Max Giese: Interview with San Jose Sharks scout Pat Funk

Sharkspage's Max Giese caught up with San Jose Sharks veteran scout Pat Funk at the 2008 USHL Allstar Game in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Pat Funk and Indiana's Scott McConnell coached the East Division (Team RBK) to a 6-5 shootout win over the West Division (Team CCM).

Working with the San Jose organization since its inception in 1991-92, Funk is responsible for scouting Western Canada, U.S. juniors, U.S. colleges and high schools for the Sharks. He has also worked with the New York Rangers and Minnesota North Star organizations, and has coached high school and college hockey in Minnesota for 20+ years.

[Q] What are your thoughts on being named head coach of the USHL Eastern All-Star Team?

[PF] I thought it was great. It's nice to get a chance to get on the ice and be around those kids that I've been scouting all year. Getting to see them from a different perspective and getting to see them in the locker room is great.

[Q] How will the experience of being a head coach behind the bench differ from your usual role scouting players from the press box or the stands, and is there any advantage to this point of view?

[PF] It's definitely different and it has its advantages. To see the game from a different view and how the kids interact with different kids. That's what we kind of try to do when scouting, is see how they are with their peers as we kind of watch off the ice as well as on the ice.

[Q] Do you get to follow the Sharks much?

[PF] I get to see almost every game and that's the good thing about Minnesota is that I can go see a game at night then come home and the Sharks on here at 9:30 pm.

[Q] Can you describe your high school and college coaching background in Minnesota?

[PF] I coached at high school and taught physical education and health in the Saint Paul Minnesota school system. I coached high school football, football, baseball and then in 1980 I began to scout part time while still coaching. Then I went to St. Thomas Academy to be an assistant coach for four years, until I went full time in 1993 with the Sharks.

[Q] How has your 21 years of teaching experience in Minnesota public schools influenced the way you would scout a young hockey player?

[PF] Yes it helps you get a certain read on people and deal with the individual. Each person is an individual, and when you're trying to project these kids three to four years from now, my experience of seeing kids develop in school from seventh to tenth grade helps you realize that each individual can mature at a different rate. You can have twenty different kids and see twenty different personalities so it has definitely helped.

[Q] What was the most difficult aspect of the transition from being a high school and college hockey coach to scouting?

[PF] When I was still coaching and scouting it was kind of hard because I had to do a practice then quick go to a game. At that time I was mostly just coaching kids from Minnesota. Then going full time, the thing I missed was working with the kids but I did get to run a summer camp and now I work with our prospects every summer at the development camp.

[Q] What advice would you give to an aspiring scout on how to evaluate talent, and what are the traits needed to become a fulltime scout for an NHL team?

[PF] Skating is so important but we also look at hockey sense and character. We really look to see how he interacts with the players around them. The way we judge size is does he play above or below his size, if he plays below his size than size becomes a negative even if he's 6'3. A lot of it is the character and if they make a difference in the game, we look at all of that.

For example Joe Pavelski. Everyone knocked him because of his size and his skating but he's so smart that he is every place that he is supposed to be on the rink. I always use the analogy of stealing a base in Baseball. It's not always the fastest guy, it's the one that anticipates and the one that can read the pitcher. It's just like that in hockey, you may not be the fastest guy but if you're one step ahead of everyone else mentally then skating doesn't matter so much. Pavelski has also won at every level, he won the State Tournament in high school, the High School showcase with Team Wisconsin, the Clarkson cup with Waterloo in the USHL, and then the national championship for the Wisconsin Badgers. Now we're hoping he can do that for us and get that Stanley Cup. Same with Matt Carle, similar guy that worked on his game and made a difference for his team.

[Q] Speaking of character, is that why most of your prospects end up wearing a letter in their amateur careers before moving onto the pro's?

[PF] Definitely, I believe you can't teach or coach someone to be a leader.

[Q] Your sons seem to be following in your footsteps as coaches, do you think either of them have a future scouting young hockey players as well?

[PF] My daughter also coaches, she played for North Dakota. Both sons teach at St. Thomas Academy where they both went to high school. My son Matt just likes to coach and be around the kids, he graduated from Notre Dame and is now a buyer for Target. My son John, that's what he really wants to do. He would like to be in coaching and stay in hockey. After he was done playing in Wisconsin for the Badgers he immediately began to coach in Madison.

[Q] Could you describe which leagues and levels of hockey you focus on evaluating for the Sharks?

[PF] I'm responsible for the WCHA, USHL, Minnesota and Wisconsin areas High School, and then everything out West, along with Brian Gross in the WHL, and tier-2 hockey out there.

[Q] As a scout, how involved are you with a prospects development?

[PF] We have them all out in San Jose each summer for the development camp. All we can have them for is seven days and it has to be seven days straight.

[Q] When you attend a game in which a Sharks prospect is playing, do you check up on them and give them advice?

[PF] Yeah and we have all of their email addresses. In fact, our goalie that plays in Duluth, Alex Stalock, I just emailed him yesterday and talked to him about the different games that I've seen of him live or on tape recently. Also, when Petrecki was in Minnesota I saw him play in four games and then I went down to talk him. We try to keep in contact with all of them.

[Q] How do the Sharks disperse their scouts at the major events such as the CHL Top Prospects game or at the International Events?

[PF] We had everybody attend the CHL Top Prospects game including Paul Fink our video guy, Doug Wilson and Joe Will from the front office, and all of our scouts. International events are different, we mostly just have Tim Burke over seas where he does most of Europe and Karel Masopoust in the Czech Republic.

[Q] When you selected Nick Petrecki in the first round, Tim Burke was quoted as saying that every scout in your organization was able to see Petrecki. How does that work out?

[PF] Well, Tim Burke, Rob Grillo, and my self really saw him. Gillies Cote does Quebec and into the Eastern Colleges as well as Eastern Europe. Brian Gross does the Western leagues with me. But what happens is that when I see a game at night, the report from the game can be seen by all of our scouts on their computers the next morning. It's a great system, If I read a report from another scout and I think to myself that I didn't see that, then I know I better go see this player again and take another look.

[Q] At what age do you begin to scout players?

[PF] Preferably when they're 15-16 beginning to play high school or midget and at the Select Festivals. Ideally we would like to see how they have progressed through the previous years. When you're really projecting three to four years out you want to see if they're still getting better or if they have plateud.

[Q] What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Nick Petrecki and how he is developing?

[PF] He's a real solid defenseman, he's strong and has a really good shot. He's very physical and is progressing really well! I mean this is a kid that last year in Omaha just kept getting better and better so to see him in this summer where he was and then to see how far he has come since then is special. He's just one of those kids that wants it so bad and he's progressing really well.

[Q] Could you expand on his play this year?

[PF] He's just a monster and he's doing the same thing in College that he did last year in the USHL. But now he's doing it where he is under control and not everything ends up in a train wreck like it was last year where he was just trying to kill everybody.

[Q] Could you touch on his decision making with the puck?

[PF] His decision making with the puck is really good. He's now looking over his shoulder to make sure he knows what is coming at him and to manufacture more time for himself. This has progressed really well.

[Q] How about the goaltender in Duluth, Alex Stalock?

[PF] He's a real good athlete. Stalock kind of struggled last year. It was his first real test with adversity in his life. I mean this is a kid that dominated high school where he actually went to school with my daughter, and then the USHL where he carried Cedar Rapids to a championship in his first year. But he came back this year in unbelievable shape and really worked hard at his game. He now has his swagger back, he's cocky but in the right way. He has that mentality where if you beat me you're not going to beat me again. We also have a really good goalie in Vancouver in Tyson Sexsmith, he's a really solid goalie.

[Q] In an article from the Prince George Citizen it talked about some character issues with Ty Wishart. Are there any concerns there with Wishart?

[PF] No! We have no concerns. He's a kid and what people don't realize is kids are kids and they do make mistakes at times. We've talked to him and he's got it back where he's focused and everything else is there.

[Q] What are your thoughts on Ty Wishart and his development?

[PF] He's got a really good shot and he's running the power play. What really helped him is he got a lot of ice time in Prince George where he was the go-to-guy and just kept getting better and better. He was playing 35-40 minutes a game, where you kind of develop some bad habits to but you also get to handle the puck more. Now him and another prospect of ours Frazer McLaren are in Moosejaw together and playing strong.

[Update] Alex Stalock strikes again and earns ECHA Player of the Week honors - University of Minnesota Duluth Athletics.

For the second time in as many weeks, Alex Stalock's puck-rejecting prowess has landed him Western Collegiate Hockey Association Defensive Player of the Week recognition. The University of Minnesota Duluth standout sophomore clinched the honor by turning aside 49 of 50 shots in backstopping the Bulldogs to a pair of wins last weekend at then-No. 15 UMass-Lowell.

Stalock, a native of South St. Paul, Minn., now joins Denver senior netminder Peter Mannino as the only three-time recipients of the league's Defensive Player of the Week Award in 2007-08.

Link fixed.

[Update2] Wishart's sensational shootout goal lifts Moose Jaw past Saskatoon 3-2 - Canadian Press.

Ty Wishart scored a spectacular shootout goal to propel the Moose Jaw Warriors past a hard-working Saskatoon Blades team 3-2 in WHL action Saturday. Wishart's toe-drag manoeuvre, in which he pulled the goaltender to one side and slid the puck in with the tip of his stick using his long reach, wowed the Moose Jaw crowd.

[Update3] Interview with 2007 first round draft pick, Boston College defenseman Nick Petrecki - Max Giese for Sharkspage (12/20/2007).


Hockey Notes - January 29th

- Boston Bruins leading scorer Marc Savard scored the game winning goal with 21 seconds left to give the Eastern Conference Allstars an 8-7 win over the Western Conference in front of 18,644 fans Sunday in Atlanta.

Rick Nash took advantage of an in-game Versus interview with West goaltender Rick DiPietro to score the first of his three goals on the evening. Nash snapped a quick wrist shot to beat DiPietro in the first period. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Columbus Blue Jackets left wing took a home run pass and split defenseman Brian Campbell and Sergei Gonchar for his second goal, finishing with a world class deke on Florida Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun. Nash followed an early third period Ryan Getzlaf goal for the Western Conference with a third goal of his own. Rick Nash accelerated past 2 defenseman in the neutral zone, turned his back to Boston goaltender Tim Thomas while on the breakaway, and flipped a backhand over Thomas's glove hand.

Evgeni Nabokov was the only allstar goaltender to stop all the shots he faced, shutting down the Eastern Conference 8 times on 8 attempts in the second period. Hometown Atlanta Thrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (37G, 26A) stood in front of the crease for several seconds waiting for a setup pass from behind the net. Kovalchuk rifled a one-timer up high, only to have Nabokov reflexively snatch the puck out of the sky with his glove hand. Kovalchuk fell backwards to the ice in amazement. Eric Staal broke Kovalchuk up ice with a long pass with seconds ticking down in the second period. Again with Kovalchuk breaking in on Nabokov, the Sharks netminder stacked his pads, threw out his stick for a poke check, and covered the net up high with his glove all in one quick motion. Kovalchuk slammed his stick to the ice after being denied his allstar moment for the second time on home ice.

Kovalchuk expanded on Nabokov's performance after the game:

"Nabby was one of those guys who can get the MVP tonight, too," Kovalchuk said. "He's played an unbelievable 20-minute shutout. And he's played 51 or 52 games already during the season, so he's a great, great goaltender."

Former Thrasher Marc Savard earned the game winning goal, Eric Staal earned the Allstar Game MVP award, and Rick Nash/Evgeni Nabokov should deserve MVP honorable mention for their performace. Nash's hat trick was the 15th in NHL Allstar Game history. Nabokov's 2nd period shutout was the first goaltender shutout since Nikolai Khabibulin playing for the Worldstars team in 2002. The West Allstar team outshot the East 51-33. Rick DiPietro provided a running play-by-play for the last 20 seconds of the first period.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was the second intermission guest on the Versus broadcast. Bettman said the league will build on the Ducks-Kings series to begin the 2007-08 NHL season in London with NHL Premiere. The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning are scheduled to begin next season in Stockholm Sweden. The Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to begin next season in Prague, Czech Republic. Bettman also mentioned there was no interest in NHL involvement in a Hockey Superleague, instead mentioning that supporting existing European teams would be preferrable.

- The 2008 NHL Allstar Skills Competition introduced a new look on Saturday. The NHL introduced a new breakaway challenge trick shot competition to serve as the NHL's version of the slam dunk contest, moved the fastest skater competition to a straightaway wind sprint, and created a new hockey obstacle relay course with multiple events.

The Eastern Conference took home the hardest shot team title with a 100.1 mph average. Hulking 6-foot-9, 255-pound Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara took home the individual hardest shot title with a 103.1 mph blast on his third attempt. Al "the Planet" Iafrate still holds the allstime record hitting 105.2 mph in the 1993 skills contest. Thomas Kaberele hit 4-of-4 targets in the initial round of the accuracy shooting competition. Kaberle and the West's Jason Arnott each hit 3-of-4 targets in the finale, but Kaberle emerged with the win in a 1-target shootoff.

Shawn Horcoff of the Edmonton Oilers took home the fastest skater title. With the help of an outstretched stick to win the intial heat, Horcoff downed Buffalo Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell with a 4.395 second mark in the finals. The Eastern Conference took home the relay course win 8-5, the East defeated the West 60-52 in the breakaway challenge, the Western Conference won the elimination shootout 4-3 with Dion Phaneuf's final round goal against Tim Thomas, and the West beat the East 5-4 in the Youngstars Game.

East emerges with hard-fought SuperSkills win - NHL.com.

Most people came to see the Breakaway Challenge, an event billed as the NHL's version of the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Players were judged more on originality than whether their shots went in. The star of that show was the Capitals Alexander Ovechkin, who won the event with just the kind of originality fans were hoping to see. The Russian star dazzled them by first dribbling the puck on his stick and trying to bat it in out of the air, but whiffed.

Rather than quit, Ovechkin tried to up the ante. He batted the puck high into the air, spun around 360 degrees and tried again to bat the puck out of the air, but again whiffed on his swing. "I'm a terrible baseball player," Ovechkin admitted later.

- Detroit's Mike Babcock, Atlanta's Don Waddell, Ottawa's John Paddock, and San Jose's Ron Wilson were asked several questions by the media during an NHL Allstar Weekend coaches roundtable. Below are Ron Wilson's answeres to questions about the length of the regular season, the length of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks participation in a European premiere game to start the season, and the state of coaching in the National Hockey League today.

[Q] Oftentimes the length of the National Hockey League season is brought up in numerous discussions. The board of governors I believe have been discussing the same thing. Is it, Ronnie, when it comes down to the long season that the NHL is, and more importantly the last few years with the new competitive balance, and I know that one of the coaches in the National Hockey League said that he's been coaching in it for a long time, and now it's almost like every single night is like a playoff atmosphere. It's playoff intensity. Is that more of a wear and tear on the players? Are 82 games too much?

[RW] Well, personally, I do think 82 games are too much, myself. I'd like to see a 70?game schedule, a few more breaks in there. I'd like to see around ?? because the players playing off your team in the All?Star Game are your best players. They do play the most minutes. And you're giving the other guys like three or four days off to rest up. I'd like to see us have a week that we put aside and at least give the All?Stars a couple of days where they can be with their families and just rest and get away from the game. But every game is tough. We've seen a jump in our conference this year with the number of teams improving rapidly that's made it really difficult. Chicago, St. Louis, teams like that, Phoenix in our division have really improved this year. Without a big dropoff from the Detroit ?? well, San Jose, Anaheim's coming on. Every night is a difficult game no matter where you play...

[Q] Let's talk about the playoffs. Are the playoffs too long in the National Hockey League? Should they be reduced in size in order to, one, get the National Hockey League finished a little sooner, or secondly, have more gas in the tank when it comes to the ultimate being in the Stanley Cup Final?

[RW] No, I think the playoffs are fine the way they are right now. You shorten the season by shortening the regular season. But the playoffs, the 4 out of 7's, I played in the NHL when it started as a 2 out of 3 and you had all kinds of upsets early. You don't have that in other sports, but hockey's a sport where there could be upsets, where the 8th place team could beat the first place team, in our league, especially now. But the 4 out of 7's, I think it's really exciting. That's when the players play their best. They're focused. And I wouldn't change the playoffs at all.

[Q] Before we get off the topic about the length of the season, and pregame skates, are there any questions from the floor? And if so, please let them know so that before we?

[RW] I'll add on my team when I call an optional, everybody goes on the ice. When we have a mandatory practice, I've got five or six guys who have little aches and pains who can't practice. So go figure that.

[Q] Let's go to an email question out of Toronto. And let's start with you, Ron. The question is: Would you like to see your team participate in the start of the season in Europe, and how do you assume that the time difference would make an impact on your hockey club?

[RW] Well, for us, the extra? We'd be coming from the West coast. And I've seen how difficult it was for Anaheim this year to get out of the gate. I suppose I would prefer being a west coast team to be able to play a game in China or Japan. But I'd be all for it. I played for six or seven years in Switzerland, and I've been lobbying in San Jose for a few years to have a training camp in Davos where I played, where Joe Thornton played as well. Altitude training, and I think the hockey would be good enough there to give us a challenge and prepare us through the season.

[Q] Let's jump to a different topic. One that might raise the hair on your arms. But it has been suggested, and not in a demanding way, but perhaps in a question form even by Paul Kelly the new head of the NHL Players Association, but many have asked the question with the style of game we play in the National Hockey League, do we have overcoaching? Is there too much coaching going on that affects the style that we have on the ice?...

[RW] I don't think it's a matter of overcoaching anymore. Though I believe that coaching has improved. You have so many more resources. You see the other team playing all the time. You have coaches who break down stuff. But the improvement in the National Hockey League, and the parody that's there now has to deal with the number of quality players that are playing in our league. The athletes are so much better. They're quicker, stronger, faster, certainly a lot bigger. There's not much room on the ice. I have yet to play a team this year that I thought was poorly coached or poorly prepared. It's just an incredible league. If you study the past of the NHL back when it was six teams, there was parity. There were top teams and bottom teams. But all the scores were 2-1, 3-2. That's the point we find ourselves now in the National Hockey League.

[Q] As a player in the National Hockey League and long time coach in the National Hockey League, you've seen the big difference. We have commentators now between the benches. We've got a commentator on the bench asking coaches questions. Has that been hard for you to adjust to?

[RW] Not really, what we do as coaches isn't exactly rocket science. I've done the, put the head phones on, and talked while the action's going on live. I might have made, it was actually a mistake. I didn't intend to do that. It was supposed to be taped and they did it live, and I didn't want to like throw the microphone away. So we went with it. And now it's become pretty standard. There are a few teams that came up with the idea of having a reporter come during timeouts. I think the Kings were the first team to do that. And we picked up on that. There are cameras, it seems everywhere. I think you get used to it. I'm sure I'm not any different than anybody else; resisted it in the beginning, but if it helps sell the game, makes your team more accessible, you're willing to do all those things. For ourselves and San Jose, we only have one beat reporter and the television stations rarely come by other than Fox Sports Net doing our games. So I'm not really inundated with media, fortunately. I'm able to kind of do my job in the dark as opposed to these two guys on the outside in the markets that they're in.

- San Jose Sharks (1st Pacific, 27-15-7) vs Edmonton Oilers (5th Northwest, 23-24-5) tonight on Versus at 6:30PM. John Forslund (Carolina), Daryl Reaugh (Dallas) and Bob Harwood (Reporter) are calling tonight's game for Versus according to Steve Lepore of Kukla's Korner. San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will get his 49th start of the season in the Sharks 50th game.

The Edmonton Oilers begin a 4-game homestand tonight against San Jose, finishing with Dallas, Calgary and Chicago. Edmonton leads the season series 1-0-0 after a 3-2 shootout win October 4th in Rexall Place. The San Jose Sharks have registered at least 1 point in their last 12 games, recording 28 points in that span. Right wing Steve Bernier leads the team in blocked shots with 102. Western Conference Allstar Joe Thornton figures in to a disproportionate amount of his teams offense. Thornton's 15 goals and 45 assists have contributed to 46.5% of San Jose's total offense, ahead of Vincent LeCavalier (45.5%) and Ilya Kovalchuk (44.7%). Thornton also leads all NHL players in points recorded since 2002-03 with 473 (125G, 348A). Patrick Marleau is 25th in that time frame with (130G, 173A). Marleau leads the San Jose Sharks franchise in games played (766), goals (227), assists (289), points (516), and game winning goals (227).

St Louis Blues goaltender Manny Legace

After a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on January 22nd, San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson was asked if the win had a special significance after 4 straight losses (@ANA, @PHO, DAL, DET). Wilson responded to the question from Mercury News beat writer David Pollak with pretty heated comments stressing that every game is important, and that the 82-game season is a marathon not a sprint.

(A photo gallery from the St Louis game is available here.)

What's going to happen if you don’t win that game? Now we're the underachieving team again. Last week we were rated #1 team in hockey . . . It's all a bunch of... Geeze, you win a few games, you lose a few games — it’s part of life in sports. It’s where you are at the end of the year. They don’t hand out awards for where we are today, tomorrow — it's only at the end of the year and what you do in the playoffs.

We lost a few games, it's not the end of the world. When we win a few games, it doesn’t mean we're going to win the Stanley Cup, or we should start putting down the parade route. That's the only question you haven't asked me: Where's the parade route going to be after weve won four in a row? Seriously. I try to avoid reacting . . . You’ve got to keep an even keel. I’ve done this for 15 years.

You just shake your head. It’s not the end of the world. Our whole society reacts and overreacts to everything we do. Like Dallas, what are they doing today?? They lost to Columbus. Oh my God. Two days ago, they’re going to win the division. It doesn’t happen that way. It's a nice, slow steady pace. You try to get better. Simple as that.

I get frustrated having to explain that all the time.

ESPN's questionable #1 ranking aside, head coach Ron Wilson does have a point. A particularly turbulent October lead to a streaky performance in November. The Sharks rebounded with a 10-4-1 overall record in December, and started January with a 5-2-1 record at home. The ups and downs with this team have changed on an almost nightly basis. At times the media, blogs and fans can overreact to a loss or a win. Former Sharks head coach Darryl Sutter used to break down the season into 5-game capsules, which smoothed over some of the individual rough spots and made in-season trends easier to analyize.

The Sharks are 2-3 in the last 5 games, with back-to-back wins over Central Division teams St Louis (4-1) and Chicago (3-2), and losses to Detroit (3-6), Dallas (2-4), and Phoenix (3-5).

In that 5-game span the Sharks have killed off 21 of 24 penalties (to remain tied for 2nd in the NHL), scored on 7 of 25 power plays (28%), including a 3-game streak of 2 power play goals, and outhit opponents 120-92. In that 5-game span the Sharks have also been outshot by opponents 135-121, and outdrawn in the faceoff circle 138-131, outscored 18-15. A strong 60-minute game against St Louis erased a few questionable plays late in the Chicago game. The Sharks held up against the Detroit for exactly 29 minuted 59 seconds, before the Red Wings started to skate away with the game. The Sharks were caught at times watching Detroit, instead of planting a shoulder in the chest, or planting them into the glass and trying to slow down their speedy wingers. Penalty killing was excellent in losses to Dallas and Phoenix (8-for-8), but the Sharks had trouble generating offense even strength (outscored 9-5), and with the man advantage (1-for-7).

There will be a little more in-depth analysis for the next 5-game capsule, but all-in-all that paints a fairly accurate picture of where the San Jose Sharks are at, instead of looking at the standings and naming them the #1 team in the league. And I have to take a contrarian view of the "no special games" comment. After 3 very difficult playoff exits, losing all 3 home games in the 2004 WCF to Calgary, melting down after a game 3 OT loss to Edmonton in the 2006 WCSF, and after a game 4 OT loss to Detroit in the 2007 WCSF, fans and the media can be expected to be wary of regular season success. Games against Pacific Division rivals Detroit, Dallas, and Anaheim can be seen as benchmark games for the San Jose Sharks. A chance to see how this team performs in playoff atmosphere type situations, and a chance to see if this is the team needed for a long playoff run or if there are changes that need to be made.

Fans in San Jose are becoming more sophisticated and more knowledgable with every season. A lack of hockey coverage by media locally has been more than addressed with radio, television, and online newspapers from the East Coast and Canada. Each passing season fans are going to demand more of this team, and it is up to the players and coaches to deliver. Fans are not only demanding a win-at-all-costs performance in "special" games against Detroit, Dallas and Anaheim, but they want the Sharks to take a pound of flesh with them after a loss as well.

San Jose bookstore

This photo shows the sports magazine section at a local San Jose bookstore. Last week I took an informal poll and found 14 mixed martial arts or boxing magazines, and 0 hockey specific magazines. All season long there are normally a few of the season preview hockey annuals available, and 2-3 copies of The Hockey News. Last week there were none. (Photo taken with LG VX8350 cellphone).

There were a few articles available from general sources. ESPN the Magazine's Chris Smith published an excellent article on San Jose Sharks veteran center Jeremy Roenick, Master Blaster. Roenick called former teammate and current Sharks GM Doug Wilson's offer to join the team "an absolute gift", talked about dropping 21 pounds and giving up alcohol to play this season, adapting to San Jose's up-and-down offensive style, learning to contribute in 13 minutes a game instead of his career average 20 minutes, said that there are too many "quiet people" on the Sharks, and talked about his role in a team meeting after losses to Anaheim and Phoenix.

"A lot of kids are 'We lose, I'm still gonna drive away in my Mercedes,'" Roenick says. "How are they gonna throw themselves in front of a slap shot, or take a punch in the mouth to get in front of the net and score a goal? When this team gets in trouble, we have no emotion. So I've gotta attack 'em."

It was an informative article by ESPN's Smith, with an excellent title photo of Jeremy Roenick sitting against a wall playing a guitar, with an empty hat out. Jeremey also added "I'll never be boring, but I want to be heard inside the locker room not outside of it".

In an article for Sports Illustrated, Michael Farber broke down the situations facing goaltenders Martin Brodeur, Rick DiPietro and Henrik Lundqvist: A Tale of Three Goalies, With the Martin Brodeur, Rick DiPietro and Henrik Lundqvist among the NHL's elite, the debate over who's the best hearkens back to the days of Willie, Mickey and the Duke..

Who is the best centerfielder in New York -- the Giants' Willie Mays, the Yankees' Mickey Mantle or the Dodgers' Duke Snider? Yes, talkin' Willie, Mickey and the Duke. More than a half century later, America's leading metropolis is graced with Marty, Ricky and the King, another trio of superb players who play a marquee position.

If comparing the New Jersey Devils' Martin Brodeur, the Islanders' Rick DiPietro and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist with the holy trinity of New York centerfielders seems like sacrilege, you're probably right; only Brodeur, a certain Hall of Famer, has reached a level comparable to those ballplayers'. But both Lundqvist, 25, and DiPietro, 26 -- each by far the most important player on his team -- are a decade younger than the masked marvel of New Jersey, and both can claim a place among the NHL's elite.

- There is a new section on the right sidebar of this website for Hockey Magazines. If you have any suggestions please email them here, or send an issue for review to the mailing address on the same page.

- Also read two hockey books at the bookstore, Hockey Goaltending by Brian Daccord, and Hockey Play Book - Teaching Hockey Systems by Michael A. Smith. They were two of the better books on hockey available, and there may be a review or two coming up in the future. The late Warren Strelow, Sharks goaltending consultant and 1980 USA Olympic hockey coach, offered a published recommendation on the back of Brian Daccord's book.

- There is a free preview of NHL Center Ice Online until Monday, February 4th. Watch 4-games at once in mosaic mode, watch up to 40 games a week, view archived games or live stats for the rest of the season for $99.

- New recommended blog, of course out of the Washington/Maryland area, Red Line Goaltender Development by Bob DeGemmis.

- More black players deserve their due - Eric McErlain for the Sporting News.

- Former Sharks winger Jeff Friesen signed a minor league tryout contract with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL. The 31-year old Friesen registered 218 goals and 298 assists in 893 games in 13+ NHL seasons.

[Note] The Versus Sharks-Edmonton broadcast just announced a San Jose Sharks trade, Columbus Blue Jackets enforcer Jody Shelly for a 6th round 2009 draft pick.

"Jody Shelley is an aggressive, physical player who adds a distinct element of toughness to our team," said San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. "With the loss of players like Ryane Clowe and Brad Norton due to injury, this is something we have been trying to address and we like the capabilities that Jody brings to our mix of players. He has tremendous character, has always been a team player and has the ability to make the opposition uncomfortable on the ice."

[Update] A brief prospect report from Max Giese:

Ty Wishart, Defenseman, Moosejaw Warriors WHL
Since being traded from Prince George to Moosejaw, the 16th overall selection in the 2006 Draft has continued impressive play registering 2 goals, 4 assist, and a +9 in his first 7 games in a Warriors uniform. 6-foot-4, 205-pound Wishart is a towering 2-way defenseman with fluid mobility and a blossoming offensive game. The Sharks have to be excited about his dominance at both ends of the ice, and anxious to get their hands on him to develop him properly in Worcester next season.

Lukas Kaspar, Left Wing, Worcester Sharks AHL
The Sharks first round selection from the 2004 Draft, Kaspar has been one of the most dangerous goal scorers in the AHL over the last month. Lukas already matched his goal total from last season with 12 goals in 46 less games. With his strong play on each end of the ice, high end skill level, and powerful mobility for a player his size (6-foot-2, 210-pounds), he should be on the shortlist for an NHL callup this season.

Alex Stalock, Goalie, Minnesota Duluth WCHA
A sophomore goaltender for starts for the Duluth Bulldogs, Stalock has combined his athletic gifts with a more technical approach recently, emerging as one of the top goaltenders in the WCHA. Stalock keeps the lesser talented Bulldogs in every game, and he recently gave the powerhouse Minnesota Gophers all they could handle, allowing three goals in two games while making 62 saves.

Steven Zalewski, Center, Clarkson Knights ECAC
Zalewski is another center that the Sharks selected in the 2004 draft before he began his impressive collegiate career. Zalewski is a gritty and intelligent 2-way center, with the instincts and quick hands of a goal scorer. Zalewski leads the Knights with 14 goals and 20 points, and a recent hot streak saw him score 5 out of 6 goals for the Knights.

Frazer McLaren, Right Wing, Moosejaw Warriors WHL
Similar to fellow Sharks prospect Ty Wishart, McLaren is a colossal physical presence that was traded to the Warriors mid-season. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound right winger possesses a bone rattling shot, one he recently used to propel the Warriors to victory with a 2-goal night. While McLaren has struggled to bring his offensive game to the rink every night, he has not struggled to make his presence known on the ice as he is one of the most feared hitters in the WHL. McLaren is a raw but intriguing project, one with with a lot of upside. He should be in the AHL next season with Worcester.

[Update2] Selanne will return to the Ducks, Finnish star signs a one-year, bonus-heavy deal that should pay him more than $1.7 million - Los Angeles Times.


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Take a Bite Out Of Falcons

The Worcester Sharks, for the second time in six days, scored a last minute goal against the Springfield Falcons to force a game into overtime. Unlike Monday's overtime win, the WorSharks needed a shootout to gain the extra point, and Graham Mink's tally on the final shot secured a 5-4 win at the MassMutual Center Saturday night in Springfield, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 6,504.

The bad blood that started in Monday's game, also played at the MassMutual Center, spilled over into Saturday's contest with referee Chris Brown calling seven roughing minors in addition to the two fights. But to really realize how physical this game was you have to look to see who received two of those roughing minors--Falcons netminder Jeff Deslauriers.

One hit set the tone for the early part of the game, both in the penalty box and on the scoreboard. Springfield right wing Troy Bodie threw a low, but legal, open ice check on Graham Mink at the Falcons blue line. As play continued Mink limped back to the WorSharks bench. Brennan Evans jumped Bodie to retaliate, and fully earned his extra minor for instigating.

While on the ensuing power play Falcons winger Stephen Werner banged home a rebound off the backboards and past WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss for a 1-0 lead just over 7 minutes into the contest.

Worcester would tie it 1-1 under a minute later when Devin Setoguchi fired a 50' slapshot just inside the post and past Deslauriers.

Later in the first stanza Mink and Bodie would meet again, this time with Mink throwing an NHL-quality elbow at Bodie along the side boards. By the time the linesmen pulled Mink off of Bodie, the two players had earned a combined 16 minutes in penalties; Mink getting nine (elbowing, roughing, and a fighting major), Bodie getting seven (roughing, and a fighting major).

The second period opened up entirely in Springfield's favor, with the Falcons controlling every aspect of the game. With Riley Armstrong off for hooking the Falcons would take the lead when defenseman Danny Syvret fired a perfect pass through two Worcester penalty killers to Rob Schremp at the far post, which Schremp lazily deflected into the wide open net for the 2-1 lead.

Springfield would make it 3-1 under 30 seconds later when Marc-Edouard Vlasic, playing in his first American Hockey League game after being sent down by San Jose during the NHL's All Star break, flipped a lazy pass to Setoguchi that was intercepted by Falcons center Jonas Almtorp. Almtorp fired a pass to Tim Sestito, who blasted a one-timer past Greiss for a 3-1 lead.

With Mink in the box for a borderline interference minor Vlasic grabbed a lose puck and sent Setoguchi and Lukas Kaspar rushing into the Springfield zone two on one. Deslauriers made the stop on the Setoguchi attempt, but Kaspar flipped the rebound into the net to cut the deficit to 3-2.

Later in the second period Armstrong would throw a huge open ice hit on Allan Rourke, and as play continued in the Falcons end Deslauriers would throw a gloved punch to the back of Armstrong's helmet. In the scrum that followed heads were turned toward Greiss to see if he would skate down the ice to join in as Deslauriers was involved, but the German native stayed in his crease.

With 15 seconds remaining in the second period tempers would flare again, and for a second time Deslauriers was right in the middle of it, punching a Worcester forward as Deslauriers covered the puck up and earning his second roughing minor. As everyone paired up Josh Prudden and TJ Kemp decided they were going to wrestle each other as neither could get an arm free to throw a punch. Both would receive, you guessed it, roughing minors.

The WorSharks would knot the game 3-3 about seven minutes into period number three on one of the greatest individual efforts seen in a Worcester jersey in quite some time. Patrick Traverse picked up a lose puck in the Worcester zone and skated past or through all nine other skaters on the ice and flipped a backhand over Deslauriers and under the crossbar. While the Worcester faithful who made the trek down the Mass Pike were very loud after the goal, the better reaction came from many of the Springfield fans who sat there wide-eyed looking at each other.

Mike Iggulden just missed giving the WorSharks the lead when he beat Deslauriers cleanly from 20' after wheeling the net, but the puck found the right post and bounced away harmlessly.

Springfield would take the lead with only 100 seconds remaining on the power play after Prudden was whistled for one of the worst 'holding the stick' minors this writer has ever seen. Falcons defender Allan Rourke fired a blast from the point that Werner deflected past Greiss for his second power play tally of the game and a 4-3 Falcons lead.

The WorSharks would pull Greiss right after the ensuing face off, and with the extra attacker on Tom Walsh would feed Vlasic for a laser of a one timer. The puck went wide off the end boards, but rebounded right on to the stick of Tom Cavanagh, who blasted it into the open net at 19:03.

The WorSharks controlled the overtime but couldn't get the game winner, and after the first nine shooters failed to score in the shootout Mink fired a laser of a wrist shot past Deslauriers for the 5-4 victory.

Worcester healthy scratches were TJ Fox, Aston Rome, and Jonathan Tremblay. The injury list stayed the same; Marc Busenburg, Mike Morris, and Nate Raduns. Mathieu Curadeau was returned to Fort Wayne after being released from his PTO.

The MassMutual Center has some of the liveliest backboards I have ever seen, and use them to their team's advantage. It seems only fitting the game tying goal would come off of one of those rebounds. The one from Vlasic was so perfect one has to think it may have been intentional.

Despite it being a road game the WorSharks need to get Traverse's goal added to the highlights they play for players between players.

Box scores are crediting the game tying goal to Setoguchi, but an announcement in the arena changed the scoring to Cavanagh. It was clearly Cavanagh.

To the casual fan, it might have looked like Vlasic had a terrible game. His "problem" was he's used to playing with players a whole lot faster and probably more talented than his ice mates. That led to some turnovers because players were not where they should have been, or hadn't yet gotten to.

The three stars of the game were
1. Setoguchi (1g,1a)
2. Werner (2g)
3. Syvret (2a)
My vote would have been Werner, Kaspar, Traverse

Even Strength Lines


Staubitz also played some shifts on defense, mostly during Evans' instigator misconduct

Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


It being a road game, and the fact my pen was dying and I lost my back-up one, I didn't track face-offs or the shootout.

Worcester 1 1 2 1--5
Springfield 1 2 1 0--4

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Springfield-Werner, Stephen 1 (power play) (Trukhno, Vyacheslav 9; Syvret, Danny 5) 7:09. 2, Worcester-Setoguchi, Devin 2 (Plihal, Tomas 7; Joslin, Derek 11) 7:49.
Penalties: SPR-Peckham, Theo (Tripping), 0:59. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Instigator, Fighting, Major, Ten minute misc.), 5:27. SPR-Bodie, Troy (Fighting, Major), 5:27. SPR-Almtorp, Jonas (Holding), 9:51. WOR-Mink, Graham (Elbowing, Roughing, Double minor), 12:59. WOR-Mink, Graham (Fighting, Major), 12:59. SPR-Bodie, Troy (Roughing, Fighting, Major), 12:59. SPR-Trukhno, Vyacheslav (Hooking), 16:34.

2nd Period
Scoring: 3, Springfield-Schremp, Rob 11 (power play) (Syvret, Danny 6; O'Marra, Ryan 2) 13:16. 4, Springfield-Sestito, Tim 5 (Almtorp, Jonas 1) 13:44. 5, Worcester-Kaspar, Lukas 13 (short handed) (Setoguchi, Devin 9; Vlasic, Marc-Edouard 1) 15:11.
Penalties: WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Holding), 3:09. WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Hooking), 11:47. WOR-Mink, Graham (Interference), 14:18. WOR-Mink, Graham (Unsportsmanlike Cond), 16:40. SPR-Deslauriers, Jeff (Roughing), 16:40. SPR-Sestito, Tim (Roughing), 16:40. WOR-Prudden, Josh (Roughing), 19:45. SPR-Deslauriers, Jeff (Roughing), 19:45. SPR-Kemp, T.J. (Roughing), 19:45.

3rd Period
Scoring: 6, Worcester-Traverse, Patrick 6 (unassisted) 6:53. 7, Springfield-Werner, Stephen 2 (power play) (Rourke, Allan 10; Pouliot, Marc 16) 18:40. 8, Worcester- Setoguchi, Devin 3 (Walsh, Tom 18; Vlasic, Marc-Edouard 2) 19:03.
Penalties: WOR-Iggulden, Mike (Hooking), 4:20. WOR-Prudden, Josh (Holding stick), 18:12.

Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Shots On Goal
Worcester 7 7 7 4--25
Springfield 8 13 8 1--30

Power Play Conversions: Worcester - 0 of 5, Springfield - 3 of 7.
Goalies: Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (64:47, 30 shots, 26 saves; record: 13-7-4). Springfield-Deslauriers, Jeff (65:00, 25 shots, 21 saves; record: 18-11-8).
A: 6504. Referee: Brown, Chris. Linesmen: Briggs, Jim; Murphy, Frank.


Rising tide of 2008 Mavericks Big Wave Surfing Competition media coverage

San Jose Mercury News front page 2008 Mavericks Suring
San Francisco Chronicle front page 2008 Mavericks Suring

The transition from a mysterious and almost mythical Northern California big wave break to a mainstream sporting event has been a lightning quick one for the Mavericks Big Wave Surfing Competition. Discovered and rediscovered during various points in the 60's and 70's, it was not until 1990 when Half Moon Bay native Jeff Clark popularized big wave surfing off Pillar Point. A trickle of photographs, rumors and videos allegedly showing 20+ foot waves in California eventually lead to confirmation in the form of detailed articles in Surfer and Surfing Magazines.

The first Mavericks Big Wave contest was given the green light on February 17th, 1999 in 15-foot surf. Santa Cruz's Darryl Virostko (Flea) was the inaugural champion. Flea also took home the next two contest titles, March 3rd 2000 in gigantic 20+ foot conditions, and February 27th 2004 with HDNet and Outdoor Life Network television viewers looking on. Santa Cruz's Anthony Tashnick took home the March 2nd 2005 title, and the crowd of onlookers swelled to 30,000+ fans.

South African Grant "Twiggy" Baker won on February 8th 2006. Several local television stations were on hand, the local KNBR Extreme Scene show provided pre-contest coverage, and complete event was available via online PPV. After being on hold for a year, Greg Long followed up his 2006 Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award (after riding a 65+ foot wave) with a 2008 Mavericks Big Wave Surfing Competition win. There was a lull after the initial heats, but Long took advantage of a freak set in the finals to emerge victorious. The six finalists agreed to split the winners share prior to the final heat.

A brief recap of the 2008 media coverage:

After large crowds in 2005 lead to even larger crowds in 2006, the Mavericks event organizers encouraged more than 250,000 viewers to watch the free myspace video stream of the event (the video stream is still available online) instead of impacting the fragile coastline. More than 1,000 fans watched from a live viewing at AT&T Park in San Francisco, and several smaller Half Moon Bay stores held viewing parties for what turned out to be equal parts a celebration of Big Wave Surfing, and equal parts a celebration of Half Moon Bay and the culture of the small coastal community.

In addition to front page treatment (see photo above), the San Jose Mercury News also created a complete Mavericks Contest section online. The Merc offered recap by Mark Conley, several online videos, and an interactive feature showing how and why the waves are so large at Mavericks.

After excellent coverage of Darryl Virostko's horrific wipeout at Mavericks during the largest swell of the season on Big Tuesday, the San Franciso Chronicle also gave the 2008 Mavericks contest the front page treatment (see photo above). The Chronic posted a Mavericks multimedia section, published an AP recap, and filed a dual byline column from Half Moon Bay and AT&T Park: Surfers soar at Maverick's as fans cheer them on at beach, ballpark.

Surfing Magazine posted an online 2008 Mavericks photo gallery, and Mavericks contestant/Surfing Magazine Editor in Chief recounted the days events: Greg Long Wins The 2008 Mavericks Surf Contest.

Surfer Magazine uploaded a podcast with Greg Long as the interview guest, and published a 2008 Mavericks photo gallery. And as always, visit the official website at maverickssurf.com, and mavsurfer.com for more information, videos and some of the best Mavericks photos online.

The overwhelming public interest in Mavericks should spur local coverage of the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational in Hawaii, Jaws (also in Hawaii), Todos Santos in Baja, the ASP World Tour, or coverage of local events such as the Cold Water Classic October in Santa Cruz.

Thanks to Powerlines Productions for the use of the 2008 contest highlight video above. Congratulations to Greg Long for the win, and to Jeff Clark and Half Moon Bay for pulling off another successful contest. Note: the first version of this post, written last night during the Australian Open tennis finals, was lost due to a power outage in heavy rain. This post is a condensed version of what was a much longer post.

[Update] Big Tuesday saw 30+ foot waves pummel Northern California coastline, 1 big wave surfer died near Pebble Beach - Sharkspage.

[Update2] Just found out that Curious Gabe of Surfer Magazine is contributing editor Gabe Sullivan. Cool guy, but then again you would expect nothing less from a Mountain View High alumni. Go Spartans!

San Jose Stealth drops home opener 16-13 to Calgary at Lake HP Pavilion

San Jose Stealth NLL Lacrosse home opener Calgary Roughnecks

The San Jose Stealth opened their 5th season in the National Lacrosse League with a 13-12 overtime win in Calgary on January 12th. The rubber match Friday night in San Jose occured in near monsoon conditions.

The San Jose Stealth opened up a 4-1 lead in the first, but Calgary began to win 1-on-1 battles, and very accurate shooting eventually added up to a 13-7 Roughnecks lead in the middle of the third quarter. Two quick goals at the end of the third by Stealth forwards Jeff Zywicki and Gary Rosyski closed the gap to 13-9, and into a San Jose crowd that saw a game getting out of hand.

Very physical play started the fourth quarter. Even if you have regularly watched the San Jose Sharks up close, you will still be shocked by the amount and severity of checks in the NLL. Peter Veltman and captain Colin Doyle scored for San Jose to ignite the crowd, but each goal was answered quickly by Calgary. With the game winding down, and the score 15-13, the Stealth pulled he of the gigantic goalie pads Anthony Cosmo. Ryan McNish scored to put the nail in the coffin, and give the Calgary Roughnecks the 16-13 win.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

[Update] Stealth Fall in Home Opener, 16-13 - SJstealth.com.

"We just didn't play well tonight," San Jose Stealth coach Walt Christianson said of his team's home-opening 16-13 loss to the Calgary Roughnecks. "There's no way to sugar-coat it"... "They were hungry, they got a lot of loose balls," Christianson said...

Christianson said from goal-tending all the way through, the Stealth was outplayed. The Roughnecks, who squandered an 8-3 third-quarter lead to the Stealth on Jan. 12 in Calgary, played like a team looking to avenge a bitter loss.

[Update2] New Stealth owners have the business acumen - SJ Mercury News.

Shortly after Silicon Valley mavericks Bill Watkins and Steve Luczo bought the San Jose Stealth, the National Lacrosse League canceled the season because of a labor dispute. It wasn't the rousing start the owners had in mind back in September.

But with the issue resolved and the Stealth scheduled to play its home opener tonight at HP Pavilion, Watkins and Luczo have long-term plans for one of the Bay Area's least-known sports enterprises.

Sharkspage has made it to 4-of-5 Stealth home openers for the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008 seasons. The sport may be a classic example of a niche sport, with lacrosse more commonplace in Canada and on the East Coast, but the fans are passionate and the speed and physical nature of the game is entertaining.

Previously the Albany Attack from 2000-2003, the San Jose Stealth franchise moved to San Jose in 2004 and has registered a 29-35 regular season record, and a 1-2 playoff record in 4 NLL seasons. San Jose forward Jeff Zywicki was named NLL Player of the Week for the period from January 13-19th. Individual San Jose Stealth games are available this season via B2 Networks pay-per-view for $7 each.

[Update3] Roughnecks top Stealth in Friday action - NLLinsider.com.


Salmon Kings right wing Ash Goldie scores 3 goals and 3 assists, leads National Conference over American Conference 10-7 in the 2008 ECHL Allstar Game

2008 ECHL Allstar Game American Conference goaltender Justin Peters
2008 ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton
2008 ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton

Victoria Salmon Kings forward Ash Goldie thrilled 7455 hockey fans who braved one of the coldest winter storms of the year, Goldie scored 3 goals and 3 assists and finished +5 to help the National Conference overpower the American Conference 10-7 at the 2008 ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton. One day earlier, Ash Goldie became the first player in the ECHL Allstar Skills Competition's 11-year history to hit 4 targets on 4 shots in the MeiGray Group Accuracy Shooting event.

With several AHL and NHL scouts in attendance, the assembled media horde, and the Stockton Record's Scott Linesburgh, Hockeys Future and Sharkspage furiously blogging away rinkside, Goldie impressed on the big stage with a deadly accurate wrist shot. The Victoria Salmon Kings right wing generates a high shot velocity on the backhand as well as on his forehand wrist shot. "Stockton put on a great show here... this was fun to be a part of" Ash Goldie said in a post-game interview. "Peter Ferraro always seems to get the puck to you, and he kept telling me to shoot, so thats what I did."

Seventeen total goals made it a rough night to be an Allstar goaltender, but Goldie (3g, 3a, 6pts), Peter Ferraro (2g, 3a, 5pts) of Las Vegas, Oren Eizenman of Fresno (2g, 2pts), and Idaho defenseman Greg Rallo (1g, 4a, 5pts) poured on the offense for the National Conference. After 6 unanswered goals against, the American Conference tried to mount a rally against Vegas goalie Daniel Manzato in the third period but the National side never let the foot off of the gas. Wheeling Nailers defenseman Jon D'Aversa lead all American Conference scorers with 2 goals.

The 2-day Allstar festivities included a skills competition, the Allstar Game, the creation of an ECHL Hall of Fame with 4 inaugural nominees (ECHL founder Henry Brabham, inaugural commissioner and champion trophy namesake Patrick J. Kelly, 5-time allstar defenseman and league MVP Chris Valicevic, and 5-time ECHL champion Nick Vitucci), an ECHL Board of Govenors meeting, and a Fanfest celebration at the new waterside Sheraton Stockton hotel. Both days also featured a long line of fans who waited to take pictures with the NHL's Stanley Cup and the ECHL's Kelly Cup.

NHL Network announcer, former New York Rangers general manager and current Johnstown Chiefs owner Neil Smith praised the downtown Stockton Arena complex on the television broadcast of the Allstar Game. Alongside the Stockton baseball stadium and the new waterfront hotel, Smith called the Stockton Arena one of the most beautiful venues in minor league sports. In an article by Stephen Roberson of the Stockton Record, Neil Smith also mentioned that the ECHL as a whole was impressed by the Stockton Thunder's league leading attendance figures for 2 straight seasons. Averaging nearly 6800 fans per game, Stockton is on pace for a third attendance title this season.

SALMON KINGS' ASH GOLDIE STAR OF STARS!!!, Goldie named MVP of All-Star Game while setting new records! - salmonkings.com.

[Update] National Conference Takes All-Star Game, 10-7 - Stockton Thunder.

Led by Most Valuable Player Ash Goldie of Victoria, who set an ECHL All-Star Game record with six points, the National Conference beat the American Conference 10-7 in front of 7,455 fans at Stockton Arena on Wednesday...

The 10 goals is the most scored by a team since the Canada All-Stars set the record with 11 goals on Jan. 20, 1998 at Lafayette, La. and it ties the record for second-most goals set by the North All-Stars on Jan. 23, 1996 at Tallahassee, Fla.

The 17 goals by both teams is the most scored since 1998 when the teams combined for 18 goals and ties the record for second-most goals set by the teams in 1996. The two teams combined for four goals in the third period, tying the record for third-most goals by both teams in a period.

[Update2] Usual rivals Goldie, Ferraro lead Thunder’s side to victory - Stockton Record.

Goldie had a hat trick and a total of six points and Ferraro added five points as the National Conference trounced the American Conference 10-7 in front of a crowd of 7,455 who enjoyed the high-scoring exhibition contest. Thunder forward Andy Contois also gave hometown supporters something to shout about when he scored the final goal of the game for the Nationals.

"This was fantastic," Contois said. "It was a fun event, and there's a lot of good guys on this team. I think the fans appreciated it."

[Update3] Julien Ellis an all-star for Victoria - D.J. Powers for Hockeys Future.

All-star games give players an opportunity to have fun and play a competitive but friendly game. In minor leagues, it also gives them an opportunity to showcase their skills for any NHL brass in attendance as well. For the Victoria Salmon Kings goaltender Julien Ellis, it was an opportunity to do all of that in the recent ECHL All-Star Game and Skills Competition that took place on Tuesday and Wednesday at Stockton Arena.

[Update4] Neil Smith mentioned on the broadcast that the ECHL has become a true development league for the AHL and NHL. Always deep in goaltending talent, Smith mentioned that ECHL goalies can develop by seeing a lot of starts and a lot of shots on net, instead of sitting on the bench as a backup at a higher level. One of the allstar game coaches was asked if part of his job was to teach the younger players how to perform like professionals, how they need to prepare on and off the ice, and teach them what they will need to advance. The coach agreed, and with turnover a regular factor that ECHL teams have to deal with, the learning process is a continual one.

The broadcasters mentioned the size (5-foot-8, 190 pounds) and lateral mobility of Eastern Conference goaltender #33 Craig Kowalski, and he was able to make a handful of sprawling athletic saves, as well as former University of Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs. Three goalies I wanted to take a look at were the Western Conference's Daniel Manzato (Las Vegas), and the American Conference's Anton Khudobin (Texas) and Carolina's 2004 2nd round draft pick Justin Peters (Florida).

Peters displayed the raw tools that will make him a successful goaltender in the skills competion, size (6-foot-1, 213 pounds), excellent mobility and a very fast reaction time. Khudobin played with Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the Russian Super League during the lockout. Also on the Metallurg roster were Evgeni Malkin, Petr Sykora, Sergei Gonchar, Patrik Elias, and Evgeni Nabokov. Khudobin faced 17 shots on goal, and made 13 saves as the National Conference applied a lot of pressure in the 2nd period of the allstar game. The National Conference's Manzato faces 15 shots on goal, and registered 11 saves. Manzato showed excellent athleticism as the American Conference tried to come from behind in the third period, and Manzato emerged with the win.

Ash Goldie (Victoria) turned in a phenomenal performance in both days of allstar festivities, 6-foot 225-pound Igor Gongalsky (Fresno) has excellent size and good offensive instincts, and veteran forward Peter Ferraro (2 goals, 3 assists, Las Vegas) was involved in many of the offensive plays for the National Conference, Idaho's Greg Rallo finished with a goal, 4 assists, and a game high 6 shots on net. On the American Conference side, Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman Jamie Milam won the hardest shot competition with a near-100mph shot, and he was prowling in the offensive zone looking to unload it. Dayton's Yannick Tifu is the ECHL's leading scorer. Tifu kicked it into another gear when he had an opportunity around the net.

[Update5] The Stockton Record's complete ECHL Allstar section is available with a number of articles and video clips here.

[Update6] Hockeytown: As Stockton draws raves, Sacramento can only watch - Sacramento Bee.

Forty-two of the most talented minor-league hockey players in North America gathered Wednesday night to play in the ECHL All-Star Game at a sparkling waterfront arena.

Among the announced crowd of 7,455 were hundreds of Sacramento-region hockey fans, who watched snipers such as Ash Goldie of the Victoria Salmon Kings score three goals and post three assists to help the host National Conference thump the American Conference 10-7. But Sacramento Sports Commission executive director John McCasey wasn't among them...

Landwehr, a Sacramento small-business owner and Thunder season-ticket holder, said he'd like to see Sacramento get an ECHL team to compete with Stockton and other cities. "Tell the Maloofs to bring a team to town. People who've never been to a hockey game are surprised how entertaining it is," said Landwehr, a Chicago native who moved to Sacramento 27 years ago. He brings clients.

Sacramento would be a perfect location with regards to access to a large pool of hockey and general sports fans, but as Andrew McIntosh suggests in the Sacramento Bee article the lack of a suitable venue is the key. The Arco Arena for a Sharks-Blackhawks game in the 90's, one of an usual 3-games-in-a-row series between the teams, felt very similar to crowds at the Cow Palace and HP Pavilion. The arena situation in Stockton is unique, alongside the Stockton minor league baseball park and the new waterfront Sheraton hotel.

A lot of factors contributed to Stockton's success at the gates, but the need to develop a winning postseason formula should be considered a priority. The article also mentions a dormant franchise in Reno due to a lack of an appropriate facility. In reality, the loss of the Long Beach Ice Dogs franchise and the well supported San Diego Gulls franshise within the last 2 years should give the ECHL pause before considering any new West Coast teams. The ECHL's Vice President of Communications Jack Carnefix mentioned that each new team will be required to fulfill a number of staggered benchmarks, to ensure that teams will be able to function for the long term. Then there is the cost of travel, any new NHL/AHL/ECHL team on the West Coast will have much larger travel expenses and wear on players than other teams. For a minor league sports franchise, that could be a major barrier to entry.


2008 ECHL Allstar Skills Competition results and photo gallery

2008 ECHL Allstar Skills Competition in Stockton
2008 ECHL Allstar Skills Competition in Stockton
2008 ECHL Allstar Skills Competition in Stockton

The National Conference defeated the American Conference 26-25 in the 2008 ECHL Allstar Skills Competition Tuesday night in Stockton. The American Conference (Jean-Claude Sawyer, Pensacola; Travis Morin, South Carolina; David Desharnais, Cincinnati) defeated the National Conference (Peter Ferraro, Las Vegas; Keith Johnson, Utah; Justin Bourne, Utah) in the opening In Glas Co Puck Control Relay event. Yannick Tifu (Dayton) defeated the National Conference's Oren Eizenman (Fresno) for the In Glas Co Individual Puck Control Relay.

The National Conference took the CCM Vector Fastest Skater title, with an average lap time of (14.66). Stockton Thunder left wing Andy Contois recorded the fastest individual National Conference time at 14.39. Charlotte's Jordan Owens recorded the fastest individual American Conference time at 14.44. Gwinnett Gladiators defenseman and American Conference assistant captain Jamie Milam took home the Rbk Hockey Hardest Shot title with a 99.3mph blast. The American Conference won the team hardest shot average 94.9mph to 91.4mph.

The U.S. Army Rapid Fire event was a difficult test for the ECHL goaltenders, and all 3 goaltenders on each side finished with a total of 21 saves on 30 shots. For the American Conference, Julien Ellis of the Victoria Salmon Kings stopped 8 of 10 shots against Ryan Menei (Mississippi) and John McNabb (Texas), Kellen Briggs of the Idaho Steelheads stopped 7 of 10 shots against Brett Hemingway (Reading) and David Desharnais (Cincinnati), and Daniel Manzato (Las Vegas) stopped 6 of 10 shot attempts against Adrian Veideman (Augusta) and Tomas Kudelka (Elmira). For the National Conference, Craig Kowalski of the Gwinnett Gladiators stopped 7 of 10 shots against Greg Rallo (Idaho) and Brian Yandle (Phoenix), Anton Khudobin of the Texas Wildcatters stopped 8 of 10 shots against Ryan MacMurchy (Stockton) and Oren Eizenman (Fresno), and Justin Peters of the Florida Everblades stopped 6 of 10 shots against Kenny MacAulay (Fresno) and Josh Soares (Alaska).

The National Conference (8-20) defeated the American Conference (7-20) in the MeiGray Group Accuracy Shooting Competition. Ash Goldie of the Victoria Salmon Kings, the National Conference's leading scorer in the ECHL regular season (7th overall), finished 4 for 4 to become the first player in 11 years of the ECHL Allstar Skills Competition to finish with a perfect mark in this event.

There was a long huddle by the referees and the scoring table after this event, but the ECHL Allstar Skills Competition came down to the wire, and the National Conference took home the Skills overall title by winning the Chase Chevrolet Breakaway Relay 21-19. Las Vegas Wranglers goaltender turned in the best Breakaway Relay performance, stopping 8 shots.

A photo gallery from the skills competition is available here.

[Update] Thunder Strikes In Skills Competition - Stockton Thunder.

[Update2] Live blogging from the ECHL All-Star events: Day 1 - Stockton Record's Scott Linesburgh blog.

Interview with Hockey Hall of Fame Keeper of the Stanley Cup Mike Bolt

Mike Bolt, one of three Hockey Hall of Fame Keepers of the Cup, answered a few questions about the Stanley Cup Tuesday prior to the 2008 ECHL Allstar Skills Competition in Stockton, California. Bolt talked about the history of professional sports most hallowed trophy, the process for adding Stanley Cup champions and retiring older rings to the Hockey Hall of Fame, described a few notable features including misspellings of the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and a crossed out Basil Pocklington, and recounted travel stories including a trip to visit Canadian and international troops in Afghanistan.

Interesting Stanley Cup facts from NHL.com:

The Stanley Cup was originally presented in 1893. Made in Sheffield England, the Stanley Cup was originally purchased for 10 guineas ($48.67 at the time) in 1892. The trophy contains the engraving, "From Stanley Of Preston". In order to have your name engraved on the Stanley Cup, you must have played 41 games played with the Cup winning team, or 1 Stanley Cup Final game, although special circumstances may allow a rare exception.

Montreal Canadiens forward Henri Richard is the player with his name engraved on the Cup the most, appearing after 11 Stanley Cup Championships. Jean Beliveau's name appears the most in total, 10 times as a player, and 7 times in various managerial roles. A second replica Stanley Cup resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but the orignal bearing an authentication mark is the one players lift over there heads after a Stanley Cup Championship.

One name has been crossed out, "Basil Pocklington", who was the father of Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington. Adam Deadmarsh's name was misspelled "Adam Deadmarch", but it has since been corrected. Jacques Plante's name has been misspelled five times (Jocko, Jack, Plant), Bob Gainey's name was misspelled "Gainy", and Ted Kennedy's name was misspelled "Kennedyy". Three francise names have been misspelled, the New York Islanders were labeled the "Ilanders" in 1980-81, the 1971-72 Boston Bruins were labeled the " "Bqstqn" Bruins, and the 1962-63 Toronto Maple Leafs appeared as the Toronto Maple "Leaes".

The three "Keepers of the Stanley Cup", including Keeper of the Cup Mike Bolt, Keeper of the Cup Walt Neubrand, and Hockey Hall of Fame Vice-President and Resource Centre and Curator Phil Pritchard published a collection of Stanley Cup travel stories last October titled Travels with Stanley. One of the ECHL referees for the 2008 Allstar Game brought a copy of the the book for Mike Bolt to sign, and he pointed to the first photo of the Stanley Cup at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida as his favorite. More background on the Keepers of the Cup is available from the Hockey Hall of Fame's Stanley Cup Journal.

A link to the video is available here.

[Update] One awesome job - NHL.com.

While in midtown Manhattan, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said to him, "You've got an awesome job." "I'm thinking, 'Gary Bettman's got an awesome job, and he does an awesome job,' when I realized he's right. I do have an awesome job," Bolt said...

Bolt is one of three Hockey Hall of Fame employees who transport and protect the Stanley Cup as it travels for more than 300 days a year to be displayed at hospitals, charity fundraisers, NHL arenas and local hockey rinks, players' hometowns and other venues.


Stockton prepares for 2008 ECHL Allstar Game and Skills Competition

Stockton Thunder ECHL hockey fans

The city of Stockton is gearing up to host the 2008 ECHL Allstar skills competition today at 7:05PM, and the 2008 ECHL Allstar Game Wednesday at 7:05PM. The ECHL ASG will be broadcast for the sixth consecutive year on the NHL Network, and available for the first time will be a free internet stream via B2 Networks. In addition to live coverage on XM radio (channel 206), the game will also be available on KSTN 1420AM and ESPN Radio 970AM locally in Stockton.

The NHL's Stanley Cup and the Patrick J. Kelly Cup will be on display side-by-side at all of the events. On Wednesday January 23rd, the ECHL will induct its first ever Hall of Fame class. Henry Brabham, Patrick J. Kelly, Nick Vitucci and Chris Valicevic will honored at a pregame luncheon for their contributions to the ECHL.

The skills competition Tuesday night will consist of a puck control relay, a fastest skater competition, a rapid fire event that will test the allstar goaltenders quick reflexes, a hardest shot competition (Jon Awe of the Gwinnett Gladiators holds the record with a 102.2MPH slapshot in 2007), a shooting accuracy competition with 4 targets in each corner of the goal, and a breakaway relay.

Representing the National Conference in the Allstar Game on Wednesday will be Stockton Thunder defenseman Brad Farynuk, right wing Ryan MacMurchy and left wing Andy Contois (replacing an injured Jacob Micflikier), Fresno Falcons center Oren Eizenman, left wing Igor Gongalsky, and defenseman Kenny MacAulay, and Bakersfield Condors forward Todd Griffith and defenseman Kevin Truelson. Peter Ferraro of Las Vegas will serve as the National Conference captain, with Ash Goldie of Victoria and Darrel Hay of Idaho as assistant captains. Oren Eizeman (8th - 36GP, 20G, 23A) and Ash Goldie (10th - 38GP, 22G, 20A) are the only National Conference players in the top 10 for ECHL scoring leaders.

The American Conference will be captained by John McNabb of Texas, with Aaaron Slatterngren of Augusta and defenseman Jamie Milam of Gwinnett as assistant captains. The Atlanta Thrashers ECHL affiliate Gwinnett Gladiatorswill be represented by the aforementioned Jamie Milam, as well 5-8, 190 pound goaltender Craig Kowalski out of Clinton Township Michigan. Also on the American side is Texas goaltender Anton Khudobin, out of Ust-Kamenogorsk Kazakhstan (also the home town of San Jose Sharks goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Dmitri Patzold). The ECHL points leader Yannick Tifu (33GP, 12G, 40A) of the Dayton Bombers, and goal scoring leader Aaron Slattengren (33GP, 28G, 16A), will also face off against the National side.

Visit stocktonthunder.com or the ECHL Allstar Game section for more information. More notes and photos will be posted soon, I am on the road to Stockton.

[Update] All-Star festivities begin with today's Skills Competition - Stockton Record.

Andy Contois feels the most important part of the all-star experience is for the fans to have a good time. But winning something would still be nice.

Contois will join Stockton Thunder teammates Ryan MacMurchy and Brad Farynuk and players from around the league will take part in the ECHL All-Star Game and events, which begin with the Skills Competition at 7 p.m. today at Stockton Arena. The All-Star Game between the American and National Conference squads is at 7 p.m. Wednesday.


Kitchen sink dropped on Sharks in 6-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings

San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings goaltender Dominik Hasek
San Jose Sharks Milan Michalek hockey photo

The difference between where the San Jose Sharks are at as a team now, and where they need to be in order to become a Stanley Cup favorite, became readily apparent in a 6-3 loss to the league leading Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night.

The Sharks were held without a shot for over 17 minutes to start the first period. Matt Carle wristed the puck on Dominik Hasek from 30+ feet out to register the only shot on goal after 20 minutes. The second period served as a showcase for the Detroit power play, as the Red Wings saw a 4-on-3, multiple 5-on-3's, and even a 6-on-3 man advantage with Hasek off the ice on a delayed penalty. The Sharks were called for 3 minor penalties and 1 double minor high sticking penalty during a nearly 5 minute stretch in the second.

The third period was the appropriate time in the game for Detroit to put San Jose out of its misery. One of the fundamental reasons the Red Wings are at the top of the NHL, is that everyone buys into the system. From Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom on down, they skate as hard and play with as much tenacity on defense as they do on offense. Pavel Datsyuk routinely drove the net looking for a scoring chance, only to turn and make up 10-15 feet on an opponent and break up a play on the other side of the ice with a solid backcheck.

The Sharks worked hard to come from behind after a goal by Henrik Zetterberg in the first period, and a short-handed tally by Kris Draper at the start of the second. Devin Setoguchi, playing his first game since being called up from Worcester, scored along with Jonathan Cheechoo (PP) to tie the game at 2-2 almost 8 minutes into the second period. Niklas Kronwall silenced one of the loudest crowds of the year at HP Pavilion with a goal at the midpoint of the second period. Then an avalanche of Sharks penalties resulted in back-to-back power play goals by Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom. Steve Bernier scored a power play goal in the third, and Dan Cleary answered for Detroit to give the Red Wings a 6-3 win.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube highlights from the game are available here.

A play-by-play review of the game:

For one of the biggest home games of the season in San Jose, the Sharks face the team that knocked them out of the Western Conference semi-finals last year. The Detroit Red Wings (34-10-4) are the top team in the Western Conference, and they have defeated the San Jose Sharks (25-14-7) in their previous 2 meetings this season. The Sharks have lost three straight games, and have not lost 4 in a row all season. The final matchup of the 4-game series will be played in Detroit February 29th.

The goalie rotation for Detroit appears to be over, with Dominik Hasek getting a consecutive start over Chris Osgood. Dominik Hasek is 11-2-1 in his last 14 starts. Mlive's Ansar Khan reports that Osgood will get the start on the next leg of their road trip in Los Angeles. An onthewings.com reader notes that 6 of Jeremy's Roenick's 9 goals this season have been game winners.

Opera singer Carlos Aguilar sang a nice rendition of the national anthem, with images of Martin Luthur King Jr displayed alongside the U.S. flag on the high definition scoreboard.

Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Joe Thornton, Christian Ehrhoff, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Evgeni Nabokov comprise the starting lineup for San Jose. Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Brian Rafalski will start for Detroit. Alexei Semenov, Marcel Goc and Rob Davison are scratches for the Sharks. Matt Ellis, Derek Meech, and Dallas Drake are scratches for the Red Wings.

Patrick Rissmiller with a solid body check at center ice. Torrey Mitchell tried to check someone along the boards and his momentum almost carried him over onto the Detroit Red Wings bench. Dan Cleary gets a quick pass from the corner, and snaps the best scoring chance for Detroit in the first five minutes of the game. After the play is moved up along the left boards, Cleary checked Setoguchi to the ice away from the play at the top of the zone. No penalty.

Milan Michalek and Tomas Holmstrom trading shots before the drop of the puck. Micahalek gets the puck deep, and Steve Bernier misses the initial check on Brian Rafalski. Joe Thornton comes in behind Bernier, and Rafalski takes the hit to move the puck out of the zone. Puck instantly transitioned up ice. Lidstrom carries the puck into the zone, and passes to Pavel Datsyuk in the corner. Datsyuk not only has eyes on the back of his head, he has another set on each side as well. Datsyuk flips a backhand pass from the corner, across the crease, to a wide open Henrik Zetterberg at the side of the net.

The pass is reminiscent of Joe Thornton's impressive backhand feed to Patrick Marleau in Dallas. The radio crew in San Jose say the goal was not Evgeni Nabokov's fault, and to be honest the same could be said of the forwards trying to initiate a strong forecheck on the play as well. The play was just too good by Detroit, and San Jose will have to match this level of skill in order to prevail at home.

Watching the replay, both Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic converged on Datsyuk in the corner, and the pass found its way passed Milan Michalek as well. Henrik Zetterberg beat a backchecking Steve Bernier to the front of the crease to hammer the puck into an open net. Zetterberg was Michalek's assignment, but he did not see him come down the left side until the goal was scored.

Interesting stat from the Fox Sports Bay Area broadcast, most NHL games played by a U.S.-born player: Chris Chelios 1592, Phil Housley 1495, Jeremy Roenick 1292. FSNBA also mentioned Chris Chelios will turn 46 next week. The Detroit Red Wings outshot the Sharks 7-1 after 20 minutes, but were outhit by San Jose 15-7.

Center Valtteri Filppula hits Torrey Mitchell in the face with a stick before checking him up against the glass. Filppula is given a 4-minute high sticking double minor penalty. The passing by San Jose is scattered and a little panicked in the Detroit Red Wings defensive zone. Nicklas Lidstrom chops at a puck deep in the corner and hits Dan Cleary with what looks like an 80+ foot pass. Cleary is knocked off the puck on a nice check from Matt Carle, but Patrick Marleau also moves towards Carle. Puck bounces wide and is gathered by Kris Draper, who skates in, stops, and slaps a puck by Evgeni Nabokov high glove side. Score 2-0 Detroit.

Sharks respond a little over 30 seconds later, and give life to a dejected HP Pavilion crowd. Sharks get the puck deep behind Dominik Hasek, and dig the puck out of the corner as he tries to play it. Puck moved up to Sandis Ozolinsh at the point. After a back and forth with Craig Rivet at the point, Ozolinsh fires the puck a foot or two wide and Devin Setoguchi tips it on his backhand passed Hasek. Dominik Hasek has skated out to center ice after the goal, and is arguing that the goal did not go in the net. The puck bounced off of the inside side of the net, but he is giving his team an extended period of time to rest. No penalty on Hasek for delay of game after more than 2 minutes of discussion at center ice.

Pressure by San Jose in front of the Detroit net, the Sharks fans are getting louder with each passing shift. Joe Thornton controls the puck with one hand on the stick behind the Red Wings net. Thornton throws an elbow at Kronvall, and then reverses direction. Kronwall given a 2-minute holding penalty as he tries to hang on.

Power play faceoff in the Detroit defensive zone, Thornton vs Zetterberg. Zetterberg wins the draw back against the boards, but Michalek stalls possession, and ends up scoring a takedown on Nicklas Lidstrom. A hand pass is called on San Jose, faceoff in the neutral zone won by San Jose. Third attempt trying to break into the zone, Roenick feeds Marleau with a cross ice pass just inside of the Detroit blue line. Marleau drops the puck back to Sandis Ozolinsh. Driving the net, Ozolinsh passes the puck wide left to Jonathan Cheechoo, who manages to corral it with an outstretched stick. Cheechoo brings the puck behind the net, stops, and tucks the puck around the near post. Hasek started to turn and move his body far side, and Cheechoo caught him cheating on the play to tie the game at 2-2 with a power play goal.

One shift after sustained offensive pressure in front of Hasek, Draper gets the puck deep in the Sharks zone. Franzen wins a 1-on-1 battle for the puck and the Wings keep possession. Franzen wrists a puck on net, as Jiri Hudler crashes into Evgeni Nabokov. Patrick Marleau is trying to check Hudler. The puck finds a hole and deflects passed Nabokov. Nicklas Kronwall backhands it from behind the goal line, off of Sandis Ozolinsh's stick and into the net. Score 3-2 Detroit Red Wings.

The parade of penalties begins. Jeremey Roenick was called for a double minor on a high stick to the face of Jiri Hudler. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff took down Johan Franzen with a hook, and the Detroit Red Wings were given a 2-minute 5-on-3 opportunity, followed by another 2 minutes with a regular 5-on-4 man advantage. Tomas Holmstrom is called for setting a pick Douglas Murray, 2 minutes interference. 4-on-3 for Detroit. With Dan Cleary setting a screen in front, the NHL's top scoring defenseman slaps a shot up over the blocker of Evgeni Nabokov. Score 4-2 Detroit. Both teams will skate 4-on-4 for 2 minutes.

As the Sharks move the puck around behind Dominik Hasek. Chrisian Ehrhoff taps the left leg pad of Hasek after he has already skated passed him. Hasek flops to the ice like he has been shot by a sniper in the rafters. Fans boo Hasek every time he touches the puck for the rest of the game after this flagrant dive. Horrible officiating, missed calls, and incorrect calls have been made on both teams. Hasek left the ice on the delayed penalty, and the Wings briefly had a 6-on-3.

Another 4-on-3 for over 1:12, good puck control and excellent perimeter movement by Detroit. Point shot on net, Johan Franzen takes several whacks at the puck before Nabokov can freeze the play. Rivet delivered an intial shot to Franzen, but Vlasic was not strong enough to keep Franzen from getting an extra scoring chance on the play.

Faceoff win by Detroit, and another penalty is called on the Sharks. Not technically as bad a call by the officials as the Ehrhoff penalty, but Torrey Mitchell bounces his right glove off of Henrik Zetterberg's face. The call itself is a valid one, but the officials are letting flagarant penalties go, innocous plays are called, and one of the worst flops of the season by Hasek is a highlight reel mistake. The Red Wings have an extended 5-on-3, again. A point shot by Brian Rafalski is delfected by Nabokov by Tomas Holmstrom, who appears cemented to the front of the crease. Score 5-2 Detroit.

A 5-on-3 clearing attempt is blocked by an official and kept in the zone. The Sharks are able to collapse in front of Nabokov, and eventually clear the puck. Detroit finishes with a brief 5-on-4, but San Jose is able to kill it off an return to even strength.

Detroit outshot the Sharks 24-9 after two periods, outdrew the Sharks on faceoffs 26-22, and scored 2 goals on 5 power play opportunities. The Sharks blocked 10 shots to Detroit's 6, and scored 2 goals on 3 power play opportunities. The Sharks took 4 minor penalties for 10 penalty minutes in the second period. Detroit took 4 minor penalties for 8 penalty minutes, and scored one goal short handed by Kris Draper at the start of the second. San Jose Sharks 2-12-2 when trailing after 2 periods.

Sharks begin the third with a 1:54 left in the Lidstrom delay of game penalty. Sandis Ozolinsh carries the puck in the zone past several Red Wings, and dishes to Milan Michalek who has a head of steam on the left wing. Michalek chops the puck on net, and it bounces off of Hasek and drops to the left of his prone body. Bernier tosses Franzen to the side, but his stick is tied up by another player in front. Puck is at Bernier's feet, and Ozolinsh skates in and pokes it off of Hasek's leg into the right corner. Michalek corrals the rebound, banks it off of a prone Hasek (who is still doing snow angels in the crease), and Bernier converts the rebound. Score 5-3 Detroit. Hasek complains to the referees about interference after the play.

Another interesting stat by Fox Sports net Bay Area, most Norris Trophies Alltime: Bobby Orr 8, Doug Harvey 7, Ray Bourque 5, Nicklas Lidstrom 5.

Goal by Detroit right wing Dan Cleary, who has put forth a workmanlike effort against San Jose. Lidstrom comes up with another world class pass to hit Henrik Zetterberg in stride through the neutral zone. Lidstrom moved from the left to right side to support his defensive partner, then lifted the puck in the air to get it by a Sharks forward. Zetterberg skates down the right wing with Cleary for a 2-on-1. Rivet plays the shot, Zetterberg hits Cleary with a laser of a pass, and Cleary one-times it blocker side before Evgeni Nabokov can get over. Score 6-3 Detroit.

The Harlem Globetrotters played the Washington Generals at HP Pavilion for a 1PM game. The Sharks-Wings started at 7:30PM, with a half hour pre-game warmup. The ice conditions were not ideal, but the Detroit Red Wings at times made the Sharks look like the Washington Generals, trick passes, quick run-and-gun breakouts, and fluke goals included.

"We regained our composure. We had a great couple of shifts that could have made it 3-2. Then we made a colossal blunder in our end. It is 3-2. Back-to-back-to-back penalties, the one on Torrey on a faceoff... I didn't think that was a penalty. But the other ones, Christian took two bad penalties. It didn't allow us a chance to get back into the game. You give them 4-on-3's and 5-on-3's for nearly 4 or 5 minutes, they are going to turn the lights out on you in a hurry".

"They are a really good team, but the first period we did not really compete as hard as we needed to. We stood around and watched them. They didn't really get any scoring chances, but we only had 1 shot. We didn't really get a scoring chance. The second period was a lot better from an offensive point of view, but we dug a huge hole with the bad penalties.

"I thought we had a pretty good night. We only gave up 18 shots on the road. We played intelligently... Sometimes it doesn’t go your way. The guy scored from below the goal, it was a bit of a cheapie. At that point I felt that we got back at it. (Niklas) Kronvall just went to the net and that’s what you have to do. And then at that point we got on the power-play and then the game was over. That was a big sixth goal too."

"I thought our power-play was really good. We hadn’t been as good on the power-play lately. The past few games, we’ve had one or two good power-plays and then some horrible ones. We put something together tonight."

[Update] Red Wings 6, Sharks 3 - SJsharks.com.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Drop Thriller, 4-3

The Worcester Sharks dropped a 4-3 thriller to the Providence Bruins in front of a sellout crowd of 7,230 Saturday night in Worcester Massachusetts, at the DCU Center. Despite the huge disparity in the two teams records--Providence leads Worcester by 27 points--these two teams match up very well against each other, and that showed again last night. End to end action and huge hits ruled the night as both showed why their Route 146 rivalry may be one of the best in the American Hockey League.

Worcester got on the board first as Riley Armstrong, Graham Mink, and Tom Cavanagh all crashed the net after a Tom Walsh dump in. Cavanagh grabbed a lose puck just outside the crease and flipped it over P-Bruins netminder Jordan Sigalet.

Providence would tie it 1-1 under three minutes later when Matt Lashoff managed to fire off a low wrister that Armstrong dove to block but missed, and it found the low corner as Cavanagh screened WorSharks goaltender Dimitri Patzold.

The P-Bruins would take the lead with five minutes remaining in the period when left winger Aaron Slattengren fired a pass from the left of Patzold and into the slot where Nate Thompson and Cavanagh were battling. How the puck ended up in the net is anyone's guess--replay was inconclusive--but in the net it was. Patzold and Mink both argued the puck was batted in by Thompson's hand, but after a very brief conference with the linesmen referee Jeff Smith ruled the goal good.

As the kids in attendance counted down the clock it look as if the period would end with Providence in the lead, the WorSharks mounted an odd little flurry with under five seconds left in the period. With three WorSharks players and four P-Bruins in the slot all fighting for position, and Sigalet low along the ice with his stick to block anything along the ice, Thomas Plihal flipped the lose puck over everyone from the right face off circle and into the net as the horn sounded.

Referee Smith, standing directly on the goal line to the left of Sigalet, immediately began signalling the goal was good despite the green light being on. How close was it? The replay taken at ice level from behind Plihal shown on the jumbo-tron showed the puck in the air past the goal line just as the green light when on. Officially the goal was scored at 19:59; unofficially it was probably 19:59.9999.

The second period proved to be the difference, and unfortunately for Team Teal the period belonged to the boys in black and gold.

At the midpoint of the period Providence would take the lead when former Worcester IceCat Jeff Hoggan tapped a lose puck into the net, and then the P-Bruins would make it 4-2 after Martins Karsums blasted the rebound of a Slattengren shot past a stretching Patzold. The WorSharks were outshot 16-9 in the period, and were it not for a couple nice saves by Patzold the game would have been out of reach.

Ashton Rome got the WorSharks within one half was through the final stanza with a wicked wrist shot through a crowd and over the flashing glove of Sigalet into the upper corner to make the score 4-3.

Worcester would pull Patzold with a minute to go but despite two great opportunities couldn't ring the lamp to tie the game. Patzold finished the game with 36 saves, and deserved a batter fate than a regulation loss.

Worcester scratches were Marc Busenburg (upper body), Mike Morris (undisclosed injury), Nate Raduns (healthy), Jonathan Tremblay (healthy).

In the next month the WorSharks play just one home game, on February 2 vs Manchester. That home game breaks up what would be an 11 game road trip. They play five before and six after the Manchester game. The All Star break is also thrown in there for good measure.

The ice was an issue again last night, with players falling all over the place at the beginning of each period. The end that appeared to be the worst was the one the WorSharks attack twice, with small chunks coming up during play. The fact the Zamboni missed a small section during the first intermission didn't help matters either.

This space occasionally talks about how poorly some of the officiating has been, so allow me to mention what a great game Jeff Smith called. He let the teams play and let them decide the outcome by not calling ticky-tack penalties. You can't ask for anything more from an official.

The three stars of the game were
1. Slattengren (2a, +3)
2. Rome (1g,1a)
3. Hoggan (1g,1a)
My vote would have been Slattengren, Rome, Patzold

Derek Joslin was held without a shot in goal for the first time since December 8th vs Hartford.

The Worcester Sharks Booster Club announced their Player of the Month for both November and December. Mike Iggulden was the November winner, while Lukas Kaspar took the December honors.

To answer a question I've received several times since the end of the Pirates/WorSharks shootout about why some players shot twice...in the NHL you must go through every eligible player before one can shoot a second time. In the AHL, they use five shooters and only those players can shoot unless one needs to be replaced due to injury. Once all five have shot the team chooses one of those five to shoot a second time. If another shot needs to be taken the team selects one of the four remaining shooters until the list of five is exhausted again, in which case the team can then select any of the original five. All players on the list must shoot a second time before any can shoot a third, and so on. Once the first round is over those five can shoot in any order the team wishes.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Cavanagh 3-2/1-1/5-1 = 9-4
Plihal 2-0/3-4/3-3 = 8-7
Fox 1-2/2-2/6-1 = 9-5
Prudden 1-1/3-3/1-1 = 5-5
Armstrong 1-0/5-2/1-1 = 7-3
Valette 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Packard 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Kaspar waved out of only draw

Providence 2 2 0--4
Worcester 2 0 1--3

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Cavanagh, Tom 9 (Mink, Graham 16; Armstrong, Riley 8) 8:27. 2, Providence-Lashoff, Matt 5 (Hendricks, Matt 10; McQuaid, Adam 5) 11:23. 3, Providence-Thompson, Nate 6 (Slattengren, Aaron 1; Hoggan, Jeff 14) 14:59. 4, Worcester-Plihal, Tomas 5 (Rome, Ashton 8; Walsh, Tom 16) 19:59.
Penalties: None.

2nd Period
Scoring: 5, Providence-Hoggan, Jeff 16 (Trevelyan, T.J. 12; Rabbit, Wacey 12) 10:03. 6, Providence-Karsums, Martins 11 (game winner) (Slattengren, Aaron 2; Hendricks, Matt 11) 17:42.
Penalties: PRO-Zinger, Dwayne (Hooking), 5:17. PRO-Sigalet, Jonathan (Hooking), 10:59. WOR-Traverse, Patrick (Tripping), 11:59.

3rd Period
Scoring: 7, Worcester-Rome, Ashton 4 (Fox, T.J. 4; Spang, Dan 16) 11:32.
Penalties: None.

Shots On Goal
Providence 12 16 12--40
Worcester 13 9 10--32

Power Play Conversions: Providence - 0 of 1, Worcester - 0 of 2.
Goalies: Providence-Sigalet, Jordan (60:00, 32 shots, 29 saves; record: 4-0-1). Worcester-Patzold, Dimitri (59:04, 40 shots, 36 saves; record: 2-3-1).
A: 7230. Referee: Smith, Jeff. Linesmen: Paquette, Bob; MacDonald, Brian.


Interview with the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle

A busy James Mirtle, of the Globe and Mail, AOL Fanhouse, and his own hockey blog, took the time to answer a few questions about the Toronto Maple Leafs, John Ferguson, blogs, and the Anaheim Stanley Cup Championship's impact on hockey in California.

[Q] Can you describe your background in journalism, which papers you have worked for and how long you have been reporting on hockey?

[JM] My first real job in sports journalism was as an intern at The Hockey News when I first moved to Toronto, and that was a terrific, welcoming place to start. From there, I took a job out at a small paper in Alberta for a summer, caught on at the National Post as a junior reporter for a few months and was then hired on the desk at The Globe in 2005.

Before all of that, the only experiece I'd had was filing reports on the Western Hockey League for McKeen's Hockey from my hometown (Kamloops, B.C.). I grew up on junior hockey and originally went into journalism to get into riding the bus and covering it for a living.

[Q] What was the genesis of your hockey blog, how did it get started? What did you want to cover when you started, and is it similar to what you want to cover on your blog now?

[JM] I was actually just finishing grad school, and we had a guest speaker come into class named David Akin, who was then a technology reporter for The Globe and Mail and was big into blogging, both on his own site and for paper. He talked about how the blog had helped him be a better reporter, maintain contacts, that sort of thing, and how it was a wonderful tool for keeping abreast of everything going on in technology.

I figured it would work just as well for hockey, and started my site a few months later. (And Mr. Akin has gone on to become one of the top political reporters in the country.)

I don't know that I had much of a plan going in: I'd never really read blogs and didn't know much about the medium. To start I was just offering little opinion tidbits on the news of the day, but the blogosphere at the time was a pretty small place and I was learned a lot in the beginning. Once I got a handle on what I was doing, it started to take off.

Now, I just work on whatever happens to come into my head that day. Sometimes it's in response to an email, or a comment, or something I see on another blog.

[Q] Because you have created a large and influential online readership on your website, on the Globe and Mail's blog, and on AOL, how do you think it has affected your position in the newsroom? It feels like there is almost a succession plan in place with the large number of senior reporters at many Canadian papers, many with decades of experience. It seems to an outsider that your blog has helped you reach a much higher profile in a short amount of time, and with the participatory nature of a blog, a lot of your readers were able to interact with you and contribute along the way.

[JM] Well, getting into the hockey media at all in Canada is incredibly difficult, and I think the best thing about my blog is that it shows I'm willing to put an incredible amount of work 'after hours,' so to speak. I honestly don't know about any sort of a succession plan, but I'm certainly doing my best - either through the site, in the newsroom, or wherever - to establish myself as someone who could potentially pick up the torch.

The transition in moving news to the web is still very much in its infancy, and I think anyone getting into the business should be prepared to be as tech savvy as possible.

I can't explain the blog's success, but it's been a blast to work on. I love that I hear from hockey fans all over the world every day, and I think the site helps me stay plugged in and be a better journalist. On a basic level, working in the media is about serving the fans - and you can do that much better if you have a sense of who they are and what they're reading.

[Q] Last blog question, about the HNIC feature on blogs from Elliot Friedman. What were your thoughts on the segment? There were questions raised about accountability, professionalism, the lack of any blogs given regular access by Canadian teams. Kevin Allen of the PHWA called it the wild west period of blogging's infancy, and said with a blurry line between fandom and journalism it is hard for the league to get a handle on it.

In the end, I think two of the biggest stories with regards to hockey blogs in 2007 were Ted Leonsis spending $40,000 to fly 3 bloggers and a technican to Russia to cover the World Championships, and a solid year of work on your blog which I think has legitimized the medium. Eric McErlain created a mini newsroom, AOL Fanhouse offered a lighter take on the sport to balance the sometimes conservative coverage, and Paul Kukla offered a Drudge-like collection of news, but no other blog impacted the mainstream and non-mainstream coverage and readership than yours. If that leads to more bloggers delivering quality information to fans, shouldn't it be in the NHL's interest to help them improve?

[JM] I do think more NHL teams should open their doors to non-traditional coverage, especially in markets like Washington where the game's just not being seen by enough people. You can already see the benefits of having a well-developed blogosphere, as megablogs like Deadspin and FanHouse have tried to incorporate hockey coverage in the past six months or so. We even recently heard that ESPN was more interested in broadcasting hockey because of how much traffic the sport generates online.

That's pretty powerful stuff - and it means that getting into the blogosphere could potentially have major financial benefits for the league.

My general thoughts on the HNIC show are up on this post: Adventures in broadcasting, Hockey Night in Canada meets the blogosphere.

"It's really incredibly difficult in a short piece like that to make blogging relevant to such a wide, disparate audience, but Elliotte Friedman and company do a nice job. We meet some of the particulars, hear from Ted Leonsis and the Pro Hockey Writers' Association, and afterward get a nice run through of a few sites by the venerable Ron MacLean."

"It's that last bit that I believe is the single most significant part of the whole thing for the blogosphere: The fact that such respected, mainstream voices are piping up and saying "Yeah, I read blogs, and this is why" goes a long way toward legitimizing the medium. I often receive emails from hockey bloggers who are seeking credit for the way their work influences what appears in the mainstream media, and while I think some of that is overblown, it's also ridiculous to pretend the hard work of so many is not having an affect on NHL coverage."

A youtube video of the segment is available here.

In general, it was great to see a legend like Ron MacLean talk about the sites he liked and the reason he reads blogs, as I think that adds a certain amount of legitimacy to it all. I think it would have benefitted from a little more face time from yours truly (I was cut from the piece).

[Q] Maple Leafs question, the description of the current state of the franchise as a circus atmosphere has been a recurrent one in the media. With the rumors of interest in former GM Cliff Fletcher, questions about the tenure of head coach Paul Maurice, and rumors of a trades involving captain Mats Sundin or Tomas Kaberele, where do you see the Maple Leafs going from here? Is there a team identity they can build on, or do they need to start from scratch yet again?

[JM] Where are they going to go is probably, as always, a lot different than where they should go.

It really all depends on who they can get to come in and take over, because John Ferguson's end is all but a given at this point. There's certainly going to be a faction within the ownership group who, as they did last year, will push for a highly paid executive with a long resume of success, but that might involve raiding another club (which can be expensive).

If Fletcher's brought in, he's going to want a say in the hockey operations going forward, so maybe this falls to him somewhat. There really isn't any kind of team identity there, and especially not this season, as they've relied a lot of Vesa Toskala to carry the load. Toronto's already got $40-million in salary committed for next season, and that's with Mats Sundin and a few others coming off the books.

Ferguson's made quite a mess in trying to hang onto his job after this season, so whoever comes in has their work cut out for them.

[Q] What are your thoughts on the early season criticism of goaltender Vesa Toskala, who was the most critical, and what is the general consensus of his recent performance? How much time will Toronto give him to help right the franchise?

[JM] The criticism was really overblown, as it started in preseason. It was really a tough spot for him to walk into, given the playoff drought here, but I think he's actually performed admirably. In terms of the team MVP award, he's right behind Sundin this season.

I think he'll be in Toronto for his whole contract - although if they go into a full-scale rebuild, Toskala might be the one who wants out.

[Q] After watching Hockey Night in Canada up close, it was evident the impact that program has on Canada. Even more than Monday Night Football in the U.S. What are your thoughts on televised hockey broadcasts in Canada vs those in the U.S. (Versus, NBC). What could American broadcasters learn from Canada? How could the NHL as a whole get the speed and physicality of the game to better translate onto television?

[Q] I've actually been fairly happy with what I've seen of NBC and Versus so far this season. They certainly pickup some of the best on-air talent out there for the games, and with hockey, the play-by-play man really makes or breaks it. It's a difficult sport to call, but if you do it right, it can be terrific.

I think what the American broadcast could really learn from something like HNIC is the element of story telling and analysis that is brought to every game. Hockey Night is built on a strong pregame lineup of features and personalities and things like Behind The Mask, where you're learning about more than what Sean Avery said (or whatever). HNIC is a night of entertainment, and the strength of the show goes beyond when the puck's on the ice.

Too often on an American broadcast, the coverage starts as the game does and ends soon after - with little other entertainment to speak of.

As for the last question: Hockey's simply hard to televise. It is what it is, and I'm not sure there's any magic bullet to make it suddenly click for a U.S. audience that hasn't grown up watching the NHL on television.

[Q] I thought last year's regular season series between the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks was the best in the National Hockey League. Both teams were big, young, fast, and equally capable of imposing their will on opponents. Each team traded shots and tried to streamroll their opponent, but neither was able to overwhelm the other. The games were at times more like a rugby match than a hockey game.

What are your thoughts on how the play of both teams has increased interest for West Coast teams, and what do you think the lasting impact of Anaheim's Stanley Cup championship will be? What is your prediction for who will come out of the Western Conference to knock off the East in the Stanley Cup Finals again this year?

[JM] You know, it's a bit of a secret, but California's really been a success story for the NHL (especially compared to other warm-weather regions). The buildings are full in Anaheim and San Jose, and the Kings continue to draw decently despite the fact their team is awful again.

Hopefully that's the lasting impact of the Ducks' win: That the team's fan base sticks with them long term and support continues to grow in a place where many thought that wasn't possible. A championship did wonders for the Hurricanes' attendance; I expect, in the short term anyway, it'll have the same effect for Anaheim (and they've sold out every game this season so far).

I still like Minnesota in the West. I picked them to win the Cup last year and they went down in the first round against Anaheim, but I think that that team's young stars like Brent Burns, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu have helped them really take a big leap forward this season.

Detroit would be my first choice, however. If they can add a piece at the deadline, that's quite the team they've got yet again - especially with Brian Rafalski now on the blueline and the supporting cast up front maturing (Filppula's one to watch). Had they not lost Schneider and Kronwall last season in the playoffs, we may have been talking about another Red Wings championship team.

[Q] Last question, what is in store for your blog, and from the Globe and Mail for 2008? Any interesting features, interviews, or road trips in the works your readers can look forward to?

[JM] I'd really like to get out on the road and do some more coverage that way. I had the chance to get to Washington last spring and meet Ted Leonsis and a few of the bloggers, but given that was right before the playoffs started, I didn't have a chance to write much on the experience, other than a small story for The Hockey News. (On Frozen Blog link here).

The blog now has enough of a revenue base that I could spring for a trip to do some coverage once a year or so, and there are a few markets I've always wanted to go check out. Columbus and Pittsburgh are on the list just because of their proximity to Toronto, but I'm also looking into heading down south to see some games down there.

There's also the Memorial Cup in Kitchener in May, the entry draft in Ottawa in June and the Stanley Cup finals here in Toronto.

Just kidding.

More soon. Locked out of the Sharks pre-game skate at Sharks Ice in San Jose, but I am watching the Detroit Red Wings pre-game practice along with a 50-100 girls in town for the 5th annual San Jose Jr Sharks Girls/Womens MLK Hockey Tournament.

[Update] First, thanks to James for taking the time to answer a few questions. I think James Mirtle could serve as a case study in sports journalism or new media studies, and one interesting angle is that readers have been able to interact and comment on a large chunk of his reporting along the way. The comment about a succession plan for hockey reporters in Canada was in jest. I started picking up Toronto newspapers 15+ years ago to read more about the league, and today I am still reading many of the same writers. Not a bad thing by any means, but new voices and informed opinions are always interesting.

One last note, rinkside in Anaheim for one of the NHL rookie tournaments I asked a group of 10-12 year olds whether they read any hockey magazines. The answer was no. Do they ever pick up the LA Times, the Daily News, or the OC Register? A few scattered responses. Do they ever visit the Kings or Ducks official websites? A few said they check out the websites occasionally. Do they ever read any hockey blogs? All of them said yes, before rattling off James Mirtle, Off Wing Opinion, LetsgoKings, Jes Golbez, Battle of California, and a few others. Maybe it was not a representative sample, a result of the city-wide free wifi in nearby Long Beach, but worth noting nonetheless.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Drop Shootout To Portland, 4-3

The Worcester Sharks, on the strength of two third period goals by Mike Iggulden, grabbed a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Portland Pirates at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 4,217.

The WorSharks, wearing their white home jerseys instead of their traditional "Black Friday" sweaters, scored first when Lukas Kaspar got behind Pirates defenseman Eric Weinrich and took a tape to tape home run pass from Dan Spang. Kaspar beat Portland netminder Mike McKenna for a quick 1-0 lead just 54 seconds in to the contest. Riley Armstrong got the second assist.

Portland would strike twice in the next three and a half minutes to take a 2-1 lead. Their first goal was a Simon Ferguson deflected after a Weinrich blast from the blue line through a screen. The second was a deflating goal, with Portland center Stephen Dixon collecting a rebound of a Tyler Bouck shot and depositing it into a yawning net as WorSharks netminder Taylor Dakers was down and out to the right of the Worcester net.

Portland almost grabbed another goal with around five minutes to go in the first period, but Dakers just managed to get a glove on it as it bounced toward the goal line to keep the game 2-1.

Geoff Platt tallied the game's only goal in the second period after flipping a Bobby Ryan pass over Dakers, who had gone down way too early and had no chance to make the save.

While the first period saw 28 combined shots on goals, the second saw just nine. But Worcester got the highlight of the night at nearly the exact middle of the second period when Brennan Evans blasted Bouck in a huge open ice hit after Bouck tried to stick handle around Evans.

The third period was nearly all WorSharks as they peppered the Portland net in an attempt to rally from the two goal deficit, but it was a great individual effort from Mike Iggulden that got them within one. Iggulden broke in alone just ahead of the Portland defense and got off a good low shot that McKenna just got a piece of, but Iggulden followed the puck behind the goal line and wheeled the net to beat McKenna to the far post to cut the lead to 3-2.

The WorSharks almost tied it under two minutes later when Derek Joslin tried to blast a low hard pass to a Worcester forward standing all alone at the far post, but the puck banked off of three different skates and just past McKenna, catching on his skate as he went down to block the low puck. McKenna looked behind him, but the puck was instead lodged under his pad just inches from the goal line.

Worcester would finally tie the game 3-3 on Iggulden's second of the night after the WorSharks crashed the net while Portland's Petteri Wirtanen was off for holding. Both Graham Mink and Tom Cavanagh had shots from in close, and Iggulden flipped the Mink rebound over McKenna.

The WorSharks continued to crash the net for the remainder of the game, but couldn't grab that next goal to take the lead. Worcester ended regulation on the power play, including over a minute of five on three, but the Portland penalty killers stepped it up to keep the game tied at the end of regulation.

Overtime saw just three shots between the two teams with no real scoring chances, and despite two Iggulden goals in the shootout the WorSharks dropped the shootout 3-2 and the game 4-3. Platt also had two goals in the shootout for Portland, with Ryan getting the game winner on the last shot.

With the Professional Bull Riders at the DCU Center last weekend the game was played on a new sheet of ice. The kindest thing that can be said about it is it wasn't very good. With no home games between today's contest with Providence and a game vs Manchester in two weeks I expect this sheet will be melted and replaced.

Worcester scratches: Marc Busenburg (upper body injury), Mike Morris (unannounced injury), Josh Prudden (healthy), Jonathan Tremblay (healthy). Devin Setoguchi was recalled prior to the start of the game.

Bryan Marchment was behind the WorSharks bench running the forwards. David Cunniff was in his usual spot behind the defenseman. Roy Sommer stood between the two going back and forth.

Both teams used thier timeouts in almost identical situations. Portland called their's at the 17:51 mark of the second period just after Nate Raduns was called for hooking to give the Pirates a five on three advantage. Worcester called their's at at the 18:45 mark of the third period just after Brett Festerling was called for high sticking to give the WorSharks a five on three advantage. Neither team scored.

Worcester got away with a too many men penalty in overtime. While on the power play to begin overtime Worcester went with three forwards and one defender, and as the penalty expired Cavanagh went to the bench to be replaced by a defenseman. Both Spang and Kaspar jumped over the boards, with Spang playing the puck.

Speaking of Spang--while the AHL doesn't track ice time or shifts, it sure seemed like he was out there every other shift from about the four minute mark of regulation until the end of overtime.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Iggulden (2g)
2. Ryan (1a, winning shootout goal)
3. Platt (1g)
Not really an argument to be had there.

Nygel Pelletier was the referee, and the best quote about that came from another reporter on press row: "At least it isn't Chris Brown". There was 14 minors called in the game, and at least half were very borderline calls.

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Plihal 0-0/4-5/3-4 = 7-9
Cavanagh 8-4/1-5/3-2 = 12-11
Armstrong 2-2/1-2/0-0 = 3-4
Raduns 2-0/2-3/2-1 = 6-4
Fox 1-1/1-1/1-1 = 3-3
Iggulden 0-1/0-0/1-0 = 1-1

W: Iggulden: shoot 5 hole, GOAL
P: Platt: shoot high stick, GOAL
W: Raduns: shoot low stick, save
P: Ryan: lost puck
W: Mink: shoot high stick, save
P: Ebbett: shoot low glove, save
W: Armstrong: shoot low stick, save
P: Dixon: shoot high glove, save
W: Kaspar: shoot high, save
P: Kink: shoot high stick, save
W: Iggulden: goalie missed poke check, GOAL
P: Platt: shoot high glove, GOAL!
W: Mink: shoot high stick, save
P: Ryan: shoot high, GOAL
Portland wins, 3-2

Portland 2 1 0 1--4
Worcester 1 0 2 0--3

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Kaspar, Lukas 12 (Spang, Dan 15; Armstrong, Riley 7) 0:54. 2, Portland-Ferguson, Simon 2 (Weinrich, Eric 4; Ebbett, Andrew 36) 2:47. 3, Portland- Dixon, Stephen 11 (Bouck, Tyler 8; Schneider, Andy 7) 4:19.
Penalties: WOR-Valette, Craig (Elbowing), 6:18. WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Hooking), 7:32. POR-Weinrich, Eric (Tripping), 9:16. WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Tripping), 13:40.

2nd Period
Scoring: 4, Portland-Platt, Geoff 19 (Ryan, Bobby 17; Wirtanen, Petteri 20) 7:56.
Penalties: POR-Ryan, Bobby (Hooking), 1:31. WOR-Kaspar, Lukas (Interference), 3:11. POR-Bouck, Tyler (Holding), 13:57. WOR-Raduns, Nate (Hooking), 16:21. WOR- Kaspar, Lukas (Holding), 17:51.

3rd Period
Scoring: 5, Worcester-Iggulden, Mike 16 (unassisted) 4:22. 6, Worcester-Iggulden, Mike 17 (power play) (Mink, Graham 15; Cavanagh, Tom 15) 13:51.
Penalties: WOR-Evans, Brennan (Kneeing), 6:08. POR-Wirtanen, Petteri (Holding), 13:13. WOR-Staubitz, Brad (High sticking), 14:31. POR-Segal, Brandon (Tripping), 17:52. POR-Festerling, Brett (High sticking), 18:45.

Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Shots on Goal
Portland 13 5 6 1--25
Worcester 15 4 15 2--36

Power Play Conversions: Portland - 0 of 8, Worcester - 1 of 6.
Goalies: Portland-McKenna, Mike (64:55, 36 shots, 33 saves; record: 13-4-1). Worcester-Dakers, Taylor (64:37, 25 shots, 22 saves; record: 3-6-1).
A: 4217. Referee: Pelletier, Nygel. Linesmen: MacDonald, Brian; Baker, Hans.


Dallas Stars power to 4-2 win over San Jose Sharks, 3-team dogfight remains for first place in the Pacific Division

Evgeni Nabokov Dallas Stars Brenden Morrow
San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars Mike Modano goal

Any breathing room the San Jose Sharks have earned with the top road record in the NHL, and a brief resurgence at home, evaporated with the loss of 3 straight games. With the 4-2 Dallas Stars win in San Jose, the Sharks/Ducks/Stars will remain locked in a dogfight for first place in the Pacific Division for the rest of the season.

The fisrt (DAL) and second (SJ) ranked penalty kills in the National Hockey League combined to shut down all 7 combined power plays on Thursday. After killing off a first period hooking penalty on Alexei Semenov, Semenov tracked down a long clear along the boards in the neutral zone. He saucered a pass to Curtis Brown over a prone Trevor Daley. Brown wristed the puck on net, and a driving Milan Michalek beat his man to punch home the first goal of the game.

The Dallas Stars answered with left wing Loui Eriksson driving the left side. Nicklas Hagman, skating without the puck, caught a pinching Marc Edouard Vlasic and a backchecking Patrick Marleau out of position. Hagman outskated Marleau, and converted a nice pass by Eriksson high blocker side. At the end of the first period, Craig Rivet crumpled Stars captain Brenden Morrow with a check against the end boards. Morrow turned his back to Rivet at the last second, but the severity of the hit and the amount of blood were a concern.

Trevor Daley dropped the gloves with Rivet to stick up for his captain, and he was overmatched by Rivet. Referees Mike McGeough and Greg Kimmerly gave Daley a 5 minute fighting penalty, a 2 minute instigator penalty, and a 10 minute game misconduct. Rivet was given a 5 minute fighting major only. The refs must have seen a replay of the hit at intermission, and wanted to make up for the call, because they awarded Joe Pavelski an interference penalty when Marty Turco knocked the puck off of its moorings. Pavelski never approached within 5 feet of the net. Dallas could not convert on the man advantage at the start of the second period.

Perennial Shark killer Mike Modano, who earned the most points scored by a U.S. born player title after recording 2 goals against San Jose in Novermber, again proved to be a thorn in the side of the San Jose Sharks. A strong Dallas cycle in the Sharks zone, and a Hagman taking a crushing hit by Kyle McLaren, lead to the Stars second goal of the game. Hagman tipped the puck to Eriksson behind the net before being launched into the boards by McLaren. Eriksson found an unchecked Modano for a goal from in close.

Evgeni Nabokov held strong against the Dallas Stars, stopping 18 of a record 19 shots against in the second period. Joe Thornton tied the game early in the third period, as the Sharks were gaining momentum on home ice. Steve Bernier battled two players for the puck along the half boards, and drove to the front of the crease. Milan Michalek took the puck at the point and hit Thorton with a nice pass, and he wasted no time wristing a shot passed Marty Turco. Score 2-2.

Modano came back to haunt the Sharks at HP Pavilion again with his 14th goal of the season. Eriksson picked the puck from Murray and Brown in the corner, as the Sharks were on a line change, and passed it back up to the point. Modano tapped it to Robidas, who unloaded a slapshot on Evgeni Nabokov that was tipped by Hagman. Modano hammered the rebound home from 15 feet out for his second goal of the game. He silenced the loud crowd at HP Pavilion.

The Dallas Stars added an insurance goal by Jeff Halpern late in the third period. Marty Turco made 28 saves on 20 shots, and improved his record to 18-10-4 with the win. Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves on 31 shots.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] Stars in control on Sharks ice - SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] A good win - Andrews Starspage.

Anyway, back to Thursday's game. A lot of momentum shifts in this one. The Craig Rivet hit on Brenden Morrow provided a big shift the Stars' way. I thought that might be a key play, and it was a motivator according to the Stars' players. When the hit first happened my first thought was: "Is that a minor or a major?" I thought it was probably going to be a minor penalty. Still thought so after seeing the replay. Still baffled as to why there was no call, but in the end it really didn't matter.

Despite the Stars' domination in the second, the Sharks turned things around and had things going their way early in the third period. The game was up for grabs going down the stretch, the Sharks cracked and the Stars cashed in to win. This is the kind of game they needed to go their way.

Mike Heika concurs on the Dallas Morning News Dallas Stars blog. Thanks for the link DMN.

[Update2] Hit sparks Dallas Stars in 4-2 win - Dallas Morning News.

Maybe Craig Rivet did the Dallas Stars a favor. When the San Jose Sharks defenseman buried Brenden Morrow’s face into the glass in the first period Thursday, he awoke a fire that has been lacking in Dallas five-game road trip.

The victory, combined with Anaheim’s 2-1 win over Nashville, puts the Ducks in first place in the Pacific Division with 58 points. The Stars (26-18-5) end a three-game winless streak and now have 57 points. San Jose (25-14-7) has played three fewer games than the Stars and also has 57 points.

After one of the Stars first half games in San Jose last season, I labeled their game plan against the Sharks "smashmouth hockey". They try to use pressure and physical play to create turnovers and mistakes in the Sharks defensive zone. It is different from how most teams approach a game with the Sharks, except for Anaheim, and Thursday night it worked for the Stars.


Max Giese: Prospects to watch at the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic January 28th in Binghamton

Late January means Allstar events around North America, and that includes the 2008 AHL Allstar Classic in Binghamton, New York. The CCM AHL All-Star Skills Competition Jan. 27, and the All-Star Game Jan. 28 will be nationally televised on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, 20 regional networks and on NHL Center Ice in the United States, and via a B2 Networks video stream online. A schedule of airtimes is available on theahl.com.

Prospects to watch on the Canadian All-Star roster:

F Derrick Brassard, Syracuse Crunch (Columbus Blue Jackets)
If there is one prospect to keep an eye on at the 2008 AHL Allstar Classic, it is 6-foot-1 172-pound Syracuse Crunch center Derrick Brassard. The Blue Jackets 6th overall selection in the 2006 Draft is the top prospect in the AHL this season. Brassard reminds scouts of a young Joe Sakic because of his speed, release, and exceptional playmaking ability. He is NHL-ready, but Columbus is doing the right thing by being patient and letting him develop. His is going to be a fixture for the Blue Jackets for many years.

F Mike Iggulden, Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks)
The lone W-Sharks prospect at the event, 6-foot-3 215-pound center Mike Iggulden is a big goal scoring winger who can finish. Leading the Worcester Sharks in scoring with 15 goals and 22 assists in 37 games played, Iggulden effectively uses his size and a deceptive burst of speed to get around the defense and make a b-line to the net.

F Jeff Tambellini, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (New York Islanders)
The New York Islanders have allowed this fast winger time in the AHL to develop an exceptional wrist shot and a quick release. Tambellini scored 2 goals Wednesday night, including the game winner, to down the Norfolk Admirals 3-2. Tambellini has 12 points in 7 games played against Norfolk this season.

D Cam Barker, Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks)
The 3rd overall selection in the 2004 draft, Barker is a highly skilled puck moving defenseman, with an accurate shot. Capable of quarterbacking the power play, Barker has registered 4 power play goals this season, and 19 points in 29 games for the West Division leading Rockford Ice Hogs.

Prospects to watch on the Planet USA All-Star roster:

F T.J. Hensick, Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche)
Hensick dominated the collegiate game offensively, and he is beginning to do the same in the AHL. Hensick impressed in his NHL debut with the Colorado Avalanche earlier this year (15GP, 1G, 2A). What Hensick lacks in size (5-foot-10, 185 pounds), he more than makes up for in skill and awareness with the puck.

F Bobby Ryan, Portland Pirates (Anaheim Ducks)
Blessed with the size (6-foot-1, 221 pounds) and skill to overpower defenseman while stick handling through traffic, Ryan also possesses skilled hands offensive that should tab him as an elite scorer in the NHL within a couple of years.

F Robby Schremp, Springfield Falcons (Edmonton Oilers)
Schremp possesses highlight reel moves, as he is a creative play maker and can finish with the puck. Despite the amazing skill with his hands, the Springfield Falcons leading scorer (10G, 31A, 41PTS) is not in Edmonton because of his smaller frame (5-foot-11, 200 pounds), heavy feet, and poor defensive play.

D Matt Lashoff, Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins)
This skilled offensive defenseman has impressed many in the AHL with slick moves, and jaw dropping stick handling. Lashoff has been a force in the AHL with his offensive exploits, but he has struggled defensively when given the chance in the NHL.

D Brian Lee, Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators)
A smooth skating puck moving defenseman, Lee has wasted no time transitioning to the pro game after leaving college early. He has become one of the AHL's top offensive defenseman. There are rumors Ottawa may lose Wade Redden to free-agency in the summer. Brian Lee may be one of the players expected to help fill that role long term. A reliable two-way defenseman, Lee can play the point on the power play.

D Jonathan Ericsson, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings)
The last overall selection from the 2002 draft is the latest in a long line of unexpected gems the Detroit Red Wings have drafted out of Europe. If the 2002 draft was held again today, this 6-foot-5 220 pound defenseman would be selected in the first round. Blessed with a colossal frame, Ericsson is a converted forward with a strong skating stride, and puck moving abilities that shine on the power play.

G Tuukka Rask, Providence Bruins (Boston Bruins)
If Derrick Brassard is the top skater at the event, than this former Leafs first rounder is the goaltender to keep an eye on. Tuukka Rask is the top goaltending prospect in the world not playing in the NHL. Rask is incredibly athletic, and mature beyond his years. He is physically NHL-ready, and projects to be the franchise goaltender in Boston over the next decade.

G Jimmy Howard, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit Red Wings)
Detroit has waited patiently for Howard to mature into a consistent puck stopper capable of playing in the NHL, and their patience appears to be paying off. Howard has combined his natural athletic gifts with a new-found focus and consistency. He has has established himself as star goaltender at the AHL level, and one capable of filling in for Dominik Hasek when he decides to retire.

Worcester Sharks Mike Iggulden on Canadian AHL roster, but Sharks blue chip prospects Lukas Kaspar and Devin Setoguchi will watch from home:

Right Winger Mike Iggulden may have the most impressive statistics at this stage of the AHL season, and he may be the only player who can claim an AHL All-Star nomination, but he is among several top San Jose Sharks prospects competing in Worcester this year.

Worcester Sharks forwards Lukas Kaspar and Devin Setoguchi are phenomanal talents who rank highly in the Sharks organization. Both players might be on an NHL roster right now if it was not for the Sharks depth of talent up front.

Mike Iggulden's AHL All-Star game nomination is a well deserved honor. He has been a consistent offensive force for Worcester, despite having to play with different linemates nearly every evening. For a player to go from earning a try-out contract, to making the AHL Allstar game in this short a time frame is pretty special. Fans must remember that this is an All-Star game, and not a top prospects game.

[Update] The latest episode of the Power Play Post Show covering AHL hockey featured a recap of the AHL Allstar selections (former Sharks prospect Nolan Schaefer, and Binghamton Senators defenseman Brian Lee were named), an interview with Los Angeles Kings prospect Teddy Purcell (Manchester Monarchs), and interviews with Bridgeport Soundtigers radio play-by-play host Phil Giubileo, San Antonio Rampage radio play-by-play host Joe Dominey, and Lake Erie Monsters radio play-by-play host John Michael.

There is general AHL information is available on the Binghamton-based PPP show, but they also delve into Binghamton Senators and AHL Allstar game talk. The PPP Show website also has a good collection of AHL links, including a blog by Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin blogger Michael Sharp. Binghamton may be the most well represented AHL team on the internet.

[Update2] Providence Bruins head coach Scott Gordon and assistant coach Rob Murray were named as the coaches of the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team. Hamilton Bulldogs head coach Don Lever and assistant coach Ron Wilson (not San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, who will be an assistant head coach at the NHL Allstar game in Atlanta) will coach the Canadian AHL All-Star team.

The 2008 PlanetUSA AHL Allstar roster is available here, the 2008 Canadian AHL Allstar roster is available here.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks January 18th 2008 prospect report - SJsharks.com.


Phoenix Coyotes down Sharks in the desert 5-3

Earlier in the season, when the Sharks were fighting the puck and themselves in October, a stretch of 3 games in 1 week against the Coyotes was just what the doctor ordered. San Jose overpowered Phoenix winning all 3 games with a combined score of 15-1, but as they say the games were not as close as the score would suggest. The worm turned as Anaheim Ducks general manager gave the Phoenix Coyotes an early Christmas present in the form of waiver pickup Ilja Bryzgalov. The move paid immediate dividends as Bryzgalov and Shane Doan lead the Coyotes to a 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks in the very next game between the two Pacific Division rivals.

Tuesday night in Phoenix, the Sharks battled a lack of momentum to tie the score at 3-3 late in the second period. Joel Perrault and Shane Doan scored key third period goals to give the Coyotes a 5-3 win over San Jose at home, putting Phoenix on a 2-game winning streak against a historically difficult opponent.

Shane Doan is emerging as a team leader. Peter Mueller, Zbynek Michalek and Martin Hanzal are young players coming into their own for Phoenix. Steve Reinprecht is an established Shark killer. Radim Vrbata and Ed Jovanovski are second and third on the team in points. There is a lot of talent on the Phoenix Coyotes roster, and with Bryzgalov giving them a chance to win on a nightly basis they are playing together as team. 4-points out of a playoff spot, a postseason run that would have been unthinkable earlier in the season is now looking like a reality.

Center Joe Pavelski drove the net on a nice feed by Christian Ehrhoff in the first period. Jonathan Cheechoo beat two players to the rebound to slam home the first goal of the game, his 6th goal of the season. A bad line change lead to the first Phoenix goal of the game. Peter Mueller broke down the right wing and snapped a shot on net. Nabokov gave up a long rebound, and Shane Doan fired it passed the Sharks goaltender far side. Joe Thornton converted a power play goal late in the first period with Joel Perrault in the box. Thornton tried to move the puck across the slot to Matt Carle, but the puck bounced off traffic. Thornton wristed a shot through traffic that beat Bryzgalov. Score 2-1 Sharks after 20 minutes.

Ed Jovanovski opened the second period with a power play goal on a hard shot high off the post. San Jose turned the puck in the corner, Jovanovski received a pass up high at the point. Jovanovski walked around a Sharks forward, and the 2008 NHL Allstar ripped a laser passed Nabokov that had even had head coach Wayne Gretzky impressed. The Coyotes kept pressing with another goal by Mathias Tjarnqvist. Left wing Mathias Tjarnqvist came blazing down the left side, and tried to pass it to Fredrik Sjostrom in front. The puck deflected off of defenseman Matt Carle passed Evgeni Nabokov. Score 3-2 Phoenix.

The Sharks killed off a late second period hooking penalty by Curtis Brown, and it was Brown who tied the game on a scramble in front of Ilja "Bryzgalomite" Bryzgalov. Brown knocked the puck home out of mid-air, the second straight period the Sharks have scored with less than 1:30 left. After a nice entry pass by Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski gathered the puck and the side of the net and passed it to the top of the crease. The puck tipped up in the air off of Brown's skate. Brown knocks it out of the air, and off the post, for his first goal of the season. The Sharks continue forcing the play as the period winds down. Patrick Marleau unloads a hard slap shot from the right faceoff circle as time winds down.

Ilja Bryzgalov made 21 saves on 24 shots to earn the win. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves on 28 shots. Phoenix right wing Radim Vrbata suffered an injury and did not return after the first period. Steven Reinprecht left with an injury in the second period. The Coyotes snapped San Jose's 14-game road point streak with the win. The last loss the Sharks recorded without registering a point was a 2-1 regulation defeat October 27th in Columbus. Sergei Federov scored the game winner late in the second period.

Youtube highlight of the game are available here.

[Update] Doan's big night powers Coyotes, Red-hot captain collects 2 goals, 1 assist in victory over Sharks - Arizona Republic.

"The funny scenario with Shane," coach Wayne Gretzky said, "is he wants to win so badly; he works so hard to want to carry the team, and when that happens, especially early in the season, he tries to do so much.

"When he finally settles in and gets comfortable with things around him . . . just plays his game, he's a big train out there - and that's what he's doing now, running over people, going to the net, scoring big goals, killing penalties. You couldn't ask much more of a captain who cares more than anybody I've ever been around."

[Update2] Coyotes Bite Sharks 5-3 - One Fan's Perspective.

The Sharks are the predominate road team in the NHL. With a 16-3-3 record before last night's contest, the Sharks looked unstoppable. The last time they lost a road game in regulation was October 27th against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Until they met the resilient team of the Phoenix Coyotes who have learned not to quit.

After dropping three in a row against the Sharks earlier in the season, the Coyotes have regrouped and now have figured out just how to play this talented team. Best of all, they won last night's game without their top scorer of Radim Vrbata or solid veteran Steven Reinprecht who left the game due to injury.

Max Giese: Intrigue surrounds San Jose Sharks first round selections Logan Couture and Ty Wishart

Fellow Sharks first round selections, Center Logan Couture (9th overll 2007) and defenseman Ty Wishart (16th overall 2006) have both suffered through enigmatic seasons, complete with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. The talented duo of Canadian-born prospects are were tabbed as future cornerstone players, so much so that the Sharks traded multiple draft picks and players to move up and select them. The Sharks wasted no time signing both to standard three year entry level contracts before they were ready to turn pro, a trend that continued with Devin Setoguchi.

Wishart and Couture are phenomenal talents capable of becoming impact players in the NHL in the next few seasons, but there have been a few hardships they have had to endure this season. Logan Couture suffered concussion like symptoms after a hard open ice check by Mississauga's Tim Billingsley. Ty Wishart was recently traded from the Prince George Cougars to the Moose Jaw Warriors, and the media scrutiny focused on Wishart this season has been intense.

Couture and Wishart mid-season notes:

Logan Couture:
+ Increased goal production (17), leads Ottawa 67's in points (45), great leadership qualities, plays in all situations, one of the best centers in the OHL when healty. Great upside, plenty of room for him to develop his game furthur.
- Recently suffered concussion after getting hammered with a clean hit, then skated into the turnbuckle head first. Something to keep an eye on.

Ty Wishart:
Notes: Traded from the Prince George Cougars to the Moose Jaw Warriors, will join Sharks prospect Frazer McLaren (7th round 2007). Scored 11 goals and 38 assists (+15) in 62 games played for Prince George.
+ Point a game player, end-to-end rushes, power play. Size, skating, instincts. Plays in all situations, possibly too much ice time?
- Not using size, lacks urgency. Character and passion concerns. Different player since drafted.

[Update] Wishart leaves Cougars, his legacy a conflicted character - Jim Swanson for the Prince George Citizen.

[Update2] McGinn, 67's find a way without Couture - Ottawa Citizen.

Couture, the team's leading scorer with 43 points, missed last night's game and won't play in any of the weekend games because of concussion-like symptoms. He took a hard open-ice hit from Tim Billingsley of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Dec. 16 in the 67's final game before Christmas.

The hit came five minutes into the game and, after bumping heads with Billingsley, Couture left and didn't return. He experienced the symptoms while playing ball hockey during the break.

[Update3] Scouting Staff Mid-Term Meetings - SJsharks.com.

The San Jose Sharks scouting staff, led by Director of Scouting Tim Burke, recently convened in San Jose for their annual mid-term meetings. In the past, the group has met in Boston or Toronto, places closer to the location of many of the scouts and in the region where many may be watching a plethora of junior or college games.

[Update4] San Jose Sharks scout Pat Funk will be a guest coach for the 2008 USHL Prospects/All-Star Game January 29 at the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Funk is currently in his 15th season as a full-time scout for the San Jose Sharks. Before joining the staff full-time, Funk was a part-time scout on the staff of the Sharks. He also has worked on the staffs of the New York Rangers and the Minnesota North Stars. Funk was a teacher in the St. Paul (Minn.) Public Schools for 21 years and has more than 20 years of coaching experience at the high school and college levels. Funk's son John played in the USHL with the Sioux Falls Stampede during their first two seasons in the league.


Max Giese: Sharks sitting on a gold mine of goaltending prospects

San Jose Sharks goaltender Thomas Greiss

San Jose's top goaltending prospect Thomas Greiss made his NHL debut Sunday in impressive fashion. Greiss stopped 25 of 29 shots in a 4-3 loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks. The 2004 third round selection has been regarded as the future in goal for the Sharks since his jaw dropping performance with Team Germany in the 2006 Olympics. He held his own against a select group of NHL All-Stars playing for Team Canada, and he iced a similar performance with impressive saves in his NHL debut.

Greiss spent last season adjusting to the North American professional game, splitting time with fellow German Dimitri Patzold at the Sharks top AHL development affiliate in Worcester. He finished last year with a 26-15-2 record, .912SV%, and a 2.61GAA. Starting 2007-08 in Worcester, Greiss already has been called up to the San Jose Sharks twice on the strength of an impressive pre-season, which had some believing he would be the Sharks choice as a backup to Evgeni Nabokov. Greiss needed playing time to properly develop, and the decision was made that he would best be served as the #1 in Worcester instead of sitting on the bench in San Jose as a backup to NHL All-Star Evgeni Nabokov.

While the 4-3 overtime loss to Anaheim left a bitter taste, Thomas Greiss displayed the tools that leave many to think he will be the eventual successor to Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose. His athleticism and phenomenal lateral movement impressed, and a quick glove hand is already capable of robbing some of the NHL's most dangerous goal scorers. Greiss flashed aggressiveness and anticipation by coming out to challenge the Ducks shooters, and the patience of a veteran to stay on his feet with heavy traffic in front of him.

With that said, it is also obvious that Thomas Greiss is in need of more seasoning in the AHL. One should expect to see Patzold recalled shortly so Greiss can continue to receive a heavy work load in Worcester this season. Youthful exuberance caused him to overcommit to shooters at times, taking him out of position in the process. Greiss needs to develop poise, minimize his movements, and improve his puck handling skills, all of which will develop with age and practice.

The initial impression Greiss leaves isn't one saved just for the ice, he is also a quality person off of it. Greiss has a solid work ethic already in the gym and in practice. He is a competitive player, pushing himself to improve. It is clear that Greiss should prepare to be a permananent fixture in the Sharks line-up as soon as next season, and it is also clear that he is going to join names like Nabokov, Toskala, and Kipprusoff as NHL starting goaltenders that the "Goaltending Factory" in San Jose has drafted and developed.

While Thomas Greiss is the most promising and NHL-ready goaltender in the Sharks development system, he is not alone. Greiss will receive stiff competition in the coming years from several promising goaltenders coming down the pipe-line.

Timo Pielmeier
6-foot-0, 175 pounds, catches: left
St. Johns Fog Devils, 83rd overall 2007
2007-08 statistics: 16-14-2, 3.15GAA, .908SV%, 1 SO

Besides Thomas Greiss, no other Sharks goaltending prospect matches the upside that Timo Pielmeier possesses. The German netminder is a tremendous athlete, with similiar elite level lateral movement as Greiss, as well as a similar ability to anticipate the play around him. Pielmeier has suffered through mental lapses this year in his first season in North America as a Fog Devil. He has also impressed with flashes of brilliance, winning games almost on his own for his junior team in Quebec, or for his country at the Division 1 World Junior Championships where he was named goaltender of the tournament. Timo will play in the QMJHL again next season, as well as represent his homeland once again at the World Junior Championships, before turning pro in 2009.

Alex Stalock
6-foot-0, 185 pounds, catches: left
University of Minnesota Duluth, 112th overall 2005
2007-08 statistics: 5-14-3, 3.34GAA, .881SV%, 1 SO

The most athletically gifted goaltending prospect in the Sharks system also happens to be the weakest mechanically. Stalock is capable of making the phenomenal highlight reel save, but he is also prone to allowing a spft goal here and there because of errors in his style. The best puck moving goaltender in the Sharks organization outside of Evgeni Nabokov (who is very underated moving the puck), Stalock is the key reason the Bulldogs have had success this year despite a struggling offense. Stalock carried the team on his back with two shut-outs already this season. Stalock will stay in school, and be the starting goaltender for Minnesota-Duluth the next two seasons.

Tyson Sexsmith
6-foot-0, 204 pounds, catches: left
Vancouver Giants, 91st overall 2007
2007-08 statistics: 28-7-5, 2.00GAA, .906SV%, 6 SO

A true technician, with flawless mechanics and exceptional skill reading the play. Sexsmith is not blessed with the natural athletic gifts that other goaltending prospects possess, but few are as polished and as safe of a bet as Sexsmith to become at least an NHL caliber back-up goaltender. Sexsmith is among the league leaders in the WHL in goals against average, save percentage, and shut-outs with 6 in 40 games played. Like fellow 2007 draftee Pielmier, Sexsmith will be spending next season in the WHL, and possibly representing Canada at the World Junior Championships before before turning pro in 2009.

Taylor Dakers
6-1, 175 pounds, catches: left
Worcester Sharks, 140th overall 2005
2007-08 statistics: 3-6-0, 3.22GAA, .889SV%

Taylor Dakers could have turned pro last season, but he agreed to stay another year in the WHL because of a goaltending log-jam the Sharks have in the NHL and AHL. That extra year has benefitted Dakers significantly. He is developing slowly while backing up Thomas Greiss in Worcester. If the Sharks decide Thomas Greiss is ready for the NHL full time next season, it might result in Patzold's return to Germany and a larger AHL role for Dakers. Despite being lost in the shuffle this season, Dakers is still an important prospect to the Sharks, and he continues to learn the pro game in his rookie AHL season.

[Update] Sharks, Patzold get 1st shutout, Sweet sweep for Worcester - Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

[Update2] For Sharks future, Greiss is the word - Victor Chi for the Sporting News.


Toronto Maple Leafs 0-for-California, San Jose storms back with a trio of goals in third to earn a 3-2 win

Toronto Maple Leafs NHL hockey photo
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Vesa Toskala

The San Jose Sharks 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night was a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions. The Sharks extended pressure at the end of the second, and a three goal third period, were a continuation of strong play exhibited on home ice since the first game of the year against the Calgary Flames. The Toronto Maple Leafs have dropped 3 straight games on their California road trip, and 11 of the last 13 overall. Toronto is the media capital of the NHL, and right now they are as big an obstacle to a turnaround as any team they will face.

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson joked earlier this week that this game was more than a goaltender-on-goaltender duel, but Evgeni Nabokov ran his consecutive game streak to 43 games with the start, and Vesa Toskala brought his 32-10-3 record with him for his first game as a visiting goalie inside HP Pavilion. Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin beat two Sharks to a puck in the corner, and he fed Nik Antropov for a goal to open the scoring in the first period. Pavel Kubina added a power play goal early in the second on a hard slap shot that beat Evgeni Nabokov far side.

San Jose was buzzing around the Maple Leafs net at the end of the second period. It was the same type of sustained pressure and mayhem in front of the crease that the Sharks saw in the 3rd period and OT against Calgary, the first two periods against Columbus, and for 60 minutes against Vancouver. Toronto gave the Sharks 4 power play opportunities in the third period, and the Sharks took advantage. Patrick Marleau fired a rocket from the right point that deflected off traffic and Toskala's left leg pad for the first San Jose goal of the game. Marleau's 8th goal of the season made the score 2-1 Toronto at 1:09 of the third.

A 2-man advantage halfway through the third saw Patrick Marleau on the left point. Marleau fed Craig Rivet with a cross ice pass up top, and Rivet took a hard stride to his left to create a shooting lane. A booming Rivet slap shot from 48 feet out found its way through traffic and Vesa Toskala to tie the game at 2-2. Capitalizing on the large swing in momentum, and with Hall Gill exiting the penalty box, Matt Carle passed the puck down low to Jonathan Cheechoo on the left side. Cheechoo skated up the left boards and ripped a low shot on net an inch or two off of the ice. Joe Pavelski beat Tomas Kaberele for position in front, and he tipped the puck passed Toskala glove side.

Evgeni Nabokov (25-12-6) finished with 23 saves on 25 shots, earning his league leading 25th win in the process. The loss pushed Vesa Toskala's (13-13-4) record to .500, but he stopped 32 of 35 shots in a very strong performance against his former team. A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights are available here.

[Update] A brief Toronto media recap:

Damien Cox of the Toronto Star writes that the playoffs are basically out of the picture for the Maple Leafs, and that there is blood in the water for the team and the front office. Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun pointed to a 17,500 person strong power-play chomp inside HP Pavilion, adding that the Leafs pulled defeat from the jaws of victory. Hornby also makes a plea for Scott Bowman to join the Leafs. Bowman was on Hockey Night in Canada discussing his talks with the Maple Leafs prior to the start of the season.

Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post calls the Leafs California road trip disastrous, and notes the frustration of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and the possible tenous future of general manager John Ferguson and head coach Paul Maurice. Even the team picture has been canceelled. TSN reported on Scott Bowman's Saturday night interview with Hockey Night in Canada. Bowman mentioned his meetings with MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum prior to the start of the season, that he wanted full authority to turn the team around, and did not deny a future interest if the team contacted him again.

David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail points to the Maple Leafs respectable effort in San Jose, but that it still added up to another loss. Shoalts also notes that video cameras caught captain Mats Sundin making contact with one of the referees after the game, but Sundin called the contact "accidental". The Canadian Press called the San Jose comeback and the Toronto collapse inevidable, writing that a solid road win against the Sharks would assuage several months of misery for the Leafs. Be honest Canadian Press, the positives from a road win against the Sharks would last about 6 or 7 hours with the Toronto media. The CP also asked Craig Rivet to compare the media pressure between Montreal and Toronto, eliciting a very interesting response.

Don Cherry on Coach's Corner said that he alone is still on the Toronto Maple Leafs bandwagon, and that they are giving up to many shots on net. He also notes that the "jackals" in the media are circling the franchise, and that you have to have grit on your team in order to be successful.

Leafs Fall to Third Period Surge - Mapleleafs.nhl.com.

[Update2] A recap of Hockey Night in Canada's After Hours interview with Scott Oake, Kelly Hrudey, and San Jose Sharks EVP and General Manager Doug Wilson (full CBC/HNIC video available under NHL links on right sidebar):

- Doug Wilson mentioned that San Jose Director of Scouting Tim Burke and the entire Sharks scouting staff was in attendance prior to a midseason meeting and a day and a half trip to Las Vegas (the FSNBA radio crew of Dan Rusanowsky and Jamie Baker called where they were sitting "the bunker", photo here).

- Both Scott Oake and Kelly Hrudey apologized for calling Silicon Valley "Silicone" Valley last year. (Might I suggest a trip to San Jose's downtown Tech Museum. One display shows step-by-step the fabrication of a computer chip from a Silicon wafer.)

- Doug Wilson called the Sharks third period turnaround against Toronto one that was based on team character. Toronto came out with urgency after recent losses, and the Sharks knew it would be a difficult home game where they would be challenged.

- A fan in Canada asked if the Sharks would open up the offense, or if they will remain defensive minded the rest of the season. Doug Wilson responded that last year the Sharks scored 258 goals, this year the Sharks are on pace to score 50 less. That it was not a lack of effort, or a lack of talent. He stated the Sharks wanted to have a balanced, not defensive, style. Some of the players have been down, and the power play has struggled, but Wilson mentioned the Sharks would look to open it up as the season progresses.

- About Patrick Marleau, Wilson called him one of the best players in the game. He believes this year is an abberation, stating Marleau has averaged 30 goals a season the last 3 years, and he is the NHL's leading playoff scorer over the last three years, tied with Jarome Iginla at 20 goals. Doug Wilson said he is trying to do too much, trying too much to beat one guy, and that he will work his way out of it.

- Again Wilson was asked about possible trades. At Friday's practice in San Jose I walked passed Wilson as he turned down any talk of a trade during an interview. On recent web and radio interviews he has also expressed his policy not to discuss trades. Last year he turned down all questions, but he is still asked about it, and asked often. Wilson mentioned that Nabokov will not play 82 games, and that their discussions with Curtis Joseph were contingent on Dimitri Patzold not being able to clear waivers and return to the Sharks AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks. He said the Sharks have a succession play in place for their goaltending corps, and that their young netminders needed time to play.

- Doug Wilson mentioned that he was upset after last season's playoff loss to the Detroit Red Wings, because he believes that the Sharks beat themselves. The Sharks have to learn to put people away, and he believes they have added that attribute this season.

- About a lack of scoring from the blueline, Wilson said the offense is like the power play, which was first or second in the NHL last season with the same personnel. He noted the Sharks move the puck and play strong defensively, and often that is the genesis of your offense. They outnumber teams down low, move the puck with a solid first pass, and create offense on the rush or via the power play. He believes the Sharks defense has that capability, and they have an offense as strong as any in the league.

- About the team meeting scheduled after a difficult loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, Wilson mentioned that he has a good relationship with the group of players in San Jose. He said he heard what he wanted to hear, and he just wanted the players to be honest with themselves and with each other. He mentioned trying to read the body language of the players, and that there were some things he felt needed to be addressed. The players ran the meeting. Wilson mentioned he was surprised that it went 2 hours, and that his only questions is why it took so long for some of the players to address some of the issues raised.

- The rest of the interview discussed Doug Wilson's membership on the NHL competition comittee and a few of the issues they might address, his time playing with the Chicago Blackhawks with Stan Mikita as a defensive partner and Tony Esposito in net, his playing days with the Ottawa 67's and coach Brian Kilrea, about Bobby Orr and his influence on the game and on defenseman, on playing at Chicago Stadium and in front of the Chicago Blackhawks fans, winning the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman and being able to share that with his father before his death.

[Update3] Hockey Night in San Jose - Battle of California. I posted a few photos of fans watching the HNIC interview. Also scroll down this blog for recent updates.

[Update4] Send in the Clowns, Toronto's troubles are scrutinized by media and serious fans - Ross McKeon for Yahoo Sports.

All that was missing Saturday night was a parade of elephants, the big top and someone wearing oversized, bright red floppy shoes. Otherwise, there was every indication that the circus was in town. There is no other way to describe what the Toronto Maple Leafs put up with on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute basis from the horde of media assigned to cover the team.

Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. and coach Paul Maurice have endured a particularly troubling week. Both read and hear each day how their jobs are in jeopardy, how each day is probably their last, and on and on. Calm, patient and looking downright studious in his stylish glasses, Maurice was diplomatic in response to a question inquiring if it was hard to keep spirits up during such trying times.

"You guys all work hard, and some of you are very, very good at your jobs. But I don't think I've called a lot of you for input on what I should do on the power play for a reason," Maurice said, drawing a big laugh from the assembled throng.


Willie O'Ree, Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell attend Oakland youth hockey clinic

Cyril Allen Willie O'Ree youth hockey
Jonathan Cheechoo Oakland Bears hockey
Ryane Clowe Torrey Mitchell Oakland youth hockey clinic

This is the first in a series of two posts. Note: Link to the O'Ree hockey clinic photo gallery fixed.

Friday afternoon the San Jose Sharks and the Oakland Ice Center arranged a youth hockey clinic for the city of Oakland. It was held in conjunction with the NHL's 50th anniversary celebration of Willie O'Ree breaking the color barrier in hockey. O'Ree is the NHL's Director of Youth Development and Diversity Programming, and on January 18th he was called up from the Quebec Aces to play for the Boston Bruins against rival Montreal. He was the first black athlete to play in the National Hockey League. The NHL Diversity program is geared towards creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged kids to play the game.

The cost of equipment and the lack of organization/facilities is a barrier to entry in many communities, and since 1995 the NHL Diversity program has been working with 39 different youth hockey programs to address that problem. O'Ree mentioned that kids can play an entire year for as little as $50.

San Jose Sharks forwards Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell joined Boston Bruins veteran Willie O'Ree to skate around the 2 downtown rinks at Oakland Ice. On the first rink, the NHL athletes helped several disabled and special needs children skate and pose for pictures. On the second rink, a few hundred kids circled a fresh sheet of ice. Some grabbed on to any individual to stay upright, others performed a hockey stop with a sharpee and a digitial camera in hand waiting for an autograph.

Prior to the event, O'Ree filmed a television interview about the project, and in between signing autographs he filmed a few segments for local television stations. Sharks power forward Ryane Clowe mentioned that the event was incredible, and that he should be ready to return from knee surgery in about 6 weeks. Several of the kids outside the second rink blew by Jonathan Cheechoo in order to get to the stack of helmets and get on the ice.

I asked a member of the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland if hockey was a regular recreational activity they offered. The answer was no, but after this event they were going to look into it. California Berkeley college ice hockey head coach Cyril Allen also was a part of the clinic. Allen mentioned that a group he is involved with, Save Berkeley Iceland, is close to purchasing and restoring the landmark ice rink. More news should be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

It was a very special event, and hopefully a continuation of the NHL Diversity program in Oakland and the involvement of the San Jose Sharks will grow the sport in the East Bay.

A photo gallery from the January 12th youth hockey clinic is available here. Upcoming Cal Berkeley college hockey schedule at the Oakland Ice Center: ASU 1/17 @10:15PM, ASU 1/20 5PM, Stanford 2/1 8:30PM, SCU 2/15 10:15PM.

[Update] O'Ree Celebrates 50-Year Milestone - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Changing the Face of Hockey - NY Times.

These days, (O'Ree) is helping to fill a pipeline of top NHL prospects, one that includes Coleman; Florida Panthers center Anthony Stewart and his brother Chris Stewart, a right wing in the Colorado Avalanche system; and P. K. Subban, a defenseman in the Canadiens organization.

O'Ree travels throughout North America, making speeches, holding clinics and handing hockey sticks to many boys and girls for the first time. The NHL reported that it had spent $6 million on its diversity programs since funding began in 1995. The league contributes to 39 such programs, including New York's Ice Hockey in Harlem, Cincinnati's Hockey Kids in Dire Straits and Minnesota's Mariucci Inner City Hockey Association.

Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday morning pre-game skate in San Jose

Toronto Maple Leafs NHL goaltender Vesa Toskala
Mats Sundin Toronto Maple Leafs
Toskala vs Nabokov

The Toronto Maple Leafs (16-20-8, 5th Northeast) hit the ice at HP Pavilion for a pre-game skate in San Jose Saturday morning, part of a rare Toronto road trip to the West Coast. The Maple Leafs have struggled in 2008, dropping 4 straight games after a January 1st win over last placed Tampa Bay. Their trip to the Golden State has not been a pleasant one, losing back-to-back games 5-0 to Anaheim and 5-2 to Los Angeles. In both games Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft combined to stop only 38 of 48 total shots.

During Saturday's practice, the Maple Leafs began with a light skate followed by breakout passes from center ice down the wing. They worked on picking the puck off the boards, taking a couple hard strides and getting a shot on net, and finished with quick cuts in close followed by a shot on goal.

I missed the Sharks pre-game skate this morning, so I will default to Mercury News beat reporter David Pollak's Working the Corners blog: Cujo to Sharks? No. Vesa vs. Sharks? Yes. Pollak followed up on the TSN trade rumors involving the San Jose Sharks interest in veteran free agent goaltender Curtis Joseph. The Sharks had spoken with Curtis Joseph's agent, but after goaltender Dimitri Patzold cleared waivers and was sent down to the AHL Worcester Sharks, the discussions ceased.

Pollak also noted that Vesa Toskala had dinner last night with teammate Mats Sundin, and former San Jose Sharks teammates Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray. During lunch yesterday, Max Giese and I saw Toskala and Toronto defenseman Wade Belak outside the Hotel Valencia in the Santana Row complex.

Friday's San Jose Sharks practice at Sharks Ice in San Jose was closed to the public. The team practiced in front local grade school students as part of the Fremont Bank Reading is Cool program. Teachers were given a hockey related lesson plan highlighting the importance of reading, and students participated in a question and answer session with individual Sharks players.

During the Friday practice, the Sharks worked on rebounds after shots against the end boards, one timers, and tips in front of the net. Thomas Griess also spent time working on shootout drills, and working on his poke check. Max Giese notes that he worked on his lateral movement and stick work, and facing breakaways down the wing. Thomas's athleticism and speed are glaringly evident, and the organization appears to have a lot of confidence in the "goalie of the future". In 23 games played for the AHL Worcester Sharks affiliate, Thomas Griess registered a 12-10-0-1 record, a 3.03 goals against average, and a .900 save percentage.

[Update] Full Panic Mode - Pogge to the Rescue - Damien Cox Friday for the Toronto Star.

As first reported by The Star, the Leafs summoned blue-chip goaltending prospect Justin Pogge from the minors after last night's appalling 5-2 loss to Los Angeles, possibly setting Pogge up to start tomorrow night in San Jose. No. 1 netminder Vesa Toskala has suffered a relapse in his ongoing battle with groin problems after being recklessly forced into action for the final two periods of the embarrassing loss to the Kings...

Meanwhile, confusion reigned this morning in the Leaf camp. Practice was cancelled, which was a surprise to some of the most senior members of the team, including captain Mats Sundin. There is growing speculation head coach Paul Maurice could be in jeopardy after desultory way in which the club responded to a critical game against the Kings, as well as the manner in which Toskala was rushed back into service last night after the Leafs were already down 4-0.

An update from Damien Cox was available in today's Toronto Star. Cox writes that GM John Ferguson's time is winding down, and that the GM does not have the authority to fire head coach Paul Maurice.

[Update2] A massive amount of column inches and pixels today from the Globe and Mail: David Shoalts notes that Vesa Toskala will face Evgeni Nabokov today in San Jose, Shoalts also reports that Toronto GM John Ferguson may be on his way out, Eric Duhatshek believes it may be time to blow up the team, and Shoalts also reports that 36-year old Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin will also sit out the 2008 NHL Allstar Game in Atlanta in order to use the time to rest. Defenseman Tomas Kaberle will participate in his place.

[Update3] Not a lot of fun in Leafland - National Post.

[Note] A short recap of the the Vancouver Canucks game, notes from the Friday hockey clinic with Willie O'Ree, and from the Maple Leafs pre-game skate will be posted throughout the day. Reload this page often. A photo gallery from the Maple Leafs pre-game skate is available here, a photo gallery from the O'Ree hockey clinic in Oakland with Clowe, Cheechoo and Mitchell is up here.


Sharks dominant in 3-1 win over Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks, move into 2nd place overall in Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks NHL photo

The Sharks came out determined and almost angry Thursday night at HP Pavilion en route to a 3-1 win over the Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks. Right wing Jonathan Cheechoo had one of his best games of the season, forechecking hard and crashing the net with intensity. The Sharks outshot Vancouver 31-21, scored 2 power play goals on 7 opportunities, and outskated the Canucks as they swept the season 4-game series.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet scored a goal on an odd man rush, and registered an assist. Rivet has earned 4 points in his last 3 games, including 2 goals for the goal starved blueline. Jeremy Roenick contributed a power play goal in the second period, which would turn out to be his 6th game winning goal of the season. Milan Michalek scored his 14th of the season on a third period power play. Vancouver center Ryan Kesler scored a late goal for the Canucks in the third period to disrupt the shutout opportunity. Evgeni Nabokov earned his 24th win of the season, making 20 saves on 21 shots.

Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Grier, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were on the penalty kill for a 5-on-3 late in the first period. An active stick by Vlasic cleared the puck on a quality scoring chance by Vancouver. Mike Grier blocked the puck in front, and then carried the puck into the zone to take more time off of the clock. His shorthanded breakaway opportunity was broken up after the puck was checked off of his stick. The Sharks killed both of the Vancouver Canucks power plays in the game, and remain 2nd overall in the NHL on the PK.

Sporting News columnist Victor Chi was a second intermission guest on Vancouver's Team 1040 radio broadcast. Chi mentioned that there were signs of San Jose problems on home ice last season, but that the home-road disparity this season was much greater. He also mentioned that the comfort level for the San Jose Sharks players is greater on the road (good for playoffs), but the feeling with the team is that it will even out over the course of the season. One of the broadcaster's asked if the window of opportunity was now for San Jose to win a Stanley Cup, and Chi said that the window will be open for as long as Joe Thornton is a Shark. He also talked about Nabokov being lights out, and the Sharks lack of secondary scoring with Marleau and Cheechoo struggling. He also pointed out the power play drop off, after it being the bread and butter for the team in past seasons.

Sharkspage's Max Giese in the lower bowl for the game mentioned the difference in the power play. Joe Thornton is moving his feet, and mixing up his position not just setting up on the half wall. Noted that his move into the slot created open spaces and shooting lanes for teammates, and that if it continues the power play will improve. Max also pointed to the excellent perimeter puck movement.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights are available here.

[Update] Sharks are still dominating, Luongo and Co. have no chance yet again - Vancouver Province.

It wasn't just that the Canucks allowed two power-play goals on seven man-advantages, it was the types of infraction: three hooking penalties, two holding penalties and two high-sticking minors. The type of lazy penalties, in other words, which players take when they're tired.

"Their pace, we had a tough time following it," Vigneault said. "I think the main reason... was the length of our shifts. By the time we'd make one change, they'd already made two. They've got lines going full- blast for 25 seconds and our guys are staying [out] 45 seconds. Obviously the last 20, when they've got a second fresh line out, we're having a tough time following them."


Shark Notes - January 10th

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo
Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin Daniel Sedin twins

- The San Jose Sharks (23-12-6) and Northwest Division leading Vancouver Canucks (24-14-4) face off tonight at HP Pavilion at 7:30. The Canucks have won 4 of their last 5 games, with left wing Daniel Sedin riding a 5-game scoring streak. The trio of D.Sedin-Naslund-H.Sedin has combined for 7 goals and 10 assists in that span. 6-foot-3, 205 pound goaltender Roberto Luongo is 2nd in the NHL in goals against average (1.96), 3rd in the NHL in save percentage (.930), 4th in the NHL behind league leading Evgeni Nabokov in wins (20), and tied for 2nd in the NHL in shutouts (6).

The Vancouver Province, the first major newspaper to link to this blog back in 1999, reports that Roberto Luongo will skip a start in the NHL Allstar game to be with his pregnant wife. Ben Kuzma of the Province notes that Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault is demanding more from 6-foot-4, 220 pound left wing Taylor Pyatt, Pyatt: now less quiet, more riot. The Vancouver Sun's Elliott Pap writes that defenseman Mattias Ohlund's return from a third concussion has been a slow process. Ohlund has missed six games. A preview of the Sharks-Cancucks on the official Vancouver website paints tonights matchup as a goaltender duel between two of the best netminders in the game.

The Canucks hockey blog posted a game day preview, and notes that tonights game is for sole possession of 2nd place in the Western Conference. Alanah of Canucks and Beyond examines the media coverage of an ongoing Vancouver Canucks ownership lawsuit. Majority owner Francesco Aquilini is being sued by former partners Tom Gaglardi and Ryan Beedie after the sale of the team in 2004. Orland Kurtenblog is delving into more weighty issues, trying to determine the best NHL hit of alltime. After being in seclusion for a short time after his Hockey Night in Canada blogger noteriety, Tom Benjamin writes about the goaltending situation in Edmonton on Canucks Corner. A response to a couple of the topics raised in the HNIC will be posted here in the next few days.

- The NHL announced the Western Conference Allstar reserve players today. Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton were among the additions along with Ryan Getzlaf, Anze Kopitar, Paul Stastny, Manny Legace, Duncan Keith, Shawn Horcoff, Henrik Sedin, Chris Osgood, Ed Jovanovski, Chris Pronger, Sergei Zubov, Jason Arnott, Marian Gaborik, and Rick Nash. The Western Conference starting Allstars as named by fans were Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Jarome Iginla, and Dion Phaneuf. Starting goaltender Roberto Luongo will not play. San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson will serve as an assistant coach to Detroit's Mike Babcock, who will coach the Western Conference ASG squad.

- The NHL's Director of Youth Development and Diversity Programming, former Boston Bruins right wing Willie O'Ree, will be attending the San Jose Sharks vs Vancouver Canucks game at HP Pavilion tonight. In addition to breaking the color barrier in the National Hockey League, O'Ree has been a staunch supporter of youth hockey and helping underprivileged kids learn the game. He will be volunteering at a local hockey rink along with a few San Jose Sharks players tomorrow in Oakland. Much more on O'Ree, and his contributions to the NHL and youth hockey will be posted soon.

- Willie O'Ree and Sharks players to conduct hockey clinic at Oakland Ice Center on Friday, Jan. 11th (4:30-6PM).

- In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Willie O’Ree becoming the first black NHL player in history, NHL Diversity and the San Jose Sharks will be conducting clinics with children of Oakland with special needs (4:30-5:15 pm) and a group of children from the Boys and Girls Club of Oakland (5:15-6 pm) at the Oakland Ice Center.

- San Jose Sharks forwards Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryane Clowe and Torrey Mitchell are scheduled to attend. The Oakland Ice Center is located at 519 18th Street, Oakland, CA 94612, (510) 268-9000.

- San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak was a guest on Ryan Garner's Sharks Buzz podcast on Wednesday night. In the extensive interview, Pollak mentioned that the organization might have more confidence in recently called up backup goaltender Thomas Greiss than they do in Dimitri Patzold, that the Sharks lack a true #1 defenseman and might be willing to address that this season, and both Ryan Garner and David Pollak agreed that any team coming out of the Western Conference will have to overcome the Detroit Red Wings.

- Defense puts Sharks among elite, Goals are down, but what a goalie - San Jose Mercury News.

- Kevin Allen of USA Today was interviewed yesterday by WDFN radio in Detroit. Allen mentioned that the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks were among the teams interested in Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin (43GP, 20G, 28A), and Atlanta Thrashers right wing Marian Hossa (41GP, 16G, 22A).

Paul Kukla points to a Globe and Mail column by David Shoalts shooting down the trade rumors from the Anaheim side. Shoalts quoted general manager Brian Burke, "I haven't talked to [Leafs GM] John Ferguson about Mats Sundin once. We have a legitimate No. 1 centre, and that's Ryan Getzlaf."

- Even more Winter Classic coverage: Mark Purdy pines for an outdoor game in the Bay Area, citing Stanford's new football stadium (no more track, seats right on the field), and AT&T Park in San Francisco as possible venues. If/when the A's move to Fremont, if/when the San Francisco 49ers move to Santa Clara, and if/when the new San Jose Earthquakes stadium is finished, that could provide three more options.

There is only one problem, there is no winter in the Bay Area. The 55 degree forecast given for an average January works in theory. In reality, temperatures January in San Jose could just as easily come in at 65 or 70. It took a considerable amount of time and money to organize the Winter Classic. Putting on an outdoor game in the Bay Area would be a much more difficult endeavor, but if it happened it would be fun to watch the behind the scenes technological efforts that made it possible.

Purdy also reports that Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison was named this week to the NHL's 11-man executive committee. It will greatly increase his influence with the league, and it represents the view of the San Jose Sharks as a "model franchise" according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. But back to the Winter Classic coverage, this fan video of tailgating from the Buffalo parking lots will bring a smile. The Buffalo News Winter Classic front page graphic designed by Vince Chiaramonte is available as a PDF file from the Sports Designer blog. Very cool.

- Max spoke with a scout from the Atlanta Thrashers at a recent University of Wisconsin hockey game. According to Max, the scout said that already as a freshman Boston College defenseman, 2007 first round draft pick Nick Petrecki is dominating other players physically. He had seen him play 5-6 times this season.

- Clint from the San Jose ska band Whiskey Avengers, emails that their Friday date at South First Billiards will be their last show in San Jose for awhile. Show up and request that they play Cheechoo/Tameu (so I can film it). Also visit their myspace page and post your own lyrics for a hockey song. The Whiskey Avengers released their new album "Round One" last month in Japan. I posted a b/w video of one of their songs here.

- Mr. Massachusetts - NHL Stats Blog.

San Jose center Jeremy Roenick has played 19 seasons in the NHL and is currently tied with Joe Mullen for second place on the all-time list for most goals scored by an American-born player. However, Roenick tops the list for goals scored by a player born in the State of Massachusetts.

- 'Mercury News' Editor's Surprise Departure Followed Controversial 'Three-Section Paper' Proposal - Editor and Publisher.

- On the latest episode of FSNBA's Shark Byte pre-game show, television color commentator Drew Remenda interviewed Jeremy Roenick at Stanley's sports bar in San Jose. Among the comments made, Roenick said if the Sharks win a Cup this year in San Jose he will go into the Hall of Fame in a Sharks jersey, that the sharks need to have more grit/intensity and be willing to take a punch in the face to score a goal, and that his 3 years in Philadelphia were special because he gelled with the philosophy of the city and the fans.

- Several new photography and sports photography related links were added to the photo links page. 30 general sports photo gallery links were added from 2007, and I will add as many years as will fit. Also of note, several new free and paid photography classes are available from Keeble and Shuchat in downtown Palo Alto. If you ever wanted to rent a monster 300mm or 400mm lens for your digital SLR, that is the place to do it. Also added a link to San Jose Camera, located on Winchester Blvd a few blocks from Santana Row.

[Update] San Jose Sharks Recall Thomas Greiss, Assign Dimitri Patzold To Worcester - Oursportscentral.

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has assigned goaltender Dimitri Patzold to Worcester (AHL) and recalled goaltender Thomas Greiss from Worcester.

[Update2] Tried using a the new Verizon Wireless LG VX8350's 1.3 megapixel cellphone camera, and Blogger's email-to-post feature, to post a photo on this blog directly from the game. It worked. Below is a photo of Jeremy Roenick's first intermission interview, where he discussed his team's efforts to reach their full potential this season.

Jeremy Roenick

Below is the accompanying text Verizon sent with the photo:

This message was sent using PIX-FLIX Messaging service from Verizon Wireless! To learn how you can snap pictures with your wireless phone visit www.verizonwireless.com/getitnow/getpix.

To learn how you can record videos with your wireless phone visit www.verizonwireless.com/getitnow/getflix. To play video messages sent to email, QuickTime 6.5 or higher is required. Visit www.apple.com/quicktime/download to download the free player or upgrade your existing QuickTime Player.

I was also given a Nikon s51c digital camera with WIFI capability by Nikon last year. I will try to email a direct-to-post photo with that camera to this blog using the dedicated Nikon software in the near future.

Hockey and Skating Magazine

[Update3] Hockey and Skating Magazine is the free hockey newspaper that has been available in almost every hockey rink in California for several years. The current January issue discusses the rise of the ACHA (college) San Diego State team after the sudden demise of the San Diego Gulls ECHL franchise, profiles Californian hockey prospect Garret Taylor, provides Midget AAA Major and Minor team rankings, covered the ECHL Bakersfield Condor's 10th Anniversay unveiling in a December game against Fresno, posted a workout for the beginning hockey player from Dr. Chad Moreau, and blurbed the recent performance of the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks along with the photo above (from Sharkspage).

Hockey and Skating magazine has a circulation of 15,000, and a distribution to over 140 ice and inline hockey rinks, and hockey stores in California. To subscribe or advertise in the magazine, visit hockeyandskating.com or call 951-685-3794.


Los Angeles Kings are down, but they shall rise again under GM Dean Lombardi

The Los Angeles Kings have registered a 15-27-2 record as they pass the halfway point of the season. That puts them dead last in the Pacific Division, dead last in the Western Confernce, and with only 32 points dead last in the NHL. After a horrible 7-0 loss at home to the Nashville Predators, it would seem that Kings fans would not have much to be excited about. With one eye on the present, and one eye on the future, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi is beginning to see his plan for rebuilding the franchise take shape.

Lombardi has been working to build his team from within, drafting astutely, acquiring prospects through trades, and giving them time to develop properly. Some of the work was already done before his arrival. The Kings roster boasted franchise caliber talent in center Anze Kopitar and budding power forward Dustin Brown. In two years of work Lombardi has drafted potential franchise goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The 11th overall selection in the 2006 Entry Draft, Bernier is a classic Quebec-trained butterfly style goaltender, with air-tight positioning and the athleticism needed to take away the lower portion of the net. Help guarding Bernier's crease will be the 4th overall selection in 2007, defenseman Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds [WHL]. Hickey is a smooth skating defenseman, with the ability to quarterback the power play. While he is undersized, he plays tough defensively.

Three promising front line forwards in the Kings organization play for the top AHL development affiliate Manchester Monarchs. Centers Brian Boyle, Trevor Lewis, and right wing Teddy Purcell each has the potential to be top six forward in the NHL. The collosal and hard shooting 23-year old Brian Boyle (6-foot-7, 230 pounds) can be a headache for defenders down low. 2006 first round selection Trevor Lewis is a creative playmaker from the wing, blessed with exceptional speed. A diamond in the rough for Dean Lombardi, the AHL's second leading scorer Teddy Purcell (12G, 35A, 37GP), was signed as a free-agent out of the University of Maine. At 22 years of age, he can already score and create with ease. Wednesday, Purcell was named as a starter for the 2008 AHL Allstar Classic that will be held January 28th in Binghamton, New York.

Lombardi should have no trouble stockpiling talent come June, as the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa is going to be a deep one. It is arguably the best draft class the NHL has seen since 2003, where the San Jose Sharks secured emerging stars Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier. Los Angeles enters this draft with two first round picks, their own selection which mercifully should be very high, and the Dallas Stars first round pick from last season's deadline trade of team captain Mattias Norstrom.

With promising young talent in the Kings organization at every position, Dean Lombardi can afford to set his sights on the best talent available instead of drafting to fill a need. Here is a look at options available to the Kings in the entry draft:

C Steven Stamkos - Sarnia Sting OHL
Franchise center in the making with great character, explosive skating, and the ability to score and create equally well.

D Drew Doughty - Guelph Storm OHL
The best draft eligible offensive defenseman, Doughty has a little Ray Bourque in his game the way he can move the puck.

D Alex Pietrangelo - Niagra Ice Dogs OHL
Big two-way defenseman that may have the most pure upside of anyone in this draft, Pietrangelo needs to develop a mean streak to match his towering frame.

D Luke Schenn - Kelowna Rockets WHL
The most complete and NHL ready shut-down defenseman to come through the pipeline in years, Schenn is an in your face physical defenseman. He can shut down the opposition's top offensive talents.

D Zach Bogasian - Peterborough Petes OHL
Could be the sleeper of this years NHL entry draft, Bogasian is a mobile two-way defenseman with great hockey sense, physicality, and elite skating ability.

RW Kyle Beach - Everett Silvertips
Big and nasty goal scoring power forward with immense skill, but there are character concerns. He likes to play on the edge.

[Update] Wednesday's practice notes - Inside the Kings.

Matthew Kredell notes that the Kings had a 15-minute team meeting prior to Wednesday's practice. Head coach Marc Crawford spoke about what the team needs to do to get passed the 7-0 loss and compete for the remainder of the season, "We have to move forward from last night. That game was not us. We know how we have to play, the effort we have to give and how we have to prepare to get that effort. That's what we concentrated on today. I told players let's just control the things that we can control. The things we can control certainly start and end with effort, then we control our habits and the structure in which we play. That is the answer. It is the answer when you play well and it's definitely the answer when you play poorly."

[Update2] Kings sinking to new depths, Their 11th loss in 14 games is a humiliating 7-0 defeat against the Predators at Staples Center. Crawford says everyone has to take responsibility for poor play - Los Angeles Times.

Apparently, this is what the abyss -- or in more literal terms, rock bottom -- looks like in a Kings season gone beyond the tipping point. Not only did they fail to score against, or barely hit, an alleged road-weary Nashville, which had played and lost the night before in Anaheim, but the Kings allowed three first-period goals in a dizzying, disengaged span of 1 minute 15 seconds, a Predators team record.

The bar has dropped so low around Staples Center that even a mediocre showing was a few levels removed as the Predators won, 7-0, on Tuesday before 14,751. Nashville took a five-goal lead about midway through the second period, reducing the back half of the game to garbage time.

[Update3] Back to the drawing board for the Kings, With season all but over, it's time to give kids some playing time - Los Angeles Times.

Baja 1000 desert rally coverage on NBC last weekend, 2008 Dakar Rally cancelled due to terrorism threat

Sandwiched in between the Winter Classic, college football and 3 PPV mixed martial arts events New Years weekend was NBC's broadcast of the 40th annual Score International Baja 1000 desert rally from (original race Nov 13-16, 2007). 424 entrants from the United States, Mexico and 18 other countries completed a 1,296.39 mile course in 32 different classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs. From Mile 0 at Costero Boulevard in Ensenda, Mexico, to the finish line at the "Yenecamu" Campos de Futbol soccer fields in Cabo San Lucas, the competitors braved some of the most difficult off road conditions in the Western hemisphere.

The Honda CRF450X driven by Bell/Hengeveld/Campbell/Norman finished first overall with an overall time of 24 hours, 15 minutes, and 50 seconds, and an average speed of 53.43 miles per hour. The No. 3 Riviera Ford F-150 driven by Post/MacCachren/Renezeder won the Trophy Truck division with a final time of 25:21:25, averaging 51.13 mph.

NBC Telecast of Massive 40th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 This Sunday - Desertracing.com.

The near race-record 424 starters was second-only to last year's 431. The SCORE record of 237 finishers broke the race-record of 234 set in this race last year. The finishing percentage this year was an impressive 56.4 percent.

Visit the score-international website, thebajaunlimited.com, or the Baja wikipedia entry for more race details. Full race coverage from Dirt Sports Magazine and Off-road.com is available here. The video at the top of this post is used with permission.

RACE RECAP: 2007 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000, 40 years in the making - Jaime Hernandez for Offroad.com.

Taking the win in SCORE Trophy-Truck was No. 3 Mark Post and Rob MacCacheren along with 2007 CORR Pro-4 Champion Carl Renezeder in the Riviera Racing Ford F-150. "To win the overall SCORE Baja 1000 in the SCORE Trophy-Truck is a dream come true," commented Post.

The No. 3 Riviera Racing team ran a flawless race and broke new records: fastest average speed during a Baja 1000 and the first time a SCORE Trophy-Truck has won the overall points championship. "I have never had the overall win and I finally got that done," commented MacCacheren. Riviera Racing finished the race in 25:21:25 and averaged 53.43 mph. This was Post’' first Baja 1000 win and MacCacheren's fifth.

Champ Car and NASCAR veteran, and 6-time SCORE offroad champion Robbie Gordon gave a pre-race video interview before competing in the trophy truck division with the Monster Energy Toyo Tires team. Gordon finished 3rd overall with a 27:12:14 race time, 1:50:49 off of the winning pace, averaging 47.65 mph. It also appears the the Gordon #71 truck may have oversteered into the crowd on one turn, video here. There was also a helicopter crash caught on video by a television crew covering the event for Mexican television. Autoblog captured photos of the new 2009 H3 Hummer SUT at the event.

Spike TV's Ian Johnson and Jessi Combs of Extreme 4x4 aired the "Three Stories from the Heart" episode detailing three race teams competing in the 2007 Baja 1000: the Full House race team from LA County Fire Station 116 and their class 11 bug, Herzog Racing's Pro Truck, and the Dirt Sports Project Elf class 11. I blanked on the final two teams, but the Full House race team was racing to raise money to purchase 3 jaws of life apparatus systems for 3 different Mexican fire houses.

[Update] Dakar Rally Canceled After Terror Threat - Associated Press.

Al-Qaida threats against the Dakar Rally and an attack in Mauritania forced organizers to cancel the annual race on Friday, the eve of the 5,760-mile trek across North African desert scrubland and savannah.

It was the first time the automobile, motorbike and truck rally has been called off in its 30-year history. In a statement, organizers blamed "threats launched directly against the race by terrorist organizations." the Dec. 24 killings of a French family and international tensions.

The race's central appeal — its course through African deserts, scrubland and savannas — is also its weak point, making it difficult to protect thousands of people as they cross remote regions. "No other decision but the cancellation of the sporting event could be taken," organizers said.

The 2008 Dakar Rally coverage was set to begin on Versus last weekend (official Dakar site here). There is a strong backlash against the terrorism threats originating from Mauritania, especially in France, and many African countries that rely on the tourism dollars are outraged. This was the first time the race has been cancelled in 30 years.

I will miss this.

[Update2] Dakar Rally cancellation angers Robbie Gordon - USA Today.

[Update3] Baja 1000 helicopter video and a photo gallery are available from Norman Motorsports.


Sharks hold on for 3-2 win over Columbus, break 5 game home winless streak

San Jose Sharks Steve Bernier hockey goal
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Pascal Leclaire
San Jose Sharks NHL hockey photo

The San Jose Sharks barely held for a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night at HP Pavilion. Blue Jackets centers Andrew Murray and Sergei Federov scored late in the third period to make it close. Patrick Rissmiller scored two goals for the first time in his career, and Steve Bernier registered his 11th goal of the season to help the Sharks break a 5 game winless streak at home. Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves on 23 shots to earn his league leading 23rd win of the season.

More notes and links from the game will be posted soon. A photo gallery from the game is available here. A period-by-period recap of the pivotal 3-2 OT loss to Calgary on Thursday has been posted here. The Sharks built on three late third period and overtime flurries against Calgary, with a solid performance through two periods on Saturday night.

[Update] The NHL no longer maintains game day shift charts for each team, but Vic Ferrari of timeonice.com and Irreverant Oilers Fans created an automated tool to display shift charts from raw game data. The charts for the Sharks-Columbus game are available here. Thanks to MetroGnome for the link.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Defenders Shine in 4-3 Shootout Win

The Worcester Sharks got goals from three different blue-liners and some stellar goaltending in the shootout to upset the American Hockey League's best team for a 4-3 victory over the Providence Bruins at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachussets in front of an announced crowd of 5,328 Saturday night.

The WorSharks streak of scoring first in games was stopped at seven when Pascal Pelletier scored on a one-timer of a Vladimir Sobotka pass. The puck knuckled in on Thomas Greiss who got a piece of it, but it broke through and into the net for a shorthanded tally and a 1-0 P-Bruins lead.

The period would end at 1-0, but not before one of the biggest hits of the year cost the WorSharks one of its best players. While skating through the neutral zone after flipping the puck in, Nate Raduns was absolutely blown up by Sobotka. Raduns hit his head on the ice but was able to make it back to the bench. He was taken to the locker room and did not return.

The teams would continue to play a very physical game, and early in the second period Brennan Evans would take P-Bruins winger Chris Collins to the boards. Collins crumpled to the ice and struggled to make it to the bench with a right shoulder injury. He also did not return to the ice.

The WorSharks would get on the board at the 5:36 mark on a great play by Dan Spang. Spang grabbed a lose puck by the blue line and circled through the zone to the left of P-Bruins netminder Andy Franck, where he fired a 20' wrister over Franck's glove to knot the game at 1-1.

The WorSharks thought they took the lead when Mike Iggulden found the twine through a screen, but referee Chris Brown waived the goal off saying Tomas Plihal was in the crease. The call was questionable at best.

Evans would continue his physical play by depositing Martins Karsums onto his bench with a huge hit. Karsums lost his cool after the hit, and earned himself a boarding minor for his actions. Worcester would go on a two man advantage when Sobotka slashed Devin Setoguchi, and converted when Derek Joslin netted his fifth of the season on a seeing eye wrister that found its way through a screen in front of Franck for a 2-1 WorSharks lead.

With all the physical play it was only a matter of time before the gloves came off, and it was Joslin dropping them with Sobotka. Joslin was already getting a minor for roughing by dumping a P-Bruin in a post whistle scrum in the Worcester zone, and Sobotka skated over to Joslin to voice his displeasure. Sobotka probably didn't expect what happened next, which was Joslin dropping his gloves and landing three huge uppercuts. All Sobotka could do was take Joslin down to the ice to stop the beating, and even while on the ice Joslin continued to try and get at Sobotka.

In the ensuing P-Bruins power play Karsums would connect on a bad angle by banking the puck off of Evans and past Greiss to knot the game at 2-2.

Worcester would take the lead 3-2 with just under five minutes left in the game when Brad Staubitz scored his first on the season. Staubitz received a nice cross ice pass from Iggulden and faked a one-timer, skated around the onrushing P-Bruins forward and blasted a 25' shot that Franck had no chance on.

With Traverse in the box for crosschecking and Sobotka getting a matching minor for charging Greiss, the P-Bruins pulled Franck for an extra attacker. They'd get a game tying goal from Alexandre Imbeault when he poked a lose puck just over the goal line during a scramble in front of the WorSharks net.

There would be no scoring on the over time period, and the WorSharks would earn the extra point when Iggulden and Graham Mink converted in the shootout for the 4-3 final.

Worcester scratches were Marc Busenburg (healthy), T.J. Fox (healthy), Mike Morris (undisclosed injury), Ashton Rome (healthy), Jonathan Tremblay (healthy).

P-Bruins goaltender Tuuka Rask was recalled to Boston prior to the start of the game. Jordan Sigalet was the Providence back-up for the game, returning to the line-up for the first time since collapsing during a game November 16 in Providence against Worcester due to complications from multiple sclerosis.

Fans saw something that isn't seen very often in the AHL anymore: teams playing five on five during overtime. The overtime period began with the standard four on four even though by rule it should have started three on three, and when the minors to Traverse and Sobotka ended they left the box to start the five on five play. The next whistle wasn't for almost three minutes, so the teams continued to skate five on five as play continued. After the whistle play reverted back to the standard four on four.

San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson was at both games this weekend. With the exception of the day it was announced the Sharks were moving the Barons to Worcester I have never seen him when he wasn't talking on his cell phone.

In Wednesday's game vs Hershey referee Jamie Koharski called both Stephen Werner and Jamie Hunt (no relation to this writer that I know of) for closing the hand on the puck. Last night Brown called it on Adam McQuaid. I don't know if the officials have received a memo highlighting that rule, but it was nice to see it called correctly in all three cases.

The three stars of the game were:
Spang (1g)
Setoguchi (1a)
Greiss (shootout win, 26 saves)
My vote would have been 1) Spang, 2) Karsums, 3) Joslin

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense) (unofficial)
Prudden 4-4/6-1/1-2 = 11-7
Plihal 5-3/2-1/3-1 = 10-5
Cavanagh 9-3/2-2/5-2 = 16-7
Armstrong 1-1/1-2/0-1 = 2-4
Kaspar 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1
Setoguchi 0-1/0-1/0-1 = 0-3
Iggulden 0-1/1-0/0-0 = 1-1

P: Skinner: shoot low stick, save
W: Iggulden: deke low glove, GOAL
P: Sobotka: poke checked
W: Setoguchi: shoot 5 hole, save
P: Hoggan: shoot 5 hole, save
W: Mink: shoot high glove, GOAL
P: Pelletier: deke 5 hole, save

Providence 1 1 1 0--3
Worcester 0 2 1 1--4

1st period
Scoring: 1, Providence-Pelletier, Pascal 23 (short handed) (Sobotka, Vladimir 10; McQuaid, Adam 4) 8:39.
Penalties: WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Hooking), 1:53. PRO-Hoggan, Jeff (Tripping), 8:26. PRO-Pelletier, Pascal (Roughing), 14:46. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Roughing), 14:46. WOR-Mink, Graham (Roughing), 14:46. PRO-Hoggan, Jeff (Tripping), 16:15. WOR-Traverse, Patrick (Interference), 19:00.

2nd period
Scoring: 2, Worcester-Spang, Dan 5 (Packard, Dennis 6) 5:36. 3, Worcester-Joslin, Derek 5 (power play) (Setoguchi, Devin 5; Cavanagh, Tom 12) 11:28. 4, Providence-Karsums, Martins 9 (power play) (Imbeault, Alexandre 1; Hunwick, Matt 5) 14:52.
Penalties: PRO-Karsums, Martins (Board check), 9:59. PRO-Sobotka, Vladimir (Slashing), 10:18. PRO-Sobotka, Vladimir (Fighting, Major), 12:58. WOR-Joslin, Derek (Roughing, Fighting, Major), 12:58. PRO-Hoggan, Jeff (High sticking), 15:58.

3rd Period
Scoring: 5, Worcester-Staubitz, Brad 1 (Iggulden, Mike 21; Walsh, Tom 14) 15:03. 6, Providence-Imbeault, Alexandre 1 (Karsums, Martins 24; Hunwick, Matt 6) 19:38.
Penalties: WOR-Evans, Brennan (Hooking), 8:05. PRO-McQuaid, Adam (Closing hand on puck), 11:22. PRO-Sobotka, Vladimir (Roughing), 18:47. WOR-Traverse, Patrick (Cross checking), 18:47.

Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Shots on Goal
Providence 6 11 11 1--29
Worcester 13 14 6 3--36

Power Play Conversions: Providence - 1 of 5, Worcester - 1 of 6.
Goalies: Providence-Franck, Andy (64:09, 36 shots, 33 saves; record: 7-1-1).
Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (65:00, 29 shots, 26 saves; record: 12-7-4). A: 5328. Referee: Brown, Chris. Linesmen: Paquette, Bob; Whittemore, Scott.


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Not So Special in 5-3 Loss

The Worcester Sharks may have scored first, but bad penalties and lackluster special teams play cost Team Teal as they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Manchester Monarchs Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 4,471.

With both teams getting good scoring chances in the early parts of the first period, it was a great individual effort by Riley Armstrong that got the WorSharks on the board first. Armstrong took a pass from Nate Raduns in his own zone and skated along the boards virtually untouched by the Monarchs defense, wheeling the net and flipping a backhand pass into the slot. The puck banked in off of defenseman John Zeiler and just past Manchester goaltender Erik Ersberg.

Someone should have told the WorSharks the first period isn't sudden death, because from that point on the period was all Manchester.

With Lukas Kaspar just stepping back on the ice after a hooking minor, Monarchs center Trevor Lewis flipped home a seeing eye rebound of a David Meckler shot into a wide open net to knot the game at 1-1. It was one of those "perfect bounce" goals for Lewis as the rebound bounced through three sets of legs before winding up on his stick about 10 feet from the net.

Fifteen second later Manchester would strike again when a Manchester forward rushed down the boards drawing both Brad Staubitz and Derek Joslin to him, and he flipped a pass to a wide open Lauri Tukonen who beat WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss easily to the stick side. The AHL score sheet said the Manchester forward with the assist was Kevin Westgarth (#15). This writer's notes say it was Meckler (#55). Either way the result was the same, a 2-1 Monarchs lead.

Manchester would make it 3-1 just 47 seconds later while Kaspar was off for a "phantom" cross check. With Greiss easily controlling a Brian Boyle dump in, he lazily flipped it around the WorSharks net. The problem was the only player standing back there was Teddy Purcell, who hit a wide open Matt Moulson in the slot.

Nate Raduns would pull the WorSharks within one midway through the second stanza with a shorthanded goal after a nice home run pass from Dan Spang, who himself had just broken up a three zone pass by stealing the puck right off of Boyle's stick.

Worcester would have several good chances to tie the game late in the second period, but it was a dumb penalty after the horn that was the final nail in the coffin. With the WorSharks pressuring Ersberg from all angles, the puck ended up behind the net just as the period ended. Armstrong fell on top of a Manchester defenseman who had fallen on the puck, and with referee Nygel Pelletier looking on from right next to the two players, Armstrong cross checked the downed man in the back to earn himself two minutes.

Bringing in one of the AHL's best power play to the game, and a fresh sheet of ice, it took just 40 seconds for the Monarchs to retake a two goal lead when Boyle one timed a blast off the far post and into the net.

Worcester wasn't quite done yet when Raduns picked a lose rebound in the slot after a Joslin blast from the blue line. They were done, however, when Brady Murray found the twine just over a minute later for the 5-3 lead that Manchester would hold the rest of the game.

Worcester scratches were Mike Morris (unannounced injury), Dennis Packard (healthy), Josh Prudden (upper body injury), Ashton Rome (healthy), and Tom Walsh (stomach bug).

Jonathan Tremblay played four shifts, all in the first period. He was on the ice twice with Westgarth, and even threw a check against him, but nothing resulted from it.

Worcester and Manchester have played six times this season, with the road team winning each contest. Worcester has won 3-1, 5-1, and 3-2 in Manchester. Manchester has won 4-3 in a shootout, 3-2 in overtime, and 5-3 last night in Worcester.

Because of a couple of questions asked me about Nate Raduns' contract status I asked WorSharks Assistant General Manager Mike Mudd, and he confirmed to me that Raduns is on an AHL SPC for this season.

The three starts of the game were
Raduns (2g,1a +3)
Boyle (1g,1a)
Moulson (1g)
My vote would have been 1) Raduns, 2)Lewis, 3) Murray, with an 'honorable mention' for Spang.

How important is special teams in hockey? Manchester was 2-4 on the power play, Worcester was 0-5. That's the game in a nutshell.

Even Strength Lines
Valette played shifts on all three lines

Unlike previous games, there was a lot of mixing of the defensive pairings at even strength.

Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense) (unofficial)
Cavanagh 7-3/5-5/1-2 = 13-10
Raduns 2-4/2-2/2-3 = 6-9
Plihal 2-1/2-2/1-0 = 5-4
Setoguchi 3-0/0-0/0-0 = 3-0
Fox 0-1/0-0/0-1 = 0-2
Armstrong 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
Valette 0-0/2-0/0-0 = 2-0

Manchester 3 0 2--5
Worcester 1 1 1--3

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Armstrong, Riley 7 (Setoguchi, Devin 3; Raduns, Nate 13) 8:51. 2, Manchester-Lewis, Trevor 7 (Meckler, David 4; Hersley, Patrik 1) 14:48. 3, Manchester-Tukonen, Lauri 3 (Westgarth, Kevin 2; Hersley, Patrik 2) 15:03. 4, Manchester-Moulson, Matt 10 (power play) (Purcell, Teddy 33; Boyle, Brian 17) 15:50.
Penalties: MCH-Ryan, Matt (Roughing), 4:03. WOR-Valette, Craig (Roughing), 4:03. MCH-Gauthier, Gabe (High sticking), 9:23. WOR-Kaspar, Lukas (Hooking), 12:44. WOR-Kaspar, Lukas (Cross checking), 15:36. MCH-Petiot, Richard (Hooking), 17:27.

2nd Period
Scoring: 5, Worcester-Raduns, Nate 7 (short handed) (Spang, Dan 12; Plihal, Tomas 6) 10:18.
Penalties: MCH-Gauthier, Gabe (Tripping), 0:15. WOR-Fox, T.J. (Hooking), 3:35. WOR-Cavanagh, Tom (Tripping), 8:56. WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Cross checking), 20:00.

3rd Period
Scoring: 6, Manchester-Boyle, Brian 15 (game winner) (power play) (Purcell, Teddy 34) 0:40. 7, Worcester-Raduns, Nate 8 (Setoguchi, Devin 4; Joslin, Derek 9) 1:26. 8, Manchester-Murray, Brady 3 (Ryan, Matt 3; Lewis, Trevor 9) 3:06.
Penalties: MCH-Zeiler, John (Holding), 12:11. MCH-Harrold, Peter (Roughing), 14:11. MCH-Petiot, Richard (Roughing), 19:57. WOR-Mink, Graham (Roughing), 19:57.

Shots On Goal
Manchester 11 9 4--24
Worcester 9 6 11--26

Power Play Conversions: Manchester - 2 of 4, Worcester - 0 of 5.
Goalies: Manchester-Ersberg, Erik (60:00, 26 shots, 23 saves; record: 9-5-3). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (58:40, 24 shots, 19 saves; record: 11-7-4).
A: 4471. Referee: Pelletier, Nygel. Linesmen: Ross, Joe; Baker, Hans.


Flames burn Sharks 3-2 in OT, Jarome Iginla scores 2 goals

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla celebrates game winning overtime goal in San Jose
San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames nhl hockey photo
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov

More on the Calgary Flames 3-2 OT win over the San Jose Sharks will be posted soon. Youtube video highlights are available here. A photo gallery from the game is available here.


The San Jose Sharks will play 14 of their next 18 games home at HP Pavilion, where they are 6-9-3 heading into tonight's game with the Calgary Flames. The Sharks are coming off of a strong 4-0 road trip, where they picked up 1-goal wins over Los Angeles, St Louis, and Minnesota, and a 5-2 win over Nashville. Calgary is a team on the upswing as well, earning points in 14 of their last 15 games. The Flames are riding a 3-game home winning streak of their own, where the duo of Kristian Huselius and captain Jarome Iginla have amassed 8 goals and 5 assists.

In the Slingbox coach's chalkboard pre-game interview segment between Dan Rusanowsky and head coach Ron Wilson, the coach stated that the team does not want to look pretty or put a show on in front of the home crowd, they just want to earn the win. Paraphrasing, "Just win Baby".

Looking at the season stats for close games, come-from-behind victories, and special teams; One goal games: SJ 10-8, CAL 8-10, Opponent scores first: SJ 5-7-2, CAL 8-9-4, Leading/Trailing after one period: SJ 12-4-2/3-6-1, CAL 6-8-3, 5-9-2, Leading/Trailing after two periods: SJ 16-0-1/1-11-2, CAL 11-0-3/2-13-1, Overtime record (season): SJ 2-5, CAL 2-7, Overtime record (alltime): SJ 5-14, CAL 6-14, Power play: SJ ----, CAL ----, Penalty kill: SJ----, CAL----, October/November/December records: SJ 6-5-1/6-3-3/10-4-1, CAL 6-3-3, 4-10-0, 9-1-4.

Interesting Sharks pre-game stats from the Fox Sports Bay Area broadcast compare the performance on the road vs the performance at home; Wins: road 16 (1st), home 6 (30th), Win percentage: road .810 (1st), road .417 (29th), Goals/game: road 2.71 (8th), home 2.28 (28th), Goals allowed/game: road 1.86 (1st), home 2.50 (12th). The Canadian and American national anthems were sung by Jessica Johnson. Pretty good version of "O Canada", but the American national anthem was one of the best ever sung at HP Pavilion. Crowd responds with a loud roar.


Alex Tanguay opened the scoring early in the first for Calgary (EV 1:00, assist by Daymond Langkow). Tanguay broke in on the right wing with Owen Nolan as an option on the left side. Tanguay stalled and snapped a quick far-side shot by Evgeni Nabokov. Score 1-0 Calgary. Sharks rookie center Torrey Mitchell answered quickly at 4:03. Mitchell beat Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr to the corner, and moved the puck behind the net along the boards. Jeremy Roenick gathered the puck on the left half boards, and fed Christian Ehrhoff at the point with a cross-ice pass. Quick point shot by Ehrhoff, pad save Kiprusoff. Mitchell beats defenseman Cory Sarich and Regehr to the rebound and punches it home.

- Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf levels Milan Michalek in the Sharks defensive zone, but Michalek responds with a scoring chance on the other end of the ice. Phaneuf hits Michalek again after the play. Sharks power play with a Calgary defenseman in the box. Patrick Marleau is on the right point, alternating defensive pairings throughout the game with Matt Carle and Craig Rivet. The Sharks power play is showing excellent speed up ice and puck movement in the zone, but more bodies need to follow the puck into the crease.

- Quote by Sharks radio color commentator Jamie Baker, "Go watch Jeremy Roenick on Youtube. Not the Letterman or Leno stuff, the hockey stuff. He has some of the best footwork I have ever seen". Radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan Rusanowsky notes a spectacular period by Roenick against the Sharks, where he registered 8 shots on goal in 1 period. Torrey Mitchell breaks up a scoring chance by K. Huselius with an excellent backcheck.

- One of the key plays of the game came at the end of a Sharks power play. Ehrhoff is moving the puck well, but a long pass up ice is intercepted in the neutral zone. A Daymond Langkow pass is tipped by a Sharks forward to Kristian "Juice" Huselius. Huselius tries to split Kyle McLaren and Marcel Goc, but McLaren checks him off the puck and into Goc. Langkow skates around McLaren and criss crosses with Jarome Iginla in front of the Sharks net. Langkow deftly passes the puck back to Iginla, who beat McLaren and Goc to the front of the net. The Flames captain tipped the puck passed Nabokov before being hammered to the ice. Score 2-1 Calgary. The play is alternately described as a "train wreck" and a broken play by the Sharks television broadcast tandem.


- Matthew Lombardi, Torrey Mitchell, and Patrick Marleau, three of the fastest skaters in the NHL. Lombardi flashes the speed with a drive up the right wing. He blows by Cheechoo and snaps a shot on Nabokov. Lombardi draws a hooking penalty from Patrick Marleau on a subsequent 2-on-1 with Eric Nystrom.

- Torrey Mitchell follows up his strong play in the first, contributing to a key sequence of the second period. Mitchell beats defenseman Adrian Aucoin to a pass at the point. Mitchell accelerates up the right wing, and finds Grier on the left side. Grier can not pull the trigger as the defenseman checks his stick, but he beats Aucoin to the rebound all the way out at the left boards. Mitchell takes the puck at the center blueline and splits Phaneuf and Conroy. Phaneuf pokes the puck off of Mitchell's stick at the last second, but Mitchell keeps his feet moving and reaches it first in the right corner. He hacks a shot on net from a sharp angle, save Kiprusoff tight up against the post. Textbook display of hard work.

- After a successful Sharks penalty kill, Joe Thornton finds Patrick Marleau with a home run pass through the neutral zone. Marleau takes several hard strides to the net. Miikka Kiprusoff comes out of the net with a poke check. Marleau moves the puck to his right and shoots, but Kiprusoff sprawls to his left and extends his glove to make the save. Sick save by Kiprusoff. He was agressive and athletic in San Jose, but in Calgary he developed the patience needed to force shooters to make the first move. He has explosive lateral movement, and can react to plays instantly. In a pre-game interview prior to a game against San Jose in Calgary last season, Kiprusoff noted that as goaltenders age their flexibility diminishes. Where that is most noticeable is in the hips. When Toskala and Nabokov were asked about it, both agreed with Kiprusoff's comments.

- Curtis Brown unleashes a shot blocker-side up high, Kiprusoff can not control the rebound. Joe Pavelski is taken down in front of the net, and he slides into the Flames goaltender. Jeremy Roenick knocks the puck out of midair wide of the net. Cory Sarich catches Pavelski with a check in the neutral zone, but the Sharks generate a scoring chance in the other direction. Kiprusoff loses his stick in traffic but makes a save without it, using his glove to cover the lower portion of the crease.

- Patrick Marleau turns the puck over to Alex Tanguay, a perennial Shark killer at HP Pavilion. The turnover leads to an extended Calgary cycle in the Sharks defensive zone. Milan Michalek drills Cory Sarich in the corner. Two Sharks step up with a hit and a stick check to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Line change with a Goc forecheck, scoring chance with Bernier parked in front of the crease.

- Defenseman Craig Rivet scores a goal to tie the game with a booming shot from the point. Curtis Brown fights defenseman Anders Eriksson for the puck in the corner. Roenick hits Tanguay to prevent a clearing play, and Brown moves to a spot directly in front of Kiprusoff. Rivet scores his third goal of the season beating Kiprusoff cleanly over his glove, with a Brown screen in front. Another display of hard work in the offensive zone leading to a goal. Offensive is not coming easy against a tight checking Calgary.

- McLaren upends Lombardi with a huge hip check near the Flames bench. Former 49'ers saftey Ronnie Lott used to describe "ohhh" hits where the crowd would react to plays he made on the field. That was an "ohhh" hit at HP Pavilion by McLaren. Calgary head coach Mike Keenan puts goon/RW Eric Godard (106PIMS) on the ice for the next shift. Godard immediately checks Kyle McLaren and intiates a tussle at the Sharks crease after the play. Shortly after Phaneuf and Douglas Murray are trading words on the bench. Teams fired up.


- An interesting statistic display by the Fox Sports Bay Area television broadcast detailed the performance of 4 former Warren Strelow trained goaltenders in the NHL this seaosn. Strelow, the Sharks goaltending coach, passed away last March. Warren Strelow worked with Herb Brooks as a goaltending coach for the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic team, and he became the first NHL goaltending coach with the Washington Capitals in 1983. Strelow also spent time with the New Jersey Devils developing Martin Brodeur before moving to the Sharks organization (aka "the Goalie Factory").

FSNBA detailed the performance of the 4 Strelow goaltenders this season: Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, Vesa Toskala, and Johan Hedberg; and noted that all 4 have started the most games for their invividual teams this season. Their numbers: Evgeni Nabokov (SJ, 22-12-5, 1.99GAA, .919SV%), Miikka Kiprusoff (CAL, 20-12-7, 2.82GAA, .895SV%), Vesa Toskala (TOR, 13-11-4, 2.62GAA, .909SV%), Johan Hedberg (ATL, 10-8-1, 3.19GAA, .897SV%).

- Sharks assistant coach Rob Zettler was interviewed prior to the start of the third period. He mentioned that the Sharks tried to skip some steps with long passes in the first, but that they shortened things up and simplified their game in the second. Sharks need more of the same in the third period.

- San Jose starts the third with a strong forecheck. Later in the period the Sharks keep the puck in the offensive zone, and Calgary can not clear. Dion Phaneuf checks Joe Thornton hard into the left boards, and then shadows him on the right side of the zone. Steve Bernier (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and Robyn Regehr (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) battle for the puck in the corner. Thornton comes steaming in and levels a shoulder to the head of Regehr, freeing up the puck and moving it along the boards in the process. Phaneuf, who seems to be attached to Thornton at the hip, checks Thornton up against the glass but is recoiled hard to the ice. After the play, Phaneuf is yelling at the Sharks bench from his own seat on the bench, and Wayne Primeau slams his stick on the boards after a frustrating shift.

- Michalek-Murray-Rissmiller are three members of a 4-on-2 rush in the third, with 2 Flames not far behind trying to catch up to the play. Murray shoots the puck high and wide. Later in the period the Sharks put together another extended cycle in the Calgary defensive zone. There is a lot of perimeter passing (three times around the zone on one sequence), but the puck does not make its way to the front of the net.

- With the game tied at 2-2, Phaneuf takes a delay of game penalty after he knocks the net off its moorings. Pivotal moment of the game, and this could result in a Phaneuf meltdown reminiscent of Chris Pronger at HP Pavilion with St Louis. The Calgary Flames kill off the penalty, and Owen Nolan creates a scoring chance while short handed. Two big point shots by Kyle McLaren finish out the period.


- Overtime records for each team this season are not pretty: SJ (2-5), Calgary (2-7). Both teams are equally dismal on the shootout this season (SJ 2-5, CAL 1-2), and alltime (SJ 5-14, CAL 6-14). The Sharks have been pushing the play in the third period, and the building is loud at the start of overtime.

- Iginla and the Flames initiate the first scoring chance of overtime, and defenseman Anders Eriksson gets a solid point shot on net. On the other side of the ice, Patrick Marleau steals the puck and sets up a linemate in front. Kiprusoff comes out of the crease to make the save.

- Torrey Mitchell is on fire in this game, and he creates another breakaway by blowing around a Flames defenseman Cory Sarich. Sarich tosses his stick at Mitchell on the play, no penalty called, and Regehr throws a check. Mitchell tried to pull the puck backhand to forehand before losing the puck.

- The Sharks create another solid offensive flurry in front of Miikka Kiprusoff. The third in the last 15 minutes of play. With bodies in front of Kiprusoff, Thornton snaps a backhand on net. Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren is planted in front, but the puck bounces out to the point. Christian Ehrhoff launches a shot from the left point, Kiprusoff makes the save but can not control a long rebound. Ehrhoff gathers his own rebound, skates to the right circle and hits Cheechoo with a cross-ice pass. Cheechoo gets the puck on his backhand, and he loses it trying to pull it to his forehand with a man on him. McLaren jumps on the loose puck and fires a point blank shot from 8 feet out, spectacular save by Kiprusoff.

- After the fire-sale sequence in the Flames defensive zone, defenseman Anders Eriksson breaks the puck up ice and fires it high up the end boards to the left of Evgeni Nabokov. The puck drops to the left of the crease, and defenseman Dion Phaneuf beats Kyle McLaren and Jonathan Cheechoo and back passes the puck to Iginla in front. No one covers Iginla in front, and he converts his 2nd goal of the game, his 31st of the season. It is Iginla's 4th career 2-goal game against the San Jose Sharks.




[Update] Home Woes Continue, Sharks Fall 3-2 In Overtime - SJsharks.com.

"I can't complain about the effort, especially with so many hurting with the flu," said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. "Those are the guys that competed the hardest. The guys that didn't get touched by the flu didn't give the effort needed. In the end, we got a point. That is something to build on. We had our chances and Kipper made some unbelievable saves down the stretch."

[Update2] Iginla nets OT winner, Kiprusoff turns away Sharks - Calgary Sun.

[Update3] Iginla continues torrid pace in OT win over Sharks - National Post.


Max Giese: 2008 World Junior Championships prospect impressions

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, Phoenix Coyotes center Peter Mueller, and Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price are just a few of the names who have that cut their teeth at the World Junior Championships before making the transition to the National Hockey League. Every year a few players use the tournament as a springboard to speed up their development. Here is a look at the prospects to keep an eye on from the 2008 IIHF U-20 World Junior Championships.

USA (USA vs Canada semi-final 11AM January 4th, TSN/NHL Network)

C Colin Wilson - 2008 Eligible
RW Jordan Schroeder - 2009 Eligible
C James Van Riemsdyk - Philadelphia Flyers
RW Kyle Okpsoso - New York Islanders
G Jeremy Smith - Nashville Predators

CANADA (USA vs Canada semi-final 11AM January 4th, TSN/NHL Network)

C Steven Stamkos - 2008 Eligible
The projected first overall selection in the 2008 draft, Stamkos did not dissapoint with a consistent two-way performance and flashes of offensive brilliance. He is a great prospect with a lot of character, one that puts the team before himself with hard work away from the puck.

D Luke Schenn - 2008 Eligible
With a game similar to Adam Foote, Schenn may even end up surpassing the NHL veteran when all is said and done. Schenn could go as high as top five at this years NHL Entry Draft. Schenn is one of the most complete, shut-down defenseman to come down the pipeline in years.

RW John Tavares - 2009 Eligible
C Brandon Sutter - Carolina Hurricanes
C Kyle Turris - Phoenix Coyotes
G Steve Mason - Columbus Blue Jackets

RUSSIA (Russia vs Sweden semi-final 7AM January 4th, TSN/NHL Network)

LW Nikita Filatov - 2008 Eligible
The top draft eligible Russian this year is Nikita Filatov, a highly skilled and creative playmaker overflowing with pure offensive upside. Filatov is an explosive offensive talent that can execute at full speed, a potential top ten pick.

D Maxim Chudinov - 2008 Eligible
Chudinov is a small but extremely smart and poised two-way defenseman. One that can play on the power play. Maxim's draft stock is hurt by his inability to physically hold his own in certain defensive situations.

D Vjacheslav Voinov - 2008 Eligible
Voinov is a fast and instinctive two-way defenseman, skilled with the puck and aggressive defensively. One problem is his lack of size, and tendency to turn the puck over. Both will likely keep him out of the first round in June.

RW Alexei Cherepanov - New York Rangers
Not the great skater that most Russians are, Cherepanov relies more on his elite hockey sense, instincts, quick release, and insane puck protection. Combined they make him a dynamic scoring threat around the net. Cherepanov's issues with the Russian coaching staff are well documented, and it is time for him to come over to North America next season and play in the NY Rangers farm system.

SWEDEN (Russia vs Sweden semi-final 7AM January 4th, TSN/NHL Network)

RW Patrick Berglund - St. Louis Blues
This St. Louis Blues first round pick in 2006 has all the skill to be a star, but the concern is if a team will be able to get a consistent effort out of him every game. Berglund's tall, with a gigantic wingspan and velvet hands (ala Vincent Lecavalier). Berglund is ready to come over to North America next season, and will likely see some time in the AHL before making an NHL impact.

C Mikael Backlund - Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flame's first round selection in the 2007 draft, Backlund is now fully recovered from a knee injury last season. He is beginning to look like a shrewed selection by the Flame's scouting staff. A creative playmaker with great hands and poise with the puck. Backlund is also a solid two-way player that uses his large frame to win one-on-one battles. He looks ready for the AHL next year, and wowed scouts with ingenious passes at this year's WJC tournament.

D Viktor Hedman - 2009 Eligible
Think Chris Pronger without the mean streak and you have an idea of what this stud defenseman brings to the table. He is already 6-foot-7, 210 pounds. Hedman owns NHL caliber skating ability, good hand skill, and solid offensive instincts. Hedman is the best defensive prospect to come along in years, and projects as a franchise caliber blueline for the team lucky enough to draft him.

D Johan Motin - 2008 Eligible
Stay at home defenseman with good size and adequate mobility. Motin will challenge for a first round selection in the 2008 draft for his savvy and mature defensive game.

G Johnas Enroth - Buffalo Sabres
Henrik Lundqvist the second he is not. While Enroth continues to put up impressive numbers on the international stage, his game is full of holes. They will be difficult to overcome to make it to the NHL level.

CZECH REPUBLIC - 5th place.
The home team Czech Republic squad boasted impressive top end skill players up front and solid goaltending, but their horrible defense and lack of depth made them a pushover by the tournament's top teams.

RW Jakub Voracek - Columbus Blue Jackets
Looks like the Blue Jackets got themselves a blue chip player when they selected Voracek seventh overall at last June's NHL entry draft. Voracek is one of those rare individuals who can rise to the occassion, and play his best hockey when it matters most. He is one of the few players that performed well against Canada, and hedid it with power, skill, and creativity.

C Michael Frolik - Florida Panthers
In his fourth World Junior Championship, Frolik emerged as a go-to-guy for the Czech Republic. A finesse player, Frolik's was able to manufacture offense in traffic. He will be expected to improve his defensive game next year in the AHL, but he already possesses the raw talent that coach's can not teach.

G Michal Neurvirth - Washington Capitals
Technically solid butterfly goaltender, strong down low but susceptible to goals up high. Neuvirth is an important goaltending prospect for the Washington Capitals, and should be competing in the AHL next season.

FINLAND - 6th place.
It was a typical heart and soul performance for the Fins, who continue to struggle to produce highly skilled offensive players.

G Harri Sateri - 2008 Eligible
Sateri is your typical Finnish butterfly goaltender. He does a phenomenal job taking away the lower portion of the net. Sateri outplayed the already drafted Riku Helenius, and he should be a selection in the first or second round of this year's NHL entry draft.

LW Juuso Puustinen - Calgary Flames
Puustinen was the key skater for the offensively starved Fins. Not only did he lead the team in goal scoring, utilizing his heavy shot, but Puustinen also lead by example with a courageous two-way performance.

C Jan-Mikael Juutilainen - Chicago Blackhawks
Here is an interesting player, a Finnish-born prospect that is playing junior hockey in America. He has been a major dissapointment for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the USHL. Yet, Juutilainen is playing great internationally, and he continued that trend at this year's WJC tournament generating offense and playing a sound two-way game.

RW Niclas Lucenius - Atlanta Thrashers
Nothing special nor particularly awful here, Lucenius should have Atlanta excited for his smart, and well rounded game. His lack of speed was instantly evident here on the big ice surface.

RW Max Warn - Dallas Stars
Warn is a big but raw forward that has all the talent. Sometimes makes poor decisions with the puck that render him ineffective.

DENMARK - relegated.
Team Denmark struggled at this year's WJC, but they made a great impact in terms showcasing Danish talent in front of NHL scouts. 2007 first round selection Lars Eller was impressive, and it looks like he will not be the only Danish born prospect drafted in the first round much longer. Two of Eller's teammates turned a few heads, and sould garner early consideration come draft day.

C Lars Eller - St. Louis Blues
The first Danish born prospect to be selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, Lars Eller impressed with his mature two-way performance and undeniable offensive talent.

RW Mikkel Boedker - 2008 Eligible
Arguably the most purely skilled prospect at this year's event, Boedker is the type of player that fans will pay to see. He should end up being a top ten selection in this year's entry draft.

D Philip Larsen - 2008 Eligible
Emerged as a real sleeper for the 2008 draft, Larsen never left the ice for the Dane's. He was definitley Denmark's top defenseman at the tournament. He is not a flashy player, but a steady two-way defenseman that can defend down low and move the puck well.

Slovakia is in a slump right now far as developing quality young hockey talent. It showed at this tournament. Only a couple players stood out as potential NHL'ers.

C Tomas Marcinko - New York Islanders
Marcinko has played in the Ontario Hockey League for the last two years, and was notable for his mature two-way game. Marcinko thinks the game well, he's big (6-foot-4, 205 pounds), and he is deceptively skilled with the puck. His footwork needs to improve, and he needs to get quicker.

RW David Skokan - New York Rangers
When David Skokan was 16 he was seen as a potential top pick, unfortunately his development stalled and now he has the look of a 3rd or 4th line grinder. That is not nessecarily a bad thing. Skokan displayed a fierce competitive streak to compliment a powerful stride at this year's WJC.

SWITZERLAND - relegated.
Swiitzerland is beginning to produce skilled individuals, but they lack the depth to hang with the tournament heavyweights.

G Robert Mayer - 2008 Eligible
Arguably the best draft eligible goaltender available this year, Mayer is blessed with freakish natural athletic ability, rare to find in a net minder. He has struggled with consistency this season, and he is still prone to the occasional weak goal.

D Lukas Stoop - 2008 Eligible
Highly skilled and mobile offensive defenseman, he plays with finesse generates offense from the back end. The trouble with Stoop is that he can be outmuscled, and his defensive coverage is not solid. This will likely keep him out of the first round.

[Update] The final four (Sweden-Russia, USA-Canada): U20 semi-finals, From four to two. Who will survive the semi-final round? - IIHF.com.

[Update2] FINAL at the WJC: Sweden 2-1 Russia, overtime - New York Times Slapshots blog.

What a great goal to end a great game. Backlund went around everyone to score, and he was about the fourth Swede to do use his speed to get clear in the extra period. I still think 4 on 4 is contrived and evil, but whatever. Sweden win, and they deeserve it, but Russia played a great game too. Congratulations to both sides.

Here’s the scoring:
39. Filatov 2 (Cherepanov)
52. Figren 5 (Andersson, Moe) pp
67. Backlund 3 (Svensson Paajarvi, Moe)

The final shot totals, 38-24 for Sweden. They controlled the last 20 minutes of this match.

Thanks to Paul Kukla for the link.

[Update3] The USA vs Canada seminfinal takes place Friday at 11AM (PT). An audio feed, live blog, statistics, photo gallery, and articles are available at USAhockey.com.

[Update4] Canada to go for gold after beating U.S. - TSN.

For the second straight year, Canada has defeated the United States in the semifinals of the world junior hockey championship in the Czech Republic. Goals by Shawn Matthias, Karl Alzner, Colton Gillies and Brad Marchand propelled Canada to a 4-1 victory and a date with Sweden in Saturday's gold medal game.


Hockey Notes - January 2nd

Buffalo Sabres Pittsburgh Penguins Winter Classic hockey
Buffalo Sabres Pittsburgh Penguins Winter Classic hockey

- The Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 OT shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres in the Winter Classic defied all of the usual sports cliches to deliver a true spectacle on New Years Day. Athletes vs Nature, the "Future is Now" with Sidney Crosby, Cold War veteran Ryan Miller's goaltending duel with Heritage Classic veteran Ty Conklin, 71,217 fans setting a new NHL attendance record and laying a possible claim to Hockeytown USA, the National Hockey League upstaging college football and many of its mainstream critics... none capture the simple joy of doing something you are not supposed to be doing, and being successful. Hockey returned to its pond hockey and pratice rink roots, and it was fun to watch.

Colby Armstrong opened the scoring for Pittsburgh 21 seconds into the game after the puck stalled on loose snow in the neutral zone and created a Buffalo turnover. The puck would continue to bounce erratically for the remainder of the game. With offense at a premium, both teams simplified their game and ratcheted up the physical pressure. Adam Mair, Brian Campbell, and Paul Gaustad initiated huge checks in front of the home Buffalo crowd, but it was Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Ryan Malone who landed the biggest hit of the game. Malone launched himself off of an upended Campbell in the corner on a play that will be replayed whenever the Winter Classic is discussed.

Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Campbell tied the game at 1-1 on fresh ice early in the second, with a point shot from 50 feet out. Tim Connolly provided the nice cross-ice feed. Scoreless after overtime, Ty Conklin shut down Maxim Afinogenov on a penalty shot attempt after faking a poke check and smothering the left side of the net. Ryan Miller made the first move on Sidney Crosby, also trying for a poke check. Crosby slid the puck five hole at the last second, and then was mobbed by cheering teammates. Penguins win the Winter Classic 2-1.

Tuesday's Winter Classic broadcast was notable for what did not go smoothly as much as for what worked. The opening blimp-eye view of the faceoff was partially obscured by clouds, zambonis battled to maintain a playable ice surface with numerous stoppages, and the main sideline camera at times captured more snow than ice hockey. The worsening conditions and steady buzz from the crowd added to the flavor of the experience.

The 71,217 fans made quite an impression before the game, and several lead chants that were barely audible during play. NBC needs to take a page from the English Premiere League, mic the crowd, and let them do their thing sans any commenting once or twice a period. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle also reported that approximately 11,500 attended a game viewing party at HSBC Arena in downtown Buffalo.

An extensive video recap of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 SO win over Buffalo at the Winter Classic is available from NHL.com. Also worth a look is this time lapse video of the 5 days needed to build an ice rink at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Winter Classic is also available as a 6-disc DVD box set from hdhockey.tv.

- Sabres Report has a complete rundown of the Winter Classic media coverage from Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

- NHL Commissioner Bettman's statement on the 2008 AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic:

"This was a memorable and outstanding afternoon, and I want to thank everyone who had something to do with making this game possible – in particular the Sabres and Penguins, the Bills, the city of Buffalo, the NHL's ice crew and the entire NHL staff. Their close collaboration conquered significant challenges and achieved a superbly successful event."

"I also thank the fans. This was a fun afternoon – fun for the 71,000-plus in attendance and fun for the viewers of NBC, the CBC and RDS, all of whom did a terrific job covering the game. Based on the response, on our ability to execute, and the inquiries we’re getting from other clubs for similar activities, this obviously is something we’re going to look at doing again. This is the type of event we certainly will be looking at doing in the future."

- Tonight on Versus: the Atlanta Thrashers visit the Carolina Hurricanes at 4:30PM (PT). Hockey Central wraps up the week in hockey after the broadcast. Ben Wright previews the game for the Atlanta Thrashers Blueland Blog, and notes that after hovering around .500 for a few weeks the Thrashers need to make up some ground in the standings.

Without any New Years Day hockey on Versus, NBC provided the Winter Classic at 10AM, and Fox Sports Bay Area's NHL Extra aired the Ottawa at Washington game at 1PM and the Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles game at 7:30PM. With an archived Finnish stream of Team USA's group B World Junior Championship game on Monday against Finland, it made for perfect 4-games-in-a-day bowl day viewing. More on the WJC will be posted soon.

- Best in snow - Yahoo Sports.

The game was different, and major adjustments had to be made because of the elements and circumstance. The light snow grew hard toward the end of regulation. The wind was blowing very hard by overtime and during the shootout. The wind chill dropped from the mid-30s into the low 20s and high teens.

Because snow would just stick to the top of the ice and freeze instead of blowing to the boards, the players learned quickly that stickhandling, stretch passes and one-time shots weren't going to work. There were only two icing calls in the entire game, the first 2:01 into the second period and not another until midway through overtime.

Two Zambonis scraped the ice at least every 10 minutes. In other words, they operated not only after each 20-minute period, but at mid- period, too. One Zamboni was out of commission for a point during the second half of the game because it froze up.

Ross McKeon also live blogged the event for Yahoo Sports here.

- The San Jose Sharks continued their road dominance of the National Hockey League picking up 4 wins in 6 days to increase their winning streak away from HP Pavilion to 10 games. San Jose is tied with 4 other teams for second in consecutive road wins, behind only the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings who reeled off 12 straight road wins in early 2006. Below are a few notes from the 4-game Sharks road trip:

12-31-07 San Jose @ MIN 3-2 win:
- boxscore
- youtube video highlights
- game notes coming soon

12-29-07 San Jose @ NASH 5-2 win:
- boxscore
- youtube video highlights
- game notes coming soon

12-28-07 San Jose @ STL 1-0 win:
- boxscore
- youtube video highlights
- game notes coming soon

12-25-07 San Jose @ LA 3-2 win:
- boxscore
- youtube video highlights
- game notes coming soon

- A week ago the NHL posted a final Allstar voting update for the Western Conference. Voting ends today (January 2nd), and the Allstar starters will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 8th.

As of the last update, Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg (291,952) and Pavel Datsyuk (262,619), and Calgary's Jarome Iginla (213,258) lead all Western Conference forwards. Roberto Luongo (228,583), Pascal Leclaire (165,499) and Dominik Hasek (104,122) were 1, 2, and 3 for top goaltenders receiving votes. Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom leads all vote getters with 420,436 nominations, Dion Phaneuf (275,395) and Chris Pronger (181,529) round out the top 3.

Top San Jose Sharks receiving votes as of one week ago: Joe Thornton (131,737), Jonathan Cheechoo (125,366), Evgeni Nabokov (50,562), and Patrick Marleau (28,079).

- Ovechkin, Jagr And Nabakov Named NHL 'Three Stars' Of The Week - NHL.com.


Nabokov posted a record of 3-0-0, a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage and one shutout as San Jose (21-12-5, 47 points) recorded three road victories. On Dec. 26 he recorded 34 saves in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. On Dec. 28 he made 26 saves in recording his fifth shutout of the season, a 1-0 win over the St Louis Blues. He finished the week recording 21 saves in a 5-2 victory over the Nashville Predators. Nabokov has appeared in all 38 Sharks games, posting a 21-12-5 record with a 1.99 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and five shutouts.

Update from the NHL: Ottawa center Jason Spezza, Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk, and San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov were named today as the three stars of the month for December.

San Jose Sharks hockey store

- Spoke to four local stores about holiday Sharks merchandise sales over the weekend. Two mentioned significant gains in sales over last season, two said numbers were above average. Which jerseys were most popular: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo. One vendor also said the league switch to Reebock increased sales of hockey related merchandise accross the board.

- Former SJSU Spartan Ryan Lowe was an emergency backup goaltender for the ECHL Victoria Salmon Kings during a 7-3 win over Fresno in mid-December. The Fresno Falcons, who invited Lowe to a training camp tryout this summer, are unaffiliated with an NHL franchise after spending 4 seasons as the San Jose Sharks ECHL affiliate. The Victoria Salmon Kings, affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL and the Manitoba Moose of the AHL, began play in the 2004–2005 season. The Salmon Kings are in first place in the West Division with a 20-8-0-2 record.

- From the AHL's By the Numbers: .988 -- Houston Aeros goaltender Nolan Schaefer’s save percentage over his last three games… He has stopped 80 of 81 shots over that span, including two straight shutouts… The Aeros, who are 8-2-0-1 in their last 11 outings, play four divisional road games in five days beginning Friday at Quad City.

- Canadian photography magazine Photo Life has a feature by Dave Chidley this month (JAN, v33) on hockey photography, Hockey Shots. Chidley has experience shooting the NHL Calgary Flames and CHL Calgary Hitmen, but now he shoots the OHL London Knights junior team. He recommends several shooting positions and setting tips in the 6-page feature, and the crisp clear action photos are impressive.

- Sharks Ryane Clowe arrested, booked on suspicion of drunk driving in Los Gatos - December 25th in the San Jose Mercury News.

- Happy Pucking New Year, TFP Columnist Greg Wyshynski presents his Year-End awards, including the Best and Worst Trades, the Coolest and Lamest Jeremy Roenick Moments, Hockey Media and Blogs of the Year, and the revelation of The Worst Player of 2007 - The Fourth Period.

- Mike Grier will be a guest on the Saturday, January 5th edition of the Teal Spiel radio show. The broadcast will air on 1220AM, and it will be streamed live on 1220knts.com.

- The good old hockey game song was remade as The Old Cap-i-tols game. Video by Washington Capitols fan Remi.

- An email from Ecco in Germany points to a few trends, and breaks down a few of the NHL veterans playing in the German Deutscher Eishockey Liga (DEL):

My favorite DEL team to follow is still the Augsburger Panther. A low budget team, they have to give away their best players after each season. This season they have some really good younger players, and I hope they will get the 10th place in the DEL after the regular season. There is a new playoff system in the DEL. The best 6 teams are fix for the playoffs and 7-10 will battle for 2 playoff spots.

The Eisbären Berlin (Anschutz club) are on top in the league with some experienced players like Steve Walker, Deron Quint and Stefan Ustorf. Constantin Braun who was selected by the Kings in 2006 has good numbers this season.

Former NHLers in the DEL:

Nurnberg Ice Tigers:
Andre Savage (Boston,Philadelphia)
Brian Swanson (Edmonton,Atlanta)
Christian Laflamme (Chicago,Edmonton,Montreal,St Louis)
Richard Brennan (Boston,LA)
Sean Brown (Edmonton,Boston,New Jersey,Vancouver)
Patrick Ehelechner (backup goalie)

Frankfurt Lions:
Chris Taylor (Islanders,Boston,Buffalo)
Jeff Ulmer (Rangers)
Jay Henderson (Boston)
Richie Regehr (Calgary)
Jeff Heerema (Carolina,St Louis)
Chris Armstrong (Minnesota,Anaheim)
Peter Smrek (St Louis,Rangers)
Jason Marshall (Anaheim,Minnesota,Washington)

Kolner Haie:
Ivan Ciernik (Washington)
Dave McLlwain (Pittsburgh,Winnipeg,Islanders,Buffalo,Toronto,Ottawa)
Phillip Gogulla (drafted by the Sabres)
Kamil Piros (Atlanta,Florida)
Todd Warriner (Toronto,Tampa Bay,Phoenix,Vancouver,Philadelphia,Nashville)

some others:
Pat Kavanagh, Norm Maracke, Bov Wren, Chris Schmidt (Iserlohn Roosters)
Pascal Trepanier,Jeff Shantz,Colin Forbes,Rene Corbet,Rico Fata,Sven Butenschön,Blake Sloan,Adam Hauser (Mannheimer Adler)
Chris Herperger,Mike Green,Dan Lambert,Sascha Goc (Hannover Scorpions)
Herbert Vasilijevs,Alexander Selivanov (Krefelder Pinguine)
Yorrick Treille;Eric Boguniecki,Jason Holland,Jimmy Waite (ERC Ingolstadt)
Peter Sarno,Brad Smyth,Andy Delmore,Chrsitoph Brandner,Benoit Gratton,John Tripp,Paul Manning,Jean Marc Pelletier (Hamburg Freezers)
Peter Ratchuk,Brandon Reid,Jeff Panzer,Darren van Impe,Jamie Storr (Düsseldorf Metro Stars)
Travis Brigley,Patrick DesRochers (Augsburger Panther)

Interesting player to keep an eye on: Germanys top goalgetter Michael Wolf. 34 goals in 33 matches! I would like to see him in the NHL!

Thanks for the update on the DEL. Ecco wrote about German hockey for several years at letsgokings.com. With the demise of prohockey.de, the English language coverage of the German League is sparse.

I recently spoke with a German hockey reporter in Stockton writing about his experience visiting family friendly ECHL venues in Stockton and Bakersfield. I mentioned that San Jose and Anaheim would have to be considered two of the most family friendly arenas in the NHL. There is a lot of discussion about hardcore fans vs casual fans, but in California hockey is quickly becoming an entertainment option of choice for many families. Speaking with the reporter and a part-owner of a German team, they mentioned hockey in Germany is focused more around the Bavarian region, and that youth participation is small but growing.

- Canada wins Spengler Cup - James Mirtle. More on the tournament in Switzerland from Paul Romanuk is available here.

- Updated the photos section of this website. Photo galleries from the 2007-08 NHL season have been added, a complete list of official NHL team photographers has been added, links to Sharkspage coverage of the 2007 Photo Plus Expo photography conference and Nikon's Four to the Floor media event have also been added.

Also added Offwing Photo (Allen Clark, Ellen Blanchard, Eric McErlain), Insidehockey.com's AHL photographer Anthony Fiore, former Long Beach Ice Dogs photographer Chad Sengstock (ECHL), current Fresno Falcons photographer Herman Evaristo (ECHL). More links and articles will be added soon.

[Update] An outdoor hockey history lesson from Wikipedia:

The "Cold War" was an ice hockey game played between U.S. college rivals Michigan State University and the University of Michigan on Saturday October 6, 2001... 74,544 packed the Big Ten football stadium to watch the MSU Spartans and the U-M Wolverines skate to a 3-3 tie... In November 2003, the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens dropped the puck on the Heritage Classic - the NHL's first regulation outdoor game. An NHL record 57,000 fans braved -18 °C temperatures was also treated to Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier returning as an Oiler alumni in the preceding Alumni Game.

In February 2006, Ohio State and Wisconsin attracted 40,890 fans to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins played the AMP NHL Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium near Buffalo on January 1, 2008. Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller played for Michigan State in the "Cold War" game and played in the Winter Classic game as well. The game reset the NHL attendance record to 71,217.

There are tentative plans to have another outdoor game featuring Boston College, Boston University, Michigan and Michigan State held at Fenway Park. Talks are also underway to determine whether a game at Yankee Stadium between the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders would be possible. As well, Michigan and Michigan State have discussed an outdoor rematch at Michigan Stadium and the Detroit Red Wings have looked into hosting a game at Detroit's Ford Field. Rumors have also circulated of a possible outdoor game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers to take place at Penn State's Beaver Stadium in the '08-'09 season and possibly annually thereafter. Beaver Stadium's seating capacity of over 100,000 will likely lead to broken attendance records for all outdoor hockey games.

The effects of this event were felt in Europe, where local rivals SC Bern and SC Langnau held their 100th meeting at Bern's Stade de Suisse, Wankdorf in front of 30,076 spectators on January 14, 2007. The game was sold out within 53 hours of going on sale. These two teams regularly fill one of Europe's largest ice hockey arenas, the Bern Arena, with 16,000+ fans. The attendance was the largest in European ice hockey history, and broke a 40-year old mark set in Sweden.

[Update2] Winter Classic exceeds U.S. TV expectations with 2.6 overnight rating - William Houston for the Globe and Mail.

Michael Wilbon on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption wants an outdoor NHL game every Sunday, and said he watched more of the Winter Classic than any bowl game on New Years Day. Tony Kornheiser said that he wants 10 outdoor games for every NHL team (it was 53 degrees New Years Day in San Jose), and he believes the attendance totals for those 10 outdoor games would outdraw the other 32 regular season home games for each team. Kornheiser said one negative with the coverage was that there was not more panorama shots encompassing the totality of the harsh weather. Wilbon said he wanted more weather reports, forecasts and predictions every few minutes.

More from the Globe and Mail's William Houston on the Winter Classic broadcasts is available here: Low-quality hockey, high-quality television. Thanks to James Mirtle for the link.

[Update3] Ice, Ice baby - Sports Media Watch.

The 2.6 overnight for Penguins/Sabres is higher than the rating for every NHL telecast last season, including all five games of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. The rating is also the third highest for an NHL game on NBC, behind two Stanley Cup Finals games. The game, which ended in a shoot-out, drew a 38.1 rating in Buffalo and a 17.7 in Pittsburgh. Despite the big rating, the Winter Classic was no match for the Capital One Bowl; the game between Michigan and Florida drew a 9.9 overnight on ABC.

Highest overnights for the NHL on NBC.

4.1: '06 Stanley Cup Finals Game 7, Oilers/Hurricanes (6/19/06, 8 PM)
2.9: '06 Stanley Cup Finals Game 5, Hurricanes/Oilers (6/14/06, 8 PM)
2.6: '08 NHL Winter Classic, Sabres/Penguins (1/1/08, 1 PM)
2.5: '07 Stanley Cup Finals Game 5, Senators/Ducks (6/6/07, 8 PM)
2.4: '06 Stanley Cup Finals Game 4, Oilers/Hurricanes (6/12/06, 8PM