the transitional game. I thought we had a pretty good first coming into a very difficult place to play."

- San Jose general manager Doug Wilson gave an excellent interview prior to game 3 with KNBR's Ralph Barbieri and substitute host Ted Robinson. Barbieri grills Wilson on the definition of physicality, and whether in some instances it may actually hinder a teams chance in a game. Wilson defined physicality as "a willingness to compete" and "mental toughness", and compared it to boxers using a body punch to wear an opponent down. Using physical play wisely ("with discipline") can lead to turnovers, a hesitancy to battle for pucks 1-on-1 late in the game, and draw penalties.

After the last two playoff exits against Calgary and Edmonton, where the Sharks lost 3 straight home games, and 4 straight games respectively, this is the perfect answer from the San Jose general manager. The additions of Curtis Brown and Mike Grier in the offseason, and Craig Rivet and Bill Guerin at the trade deadline, can be seen as his direct response to this issue. Something that should give Sharks fans confidence in this playoff run.

- Victor Chi, of the SJ Mercury News, noted that suspended forward Alexander Radulov's replacement Darcy Hordichuck took only 4 shifts the entire game. All of them were in the first period.

[Update] Erat's status for Game 4 unknown - Nashville Tennessean.

Erat suffered an injured right leg when he was knocked into the boards by San Jose’s Mike Grier in the second period of Monday’s 3-1 loss to the Sharks. He didn’t return to the game and was wearing a large brace on the leg afterward. Erat missed the last 11 games of the regular season after suffering a knee injury on March 13.

[Update2] Sharks determined to keep their edge - TSN.

Sharks down Nashville Predators 3-1, game 3 video

San Jose defeated the Nashville Predators 3-1 in the third game of the Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterfinal series. The Sharks lead the series two games to one. A video of the sights and sounds from HP Pavilion on Monday is available here.

The San Jose Mercury News created a multimedia photo gallery for each game of the series with Nashville. Video highlights from game 3 are available from YouTube, TSN broadband, and SJsharks.com. San Jose NBC affiliate KNTV-11 is posting interviews, video reports and game critiques before and after each playoff game.

More on game 3 will be posted soon.


Sunday Nashville and San Jose practice notes, Bernier comments on Game 3

Steve Bernier locker room interview

- San Jose Sharks right wing Steve Bernier talked with reporters after a Sunday practice about how he felt after the hit from Alexander Radulov in game 2, how quickly it took for him to recover on the ice, and how he thought the Sharks would respond for game 3.

"I took some X-rays in Nashville, but I feel fine. If it is not dangerous to play, I am going to play for sure."

"I didn't see video. I tried to watch it yesterday on TV but I missed it. So I didn't see it, but I kind of don't want to because I don't think it is very important. That is in the past. Now I am going to think about the next game. I am going to try to be ready and to forget about this."

"I remember getting hit, I had no idea who it was. After that I missed a couple of things while I was on the ice. But I recovered my memory very fast. I don't think it was a very, very big injury, but it was just to make sure I was fine. You don't want to take any chances."

"I think we can play physical against Nashville. The only thing we didn't do is play dirty. We play physical and finish every check. We didn't do anything that might hurt somebody. That is the way the hockey game is supposed to go. Tomorrow at the rink we are going to do the same thing... we are going to finish our checks and put pressure on their defense, but we don't want to play dirty."

When asked about Marc-Edouard Vlasic being friends with Alexander Radulov from their time playing together with the QMJHL Quebec Remparts, Bernier said, "He is. I am not buddies with him."

- The Sharks held a closed morning practice and worked on the power play, 3-on-2's, and one timers in front of the crease before taking individual drills. Steve Bernier and Jonathan Cheechoo were on the ice and skating well. The word from the media was that Joe Pavelski would be in the lineup for Game 3, with Mark Bell sitting the game out, and Ryane Clowe moving up to Patrick Marleau and Bill Guerin's line.

- Bernier Back On The Ice Sunday - SJsharks.com.

The Sharks penalty killers have done a strong job, but Wilson feels they are being tested too much. "We don’t want to take penalties in the first and second period when it doesn't matter," said Wilson. "Both teams are capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat. Five-on-five, we’ve had more chances, but they’ve scored more goals."

Nashville Predators practice in San Jose for Game 3

- Nashville held a closed practice at Logitech Ice in the afternoon, and worked on point shots, 2-on-0 breakaways, 3-on-2's from the blueline, and tips and deflections in front of Tomas Vokoun and Chris Mason. Darcy Hordichuk looked like he will replace suspended Alexander Radulov for game 3.

A sizable contingent of Nashville media and staff was in attendance. The general consensus from their viewpoint was that the dirty play came from both sides in the first two games, but with all eyes on game 3 it may not continue. Also of note at this point in the series was the two home sellouts for the Predators in games 1 and 2 (17,113), increased media coverage, and a sizable 3.1 local television rating.

I asked color commentator Terry Crisp, who won a Stanley Cup as a player (PHI 74,75) and a coach (CAL 89), if he had seen a playoff rivalry this intense. He said that the Battle of Alberta playoffs between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers invented the playoff rivalry.

Suspension is a subject for debate - Nashville Tennessean.

- The CAHA A and B State Hockey Championships took place Sunday at Logitech Ice in San Jose. The two games I watched were the Bantam A finals, where Beach City defeated the California Cougars 3-1, and the Peewee B Finals. A raucous crowd watched the Fresno Falcons down the San Diego Gulls 5-4 in a triple overtime contest. For more information visit the official CAHA website at USA Hockey, or visit norcalyouthhockey.com.

[Update] Sharks notebook: Bernier's not keen to replay that hit, he's eager to return but not to retaliate, a sub for Radulov - SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] Sharks feel like prey against the Predators, War of words heats up; series has been marked by injuries, rough play - National Post.

He was a television reporter from enemy territory, and it did not take him long to get under Ron Wilson's skin. The Sharks coach was already in a combative mood yesterday, largely because of the fate that had befallen two of the players who owned dressing-room stalls next to where the reporter stood...

"I could very easily give you a printed picture of the whole incident that would clear it up for you," Wilson growled at the reporter from Nashville. "I've looked at a lot of tape, and I haven't seen it," the reporter shot back. "Do you have that picture?" "Do you work for Nashville, seriously?" "Yes, I do," the reporter said. "Well, good for you," Wilson said. "If you work for Nashville, you shouldn't be in this room."

[Update3] USA Hockey announced 18 players to the 2007 U.S. Men's National Team - USA Hockey.


Sunday Doubleheader; Class A San Jose Giants drop 2 games to Rancho Cucamonga 6-4, 2-1

San Jose Giants Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Class A minor league baseball

The sun-baked fields of Municipal Stadium hosted a Class A double-header between the San Jose Giants and Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Sunday. A five run fifth inning for Rancho Cucamonga sank the Giants 6-4 in the first of two 7 inning games. San Jose catcher Pablo Sandoval survived a home plate collision to bat 2-for-3, with 1 run scored. Rancho Cucamonga starting pitcher Brok Butcher pitched a complete game 4 hitter in the rubber match, earning a 2-1 win. The Giants and Quakes split the season opening 4 game series at 2 games apiece.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

The minor league promotional onslaught was in full effect, with several fans going absolutely crazy when the opposing beer batter struck out, signaling a 15 minute 2-for-1 beer special. The inflatable and deflatable dancing mascot from last season, possibly the best mascot I have seen all-time, was not in attendance. One fan mentioned that he travels from team to team. The bean the panel truck, and score on the arch villian Anaheim Ducks goaltender displays were also inspired. An upcoming highlight for San Jose is the back to back post-game firework nights against the High Desert Mavericks on the 27th and 28th.

Visit sjgiants.com and rcquakes.com for more information. Photographer David Tarver, who shoots for the Giants, also has excellent photos up of SJSU athletics.

[Update] Minor League Notebook - SFdugout.com.


A second game, a second Sharks forward injured in 5-2 loss to Nashville

Alexander Radulov hit on Steve Bernier

A brief game recap:

The story of game 2 in the Sharks-Predators Western Conference quarterfinal series was one of special teams teams success and failure. The Nashville Predators killed off a 5 minute major checking from behind penalty on Alexander Radulov, killed off a 5-on-3 against, and scored shorthanded en route to a 5-2 win on home ice. The San Jose Sharks were 0 for 5 on the power play, one that was ranked the second best in the NHL during the regular season, and lost right wing Steve Bernier on a questionable play in the second period. The hit on Bernier follows a very controversial knee-on-knee hit by Scott Hartnell in game 1.

Craig Rivet opening the scoring for San Jose with his second goal in 2 games. The Predators answered with goals by Alexander Radulov, and Peter Forsberg (assisted by Radulov). Forsberg beat Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the puck at the side of the net, and used a quick snap shot to fire one past Evgeni Nabokov. Radulov was assessed a 5 minute major penalty and a game misconduct for checking Steve Bernier in the second period, and a second roughing penalty by Suter gave the Sharks a pivotal 5-on-3 opportunity. Nashville killed off the major penalty, and J.P. Dumont scored on an odd man rush in the other direction shorthanded. Dumont and Forsberg (EN) each added a second goal, and Ryane Clowe scored for a final score of 5-2. Tomas Vokoun made 22 saves on 24 shots in the winning effort.

At the end of the game, left wing Ryane Clowe tried to challenge Scott Hartnell to answer for his hit against Cheechoo Wednesday night. Hockeyfights.com has the video. The 5-9, 194 pound right wing Jordin Tootoo dropped the gloves instead, and bit off more than he could handle with the much bigger Clowe (6-2, 225). Clowe pounded on Tootoo, who to his credit, went down once and got up to continute the brawl. Several other players paired off at the end of the game, with Hannan facing Smithson, Grier vs a jersey-less Hartnell, and Goc vs Hamhuis. Each team received 3 roughing calls and 3 game misconducts at the 19:00 mark of the third period, with Hartnell called for an extra misconduct for losing his jersey.

Former Predators Den blogger Jason Kirk posts his thoughts on Game 2:

1. Glad to see Cheechoo back on the ice for this game. The last thing I wanted was for him to be hurt badly.

2. In that same vein, I hope Bernier is OK. Apparently, from what JP Dumont said in his post-game interview, Radulov was very shaken up over what happened. He kept asking, "Was it a bad hit?" The fact that Bernier got up under his own control seems to be good news...but we'll see.

3. Boy, these two teams hate each other, huh? The end of the game was kind of pathetic. SJ couldn't get an open-ice shot at Hartnell, so they decide to get back at him once they've been shut down...and even then Clowe couldn't get a shot at him the way he'd been trying to because Tootoo steps up and takes him on. I just hope that Wilson doesn't send a headhunter out trying to injure one of Nashville's players. That's a recipe for devolving the series. Why not let skill decide?

4. SJ seems to have figured out a pattern with Vokoun. Almost all of their goals look exactly the same... over the shoulder.

5. Nabokov looked pretty awful last night. The rest of the team looked great the first few - and last few - minutes of the game, but seemed dead on the ice through the rest of it.

6. By contrast, Vokoun looked shaky in the first period and really stepped up after that. Same with the whole Preds team. They looked hungry and confident... exactly what I like to see.

7. Is Joe Thornton even suited up? He's been a non-factor so far. Same goes for Paul Kariya. It looks like both teams are focusing on shutting these guys down.

8. Power-plays killed Nashville against your boys last year. Looks like they've solved that problem so far. Hope it keeps up. This has the makings of being the best playoff series in the league. Let's just hope no one gets seriously hurt.

An official release from the NHL:


TORONTO (April 14, 2007) -- The National Hockey League announced today that Nahville Predators' forward Alexander Radulov has been suspended for one game for a hitting-from-behind incident involving San Jose forward Steve Bernier in Western Conference Quarterfinal game #182 in Nashville, April 13.

The incident occurred at 4:44 of the second period. Radulov was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct.

Radulov will miss Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal, Monday, April 16 at San Jose. He will be eligible to return for Game 4, April 18 at San Jose.

[Update] Sharks coach Wilson thinks Preds coach Trotz is seeing things - SLAM.

"The rhetoric coming (from Trotz) is that we went there to start a street brawl, which is comical," Wilson said after the Sharks' 4 a.m. return from splitting the first two games in Nashville. The best-of-seven Western Conference series resumes Monday.

"Our responses aren't about beating anybody up or any of that baloney. We took home ice from them. The pressure is on them now. We're still in the driver's seat. ... We'll win the game on the ice."

[Update2] The New York Times Sunday Shootout section quotes Tennessee hockey blogger Forechecker on the relationship of hits to wins, and finds that often teams being outhit on the statsheet end up on the winning side of the game. It holds true in the first two games of Sharks-Predators series. Nashville outhit San Jose 31-18 in game 1 and lost 5-4. The Sharks outhit the Predators in the second game 21-19 and lost 5-2. The New York Times does mention the fact that home ice statisticians often skew the totals in their teams favor, but they fail to even link to Forechecker's blog.

[Update3] Occasionally a hockey game broke out, and boyeeee, it was a good one - Salem's Lots.

Game 2 Nashville Predators post-game comments

The Nashville Predators podcast page features post-game audio from Scott Nichol, Tomas Vokoun, Peter Forsberg and head coach Barry Trotz after the 5-2 win over San Jose in Game 2.

Head coach Barry Trotz:
[Q] Is this pretty much a desperation type situation, in terms of not wanting to go to San Jose down 2-0?

[BT] Well, obviously we felt we could have had a better fate in game 1, and we didn't get it. You want to leaave here at least even. We did. This was an important game for us.

[Q] Can you talk about the role of the penalty kill, leading to the short handed goal>

[BT] Well the penalty killers did an oustanding job tonight. We killed off some important penalties, the 5-on-3, the 5 minute major. The penalty killers, guys like Legwand, Smithson, Nichol, Fiddler, J.P. Dumont, Zanon and Hamhuis, they all did an excellent job. We got a little fortunate, when Joe Thornton came out of the corner on the 5-on-3, Suter went down and blocked it, off his stick. That was huge for us. We are getting great goaltending. You need all of these elements together.

[Q] Kind of like a replay of last game, but what is your take on the Radulov hit?

[BT] Well he was just going in. If you see him, he hits Bernier just on the outside of the #6. Bernier hit his head on the glass a little bit. Rad is not a dirty player. He only has 26 penalty minutes. He is a goal scorer, and they were targeting him all night. Rad is the least dirty player we got. He just tried to finish a check, and create a loose puck. The league is going to take a look at it, and I trust the judgements they will make. Whatever happenes there, that is what we will get.

[Q] Can you talk about the chippiness there from the start of the game?

[BT] Yes. It was there from the start absolutely. I read an article (Purdy: NHL asking for trouble with ruling on Hartnell-Cheechoo hit), we talked about, Mark Purdy from the San Jose paper, the Mercury News, that the captain said that, let me read this to you. Patrick Marleau said "the team captain implied a payback will arrive. Perhaps not the way you think, Hartnell may not get creamed, other players might".

You can see from the opening, that was their intent. You saw it at the end. That is obviously where the instigation came from. If you watch #29 closely, (Ryane) Clowe. At the end of the game he drops his gloves and goes after Hartnell. That is where the fight started. He did not end up fighting Hartnell, he ended up fighting Tootoo. But he actually grabbed Hartnell and instigated. The law of the land, if you look at the rules, there should be some heavy suspensions, because that is where the instigation started, but not necessarily the fight.

I was involved in part of that rule, because Calgary did that. I knew it was happening and you can tell by the players they put out there. From my standpoint, the league will look at it. Look at the film, it is clear as day. We will leave it at that. We came here to play hockey tonight. We knew this was an important game, and they turned it into a street brawl.

Center Scott Nichol:
[Q] Emotional game?

[SN] That is playoff hockey. We stuck together and played hard. We did not want to have to go back there 0-2. We tied it up 1-1. I think the big thing is that we stuck together.

[Q] Speaking of sticking together, do you feel the penalties went against you guys, and the physical play?

[SN] Yes, I thought that game 1 we played well. It should have been our game. We wanted to come into this game and keep the momentum, and keep rolling. I think we did, and our special teams were outstanding tonight. If they want to play that we, we can play that way.

Goaltender Tomas Vokoun:
[Q] How do you feel about killing off the 5-on-3, and getting the shorthanded goal?

[TV] Definitely that was the turning point in the game. When you kill a 5-on-3, especially at home, it is a big momentum change for you. We were able to kill it and score on their power play, that is as big as it gets.

[Q] How big is it at the end, they started to get physical and everyone responds. Does that send a statement back to them?

[TV] I think we have as big as guys as they do, we just need to be a little more composed. I don't think we were composed enough. Some penalties we took, they can't happen. You want to be careful, in this situation, a win is a lot more important than getting back at somebody. We have to realize that, not to say it in here but to do it on the ice.

Center Peter Forsberg:
[Q] Do you expect more of the same in San Jose?

[PF] You never know what will happen. If you look at the game, the special teams have been huge. We were lucky that we killed off that 5 minute. We didn't do it last game, and it cost us. Today we had a lucky break and we scored when they took a stupid one. I think both teams can be a little more careful next game.

[Q] How big was killing that 5 minute?

[PF] Huge. Talk about turning points, that was one of them, and we scored at the end. We got a power play after that, and scored on a 5-on-3. That span was the difference in the game.

[Q] Alexander going out when he did. It seemed like he has been playing so well offensively, it seemed like everyone else said we got to go.

[PF] Yes, unfortunately we kind of have gotten used to it. This is two games in a row we have played with 11 forwards. He scored a goal and an assist before he got off. Hopefully he will be back next game.

[Q] Scott Hartnell, a lot of them came up and were talking to him, and pointing at him at the beginning of the game. This is a game where you had to defend one of your teammates from a lot of talk the last few days.

[PF] Yes, there were a few things going on out there, but its the playoffs and this is always what happens. For us, we just need to stay focused next game. We talked about it. Hopefully we can stay focused enough not to take penalties, and to win some games.

Video of the lockerroom interviews is available from Newschannel 5.


Cheechoo returns to lineup for Game 2

Jonathan Cheechoo

Jonathan Cheechoo returned to the lineup for Game 2 of the quarterfinal series against Nashville with the Sharks up 1-0 in the series. Two days after suffering a knee-on-knee collision with Predators right wing Scott Hartnell that many thought would end his playoff campaign, Cheechoo suits up for a contest that should provide playoff fireworks.

The intermission crew at Versus was equally impressed with Cheechoo's return:

"When we were watching San Jose and Nashville warm up, our collective jaws dropped when we saw Jonathan Cheechoo was in the lineup." - Bill Clement.

"This issue has been hanging over this series because he is their biggest gunner on the team. The Nashville Predators were defending Hartnell, the guy who hit Cheechoo. The San Jose guys are angry Cheechoo is hurt. That is the 800 pound guerilla hanging over this series." - Brian Engblom.

"That is the question, (SJ) wants a piece of Scott Hartnell if they get an opportunity to go after him. I can not believe that Jonathan Cheechoo is in the lineup for this hockey game. When Ron Wilson said there is a possibility he could be day-to-day, I thought he was lying. I thought this was regular playoff trying to disguise injuries, but no. Jonathan Cheechoo is in the lineup, and what a phenomenally tough player he is." - Keith Jones

Video highlights of this morning's pre-game skate, and of the questions Cheechoo fielded after practice are available from SJsharks.com: Cheechoo Hoping To Play. This game is being streamed online for free via Yahoo NHL, and via Comcast for subscribers and non-subscribers. There may be restrictions for internet viewers outside of North America.

[Update] The war of words over Jonathan Cheechoo's injury is over, San Jose and Nashville get back to business - Yahoo.

Max Giese: Sharks NCAA Prospect Review


A review of San Jose Sharks NCAA prospects:

Derek MacIntyre, G, Ferris State
Had a strong second half of the season, after having a difficult start to his NCAA career over the last two seasons... athletic hybrid goalie with impressive dexterity and flexibility... quick lateral movement stands out, but he has a troubling habit of lifting his stick off of the ice and breaking his stance in the process, which can be exposed with a one timer... stays square to the puck and does a good job maintaining the proper angle to the shooter... will challenge the shooter at time, but can also be caught playing too far back in his crease when there is heavy traffic in front... difficult to beat down low as he has fine leg extension and reflexes... exposed up high despite a fine blocker... his glove side is a concern, he is beaten too often there... rebound control needs much improvement as he will leave juicy rebounds right in the slot... needs to do a better job of finding the puck through traffic, screens give him more trouble than the average collegiate goalie... does not get close enough to the opposition screening him and plays too far back in his crease... needs to be more patient with the shooter as a deke often makes him go down too early, he makes the first move.

Alex Stalock, G, Minnesota Duluth
Athletic, unorthodox goaltender that is capable of stealing a goal with a highlight reel save... also prone to allowing a soft goal here and there... very aggressive, has a quick lateral movement and lively agility around the crease area... active, not economical with his movements... loves to challenge the shooters, and plays far out on the top of his crease... will resort to flopping and will dive head first after loose rebounds in close... adequate glove, blocker side is especially strong... flexible limbs, has a wide V with good leg extension... possesses quick legs, which allows me to make quick kick saves... plays the puck and acts like a third defenseman... gifted skater and passer .. breaks up the forecheck behind the net, can stretch the ice with a pass, and likes to pass the puck after he makes the initial save... at times can be adventurous outside of his crease like Marty Turco... uses his stick aggressively, loves to poke check .. once dove head first to the top of the circles to poke check Ben Street on had a breakaway... patient, and will stay on his feet to make a save... not a butterfly goalie... rises to the occasion, makes his best saves when his team needs him most, or when there is a flurry of action around his net... still prone to weak goals, and struggles at times to follow the puck through traffic despite his size... needs to improve his rebound control and fundamentals, which would limit his movements.

Torrey Mitchell, C, Vermont
No one saw their stock rise more this season in the Sharks organization than Mitchell... captained Vermont as a junior and has been impressive in his first few games with the Worcester Sharks since signing his first pro contract... a great skater with magnificent speed, even for the NHL... his skating has come a long way since being drafted, he now possesses a commanding stride with exceptional power that gives him a fast top gear, and a great initial burst out of the gates... hands are soft but it is his ability to shield the puck with his frame that is most impressive... adequate height with a high performance build that allows him to be strong on his feet and in the trenches... displays above average vision and mild creativity, making him a threat to create while distributing the puck... much like his skating, his shot has come a long way, the release is more compact and produces more velocity and better accuracy... drives the net and can score by battling in front, or with a wrist shot from the outside... has a non-stop motor as he pursues the puck with vigor and finishes every check... plays on the penalty kill thanks to his superb defensive play, and his anticipation is top notch allowing him to jump on errant passes... a threat to score short handed... a legit prospect who is vastly underrated.

Paul Fenton, LW, Massachusetts
Blessed with superb anticipation and quickness, Fenton stood out with an impressive two-way performance... nimble on his feet with a quick stride that allows him to accelerate rapidly... hands are above average and he can be slippery down low as he has strong lateral cuts and bounces off checks... owns good hand/eye coordination... sees the ice well, and is a fine playmaker that moves the puck instinctively... small and needs to bulk up as he can be pushed around but it is impressive how he battles to stay on the puck and competes... goes to the front of the net and is not afraid of getting his nose dirty... a decent finisher from in close... displays good puck pursuit as he finishes his checks and astutely clogs the opposition's breakout passing lanes... strong defensive presence and a very good penalty killer... anticipates where the puck is going to go and uses his superb initial burst out of the gates to jump on the puck and take it the other way... a threat to score shorthanded... backchecks hard and uses his speed to catch back up to his man and did a fine job dislodging him from the puck .. elevated his game in critical moments... a player to keep an eye on who saw his stock rise with a strong NCAA tournament.

Jason McCarthy, C, Boston University
Best asset is his ability in the faceoff circle as he can be counted on in the clutch to win a draw in the defensive zone... has a mature two way game as he focuses on his defensive assignments almost to a fault, he will sacrifice offensive chances to stay in a healthy defensive position... savvy player away from the puck that gives an honest effort... displays a strong stride with swift acceleration in the open ice... one problem is that he only shows that burst when he is pursuing the puck, and noticeably slows down while in possession... sees the ice adequately and makes safe decisions moving the puck, but he lacks the creativity to be a play maker... hands are average, but he is far from a skilled offensive player... he has limited upside as his offensive game is underdeveloped considering he will already be a junior next season... his play away from the puck makes him an intriguing depth player at the center position.

Steve Zalewski, C, Clarkson
Smart and gritty two way center... good, not great, skater with a fine stride, but he lacks explosiveness out of the gates... does a good job of always maintaining proper defensive positioning and works hard away from the puck... has a well built frame with sturdy balance that allows him to stay on his feet in heavy traffic... hands are okay but not great, although he does display good hand eye coordination being able to handle the puck well in tight... shields the puck well and is strong down low... does not possess a great shot but he always seems to be around the net near loose rebounds... sees the ice well and is a fine play maker... gritty prospect who likes to get his nose dirty... could be a solid fourth line candidate down the road if he improves his skating some more.

Tony Lucia, C, Minnesota Gophers
Son of head coach Don Lucia... skating has improved vastly throughout the season as his stride is smoother and his quickness has been improved... bulky and sturdy on his feet, Lucia excels in traffic areas... competes hard and brings a solid physical presence to the Gophers third line... pursues the puck with vigor and finishes all of his checks... tireless worker... a strong two way player thanks to his exceptional defensive awareness and work ethic... a top notch penalty killer at this level... lacks top end offensive upside but has come up with timely production in the clutch this season... was not that impressive early in the season, but he is coming a long nicely.

Brian O'Hanley, D, Boston College
Has natural offensive instincts, but he is still very diminutive and receives limited ice time because... can be a liability in his own zone... agile and swift skater, but lacks a top gear... possesses soft hands with good hand eye coordination and decent anticipation, allowing him to track the puck and hold the zone well... did a good job taking a little bit off of his release to get his shot through traffic... has decent vision and moves the puck adequately... the bottom line is that he gets manhandled at times in his own zone, and gets beaten too easily one-on-one... to his credit he competes and is a willing shot blocker... maybe should give playing forward a try.

[Update] Torrey Mitchell and Kristen Norris Named Strength and Conditioning All-Americans - University of Vermont.

"Torrey is an extremely talented and gifted hockey player," Goodman said. "Additionally, he has fully vested himself in becoming the best player and athlete he can be, due to his extreme dedication to the on and off ice strength, speed and conditioning development process. Each year he has been a part of the program he has seen improvement, but this year he broke through taking the top athlete spot on the team. As captain he has taken his exceptional on-ice skills and performance and led by example off the ice."

[Update2] Worcester Sharks playoff outlook positive - Worcester Telegram and Gazette.


Hartnell's knee-on-knee hit against Cheechoo, Intentional or Incidental Contact?

Jonathan Cheechoo Scott Hartnell
Cheechoo Hartnell knee hit

Nine minutes into the second period of the Sharks 5-4 double OT win over Nashville, Predators right wing Scott Hartnell released off of Joe Thornton along the left boards and challenged Jonathan Cheechoo hard at the blueline. Cheechoo passed the puck cross-ice, but Hartnell did not turn away in time to avoid a knee-on-knee collision. Cheechoo was down on the ice for several minutes, and Scott Hartnell was assessed a game misconduct and a 5 minute kneeing penalty.

Greg Zannon took an interference penalty 3:39 into the major, and the Sharks scored on a point shot by Craig Rivet on the subsequent 5-on-3. The goal opened up a 3-2 lead for San Jose. The question among fans, the team, and the media is... Was the hit intentional?

An initial conclusion was difficult to make with the available camera angle missing most of the play. It looked to some like Hartnell took a stride before the hit, but upon furthur review Hartnell used his momentum to skate into Cheechoo. A freeze framed replay on ESPN SportsCenter shows an akward Hartnell appearing to aim for Cheechoo's leg.

The first conclusion from this blog is that it is too close to call either way.

Others have a different view of the hit:

"It's unfortunate when anybody gets hurt in the game. But looking at it, I thought it was a pretty clean hit. I mean they did collide knee on knee. But there was no sticking out of the knee" - Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz.

"When you stick your elbow in his face and put knee on knee that's an intent to injure, That's why he got kicked out of the game." - San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson.

"It was an unfortunate accident. I was going after him to try to finish my check and he was trying to get out of the way. His leg was just out there and it could have hurt me as bad as it hurt him. I think it will show in the video that is was pretty clean. I was going to hit him in the upper body and I didn't stick out my knee to get a piece of him. It was not a late hit." - Nashville Predators right wing Scott Hartnell.

"Scott Hartnell's kneeing of Jonathan Cheechoo is a clear-cut opportunity for a suspension that lasts a number of games equal to the length of the injury + 10 games. The Sharks were visibly shaken by the incident and the ensuing power play was anemic." - Tom Luongo.

"I saw incidental contact, a horrible call." - Jason Kirk.

More from Paul Kukla. Sharks coach Ron Wilson told TSN that Cheechoo wanted to come back in the game, but was held out, and that he was confident Cheechoo would come back in the series.

After slumping during the first half of the season, Jonathan Cheechoo scored 25 goals since January 1st to lead all Sharks in goal scoring with 37 (including hat tricks against Atlanta and Los Angeles). Cheechoo is scheduled to have his knee examined today. In addition to the leg injury, he also lost a tooth on the play.

[Update] Sharks call Hartnell's hit 'dirty', Cheechoo doesn't return to game - Nashville Tennessean.

After a 5-4 win in double overtime, several Sharks said they didn't see the hit. But center Patrick Rissmiller, who scored the game-winner, and Coach Ron Wilson didn't hold back when asked for assessments.

"It's a dirty hit from a dirty player," Rissmiller said.

"It was like a two-part attack," Wilson said. "It was an elbow to the mouth that knocked a tooth out and then the knee-on-knee contact. "You've got two of the worst things you can have in hockey, a headshot and a knee-on-knee. If that's not trying to hurt somebody, I don't know what is."

Watching on television, it was difficult to even get a view of the knee-on-knee hit. The elbow Scott Hartnell delivered to Cheechoo's face was not reported, and definitely changes the situation. One play could be considered accidental, both happening at the same time, after he passed the puck, should signal intent. Mike Lee of thefeeder.com notes that the facial injury may have come from Cheechoo hitting the ice, not from an elbow.

Scott Hartnell was second only to Jordan Tootoo with 96 PIMs during the regular season. Tootoo leads the team in fighting majors according to hockeyfights.com with 12, Hartnell only had two. The Predators outhit the Sharks 31-18 according to NHL.com, with a number of those coming in the first and second periods.

[Update2] San Jose Wins in Double OT Thriller - Pred Zone.

Things started to come unraveled at 9:00 minutes into the middle stanza when Scott Hartnell got whistled for a knee-on-knee hit that sent Jonathan Cheechoo to the locker room. Hartnell was given a major penalty for the hit and as per the NHL rules, when an injury occurs on a knee-on-knee hit; Harts was also given a game misconduct and was sent to the locker room for the night. Nashville fans will no doubt question the validity of the call, but instant replay showed a clear disregard for safety on the part of Hartnell who looked to miss with the shoulder and tried to compensate with the knee.

[Update3] Sharks notebook: Predators forward kicked out after knocking out Cheechoo - San Jose Mercury News.


Playoff Rewind, a look back at the 2006 Sharks vs Nashville series

Nashville Predators Sean Russell

Blog highlights from the San Jose Sharks 4-1 series win over the Nashville Predators in the 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Game 5 (4.30.06): San Jose 2, Nashville 1
Interview with Nashville Predators color analyst Terry Crisp.

[Q] There were key moments in game 2, in game 3, and in game 4, where the Predators controlled play against the San Jose Sharks, but they could not sustain the momentum over an entire 60 minutes. What do you believe the turning points were in the Nashville-Sharks playoff series?

[A] We took penalty after penalty, and the referees called penalty after penalty on us. Five-on-threes killed us. Probably one of our bread-and-butter things all year long was our penalty kill. We were a strong penalty kill team. We prided ourselves on it, and we didn't get it done in the playoffs. I'm going to give San Jose full marks because they adjusted. Every time we did something, they adjusted, and moved their team around. But it's like our coaches said, they were a team that could improvise. They could create on their power play. They were good at that. That was one of the big differences in the series--how creative their power play was. And I've got to give their penalty killers full marks too. They read us and did their homework on us. They went out and realized after that first game what they had to do to stop us and did it.

[Q] What did the Predators and Nashville fans learn about the Sharks? What are other teams going to need to do to get past San Jose in the playoffs?

[A] I think opponents are going to have to match San Jose stride for stride with the depth that San Jose has. The Sharks are not a one-horse team. They've got good goaltending with Nabokov and Toskala. We've seen that. They've got a defense corps that I think is very underrated. They play a good solid style of game. They've got toughness back there. They've got quickness. They've got guys that can shoot the puck. So I like their defense corps immensely. And their forwards--suddenly they had guys that coaches wish would step up like this. Everybody's been waiting for Marleau to come out of his cocoon. Well suddenly Patrick Marleau came out of his cocoon. Everybody knew what Joe Thornton was doing. Everybody knew what Jonathan Cheechoo was doing. But suddenly, Scott Thornton became a force to be reckoned with on the ice. The youngster Bernier suddenly came out of nowhere and was flying around. Mark Smith. All names you didn't hear of--they're not household names--they suddenly stepped up their game immensely. So what that gave San Jose was, they were a very, very good team that now emerged into a good solid playoff team simply because these guys picked up the pace, picked up their game and gave them all kinds of depth. I keep saying, in the playoffs, you need depth.

Game 4 (4.27.06): San Jose 5, Nashville 4
Marleau scores hat trick, Sharks edge Predators 5-4 in a dogfight.

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.

This photo of Sharks fans was posted on OLN, Karl Qi also contributed a home sellout photo from HP Pavilion.

Game 3 (4.25.06): San Jose 4, Nashville 1
Nashville Predators stumble in game 3.

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 Shark drops (video) at home for Game 3 of the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Canadian Press also takes a look at how NHL teams ramped up pre-game ceremonies for the postseason.

Game 2 (4.23.06): San Jose 3, Nashville 0
Liveblogging Game 2.

OLN's 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."

Game 1 (4.21.06): Nashville 4, San Jose 3
Nashville Predators vs San Jose Sharks playoff preview.

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.

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.

[Update] Sharks and Preds Series Far From A 'Rematch' - SJsharks.com.

Stockton Thunder kick off first ECHL playoff run with come from behind 4-2 win over Idaho Steelheads

Stockton Thunder ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs

The Stockton Thunder finished only their second regular season with 38 wins, earning a 5th seed and a first round playoff matchup with the Idaho Steelheads.

Stockton will look to ride its goaltending tandem of 6-5 Devan Dubnyk and veteran Cam Ellsworth, use its enormous size on the blueline, and garner production from up and down the lineup to advance. With Radunske, Geisler and Lalonde sitting out game 1, the addition of 6-4 forward Troy Bodie from Hamilton of the AHL will be key. The Steelheads are hoping the return of Lance Galbraith from Bridgeport of the AHL, the return of Kyle Bruce from injury, and leading scorer Marty Flichel (39G, 48A, 4th in the ECHL) can help solve Dubnyk's 5-1-1 dominance of Idaho during the regular season.

A recap of the Stockton Thunder vs Idaho Steelheads, Game 1:


Thunder takes game one of the first round series on three-goal comeback

BOISE, Idaho - Left wing Tim Sestito's shorthanded goal with 4:13 left in regulation capped a three-goal third period comeback and lifted the Stockton Thunder to a come-from-behind 4-2 win over the Idaho Steelheads in game one of the National Conference quarterfinal round of the 2007 Kelly Cup Playoffs, before 1,879 at Qwest Arena on Tuesday.

The Thunder won its first Kelly Cup playoff game in the modern club history and leads the series 1-0 (best-of-seven).

Thunder defenseman Jason Beckett scored the first playoff goal in Stockton history at 9:43 of the first period for a power-play marker, giving the Thunder a 1-0 lead. Rookie Mathieu Melanson fed Beckett at the right point, who drew traffic in front of Idaho goaltender Steve Silverthorn and beat Silverthorn with a slapshot from the right point.

Idaho tied the game on a two-man advantage with 2:10 left in the first period, as Derek Nesbitt netted his first goal of the playoffs. Idaho right wing Lance Galbraith fed Nesbitt from the left corner, followed by Nesbitt's one-timer from the top of the crease that found its way through the five-hole of Thunder goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Both teams engaged in a scoreless second period, as Dubnyk made eight stops in the frame, while Silverthorn made 10 for Idaho. The Thunder was denied on the period's best scoring chance, when Silverthorn kept the game tied via a sprawling glove on a shot by Melanson.

Idaho took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Lance Galbraith at the third period's 3:36 mark, using two defenders as a screen, skated into the slot from the right corner and caromed a wrist shot that beat Dubnyk to the blocker side.

The Thunder began its comeback at the 11:51 mark on a game-tying goal by rookie defenseman Ryan Geris, for his first professional playoff goal. Geris took a pass from Pepperall and drew traffic in front of Silverthorn, followed by a snap-shot that deflected off a screen set by Thunder right wing Troy Bodie and into the net.

Just 4:56 later, Sestito netted the dramatic go-ahead shorthanded goal for a 3-2 Thunder lead. Sestito gathered a cleared puck at the neutral zone while Idaho was making a line change, skated down the left wing and lifted a wrist shot from the left circle over the blocker side of Silverthorn.

Rookie Liam Reddox wrapped up the game with an empty-net goal, with 1:13 remaining in regulation.

In his first professional playoff game, Dubnyk earned the win in net with 26 saves, while Silverthorn stopped 23 for Idaho. Geris (1g-1a) and Pepperall (two assists) each had two points to lead the Thunder offense.

Before the game, the Thunder activated defenseman Beau Geisler off the three-day injured reserve list and placed forward Brock Radunske on the seven-day injured reserve list (retroactive to April 8).

The Thunder and Steelheads return to play tomorrow for game two of the best-of-seven series, starting at 6:10 p.m. at Qwest Arena. The game can be heard live on the internet (free-of-charge) and is available for viewing at a $6 "pay-per-view" charge at www.stocktonthunder.com (courtesy of B2 Networks).

Recently named host of the 2008 ECHL All-Star Game, the Thunder has led the ECHL in regular season attendance for two consecutive seasons and drew 244,085 fans (6,780 average) to Stockton Arena this year. Ticket packages and individual tickets for the Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Diede Construction and California Welding Supply Co. and 2007-08 Thunder season tickets are on sale now. For more information about tickets, merchandise, or other inquiries contact the Stockton Thunder offices at (209) 373-1500 or visit www.stocktonthunder.com.

Three Stars:
1. STK - Tim Sestito
2. IDH - Lance Galbraith
3. STK - Nathan Martz

Link to plain-text boxscore.

Stockton Record reporter Scott Linesburgh notes on his blog that University of Minnesota-Duluth rookie defenseman Ryan Geris picked a great time to pick up his first point, in a critical opening playoff game. Another preview of the Stockton-Idaho series from Hockeys Future.

[Update] Thunder finds new heros in playoff debut - Stockton Record.

The Stockton Thunder was in a tough spot. The game was tied, and the Thunder was trying to kill a penalty with about four minutes left in the first playoff game in franchise history. But an outstanding shot by Tim Sestito stunned the Idaho Steelheads and gave the Thunder an edge in its best-of-seven ECHL playoff series.

[Update2] Stockton knocks off Steelheads - Idaho Statesman.

[Update2] Falcons rip Game 1, and home edge - Fresno Bee.

With a five-goal onslaught in the third period Tuesday, the Falcons earned a 7-3 victory over the Bakersfield Condors in the opening game of the ECHL's Kelly Cup playoffs at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield.

Sharks organization mourns the passing of goaltending coach Warren Strelow

Sad news today as the Sharks announced the passing of 73 year old goaltending coach Warren Strelow after a series of illnesses. He will be missed.


Team USA faces Team Canada tonight for the 2007 WWC Gold Medal

2007 Womens Hockey World Championships

Watch Team USA take on Team Canada for the gold medal at the 2007 Women's World Championships in Winnipeg on broadband.tsn.ca at 5:30PM (PT). Visit Hockey Canada or USA Hockey for more information.

Notes and photos from the 2007 USA Hockey Girls national tournament last week in San Jose: Friday, Saturday, Sunday.


San Jose vs Nashville first round playoff schedule set

The schedule for the Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterinal rematch between San Jose and Nashville (updated):

Game 1 - Wednesday April 11th 5PM @ Nashville Arena, TV FSN, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

Game 2 - Friday April 13th, 5PM @ Nashville Arena, TV FSN, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

Game 3 - Monday April 16th, 7PM @ HP Pavilion, TV FSN-HD, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

Game 4 - Wednesday April 18th, 7PM @ HP Pavilion, TV FSN, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

Game 5* - Friday April 20th, 6PM @ Nashville Arena, TV VERSUS, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

Game 6* - Sunday April 22th, 7PM @ HP Pavilion, TV FSN-HD, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

Game 7* - Tuesday April 24th, TBD @ Nashville Arena, TV TBD, 98.5 KFOX/SJS Radio Network

* If neccessary.

The San Jose Sharks dropped the opening game to Nashville 4-3 last year, but won 4 straight to earn a first round playoff series win. The Sharks have a 45-50 franchise playoff record in 16 series.

[Update] Versus announces NHL Playoff Quarterfinal Schedule - Versus.

STAMFORD, Conn. (April 9, 2007) - VERSUS, the national cable television home of the NHL, today announced the network's schedule for the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoff Conference Quarterfinal round, which begins on Wednesday, April 11 with VERSUS pre-game studio show "Hockey Central" at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by a double-header at 7 p.m. ET when the Ottawa Senators host the Pittsburgh Penguins and at 10 p.m. with the Dallas Stars at the Vancouver Canucks. Each week night VERSUS will feature one to two playoff games, as well the studio wrap-up show, "Hockey Central".

VERSUS anticipates airing up to 52 playoff games, as well as the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final. The number of playoff games will vary depending upon the length of each individual series.

[Update2] The NHL on NBC lights up for the playoffs - NBC Sports.

Join Brett Hull, Ray Ferraro and Bill Clement rinkside at Rockefeller Plaza and elsewhere beginning on Saturday, April 14, with our NHL Playoff Special at 2:30 p.m. ET, followed regional coverage of the New York Rangers at the Atlanta Thrashers and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Ottawa Senators.

Kick it all off with our live streaming "Countdown to Faceoff" pregame show a half-hour before gametime each week on NBCSports.com.

Michigan State takes 2007 NCAA Hockey Championship with 3-1 win over Boston College

When Michigan State sophmore Justin Abdelkader hit the post late in the thid period with the score tied 1-1, everyone looked for Boston College to respond in the other direction. Instead it was Abdelkader who delivered a game winning goal with 18.9 seconds left to earn a 3-1 win, and a third NCAA Hockey Championship for the Michigan State Spartans. It was the first loss in 13 games for Boston College.

Abdelkader's Last-Minute Tally Hands Spartans Third NCAA Title, Michigan State scores three times in the final period to beat Boston College 3-1 - Michigan State University.

"We know we're not fancy and we know we're not picked by anybody to win anything," coach Rick Comley said. "But you know what, what a great, great group of kids. They've wanted so badly to walk around with their heads high, and now they're going home with a national championship."

A recap and photo gallery is also available from Boston College. Inside College Hockey notes that the Spartan's poise and optimism contributed to their national title, even when down 1-0 after two periods of play. MSU will celebrate the 3-1 win with a parade and rally in East Lansing on Tuesday.

A press release from USA Hockey:

Michigan State Finishes 2006-07 Season at No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Michigan State University tops the final USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll of the season. Last weekend, the Spartans captured their third NCAA championship and first title in 21 years with a 3-1 victory over Boston College on Saturday (April 7). Michigan State defeated the University of Maine by a 4-2 score on Thursday (April 5) in the NCAA Men's Frozen Four semifinals to earn a spot in the title game.

NOTE: Seven teams were part of each of the season's 25 polls, including Michigan State, Boston College, Boston University, Miami (Ohio) University, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota and the University of New Hampshire.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #25

(First-place votes in parentheses, Last Week's Rankings, 2006-07 Record, Weeks in Top 15)

1. Michigan State U., 509 (33), 5, 26-13-3, 25
2. Boston College, 471, 1, 29-12-1, 25
3. U. of North Dakota, 426, 2, 24-14-5, 21
4. U. of Notre Dame, 404 (1), 4, 32-7-3, 22
5. U. of Minnesota, 374, 3, 31-10-3, 25
6. U. of Maine, 315, 14, 23-15-2, 24
7. Clarkson U., 284, 8, 25-9-5, 19
8. St. Cloud State U., 252, 11, 22-11-7, 20
9. U. of New Hampshire, 240, 7, 26-11-2, 25
10. U. of Michigan, 224, 10, 26-14-1, 25
11. Miami (Ohio) U., 190, 12, 24-14-4, 25
12. U. of Massachusetts, 140, 9, 21-13-5, 6
13. Boston U., 123, 13, 20-10-9, 25
14. St. Lawrence U., 88, 14, 23-14-2, 8
15. U. of Denver, 36, 15, 21-15-4, 24

Others receiving votes: Air Force Academy, 2; Quinnipiac University, 2.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 12th 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 most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] UND's Duncan Named Hobey Winner, WCHA Player Of The Year Beats Out Ehn, Brown - United State College Hockey Online.


San Jose Sharks vs Vancouver Canucks, April 7th video

This is a brief video clip from the Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks game at HP Pavilion on April 7th taken with a Canon Powershot SD600.

Last minute game tying goal not enough as Vancouver wins in OT 4-3, Sharks to face Nashville

San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton
Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo

A brief game recap:

A late game tying goal by Jonathan Cheechoo with 33 seconds left in the third period was not enough Saturday afternoon as the Vancouver Canucks earned a 4-3 overtime victory at HP Pavilion. The early action was similar to the game against Calgary on Thursday, with the Sharks trying to dictate physical play. The Vancouver Canucks were unphased, with Matt Cooke scoring on a point blank rebound 1:56 into the game, and a deflection by Taylor Pyatt shortly thereafter.

At the end of the first period, a legitimate 5-on-5 melee broke out with gloves and sticks scattered across center ice. Left wing Alex Burrows ran into Joe Thornton as he was trying to make his way off the ice. Burrows took offense, and then repeatedly shoved and took shots at any teal jersey near him. Eventually someone from the Sharks responded, and all the players paired off only a few feet from both benches. While the refs were occupied trying to maintain order, two players were trading blows behind the Sharks net to a cheering crowd.

Unlike the Calgary Flames, the Sharks have the firepower to will themselves back into games. The season long question has been one of consistency and motivation, and the line of Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Milan Michalek have been providing that in large doses. While Trevor Linden was serving the remainder of his first period penalty at the start of the second, Jonathan Cheechoo took the puck behind Luongo and set up with his back to the boards. Cheechoo found Thornton for a wrist shot at the top of the circle. Luongo could not control the rebound, and Milan Michalek tapped it home for his 26th goal of the season. Vancouver was tempting fate against the second best power play in the league, taking 5 penalties in the first and second periods. After several quality San Jose scoring chances with the man advantage, Joe Thornton converted on a rebound to tie the score at 2-2.

Kevin Bieksa scored on a hard slapshot to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead. Vancouver moved the puck quickly around the perimeter, and Nabokov did not have a clean look at the puck through traffic. The visiting team tried to sit on a 1 goal lead, and Roberto Luongo added the save of the game reaching across his body with his glove to rob Ryane Clowe at the doorstep. The Sharks kept pressing action, and with 33 seconds left Jonathan Cheechoo jumped on a loose puck and hammered it home to tie the game at 3.

Mattias Ohlund scored the game winning goal on the power play in overtime, with Henrik Sedin and Kyle McLaren screening Evgeni Nabokov. The Vancouver Canucks clinched a Northwest division title, and the Sharks earned the fifth seed and a first round Stanley Cup playoff rematch with the Nashville Predators.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Post-game quotes:

From SJ head coach Ron Wilson:

"We were hoping we could at least put some pressure (on Nashville) to have to go out and win (tonight). Whether we can get home ice ahead of Nashville or win the division, obviously we are disappointed about that. We didn't come into this thinking 'Lets play Nashville'. The whole thing along the way was to finish as high as we could in the standings."

"They're a better team, and we're a better team (than last year). They have addressed some issues, so have we. We're much bigger, much stronger, probably much faster, and hopefully more ready than we were last year too. Not just to play a team like Nashville, but to play anybody that we are going to face in this conference."

"We have got our best player playing mean, big, strong, and not taking any prisoners. We have got to get a few of our other leaders to play excatly that way. The way he is on th ebench, it is clear to everybody else. You better be willing to do the things that I am doing. When your best player does it, every body else had better do it. We did not quite get that tonight. I don't know why a few guys did not see to be into the game. When the puck drops on Wednesday or Thursday, they better be."

From Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault:

"Obviously our guys weren't pleased with the way they played against Colorado, and I thought tonight they came out really strong. What changed a little bit, the momentum of the game was that penalty Kerry Fraser gave to Roberto (Luongo), we still haven't quite figured out that call yet. Our guys have been resilient all year, it was a tough game, it was really physical, there were a lot of physical match-ups on the ice, but we found a way to win two big points."

The Vancouver Province posted a report card from the game, and found both teams even in the performance of the marquee players and discipline, gave the goaltending edge to Roberto Luongo, and the toughness edge to the Sharks. Based on my vantage point, I saw both teams as even in all three categories, with an edge to Vancouver in goal.

After a few liberties were taken by the visiting team, Joe Thornton ran Canucks left wing Matt Cooke from behind hard into the boards with 5 minutes left in the third period. Ben Kuzma in the Province quotes Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault, "If it's anybody else in the league, I'm not sure that's not a major [penalty]".

It cuts both ways, referees have been very hesitant all year to call slashes and late checks opposing players make on Thornton. Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News notes that Thornton's head hit the glass after the hit on Cooke. Both players were shaken and headed directly to the locker room.

The Vancouver Sun quoted Canucks defenseman Brent Sopel in pre-game scouting report, "We all know what Joe Thornton can do. Obviously with (Bill) Guerin, (Patrick) Marleau and (Jonathan) Cheechoo up front, they are a great team. They are a fast-skating team and we have to get our feet going and make the right decisions. You turn the puck over to some of their top guys and they are going to bury it every time".

San Jose gets playoff reprise, Loss in finale sends Sharks to Nashville - SF Chronicle.

Eighty-two games in the books and the Sharks find themselves right back where they were a year ago: heading to Nashville on the first stop on a road they hope will lead to the Stanley Cup.

More from the Canucks Hockey Blog, and a game log (GLOG) from the official Canucks blog. Alanah offers her personal reaction after the game for Canucks and Beyond.

Rematch starts here for Predators, Will host first two games vs. Sharks - Nashville Tennessean.

The Predators will open the 2007 Western Conference playoffs with an opportunity to avenge their 2006 first-round defeat. Fourth-seeded Nashville will play host to fifth-seeded San Jose in the first round, a series that was determined hours before the Predators beat Colorado 4-2 Saturday night.

Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is set for Wednesday at Nashville Arena, with Game 2 scheduled for Friday at the same site. Games 5 and 7 of the series, if necessary, also will be in Nashville.

O'Callahan: It's Van! - Dallasstars.com.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty excited about the match-up of Stars-Canucks in the first round. It should be a fun series and it could go the distance as both teams are evenly matched...

Speaking of stats, I dug up another gem. All you ever hear about is Luongo when the topic of the Vancouver Canucks comes up (and rightfully so). He's arguably the best goaltender in the conference and perhaps the league. Luongo's numbers against the Stars this season are excellent: a 1.46 GAA with a .951 save percentage. But the "gem" stat I'm talking about belongs to Marty Turco in the same season series: a 0.96 GAA with a .959 save percentage against the Canucks.

[Update] San Jose WIll Officially Travel To Nashville To Open The Playoffs - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] About 13,000 at Pat's Run in Arizona - The Arizona Republic.

All 50 states were represented, and the field was so large, almost triple the size of the inaugural run, that dual starting lines had to be used. The masses included current and former military personnel, some in fatigues, running in boots and carrying flags. Thousands of others just wanted to mark the moment and remember the sacrifice Tillman made when he walked away from a lucrative career in professional football and joined the Army Rangers before he was killed in Afghanistan.

"You shouldn't ask why it's important to be here," said Steven Rountree, 42, of Mesa, a chaplain in the Civil Air Patrol who used a hand cycle to compete. "I think it's quite the opposite. Why would someone not be here?

The race is run annually in Arizona as well as Pat Tillman's hometown of San Jose. This year the 4.2 mile San Jose race will take place on April 29th, and finish on the 42-yard line of Pat Tillman Stadium at Leland High School. For more information visit the Pat's Run event page, or visit the pattillmanfoundation.org.


Stanley Cup to visit San Jose on April 9th

Stanley Cup 2004 visit to San Jose

A press release from the San Jose Sharks:


SAN JOSE - Sharks fans would love nothing more than to see the Stanley Cup in San Jose this June as it's being hoisted into the air by Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau at HP Pavilion at San Jose.

Until that moment arrives however, fans have the opportunity to see the Stanley Cup up-close on Monday, April 9 as it makes a visit to the Bay Area as part of a pre-playoff tour of NBC affiliates, courtesy of the NHL and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Sharks fans can see the Stanley Cup and take pictures with it while it's on display at the Sharks Store at HP Pavilion from 4 to 5:30 p.m. (schedule subject to change) on Monday, April 9. With no admission requirements and free parking, fans can visit the Sharks Store and take pictures with the much-coveted chalice.

Additionally, the Stanley Cup will also be displayed at Stanley's Sports Bar, located inside Logitech Ice at San Jose from 6 to 8 p.m.

The "Keeper of the Cup," Phil Pritchard of the HHOF, will also be available to answer questions and provide history about the most famous trophy in professional sports.

The Sharks Store, which is your one-stop-shop for everything Sharks, is located near the South Entrance of the HP Pavilion at San Jose. The Sharks Store is extending its store hours for the playoffs and will now be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.

Stanley's Sports Bar is located inside Logitech Ice at San Jose, official practice facility of the San Jose Sharks, at 1500 South Tenth Street in San Jose. For more information visit sjsharks.com.


Sharks down Calgary Flames 4-3

Calgary Flames Miikka Kiprusoff
Jonathan Cheechoo Brad Stuart NHL
San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames

A San Jose Sharks 4-3 win over Calgary on Thursday kept the Flames from clinching the 8th and final Western Conference playoff spot. Colorado gutted out a 3-1 over the Vancouver Canucks to stave off elimination. Calgary has another opportunity to clinch if they can earn two points against struggling Edmonton, before the Flames and Avalanche finish the regular season head-to-head in Colorado.

Calgary took 7 minor penalties in the first 40 minutes against the top rated power play in the NHL (90/398, 22.6%, t-1st). San Jose outshot the Flames 31-18 after two periods. An errant pass by Craig Conroy in the offensive zone turned the puck over to Matt Carle. Carle one touched it to Thornton streaking up the right wing. Thornton stopped and found Carle trailing on the right point. A flubbed shot by Carle squibbed to Milan Michalek in the slot who wristed one past Miikka Kiprusoff. Mark Bell scored on a point blank shot in front of the crease, as Mike Grier and Jonathan Cheechoo added insurance goals in the third period.

Kristian Huselius scored on the power play for Calgary in the second period with a wicked wrist shot from 20 feet out. The Flames made a push in the last 10 minutes of play, and 2 goals by Jarome Iginla made he score 4-3 with four and a half minutes left to play. Evgeni Nabokov continued the dominant performance he produced the day prior in Anaheim. A confident, focused, and somewhat fiesty Nabokov should worry a first round playoff opponent. Nabokov (25-16-3) finished with 29 saves on 32 shots to earn his 25th win of the season.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Silicon rally falls short, Flames fail to clinch playoff berth after tanking against Sharks - Calgary Sun.

Kiprusoff was under pressure all evening as the Sharks took advantage of a half-dozen powerplay opportunities to tucker out the Flames defensive corps -- a unit that was missing minute-eater Robyn Regehr after he suffered a leg injury in the first period.

"Some of our biggest energy guys, momentum guys, had to spend a lot of it killing. They did a great job killing but if we're not in the box, those guys are playing in the other team's zone. That's what Yeller (Stephane Yelle) and Freeze (Jeff Friesen) and Nils (Marcus Nilson) have been doing for us, they've been doing it great." - Jarome Iginla

[Update2] Sharks set team record with victory over Flames, Thornton gets 90th assist, helps S.J. reach 106 points - San Jose Mercury News.

Ryane Clowe vs Shawn Thornton Wednesday in Anaheim

Ryane Clowe dropped the gloves for an extended fight with Anaheim's Shawn Thornton Wednesday at the Honda Center. For a blow-by-blow recap visit hockeyfights.com.

Illegal Stick penalty on Selanne sparks 3-2 overtime shootout win against Anaheim

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks
Arrowhead Pond Honda Center Anaheim Ducks
Joe Thonrton San Jose Sharks
Anaheim Ducks Teemu Selanne

Game reports and photos from Anaheim and Calgary coming soon.


Joe Thornton Conference Call Transcript April 3, 2007

The NHL held a media conference call with San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton today after he was named the NHL's second star of the month for March.

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. Today's guest is San Jose Sharks' center Joe Thornton. Thanks to Joe for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Scott Emmert of the Sharks' public relations department for arranging the call.

Yesterday Joe was named "Second Star" for the month of March after leading all players in scoring with 24 points in 14 games. His season total of 109 points leads the Sharks and ranks him second in the National Hockey League behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who has 117.

Joe needs two assists to become only the third player in NHL history to post consecutive 90 assist seasons, the other two being Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. With 102 points the Sharks are tied with Dallas and trail Anaheim by four points in the race for top spot in the Pacific Division. They visit Anaheim tomorrow, host Calgary Thursday and finish the regular season at home against Vancouver Saturday. Thanks to Joe for joining us today. We'll open it up for questions now.

[Q] Could you just address the impact that the acquisition of Bill Guerin and Craig Rivet have had on the team?

[JOE THORNTON] Well, obviously, we're pretty young in the back, so Rivet just brings us some more toughness back there. He's pretty rugged. He plays the power plays, the right?handed shot, which we needed, as well. So he fills so many voids that we didn't have before. He's a guy that's been there, done that, and he's going to be great going to the playoffs.

Obviously Billy winning the Cup I think in '95 or '96, he's a good, veteran guy that works really well with Patty Marleau, and he’s another right?handed shot. He's physical, he's big, he's strong and just two very, very valuable pickups that we definitely needed coming down the stretch here.

[Q] I'd like to ask another question. I've got to ask you, last season late you just went on an amazing rampage, and you've done it again this season. How do you explain the late season surges that you have?

[JOE THORNTON] I don't know, it's just ?? obviously especially this year, playing with Milan Michalek, he's been playing great lately, and Cheech has been putting the puck in the back of the net. But I don't really know the rhyme or reason that it happens. But like you said, it happened last year and again this year, but I don't know the reason why.

[Q] Just wondering, if what way do you think you're a better player right now than you were last season at this time of the season in which you won the Hart Trophy?

[JOE THORNTON] Well, I think ?? I'm having pretty much similar years. Individually I'd like to think I've gotten better each and every year. You know, that's a tough question to answer. I just feel good, I feel confident, and I feel good with my surroundings out here now. Just whoever I play with, I feel very comfortable with who I'm playing with.

[Q] Just one more question. In the last month or so Jonathan has also been a quite a tear. Do you feel like you got him going or he got you going, or do you think it was a bit of a combination?

[JOE THORNTON] It could have been a combination of both things, an also you can throw in Milan Michalek. He's playing great hockey, as well. He's brings so much speed to our line that is so valuable to us. I think we kind of miss Nils Ekman because we had so much speed with him.

But yeah, Cheech has been putting the puck in the back of the net for me, and it just makes my job a lot easier, that's for sure.

[Q] You got to play with Bill Guerin. I want to follow up on that. You got to play with him in Boston, and I wanted to know what influence he had on you maturing as a player and also a person off the ice, too.

[JOE THORNTON] Billy is just a great guy. Obviously I played with him a couple years there in Boston. He's a bubbly guy, a good guy to have in the locker room. He's a veteran guy. We never really played the same position.

I think you can just learn ?? he plays that rugged style, but he's got ?? he's such a nice goal scorer. But I think I definitely learned a lot as a player from him and as a person. It's good to have him here because we definitely have a young team and he can definitely look at some young guys and point out some pointers that he's seen in the past and help these young guys to become better players.

[Q] And just a follow?up question, what do you want to do to shut down the naysayers of you in the Playoffs and people saying you'll lose again in the Playoffs? What do you want to do? Is that motivating you this year?

[JOE THORNTON] I don't know, I don't really listen to any of that stuff. I think we definitely have a good team, that we can really go for the Stanley Cup this year, and I feel comfortable with this team and I have a lot of confidence in this team. Hockey is a team sport and it always will be, and I think it's a good shot. If we win the Cup, then I don't know if there will be any more of that.

[Q] What did you learn from last year's experience having that two game lead over Edmonton and seeing it disappear and then you guys disappear? What did you take from that and take into this upcoming post?season?

[JOE THORNTON] Well, the team is not done until they're done, until they've lost that fourth game. I think as a young team last year, we all learned together, and I think it just makes us better as a team as a whole.

But you can't take a team too lightly even though they're down 2?0 because the momentum can switch just like that in that triple overtime game that they beat us. Just never take your opponent too lightly, and we won't this year.

[Q] This is playing off a previous question, but do you feel a pressure just to have that like big bust?out Playoff run, both individually and as a team? Does that weigh on you at all?

[JOE THORNTON] Not at all, no, not at all.

[Q] And how do you then carry your ?? and another question was the late season surge, so you're on one right now, you're enjoying one. How do you carry that into the post?season?

[JOE THORNTON] Just keep doing the same things, keep doing the same things in practice, and eventually it will spill over into games. Just play consistent. I think as a team we've been playing consistent, as for myself, individually just being consistent each and every night and working hard each and every night. So just keep on doing the little things that I've been doing and hopefully carry it over and hopefully it works in the Playoffs.

[Update] Countdown: Thornton skating into select company - USA Today.


Assabet Valley vs Shattuck St Mary's 19U final

Here is a brief video clip of the 19U National Championship final between Assabet Valley from Massachusetts and Shattuck Saint Mary's of Minnesota. The puck possession and puck movement from the SSM squad made a late third period comeback impossible for AV.

USA Hockey Girls Championships, Sunday Finals

Shattuck St Marys Assabet Valley 19U final
USA Hockey Girls Championships San Jose

Shattuck St. Mary's powered their way to a third straight 19U national title with a 2-0 win over Assabet Valley Sunday at Logitech Ice in San Jose. Both of Shattuck's star twin forwards, Jocelyn Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux, scored for St. Mary's. Paige Keranen made 18 saves to earn the shutout.

Features on Sunday's 4 Tournament Finals from USAhockey.com:

2007 USA Hockey National Championships - Girls - 12 and Under
After skating off the ice in Buffalo with last year's USA Hockey National Championships bronze, the Anaheim Lady Ducks 12 & Under girls ice hockey team had only one thing on their minds -- skate off the ice at Logitech Ice Center in San Jose with gold medals at USA Hockey's 2007 National Championship. Mission accomplished.

2007 USA Hockey National Championships - Girls - 14 and Under
As the 2007 USA Hockey 14 & Under National Championship tournament unfolded this week, Kendall Coyne's name became a familiar one for Team Illinois. Not even having seven second-period penalties could slow down the Central District champions or their top player at the event.

2007 USA Hockey National Championships - Girls - 16 and Under
For an entire year, the bull's-eye has been on their backs as USA Hockey's Girls 16 & Under National Champion. After Assabet Valley’s 4-0 victory over the Connecticut Polar Bears in Sunday's title game of USA Hockey's 2007 National Championship at Logitech Ice Center, they get to carry that target around for one more year.

2007 USA Hockey National Championships - Girls - 19 and Under
As has become a familiar theme at USA Hockey's Girls 19 & Under National Championship, Shattuck-St. Mary’s again came out of its district tournament. The Sabres also skated away with their third consecutive Nationals title on Sunday at Logitech Ice Center.

USA Hockey Girls Championships, Quarterfinal and Semifinal Saturday

USA Hockey Girls Championships San Jose
USA Hockey Girls Championships Buffalo Bisons

It was a full day of hockey at the 2007 USA Hockey Girls Championships in San Jose on Saturday. Twenty four quarterfinal and semifinal games took place in 4 divisions (12u, 14u, 16u, 19u) to set up the championship games on Sunday.

A few notes from the games:

12 & Under:
The Lady Ducks 12 and under squad out of Anaheim was the only team from California to move on to the finals. The Ducks defeated Little Caesars from Detroit 4-1 in the morning on 2 goals by Dylanne Crugnale and 15 saves by Noelle White, and then LD shutout Team Illinois in the afternoon 2-0. Sharks radio color commentator Jamie Baker was in the booth for USA Hockey calling a 12u semifinal game for the online radio stream on Saturday.

14 & Under:
Assabet Valley out of Massachusetts fielded a team in each of the 4 divisions. On Saturday, 14u Assabet lost to the Colorado Selects 6-5 in double overtime. Mary Parker scored the OT goal with 1:13 left in the 5th period before being mobbed by her teammates. AV lost a bronze medal game to Detroit Honeybaked later in the evening.

16 & Under:
The Cal Selects 16u team, after dispatching the Jr Sharks 5-2 in the quarterfinals, drew one the largest crowds of the day for a semifnal game against Assabet Valley. Former UCLA assistant Nick Besheer coached the select team out of Huntington Beach. Casey Pickett (AV0 and Kourtney Kunichika (CAL) traded goals for each team within 40 seconds of each other in the first period. After a collision in goal, Cal goaltender Amy Zappen was handed a defenseman's stick until she retrieved her own. Seconds later, Casey Pickett scored on a rush for Assabet. With a strong forecheck and penalty kill, the one goal lead held until Cal pulled their goaltender with 1:35 left in the third period. Kelly Cooke scored the empty net goal to give AV a 3-1 win despite a tough challenge by a backchecking Cal player. Cal took the bronze medal, Assabet Valley moved on to the finals on Sunday.

Another thrilling 16u semifinal took place on the center rink. The Connecticut Polar Bears came back from a 2 goal deficit against the Buffalo Bisons to force a quadruple overtime game. Several college scouts were keeping an eye on this matchup. I asked how many events are available to scout women's hockey, and they replied that there were events to scout players almost every weekend. Brooke Fernandez scored 2:31 into the fourth overtime to give Connecticut a 3-2 win and a berth in Sunday's final.

19 & Under:
Shattuck Saint Mary's defeated Belle Tire from Michigan 4-3 in overtime during the first 19 and under semifinal game on Saturday. Assabet Valley earned another finals berth with a 3-2 win over Washington Pride. All 4 of the 19 and under teams were flying on the ice, but one of the parents said travel, preliminary play, and two Saturday games could make fatigue a factor in the final.

A photo gallery from Saturday is available here.