Thursday, April 30, 2009

Season ending interviews with San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson

The camera work is shaky, had to stretch over a couple of television cameras, but here is a partial clip of comments made by head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson at the end of season media interview sessions.

Head coach Todd McLellan held an end of season interview session with assembled television reporters, but he went into a little more detail with print reporters after the locker room cleared out. Here are his comments to the TV crews, his subsequent comments will be posted next.

Game 7 was to be played tonight, we would prefer to be preparing for that but we are not. The way we played in the playoffs, and a little bit down the stretch is unacceptable. We take full responsibility for that. We have no excuses for it.

The regular season started very well for us. I thought there came a point where we hit the wall a little bit. Injuries came into play. Perhaps looking back on it from a coaching staff, perhaps we burnt a few players out. Again the intensity and the inability to play in the playoffs is unacceptable. We have to look at ourselves, first of all as a coaching staff. Make some changes the way we approach the game, and the way we prepare the team. Secondly they have to look at themselves, it starts with your core, as I mentioned in the playoffs. Then it trickles on down to the rest of the team and the foot soliders. We had good nights from some of those areas, and some not so good nights from them as well. You never win a championship like that.

That expection (that it is not good enough to just make the playoffs) is outside the locker room. It is also inside. That is our expectation. We're not putting the San Jose Sharks regular season together just to have a great regular season and get a long summer. That's not what we're about. Obviously it hasn't worked for us. We take full responsibility for that. We're going to have to look at everything carefully. If there is a change or an approach we have to make with the coaching staff or the system, then we have to address that. Personel-wise, everybody will be held accountable for their actions. Some decisions will have to be made.

(Was criticism of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau fair?) They're our superstar players. Do I think it is completely fair? No. I think we have a core that is larger than #19 and #12, the rest of the core did not perform as they would like as well. The secondary people, the teams that have advanced have got production from secondary scorers, their checkers. We have a line that produced 70 goals throughout the year, they had 2 in the playoffs. You can't win like that.

This is a team that had an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. Should of is a real bold word, but we had the opportunity to be successful. We didn't take advantage of it.

(Will changes be made) There has to be change, whether it is in personel, whether it is in the approach we take, whether it is the presence we have around the locker room, whether it is something we are doing as coaches, or how we are playing the game, there has to be a change. We can't continue on the way we are doing things. There will be.

I think right now we are in the emotion stage. We feel it, I know the fans feel it. I ran into a number of people that are very disappointed, rightfully so. They are emotionally attached to the team, they feel that emotion. We feel it in here right now. It is a real tough time to make decisions when your emotions are too high to think clearly. We'll take some time. We will take the time and make some changes.

(How much of the emotion is disappointment, how much is down right being ticked off a little bit?) I think it is a combination of both. One leads to the other. We are obviously diappointed, with that comes a real sense of frustration. I think everybody is frustrated either individually or collectively. You can feel it, just walk around the locker room. You can really feel it. Maybe it is a good feeling for us to have.

Todd McLellan was very candid with assembled print reporters, breaking down what the coaches needed to do after the series to re-evaluate the team, pointing to problems players had dealing with pressure, pointing to problems the team had with an avalanche of injuries down the stretch, discussed how he adjusted lines and matchups in the series, and discussed the key of the series which was a lack of playoff motivation for Games 1 and 2.

I don't know if it's clear, the frustration level and disappointment level is at an alltime high here, at least since I have been around. The emotions amongst everyone are very high. To make real quick decisions would not be productive. We have to see our way through it here for the next few days.

A lot of things have gone on in our world. As coaches we have sat down and gone through our roster, evaluating where the players started and where they went to. How we handled them, individually and collectively. Change where we would like to see improvement in them, and where we can help them. That's where we're at. That happened within a day and a half. There is a lot more work we have to do as a staff. We have to look at ourselves, the staff, and what was our impact on the season. How did our planning impact the team. How did we use people. There has to be a real good evaluation process there so we can change what we think is neccessary to make the next step.

I think it is too early to say (whether changes will be dramatic), I am looking to feedback from the players. Then we will have to evaluate. We are going to make it a level playing field, and give everyone an opportunity for some 1-on-1 time, for some input. Then we will go from there...

I don't think we handled the pressure as well as I thought we would, individually and collectively. Both (outward and inward pressure), we talked about the external and internal pressure. The external pressure maybe impacted individual players more than the team. Maybe the internal pressure, we weren't as competitive as we needed to be in Games 1 and 2. To me, that was the turning point.

Coming down the stretch, we had a roster that was beat up a lot. We didn't play probably the way we needed to play. We didn't use people in their accustomed roles with people they are used to playing with. So the playoffs come around, we get all of our bodies back. It was a concern of mine heading in. We put them all back together. Maybe we felt that was going to be the answer. Good, we got back to where we were. We didn't get across to them that that wasn't enough. We needed to have the same drive and determination we had earlier when we were all together.

(On external pressure) A little of it was history, every team in the playoffs has pressure. The Red Wings, my experience there, there is no team that has more pressure on them every year than Detroit. In 05, when we lost in the first round coming out of the lockout, I am not sure we handled it that well. The team adjusted, made some changes, and grew to the point that they are capable of handling it now.

That is a good question, that is a question we are asking ourselves right now (why the same playoff issue of slow starts remains year after year). A better question maybe later on in the series, why do you see it go up? The first people we have to look it is ourselves as coaches. Did we elevate them enough? Did we get them where they needed to be? We will start there.

You hope you don't, the way the year evolved we had all that success when everyone was together. Then we start losing pieces, we were waiting for everybody to come back. Assumed success isn't guaranteed. Just like putting a bunch of guys in here with Stanley Cup rings, I have said all along that success doesn't guarantee future success. It may help. Quite frankly, I thought those people that were in here had an impact on the series.

We didn't play as well coming down the stretch. We managed the team a little different coming down the stretch, trying to play some of the role players more to cut minutes back and take the taxing ones back from the leaders. We played people with different pairs and different lines, not by design but because we had to. We felt we had them ready to go. Then when the group came back together, we went with the familiar combinations. Maybe we just didn't get to the level we didn't need to get to.

(Do coaches look in the mirror and ask what they needed to do to be better?) I am. We are the first ones that have to, we have to look at ourselves first. It is too easy to run around and talk about everyone else first. We have a huge responsibility as a coaching staff.

(Are Marleau and Thornton too nice, does that core need to be broken up?) I think we need a little more time. I understand that sentiment. Their personalities, first of all we have to seperate the two because they are not the same. Their personalities are different, but they are the leaders. One wears the C, one wears and A. They are the focal point of our organization, them and the rest of the core, I have to include them. Quite frankly, they are. The team has not succeeded over the last little bit with them driving the bus, if you will. That doesn't mean they can't do it. I think the questions grow every year you don't succeed.

I would like to have Games 1 and 2 back. That is just having the opportunity again. We did break up the lines after the first game. We weren't sure where Patty was at health wise, quite frankly to tell you the truth. We went scoreless in Game 1. That line did not produce as well as we thought they would. We didn't want to hamper some of the other offensive players if Patty was unable to go. So we went there, we went with the same lines in Game 3 and won. We got the matches that we wanted. Then in Game 4, which I thought was the poorest game of the series, flat out poor. We started to play again with those same line combinations we won with. When it wasn't going good, we went back. Hindsight is 50/50, did we use the right line combinations, did we try the right matches. Yes/No.

Game 1... maybe as a staff we could have been more surly, more growly... could we have coaches, I don't want to use the word I used the other day, their level up. All that was going on, that (word) was the focal point. Could have we got them to the point they needed to be. Could we have effected that at all as a staff. I think that is the question we are asking ourselves as a staff more than anything. What could have we done. I liked our practices heading in, I liked our preperation heading in. It just wasn't there to start.

(Given Marleau's health status, did you think about not playing him?) No. He was capable of skating. He still ended up, he wasn't the poorest player in the series. We were told he could fight his way through it. He was prepared to do that. Away we went.

(About playoff grit) It is not on the store shelves. You can't just go to Costco and pick it off there. You develop it, we will look at doing that more throughout the year. You aquire it, whether it is developing your own players, whatever it might be. It is essential ingredient to winning. We showed that playoff grit at times in the series, but not enough. We showed it even in Game 6, we showed that we have playoff grit. Game 5 we had playoff grit. We didn't have playoff grit in Games 1 and 2, and we go right back to that again.

It was addressed (the lack of player's realizing what was lost after a poor performance in Game 1). We took that level up for Game 2. Even then it wasn't maybe enough, until we got deeper into the series.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson identified the weak areas on the Sharks in the playoffs last year. He addressed them by bringing in future Hall of Fame blueliner and former Los Angeles Kings captain Rob Blake, and 2009 NHL Allstar Dan Boyle. Bludgeoned by injuries midway through the season, Wilson moved a pair of promising prosects to acquire Travis Moen and Kent Huskins from Anaheim to add depth.

Doug Wilson did not take as much time off to gather his thoughts about the team before addressing the media as he did in 2008, but it is still shocking that the general manager appeared more upset and more angry about the outcome of this playoff series than many of the players in the lockerroom. There are no islands on this team. Each individual player can be held accountable as much for his own play on the ice as he is for not helping teammates come to play with the focus and intensity needed to win.

I apologize to our fans and I apologize to our ownership, there will be some very difficult decisions to make ahead of us. We will deal with them head on. We will build a team that will win. Right now the autopsy, which is probably the appropriate word, will begin. Believe me the responsibility begins right here.

Everything will be evaluated. There is nothing that is off the table. This is a very, very disappointing moment. People tried to use this comment, someone called and tried to pacify me saying the journey is the reward. That is a crock. This is pro sports, winning is the only thing that matters. We will get there. It may take some tough times. This is going to be a real tough, painful summer.

We don't make excuses. Everybody is injured this time of year, if your not there is probably something wrong with them. We will give you a medical release, you guys can evaluate it for whatever it is. There are realities and excuses. We are not going to enter in to any excuse making or avoidance.

We will be very thorough, we will get input from everybody. Give everybody a chance to be heard, then we will go into action. I don't think it is appropriate yet (to meet with players). I need a few more days. I am going to meet with our coaching staff, who has been through this type of situation before. I am going to meet with some of our scouts. Then we will move to the next phase. There will be some decisions made, and some big ones.

In my mind (about what went wrong), it is probably inappropriate and unfair to come up with any rational things that you can use on the air.

(How did the players respond to their character being questioned) There is nothing to be said about that. The only response is to go and get it done. I think we are all done with this. This is what we are going to do, or whatever. This is pro sports, results are what speaks, nothing else matters.

Doug Wilson is exactly the leader the Sharks need building the team. He has the same "old school" mentality in the front office that he used to bring to the ice as a former Norris Trophy winning defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks. The Sharks need to bring more of that "old school" mentality into the coaching philosophy and into the locker room.

[Update] San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak also went into more detail with an angry general manager Doug Wilson on his Working the Corners blog. At the end of a subsequent report on Patrick Marleau's sprained MCL, Pollack also posted a partial team injury report:

***Rob Blake — foot contusion, 10 days, MRI possible.
***Jonathan Cheechoo — MCL sprain, left knee, 22 days.
***Travis Moen — hip contusion, 8 days.
***Douglas Murray — left shoulder may need MRI, acts like mild rotator cuff strain.
***Evgeni Nabokov–strained hip muscle (gluteus medius), 13 days.
***Joe Pavelski — knee contusion, 4 days.
***Devin Setoguchi — mild ankle swelling by Achilles tendon.
***Jody Shelley — possible MRI for neck and shoulder soreness.
***Joe Thornton–groin/hip flexor, 63 days.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

San Jose Sharks players season ending interviews with the media

The San Jose Sharks players held a final season ending interview session with the media Wednesday afternoon before cleaning out their lockers. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski, Jeremy Roenick, and Mike Grier answered questions from the television and print media. Video and quotes from head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson will be posted soon.

Joe Thornton expressed disappointment to a large group of assembled reporters, and noted that he expected to be playing well into summer.

It's disappointing. We didn't expect it to end this way. We all have to be better. That is pretty much what we said. I don't know (what the difference is between the regular season and postseason). When you look back on this series, I haven't had a chance to watch any games or anything, I think special teams hurt us. We knew before the series whoever won that battle was probably going to win the series. I think we didn't win the series, so that was probably lacking overall.

(Dealing with the criticism) is normal. If you don't win it probably comes down on the best player. It's fair. Your team has to win, and you have to push your team over the top. It is fair criticism I think.

I have no idea (if this playoff series will effect regular season games between Anaheim and San Jose). I am not really thinking about that right now, we will have to wait and see how that comes out next year. They played hard.

No team is the same. There is going to be things that go on in the offseason. Even if we win the Stanley Cup, teams change. I expect this team to be changed as well... You say your goodbyes, and hope to see you next year.

(The most frustrating thing) is you have to go home. Your calender had nothing on it till the middle of June. Now somehow you have to deal with this, life has to move on. You expected to play until June, so it really does suck.

It's fair, the first step is you have to make the playoffs. It is a different world once you get there. This team had high expectations, we just didn't fufill them. It is a tough day today, we should have been playing a Game 7. We are home here talking to you guys about leaving. We still have a lot to prove. Prove to the city of San Jose, and the fans all across America.

You take a couple of weeks off to rest the body, then you go back to working out. You have to get ready for the next season. You probably look back on it all in a couple of weeks and figure it all out.

After the television cameras were off, Thornton answered a couple of questions from San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak, opinion columnist Ann Killion, and the last two from Sharkspage:

It is tough, we had high expectations and we just didn't fufill them as individuals. (On the physicality the last two games) probably both, get yourself into the game and get them off their game.

(On whether specific players will stay or go) That is not my place. Patrick Marleau is the leader of this team. It is up to Doug Wilson, he gets paid to make those decisions. No (I am not dealing with any injuries).

It is tough, it is a learning process (learning to bring the intensity early in a series). It really is. It is a long season, 82 games. Then you have to ramp it up for the postseason. It is all about learning I think still.

(What is going to be different for next year) There are going to be different players. I think Todd learned a lot, I think as players we learned a lot. We know what is expected of this team now.

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau talked about playing for the first time with a sprained knee, trade rumors, wanting to bring a Stanley Cup to San Jose, and whether or not he would accept an invitation from Team Canada to play at the World Championships in Switzerland.

We didn't play good enough, we didn't get the job done. I think we played well, but not good enough. Why it happened? I think that is something we are going to be asking ourselves all summer.

(The biggest disappointment) is not playing anymore. I think with the team we had, the expectations were there to go all the way and win. We didn't come close to that.

I think if you look at the guys who have been here the longest, whether the guys wear a letter or don't wear a letter, I think I would have to agree (the responsibility falls to them). I am very disappointed.

I went through the injury that I had, a sprained MCL is something I never had before. I was able to play through it, it is slowly getting better with time off at the end of the season. I had a brace made, trying to play with a brace didn't feel right. I took that off and just taped it up. It is not an excuse, there are other guys playing hurt...

There are always going to be (trade rumors) thrown out there. I don't read much into it. It is not really my decision. There are always going to be naysayers out there, you can't respond to that all the time. I would love to finish what I started here and bring a championship to San Jose. Technically, yes (I do have a no trade clause), but I love being here. I would love to help bring a Stanley Cup here.

There are going to be exit meetings with head coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson, either both or seperately, before I leave town.

I haven't heard anything (about being invited to play for Team Canada), but I think it would be a pretty tough bet to leave home now having a 1 month old and a 2 and a half year old.

A crestfallen Jeremy Roenick knew what was on the line this postseason. Even at the lowest point of what might be his final NHL season he is still standing up for teammates, demonstrating his genuine love for the game, and representing the city and fans in San Jose. At some point questions have to start being asked if he has plans to join the Sharks organization after his playing days are over, but the team might not be big enough to hold him. There has been no greater ambassador for the game in Northern California.

Facing a lot of people around town, and in the locker room. It is disappointing. Especially the year we had, we expected more from ourselves I think everyone expected more from us. When you fall that short of a goal, you really have to stand up and look at yourself and ask why it happened. Make sure it doesn't happen again.

I think we started the season really well. We all played the right way, we played well with our system. I don't think teams were ready for the level of play we threw at them early in the season. I think as the year went on teams got more in tune with what we were doing. More pumped up to play against us, because we were one of the top teams in the league, if not the top team in the league. We couldn't surprise them anymore. In that issue, we have to find a way to raise our level to compensate for that kind of reaction towards us. It starts getting late in the season... for some reason we couldn't keep up the level of play we were supposed to. We got burned because of it.

(Do you have another year in you?) I don't know, I need to take a little while. Have some conversations with the organization, the coaching staff, with my family. Make the decision in a few weeks, in a couple of months. Whatver I decide, it could go either way for me right now. I am not going to make any decisions quickly. You don't understand the feeling you get as a professional athlete, being on the ice, being on the field, being in a situation where you are surrounded by as many fans as we are. The emotion, the noise, the adrenaline that goes through you. It's addictive. Standing there and feeling that this could be the last time I am in this sort of atmosphere, it was scary for me. I don't want to say it is an eye opener, you know when your whole life flashes before your eyes. I kind of had one of those feelings going through my whole career, hoping it wasn't the last time, trying to gather it all in.

(On playoff disappointment) It is pro sports. Sometimes it is a fantastic thing, sometimes it is a brutal thing. There is so much parity in the national hockey league. We got bitten by not being up to standard. They were a team that was very playoff saavy. The parity is immense, anybody can beat anybody. We hold ourselves accountable for losing. It is up to us to make sure it doesn't happen again. This is a proud organization, a proud city. We deserve better, our organization deserves better, the fans deserve better. There is no question about it. It is up to us an the coaching staff to make sure that happens.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle has been the most candid and blunt player with the media during the playoffs. The media spent more time with Boyle than any other player in the end of season interview session. Three seperate reporters tried to ask Boyle questions about previous playoff failures, and if they played a role in the Sharks loss to Anaheim in 6 games.

I didn't expect to be done at this time of the year. It has been a couple days, and personally I am still trying to figure out what happened.

We probably should not have even been in that position in the first place (playing a Game 7). I don't know, we haven't really talked as a team about what happened. We have only talked about where guys are going. Certainly you can tell everyone is very disappointed and upset. We let a great opportunity slip.

(Was the hunger and grit there for San Jose?) Every individual will know if they gave it their all. I thought the effort was there, most nights. Maybe Game 4 was pretty bad. I think most nights the effort was there. At some point execution comes into play. We just didn't execute when we had the chance. I don't really know how you change that.

(On leadership) It takes a lot of guys, it is not one or two guys that is going to win you a Cup or win you a series. Certainly guys step away from the pack. You do need a bunch of guys. I think theirs were better than ours...

I am not a vocal guy in the lockerroom, I try to lead by example. I came here for a reason. I came here to win, I am very disappointed. It is failure to me, and it is unacceptable. I don't know, I have to spend the summer and try to figure what I can do to be better next year.

(Was this a continuation of previous postseason failures) I don't know, the only thing I know is what happened this year. I don't really know what went on the year before, and the year before that. For me, I personally don't care what happened a couple of years ago, I care about this year because I was involved in it. I don't know how to answer your question.

(Are you suprised by it) All year long I had to answer questions about playoff failure. Certainly I was aware of it. It didn't really matter to me. I expected from this team, after what I saw most of the year, to get pretty far. I am not quite sure how far, but when we drew Anaheim I knew we were in for a tough fight. They are a good team.

(You have the perspective of an outside, did something change?) I can't speak about that. For me, no. Playoff failure in the past had nothing to do with how I played the game. I can't speak for other players. No. I came here for a reason. I don't really know how to answer the question. Obviously, we were outplayed. We were out-executed I think. I don't know if we were outplayed. They got the job done.

(Was there a different playoff mindset in this room, than in Tampa Bay?) The year we won. Different nights, different guys had big games and got us some wins, a goalie stealing the game one night. Whether it was myself, or Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Vincent LeCavalier, we had guys step up. I think we kind of lacked that this year. Once in awhile someone needs to step away from the pack and find a way to win a hockey game. It does take everybody, don't get me wrong. We were missing that extra gear, extra play. We didn't have it.

If you want me to transcribe comments by Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski or Mike Grier, send me an email and I will add them to this post.

Media reaction to Sharks WCQF loss sharp and biting

San Jose Sharks clear out the locker room

- San Jose's fifth straight disappointing exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs was not an upset, it was not a playoff choke by Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton. The WCQF series loss to Anaheim was a complete team effort that directly challenged the foundation of the most talented roster in San Jose Sharks franchise history. Questions surrounding the core group of players after a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6, and many of the supporting cast, will remain for months.

Anaheim outplayed San Jose almost to a man. Today as players were clearing out their lockers defenseman Dan Boyle made a distinction between being outplayed and being out-executed. The Ducks capitalized on opportunities that are all too fleeting in the postseason, but they also carried the play in the offensive zone, they were more determined in front of their own net, and they brought more sustained intensity to bear from the drop of the puck in Game 1.

"I think we believed we were a better team than we showed during the regular season. Maybe not as good as they were in the regular season, but we thought we were better than an 8 seed," Anaheim Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer told CBC on the ice after Game 6. Asked if Anaheim is more "playoff battle hardened" than San Jose, Scott Niedermayer noted, "It does take a little something different in the playoffs."

After playing a part in all three goals in Game 5 on Saturday, Joe Thornton dropped the gloves with Ryan Getzlaf two seconds into game 6. "The Sharks answered the bell," former Sharks goaltender Kelly Hrudey said during the first intermission on Hockey Night in Canada. HNIC host Ron MacLean even questioned whether or not it was smart for Getzlaf to light a fire under Thornton.

In the second period it was Teemu Selanne and Francois Beauchemin scoring their first goals of the playoffs, and Ryan Getzlaf adding the dagger from the slot late in the third period to close out the game. In the post-game press conference it was Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle who asked if it was a mistake for Thornton to challenge Getzlaf. Carlyle said it was, "When you stir the emotions of an athlete like that, I think sometimes it can be a mistake."

As it became all too clear from the media reports after the loss, Thornton was not only fighting the Ducks in a heated playoff series, he was fighting questions that have surrounded him and the San Jose Sharks for years. His fists were the writing utensil, Getzlaf's face the blank canvas. To see Thornton's determination in back-to-back games left no other option for teammates but to leave everything on the ice. Even then, in a tight playoff series the margin for victory or defeat may be slim. The Sharks were already staring out of a hole after dropping the first 2 games at home with a stunning 0-12 record on the power play. The fundamental question facing San Jose has to be where was that effort in Game 1? Against Anaheim, against Dallas, against Calgary...

- According to's Sean Leahy, the Versus broadcast joined SJ-ANA Game 6 in progress after airing the CHI-CAL game. The fact that there were conflicting start times the next day for a pair of Game 7's compounded the problem. The league needs to step in.

Yahoo fantasy expert Matt Romig offered a biting backhanded headline in his 3-stars selection for Monday: Hiller saves Sharks from second-round embarrassment. Romig may have outed himself as a Bay Area native with the following:

Major Penalty: One local baseball team is rebuilding. The other remains defined by a disgraced former player. Fans of one local football team long for a return to 80s glory. The owner of the other football team still drafts like it's the 80s. Without any postseason basketball to grab headlines, it was up to the Sharks to give Bay Area sports fans something to celebrate this spring.

Former Chronicle beat reporter and current Yahoo NHL editor Ross McKeon offered a blistering post-playoff analysis regarding San Jose: Sharks again all talk, no playoff substance.

There's going to be a new rule in San Jose starting immediately. The words "Stanley Cup" are hereby banned from being uttered by anyone connected to the Sharks’ organization until the team wins a Western Conference title.

That's it. No more. The franchise is not worthy to talk about something that appears so elusive. The Sharks should feel too embarrassed over what happened the last 10 days to ever fall into the trap of talking about winning a championship again.

There was an ESPN writer that labeled the Sharks 2008-09 campaign a "Stanley Cup or Bust" year midway through the season. There is an element of truth to the comment, after icing talented team after talented team and coming up short, but that was not the real playoff objective. The Sharks needed to simply give a 100% effort throughout the playoffs. If they lose after that, they can shake hands knowing they left it all on the ice. That is not the case after falling to Anaheim in 6 games.

McKeon continued to state emphatically that the same team can not return next year as-is. He believes that Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo and Evgeni Nabokov all will be gone for 2009-10. "Marleau will be 30 when the next season starts. Eleven years a member of the Sharks, he has one year left at $6.3 million. They’ll be be lining up for his services; teams that don’t have to put the leadership tag on him yet are drooling for top-six forward help," McKeon said of Marleau.

Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have talent that you simply can't replace in a lineup. One San Jose State sports editor said you could take that 13+ million from Thornton and Marleau's salary and replace them with 4 players who can produce in the playoffs. You don't find Jarome Ignila or Brenden Morrow's on trees, and Marleau and Thornton can fit that mould. Marleau was a game-breaking playoff force last year, Thornton was a postseason catalyst for the team a year earlier. Against Anaheim both struggled for different reasons.

Is it a more difficult proposition to get both players playing at peak efficiency in the playoffs, or trying to build a new roster to fit into the same offensive system. There also needs to be a symbolic gesture made by Thornton and Marleau to acknowledge the problem. The team has so drastically underperformed in the playoffs, renegotiating a contract to help re-sign a Ryane Clowe or a Rob Blake would be a major step towards acknowledging some of the recent deficiencies.

If Marleau remains, and it should be a guaranteed lock, will he continue on as the Sharks captain? It is no question that the Sharks need to become a meaner, more difficult team to play against in the postseason. Head coach Todd McLellan said today that maybe the coaching staff needed to be more vocal and more surly with the team to get them motivated, but that also needs to come from within the lockerroom. Can Marleau be vocal enough to challenge players to raise their level of play? Yes he stays, yes he remains captain, yes he can challenge teammates, and undecided on whether management or the coaching staff ask him to be more of a media fixture. An NHL captain needs to learn how to massage the media, take pressure off teammates, steer story lines, make fun of Corey Perry, several things that can garner small edges in a 7-game playoff series.

- Some of the best local analysis of the Sharks playoff demise came via radio. The largest Bay Area sports talk show, Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert, broke down the game on KNBR 680AM Tuesday. "Do you ever think there has been a series that has been 220-156 shot disparity over the course of 6 games, over a #1 seed... He was probably the best goalie so far in the playoffs," Ralph Barbieri explained at the start of Tuesday's Razor and Mr. T show.

Barbieri admitted that it was not the best series for Thornton and Marleau, but noted that any claims the team lacked heart and character were false. Tom Tolbert mentioned that the Detroit vs Anaheim series will be devestating for San Jose if the Ducks get crushed, and said that the same crew can not return for San Jose next year. Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker broke down the series for Tom and Ralph later in the show:

Here is my breakdown of why Anaheim won, first Jonas Hiller. Second, it was a bad matchup. I don't see Anaheim as a typical 8th seed. I think they are better than St. Louis, better than Columbus and better than Calgary. If you put Anaheim up against Vancouver, I think Anaheim wins that series. Maybe Chicago might be them, I don't think they beat Detroit, just the way their depth can beat Anaheim, especially from scoring. It was a tough matchup. Anaheim was 10-2-1 in their last 13 regular season games. 7-0-2 in their last 9 road games, and they get to start on the road. They take the first 2 games. Then you add in the fact that it is a rivalry. I think the fact that it is a rivalry minimizes the top seed advantage. That is my take on the rivalry situation...

I am frustrated, everybody is frustrated today. There is not a Sharks fan out there that isn't frustrated, disappointed, mad, whatever you want. We thought this was going to be the year. There has been so much scrutiny on Thornton, Marleau and Nabokov as the core. Look at all the secondary scoring. The Sharks second line of Pavelski-Michalek-Clowe, they had 2 goals and 2 assists for 4 points. Erik Christensen, Andrew Ebbett and Teemu Selanne had 2 goals, 3 assists. One more point. Look at the third line, Moen, Goc, Grier. They had 0 points. Drew Miller, Todd Marchant, Rob Niedermayer, they had 3 goals, 5 assists. Third line scoring. They had 8 points, our guys had none. The fourth line, their guys had 4, our guys had 3. There defense had 15 points, the Sharks had 9. Blake and Boyle had 8, Niedermayer Pronger had 8, but they had 7 points from other guys. Vlasic was the only other guy to get a point for San Jose.

The only 2 categories the Sharks lead in this series, were shots on net. The lead by a decisive margin, and 200 hits to Anaheim's 169. Faceoffs were basically even. 50.8% for San Jose, 49.2% for Anaheim. Anaheim blocked more shots, San Jose had more giveaways. Statisically, right through it, Anaheim as a team outplayed San Jose. Where do you go from here. That is for Doug Wilson and the hockey operations to decide. I think it is the mental part of it (is the problem).

- The self proclaimed "Pimp in the Box", Jim Rome is a southern California and national sports radio institution. On his Tuesday show following the Battle of California finale on Monday, Rome said that the Sharks loss, "was not a choke job, but expect major changes, significant changes, sweeping changes." Rome added, "(San Jose) ran into a team that was not your typical 8 seed, and a hot goaltender."

More on the Anaheim-Detroit series from Chris Pronger's visit to "the jungle" here, thanks to Puck Daddy for the link.

On another topic, Rome also asked Pronger about playing in a less-intense hockey market like Southern California, specifically whether that atmosphere effects a player’s approach, and Pronger said it does. “I think if you’re younger and you’re not seasoned, you don’t understand what it takes to play in this league, that can effect you,” he said. “You might relax. You might take a couple of days off and not come and stay focused and be prepared. You’ve got to understand what it takes day in and day out to play the game.”

And what about playing in Southern California? Pronger said that, at this point in his career, after being under the microscope in Edmonton, he likes that it’s not as intense as, say, Canada. “Coming here, you don’t really know what to expect,” he said. “It’s Southern California, there’s so much to do. But I’ve been pretty impressed with the way the fans know the game. They come and enjoy themselves … we’ve got a real loyal fan base, it’s just a matter of winning and getting more fans to come to the games. and get excited about hockey and understand what the Ducks are all about. Slowly, we’ve built that up … we’re creating that excitement again.”

Earlier this year Rome mentioned being a season ticket holder for the Los Angeles Sharks WHA team.

- The Dudes on Hockey Sharks season ending podcast also provided a very technical breakdown of the series. Mike and Doug noted midseason criticism for Anaheim after dismantling their third line (Travis Moen and Samuel Pahlsson) and trading Chris Kunitz. The Ducks added aggressive defenseman James Wisniewski and 6-foot-4 puck moving defenseman Ryan Whitney. Veteran blueliner Francois Beauchemin returned from injury with 2 games left in the regular season, and made an impact in the playoffs. The Ducks defense turned over 50% in the second half of the year, which makes comparisons to previous #8 seeds moot. This was a different team. The fact that Anaheim general manager Bob Murray added underutilized but skilled forwards Erik Christensen and Patteri Nokelainen, and Boston University NCAA Champion Nick Bonino (from San Jose), makes the in-season Anaheim Ducks transformation startling.

The DOH podcast also delved into the play of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, how Joe Thornton lead the Sharks in scoring with 5 points in 6 games played, who won the special teams battle, and how Travis Moen may have had a bad first round playoff matchup against his former team. They passed on a philosophical discussion on who should stay and who should leave, and focused instead on game and series related issues.

- ESPN analyst Barry Melrose, interviewed here on Sharkspage last offseason, said on his SportsCenter segment that the Sharks loss to the 8 seed Ducks was "unbelievable". He added that the Sharks were not playing meaningful games down the stretch, while Anaheim was battling just to get in. He also noted that there were issues in the lockerroom that must be addressed.

More video of Barry Melrose breaking down Game 6 is available here.

- NHL on the Fly may be the largest hockey highlight television program in North America. They began the broadcast noting that the Ducks improved to 7-0 in elimination games on home ice. "This is so disturbing for San Jose because they thought they had a good mix of veterans on the blueline to help out Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, in the end it was much the same as we have seen in the past," host Brian Duff said.

"In Game 6 they were a confused hockey club, what kind of team are they," Gary Green said of the Sharks effort in a series deciding loss. "It is one thing to play with a sense of urgency and desperation, another thing was can it change your game."

Last year one of the biggest knocks on former head coach Ron Wilson is that he artificially tried to amp up his team's intensity level after they were down in the series. In truth, it should have been something built up to the appropriate level in the regular season. In a sense, the same kind of criticism can be made of the Sharks, but this time it was the players trying to amp up the energy level. Marleau was trying to play at less than a 100% with a knee issue, but the rest of the lineup should have been playing above themselves to help compliment Thornton and Marleau's efforts.

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said today that injury problems which forced as many as 10 roster players out of the lineup in the second half of the season, played a larger role in this series than he initially thought it would. He noted that getting players back into the lineup was one thing, getting them playing together with peak efficiency days before the start of the playoffs was another.

Former Calgary Flames GM and NHL on the Fly analyst Craig Button said offseason moves might be in order. "This is going to be a large period of examination for the San Jose Sharks. New coach Todd McLellan, adding Rob Blake, adding Dan Boyle, terrific players... but the Sharks show the signs of being a good team, and show the elements of being a good team, but you need results and they are not getting them."

The Ducks finished with an 18-10 goal scoring margin, and were 5-23 on the power play vs 4-24 for San Jose. San Jose finished with 230 shots to Anaheim's 156, and outhit their socal neighbor 186-153.

Comcast Sportsnet pregame show game 6 San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Al Morganti

- Comcast has doubled the local media coverage of the Sharks this season with pre and post-game shows before every home broadcast. The Sportsnet Central half hour sports highlight show and hour long Chronicle Live program launched on MLB's opening day. Each program featured Sharks-Ducks Stanley Cup Playoff coverage for Game 6.

The pregame Sportsnet Central coverage offered a solid mix of insight and analysis. Longtime television and radio analyst, and LCS Hockey idol, Al Morganti was interviewed by host Mindi Bach. Morganti put the fate of Game 6 on the top line for San Jose, "It is squarely on them, they need to take it and run with it." Former Columbus and Florida head coach Doug MacLean also singled out Joe Thornton as player who needed to step up in back-to-back games for the Sharks. An interview with Joe Pavelski and radio analyst Jamie Baker were also highlights. Baker said the Sharks have to win games in regulation, and that Anaheim's late rally in Game 5 was a learning experience. "Don't keep taking games to OT. You play with the hockey gods enough and one bounce can go against you. Win in regulation."

The pre-game Chronicle Live program started with Ray Ratto and Ann Killion almost ad libbing their way through their comments, and they were joined by powerhouse hockey reporter Tim Kawakami. Kawakami, who after parachuting in on the Sharks after the Warriors season ended, proclaimed almost a week later without a hint of irony that San Jose should blow up the team and trade both Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. It was not a good performance by the last newspaper reporters left standing. Former checking line forward Mark Smith was a guest on the Sportsnet Central post-game show.

Note: Video and transcripts of player, head coach and GM interviews will be posted later tonight after a soccer game in Santa Clara.

[Update] Big Names on the hot seat in the playoffs - TSN (video).

[Update2] Purdy: Marleau seems likely to go, though many share blame - San Jose Mercury News.

Well, except for one part. It's hard to fathom that Patrick Marleau can remain with the Sharks. He has to be traded, even if he has a no-trade clause. Why would Marleau even want to come back? This was his fifth season as team captain and either his teammates are not following his quiet leadership or else the leadership is non-existent. There are no other possibilities. Either way, it's not helping the Sharks get anywhere.

Marleau is a classy guy away from the rink, does lots of good work for the San Jose community. But on the ice, he is a maddening player to watch, one who teases you into trusting his talent before the inevitable letdown. Example: He scored both of the Sharks' winning goals in the series. But in the games they lost, he was a vapor.

Marleau noted in a meeting with reporters this afternoon that he was playing with an injured knee, more details will be posted soon. Even without knowing the details it was obvious that the lack of explosive speed and agility signaled something was wrong. He almost had the look of a late career Pavel Bure taking slow, wide turns due to repeated knee injuries. Despite that fact, Marleau scored the only 2 game winning goals of the series.

[Update3] What now for San Jose? - Eric Duhatsheck for the Globe and Mail.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:

(The coaching staff) did not talk to the players yet, we left them alone. It is their time. As coaches they hear us all year. They need to be alone right now, talking to each other. We will have many days to talk to them coming up.

You have to build that into a series. The bounces aren't going to go your own way. They are going to go off of a player and into the net. You have to build that into a series. Where we failed to do that was early in the series when we didn't play as competitively as we needed to play. We lost tonight, I thought we played a very spirited game. I was proud of the effort and the will to win tonight. We just didn't get it done.

Did we get what we deserved in this series? Well, I think the best way to answer that in the first place is to give Anaheim credit. They played very well. Their defense is second to none in the league right ow. They are playing very stingy in the offensive zone. When you do beat them, the goaltender is there.

In my opinion, if you picked the star of the series, Jonas Hiller would be the star. Any time that happens, when the goaltender is the star, you are likely not winning the series. Did we get what we deserved? We could have played better obviously in some games. That is not a secret. It took us awhile once our character was challenged, we responded. The lesson has to be learned that you can't give games away. My recollection is that might be a history here a little bit. We will have to look at how we can change that.

We have players injured, so do they. So does Detroit and Columbus and everybody else, it's that time of year. A lot of guys were playing hurt, frozen up, and whatever else the doctors do to get them prepared. That is something we will keep in the locker room. We don't need to advertise or need to debate, who was good and who wasn't because of injury. We flat out didn't win and we don't have any excuses.

When your character is challenged and your back is against the wall, you expect that spirit. We had that spirit to start Game 5. We had that spirit here to start Game 6. Where we missed it was 1 and 2.

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

We had talked about it a little the last game, and talked about it this morning a little, it could have happened the last game. I think Getzy was a little surprised by the challenge Thornton came to him with. He responded to the challenge later in the game, and did not want to have anything to do with it. When he challenged him again tonight I knew he would not back down from it.

To me it was, I don't know if you noticed, but Ryan Getzlaf had a hell of a game. When you stir the emotions of an athlete like that, I think sometimes it can be a mistake. I am kind of glad he did it.

There is always a risk, we weighed that and I told him I am not telling you to do it. You make the decision whether or not you think you can do it, and whether you think it is important. I have never been a coach that sends a guy out their to fight. He made the decision, I am glad he did.

For sure it felt like that. We were playing the best hockey team, or one of the top three teams in the league. If you want to put Detroit and Boston and San Jose, they had tremendous seasons. They are a great hockey club. We didn't have the success and the consistency we anticipated with our group. We finally got our team playing well from the trade deadline on, then we felt we could contend. Did we feel we could beat the #1 seed? We did not stop believing. That was all in our preperation. You have to believe. Then when we started feeling good about ourselves and our goaltender made a huge impression for us in the first couple games, we just built on that.

We were under a lot of pressure to have success. Probably in the last month and a half of the season. At one point we did a little calculation and we thought that we would have to go 10-4 in our last 14-15 games to get in. We went 10-2 and something. We bettered the record and just got in. When we had a chance to get the extra point and then finish in the 6th seed, and we lost in the shootout in Phoenix. We weren't down. We would have liked to win that hockey game. We are not telling you lies.

The bottom line is that we felt we had a group that could compete, and play with any team. The best part about our team from a coaches standpoint, and the players standpoint, we can go out on the road and play. We play on the road and we can play at home. We haven't had the success over the course of the season at home, but we feel we can go out on the road and compete. I am not saying we can go out and win every game, but we can go out and compete, and we are very competitive on the road. That is a great sign for coaching staff, for management and for your team.

I don't know if it is every good facing Detroit. They are a great hockey club. We are really not going to focus on Detroit tonight. We will focus on them tomorrow. We are allowing them a half an hour after the game to enjoy the win.

Full video of each coach's post-game press conference is available via You might have to scroll a page or two to get to the 4/27 post-game video, press conferences are at the end.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Versus Article: Three favorites to come out of the West

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk NHL hockey photo Versus Jon Swenson

Based in large part upon San Jose's struggles in Games 1, 4 and the third period in Game 5, I wrote in an article on today that either Detroit, Vancouver or Anaheim would represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The full article, with three photos from this blog, is available here. You can follow Versus throughout the playoffs on

Three favorites to come out of the West
by Jon Swenson

Detroit Red Wings (51-21-10, 1st Central, 2nd seed, defeated Columbus 4-0)

The Columbus Blue Jackets were welcomed into the world of the Nashville Predators with their 7th seed matchup against the #2 Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. In 4 straight playoff appearances the Nashville Predators drew the Detroit Red Wings twice and the San Jose Sharks twice. End result, a pair of 4-2 opening round losses to the Red Wings, and a pair of 4-1 opening round losses to the Sharks. The Columbus Blue Jackets were the epitome of a Ken Hitchcock, well coached tight checking team in the regular season. In their first ever Stanley Cup Playoff appearance against Detroit they could not stop or even slow down the onrushing Hockeytown freight train until Game 4.

In a departure from the first three games, Detroit and Columbus traded 10 goals in the first 40 minutes of play in Game 4. The Wings relied on speed through the neutral zone, power in front of the net and precision passing. Columbus was trying to bring home the first win with heart, will, and clutch goal scoring from Rick Nash and his merry band of veteran role players. Power forward Marian Hossa was able to set up in front of the net, and he delivered a pair of Detroit goals 5-on-5 and on the power play in the second period. Kris Russell and Fredrik Modin answered for Columbus. The Blue Jackets were shockingly called for a too many men on the ice penalty 19:13 into the third period. It proved to be a season ending mistake. Johan Franzen punched the game winning goal by Calder candidate netminder Steve Mason, and the Detroit Red Wings dispatched the Columbus Blue Jackets in a businesslike 4-game series sweep.

Looking down the Detroit roster has to be a frightening prospect for an NHL head coach, any Red Wings line can beat you. Centers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg lead the team by example. They're extremely fast transition up ice is matched by their equal dedication to get back on plays to disrupt scoring chances against. Tomas Holmstrom, Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen provide large, unmoveable bodies in front of the net. Johan Franzen, with his game deciding goal in Game 4, is tied for third for the most game winning playoff goals since the 2001-02 season (8). Defense wins championships in the NFL, in the NHL it is the cornerstone of any offensive attack (at least in the Western Conference). Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski are two of the best puck moving defenseman in the league. Both can log large minutes, and both have the situational awareness to make big plays when the game is on the line.

Detroit, along with Boston and San Jose, may be the most complete team in the NHL. One question mark heading into the postseason was the play of goaltender Chris Osgood. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound goaltender from Alberta earned 3 Stanley Cups with Detroit, two as a starter in 1998 and 2008, but he did not solidify his position as a clear #1 until the last few months of the regular season. After registering a 26-9-8 record in the regular season with a .887SV% and 3.09GAA, Osgood has delivered a 4-0 record .962SV% and 1.16GAA in 4 playoff games against Columbus.

Vancouver Canucks (45-27-10, 1st Northwest, 3rd seed, defeated St. Louis 4-0)

St. Louis battled Vancouver tooth and nail in this opening round WCQF series, but the Canucks emerged with their first ever playoff sweep on the back of three 1-goal wins. The Blues piled 49 shots on 6-foot-3, 205-pound all world goaltender Roberto Luongo, but the Canucks netminder was solid en route to a 3-2 overtime win in the series deciding 4th game. For an enormous goalie, Luongo was very mobile in goal with explosive speed while holding his ground against waves of charging Blues. Reports out of Vancouver note that Luongo needed IV fluids after Game 4, but he may have as many as 10 days between the first and second round to recuperate. Any game started with Luongo in goal gives Vancouver an opportunity to win.

Left wing Alex Burrows scored the game and series winning goal 5-hole against solid St. Louis goaltender Chris Mason. It may have completed his in-season transformation from agitator to game-breaking talent. Burrows scored 3 goals in the first round, 2 in the deciding game, and is 4th on the team in playoff scoring. He finished 2nd on the team in the regular season with a career high 28 goals, and has been a factor on the penalty kill and on the power play. The bulk of the Vancouver offense continues to travel through brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin, but if a second or third round matchup with Detroit materializes depth scoring will be a concern. The offensive talent is there, the playoff pedigree of delivering clutch goals in critical situations is not.

Center Mats Sundin missed the final 2 WCQF games against St. Louis with an undisclosed lower body injury. Defenseman Sami Salo also missed Game 4 with an undisclosed lower body injury, both players could be available for the second round. Left wing Taylor Pyatt returned to the team from a leave of absence after the death of his fiancee fiancee Carly Bragnalo, but there is no word yet of a timetable for when he might return to the lineup.

Anaheim Ducks (42-33-7, 2nd Pacific, 8th seed, leads San Jose 3-2)

Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller did not have a single NHL playoff start prior to the opening round WCQF series with the Presidents Trophy winning San Jose Sharks. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound Francois Allaire butterfly protege had a wealth of international experience playing in Switzerland, and he finished the regular season on an 8-2-0 run in his last 12 starts to supplant former Conn Smythe winning goaltender J.S. Giguere as the clear #1 in Anaheim. Hiller's strong play continued against San Jose in the postseason as he stopped all 35 shots he faced in Game 1 to earn the first of 2 shutouts through 5 games. To date, Hiller has stopped 184 of 193 shots against for a 1.77GAA and a .953SV%. His large butterfly has swallowed up the lower half of the net, and despite San Jose's 38.6 shots on goal per game average Hiller has given up very few rebounds.

Up front the story of the series is the fact that the Sharks have been unable to shutdown the top Ducks offensive line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Ryan Getzlaf has been difficult to handle in the faceoff circle, and in the Sharks zone he has been able to dictate play and set the tone for the series. The agitating Perry has dominated play behind the net and in the corners. Shift after shift he continues to dig pucks out of the corner and turn them into quality scoring chances for his linemates. Winger Bobby Ryan scored 4 goals in the 4 games to tie for the NHL playoff scoring lead. He left Game 5 early in third period with an apparent lower leg issue. He returned to the ice late in the third, and the Ducks described the absence as skate related.

The Ducks defense has been very effective shutting down a potent Sharks offense. Chris Pronger continues to be a beast in front of the Anaheim net, clearing bodies and pucks out of the danger areas. Pronger has been on each side of a Presidents Trophy winning team upset with Edmonton and St. Louis, and he has a knack for being able to push the physical boundries allowed by NHL officials without drawing the appropriate number of penalties. There is a reason he has the nickname 'Captain Elbow' in California. Scott Niedermayer has a goal and 3 assists in 5 playoff games for Anaheim, and he has been critical to the Ducks transition game in this series. A physical James Wisniewski and Francois Beauchemin, and 6-foot-4 puck moving Ryan Whitney round out one of the deepest bluelines still competing in the playoffs.

[Update] More hockey broadcast news from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area: The Sharks 3-2 OT win over Anaheim in Game 5 was the highest rated television network in the large San Francisco and San Jose markets from 7-10PM. The game drew a 3.7 average rating (89,500+ households) and a peak rating of 4.8 (116,100+ households). According to CSNBA, playoff ratings are up 164% over the regular season. A 1-hour Sharks/Ducks pre-game special prior to Game 6 will air tonight at 6PM.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Staring down elimination Marleau and Thornton combine for overtime goal to send WCQF series back to Anaheim

San Jose Sharks Joe Thornton Patrick Marleau game winning goal Stanley Cup Playoffs
San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau Stanley Cup Playoffs game winning goal Anaheim Ducks
San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Lukowich Stanley Cup Playoffs Anaheim Ducks photo gallery

For one game the Sharks answered the critics. It all begins again tomorrow.

San Jose's big guns were reunited Saturday night for Game 5, and they delivered when it counted most as Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi combined for 3 goals and 4 assists en route to a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. "I think we were exicited to get back together and rekindle the poise and patience we had during the year," Thornton said of re-joining Marleau and Setoguchi.

When the Sharks gave up a 2-goal lead early in the third period, you could feel the entire building on the edge of its seat inside HP Pavilion. The intensity level from the fans ebbed and flowed with the action on the ice. The overtime intermission cruely heightened the anticipation.

The Ducks brought a 14-5 overtime playoff record into the 4th period, while San Jose was looking to edge a 6-14 franchise record one more step in a positive direction. Top line against top line in the faceoff circle, Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi vs Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry. Thornton won a jumbo faceoff to start OT, and he was strong in the circle all night finishing 11-7 (61%).

Evgeni Nabokov was sharp in overtime, extending a skate to shut down Corey Perry as he danced around defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and tried to pull the puck across the crease. Nabokov swallowed subsequent shots by Ryan Carter and Drew Miller, and a timely poke check quickly snuffed out a dangerous turnover behind the net to Bobby Ryan. An underrated puck moving goaltender, Nabokov made the first pass on 4 plays up ice in OT and was very vocal with his defense on the agressive Anaheim forecheck.

Thornton won another critical defensive zone faceoff against Getzlaf, and Blake and Setoguchi quickly moved the puck up ice to Patrick Marleau in the neutral zone. As Marleau picked up a pass 5-7 feet behind him, 3 Anaheim forwards were caught deep. Marleau fought the puck and feathered a short pass to a driving Joe Thornton. Anaheim struggled to match his speed into the offensive zone.

Thornton snapped a quick shot from above the faceoff circle, and beat Chris Pronger and Ryan Getzlaf to the rebound. A second shot deflected off the side of the net, but he kept his feet moving and carried the play behind the large Swiss goalie. Thornton tried to bank a backhand pass off Hiller from the far side. Puck drops behind Hiller on the goal line as Marleau battles his own linemate Setoguchi for the rebound. Pronger, Getzlaf, Perry and Whitney stare at Marleau taking a whack at the puck, as it banks off of Hiller and in. Thornton jumps in the air at the side of the net, and then bear hugs Marleau with a scream in front of the goal light. The entire team mobs both players in the corner.

San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau game winning overtime goal Jonas Hiller

Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle questioned the play after the game. "The action that took place, the reason the puck went into the net was their player pushed our goalie's pad. The puck was loose behind him, and their player pushed the goalie's pad," Carlyle said. "As he pushed the goalie's pad, the back of his foot, the back of his skate knocked the puck in the net. I think there needs to be some clarification because they are not allowed to push the goaltender and the puck into the net to cause a good goal."

Clarification came via the's Situation Room playoff officiating blog:

Video Review: Anaheim at San Jose - 6:02 of overtime

Play was reviewed to determine if the puck crossed the goal line into the Anaheim net in a legal fashion... The review determined that the puck crossed the goal line in a legal fashion.

For his part, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan offered a fairly matter of fact explanation. "You are taught as players to play to the final whistle. Right from day one. I have a little guy at home, and that is how he plays it," McLellan said when asked by this blog. "The whistle didn't go so we are going to keep playing." A slow motion video replay on the Versus broadcast clearly showed the puck loose behind goaltender Jonas Hiller in front of the goal line. Whether Hiller adjusts his right leg pad to make a save, or whether Patrick Marleau pokes the pad forward, the goal is good.

Early in the game San Jose radio analyst Jamie Baker, set up at ice level behind the south goal, said that the Sharks need to break the game into 5 and 10 minute segments, then win each smaller battle. After the game defenseman Dan Boyle echoed the sentiment. "It is important not even to look at the next game, just look at the next 5 minutes," Boyle said. "Getting a lead is a key with both of our wins, I don't even want to look at a game, look at the first 5 minutes and then go from there."

Sharkspage likes to break down the game as a series of 20 minute battles. The Sharks outplayed the Ducks in the first 40 minutes of Game 1, and the first 20 minutes of Game 2 in San Jose, but Anaheim kept finding a way to claw back. That trend would continue on Saturday night.

San Jose's top scoring line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi started the game strong, creating a scoring chance down low and drawing a cross checking penalty on Corey Perry. The first shift set the tone for the game. Thornton cross checked Ryan Getzlaf after winning the opening faceoff, and gave him a second shot for good measure. Looking at the series down 3-1, it is almost too far back to remember the dominant, nasty 2-way game Marleau and Thornton exhibited the first month and a half of the season. It appeared as if both players were fed up with all of the offseason second guessing, and they took it out on Philadelphia in a home-at-home, on Stanley Cup Finalists Pittsburgh (holding them to a franchise low 11 shots on goal) and Detroit in back-to-back contests, downed Chicago in two hotly contested games, and embarassed the high flying Washington Capitals 7-2. San Jose fans hope that snarl has returned to stay.

Joe Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks on the power play at 7:25. Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was not happy with the play. "I didn't like the first goal, the shot comes from the side and hits Jonas in the mask and fell right at Joe Thornton's feet. That was a break that they got," Carlyle said. The Sharks have scored 3 goals in their last 8 PP opportunities (37.5% ) in the last three playoff games, after starting 0-12 (0%) in the first two.

San Jose head coach Todd McLellan acknowledged that it is hard to maintain momentum over a 60 minute playoff game, in this case 66+ minutes. "It is hard to keep your foot on the gas pedal for 70 minutes," McLellan said. "The first couple minutes of the second, and the first 3-4 of the third we didn't win faceoffs and we didn't skate. We were on our heels. We understand that can happen in a game... it is an area of concern and an area we can improve in."

The most troubling concern at the start of the second was the amount of room for Perry playing the puck behind the net, and the way Getzlaf was able to control the play in front of it. Nabokov bailed out his teammates with a highlight reel glove save on Bobby Ryan. Versus television analyst and regular season Dallas commentator Darryl Reaugh described the save as a "fabulosity". Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne fought through 2 checks on the end boards to win possession of the puck, but he flopped hard to the ice inside the blueline to draw the first Sharks penalty of the night. San Jose killed off the tripping penalty on Grier, and finished the night 3-3 on the PK. In the last 11 Anaheim power play opportunities over 3 games, San Jose has killed off 10 (90.9%).

Cheechoo won a battle for a puck in the corner, and fed Devin Setoguchi late in the second period. Setoguchi exploded with speed behind the net after touching the puck, then reversed direction as Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank waived a stick at him on the far side of the net. Setoguchi waited for players to maneuver into position with the puck on his backhand along the end boards, but then he curled around and pulled the puck to his forehand. Hiller had the post sealed, but as he made the move to return to his butterfly Setoguchi snapped a shot through a small opening inside the post. "It must feel like there are 10 Sharks on the ice for Anaheim every time they are in their own zone," - Darryl Reaugh. Score 2-0 Sharks after 40 minutes.

The Ducks silenced the crowd at HP Pavilion with Ryan Carter's first goal of the playoffs 55 seconds into the third period. Mike Grier fell down after a collision with linesman Greg Devorski as he tried to carry the puck through the neutral zone. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer instantly hit rookie Andrew Ebbett with a pass on the tape. Ebbett pulled up hard along the wall in the offensive zone, spun and fired a backhand pass to a driving Carter. Very heavy shot by Ryan Carter beat Nabokov 5-hole. Assists Andrew Ebbett (1), Scott Niedermayer (2) and linesman Greg Devorski (1).

The crowd tried to rally the home team, but they were shocked again as Corey Perry tied the game at 4:42 with his second goal of the series. After a strong cycle down low by the Sharks top line, Ryan Getzlaf gained body position on a rebound in front of Jonas Hiller. He feathered a short pass to Corey Perry as Perry, Scott Niedermayer and Bobby Ryan already released up ice. Niedermayer took a pass from Perry and drove into the zone, drawing 3 Sharks to him in the slot. He sent the puck to Perry on the right wing who had 2 steps on Devin Setoguchi. Perry snapped a low shot passed Evgeni Nabokov to tie the game at 2-2. The crowd inside HP Pavilion was stunned.

The remaining 15 minutes of the third period was as important, if not moreso, than any other part of the game. "The fact that they scored two quick ones and evened the score, I don't want to say demoralizing, that is a poor word, but it affected us for a few minutes. I thought the leadership stood up," Todd McLellan told reporters in a press conference after the game. "Jeremy Roenick in particular on the bench, and got us going in the right direction real quick. We responded after that. The resiliency there was important."

Another player who deserves mention for his performance late in the third period was defenseman Brad Lukowich. A 2-time Cup winner with Dallas (1998–99) and Tampa Bay (2003–04), Dan Boyle's defensive partner was a solidifying force as the clock ticked down in regulation. Lukowich hammered Corey Perry as he tried to play the puck behind Evgeni Nabokov, then played the body hard again as he made a play along the wall. Shift after shift, Lukowich was a force in his own zone and in front of the net in possibly his best game as a San Jose Shark. Anaheim's defenseman Chris Pronger was a monster in the game early, finishing with 4 shots and 4 blocked shots, Scott Niedermayer was an impact player on the Ducks transition up ice, and Douglas Murray and Christian Ehrhoff were effective matched up against the Ducks top line, but Lukowich deserves a lot of credit for helping the Sharks tighten up in regulation and giving them an opportunity to pull the game out in OT. He finished with 4 hits and a game high 5 blocked shots in 17:20 of ice time.

Game Notes:

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov finished with 23 saves on 25 shots against for his second win of this WCQF playoff series. Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller finished with 45 saves on 48 shots after registering a 31-save shutout in Game 4. Hiller has posted 2 shutout wins in this series. San Jose checking center Torrey Mitchell finished with 4 shots and 2 hits in 11:45 of ice time in his 3rd game back from a serious leg injury suffered in training camp. Along with Thornton and now departed Buffalo Sabres captain Craig Rivet, Mitchell was a catalyst for the Sharks as they struggled out of the gate in 2007-08. A blindingly quick skater, Mitchell ran over goaltender Jonas Hiller late in the game and the pile of bodies knocked the net off its moorings. Scratches for San Jose: Semenov, Lemieux, Plihal, Huskins, Shelley, McGinn. Scratches for Anaheim: Hedican, Nokeleinen, Larson, Bodie, Mikkelson. South bay figure skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi-Hedican was seated in the front row for Game 5, she is married to Anaheim Ducks defenseman Bret Hedican. According to O.C. Register beat reporter Dan Wood, the Ducks were 10-2 All-time in elimination games, 6-1 under head coach Randy Carlyle. Anaheim's only loss in that span came against Minnesota in the 2007 WCQF.

A photo gallery from Game 5 is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] Sharks stay alive, drop Ducks in OT, The Stanley Cup playoff series returns to the Honda Center with Ducks up, 3-2 - Dan Wood for the O.C. Register.

[Update2] OT win tempers pressure on Sharks, for now - Ross McKeon for

Depending on whose version of the story you believe, either San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan told Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi that they’d be playing together during Saturday night’s Game 5 or the trio of usual first-liners made that request to the rookie coach.

The one thing that’s known is that there was a meeting between McLellan and at least two-thirds of that line – Thornton and Marleau, we’re assuming – before the team’s practice Friday, and everyone left content and anxious at the same time.

[Update3] Anaheim Ducks blogger and Director of New Media and Publications Adam Brady lead a caravan of Ducks fans northward as they migrated to San Jose for Game 5. They stopped at the Rio Seco Winery in Paso Robles and unfurled an inflatable hockey player, they stopped in San Luis Obispo and received, "blank stares to middle fingers to shouts of "Go Sharks!" Not sure which was worse", and skipped a planned stop in the garlic capital of the world in Gilroy.

Sharkspage made a similar migration southward for the Anaheim-Sharks season finale in April of 2007. After stops in Monterey (and a drive by Pebble Beach), Ano Nuevo (elephant seal cam available at bottom of page here), and San Luis Obispo, made it to the game 7 minutes after the start of the 1st period. If it was a 7:30PM start, would have made it with time to spare. Earl Sleek of the Battle of California graciously provided a 2nd row ticket next to the penalty box. No late night internet cafe and no big camera/lens inside the Honda Center made for a pretty minimal writeup from that road trip, but it was one of the best.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Eliminate Hartford With 5-3 Win

The Worcester Sharks, behind two Dan DaSilva goals and 27 saves by goaltender Thomas Greiss, defeated the Hartford Wolf Pack 5-3 Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts to win their best of seven divisional semi-final series four games to two.

The WorSharks would waste little time getting on the scoreboard. After throwing their weight around at both ends of the ice, Worcester would trap the Wolf Pack in their own zone. A great play by defenseman Mike Moore kept the puck in the attacking zone, and the puck would cycle to Frazer McLaren who fired a hard blast on Hartford netminder Matt Zaba. Zaba made the initial save, but Andrew Desjardins flipped the rebound over Zaba to light the lamp at 3:53. DaSilva grabbed the second assist on the play.

Hartford would show they still had some life in them with a power play tally at 6:31. With Brad Staubitz in the box after taking an ill-advised roughing minor, Bobby Sanguinetti rifled a slapshot on net that deflected off of Dane Byers and past Greiss to make it 1-1.

Worcester would retake the lead on a Lukas Kaspar goal as Kyle McLaren crashed the net. The two would break into the Hartford zone with Kaspar going up the left side and McLaren up the middle, with Ryan Vesce trailing the play. Kaspar fired a centering pass to McLaren, who was covered by defenseman Vladimir Denisov. Denisov never saw the puck coming toward him, and it appeared to bank off his leg and through the five hole of Zaba at 12:17.

Just 2:12 later the WorSharks would make it 3-1 on a great individual play by Frazer McLaren. McLaren would make a clean steal of the puck while on the forecheck, and skated toward the half-boards to the left of Zaba. Both Hartford defenders went to play McLaren, who fired a blind pass to DaSilva, standing all alone on the goal line to Zaba's right. DaSilva one-timed it for the two goal lead.

Hartford would have a great chance while shorthanded late in the period, but Greiss made a huge poke check on a bouncing puck to keep it 3-1 through the first period.

Hartford next goal was one Greiss would probably want another chance at. After a Logan Couture turnover in front of the benches Hartford winger Dale Weise skated into the Worcester zone and fired a nice laser low to Greiss' stick side. Greiss was leaning the wrong way and couldn't get a leg on it as it slid by and just inside the far post at 5:53 of the second.

The WorSharks would get a power play chance when Tommy Pyatt was called for elbowing. While Pyatt was certainly guilty of a minor--high sticking was what it looked like--referee David Banfield's call of "elbowing" was certainly not on the tip of the tongue after seeing the play. Despite the paperwork inconsistency, Worcester would get their two goal lead back when Jason Demers chased a rebound down low to Zaba's left, and fired a pass through the legs of two players and right on the tape of DaSilva's stick. DaSilva, in a near carbon copy of his first goal, one-timed it past Zaba.

Worcester would make it 5-2 on an odd play at 13:18. Couture would grab a lose puck in the Hartford zone and break in on Zaba. Couture was unable to stuff the puck past Zaba, but Hartford defenseman Devin DiDiomete crashed into his netminder pushing him--and the puck--into the net. Referee Banfield immediately signaled the goal good despite the red light not coming on.

As the Worcester faithful were beginning to celebrate their moving on to round two, Weise would silence the crowd with a great individual effort at 18:53. Hartford head coach Ken Gernander would pull Zaba after the ensuing face-off, but Worcester blocked nearly every shot the Wolf Pack would take as the clock expired on Hartford's season.

Worcester had two line-up changes for game six, with Brett Westgarth taking Brendan Buckley's spot on defense and Matt Fornataro filling in for T.J. Fox. Both Buckley and Fox were injured in Thursday night's game five, and each are officially listed as "day to day". Nick Petrecki skated in warm-ups for Worcester, and wore #27.

As with many of the other games in this series, Bryan Marchment joined the WorSharks coaching staff behind the bench.

Hartford's Greg Moore had a tough early go of it. During his first shift he was blown up by Andrew Desjardins at the Worcester half-boards, and required some assistance getting off the ice. In his second shift he was blasted by Brad Staubitz behind the Worcester net. Staubitz had another huge hit in the first period when he threw a wicked open ice hit on Bobby Sanguinetti.

For fans wondering how important Kyle McLaren is to this team, one play was all you needed to see. With Worcester leading 5-2 Mike Moore intercepted a clearing attempt and skated it deeper into the Hartford zone. KMcLaren didn't join in the attack, but instead skated just outside the zone, keeping himself between Hartford's highest defender and his own net. When Moore returned to the blueline KMcLaren skated back into the zone, yelling over to Moore to dump it in next time and keep the Hartford forwards in front of him. Within seconds the puck was back on Moore's stick, and he dutifully dumped the puck back in and did so every time after he got the puck. That one play emphasizes how important it is to have knowledgeable veterans around to help develop prospects.

The win was in Worcester's first chance to eliminate an opponent from the post season in franchise history. The WorSharks are 2-1 when facing elimination themselves. The franchise is now 6-6 in playoff games. The win was also just the 20th time in AHL history a team went on to win a series after trailing two games to none.

With the DCU Center in Worcester and the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providenxce already booked with events, the series between Worcester and Providence has an odd schedule. Instead of the standard 2-2-1-1-1 or 2-3-2 series, the two teams will alternate games at home. The schedule announced is:
Game 1 Tue., April 28 Worcester at Bruins 7:05pm
Game 2 Wed., May 6 Bruins at Worcester 7:05pm
Game 3 Fri., May 8 Worcester at Bruins 7:05pm
Game 4 Sat., May 9 Bruins at Worcester 7:05pm
*Game 5 Mon., May 11 Worcester at Bruins 7:05pm
*Game 6 Wed., May 13 Bruins at Worcester 7:05pm
*Game 7 Thur., May 14 Worcester at Bruins 7:05pm
*If necessary. All times EDT and subject to change.

The AHL doesn't announce MVP's for each series, so this writer will pick one for them. The obvious choice is goaltender Thomas Greiss with his 1.90 GAA and .927 save%. After losing the first two games of the series Greiss became just about unbeatable in winning the next four. Riley Armstrong's eight assists would make him a solid second choice.

AHL President Dave Andrews was in attendance last night, and was characteristically silent about possible upcoming franchise moves. One topic he was more than willing to talk about was the 2010 AHL All Star Classic, recently awarded to Portland, Maine. "We're very excited about returning our All Star Classic to Portland. The Sharks set the bar very high with this year's event, and the Pirates are committed to raising that bar even higher" Andrews told Sharkspage. "And with Time Warner Cable as the tile sponsor they're off to a great start" he added. The AHL All Star Classic will be held January 18-19, 2010.

The three stars of the game were:
1. DaSilva (2g,a)
2. Greiss (27 saves)
3. FMcLaren (2a)
Honorable mentions need to go to Hartford's Dale Weise (2g) and Riley Armstrong (2a).

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


HFD 1 1 1 - 3
WOR 3 1 1 - 5

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, Desjardins 2 (McLaren, DaSilva), 3:53. 2, Hartford, Byers 3 (Sanguinetti), 6:31 (pp). 3, Worcester, Kaspar 2 (Fornataro, Vesce), 12:17. 4, Worcester, DaSilva 1 (McLaren), 14:29
Penalties: Staubitz Wor (roughing), 5:51; Potter Hfd (holding), 16:51; Larose Wor (tripping), 19:01.

2nd Period
Scoring: 5, Hartford, Weise 2 (Dupont, Sanguinetti), 5:53. 6, Worcester, DaSilva 2 (Demers, Armstrong), 16:52 (pp)
Penalties: Denisov Hfd (interference), 11:11; Couture Wor (tripping), 11:22; Pyatt Hfd (elbowing), 16:27.

3rd Period
Scoring: 7, Worcester, Couture 2 (Demers, Armstrong), 13:18. 8, Hartford, Weise 3 (Fahey, Ouellette), 18:53
Penalties-Bell Hfd (interference), 3:03.

Shots on Goal
Hartford 9-9-12-30
Worcester 9-11-13-33.

Power-play opportunities: Hartford 1 of 3; Worcester 1 of 4.

Hartford, Zaba 2-4-0 (33 shots-28 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 4-2-0 (30 shots-27 saves).

A-2,413. Referees: David Banfield (44). Linesmen: Scott Whittemore (96), Brian MacDonald (72).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan Stanley Cup Playoffs Anaheim Game 5

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:

(The Sharks played with pressure except for the start of the second and third, did you talk about that) We did. The initial period we were very happy with the start we had. We had a lot of energy. The first couple minutes of the second, and the first 3-4 of the third we didn't win faceoffs and we didn't skate. We were on our heels. We understand that can happen in a game. It is hard to keep your foot on the gas pedal for 70 minutes, or whatever it was tonight, but it is an area of concern and an area we can improve in.

(On the results from the core players) We were obviously happy with their performance tonight, they were challenged. They were challenged in the locker room by the coaching staff. This is supposed to be their time of the year. Right now, I don't think anything has changed. There are still people that will challenge the individual character or the team character. We have only squashed that for one night. That question will be there again when we get to Anaheim. We would like to continue to put in the effort we had tonight, we would have the potential to squash it. It's only one game tonight.

(On Marleau and Thornton requesting Friday to return to the Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi line) That is an accurate version of the story. The meeting with Patty and Joe wasn't something other than the norm. Both of them have been professionals all year. They have allowed us as a coaching staff, probably moreso than anyone else on the team, to hold them accountable for their actions both positive and negative. We had that opportunity to meet together. I mentioned to them what I would like to do as a coach, how I would like to use them. They asked if they could have Seto back on their line. We went that way. Everything is fine and dandy right now but we still have a noose around our neck, and we better be prepared to play better in their building.

When you are on the bench watching the game you get a gut feeling for who is playing well and who isn't. They never gave me the feeling throughout the game that they weren't performing well. It never dawned on me to tear them apart or get them away from whoever we were playing them against. There are nights when you are on the bench and you don't feel good about it and you start tinkering with lines. Sometimes you are sending messages. We didn't need that tonight.

(On getting the first goal, and on getting it on the power play) It gave us a little bit of confidence, we were rewarded for earning the penalty. Scoring on the power play, there were some questions on the power play but I think we have evened it up now in the series. It is going to come down to 5-on-5 play in my opinion. It gave us a little bit of confidence is probably the best way to put it.

(Was there a let down when they scored) Any time a team scores on you, you are disappointed. The fact that they scored two quick ones and evened the score, I don't want to say demoralizing, that is a poor word, but it affected us for a few minutes. I thought the leadership stood up. Jeremy Roenick in particular on the bench, and got us going in the right direction real quick. We responded after that. The resiliency there was important.

(Is this a momentum shift) I talked after game three, someone asked me on the way out. Momentum is earned on a nightly basis. They feel very comfortable playing in their building, they should they are a good team. If we think we can bottle this up, take it down there and rely on it, not a chance. We have to go out and earn that momentum all over again. It is probably going to be a more difficult job than it was here tonight.

(On Torrey Mitchell's line) Torrey, J.R and Cheech, I think each of them as individuals played their best games in the playoffs and collectively they were a very good unit. They had a tremendous amount of energy, they hunted pucks down, they created turnovers. They were prepared to go to the net. One of the things they did was they managed their ice time well. They never got caught out there tired. I think that in a large part is due to Torrey, due to where he is in his game. They did a very good job there.

(On the final goal) You are taught as players to play to the final whistle. Right from day one. I have a little guy at home, and that is how he plays it. The referees were in position. I had a chance to look at it real quick, I didn't have a chance to look at replays, it looked to me like the puck was still alive and it ended up in there net. The whistle didn't go so we are going to keep playing.

Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks California

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

(On the last goal) The action that took place, the reason the puck went into the net was their player pushed our goalie's pad. The puck was loose behind him, and their player pushed the goalie's pad. As he pushed the goalie's pad, the back of his foot, the back of his skate knocked the puck in the net. I think there needs to be some clarification because they are not allowed to push the goaltender and the puck into the net to cause a good goal.

(On what he said to his team heading into the third period) I said we haven't played well guys. We haven't played well enough. You can say all you want, but we did not play well enough in the first two periods. The goaltender gave us a chance. I said 'hey, you have to believe. You get one and you can get two.' Then we will be in this thing, and we were.

(On moving Carter) I didn't think we were getting much from that line. I thought that Eric Christensen wasn't getting enough inside for me, and I didn't like what was going on so I made the decision to put Ryan Carter on there. A big strong kid. He can skate, and put pressure on pucks. I felt that was what was necessary at that time and at that circumstance.

(On the Sharks coming out strong) I didn't like the first goal, the shot comes from the side and hits Jonas in the mask and fell right at Joe Thornton's feet. That was a break that they got. The second goal, I think it was a mistake going up that side. The defense made a mistake putting the puck up that side. We turned it over, then we stood and watched Joe Thornton skate in the corner. Setoguchi came out and had all kinds of time. We should have put pressure on him and left Thornton alone in the corner and just defended the net area. They had lots of pressure on us, and we had more turnovers and more fumbles with the puck tonight in this hockey game than we had in the other three games. That's for sure.

(Did you wake a sleeping giant) I haven't thought that they played all that poorly. Sleeping giant? We are not intimidated. They are a good hockey club. We always respect the opposition, and momentum swings in a game. You saw the flow of the game go one way, then we got it going another way in the third period. We made a game of it.

(On the Sharks huge shot totals) It's not daunting at all from the standpoint that in this building they have done that, but not in our building. They do it for stretches a time. Early in the game it had to do with their power play, later in the game it had to do with a few different things. They jumped off faceoffs better, they got more offensive zone time. The involved 4 guys in the rush and in the offensive zone more tonight than they have in the past.

(How critical is it to win game 6) It is always critical, you want to win. We are going into our building. You guys always laugh at me, but I said we needed to play our best game of the year. We knew the Sharks were going to play a good game tonight. They were not going to lay down. We had a chance. We got to be positive. We played for three periods and we still had a chance in the hockey game.

Hockey Notes - April 25th

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau

- "Dance with the One That Brought You" may be a country song, but it should be played on a non-stop loop in the Sharks dressing room. Patrick Marleau lead the Sharks during a sparkling regular season, and the big gun needs to start firing for San Jose to have a chance at battling back from a 3-1 deficit against Anaheim in this WCQF series. According to the AP, only 19 of 174 NHL teams have overcome a 3-1 playoff deficit since 1987.

During the regular season, Marleau was a fixture in front of the opponent's net. In addition to a career high 38 goals, he finished 2nd in the NHL with 5 short-handed goals, forcing power plays to respect his speed. Marleau added 10 game winning goals, and was a consistent game breaking talent for San Jose en route to the top regular season record in the NHL. Patrick Marleau connected with a game winning deflection in the 4-3 win over Anaheim in Game 3, but for the series he has only 1 point and 6 total shots on goal in 4 games played.

Mercury news columnist Mark Purdy noted in a Thursday profile on Marleau that the Sharks captain is also dealing with an illness in the family. In addition, he may not be fully recovered after missing 5 games at the end of the season. Not being 100% when battling Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer or Francois Beauchemin in front of the net is a tall order, but it is an order the Sharks and Marleau need to fill.

Purdy noted a question from one blogger, Ryan Garner of, that questioned the captain when he missed an optional off-day practice. Head coach Todd McLellan took offense to the premise, and bluntly answered no. The question may have been wholly wrong, give him as much time off as possible to recover from a suspected lingering lower body issue, but it was a valid question that deserves to be asked in a big league National Hockey League city. Purdy should also have noted a comment made by Ann Killion last year. The Merc columnist wrote that she only recognized Marleau as the Sharks captain after the contentious playoff series with Calgary. Marleau has been a solid playoff contributor for a very long time, but San Jose needs 1 big game at a time from him for their playoffs to continue against Anaheim.

- Joe Thornton said of bypassing the media after game 4 that he was frustrated. "I thought I had a good game in Game 3 and I thought I'd build off that, but for whatever reason I just didn’t have a good game, that's all.” he told David Pollak of the Mercury News.

Thornton is drawing a lot of negative attention from the national media, rightly or wrongly, for not being enough of a difference maker in this series. One radio show called the 6-4, 223-pound center hockey's version of A-Rod. Official Anaheim Ducks blogger Adam Brady called the former Hart Trophy winner "Mr. November", noting that after 70 playoff games he was scoring at a 0.69 points per game pace with a -9 overall rating. "You shut down Thornton, as plenty of teams have been able to do in the playoffs, and you shut down the Sharks attack," Brady noted on April 15th.

An unusual perspective came from a notoriously negative member of the local media, San Francisco Chronicle columbist Ray Ratto. On his blog, And the horse you rode in on, Ratto surmises that the Sharks success could key upon Thornton drawing attention off of a Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi or Joe Pavelski. "He is a stroing (sic), skilled and superior distributing center who gets more than his share of goals, but he is not, has not and probably will never be the guy who carries a team by himself," Ratto said of Thornton. San Jose has six 20-goal scorers and a former Norris Trophy winner and a 2009 NHL All-Star among the 4 defenseman with 30 assist seasons to help carry the team to a win in Game 5.

The last word has to go to the individual that has seen him play the most this season, San Jose head coach Todd McLellan. After the first 3 games McLellan said, "I thought Joe had an impact on the series. A positive impact, he competed very hard, played in a lot of difficult areas, made some things happen." After a strong first period against Anaheim in Game 4, the entire team struggled for the final 40 minutes, along with Thornton.

- San Jose Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker covered the first 2 games of the series from a spot behind the south goal. Baker on Ice will be on the radio for game 5 as well. When asked Friday what he noticed most from being at ice level as opposed to the press box, Baker said the intense competition was much more noticeable rinkside.

- ESPN's E.J. Hradek described the Sharks as demoralized after 4-0 shutout loss to Anaheim on Thursday, and says that playoff rookie Jonas Hiller is clearly outplaying last year's Vezina runner up Evgeni Nabokov.

- Positive ratings news for Versus up to this point in the postseason. Versus is averaging 434,832 viewers a game, up 50% from the same point last season. It was also noted that there was a 120% jump in Washington, and a 20% jump in New York, both very large media markets.

In San Jose the ratings news is equally impressive. Game 4 ANA-SJ drew a 3.2 rating in San Jose on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area (77,400+ households), and a peak rating of 4.2 (101,600+ households). Ratings for CNSBA broadcasts of Sharks playoff hockey are up 164% over the regular season (3.7 vs. 1.4).

Big U.S. Ratings Jump for the Playoffs - NYT Slapshots hockey blog.

- A friday notes column from the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek starts the speculation on the San Jose Sharks offseason early. Duhatschek believes the Ducks were outplayed in the first two games of the series despite San Jose's lack of intensity in Game 1, and that offseason/deadline acquisitions of Boyle, Blake, Lukowich and Moen have done little to get the Sharks playoff ready. Head coach Ron Wilson was fired last year after his third straight exit in the second round, but Duhatschek dances around the question of whether or not the Sharks need to adjust their core group of players. That core group has been outplayed by Anaheim's core group in 3 of 4 games in this playoff series.

- The normally staid NHL On The Fly daily highlight show was particularly critical of the Sharks performance in Game 4. They called out San Jose saying they need to do more to win games, they need to become grittier, meaner, they need to make life difficult for Anaheim and have a more complete team effort. Usually offering a more technical X's-and-O's analysis, it was an unsual call to action for a team well into a playoff series.

The criticism from major Canadian media continued with a TSN panel segment called Below Average Joe. Darren Pang on Thornton, "watching him in the regular season as compared to the postseason, there is something missing." Bob McKenzie mentioned that you can not put all of San Jose's struggles on Thornton, but that he makes an easy target. McKenzie also said that Boston traded Thornton after a playoff series loss to Montreal because they believed he was not enough of a factor.

- Is "Character" the Ultimate Flaw in San Jose? - Jamie Fitzpatrick for

The Sharks have spent a decade at or near the top of the NHL standings. Only once have they made it as far as the Western Conference Final. That's failure, no matter how you look at it.

Words like "character," "heart," and "chemistry" are thrown around a lot by sports fans and reporters. Mostly they're just weasel words, a last resort when one is at a loss to explain unexpected results. But though we can't measure or even recognize them, we know that such qualities do exist. They exist in any group dynamic.

Given their consistently disappointing track record, it's time to consider character, work ethic, and other "intangibles" as serious issues for the best players on the San Jose Sharks.

Sports Science sumo goaltenders

- The day before a pivotal WCQF Game 5 matchup in San Jose, the Fox Sports Science television series answered one age old hockey-related question. Can a sumo wrestler make a good professional hockey goalie?

They took the question a little furthur, and asked if the world's fattest man at 1,200 pounds would be a better option. Since that individual was not available, they took 500 pound American sumo wrestler Tyler Tuione, strapped him up in goalie pads, and asked Anaheim Ducks sniper/mustache champion George Parros to take shots on goal. After Parros scored repeatedly on a motionless Tuione, they added a second Sports Science host in a sumo suit to approximate a 1,200 pound goaltender (pictured) taking up 90% of the 4x6 goal area.

Neither sumo goalie reacted to any of the Parros shots, and he scored easily on every shot taken. Can a sumo wrestler make a professional goaltender? No.

- In mid-march this blog posted the Asian League Hockey playoff bracket, recapped the China Sharks season and the ALIH regular season award winners, and looked in on the first two games of the ALIH Finals between the Seibu Prince Rabbits and Nippon Paper Cranes.

The internet is an amazing place, and Chris Kontos of Cycle Like the Sedins posted a photo and video heavy recap of Game 6 of the Seibu-Nippon Finals from DyDo Drinco Arena in Tokyo. It may have been a swan song 2009 Championship for Seibu, who lost their corporate sponsor and ceased operations after the series, but the enthusiasm of the home fans is undeniable.

There is a second report on Seibu's championship run at the excellent Jhockey, who also noted the fine season by ALIH playoff MVP award for Seibu goaltender Hisashi Ishikawa. On the China Sharks and goaltender Wade Flaherty's regular season top goaltender award, Jhockey notes that Flaherty regularly faced 40+ shots a night and numerous scoring chances, and for the first time in Chinese hockey history they did not finish in last place.

- Several podcasts are up following the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Dudes on Hockey podcast out of San Jose interviews Anaheim Ducks blogger and Director of New Media and Publications Adam Brady. Brady draws an interesting comparison between the Ducks Stanley Cup winning defense in 2006-07 and the defense facing down San Jose in 2009. is a southern California based podcast that takes a top down look at all of the playoff matchups. The latest Rink Podcast offers a playoff perspective from two non-playoff market perspectives, and the latest Globe and Mail podcast is solid as usual.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Sign Defenseman Nick Petrecki To ATO

Based on a transactional listing on the American Hockey League's website, the Worcester Sharks have signed the former Boston College star to an Amateur Try-Out Agreement and have added him to the team's active roster.

There has been no official press release by either San Jose or Worcester announcing the agreement.

Petrecki, San Jose's first round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (28th overall), was signed by the Sharks in late March to a contract starting in the 2009-10 season. The ATO with Worcester is for the remainder of this season, and allows Petrecki to play in the AHL playoffs.

The WorSharks currently lead their best of seven series against the Hartford Wolf Pack three games to two, with game six being held tonight at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts at 7pm EDT.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Somber, determined mood at Sharks Friday practice

San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs practice
San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs Friday practice skate photo

One day after the Sharks were dismantled by the Anaheim Ducks 4-0 in a pivotal Game 4, the team and head coach were in a decidedly somber yet determined mood on Friday. There was speculation that practice would be waived Friday, but it was instead held in the afternoon and used to fine tune elements of the Sharks offense and defense heading into Saturday.

Details of the practice will be held back, but individual players skating with the most jump will not. In the few times this blog has covered horse racing, the thoroughbreds with the most energy and angst in the pre-race walkthrough almost always hit the finish line first. Friday afternoon left wing Ryane Clowe was skating angry, Torrey Mitchell was flashing his speed, and captain Patrick Marleau was cutting hard on the ice and uncorking heavy shots off the glass.

Center Jeremy Roenick hit the ice along the boards after a sprint, forcing another player to hurdle his oncoming body and illiciting a brief laugh from some of his teammates. Head coach Todd McLellan was stern in directing players through drills, but not overly vocal.

"We did not need the video last night to confirm what we saw, what we felt in our gut. I am not even sure the players did. We were out-competed and out-battled and the video confirmed that today," Todd McLellan told television analyst Drew Remenda. "Right now our character is being questioned. It is our job as an organization and as coaches, and as individuals and in group play to prove people right or wrong. We have to squash the reputation we have developed. Whether rightfully or wrongfully so, it is out there. Whether the players want to do that, we are probably a game or two late for already starting but tomorrow is the day to do it."

"Your best players have to be your best players," McLellan added. "It is a cliche every head coach uses in every pro sport. We are talking about 5-7 player on each team, goaltender, defenseman and forwards have to outperform their people. The foot soldiers, and what I mean by foot soldiers is talking about the players that maybe don't get the 21-22 minutes but can make a significant difference. The Torrey Mitchell's, who has made a difference in my opinion. Most of the time it comes down to 5-7 players."

Sharks captian Patrick Marleau noted the desperation on the team given the circumstances it faces down 3-1, "This is a game 7 for us, do or die. Desperation has got to be there, and we got to put our best game out there." Comcast Sportsnet Central reporter Chuck Fisher asked Marleau about the team being challenged by coach Todd McLellan after an unspired performance in Game 4. "You need to have that fight, that battle. We didn't do that, we have to start winning more 1-on-1 battles," Marleau said. Much more on the Sharks captain will be included in a subsequent post tonight.

A grizzled Jonathan Cheechoo was blunt with his response to a question about the Sharks outlook for a Game 5, "If we don't win, we are going home." The Moose Factory, Ontario native added, "The most we can ask for is to leave it all on the ice and hopefully get the result." Cheechoo offered a familiar refrain on the goaltending play of Jonas Hiller, saying that the Sharks need to pour more shots on goal, and get more bodies in front to block his sight lines.

Joe Pavelski noted that the series had been more disciplined than originally expected, but he said the Sharks can win the special teams battle that has been the difference in 3 of the games. "We also have to win the 5-on-5 battles," Pavelski added.

Center Joe Thornton has been the blinding focus for much of the national hockey media, and a majority of the seasonal local sports media that starts to appear around Stanley Cup Playoff time. Gone from his game is the nasty 2-way play that both he and Patrick Marleau demonstrated over the first month and a half of the season. There is now almost an exclusive bottom line focus on his production, and his upbeat and positive responses after several playoff setbacks have rubbed some media and fans the wrong way. On Mercury News beat writer David Pollak's blog, it was noted that Thornton had left the locker room after the 4-0 loss in Game 4 before the media arrived. The new playoff interview format had the visiting head coach speak 5 minutes after the end of the game, followed by the opening of the visiting locker room for media interviews.

Thornton was available for the post-practice media contingent on Friday, a much smaller group that last year when the Sharks faced a Canadian-6 franchise in the opening round. "It's do or die, we have to win some games," Thornton said after being asked about Game 5. "Really all we can do is focus on the next game, we can't look past that. Start with the first shift, and play with desperation." On a question about top line vs top line, Thornton added, "Their top line is outplaying our top line, we have to change that and it starts tomorrow." On the team lacking passion Thursday night in Anaheim, "We will show a lot of passion tomorrow night," Thornton said.

San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle has been one of the most candid players when discussing the Sharks current playoff situation. He downplayed the importance of Friday's practice and said, "At this point, it is the heart, the will and the determination that is going to get us through this." Boyle added, "There are no more second and third chances, if we lose the game we are done. I think it is important to keep the smaller picture, not look down the road at Games 6 or 7. We have to take it one game, one shift at a time."

CSNBA's Chuck Fisher asked Boyle about head coach Todd McLellan's challenge to the team's character, "I don't think we need to be challenged, all we need to do is look in the mirror" Boyle said. "Have you done enough to help this team, and pretty much everyone in the lockerroom can look in the mirror and say no." The offensive defenseman answered a question from this blog on how to shut down the top Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry line. "They are great players, they are young players. They have been playing in our end quite a bit, puck possession in their end, and keeping them away from our net. The guys that are out there have to do a better job. Take pride in playing against them. It's got to be more about us and not about them at this point."

[Update] Ducks still wary of Sharks - Dan Wood for the O.C. Register Ducks Blog.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks, Traverse Capture Game Five 3-1 To Take A 3-2 Series Lead

The Worcester Sharks scored three first period goals and withstood a late charge to defeat the Hartford Wolf Pack 3-1 Thursday night at the XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Hartford, Connecticut in front of an announced crowd of 1,857. Worcester now leads the best of seven series three games to two, with game six coming Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester.

The WorSharks were hoping to carry the momentum of Wednesday night's five goal third period outburst while Hartford was looking to take advantage of some home cooking as neither team had won in the other's building during the series. It was Worcester that would get what they wanted.

Roy Sommer's choice to play defenseman Mike Moore at forward and winger Riley Armstrong at the point on the power play finally paid dividends when a Moore screen prevented Hartford goaltender Matt Zaba from seeing Patrick Traverse's laser from the point. Traverse's blast beat Zaba over the right shoulder for the 1-0 lead at 5:56 of the first. Armstrong and Dan DaSilva had the assists on the power play tally.

Worcester would take a 2-0 lead at 7:15 of the first period when Traverse intercepted a Hartford clearing attempt at the blueline and blasted it on net. The puck hit T.J. Fox on the way by and deflected past Zaba. The goal was originally credited to Traverse, but was changed during the first intermission. While not credited with an assist, Brad Staubitz played a big role in the goal by throwing a huge hit on Wolf Pack defenseman Michael Sauer as Sauer tried to make the clearing play.

The WorSharks would grab another power play tally while skating with a two man advantage. Hartford was looking to skate out of the zone on a two on none breakaway after intercepting a Logan Couture pass across the zone, but Traverse just got the tip of his stick on the puck to turn the play around to a four on one advantage for Worcester. Traverse never took his eyes off Zaba, and beat him cleanly for the unassisted tally at 13:50 of the first.

The teams would play a very physical game for the rest of the contest resulting in several power play chances for both squads. Hartford's lone goal would come after Worcester had killed off just under 90 seconds of five on three play when WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss couldn't control a bouncing puck that found the back of the net. The goal was credited to Dane Byers, but video replay seems to show it was Artem Anisimov's bad angle shot that broke by Greiss. And in a worse job of scoring, Anisimov didn't even receive an assist on play.

Worcester went with the same line-up and lines as the previous two games. Worcester had different players filling on on the fourth line after Bobby Sanguinetti leveled Fox with a huge open ice hit with about seven minutes to go in the second period. Fox did not return.

Frazer McLaren got into his first fight of the post season when he and Dane Byers dropped them at 7:20 of the first period. Both landed some huge shots, but McLaren got the nod when when one of his lefts knocked Byers off balance before they both fell to the ice.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Traverse (2g,a)
2. Greiss (27 saves)
3. Fox (gwg)

WOR 3 0 0 - 3
HFD 0 0 1 - 1

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, Traverse 1 (Armstrong, DaSilva), 5:56 (pp). 2, Worcester, Fox 2 (Traverse), 7:15. 3, Worcester, Traverse 2 (unassisted) 13:50 (pp)
Penalties: McBride Hfd (interference), 3:11; Sauer Hfd (interference), 5:37; McLaren Wor (fighting), 7:20; Byers Hfd (fighting), 7:20; Couture Wor (hooking), 8:35; Cavanagh Wor (hooking), 9:54; Moore Wor (roughing), 11:11; Dupont Hfd (roughing), 11:11; Potter Hfd (tripping), 12:49; Byers Hfd (roughing), 13:40; Weise Hfd (charging), 18:48; Vesce Wor (tripping), 19:46.

2nd Period
No Scoring
Penalties: Staubitz Wor (roughing), 3:19; Sauer Hfd (tripping), 17:48.

3rd Period
Scoring: 4, Hartford, Byers 2 (Potter, Sanguinetti), 13:33 (pp)
Penalties: Zalewski Wor (tripping), 11:15; Moore Wor (delay of game), 11:49.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 13-10-3-26
Hartford 4-9-15-28.

Power-play opportunities: Worcester 2 of 6; Hartford 1 of 6.

Worcester, Greiss 3-2-0 (28 shots-27 saves)
Hartford, Zaba 2-3-0 (26 shots-23 saves).

A-1,857. Referees: Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen: Paul Simeon (66), Chris Low (88).

After a dominant 4-0 Anaheim Ducks win, Sharks season hangs in the balance

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Milan Michalek check Bobby Ryan shatters glass

Each game in this Western Conference Quaterfinal series is going to be the most important of the year for San Jose, but after a dominant 4-0 shutout win by Anaheim in Game 4 the Sharks will face elimination from here on out. "I'm disappointed," head coach Todd McLellan said of his team's lethargic performance after the game. "I think our character was questioned tonight, we will have to see how we respond going back to San Jose."

In a scoreless and tight checking first period it was the Sharks who took the most penalties (3-to-2), and it was the Sharks that created the best scoring opportunity in front of Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller. San Jose scrambled to kill an early tripping penalty on Joe Pavelski. A stickless Mike Grier frantically blocked one shot by defenseman James Wisniewski and clogged the passing lane on a subsequent play with his gloves down low on the ice. Christian Ehrhoff and Douglas Murray each blocked a shot on Devin Setoguchi's holding penalty later in the period, and San Jose emerged with an 8-0 shot blocking margin after 20 minutes. The Sharks finished with 13 blocked shots to Anaheim's 6.

As a penalty on Andrew Ebbett expired near the end of the first, the Sharks applied the most consistent pressure of the night to create the best scoring opportunity. The Sharks prevented the Ducks from clearing the zone several times before Dan Boyle snapped a high wrist shot on goal over prone shot blocking defenseman Francois Beauchemin. The puck deflected off a shoulder in front, and left wing Ryane Clowe narrowly missed a baseball swing chop as it dropped to the ice. Clowe and Joe Pavelski each tried to take a second whack, but traffic and Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller sealed the post.

Two aftershocks struck Orange County during the first intermission, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake at 8:27PM and a 3.0 magnitude quake at 8:28PM. After a 20+ minute delay due to a shattered pane of glass between the two benches in the second period, many fans were looking for locusts to descend on the Honda Center in the third period. Asked if he felt the earthquake left wing Bobby Ryan said, "Randy (Carlyle) was ranting and raving a little bit. That's the only earthquake we heard."

During the regular season, it was the Sharks who capitalized on opponent's mistakes en route to an NHL best 53-18-11 record. In this first round WCQF playoff series against Anaheim, it is the Ducks top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry that are skating with impunity in the Sharks zone. With enough room to make plays, the RGP line is passing the puck on a string and making the Sharks pay for defensive turnovers. Corey Perry is dominating San Jose in the corners and on the end boards, winning several 1-on-1 battles and consistently digging the puck out of traffic to start the attack for Getzlaf and Ryan.

"(Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry) is a good line, they are winning the series for them right now," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said after the game. "We just need to be more physical and be in their end, not let them have the puck as much." Whether San Jose can win Game 5 and send it back to Anaheim or not, unless the Sharks can put a hurting on the RGP line they are going to continue to find a way to win games. With a 3-1 series lead, they only need to win 1 more to send the Sharks home for 4+ months. This is almost a complete role reversal from many regular season Battle of California SJ-ANA contests, where occasionally Anaheim would goon up a game to send a message. The goon is on the other foot.

The CSNBA broadcast of the game posted an interesting stat, 8 of Anaheim's 12 goals in this series came from players with 0 prior NHL playoff goals. Anaheim rookie left wing Bobby Ryan had 0 goals heading in to the WCQF series with San Jose. After 4 games, he now has 4 goals.

Ryan added the first 2 goals of the game Thursday night in the second period. Joe Thornton and Rob Blake outnumbered Ryan Getzlaf as he broke into the Sharks zone on the left wing. Getzlaf non-chalantly spun along the wall and threw the puck up to Ryan just inside the blueline. After a hard deke around Jonathan Cheechoo, the Ducks winger beat Evgeni Nabokov cleanly up high to open the scoring.

Many were speculating on whether or not the 20+ minute delay would benefit San Jose or Anaheim, but the Ducks did not miss a beat as play resumed. It was Pronger keeping the puck deep, and Perry beating 2 players behind the net that started the next scoring sequence. Corey Perry tried a quick wraparound, before beating 3 players to his own rebound and snapping another quick shot on goal. Alone in the slot, Ryan buried the second rebound from 23 feet out. "We are finding ways to break games open, it has been great," Ryan told reporters.

The Ducks scored 29 seconds after play resumed from extended delay for the shattered pane of glass that seperated the benches. A physical challenge on Getzlaf, or a hard check on Corey Perry in as many as 3 opportunities could have changed the outcome of the first two goals. Instead, the Sharks top line gave the RGP line room to skate, and they provided all the scoring they would need to win the game.

"When you lose games like this there are going to be lots of questions, when you lose games and lose the series a lot of things get questioned," Shark goaltender Evgeni Nabokov told the media after the game. "Every time they get the lead, they are a confident team."

The Sharks outshot Anaheim 12-6 in the third period, 31-26 for the game, but that was really a superfluous morale victory. San Jose skated in the third period like the end of a back-to-back game on a long regular season road trip, not like this was a pivotal playoff series deciding game that meant the difference between 3-1 and 2-2. Fittingly, right wing Corey Perry provided an insurance goal late in the third period. Ryan and Perry battled in the corner against Torrey Mitchell, Douglas Murray and Joe Thornton. Thornton won possession, but threw a blind pass up the center of the ice. It was the second blind pass up center ice turnover in 2 games, as Joe Pavelski committed a similar mistake in Game 3. Ryan Getzlaf hammered a shot on goal from the blueline, which was tipped by Perry in front for a 3-0 lead. Drew Miller added an empty net goal at 19:19.

"We have a core of players, goaltender included, some top defenseman, some key forwards that have to match up against their core. If that core is outplayed as it was tonight, the odds of us winning greatly diminish," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. "It's core against core right now, and the goaltender, defenseman and forwards have to be included in that."

The expected edge to San Jose heading into the series, secondary scoring, depth up front, special teams, goaltending, have all trended in Anaheim's favor. The expected top line vs. top line battle has been won decisively by the Ducks, and the showcase defense vs. defense matchup has been a highlight of the series. As will be mentioned by the media ad nauseum, 0 shots on goal for Patrick Marleau, 0 points for the top Roenick-Thornton-Setoguchi line, and Blake and Boyle combine for a -4 rating. Anaheim's top RGP line combines for 6 points (3G, 3A), Niedermayer and Pronger finish with a +5 rating, and Hiller stops 31 of 31 shots. Anaheim's best players clearly turned the tide in Game 4.

[Update] Sharks fans Sean Mead, Justin Metras, Andrew Day and Brian Williams were representing the Whale and the "I hate LA" sentiment at the Honda Center on Thursday night. Other SJ fans had a personal message for Chris Pronger.

[Update2] Ryan takes lead in Ducks' victory over Sharks - Helene Elliott for the Los Angeles Times.

"I don't think anybody expected this," Ryan said. "We said all along we aren't your typical eight seed. "Obviously, we feel like we belong in the upper echelon of the Western Conference and a roller coaster year put us there. But we certainly knew we could make some noise."

It's getting noisier by the minute, as the Ducks moved closer to becoming the eighth No. 8 seed since 1994 to upset a No. 1 seed and setting up a matchup with the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. They can advance on Saturday, when the series returns to HP Pavilion -- site of the Ducks' sweep of the first two games. A sixth game, if necessary, would be played Monday in Anaheim.

The Ducks were not in awe of San Jose's regular season accomplishments splitting the home-at-home finale, and after a pair of decisive third period game winning goals to start the WCQF series their confidence visibly grew on the ice. One graphic stood out from the San Jose television broadcast of the game detailing #8 seeds that have knocked off a #1: San Jose (8) over Detroit (1) in 1994.

[Update3] Ducks take Sharks to the brink, NHL playoffs: Ryan's two goals and stellar play from goalie Hiller gives the Ducks a 3-1 series lead - Dan Wood for the O.C. Register. There is a very interesting time lapse video of the buildup to Game 4 at the end of the article.

[Update4] Video of the second period glass shattering Milan Michalek hit on Bobby Ryan is available on youtube here. Thanks to Empty Netters for the link.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:

I'm not surprised that they were hungry. I'm disappointed that we weren't... again that is the only word I can use is disappointed. I think our character was questioned tonight, we will have to see how we respond going back to San Jose.

We haven't had any luck, have we? Depending on what pair we put on the ice, they haven't been able to handle (Ryan, Getzlaf, Perry) down low, especially tonight. I think for the most part, most of the damage has been done by Bobby Ryan. He is a tremendous player, he has a ton of skill. Ryan Getzlaf has the size and the ability to get him the puck. We will have to look at our lineup and our lines going home. With the last change, hopefully it will help. It really didn't matter who we put on the ice againt them, very reminiscant of a game in San Jose (against Anaheim) a month or a month and a half ago where it didn't matter who we put on the ice. They were that strong.

(On the glass shattering) That had nothing to do with the game. First period I thought we were ok. We came out in the second and we did not make passes, we didn't execute, we didn't make plays, we weren't skating. All of the things we wanted to do, we didn't do and the momentum changed. I don't think the break in the glass had a whole lot to do with really anything as far as the outcome of the game.

We have a core of players, goaltender included, some top defenseman, some key forwards that have to match up against their core. If that core is outplayed as it was tonight, the odds of us winning greatly diminish... It's core against core right now, and the goaltender, defenseman and forwards have to be included in that.

You can misread into pairs because Joe had a number of 10 and 15 second shifts where he comes onto the ice and comes right back, coaches do that sometimes to draw matches, or to create different scenarios. We are going to be looking into that probably a little bit more. We did flip our lines around halfway through the second period, we weren't happy with the way we were going. We weren't creating any offense. They were getting the matches they wanted. They were doing a very good job winning faceoffs and getting the changes. So we went back to what we normally had thinking that the big guys should rise to the occasion.

Up until tonight I thought Joe had an impact on the series. A positive impact, he competed very hard, played in a lot of difficult areas, made some things happen. Tonight he was obviously on the negative side of that. The Getzlaf-Perry line played better than Joe's line, and it showed up on the scoreboard, it shows up on the scoresheet.

(On fatigue) Absolutely not, that was Game (4) of the playoffs. You could play up to 28 games, it sure did not take a lot out of them. If we go there, that would be a real poor excuse for our hockey club. We just weren't good enough tonight in just about every area.

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

The game was very tight. I don't think you can really look at it and say it was a 4-0 hockey game. I think it very intense hockey and it was played at a very high pace. It was a 1-0 game up until the 10-minute mark of the second period, so once bounce can go against you or once bounce could go for you. Fortunately, enough bounces went our way tonight.

They had quality scoring chances. We had a big effort by our penalty killers tonight. That is always important. We were disciplined.

(On the delay for a broken pane of glass) There are things that you have no control over. Does it give your big guys a rest? I think the whole key is that the individuals have to remain focused in those situations, a 10 minute break or whatever it was, the time it took to fix the glass. They have to remain focused, they have to remain on an even keel. If you let off for 1 minute, in a game like this, it can make a huge huge impact.

What the officials said was that if they didn't get it fixed that they were going to finish the period with no barrier between the two benches and then fix it inbetween periods. Our people did a good job, it is tough when you have two groups of athletes on the bench and you have to scramble to make things work. All things considered I think they did an excellent job of repairing it and getting things underway. To me it doesn't matter (playing without the glass), is it an advantage or a disadvantage. It's equal. They can hear what I'm saying and I can hear what they are saying.

NHL Playoff Statistics: most game winning goals since 2001, most playoff goals since 2004, most playoff goals since 1918

Statistics that have been in the news:


Patrick Marleau 9
Chris Drury 9
Daniel Alfredsson 8
Daniel Briere 7
Peter Forsberg 7
Johan Franzen 7
Brad Richards 7
Martin St. Louis 7
Martin Havlat 6
Jamie Langenbrunner 6
Niklas Lidstrom 6
Mike Modano 6
Joe Sakic 6
Teemu Selanne 6

Data through Wednesday April 22, 2009.


Henrik Zetterberg 30
Jarome Iginla 27
Patrick Marleau 25
Chris Drury 21
Brad Richards 21
Daniel Briere 20
Pavel Datsyuk 19
Johan Franzen 18
Daniel Alfreddson 17
Alexei Kovalev 17
Jonathan Cheechoo 16
Patrick Elias 16
Martin St. Louis 16

Data through Wednesday April 22, 2009.


Wayne Gretzky 122 (208GP)
Mark Messier 109 (236GP)
Jari Kurri 106 (200GP)
Brett Hull 103 (202GP)
Glenn Anderson 93 (225GP)
Mike Bossy 85 (129GP)
Joe Sakic 93 (172GP)
Maurice Richard 82 (133GP)
Claude Lemieux 80 (233GP)
Jean Beliveau 79 (162GP)

Sources:, Total Stanley Cup 2009, San Jose Sharks playoff media guide. Interesting note from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area's broadcast of Game 4: 8 of the 12 goals scored in this series by Anaheim have been scored by players with 0 playoff goals heading into this series. There are 12 Stanley Cup winning veterans on the Anaheim Ducks, but contributions from their younger players have been a key in this series.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Max Giese: Sharks Sign Free Agent Kevin Henderson

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the team has signed unrestricted free agent forward Kevin Henderson to an entry-level contract. “Kevin will be a great addition to our organization and we are looking forward to continuing his development as a professional hockey player,” said Wilson. “He’s someone who can play in all situations and we commend the job that UNB Head Coach Gardiner MacDougall and his staff have done.”

The six-foot-three, 208-pound native of Toronto, Ontario is your classic late bloomer. He joined the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 19 after he didn't receive a scholarship to play in the NCAA. After his time in the OHL, Henderson joined the University of New Brunswick of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport, where he had a great year this season and won the CIS Championship. He attended the Los Angeles Kings' training camp in 2007 and this year Henderson finished 5th in the CIS in scoring with 19 goals and 50 points.

Henderson is a big presence on the ice that knows how to use his massive frame to his advantage and will bulldoze his way to the net. He has limited play-making ability and vision, but he is known more as a two-way winger that can also score some goals. Henderson is a hard worker and solid skater that excels on the penalty-kill. He's a nice addition of depth to the Sharks organization and should see NHL duty in the near future because of his size and skating. The Sharks recently have gravitated towards free-agent signings with great size and Henderson continues that trend. In his younger years he was regarded as a skill player, but to his credit he has rounded out his game well. Henderson was recently in Worcester, where he will likely play next season, and had scout/coach Bryan Marchment show him around.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks, Greiss Shutout Hartford 6-0; Draw Even In Series

The Worcester Sharks used goals from six different players and a shutout by Thomas Greiss in a 6-0 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack Wednesday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts to pull even in their best of seven divisional semi-final series two games to two.

For the first time all series Worcester was able to score the first goal of the game, and it came from an unlikely source. Kyle McLaren, with just a single goal during the regular season, would connect for his first post season goal at any level since 1998--and only his fourth going back to his junior days--when he blasted a slapshot from the blueline. With Frazer McLaren battling Hartford defenseman Brain Fahey in front of, and screening, Wolf Pack netminder Matt Zaba, Kyle McLaren unleashed a rocket that went over Zaba’s right shoulder for the 1-0 lead just 3:19 into the opening stanza.

Both teams would have great chances for the rest of the period and throughout the second period, but both Zaba and Greiss would turn everything they saw aside to keep the game 1-0 entering the third period. And for those wondering if Worcester would try and sit on their single goal lead, the answer came quickly and was a resounding ‘no’.

Hartford came out firing in the first shift of the third period, but the WorSharks weathered the storm. After the WorSharks cleared the puck Riley Armstrong chased the puck into the attacking zone, forcing the defender to play him instead of the puck, which negated the icing. Tom Cavanagh grabbed the lose puck from behind the net and found Logan Couture standing all alone in the slot. Couture blasted it past Zaba for his first professional goal at 1:23 of the third.

Worcester would continue to press the advantage, and would grab another goal at 3:45 when Lukas Kaspar picked up a lose puck from the corner to the left of Zaba and skated into the face-off circle, firing off a wrister that beat Zaba just under the crossbar. Andrew Desjardins and Dan DaSilva had the assists on the play.

Worcester would grab a fourth goal at 6:16 on a broken play when Cory Larose lost the puck just inside the Hartford zone. Kaspar swept in and picked the puck up, and found Monday night’s hero Ryan Vesce standing all along behind Zaba at the far post. Kaspar’s pass was just beyond Zaba’s pad, and Vesce buried it for the 4-0 lead.

With Worcester playing for Greiss’ first playoff shutout they struck again, on an almost carbon copy of the Couture goal. Armstrong had the puck behind the net and saw Cavanagh standing all alone. Cavanagh one-timed the pass to make it 5-0 at 7:21.

To add insult to an already lopsided game, T.J. Fox grabbed the sixth goal of the game when Vesce found him standing all alone in front of the net. Fox blasted it into the upper corner over Zaba’s stick with 47 seconds remaining for the 6-0 final.

The two teams play again Thursday night in Hartford for game five. Game six will be back in Worcester on Saturday.

Worcester went with the same line-up as game three. Brett Westgarth skated during warm-ups but did not play.

Bryan Marchment again joined Roy Sommer and David Cunniff behind the WorSharks bench.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Greiss (30 save shutout)
2. DaSilva (2a)
3. Kaspar (g,a)
Honorable mention needs to go to Kyle McLaren (gwg, overall play)

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


HFD 0 0 0 - 0
WOR 1 0 5 - 6

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, McLaren 1 (Desjardins, DaSilva), 3:19
Penalties: No Penalties

2nd Period
No Scoring
Penalties: Fahey Hfd (hooking), 1:53; Armstrong Wor (roughing), 7:11; Buckley Wor (interference), 11:07.

3rd Period
Scoring: 2, Worcester, Couture 1 (Armstrong), 1:23. 3, Worcester, Kaspar 1 (Desjardins, DaSilva), 3:45. 4, Worcester, Vesce 3 (Larose, Kaspar), 6:16. 5, Worcester, Cavanagh 2 (Buckley, Armstrong), 7:21. 6, Worcester, Fox 1 (Vesce, Staubitz), 19:13
Penalties: Larose Wor (slashing), 8:25; Dupont Hfd (roughing, fighting), 14:56; Buckley Wor (cross-checking), 14:56; Desjardins Wor (fighting), 14:56.

Shots on Goal
Hartford 10-12-8-30
Worcester 11-6-10-27.

Power-play opportunities: Hartford 0 of 3; Worcester 0 of 1.

Hartford, Zaba 2-2-0 (27 shots-21 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 2-2-0 (30 shots-30 saves).

A-1,911. Referee: Chris Brown (86). Linesmen: Brian MacDonald (72), Chris Libett (19).

Interview with Anaheim Ducks Director of Publications and New Media Adam Brady

Anaheim Ducks Director of Publications and New Media Adam Brady was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about the Anaheim-San Jose playoff series, goaltending depth in each franchise, how the 2007 Stanley Cup Championship impacted the hockey market in Southern California, and which Shark could be public enemy #1 later in the series.

Adam Brady's Ducks blog on is available here.

[Q] For the 3rd straight game, the Ducks and Sharks entered the third period tied en route to a 1-goal decision. Can you see this tight a chess match continuing over a 7-game series, and what adjustments if any do you think Anaheim will make for Game 4?

[AB] Yeah, I think this thing will be tight to the finish. I predicted in the beginning it would go seven games, and I'm not sure that's changed all that much. This had the makings of a tight series from the start and I think we're in for some pretty intense games.

As far as adjustments by the Ducks, I see them trying to make some changes on the penalty kill, trying to keep a better eye on defensemen like Boyle, who burned them for two goals in Game 3. Other than that, I see them trying to take the same approach they've been taking, but hoping to stay out of the box a little more.

[Q] Many Sharks fans have seen a lot of Jonas Hiller before this series, and followed his play down the stretch for Anaheim. If you had to offer a mini-scouting report on Hiller, how would you describe his strengths and his style of play, and has his performance been a natural progression from the regular season or has he brought his game up to a new level for the playoffs?

[AB] Jonas employs a butterfly style similar to J.S. Giguere, which comes from the fact they were both trained by Francois Allaire. I would say his strength is his quickness and his ability to move side to side. He also has done a great job in this series of not giving up too many rebounds, which is huge especially if San Jose has as much traffic around the net as they did in Game 3.

His playoff performance has been exceptional, but he's been very good for most of the season. His save percentage and goals-against ranked among the top 5 in the NHL for a good part of the year and he's been very good for the Ducks when called upon. So, as well as he played in Games 1 and 2, it wasn't a major surprise.

[Q] Which franchise deserves the "Goaltending Factory" moniker San Jose (the late Warren Strelow, Nabokov, Kiprusoff, Toskala, Hedberg) or Anaheim (Allaire, Giguere, Bryzgalov, Hiller, Gerber)?

[AB] As far as the "Goaltending Factory" moniker, to be fair, I'm not as familiar with the Sharks goalies as I am the Ducks. But obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for guys like Nabokov and Kiprusoff, and Toskala has had moments of brilliance, especially in San Jose. But as far as playoff performances, you can't get much better than what Giguere did in 2003 and 2007, and Bryzgalov was fantastic when he was in there for the Ducks in 2006. From a completely biased standpoint, I'd give the edge to the Ducks on that one -- but certainly not by a wide margin.

[Q] In non-tradional hockey markets, many believe that winning a Stanley Cup will have a large impact on the media coverage and on the reach of the sport among casual fans. What impact did a Stanley Cup Championship have on the media landscape and casual fanbase in Anaheim? Have there been any similarities or any differences with the buildup for the all-California playoff series with San Jose?

[AB] Winning the Cup here definitely went a long way in increasing the coverage and the fan interest in this area. During that Cup run, the TV coverage grew exponentially with each passing around and that was a good thing to see. And obviously, the fans responded too, as the Ducks had a season ticket base of 15,500 the season after winning the Cup and Honda Center sold out the entire next season. That being said, you have to keep winning in this market to continue at that pace. With that in mind, I think this market still has a little ways to go to get closer to the Canadian markets and some of the larger markets in the States.

There has been some interest locally in the all-California series, and I've noticed a big increase in the media presence at practices this week. Although, there would be much more interest if the Ducks move further in the postseason. It's always tough to gain footing in this market with the Angels, Dodgers, Lakers, UCLA, USC and even the Kings, not to mention all the other distractions in Southern California. It's the same old story, though. Win, and the interest gets bigger and bigger.

[Q] Your title is Director of Publications and New Media for the Anaheim Ducks. You described a few details of your position on the Dudes on Hockey podcast. How has your blog been received by fans over the years, is there a story or a feature that you posted about that received the most response? Have the Ducks worked with any blogs or new media in the Anaheim area to increase coverage of the team?

[AB] The blog has been received very well, and that's easily the best thing about my job. I get emails from readers pretty much every day and 99 out of 100 are very complimentary. That's a lot of fun.

As far as something getting the most response, the one thing that comes to mind that got the worst response was my reaction to Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe calling out (July 7th) Brian Burke and the Ducks organization (not to mention this hockey market). That brought about not only a lot of angry emails from Edmonton fans, but some media attention in Edmonton too. It was pretty interesting.

As far as positive response, one thing I wrote that got a lot of attention from our fans was kind of a farewell to Brad May, a very popular player who was traded in the middle of this season. People really seemed to enjoy that. Also, whenever I wrote behind-the-scenes stuff while traveling with the team, especially during the Cup run, that always brought up the biggest and most positive response.

The Ducks as a whole have worked with other bloggers a bit, and there is one who actually covers the team on a regular basis. I think that's something that will increase as that type of outlet becomes more and more prevalent and generally accepted.

[Q] Last question, you mentioned that you did not think there was a Sharks player as hated (or at least boo'd) as much in Anaheim as several of the Ducks are in San Jose. Over a contentious 7-game series, is there a Sharks player you can see changing that?

[AB] I could see Joe Thornton maybe earning some boos since he's one of the biggest guys out there and likes to make his presence felt. He and Bobby Ryan were jawing a bit in Game 3 and I could see him developing into one of those guys. But that's partly because he's such a good player and could do some damage. Other than that, maybe a Jody Shelley, even though he hasn't been in there the last couple of games. Certainly Jonathan Cheechoo is a candidate, if he continues to score against the Ducks like he has. And I mentioned before that Nabokov is a possibility, especially since he's tangled with Corey Perry a couple of times. But I don't see any of those guys conjuring up the type of hatred that Sharks fans have for Perry and Chris Pronger.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer a few questions. Not sure exactly which blog Adam Brady is referring to, but Eddie and Doug from have been delivering solid audio content from Anaheim during the series. A 2007 interview with current O.C. Register Anaheim Ducks beat writer and former Contra Costa Times Sharks writer Dan Wood is available here.

Dan Boyle explodes for 2 goals, assist, Patrick Marleau scores game winning PP goal in Sharks 4-3 win over Anaheim

San Jose decided to break the mould en route to a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3 of the WCQF. For the first time in the series the Sharks opened the scoring on a heavy point first period point shot by defenseman Rob Blake. For the first time in 18 power play opportunities, Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau converted with the man advantage. For the first time in 3 games, the Sharks emerged with a definitive win.

"This is the best first period we had not only in the playoffs, but in a long time," head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. The Sharks outshot Anaheim 20-8 after 20 minutes, and were dictating pysical play in the neutral and offensive zones. "It is a positive sign," McLellan added. A quick d-to-d pass from Marc-Edouard Vlasic capitalized on a Drew Miller turnover and resulted in a 55-foot Blake slapshot that deflected off traffic and into the back of the net. A soft pass by Clowe resulted in a point blank scoring chance for Joe Thornton, and a shot by Dan Boyle bounced off Hiller and landed just short of the goal line as San Jose pressed the action early.

The victory, and the goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov, was far from sharp early in the game. Bobby Ryan banked a power play shot off of Nabokov's pads 11:12 into the first period. Anaheim defenseman James Wisniewski and Chris Pronger contributed unassisted goals off slapshots in the second period as the Sharks gave up 3 straight leads. The Sharks netminder started to bear down in the third period, stopping all 9 shots against and bending but not breaking on several point blank Anaheim scoring chances.

The Sharks defense continues to improve every game. Dan Boyle lead the way with a 3 point performance (2G, 1A), and the defense contributed an impressive 6 total points (3G, 3A). According to the Sharks radio network, Boyle is the first Sharks defenseman to score 2 goals in a playoff game since 1991 draft pick Sandis Ozolinsh. His first came with Thornton set up in a familiar position behind the goal on the power play. With Marleau battling defenseman Francois Beauchemin in front of Hiller, Boyle slid to the right side of Hiller. Thornton threaded a pass through the crease and Boyle buried it from 13 feet out.

"We got off to a good start today which was huge. We got the first goal, the job is half done," Dan Boyle said after the game. A Clowe-Michalek-Pavelski cycle early in the second period set the table for Boyle to punch home another puck from the top of the crease at 1:05. The Sharks pair of premiere offseason defensive acquisitions also combined to set up the game winning power play goal in the third period by captain Patrick Marleau. A quick d-to-d pass from Boyle to Blake, resulted in Blake feed that split Todd Marchant and Scott Niedermayer and hit Marleau on the tape. Marleau deflected the shot by Hiller for his 9th playoff game winning goal since 2001 (corrected).

When asked if he felt any pressure to get on the scoresheet, "the focus is on winning, it doesn't matter how or who is doing it, it just comes down to wins right now," Patrick Marleau said. The Ducks came on strong with quality scoring chances by Andrew Ebbett and Bobby Ryan late, but the Sharks earned several critical faceoff wins (4-1 in the last 8:32) and clogged up the defensive zone long enough for Nabokov to get body parts on pucks. "I was happy with our play in those last 5 minutes," Todd McLellan said. "We have been in a lot of 1 goal games this year, we have learned how to play that way. We learned how to bounce back."

The 4-3 Sharks road win narrows the WCQF series to 2-1 before Thursday's contest in Anaheim. San Jose Sharks checking line center Torrey Mitchell returned for his first game of the season after breaking a leg in training camp. Mitchell registered 1 shot, 2 hits, and set up linemate Mike Grier for a quality scoring chance in 6:34 of total ice time. "That is part of my game, speed and the forecheck, trying to make things happen," Mitchell said. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 27 of 30 shots against for his first win of the 2009 playoffs. The Sharks finished 2-3 on the power play after going 0-12 in the first 2 games of the series. 16,227 fans attended Game 3 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, which has a listed capacity of 17,174.

[Update] Sharks edge Ducks, 4-3, to climb right back into series - Dan Wood for the O.C. Register Ducks blog.

In winning the first two games of the series, 2-0 and 3-2, at HP Pavilion, the Ducks blanked the potent Sharks on all 12 of their power-play opportunities. Led by veteran defensemen Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, with whom Coach Todd McLellan loaded up his top unit, San Jose converted two of three man-advantage chances Tuesday, including Patrick Marleau’s decisive strike that snapped a 3-3 tie at 10:33 of the third period.

[Update2] Sharks get a W thanks to vets on D -

[Update3] Boyle Excels as Sharks Battle Through Adversity - Ryan Garner for Hockey Buzz.

The veteran defenseman's reaction was a little peculiar after the Game 2 loss on Sunday night, his comments a little out of the ordinary. He wasn't talking about good the Ducks were, and didn't pull out a laundry list of things the Sharks did well in the loss, he simply said the team had to score more goals and win the game.

“Some guys have a different attitude,” Boyle said. “I look at it as black and white. We lost the game. I don’t really feel good about stuff. I’m different, but you’ve got to win the game. That’s the bottom line.”

[Update4] Sharks find some energy and make playoff series with Ducks interesting - LA Times.

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray drops the gloves with Anaheim enforcer George Parros in Game 3

At the end of the first period in a 4-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday night in Game 3, San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray dropped the gloves with Anaheim Ducks enforcer George Parros. Parros challenged Murray after the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Swedish defenseman knocked Finland's Teemu Selanne flat with a hard check in the Anaheim defensive zone. Earlier in the period Murray hammered rookies Bobby Ryan and Andrew Ebbett with similar 1-on-1 demonstrations of mass equals force times acceleration.

Anaheim enforcer George Parros, who registered 23 fighting majors in the regular season (3rd in NHL), squared off against Murray for a Princeton vs Cornell squabble. Murray had yet to register a fighting major all season according to Parros immediately tied down each of Murray's arms, but the Sharks defenseman was able to reach back and land over the top. He lost his balance after one wild swing, but got to his feet and wrestled for position. Parros landed short right hands, but Murray connected with a pair of heavy punches sent Anaheim's designated tough guy back on his heels before the refs stepped in to seperate the players.

The message sent by Parros to Murray was neither acknowledged or accepted as "crankshaft" lined up Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne for subsequent hits later in the game. Versus sideline reporter Lindsay Soto noted that Parros and Murray kept track of how many times they are able to knock each other down during the season. According to Murray, the last time George Parros was able to knock him down was during the preseason last year. Fighting in the playoffs is rare for San Jose. This was the first playoff fight for the Sharks since defenseman Scott Hannan faced off against Nashville's Jerred Smithson in 2007.

Murray finished with 18:31 of ice time, and a team high 5 hits. "Doug Murray was very physical early in the game, he set the tone," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. He was also on the ice with defensive partner Christian Ehrhoff to shut down the Ducks late third period comeback attempt after goaltender Jonas Hiller was pulled.

One indictment of the Sharks prior to the start of this series was the fact that none of its players were treated with the same kind of venom that Chris Pronger and Corey Perry recieve in San Jose. With his effort in Game 3, Douglas Murray is well on his way to changing that.

[Update] Sharks finally show some bite against Ducks, Marleau's PPG keys 4-3 victory as San Jose avoids embarrassing 0-3 hole - NBC Sports.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Inside Game 2: Power Play Outage and Lineup/Line Changes

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal power play statistics power outage
San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal game 1 shift chart

If the San Jose Sharks 2-0 loss to the Ducks on Thursday was a slim margin of victory, Sunday's 3-2 win by Anaheim in Game 2 was closer in almost every respect. The Sharks power play operated at a nearly 25% clip in the regular season (24.2%, 3rd), but was down slightly against the aggresive Ducks penalty kill (16.1%). The story of Game 2, and the clear story of this playoff series to date, is the 0-12 power outage on the San Jose power play.

The Sharks mixed up lines 5-on-5, but the top 2 power play units of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi and Clowe-Pavelski-Michalek remained the same. Faceoff wins on the power play dramatically improved from 27% to 69%, forcing the Ducks to play shorthanded more in their zone and allowing the San Jose power play to be more aggressive. Shots on net improved from 11 to 15, and traffic was consistently heavier in front of goaltender Jonas Hiller. The Sharks also initiated several scoring chances from the wing as well as the usual large number of shots from the point. This forced Hiller to move side-to-side more, opening up holes and generally disrupting the smooth rythmn he enjoyed in Game 1.

The figures cited above differ slightly from the official NHL statistics, but including shots, missed shots and blocked shots by Anaheim the Sharks attempted 27 total shots on the power play compared to 23 in Game 1. In the building, Anaheim's aggressive penalty kill was noticeably sending three players high in the defensive zone to pressure the puck with one player dropping back. On a replay of the Versus broadcast, almost every Sharks PP entry into the Ducks zone was challenged at the blueline. Defenseman and forwards stood up the puck carrier, and back support from the penalty kill unit actually outnumbered the Sharks in several situations while clearing the zone.

San Jose head coach Todd McLellan noted that his team addressed a lot of the concerns they had after Game 1, but at this time of the season the NHL is about results and not process. Utilizing the defensive speed, and drop passes at the blueline to players in stride, the Sharks can back off the Ducks defense. San Jose also should also not abandon McLellan's "dump-in with a purpose" philosophy. All season long one Sharks forward or defenseman has initiated a dump-in after another forward already started moving towards that area of the ice. McLellan stressed not only dumping the puck to a certain area, but having a plan for puck retrieval before you make the play. Executed successfully, the Sharks can create 2-on-1's and 3-on-2's down low, which will help them break through on the power play.

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal game 2 shift chart

Many in the media predicted the Sharks would change the lineup from Jody Shelley to a Claude Lemieux or Tomas Plihal in Game 2, but the adjustments made by head coach Todd McLellan were more significant. The top line of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi was split, and 3 of the Sharks 4 top lines were changed for Game 2.

Joe Thornton centered a pair of veteran goal scorers in Jeremy Roenick and Jonathan Cheechoo, two players who substituted for Marleau on the top line when he was out with an undisclosed injury. Splitting Thornton and Marleau will match up one of the Sharks top two scorers against something other than the top Getzlaf line. McLellan, with the last change on home ice, matched up the Thornton line with the Ducks checking line of Mike Brown, Geoge Parros, and Petteri Nokelainen for most of the game. At the start of the second the new Thornton line saw shifts against the Ducks fourth line and the Getzlaf line.

The hottest line for the Sharks in the last 2 months of the regular season was Clowe(Cheechoo)-Pavelski-Michalek, and they picked up steam in Game 2. Milan Michalek lead both teams with a game high 7 shots on goal (3 missed shots), and consistently used his size and speed to bear down on goaltender Jonas Hiller. Pavelski added 4 shots, and performed much better in the faceoff circle and in front of the net. Ryane Clowe tied Jeremy Roenick and Douglas Murray with a team high 4 hits as the Sharks outhit Anaheim by a 40-28 margin.

The Sharks new-look third line of Travis Moen, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi were matched up against Anaheim's top line of Ryan, Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. Claude Lemieux was the only new addition to the lineup after Game 1. He replaced Jody Shelley and skated on a 4th line with Marcel Goc and Mike Grier. Lemieux registered over 5 minutes of ice time, and drew a critical penalty on checking center Mike Brown late in the third period.

Lemieux also took a first period shift with the Pavelski line and a second period shift with Thornton and Roenick as head coach Todd McLellan tried to maximize his agitating effectiveness in Game 2. The 4-time Stanley Cup Champion and former Conn Smythe playoff MVP is uniquely suited to get under the skin of a Chris Pronger or even goaltender Jonas Hiller. Look for a more subtle approach than this look left and punch right attempt last night against Washington by Sean Avery.

[Update] Sharks hurting in their power-play situations - San Jose Mercury News.

What's not working for the Sharks?

"They're making sure that there are no rebounds, so we're not getting many second or third opportunities," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We're spending way too much time chasing down pucks. We need to spend more time in their zone rather than breaking out."

Ryane Clowe, who scored the Sharks' first goal of the series in the second period, suggested that frustration began to grow as the game wore on and they couldn't solve the Ducks' penalty kill. "It seems like when we don't score after two or three power plays, guys go off on their own pages," Clowe said. "We can't do that. The power play can be a funny thing. You're not always going to go out there and just score in the first 10 seconds. That's not how it works."

[Update2] Charting the Sharks and Ducks even strength scoring vs power play goals over the regular season - Sharkspage.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Win In Double OT Over Hartford, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks returned home to the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts for game three of their best-of-seven divisional semi-final playoff series against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Monday night, and behind a Ryan Vesce's double overtime goal defeated Hartford 3-2 in front of 1,620 fans. Hartford still leads the series 2-1.

The last thing Worcester wanted to do being down two games to none was surrender the first goal of the game, but after Jason Demers was called for roughing--one of the many questionable calls by referee David Banfield throughout the night--the WorSharks found themselves in that exact situation when Corey Potter fired a one-timer off a pass from former San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Rissmiller over Worcester goaltender Thomas Greiss' left shoulder and under the crossbar for the 1-0 lead at 14:16.

The WorSharks would bring the game back to even at 18:42 when Riley Armstrong broke into the zone and into the corner to the right of Hartford netminder Matt Zaba. Armstrong fought for the lose puck in the corner and found Derek Joslin alone at the blueline. Zaba made the save on Joslin's blast, but Tom Cavanagh batted the rebound out of the air to light the lamp.

Hartford would grab the lead again at 5:01 of the second after the Worcester defense made a mental mistake. Brodie Dupont skated the puck down the right side, but both Demers and Joslin went to play him, leaving Dale Weise all alone in the slot in front of Greiss. Dupont flipped a lazy pass to Weise, who beat Greiss to the high glove side just under the crossbar for the 2-1 lead.

It would take just 1:24 for Worcester to tie the game again, and almost all that time the puck was in the Hartford zone. On three separate occasions Hartford failed to clear the puck from the zone, and as the play continued Worcester was able to cycle a fresh line on while controlling the play. The fresher legs paid off when Mike Moore fired a slapshot from the blueline into a scrum of players screening Zaba. The puck deflected off the shaft of Ryan Vesce's stick and into the net to knot the game 2-2.

Hartford had several great chances in the third period and two power play chances in the first overtime period, but Greiss was up to the task. Worcester had several good chances of their own, but two big saves by Zaba and a couple of bouncing pucks kept the game even through 80 minutes.

The second overtime was all Worcester from the opening face-off, and when Patrick Traverse's shot from the half-board to the left of Zaba hit Wolf Pack defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti and dropped into the slot, Vesce scooped it up and fired a wrister past Zaba for the 3-2 victory at 1:07 of the second overtime.

Game four is Wednesday at 6:35pm EDT in Worcester.

Worcester had one line-up change from Saturday night. Brad Staubitz, who has finished serving his five game suspension, replaced Brett Westgarth.

Worcester went with an odd second power play line. While it went with the standard three forwards and two defensemen, head coach Roy Sommer had defenseman Mike Moore playing left wing and right winger Riley Armstrong playing defense. Moore and Frazer McLaren planted themselves in front of Hartford goaltender Matt Zaba drawing in two defenders to the slot while Worcester used three players out high taking turns blasting pucks into the scrum. Two great saves by Zaba kept the line off the score sheet, but I expect we'll see more of the combination as the series goes on.

As has become custom here in Worcester, when Roy Sommer called his timeout with 2:35 remaining in the third period after an icing play in which Worcester was trapped in its zone for an extended time, a mock cheer erupted from the DCU faithful.

Throughout the overtime periods Sommer continued to cycle through his four lines as usual while Hartford head coach Ken Gernander shortened his bench and went with short shifts.

Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter Bill Ballou dropped the ceremonial first puck prior to the start of the game. Ballou had run the Boston Marathon earlier Monday and finished in a time of 3:59.35. Ballou covers the Worcester Sharks and Boston Red Sox for the T&G, and is also president of the Boston chapter of the BBWAA.

Monday's game was the second consecutive double overtime playoff game at the DCU Center. The first was on April 28, 2007 when Manchester eliminated Worcester from the playoffs in a 3-2 win. The WorSharks also lost a double overtime game in Manchester that series, making Worcester's all-time record in double overtime games 1-2. In its brief franchise history Worcester has never played a single OT playoff game.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Vesce (2g)
2. Armstrong (2a)
3. Potter (g,a)
Both Zaba and Greiss deserve Honorable Mentions for their play.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


HFD 1 1 0 0 0 - 2
WOR 1 1 0 0 1 - 3

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Hartford, Potter 1 (Rissmiller, Moore), 14:16 (pp). 2, Worcester, Cavanagh 1 (Joslin, Armstrong), 18:42.
Penalties: Sanguinetti Hfd (interference), 6:49; Demers Wor (roughing), 13:44; Nightingale Hfd (delay of game), 14:31; Buckley Wor (high-sticking), 19:49.

2nd Period
Scoring: 3, Hartford, Weise 1 (Dupont, Potter), 5:01. 4, Worcester, Vesce 1 (Moore, Armstrong), 6:25.
Penalties: Nightingale Hfd (roughing), 7:14; Rissmiller Hfd (roughing), 7:14; Desjardins Wor (roughing), 7:14; Joslin Wor (cross-checking), 11:24; Sanguinetti Hfd (interference), 14:05; Sauer Hfd (holding), 16:03; Vesce Wor (tripping), 16:14.

3rd Period
No Scoring.
Penalties: Cavanagh Wor (hooking), 1:08; Vesce Wor (hooking), 19:50.

OT Period
No Scoring.
Penalties: McLaren Wor (slashing), 13:08.

2nd OT Period
Scoring: 5, Worcester, Vesce 2 (Traverse, Buckley), 1:07.
Penalties: No Penalties

Shots on Goal
Hartford 7-7-11-11-0-36
Worcester 12-13-8-10-2-45.

Power-play opportunities: Hartford 1 of 7; Worcester 0 of 5.

Hartford, Zaba 2-1-0 (45 shots-42 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 1-2-0 (36 shots-34 saves).

A-1,620. Referees: David Banfield (44). Linesmen: Jim Briggs (83), Frank Murphy (29).

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

Here is a re-edited January, 2008 interview with Hockey Hall of Fame Keeper of the Stanley Cup Mike Bolt conducted prior to the ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton. In the background is the ECHL's championship trophy, the Kelly Cup.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle and San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan

Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle post-game press conference

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

(Hiller) has played some important games for us down the stretch, he is a veteran guy from the standpoint of the Swiss professional league. He has played in the World Championships, he has won. He knows what pressure is about. The building is loud, and it is a very good team we are playing against but he does his job. We are not asking him to win the hockey game for us, we are just asking him to give us a chance.

We stopped skating in the last 6 minutes. Once they scored the goal, then we were in kind of a retreat mode. That's what happens. They activate their D. They are going to throw everything they got at you. We started chipping the puck out and changing, chipping the puck out and changing. They just continued to come at you in waves. Finally the Getzlaf line had some puck possession time down in the zone, just under the 2 minute mark.

I would rather have 2 wins than 2 losses, lets be real. Bottom line is that we are playing a very, very, very, very good hockey club. They have had success in our building. We know they can play the game at a very high level. It is going to take more than we delivered in these to games in the next one, that is for sure.

Everybody kills penalties a certain way. We are no different. We want our players in the shooting lane as much as possible. We want to win every faceoff in the defensive zone. We want to make sure when you have an opportunity to clear the puck, you clear it down the ice. You don't get taxed by being out there more than 35-40 seconds, and have the team hold you in your zone. That usually leads to scoring chances when you are tired. That is really what you try to do. Try not to give them second and third opportunities. Stop the first one, then we have to have people in position to clear the rebound away.

I don't think we played particularly well in the hockey game. I thought we did ok in the first, in the second we got running around. We made a lot of mistakes with the puck in situations, we had turnovers in the defensive zone that lead directly to scoring chances. We had some turnovers in the neutral zone that lead to them attacking us in waves. That is what drives up the shot clock. Our message was, we were 1-1 after 20. If you would have delivered the message and taken a bet, would we take that this morning or yesterday coming in here and having a chance to win a hockey game by winning a period. We were 1-1 on the road and we need some people to step up and we got some performances from some people in the third period.

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:

Obviously we have to find a way to get the power play going. We have to find a way to score there. That will be our biggest concern, but a lot of the other issues we had heading into Game 2 from Game 1 we addressed. We got better in those areas. If we were still in the process vs the results scenario we talked about all year, the process was pretty good tonight. The results weren't what we wanted. We are disappointed, but I don't think there is a doubt factor that has crept in, and that is important.

What they do (on the penalty kill) is very effective. I am telling you the same thing I told you after Game 1, they are very good at it. I thought our power play was better tonight. We created more chances, more traffic to the net. I think we had 26, 27 shots on goal in the 2 games power play-wise, with traffic tonight. We didn't get the puck luck we needed. I will say like I said in Game 1, if we get those chances again some are going to go in and it will work in our favor.

I don't think there is any doubt. I don't think the guys in there, after 2 games I think if you went through and spoke to the guys they would think they are the better team. They are not getting the puck luck, and you have to give Anaheim credit, they found a way to win. Their goaltender came in and played very well. I don't think there is any doubt, it is not like we came in and got spanked and played with our tail between our legs. We played the same way, we do the same things, we create the same number of chances.

(Patrick Marleau) did not skip an optional skate, an optional skate is an optional skate. If its the captain, or any other player, they get the choice they get to choose. He plays 21 minutes a night, and it is very taxing on him. Don't go there. He is not skipping it one bit.

I thought we were much better tonight getting to the net, making Hiller work for first saves, second saves. We had a lot more chances, we were better in that area. On our power play there was improvement, obviously no results. We were better in that area on the power play. I thought we came through the neutral zone with more speed, and were able to get on the forecheck better. We were a better team tonight than we were in Game 1, and we did not get what we wanted which was a win.

(On the new lines) I was impressed by how the guys played in their roles. It created an opportunity for Joe or Patty to get on the ice against someone besides Ryan Getzlaf. I thought Patty and trapper and Devin did a good job against Getzlaf. The fourth line, Goc, Grier and Pepe all did a good job creating energy for us. I was happy with them.

We have been looking at the opportunity, we have different ingredients we can use on that (4th) line. I like Pepe (Lemieux) right now because he has been there and he is saying a lot of the right things. Talk is cheap at this time of the year, I though he went out and performed it too. We were happy to have him in the lineup and we still have options moving forward to tinker with it. Again, I thought we were a better team tonight that we were in Game 1.

Darryl Hunt: Sharks Down 2-0 In Playoff Series

The Sharks find themselves down two games to none in their best of seven opening round playoff series, hoping that a change of venue will help get them back on track and back into the series against their division rivals.

Because the Sharks lost their previous best of seven series four games to two in the season they last qualified for post season play, logic would say that the team would know to raise their play and get the series off on the right foot. But a 2-0 loss despite outshooting their opponents by a wide margin put a sour taste in player’s and fan’s mouths alike.

After tying game two during the second period and having their opponent on the ropes, giving up an early third period goal was the last thing they wanted to do. But they did. And after ringing one off the post to get them back to even, that was all she wrote.

With two games played the team has only four players that have recorded a point. A huge part of that is because of playing against a defense that plays so physical, but there’s still no excuse for just a single point being tallied by players that finished in the top five in team scoring for the regular season.

Goaltending also hasn’t been as good in the post season as it was in the regular season, with save percentages going down and goals against average going up, the exact opposite of what a team needs to be successful in the playoffs.

Far too many players haven’t brought their game to the next level, which is a virtual requirement to be successful in the post season. There’s no shame in losing to a better skilled opponent. But when you lose because a team outhustles and outhits you, and just seem more prepared to play playoff hockey, there’s some big questions that need to be answered.

The first question is a hard one: Is this post about San Jose, or Worcester?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks, Western Conference Quarterfinals Game 2 liveblog/tape delayed blog

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup Playoffs Game 2

A liveblog from Game 2 of the WCQF series between the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks will go live at 5PM.


The Sharks are looking to rebound after a 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the WCQF. After registering an NHL best home record of 32-5-4 at HP Pavilion, the Ducks handed the Sharks their first shutout home loss of the season. Leading scorers Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were held to a combined 0 points and 2 shots on goal, and the 3rd best power play in the regular season was held 0-6 with the man advantage.

San Jose head coach Todd McLellan will look for more of a team-wide intensity, particularly taking up space down low in front of goaltender Jonas Hiller. The coaching staff was non-committal about possible lineup changes, although the tight checking style in Game 1 could see a shift from Jody Shelley to Tomas Plihal, Claude Lemieux or Jamie McGinn. They could also stress a return to smarter puck management from the defense initiating the transition out of their own zone, and a more effective "dump in with a purpose" puck retrieval philosophy against an agressive Ducks defense and penalty kill. They are two McLellan philosophies that have been stressed to this team from day 1.

The Ducks did not steal a win by any means, but despite numbers and penalties that were piling up against them some of Anaheim's key contributors appeared to be skating with more confidence. With a 1-goal, then 2-goal lead in the third period that confidence multiplied. At one point during a faceoff, an agitating Corey Perry launched toward the net on a faceoff 3 or 4 seconds before the referee dropped the puck. Center Ryan Getzlaf leaned back in the faceoff circle and laughed. Such a moment mid-way through a pivotal third period says a lot to how they will approach Game 2, all guns blazing.

The Sharks perceived depth on lines 2 through 4 did not play the expected deciding factor in Game 1. Instead Teemu Selanne used his speed to drive deep in the Sharks zone, and role players like Todd Marchant, Mike Brown and Petteri Nokelainen delivered solid defensive and faceoff contributions and directly and indirectly lead to the Ducks win. Goaltender Jonas Hiller turned in a solid 35-save, shutout performance in his first NHL playoff start. The 6-foot-2, 195 pound Swiss netminder flashed a wide 5-hole all night, and quickly took it away from oncoming shooters. Solid coverage of the net down low in the butterfly, Hiller covers up any holes with perfect glove and blocker position. The Sharks need to increase bodies in front to block his vision, and get him moving side to side to open up more holes.

Anaheim Ducks beat writer Dan Wood notes that each team has had success on the road against their California neighbor. San Jose is 22-18-5 all-time at Anaheim, the Ducks are 24-19-3 all-time in San Jose. Speculation about the lineup for Anaheim in Game 2 will probably not end until the drop of the puck, but it should remain similar after their performance on Thursday. One question about veteran defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who was out since November with a knee injury in the regular season, was answered decisively with 22:30 of ice time and a game-high seven blocked shots.

Average height for San Jose Sharks 6-foot-2, average weight 213, average age 29.7. Average height for Anaheim Ducks 6-foot-2, average weight 204, average age 28.2. San Jose Sharks franchise playoff goal scoring leader - Patrick Marleau 35, franchise playoff point leader - Patrick Marleau 59. Anaheim Ducks franchise playoff goal scoring leader - Teemu Selanne 22, franchise playoff point leader - Teemu Selanne 47.Evgeni Nabokov holds a 30-28-6 overall playoff record with a 2.17GAA, .917SV%, and 6 shutouts. Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller holds a 1-0-0 overall NHL playoff record, with a 0.00GAA, 1.00SV% and 1 shutout.

It was 88 degrees outside HP Pavilion in San Jose 2 hours before gametime, it is 86 outside now on one of the hottest days of the year to date. Inside HP Pavilion the temperature was kept noticeably cool. For the record, first "Go Sharks!" chant inside HP Pavilion came 1 minute after they allowed fans into the building.

Players on the ice for the pre-game skate now. Claude Lemieux and Torrey Mitchell are on the ice for San Jose. It may or may not be reflected in the final lineup. Defenseman Bret Hedican may be a scratch for Anaheim with back spasms, he is not on the ice. There may or may not have been a Kristi Yamaguchi sighting during Game 1. The South Bay native and Olympic gold medalist is married to Hedican. According to the Ducks media guide, the last time any Californian NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL team faced an intra-state rival was the San Francisco Giants vs the Anaheim Angels in the 2002 World Series. Somewhere in this blog's archives are photos of rubber chickens Giants fans carried into the ballpark to protest Anaheim's reluctance to pitch to Barry Bonds.


Official game start time 7:10. Starting lineup for San Jose: Rob Blake, Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi, Travis Moen, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evgeni Nabokov. Starting lineup for Anaheim: Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, james Wisniewski, Jonas Hiller. Scratches for San Jose: Alexei Semenov, Tomas Plihal, Jody Shelley and Jamie McGinn. Claude Lemieux is in the lineup for SJ. Scratches for Anaheim: Bret Hedican, Ryan Carter, Brad Larsen, Troy Bodie and Brendan Mikkelsen.

Roenick-Thornton-Cheechoo create a scoring chance on first shift of game, loud roar from crowd. On a subsequent shift Ryane Clowe is called for a tripping penalty as both Clowe and Selanne skate to intercept a pass in the Sharks offensive zone. Fans boo Selanne heavily as it looks like both players were skating for the loose puck.

Ducks are buzzing on their first power play opportunity of the game. Selanne wins faceoff against Marleau, Sharks block 2 of first 5 power play shots on goal. After a stoppage in play a shot by defenseman James Wisniewski looks to be frozen by Nabokov, but the rebound deflects to his right. Bobby Ryan snaps a shot off the goal post as the puck drops front of the net. He gets to his own rebound and converts it for the first goal of the game on the power play at 3:45.


Second period underway, a majority of the notes and comments will be available post-game. Internet not connecting.

Note: This liveblog is wholly dependant on a consistent internet connection in the press box. If it is unavailable a later version will be posted tonight after the game.

ECHL Northern California vs Southern California playoff series between Stockton Thunder and Ontario Reign locked at 2 games apiece

Ontario Reign goaltender Jeff Zatkoff ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Stockton Thunder
Hockey fight photo

The ECHL's newest minor league franchise, the Los Angeles Kings affiliated Ontario Reign, finds itself locked in its own Northern California vs Southern California playoff series in the Kelly Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals. Locked at 2-2 after splitting games at Stockton Arena, the series heads back to Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario for a pivotal Game 5 tonight.

On Wednesday night, Ontario dictated the play over 60 minutes and slowly picked apart the Stockton defense en route to a 5-1 win in Game 3. Thunder backup goaltender Bryan Pitton, starting after an injury to Andrew Perugini in the opening game, stopped only 25 of 30 shots against. Stockton Record columnist Jason Anderson wrote that Pitton should not be blamed for the loss, noting that the team did not play with enough energy, and did not skate or pass well enough to create offense. Goaltenders at the professional level are expected to make the initial save, and it was an area where Pitton struggled.

The Thunder were held to only 1 shot on goal in the first period, and were contained in the defensive and neutral zones for long stretches of play. The grind it out style resulted in goals from Ontario forwards Dale Reinhart and Bud Hollaway, but a blast by Stockton defenseman Mark Adamek made the score 2-1 and briefly breathed life into the home building. Ontario closed out the win with pair of goals by right wing Geoff Walker, and another by defenseman Shawn Germain.

L.A. Daily News columnist J.P. Hoornstra quoted Ontario Reign head coach Karl Taylor after Game 3, "I wouldn't say we were overconfident, but we're young. I think we have 12 rookies in the lineup." It was a veteran peformance for the young lineup, and one the set the stage for the next contest in Stockton on Friday.

Former OHL Kitchener Rangers goaltender Parker Van Buskirk was an emergency callup for Stockton on the 11th after the injury to Perugini, and he was a surprise starter in Game 4. After being called out by head coach Matt Thomas for lackluster play, changing goaltenders was meant to send a message to the Stockton Thunder. They responded.

The Thunder piled up 16 shots on goal in the first period, and right wing David Rohlfs opened the scoring at the 2 minute mark. Ontario did not make it easy for Stockton, with center Tim Kraus scoring the next 2 goals to give them a lead. The Reign kept up the pressure late in the game by overcoming a 2-goal deficit with a pair of short handed tallies to send it into overtime. The line of Ryan Huddy, franchise scoring leader Mike Lalonde and James Bates combined to set up the game winning one-timer by Bates. 5-4 overtime win by Stockton, series tied at 2 games apiece.

A photo gallery from Game 3 is available here. For more information on the series visit or

[Update] Van Buskirk Brings Calming Influence To Thunder -

[Update2] The economic impact in the U.S. has had a dramatic effect on the ECHL this season. Two teams, the former Sharks affiliate Fresno Falcons and the Augusta Lynx, folded mid-season. Three more franchise announced they would close after the recently ended 2008-09 regular season, the current Sharks ECHL affiliate Phoenix Road Runners, Dayton Bombers and Mississippi Sea Wolves.

All three franchise finished outside of playoff Kelly Cup Playoff contention this season, Phoenix was the only team in the 9-team National Conference not to qualify for the playoffs. There were reports earlier this season that Phoenix had issues renewing the lease for its home rink, and Mississippi never fully recovered from damage done during Hurricane Katrina.

Globe and Mail staffer James Mirtle recently speculated on problems facing the minor league franchises. Mirtle noted that travel costs may play a factor given the player costs and slim profit margins. Travel costs have been cited as a reason for the delay in the AHL's expansion westward.

In a followup post, Mirtle received a response from ECHL SVP of Communications and New Media Jack Carnefix. Carnefix said that the travel costs were mitigated by the fact that the two conferences play within themselves to reduce the amount of travel, and that attendance is a major factor in the loss of franchises. Mirtle notes that of the 22 teams participating this season, league attendance is down 7%. Only 4 teams, including Cincinnati (12.8%), Wheeling (1.9%), Victoria (1.1%) and Dayton (0.4%) saw attendance increases this season.

An increasing number of goaltending prospects are given ECHL assignments by NHL franchises, and the organizational level is critical to the operation of the AHL, but the heart of the league is the entertaining and affordable product on the ice. A fan could attend a recent ECHL game in Stockton, pay for a ticket, parking, a hot dog and a drink for the cost of parking at a Oakland Raiders or San Francisco 49ers football game. Given the current foreclosure crisis which has impacted central California and Silicon Valley hard, that kind of appeal is only going to grow.

In a discussion with Jack Carnefix prior to the 2008 ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton, he noted that each team and each ownership group faces its own challenges. In California, San Diego and Fresno were two solid markets that folded due to mostly non-attendance related issues. The Long Beach Ice Dogs struggled to draw 1,000 players for playoff games, and could be seen as a direct attendance casualty.

Attendance for the three remaining Californian ECHL teams remains strong. The Stockton Thunder recently earned its 4th straight league attendance title (223,854 total, 6,218/gm average). Bakersfield finished 5th in regular season attendance (5,545/gm) and leads the ECHL in playoff attendance with a 5,103/gm average. Ontario had back-to-back home sellouts to end the 2008-09 regular season with an attendance total of 210,801 fans and a 5,856/gm average.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Fall Behind Early, Late to Wolf Pack in 5-3 loss

The Worcester Sharks overcame a three goal deficit in the second period but still fell short in a 5-3 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack in game two of their Atlantic division semi-final series at the XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Hartford, Connecticut Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 2,703 fans. Hartford now leads the best-of-seven series two games to none.

After Thursday night's 2-0 loss to Hartford it was important for the WorSharks to get off on the right foot. But despite having more shots in the opening stanza (22) than the Wolf Pack had the entire game (19), Worcester found itself down 3-0 after just 12 minutes of play.

Artem Anisimov started the Hartford scoring barrage off after stealing the puck from the stick of Kyle McLaren behind the net and wheeling in front of WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss. Greiss didn't get the pads closed in time as Anisimov went five-hole at 3:40 of the first period for the unassisted tally.

Jordan Owens would make it 2-0 with another unassisted goal for Hartford when he gathered a lose puck at the half-boards to the left of Greiss and fired a low laser that Greiss saved easily. But the rebound went right back to Owens. who blasted it back on net, hitting Worcester defenseman Jason Demers and deflecting past Greiss into the net at 7:08.

Bobby Sanguenetti would grab Hartford's third goal at 12:01 of the first when his wrist shot hit Greiss' pads and deflected off of Demers' leg, bounding into the net for the 3-0 lead.

Worcester would continue its domination in shot the totals in period number two, but it would take three lucky bounces to get them even on the scoreboard. The WorSharks would grab their first goal of the series at 9:51 of the second period on a broken play. Defenseman Brendan Buckley intercepted a clearing attempt at the blueline to the left of Wolf Pack goaltender Matt Zaba, and with the puck on edge flipped it in on the rookie netminder. The puck took an weird bounce and slipped by Zaba for Buckley's first career playoff marker. The goal was unassisted.

It may have taken 89:51 of play for Worcester get one past Zaba, but it took just 29 seconds for the WorSharks to grab a second. Frazer McLaren would find Andrew Desjardins in close and hit him with a great pass through traffic. Desjardins would partially misfire, but the puck hit Zaba's stick and bounded through the netminder's legs to pull Worcester within one.

Worcester would get the equalizer with their lone power play tally in--ouch--thirteen attempts when Zaba easily saved Riley Armstrong's slapshot, but somehow the puck bounced back toward the net and in at 14:40. The goal was the fourth unassisted marker of the game.

During the second intermission the Worcester faithful, of which there were many that made the journey to the Nutmeg State, noted that all six of the goals scored in the game to that point had been scored into the same net. Unfortunately for Worcester, that was the end they were to defend in the third period.

Mike Ouellette would confirm the Worcester fan's fears with a whipping backhander that beat Greiss five-hole at 2:23. Hartford would clamp down defensively, allowing just six shots on Zaba in the third period. With Worcester on the power play in the last moments of the game but applying virtually no pressure despite skating six in four, Sanguinetti would steal a dump in attempt and feed a wide open Mark Bell streaking into the Worcester zone. Bell lazily pushed the puck into the yawning net with 4.6 seconds remaining to seal the deal.

Referee Francois St. Laurent had a busy evening, whistling both teams for a combined 27 penalties. St. Laurent called 23 minors, 2 non-fighting majors, a 10 minute misconduct, and a game misconduct. He also sent Frazer McLaren off the ice with five seconds to go in the contest without assessing him a penalty. Despite it all, this writer thinks he called the very physical game pretty well.

WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss finds himself on a personal five playoff game losing streak. Before being replaced by Dimitri Pätzold in the Manchester playoff series in the 2006-07 post season Greiss lost the first three games, and has lost the first two of this series. Greiss has allowed 18 goals in 290 minutes of post season play in his career. With Kyle Jones and Alex Stalock backing up Greiss in this post season it's unlikely head coach Roy Sommer will make a change. Stalock was Worcester's back-up netminder Saturday night.

The three starts of the game were:
1. Owens (g,a)
2. Zaba (44 saves)
3. Ouellette (gwg)

WOR 0 3 0 - 3
HAR 3 0 2 - 5

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Hartford, Anisimov 2 (unassisted), 3:40 (pp). 2, Hartford, Owens 1 (unassisted), 7:08. 3, Hartford, Sanguinetti 1 (Moore), 12:01
Penalties: Vesce Wor (interference), 3:13; McLaren Wor (misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:40; Armstrong Wor (boarding), 5:18; Fahey Hfd (interference), 6:31; Sauer Hfd (holding the stick), 7:52; Armstrong Wor (slashing, roughing), 9:27; Potter Hfd (roughing), 9:27; Sanguinetti Hfd (tripping), 9:52; Rissmiller Hfd (hooking), 12:46; DaSilva Wor (roughing), 14:54; Potter Hfd (major - slashing, game misconduct - slashing), 14:54; Couture Wor (major - charging the goaltender), 15:58; Fahey Hfd (tripping), 19:06.

2nd Period
Scoring: 4, Worcester, Buckley 1 (unassisted), 9:51. 5, Worcester, Desjardins 1 (McLaren), 10:20. 6, Worcester, Armstrong 1 (unassisted), 14:40 (pp)
Penalties: Crowder Hfd (hooking), 3:14; Vesce Wor (high-sticking), 3:51; DiDiomete Hfd (delay of game), 11:59; Nightingale Hfd (hooking), 13:37; served by Byers Hfd (bench minor - too many men), 15:42; Moore Wor (roughing), 19:31; DiDiomete Hfd (roughing), 19:31.

3rd Period
Scoring: 7, Hartford, Ouellette 1 (Byers, Owens), 2:23. 8, Hartford, Bell 1 (Sanguinetti), 19:55 (sh en)
Penalties: Desjardins Wor (hooking), 3:29; served by Armstrong Wor (bench minor - delay of game), 7:09; Bell Hfd (hooking), 11:04; Dupont Hfd (hooking), 14:52; Ouellette Hfd (slashing), 19:30.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 22-19-6-47
Hartford 8-5-6-19.

Power-play opportunities-Worcester 1 of 13; Hartford 1 of 7.

Worcester, Greiss 0-2-0 (18 shots-14 saves)
Hartford, Zaba 2-0-0 (47 shots-44 saves).

A-2,703. Referee: Francois St. Laurent (38). Linesmen: Rich Patry (52), Luke Galvin (2).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Inside Game 1: shot chart, faceoff comparison, shift chart

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal game 1 shot chart

The Sharks finished their regular season on Saturday, April 11th, giving the players and fans an agonizing 4-day break before the puck dropped in Game 1 against Anaheim on Thursday. The Sharks have a 2-day break until the puck drops for Game 2 at 7PM on Sunday night. For a team that averaged nearly a game every other day in March and April, that is a lot of time on the shelf and a lot of time to reflect on the slim margin of defeat in Game 1.

The Sharks offensive system instilled by head coach Todd McLellan takes advantage of the team's strengths, size up front and puck moving defenseman, and should be geared towards a playoff atmosphere where time and space become extremely limited in the offensive zone. Some head coaches draw a triangle from each point to the front of the net, and draw two additional smaller triangles on either side to denote rebound areas. The Sharks outshot Anaheim 35-17, and as's Ryan Garner noted the Sharks defense accounted for 17 of those 35 shots (48%). Christian Ehrhoff, Rob Blake and Dan Boyle alone accounted for 13 shots, 5 missed shots and 2 hit posts. Point blank and rebound shot opportunities in those areas need to increase for San Jose in Game 2.

A second look at the game film shows that 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill, Anaheim adjusted to San Jose by collapsing a number of players into the slot to block shooting and passing lanes. In addition to creating more rebound opportunities, winning 1-on-1 battles and being the first player to loose pucks in the offensive zone are 2 areas the Sharks need to improve on for Sunday. As veteran center Jeremy Roenick noted after recent practice "We outshot them 2-1, but we have to challenge them more".

Shot chart via


San Jose Sharks:
Joe Pavelski 5-18/28%
Marcel Goc 5-10/50%
Patrick Marleau 4-5/80%
Joe Thornton 7-13/54%
Travis Moen 0-1/0%
Mike Grier 0-1/0%
Jeremy Roenick 0-1/0%
Ryane Clowe 1-1/100%

Anaheim Ducks:
Teemu Selanne 1-2/50%
Bobby Ryan 0-1/0%
Ryan Getzlaf 4-10/40%
Petteri Nokelainen 3-5/60%
Todd Marchant 17-24/71%
Rob Niedermayer 2-3/67%
Andrew Ebbett 1-5/20%

Offensive Zone faceoffs:
SJ 7-20/35%, ANA 6-14/43%

Neutral Zone faceoffs:
SJ 7-16/44%, ANA 9-16/56%

Defensive Zone faceoffs:
SJ 8-14/57%, ANA 13-20/65%

Totals: SJ 22-50/44%, ANA 28-50/56%

After Game 1, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan pointed to faceoffs as one area his team needed to improve. On power play faceoffs "I think we were 3 for 11, or 3 for 14, which means you are starting in your end every time," McLellan said. "Just by winning faceoffs and controlling it there can prevent a lot of wasted time on the power play." Additionally, the Sharks struggled with a 35% efficiency (7-16) in the offensive zone.

In the regular season the Sharks were the second best faceoff team in the league behind only the Detroit Red Wings (2472-2124/53.8), Anaheim was ranked 18th. That was not how things played out in the first game of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle leaned heavily on center Todd Marchant in the faceoff circle, changing him off the ice when he took draws for other lines. Marchant took 48% of all the faceoffs for the Ducks, winning 17 of 24 (71%).

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski struggled with a 28% (5-18) night from the faceoff circle in Game 1. A strong centerman during the regular season, he registered a 56.3 percentage on faceoffs in 80 games played. One thing noticeable at ice level was the speed of the stickwork on faceoffs increased dramatically. Many faceoffs were won decisively without an opportunity to tie up an opponent and give the wingers a chance to help gain possession. "It's just one of those things that happens every once in a while, even though you don't want it to happen. As much as you think you've got it under control, all of a sudden that happens and you've got to forget about it." Pavelski told the Mercury News.

Pavelski has been a driving factor on San Jose's second line during the last few months of the regular season, a line which by all accounts was the Sharks top line during the period. Last year in the playoffs, Pavelski was the Sharks hottest offensive player with 7 points in the first round against Calgary (3G, 4A) and a critical game winning goal in the 5th game of the Dallas series. In a recent game against Phoenix, Pavelski flipped a switch in the second period and started creating problems for the Coyotes on every subsequent shift. Look for Pavelski to bring a similar intensity to Game 2.

Data via faceoff comparison report.

San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal game 1 shift chart

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle started off Game 1 with the top Thornton line against the top Getzlaf line, and that continued for the most part except for a couple of shifts in the third period. The Sharks second line of Joe Pavelski, Milan Michalek and Ryane Clowe was matched up with the Ducks new-look third line of Drew Miller, Todd Marchant and Rob Niedermayer. The "Checking Line" in Anaheim lost Travis Moen to San Jose, and Samuel Pahlsson to Chicago at the trade deadline.

The Sharks third line of Travis Moen, Marcel Goc and Jonathan Cheechoo was matched up with the Ducks second line of rookie Andrew Ebbett, Erik Christensen and Teemu Selanne. Jody Shelley played a sparse 3 shifts for 2:02 TOI on the fourth line with Jeremy Roenick and Mike Grier. Joe Pavelski, Marcel Goc and Patrick Marleau took shifts centering the fourth line, and Grier and Roenick each took shifts up on the third line late in the game. The Ducks fourth line consisted of former-Bruin Petteri Nokelainen, Mike Brown and George Parros. Nokelainen and Brown were each singled out by the Sharks radio broadcast, and they combined for 6 hits and 2 takeaways. A stick check by Brown created the Marc-Edouard Vlasic turnover that lead to the Ducks second goal by Getzlaf. Parros finished with 4:24 TOI.

Questions for game 2: Will head coach Todd McLellan keep Shelley in the lineup or replace him with a Plihal or McGinn who could bring a more offensive element to the game, or replace him with Lemieux who can provide an agitating element but who only registered 1 assist in 18 games played. Will McLellan continue to match up the Pavelski line with the Ducks checking line? Will Carlyle, who has a reputation for being evasive and playing mind games, roll with the same lines that worked in Game 1 or will he see a need to get more contributions outside of his top line? Defenseman Francois Beauchemin returned from an ACL torn in November against Nashville with 2 games left in the regular season. He logged 22:30 of ice time and registered a game high 7 blocked shots. Can the minutes and performance continue?

Starting lineup for the San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Devin Setoguchi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Rob Blake and Evgeni Nabokov. Starting lineup for the Anaheim Ducks: Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Scott Niedermayer, James Wisniewski, Jonas Hiller.

Scratches for the San Jose Sharks: Alexei Semenov, Claude Lemieux, Tomas Plihal and Jamie McGinn. Scratches for the Anaheim Ducks: Bret Hedican, Ryan Carter, Josh Green, Crad Larsen, Petri Kontiola, Troy Bodie, Brett Festerling, Brian Salcido, Petteri Wirtanen, Brendan Mikkelson, Matt Beleskey, Jean-Phillippe Levasseur.

Shift charts via

[Update] A Game of Adjustments -

Similarly, the Sharks had one of the very best power plays in all of the NHL this season, but were uncharacteristically 0-for-6 Thursday with the man-advantage. The Ducks had a lot to do with that. They come out high and challenge the puck in the neutral zone, even on the power play, and they appeared to frustrate the Sharks' attempts to enter the zone frequently in Game One.

"I think," said Dan Boyle, the No. 1 quarterback on the Sharks' power play, "that the guy who is coming up (ice) with the puck on the breakout needs to make, maybe, a better decision. A lot of times, they determined where they puck was going to go. We are on the power play, we need to determine where we want the puck, whose hands we want it in, and what we want to do with it. Executing a little bit better."

[Update2] San Francisco's Greg Desjardins released his advanced 2008-09 NHL Playoff Statistics on These detailed statics will be enormously valuable crunching data later in the SJ-ANA series.

[Update3] Marchant, Brown blending in nicely - Dan Wood for the O.C. Register.

Marchant, a veteran of 76 postseason games over nine previous campaigns and one of 12 holdovers from the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship run, represents what might be called the team's old guard. Brown, a rookie in his initial NHL playoff go-round, is part of what could be considered a new wave.

Together, Marchant and Brown led a spirited effort that stymied the high-scoring San Jose Sharks on all six of their power-play opportunities during Thursday night's 2-0 Ducks victory in the opening game of their first-round Western Conference series.

Interesting find from Puck Daddy's post on the integration of new media and SB Nation blogs into the new playoff portal: the new Situation Room real-time officiating blog. Click on the Situation Room tab to the right of Top Headlines, or visit the dedicated page here.

The Situation Room blog will offer instant updates on controversial calls and explain video review decisions during the playoffs. "Not only are you getting first hand what's happening and when, but we're going back and telling you how a call was made; whether it was good or bad," NHL SVP of Programming Andre Mika told Yahoo.

For a Sharks-Ducks series anticipating a lot of controversial plays, this blog could be a welcome source of clarification. There is no mention of referee Dave Jackson and Kelly Sutherland's blown tripping call on Dan Boyle at the end of the first period in Game 1 of the SJ-ANA WCQF. Todd Marchant checked Boyle to the ice in the neutral zone, and momentum carried Boyle into Drew Miller, who then fell to the ice. Dan Boyle was given the tripping call. A slow motion video replay on the giant Sharks HD scoreboard drew a huge negative reaction from the crowd.

One tip for the Situation Room officiating blog, shorten the root URL to to make it more accessible.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jonas Hiller posts 35 save shutout, Ducks down Sharks 2-0 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup Playoffs
San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle

The Anaheim Ducks emerged from the most difficult road building in the NHL with a 2-0 win for the first shutout at HP Pavilion all year, and a critical 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Anaheim won the special teams battle, with defenseman Scott Niedermayer converting a third period power play and Ryan Getzlaf labeling a shot inside the post after a successful penalty kill. The Ducks finished 1-4 with the man advantage, and successfully shut down the Sharks on 6 power play opportunities against.

The game was a tight checking chess match that gradually tilted in Anaheim's favor. Each period carried its own storyline. The Sharks opened the first strong, outshooting Anaheim 8-4 and matching their physical intensity. The Ducks lead San Jose in hits 18-17, but head coach Todd McLellan said that his team measures physical play with body and stick position, battles in the faceoff circle, and driving to the net hard to reach the goal scoring areas. The Sharks were also playing the body with a big Douglas Murray hit on Selanne, and a Ryane Clowe hit on Whitney firing up the crowd.

The Ducks top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan were skating well and connecting with very accurate passes early in the game. They were matched against the Sharks top line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi. The Sharks pinched in on the right side on 3 consecutive plays. CBC analyst and former Los Angeles Kings head coach Marc Crawford mentioned that they might have noticed a tendency on the Anaheim breakout and made an adjustment to neutralize it.

This #1 seed vs #8 seed matchup also featured two of the deepest bluelines in the NHL. It was an inauspicous beginning for Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, who drove the net looking to punch home a shot on goal and was hammered to the ice by Sheldon Brookbank for his trouble. Brookbank gave him two shots after the whistle to keep him from getting to his feet. Ehrhoff finished with a game-high 26:21 of ice time, and he was the Sharks most consistent threat moving the puck up ice and firing shots from the point.

Defenseman Dan Boyle finished the first with his best scoring chance of the game. He carried the puck around Bobby Ryan, tried to stuff a shot on net, and was the first player to his own rebound on the end boards. He sent a quick cross point pass to Devin Setoguchi for a second quality scoring chance. With 1:30 left, Todd Marchant checked Boyle who then fell into Drew Miller. Penalty Boyle, 2 minutes for tripping. Boyle was visibly upset at the missed call in the penalty box. Referees Dave Jackson and Kelly Sutherland huddled together after a break in play, presumably discuss the call after a replay on the giant HD video screen ignited a long round of boos from the 17,496-strong crowd at HP Pavilion.

The second period saw a continuation of strong forecheck pressure from Anaheim. On the penalty kill, the Ducks tightened space in their own zone with 3 players often outnumbering the Sharks puck carrier. They also challenged quickly challenged puck possession after players received a pass. Rob Niedermayer had a horrible middle 20 minutes. He was called for 3 minor penalties, a "half nelson" on Murray in front of the Sharks net, a holding penalty along the boards, and a hook on Ryane Clowe at the end of the period.

Slick skating by defenseman Scott Niedermayer and clutch goaltending by Jonas Hiller started to make a measureable impact on the penalty kill. Niedermayer cut short scoring chances in his own zone with a touch pass up the wall, or by carrying the puck up ice himself. Hiller repeatedly flashed a wide 5-hole, before shutting the door on it in a hurry. Constantly square to the shooter, Hiller maximized the surface area of his pads and rarely had to make a save without having eyes on the puck. On the other side of the ice, Bobby Ryan split Joe Thornton and Rob Blake forcing Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to come out of the crease to make a pad save.

San Jose Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker noted there were only 4 or 5 quality scoring chances at the halfway mark of the game. There was very little room on the ice to create offense. One opportunity came as Christian Ehrhoff drove down the left wing around Brookbank and shoveled the puck on Jonas Hiller. Jeremy Roenick made a b-line to the front of the net through Ryan Getzlaf, and Marcel Goc was blocked out of the crease by Ryan Whitney. The puck settled inside the paint, but was kicked out of harms way by Getzlaf.

Anaheim answered with their own quality scoring opportunity later in the period on a pair of give-and-go's between Selanne and Getzlaf. The Ducks outnumbered San Jose 3-to-2 behind the net, but Corey Perry gained possession and unloaded a diving point blank shot from around the side of the net. The puck traveled through the crease to a wide open Teemu Selanne on the far side. Evgeni Nabokov was extended to make the first save, unable to even dive to his left to seal the post. Selanne backhanded the puck into the side of the net.

The Sharks-Dallas playoff series was decided by the slenderest of threads. The third period of Game 1 would be decided by a similar fate. The Sharks were grinding hard to register the first goal of the game, but there was a feeling among many that an inopportune bounce or penalty could decide the game for either side. Michalek and Ehrhoff combined for a hard point shot that deflected off traffic in front. Moen and Cheechoo followed on a subsequent shift by winning a 2-on-2 battle behind the net to create a second point blank opportunity for San Jose.

The door opened for Anaheim when Jonathan Cheechoo was called for a tripping penalty on Teemu Selanne. Seconds after Sheldon Brookbank hammered Marcel Goc to the ice in front of the net, Selanne drew the call along the far boards. "Two (tripping calls) in the offensive zone, both were tripping, we are not very happy with that" head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. The Ducks carried regular season success on the power play into the postseason with excellent perimeter puck movement. Perry, Ryan, Getzlaf, Niedermayer and Whitney looked like they had the puck on a string in the offensive zone. Getzlaf one-timed a pass from the left point across the slot to Scott Niedermayer, and Niedermayer gave the Ducks all the offense they would need at 5:18 of the third period. As Boyle slid to his left to cover Ryan, and Lukowich came out to challenge the shooting lane on Niedermayer, public enemy #1 in San Jose Corey Perry was left alone in front of the net to screen Evgeni Nabokov.

Instead of letting up or laying back, the Ducks continued to pressure their Pacific Division rivals checking them 2-3+ seconds after they moved the puck. Getzlaf cross checked Joe Thornton to the ice behind his own net, as Getzlaf/Whitney beat Thornton/Marleau in a 2-on-2 opportunity down low. An aggressive James Wisniewski follwed that play by hammering an off balance Joe Pavelski to the ice at the side of Jonas Hiller.

The Sharks started to open up the offensive attack in the third period, and it was Christian Ehrhoff ripping a shot off the post that may have come closest to tying the game. Corey Perry gave the Sharks yet another opportunity with a slashing minor at 9:23. The Sharks had trouble getting shots through traffic, opportunities by Ehrhoff and Blake each were deflected off bodies/sticks wide. Dan Boyle tried to wait out Jonas Hiller from a very harsh angle, but a fidgeting Hiller did not go down and the high shot deflected off his shoulder. It was the best power play of the night for San Jose, but Anaheim was able to bend and not break to keep the Sharks off the board.

Veterans like Jeremy Roenick and Dan Boyle were starting to jump into the play more, and Boyle responded with the second hit post of the period. A low shot above the leg pad and under the glove rang off the post and wide. Anaheim's penalty kill would effectively put the game out of reach. After killing off Getzlaf's elbowing penalty, Mike Brown forced a turnover by Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the neutral zone and Getzlaf jumped on the loose puck. As two Sharks closed in on him, Getzlaf snapped a shot inside the far post before letting loose with a large scream as his teammates mobbed him. Jonathan Cheechoo was called for his second tripping penalty 21 seconds later to end thought of a late comeback for the home team.

The atmosphere at the start of the game at HP Pavilion was extremely loud, buzzing with a mix of anticipation and at times frustration. The best regular season success in franchise history combined with the struggles of other local professional teams has drawn a large number of first time and casual fans to this playoff run. A first round Battle of California matchup adds to the flavor. Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller turned in a 35-save shutout performance in his first Stanley Cup Playoff start. As head coach Randy Carlyle noted, the Swiss netminder has several Swiss championships and plenty of big game international experience on his goaltending resume. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 15 of 17 shots against as he dropped to 30-28 all-time in the postseason. The Sharks are 57-63 all-time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 9-11 overall in playoff series, and 10-11 all-time in Game 1's including Thursday night's 2-0 loss.

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan offered a measured and calm analysis to the media after the game, noting that the effort to win the game was there. He mentioned the Sharks would make adjustments on faceoffs and on increasing the traffic in front, and that they would be ready to go for game 2. CBC analyst and former Los Angeles Kings head coach Marc Crawford said the matchup he was most looking forward to in the series was the rookie Toddd McLellan vs the Stanley Cup winning veteran Randy Carlyle. Crawford noted that McLellan was more casual earlier on gameday, and he quoted the Sharks coach saying the regular season was an 82 game preperation for the playoffs. Crawford described Carlyle as a taskmaster, intensly focused on his roster to match lines and create favorable matchups on the fly.

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

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan post-game press conference

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:

(How the Sharks responded after Anaheim scored) There was some disappointment on the bench, but we continued to go after them. We opened it up a little more. I think it is pretty obvious you have to score goals here to win in the playoffs. Defensively, I thought we did a really good job. We limited them to a lot of outside shots, not many scoring chances. Offensively, we have to be better and probably get to their net a little more.

We didn't create many second opportunities. That was due in part, one to them doing a good job around their net, and to us doing a poor job. And secondly their goaltender swallowed a lot of pucks. We have to find a way to get our sticks on, or around the net. We look at it overnight, and talk about it tomorrow and try to get better in that area.

(The power play struggling to break into the zone) That is a strength we believe of their penalty kill, their pursuit up ice and their retrieval in their own zone. They do a very good job of it. They are very competitive. Our faceoffs on the power play, I think we were 3 for 11, or 3 for 14, which means you are starting in your end every time. Just by winning faceoffs and controlling it there can prevent a lot of wasted time on the power play.

(About the physical aspect of the game) I thought we were fine. It was a well played game by both teams, lots of bumping and grinding. Both teams forecheck very hard. I thought we were fine when it came to physical play. We also talked before the game about what physical play meant. Its not always about finishing checks, it is about faceoffs, about loose ice, about getting to the net. That comes into our definition of physical play. Did we do a good job of that? I think we can do better.

(On Dan Boyle's comment about owning the right ice) I think what Danny was saying was that, it is great to have the puck and you are shooting, but are you getting to the spots you need to get to to score goals. He talks about playing in the right ice. There is free ice, and then there is ice you have to work for, are we working for that important ice.

(On Ryan Getzlaf's second goal) we were coming off a power play, guys were tired. Ryane Getzlaf stepped out of the penalty box and the puck came to him. With 2 minutes left in the game and you are down by 1, you are opening it up a little bit. It is not something we wanted to do, but it was something we were forced to do. He made a very good shot off the post and in.

(On a pair of third period Jonathan Cheechoo tripping penalties) Two were in the offensive zone, both were tripping. We are not very happy with that. Jonathan's intent isn't to put his teammates down, but the result was we ended up in that situation. There power play coming in, we knew how strong it was. Eventually, teams are going to score in that situation.

Coming in here, I don't feel distraught or anything. I thought we played a pretty good game. We have to improve in some areas, we got to get to that ice that we talked about. Get in the goalies face a little bit more. But we did a lot of things, I would have been a lot more disappointed if we showed up and layed an egg and didn't have any effort. That was there. This is a starting point. There series isn't over by any means. It is one loss and we move on.

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

Jonas is more than just a raw rookie. He played in some World Championships and the Swiss League, and won championships. He's a very calm guy. He doesn't get too high or too low.

Usually in situations where you are killing multiple penalties, your goaltender is probably called upon too much. I thought Jonas was outstanding in that area. I think with our penalty killing, it has been criticized throughout the course of the season. There were stretches where we couldn't kill a penalty. Now, hopefully this is a sign we can build on something.

I don't think you can say it was a perfect hockey game on our part by any stretch of the imagination. We took far too many penalties. We've talked and talked and talked, and talked and talked about taking penalties. We're slow learners I guess.

(On the play of Ryan Getzlaf) We would like to see him shoot the puck like he did on a regular basis. When you see him shoot the puck like that, you wonder why he always wants to pass it. We are always after him to shoot the puck. He has to play extremely well for us to have any chance in this series.

Shark Head drops on the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Like its less famous counterpart at One Times Square in New York City, the annual Shark Head drop signals the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A time when Raider fan and Niners fan can join hands and boo Chris Pronger. It has become almost a routine tradition. Atmosphere slowly builds, huge roar when Nabokov takes the ice, loud boo's when referees or the opposing team follows.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks 2009 Western Conference Quarterfinal Stanley Cup Playoff Preview

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim  Ducks Stanley Cup Playoff preview
Anaheim Ducks Chris Pronger vs Corey Perry
Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller


POINTS: (SJ) Joe Thornton 86, Patrick Marleau 71, Devin Setoguchi 65. (ANA) Ryan Getzlaf 91, Corey Perry 72, Scott Niedermayer 59.

GOALS: (SJ) Patrick Marleau 38, Devin Setoguchi 31, Joe Pavelski 25, Joe Thornton 25. (ANA) Corey Perry 32, Bobby Ryan 31, Teemu Selanne 27.

ASSISTS: (SJ) Joe Thornton 61, Dan Boyle 41, Rob Blake 35. (ANA) Ryan Getzlaf 66, Scott Niedermayer 45, Corey Perry 40.

PP GOALS: (SJ) Devin Setoguchi 11, Ryane Clowe 11, Patrick Marleau 11, Joe Thornton 11. (ANA) Teemu Selanne 16, Bobby Ryan 12, Corey Perry 10.

SH GOALS: (SJ) Patrick Marleau 5, Joe Pavelski 3, Cheechoo-Moen- Plihal-Grier 1. (ANA) Todd Marchant 2, Travis Moen 2, Petteri Nokelainen 1, Rob Niedermayer 1.

GW GOALS: (SJ) Patrick Marleau 10, Milan Michalek 6, Jonathan Cheechoo 4, Dan Boyle 4. (ANA) Corey Perry 8, Teemu Selanne 5, Bobby Ryan 3.

PIM: (SJ) Jody Shelley 116, Rob Blake 110, Brad Staubitz 76. (ANA) George Parros 135, Steve Montador 125, Ryan Getzlaf 121.

SHOTS: (SJ) Joe Pavelski 266, Patrick Marleau 251, Devin Setoguchi 246. (ANA) Corey Perry 283, Ryan Getzlaf 227, Chris Pronger 196.

PLUS/MINUS: (SJ) Joe Thornton +16, Devin Setoguchi +16, Patrick Marleau +16. (ANA) Steve Montador +14, Bobby Ryan +13, Corey Perry +10.

TEAM TOTALS Power Play: SJ 87/360 24.2%, ANA 73/209 23.6%. Penalty Kill: SJ 51/306 83.3%, ANA 78/385 79.7%. GF/GAME: SJ 3.1, ANA 3. GA/GAME: SJ 2.5, ANA 2.9. SF/GAME: SJ 33.2, ANA 30.3. SA/GAME: SJ 27.2, ANA 30.5

The series all California hockey fans have been waiting for finally has a green light. The perennial regular season contender San Jose vs the modern incarnation of the Broad Street Bullies two years removed from their Stanley Cup Championship will flat out be the most intense series of the first round.

There are no secrets between these two teams. Many regular season wars and late game Corey Perry meltdowns have bred a hatred of their intra-state rivals that harkens back to hockey played from an earlier age. What is legal, and what you can get away with are fluid and ever-changing questions when these clubs meet in the regular season, in the preseason, in rookie scrimmages. How much passion and intensity is carried over to the start of the game draws real questions about maintaining discipline and focus over 60 minutes.

The pressure is off Anaheim. They have been there before and won. Defenseman Ryan Whitney and trade deadline acquisitions James Wisniewski, Erik Christensen and Petteri Nokelainen have revitalized the lineup and helped them to a 10-2-1 finish down the stretch. One of the hottest lines in hockey in Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry, and a veteran-laden blueline give the Ducks all of the confidence they need that they can emerge as the last Californian team stading after the first round.

The pressure continues to build in yet another postseason for San Jose. Outside media point to 3 straight second round playoff exits for the Sharks against Dallas, Detroit and Edmonton, but that overlooks a 2004 Western Conference Finals performance against Calgary where the home team lost 3 straight games on home ice. Dallas Morning News beat writer Mike Heika said that the difference between playoff success and playoff failure is a slender thread. He compared the Sharks tribulations, most recently 4 overtime games against Dallas including a thrilling series deciding 4-OT game 6, to the Stars playoff struggles in 2001. Dallas lost to Edmonton in an extremely tight series where 4 of the games went down to overtime. Ken Hitchcock leads the franchise in wins and games coached, he led the Stars to a Presidents Trophy in back-to-back years (1997–98, 1998–99), Conference Championships in back-to-back years (1998–99, 1999–2000) and a Stanley Cup in 1999. One different bounce could have changed that entire playoff outcome. Instead they lose to Oilers, and Hitchcock is eventually replaced by Dave Tippett.

Rookie head coach Todd McLellan instilled a more workmanlike, blue collar ethic on the ice in San Jose and it paid off in the regular season. Now that the playoffs have arrived he has adopted a game-by-game approach. "We don't have any memory, forget the past," McLellan said recently on CSNBA's half hour playoff preview special. "The process has ended, now it is flat out about wins and losses".


San Jose Sharks: Evgeni Nabokov (41-12-8, .910SV%, 2.44GAA, 7SO), Brian Boucher (12-6-3, .917SV%, 2.18GAA, 2SO). The March 2nd issue of The Hockey News ranked the Top 30 Goaltenders in the National Hockey League. San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov was ranked the 6th best goalie in the NHL this year, Anaheim's Jonas Hiller 9th, and former Conn Smythe winner J.S. Giguere 30th. The issue also offered a brief scouting report on Nabokov, noting an unorthodox stand up style that is made more effective by his speed, anticipation and footwork. Defenseman Rob Blake also compared Nabokov's preperation and mental focus to that of his former teammate Patrick Roy. An aggressive goaltender who sets up early and forces shooters to make low percentage plays, Nabokov recently talked about developing more patience during certain situations. A spectacular glove hand (as evidenced in the semis last year against Dallas), speed going down to block a shot and returning to a set position, and confidence are among a few of Nabokov's more obvious strengths. Wraparounds and shootouts have been historical concerns, but this season he has been strong in both areas. With 10 roster players out of the lineup due to injury at one point in the season, the Sharks had to lean heavily on Nabokov down the stretch. He responded by playing some of his best and most focused hockey. Brian Boucher filled in admirably when Nabokov was out early in the season, but he returned to his backup role as Nabokov was given the bulk of the workload down the stretch.

Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller (23-15-1, .919SV%, 2.39GAA, 4SO), J.S. Giguere (19-18-6, .900SV%, 3.10GAA, 2SO). Goaltending should be starting point for any postseason analysis, and unfortunately for Anaheim there is a question mark. 6-foot-2, 181-pound Swiss netminder Jonas Hiller had considerable international success before making the jump across the pond. He won Swiss League championships in 2002, 2005 and 2007, represented Switzerland in the World Championships, and won Spengler Cup tournament trophies in 2004 and 2006. Orange County Register beat writer Dan Wood, interviewed here on Sharkspage, broke down Hiller's progression into a #1 role for Anaheim: For Ducks, the pucks stop here, Stanley Cup playoffs: Hiller, in relief of Giguere down the stretch, backstopped the Ducks into the postseason.

Wood notes that goaltending clinics held in Switzerland by famed goaltending coach Francois Allair resulted in the Ducks drafting netminders Martin Gerber (Burgdorf, Switzerland) and Jonas Hiller (Burgdorf, Switzerland). After Gerber left via free agency in 2006, and Bryzgalov was put on waivers and picked up by Phoenix in 2007, the crowded Ducks goaltending door finally opened for Hiller to become J.S. Giguere's backup. "My goal was to be a No. 2 somewhere. Anaheim kind of offered me that job, even though they didn't exactly know if Giguere was going to sign or if they were going to keep Bryzgalov or what they were going to do," Hiller told the O.C. Register. Hiller is an athletic, mobile goaltender in net. Excellent lateral movement, Hiller is definitely a proponent of the Allair butterfly mould. One weakness for Hiller is that he sometimes holds his butterfly too long leaving him vulnerable up top. Giguere struggled earlier this season with news of the death of his father, and he has also had to deal with health issues earlier in his career regarding his young son Maxime. The Conn Smythe, Stanley Cup winning veteran is a fan favorite in Anaheim, and the question remains how quickly Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle will go to Giguere if there are bumps in the road. If the switch is made in goal, how will that affect Hiller later in the series? How will it affect Giguere if he has to return to the bench?

The simple fact that there are questions in goal for Anaheim gives the edge to San Jose.


San Jose Sharks: The offensive outlook for the Sharks is pretty cut and dried. There is a lot of firepower pointed at the Anaheim net and it will be very difficult to contain. Patrick Marleau rejoined the top line with Joe Thornton and Devin Setoguchi after missing 5 games with an undisclosed injury. Marleau was named the Sharks player of the year by the local hockey media. No other player in San Jose contributed to as many areas on the ice. Leading the team with a career-high 38 goals, he also contributed 11 power play goals, 5 short handed goals, and a Jeremy Roenick-esque 10 game winning goals. He was not just effective on the penalty kill, he was a threat to break the puck up ice and create scoring chances. 5-on-5, Marleau was the player most often set up in front of the net forcing opponents to deal with him.

Ryane Clowe also recently came off the injured list to join Joe Pavelski and Milan Michalek. Along with Jonathan Cheechoo, the line has been the go-to contributor late in the season and on the second power play unit. Cheechoo could join Travis Moen and Marcel Goc on a gritty third line with pop, leaving Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick, Claude Lemieux, Jody Shelley and Tomas Plihal to compete for minutes on the checking line. The Sharks are going to match up well against Anaheim at the top of the lineup, but clutch contributions from the third or fourth line could be the key to the series.

Anaheim Ducks: San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan described the Anaheim Ducks top line the best on a Wednesday interview with KNBR. He said Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry could each beat you one-on-one, or working together. Their combination of speed and size were effective down the stretch to give Anaheim the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. One question heading into the first round is how top heavy the Ducks offense will be. Deadline acquisition Erik Christensen joins rookie Andrew Ebbett and former Shark Teemu Selanne on a potent, but streaky second line. According to Battle of California Anaheim blogger Earl Sleek, the play of center Todd Marchant drives the success of the third line. Along with Rob Niedermayer and Miller/Nokelainen, they will look to fufill a shutdown role without the likes of Samuel Pahlsson and Travis Moen. Looking back on the past Sharks-Ducks regular season contests for a Top 5 list, again and again Pahlsson was listed as a player of the game for the Ducks. They have big skates to fill.

Considering the top line of Anaheim vs the advantage the Sharks have on lines 2-4, slight advantage Sharks.


San Jose Sharks: This will be the matchup of the series, strength against strength. Dan Boyle has turned in an impressive peformance this season, quarterbacking the power play as well as picking up his game 5-on-5 in critical situations. Content to stiff arm his way around a defenseman for a goal in Buffalo, or to slash through the offensive zone to setup scoring chances for teammates, he has shown an ability to rise to a level no other Sharks defenseman has reached before. Paired with longtime Tampa Bay partner Brad Lukowich, or defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on the power play, Boyle has the intelligence and skill to identify weaknesses and to capitalize on them. The second pairing of former Kings captain Rob Blake, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is equally dangerous. Howitzer point shots from Blake on the power play continue to impress with the space and time tightened in the modern NHL. The third pairing in San Jose demonstrates the depth of this defense. Christian Ehrhoff and Douglas Murray can log large minutes against opponents top lines, and can inflict pain or quickly move the puck up ice if the situation dictates. Murray skated with enough intensity for 3 players during the regular season finale at HP Pavilion.

For the 4th time in NHL history, the Sharks have had 4 blueliners register 30 assists or more (Boyle 41, Blake 35, Ehrhoff 34, Vlasic 30). According to Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy, the Sharks registered 37 more assists and 57 more points that last years strong defensive unit.

From Dan Boyle's blog post previewing the playoffs:

"After 82 long and grueling games, the good stuff is about to start. We have a very difficult task ahead with our first round opponents, the Anaheim Ducks. Although they are an 8th seed, this is not your average team. They are only two years removed from winning the Cup and are very capable of making a run again this year."

"They have a very strong goaltending duo in Hillier and Giguere. Two of the top D men in hockey in Pronger and Niedermeyer. Also, they have one of the most feared forward lines in the NHL in Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan. This will most likely be a very physical series. It has been all year long and will be even more now that it’s playoff time. They are going to give us a very good fight and it’s up to us to meet that challenge."

Anaheim Ducks: The Norris Trophy and Stanley Cup winning experience on the Anaheim blueline overfloweth. Former San Jose Sharks beat writer Victor Chi noted there were rumors and uncertainty in the Southern California media about a possible trade earlier this season, and there was some uncertainty after Scott Niedermayer's half season retirement last year, but both are primed to have a large impact in the first playoff series between Anaheim and San Jose. Niedermayer has been paired with James Wisniewski, whose aggresive in-your-face style seems tailor-made for the Ducks. Chris Pronger has been paired with an equally large 6-foot-4 offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney. Francois Beauchemin returned from injury late in the regular season, adding skill and a veteran presence to an already deep blueline.

Given the Norris Trophy and Stanley Cup winning experience, and the critical puck moving ability on each blueline, the defense should be considered a draw.


San Jose power play 3rd in the NHL (87/360, 24.2%), San Jose penalty kill 5th in the NHL (51/306, 83.3%). Anaheim Ducks power play tied-4th in the NHL (73/309, 23.6%), Anaheim Ducks penalty kill 23rd in the NHL (78/385, 79.7%).

There are late season factors that mitigate these season-long statistics, but over a 7 game series they should hold true. As the power play and 5-on-5 scoring graphs from yesterday show, there should be a large advantage to San Jose that could be critical in a tight series.


Sharks in six games.

Note, Blogger had FTP publishing issues that were fixed late today (there are still minor problems). This webpost will be re-edited to fill in all of that stats I compiled last night, links to series breakdowns will be added, special teams numbers will be included as well.

[Update] Series breakdown: Ducks (8) vs. Sharks (1) - Allan Muir for Sports Illustrated.

X-Factor for Sharks: Travis Moen. If there was one quality the Sharks lacked in previous playoff failures, it was the ability to match the physical intensity of their opposition. Moen, acquired at the deadline from the Ducks, will be counted on to help set the tone. Though he'll be used primarily in a depth role, Todd McLellan could insert him on a scoring line to amp up the energy level.

X-Factor for Ducks: Francois Beauchemin. Returning to action for the season's final two games, Beauchemin looked pretty much like a player who'd been sidelined since Nov. 14. His surgically repaired ACL held up, though. Now it's just a matter of getting his conditioning and timing back. The Ducks' blueline will be considerably more formidable if they can count on his big shot and snarling presence for 25 minutes a night.

McLellan could also insert Jeremy Roenick, or Travis Moen, or Claude Lemieux, as he has done in specific instances this season. Hence the depth argument. One note about Beauchemin, with the foursome Anaheim has in front of him there should be no way he approaches 25 minutes a night. Look for him to be used more strategically, and he could have a big impact on special teams.

[Update2] Hungry Sharks circle elusive Stanley Cup as playoffs loom - USA Today.

[Update3] Series Preview: San Jose Sharks (1) vs. Anaheim Ducks (8) - Greg "Puck Daddy" Wyshynski for Yahoo Sports.

Home Ice (Advantage: San Jose)

Uh, we're willing to let the numbers speak for themselves here:
San Jose: 32-5-4 at home
Anaheim: 20-18-3 at home

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Charting the Sharks and Ducks even strength scoring vs power play goals over the regular season

San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks even strength scoring by month
San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks power play scoring by month
San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks even strength goals, goals per game, power play goals

Two competing theories of how the first round series between the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks will play out are somewhat explained by cruching the numbers. For the Sharks, February, March and April has been about maintaining focus while overcoming the largest streak of injuries the team has faced since the lockout. Integrating key players like Patrick Marleau on the first line, Ryane Clowe on the second line, and Grier/Cheechoo/? on the third line raises questions about how quickly they can regain an even strength scoring pace that was already below what Anaheim can bring to bear.

The Anaheim Ducks are already working the refs prior to the start of the series. Losing out to Philadelphia for the regular season team penalty minute title (1434 to 1426), those in the Anaheim camp are concerned before the fact that they might not get a majority of calls. Giving San Jose's top two lines power play opportunities is like picking out the guns to be used by your own firing squad, it is never going to turn out well.

After bedlam ensued during the last meeting between these two bitter Pacific Division rivals, resulting in 70 third period penalty minutes, there are also concerns that the game will be called tighter than many of the free flowing regular season contests. Maintaining discipline in the face of adversity has to be a critical factor in the game for the 8th seed. "Ducks in the Box" is a parody song that just might have to be made by fans in San Jose.

Each team was built from the goal out, but it is that second layer that deserves the spotlight. A pair of Norris Trophies on the Ducks blueline, vs a Norris trophy on the ice and one in the general manager's "bunker" for San Jose. Three Stanley Cup veterans who have been around the block several times were added to a Presidents Trophy winning San Jose roster, vs trade deadline acquisitions which should have been illegal in Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski.

They key failure in each round of the playoffs for the Sharks last year was the inability of the defense to move the puck up ice quickly, jump starting the potent offense. They now have puck moving defenseman on all 3 pairings, and in Blake-Vlasic's case, they have 2. In the Sharks offensive zone the defense will look for any one of a baker's dozen of 200-pounders to set up in front of the net, be heavy on their sticks, looking to bang home loose pucks and rebounds. On the power play, Ehrhoff and Boyle are going to be very difficult to slow down, let alone stop.

The 26-29 minute time on ice average for Chris Pronger and 26-30+ minute time on ice average for Scott Niedermayer could lurch northward early in the series. Francois Beauchemin returned from injury for 2 games late in the season, but the defensive load can now be more evenly distributed between 6-foot-4 offensive defenseman Ryan Whitney and agressive in-your-face defenseman James Wisniewski. If the Sharks are looking to follow the Calgary model of last year, make intelligent dumps down low and pound on the defense early to make them tire late, it is going to be extremely difficult to accomplish against Anaheim's deep defensive corps.

This series is going to be won or lost with physical 1-on-1 battles in the corners and in front of the net, and by the skill each blueline has moving the puck. Each team has the defensive talent to get the job done on both sides of the ice, execution and shift-to-shift intensity will be key.

Even strength goals and empty net goals were used to determine the even strength figures. Power play goals were used to determine the power play figures. Shorthanded and shootout goals were not used. Patrick Marleau finished 2nd in the NHL with 5 shorthanded goals, Joe Pavelski and Travis Moen finished tied for 11th with 3. Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer tied Simon Gagne for 2nd in the NHL with 4 shorthanded assists.

More details and notes will be posted with a full San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks WCQF series preview later tonight.

San Jose Sharks 2008-09 defensive measureable statistics

[Update] Bonus chart detailing some of the Sharks defensive measureables from April 7th. More here.

[Update2] Playoff Offensive Levels 1968-2008 - Behind the Net.

One unsurprising result here: there are fewer goals scored in the playoffs than during the regular season. If you're down by three in the second during the regular season, you'll probably rest your best players to keep them from getting hurt in a meaningless game. In the playoffs, there's no point, and no giving up.

But the OT scoring levels are surprising: throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, teams apparently played more offensively in overtime than they did during regulation. But the opposite has now been true for more than 20 years.

[Update3] April Yields Best Attendance for NHL - Puck Money.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Battle of California 101, Top Five Sharks-Ducks post-lockout collisions

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks history

Before you can look ahead and preview what can be expected to be a physical and entertaining playoff series, you have to look at what came before. Below are my picks for the top 5 on-ice incidents since the lockout that have made the San Jose Sharks vs the Anaheim Ducks one of the top rivalries in sports.

[1] The Ducks became the first Californian team to win a Stanley Cup in 2006-07, a fact that should play a large factor in the animosity between these two teams. While Anaheim did not have to travel through San Jose en route to the Finals, they did have to face the Sharks 8 times in one of the most bitter and brutal regular season rivalries on record. The Ducks dismantled the Sharks 5-0 in the first meeting in Anaheim, but the return visit to San Jose on December 16th ignited the hostilities.

The tension prior to the start of the game was palpable. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry scored for the Ducks early, but the Sharks came out firing in the second period. A physical fight between Mark Bell and Shane O'Brien changed the tenor of the game completely. The fight energized the fans, but a Patrick Marleau goal sparked an even louder roar from the crowd at HP Pavilion. When Chris Kunitz hammered defenseman Josh Gorges up against the end boards sans penalty, the crowd in San Jose turned ugly. They started booing Pronger each time he touched the puck, booing perceived slights by the referees, and a couple of times even booing in error when it looked like Pronger might receive a pass. Jonathan Cheechoo scored a rebound just outside the paint to tie the game, and Joe Thornton scored a late power play goal to give the Sharks a 4-3 win for a playoff-type atmosphere in December.

[2] The 2008-09 regular season finale saw the leagues hottest team in Anaheim (9-1-0 in last 10 games, 40 points in that span for the top Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry line), face off against the Presidents Trophy contending Sharks. Marc-Edouard Vlasic looked like he opened the scoring with an embarassing goal shot from just inside the blueline, but the referees called it off on a phanthom offsides. Tied at 2-2 heading into the third period, Anaheim was forced on the penalty kill when Drew Miller was given 2 minutes for holding Joe Pavelski. On the kill, Chris Pronger cleared the puck over the glass giving the Sharks a critical 5-on-3 advantage. A heavy point shot by Christian Ehrhoff was deflected over the shoulder of Hiller by an unchecked Jonathan Cheechoo.

Anaheim tried to pour on the pressure to tie the game late in the third, but goaltender Brian Boucher was solid. With the goaltender pulled, and the Ducks deep in the Sharks zone, Ryan Getzlaf fanned on a point blank shot from 10 feet out and was taken down to the ice with a stick between the legs from Jeremy Roenick. Chris Pronger sat on top of Jonathan Cheechoo to prevent a clear at the point. As defenseman Ryan Whitney fired a shot, Christian Ehrhoff checked Teemu Selanne to the ice in front of the net. Getzlaf and Selanne fell to the ice a lot harder than they were checked. Whitney gathers his own rebound behind the net, slides to the far side, and backhands a centering pass in front. 11 bodies are within 8 feet of the crease with 3.2 seconds left. Corey Perry circles from the faceoff dot into the crease, allegedly "trips" over his own teammates stick, and falls 5 feet into Brian Boucher. Fans in San Jose drink whenever radio broadcaster Drew Remenda says "head on a swivel". Fans in Anaheim drink whenever Perry flops into a goaltender.

A major rugby-type scrum breaks out after the game. Getzlaf may have legitimately been tripped into goaltender Brian Boucher, but Jonathan Cheechoo horse collars him on the way down trying to protect his teammate. Getzlaf tries to drop the gloves and go with Cheechoo after the game ends but a pair of linesman get between them. Corey Perry went after Boucher, and several of the players wrestle for position until the referees can get control of the game which was supposedly over. Both teams combined for 70 penalty minutes in the third period, 44 were called on the Anaheim Ducks, 26 on the San Jose Sharks. The league office looked into the matter after the game, but they declared that there would be no furthur penalties after the fact on either team. They can settle it for themselves in the playoffs.

[3] The inter-divisional series between the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks may have been the most physical NHL rivalry in 2006-07. Each team had the size and offensive horses to withstand intimidation, but Anaheim edged a 5-3 regular season record against the Sharks en route to their first Stanley Cup Championship.

In 2007-08, both Pacific Division powerhouse franchises limped out of the gate. The Sharks struggled mightily at home, and rescued defeat out of the jaws of many overtime and shootout victories. Anaheim looked like a shadow of its championship self, and the half-season retirement of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne handicapped the Ducks offensive creativity on both sides of the ice. One area where the Ducks were strong all season came in games against San Jose. The Ducks dominated the Sharks registering a 5-1 series record, with 3 wins coming via overtime or an overtime shootout.

The tide turned March 21st, 2008 at HP Pavilion. The Sharks pressured Anaheim to the point they did not register a shot on goal in the third period, putting a total of 13 on net for the entire game. A goal by Joe Thornton and a clutch third period power play tally by Jeremy Roenick gave the Sharks the scoring margin they needed en route to a 2-1 win on home ice. Roenick challenged his team prior to facing Anaheim "This is the biggest game of the year for the San Jose Sharks, we have to prove ourselves in non-overtime games." 10 of Roenick's 14 goals in his comeback campaign with the Sharks were of the game winning variety. That figure tied for the third highest game winning goal total of his 20 year NHL career.

The Ducks seemed resigned to their fate in the third period, instead of focusing on tying the game they seemed as intent to run the Sharks late or to deliver on retaliation plays. On one sequence defenseman Brian Sutherby checked the legs out from under Joe Pavelski. As the puck was moved up ice and dumped in to the Anaheim zone, Sutherby dug the puck out of the corner and carried it behind his own net and up the far side. Pavelski matched him stride for stride, cut in front of the Ducks net, and hammered Sutherby into the Anaheim bench. Sutherby slid along the rail until running into linesman Dan Schachte, who got his elbows up on the play to defend himself. A hard hit by the linesman sent Sutherby sprawling to the ice. This game was not meant to be for the Anaheim Ducks when even the linesman delivered a highlight reel check. Chris Pronger would have been proud of that elbow.

[4] Travis Moen was traded to the Sharks along with defenseman Kent Huskins for Nick Bonino, Timo Pielmeier and a conditional draft pick on March 4th, 2009. Moen was a clutch member of Anaheim's "Checking Line" along with Samuel Pahlsson and Rob Niedermayer that helped power the Ducks to a Stanley Cup in 2006-07. Pahlsson was also moved at the deadline to Chicago along with Logan Stephenson for defenseman James Wisniewski and Petri Kontiola.

Moen received a video tribute and a standing ovation upon his return to the Honda Center on March 15th, while the Sharks and the Ducks settled into a tight checking, low scoring affair. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 34 of 34 shots against, but Jonas Hiller allowed 1 goal to former teammate Travis Moen. Jamie McGinn gained possession of the puck down low, spun and fired a blind shot/pass on goal. Set up in front of the crease, Moen tipped the puck passed Hiller for the lone goal of the evening. The 1-0 road win by San Jose was not as physical or contentious as other regular season meetings, but scoring the game winning goal days after being traded adds more ammunition to the rivalry.

[5] April 4th, 2007. The Sharks finish up their regular season series on the road in Anaheim. Palm trees, traffic, and smog greeted any Northern Californian brave enough to travel down south for the game. Again the Ducks jumped on the Sharks early, Andy McDonald scored his 27th goal of the season and Scott Niedermayer added another goal on a first period power play. The Sharks did not wait until the third period to respond, as goals by Scott Hannan and Steve Bernier tied the game at 2-2 in the second period. Ryane Clowe threw down with Shawn Thornton in a heavyweight bout that saw more punches land than many mixed martial arts fights.

With the game deadlocked at 2-2 heading into overtime, then Sharks head coach Ron Wilson called for former Sharks forward Teemu Selanne to have his stick measured by the officials. "When you look at it, it's almost the length of a goalie stick," Wilson said after the game. Selanne was sent to the box (directly next to Battle of California and Sharkspage bloggers attending the game), 2 minutes for playing with an illegal stick. The Sharks could not convert on the OT power play, but 2 shootout goals by Ryane Clowe and Jonathan Cheechoo, and 2 shootout saves by Evgeni Nabokov on Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald sealed the 3-2 win for the Sharks. Game, set and match for San Jose.

[Update] Finally, a postseason BoC -- you can't fight destiny forever - Earl Sleek for the Battle of California.

In their collective history, they've met a total of 90 times during the regular season, plus a couple dozen preseason games, and as far back as I can remember the Ducks v Sharks match-ups have always featured intensity and pride. But instead of a real rivalry, the Ducks-Sharks story (and hell, the BoC storyline) has been more about commonalities -- fans of both teams can associate with following a sport that's not locally mainstream, they can commiserate about frustration with the late-90s dominance of the Detroit-Dallas-Colorado western trio, and they are all-too familiar with the east coast bias which continues to dominate this sport's coverage (even if this series is a sweep, Versus will have shown as many postseason games featuring a CA team as it showed all regular season). Sure, the Ducks/Sharks have enjoyed beating each other whenever their regular-season paths crossed, but up until now, victory has never been critical.

But now they are playing with real bullets and real blood -- one team's postseason's hopes will be crushed at the hand of the other. Friendly association is over, at least in the short term, and now we have an opportunity for CA hockey fans to truly hate each other. Even if the series turns out less-than-epic, CA fans can stop comparing notes about performances against other opponents and finally bring playoff hatred to the local rivalry -- we'll see, but this could be a huge step forward for hockey fandom in this state.

As Don Cherry once so eloquently stated, "I know its the new, lovely NHL... I know it is kinder and they play volleyball before... I'm paying $150-200 dollars, I want to see a little hate... I want to see a little hate in this thing. I remember Rocket Richard, you can say I'm ancient, he was on a boxcar at the end. Detroit was here, and the boxcar was inbetween, he didn't eat." Amen.

[Update2] Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle sizes up San Jose, the first-round competition - Los Angeles Times.

[Update3] Sharks Will Have to 'Flip the Switch' Against Ducks - Ryan Garner for

I keep seeing a misleading statistic, and I’m not sure why people keep bringing it up. The President’s Trophy has been handed out 22 times (23 if you include San Jose) but its winners have only gone on to capture the Stanley Cup seven times. It’s true that the best regular season record doesn’t guarantee anything, and seven out of 22 isn’t great, but it’s still a much higher percentage than any other overall seed. Here’s how the Cup winners break down over the last 22 seasons, based on the overall regular season standings.

1st – 7
2nd – 2
3rd – 2
4th – 4
5th – 2
6th – 2
7th – 2
8th - 0
9th - 1

I think sports writers who are unfamiliar with hockey apply a basketball mentality, where the top regular season teams usually advance to the NBA final. We can pencil in the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers right now. Hockey is a little more unpredictable, with more factors (goaltending, special teams, discipline, momentum) coming into play and affecting the outcome. Still, there’s nothing negative about winning the President’s Trophy, aside from that eyesore banner if you come up short in the playoffs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dates and Television coverage set for San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks Western Conference Quarterfinal series

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks hockey photo

It's on. The first intra-California playoff series since the second year Los Angeles Kings downed the mighty Oakland Seals 5-3 in the 7th game of the WCQF 40 years ago today has the green light. The San Jose Sharks will face the Anaheim Ducks in a NoCal vs SoCal Western Conferernce Quarterfinal playoff series starting Thursday, April 16th at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

Dates, times, and television coverage details have been released.

San Jose Sharks (#1, 53-18-11) vs Anaheim Ducks (#8, 42-33-7)
Western Conference Quarterfinal

Game 1 - THU, APR 16, 7:30PM, SJ, CSNBA, CSN-HD
Game 2 - SUN, APR 19, 7PM, SJ, CSNBA, CSN-HD
Game 3 - TUE, APR 21, 7:30PM, ANA, *TBD
Game 4 - THU, APR 23, 7:30PM, ANA, CSNBA, CSN-HD
Game 5 - SAT, APR 25, 7PM, SJ, CSNBA, CSN-HD
Game 6 - MON, APR 27, *TBD, ANA, CSNBA, CSN-HD
Game 7 - WED, APR 29, *TBD, SJ, CSNBA, CSN-HD

* to be determined
** all times Pacific

Mark Lee will handle play-by-play for SJ-ANA Game 1 on CBC, along with analyst Marc Crawford. CBC and the french language RDS are scheduled to air all 7 games of the SJ-ANA series. Versus is scheduled to air every game of the SJ-ANA series nationally, with a half hour Hockey Central playoff preview beginning each night at 3:30PM (PT).

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area will broadcast games 1-2, and games 4-7 on CSNBA and CSN-HD. The schedule for Game 3 on Tuesday remains to be determined (Sharkspage made a credential request to cover game 3 in Anaheim). Each playoff game will be preceeded by a half-hour pregame show on CSNBA, and will be immediately followed by a half-hour postgame live show. The nightly 30 minute SportsNet Central highlight show, and hourlong Chronicle Live roundtable talk show are also expected to have Sharks related segments during the postseason.

According to CSNBA spokesman Jay Dela Cruz, Sharks broadcasts on the network averaged a 1.4 television household rating for the 2008-2009 season (a 56% increase over last year's 0.9 season average). The Sharks drew a record 2.2 household rating on CSNBA during a 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on March 30th. It was the highest rated regular season Sharks game in the history of the network. The Sharks averaged 33,900 households during the season, and a 150% increase in the Adults 18-49 demo (1.0 vs 0.4) and a 125% increase in the Adults 25-54 demo (0.9 vs 0.4).

Audio of all San Jose Sharks playoff games will air on 98.5 KFOX (KUFX-FM),, and the Sharks radio network. The Sharks will also host a pregame playoff rally outside of HP Pavilion on Thursday, April 16th from 5:00-7:15PM.

Thanks to PucktheMedia for the CBC and Versus playoff press release links. Puck the Media also posted a composite NHL schedule from all the national networks in the U.S. and Canada here.

[Update] NBC pegs Crosby, Ovechkin for playoff coverage - Sports Media Watch.

NBC has picked Capitals/Rangers and Penguins/Flyers as its two featured first round series. The network will begin its Stanley Cup Playoff coverage with Rangers/Capitals Game 2 on Saturday afternoon, before airing Game 3 of Penguins/Flyers on Sunday. The following week, the network is scheduled to air Game 6s in both series, if those games are necessary.

[Update2] NHL, NBC will watch, wait before deal - Sports Business Journal.

Though the NHL and NBC are expected to step up negotiations on a new TV deal over the next few weeks as the NHL playoffs get under way, nobody is suggesting that an agreement is close.

The two sides have to work through several advertising and scheduling issues, sources said, which includes picking the site for the next Winter Classic. The top two markets under consideration for the annual outdoor game are Boston and New York. NBC and the NHL also want to wait and see what final advertising sales results are for the 2008-09 season and analyze prospects for advertising sales in 2009-10.

San Jose Sharks first Presidents Trophy a part of history

San Jose Sharks earned a fourth Pacific Division title in 2008-09
List of NHL franchises to win Presidents Trophy and Stanley Cup Championship

San Jose head coach Todd McLellan downplayed somewhat the Sharks first franchise President's Trophy after a Boston loss ensured his team would finish with the best regular season record in the National Hockey League (53-18-11, 1st Pacific, 1st NHL). "It is something we can be proud of... but that's not the trophy we are playing for," McLellan said after the regular season finale in Los Angeles. "Maybe it is because I was in Detroit and we won the President's Trophy two of the three years I was there. It is something we should be proud of, but not celebrating."

All modesty aside, it is a huge accomplishment for the 18-year old franchise. One year after a soul crushing 11-71-2 campaign at the Cow Palace in SF, the Sharks shocked the NHL world by knocking off the Western Conference champion Red Wings in the 7th game of the 1993-94 Western Conference Semifinals. Another year, another 7-game upset greeted the Sharks in the opening round of the 1994-95 Stanley Cup Playoffs against a grizzled Calgary Flames squad.

Playoff success in the third and fourth year of the franchise gave San Jose a different identity than other expansion teams struggling to find their place in the league. The early playoff wins gave the Sharks more room to build from within. A progression of solid NHL coaches from Darryl Sutter, to Ron Wilson, to Todd McLellan guided the Sharks as they started to gather steam in the regular season. Since 2000-01, San Jose has registered seven 40+ win seasons and four 100+ point campaigns in en route to a 352-206-78-20 record.

Regular season success can build chemistry and confidence, but NHL teams are almost always evaluated by their performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since the Presidents Trophy's inception in 1985-86, 12 teams have earned the award with the top record in the regular season. The Detroit Red Wings are the only franchise to earn more than 2 Presidents Trophys. They lead the NHL by a wide margin with 6. Edmonton, Calgary, the New York Rangers, Dallas, and Colorado have each earned the honor twice, while Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Ottawa and Buffalo have taken home a single Trophy.

Of all 23 Presidents Trophy winners, only the Detroit Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup more than once. The Wings finished off the Carolina Hurricanes in 5 games in 2001-02, and they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games in 2007-08. Only 5 other Presidents Trophy winning teams have gone on to win a Stanley Cup, and each team finished with the top record in the NHL at least twice since 1985-86 (Edmonton, Calgary, Rangers, Dallas, Colorado).

The Sharks became the first team on the West Coast to earn the top record in the NHL, a right that also garners home ice advantage throughout the postseason and a potential 4 extra home games if each series goes the distance. Originally given to the first place team in the American Division in 1928, when the Canadian Division folded into one league Division, from 1937-68 the NHL awarded the team with the best regular season record the Prince of Whales Trophy.

According to wikipedia, the Montreal Canadiens have finished first overall 21 times but have yet to win a Presidents Trophy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sharks drop final game of the season 4-3 to Los Angeles Kings, earn first ever West Coast President's Trophy with Boston loss

San Jose Sharks Los Angeles Kings moment of silence for Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart
San Jose Sharks Los Angeles Kings NHL photo Zampelli
San Jose Sharks Milan Michalek Los Angeles Kings Ted Purcell hockey photo

The Sharks finished the 2008-09 regular season on a down note with a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, but it does not diminish from the acoomplishments they have built up over an entire season. Flirting with history in October, November and December, the Sharks cooled off slightly down the stretch due to a freak string of injuries. The team never panicked, and instead adjusted to a more conservative style in order to lock down an NHL-best 32-5-4 record at home. The dominance at HP Pavilion directly contributed to San Jose's fourth Pacific Division Championship and the first ever President's Trophy for a West Coast hockey team.

The Sharks snapped a 2-game power play drought with 3 power play goals against the Kings. Goaltender Jonathan Quick gave up a rebound on a low point shot from Christian Ehrhoff on a first period power play. An unchecked Devin Setoguchi casually gathered the rebound and sweeped it around Quick to open the scoring.

The Kings responded with 3 straight goals. Defenseman Davis Drewiske's shot was blocked in front of the net, and Michal Handzus was the first player to jump on the loose rebound. Handzus loaded up on a heavy slapshot from the top of the faceoff circle to tie the game at 1-1. Los Angeles added a second goal on a sloppy play from the Sharks defense. Initially checked by Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Frolov dug the puck out of the corner and carried it behind the net before Joe Pavelski could switch off on the coverage. Frolov drove in front of the net and snapped a backhand by Nabokov for his 32nd goal of the season. Impressive rookie Wayne Simmonds continued his strong performances against San Jose this season converting a power play shot 4:28 into the second period to give the Kings a 3-1 lead.

On a second period power play, San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic launched a point shot that was tipped passed Jonathan Quick by Joe Pavelski for his 25th goal of the season. The puck actually deflected off Milan Michalek before hitting Joe Pavelski. The addition of Ryane Clowe to the Pavelski-Michalek tandem, and the reunited first line of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi gives the Sharks top-heavy scoring power, but in the playoffs it could be a Moen-Goc-Grier, or a Roenick-Plihal-Cheechoo grinding line that digs into the ice in front of the net to deliver a clutch goal.

The Sharks committed a costly turnover trying to move the puck out of their own zone early in the third period, and Los Angeles Kings right wing John Zeiler made them pay. Zeiler intercepted a pass up along the wall, took two strides and then snapped a shot that split a pair of San Jose Sharks. Peter Harrold drove the net and deposited the rebound to give the Kings a lead they would not relinquish. Jonathan Quick held his ground on several scrambling opportunities in front of the net, but Patrick Marleau buried a 1-timer from just inside the faceoff circle to narrow the score to 4-3 with just over 10 minutes left to play. Marleau's power play tally was his team leading and career high 38th of the season.

"I didn't think we played well against Phoenix," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. "I thought we had a much better effort tonight." He added, "there were a lot more positives in the game, obviously we did not win but we were more aggressive and more assertive. We made some mistakes in our own end, but that is going to happen. We have to wipe the slate clean and look ahead to what is coming up. Whether we are on a winning streak or a losing streak it does not matter, what matters is what we do from this point on."

Jonathan Quick shut the door on the Sharks in the third period, finishing with 27 saves on 30 shots against. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 of 24 shots he faced in the regular season finale. The San Jose Sharks finished 3-6 on the power play, and 4-5 on the penalty kill, although the Kings earned the margin in blocked shots (13-6) and hits (28-27). Each team was not particularly sharp from a giveaway/takeaway perspective, as each team finished with a negative ratio (LA: -10, 17-7, SJ: -4, 10/6). Former Los Angeles Kings captain Rob Blake skated in his 1,200th NHL game, finishing with 1 assist in 20:28 of ice time. Center Jeremy Roenick and right wing Jonathan Cheechoo were scratches for San Jose.

A photo gallery from the game from longtime friend of the blog Michael Zampelli is available here. Video highlights from youtube are available here.

[Update] Kings win finale but now the big questions begin - Los Angeles Times.

The Kings, who began the season with few expectations, ended it with many. They have found a goaltender with a future in Jonathan Quick, developed up-and-comers such as defenseman Drew Doughty and winger Wayne Simmonds, and bought in first-year Coach Terry Murray's defense-first approach while improving their point total by eight.

But the slow-growth approach of General Manager Dean Lombardi will be harder to justify if the Kings' only late-season run continues to be the 5-kilometer race they sponsor each April.

The way forward for Dean Lombadi is made even more difficult by the continued success of the San Jose Sharks, whose big ticket offseason blueline acquisitions are poised to make a playoff impact, and the masterful in-season turnaround in Anaheim. Not only did the Ducks add high end skill and blueline mobility at the trade deadline, but recently acquired prospect Nick Bonino was an impact player for Boston in the NCAA Championship game against Miami on Saturday. Bonino buried a pass from Hobey Baker winning defenseman Matt Gilroy to complete the improbable comeback with 17.4 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Success in San Jose and Anaheim shortens the timeline available to Dean Lombardi for a turnaround in Los Angeles.

[Update2] Lombardi: the season wrap-up interview - Rich Hammond for Inside the Kings.

Jeremy Roenick's post-game Fan Appreciation Day speech

After the final home game of the regular season on Thursday night, veteran San Jose Sharks center Jeremy Roenick gave an impromptu speech at center ice addressing his teammates, the fans, and general manager Doug Wilson.

A transcript of his comments:

First of all, all my guys on the Sharks, we would like to thank you fans for making this building the hardest building in the National Hockey League to play in. It is really no wonder why our team had the best record in the National Hockey League at home.

Don't let anyone tell you that is not because of our fans because I'll tell you what, you guys do energize us, and you guys do have an effect for what happens on this ice. From all of us, thank you very much.

I also want to take this opportunity, because I would be remiss if I didn't, not knowing what is going to happen next year (loud boo's from crowd, and 'one more year' chants). Just in case... Two years ago I found myself at the bottom of my career. I did not feel confident, I did not feel like I got the respect, didn't feel like I could play the game any more, and I thought I was going to retire.

Doug Wilson stuck out his hand to me and said he would like me to come to San Jose. He said you are not going out like that. I know a lot of people questioned that decision, even myself at times. I want to thank you guys and Doug Wilson from the bottom of my heart (standing ovation).

I want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart, for giving me my life back in the game of hockey. Giving me my respect back. For feeling the excitment and the jitters I get in that locker room every night, to run through that Sharks mouth, and be on this ice with those guys, to play on the best team in the National Hockey League.

Now listen, we just finished the first step of our goals. We finished the first step. The second step is going to take everyone. I want this building to be the loudest, the most energetic building in the National Hockey League so we can bring the Cup right here to San Jose.

Notes and photos from the Sharks 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes are available here. Thanks to youtube user slarve for posting the above video clip.

[Update] You can listen to J.R.'s latest interview on the Jim Rome show, and watch him pranking defenseman Alexei Semenov with a shaving cream pie to the face on

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks, Greiss Shutout Providence, 3-0

The Worcester Sharks, behind two goals by Derek Joslin and Thomas Greiss' first professional shutout, defeated the Providence Bruins 3-0 Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of the largest crowd to ever see a Worcester Sharks game.

The 7,406 fans in attendance saw a scoreless first period, but it was anything but boring as both squads showed they were in the game to win with huge hits being thrown by both teams. Worcester outshot the Baby-Bs 14-7 in the opening 20 minutes, but both Greiss and Providence netminder Adam Courchaine were up to the task.

The WorSharks fourth line, which has played very well over the last 30 games, would grab the first goal of the game when the Providence defense failed to clear out Frazer McLaren. McLaren jumped on a loose puck that Courchaine thought he had covered up and jammed it into the net for the 1-0 lead at 13:56 of the second stanza. Matt Jones and T.J. Fox had the helpers on McLaren's seventh of the season.

Hockey is full of great plays that don't get a mention in the boxscore, and Dan DaSilva had one late in the second period that led to Worcester's second goal. DaSilva threw a huge hit to Providence defenseman Jeff Prenner as Penner wheeled the Baby-Bs net in an attempt to break out of the zone. Penner's defensive partner Ryan Stokes took offense to the hit directly in front of referee Frederic L'Ecuyer, earning himself a roughing minor.

Worcester would press the Bruin penalty kill the rest of the period, but it looked like Providence would survive the period until Adam McQuaid fired a clearing attempt right on the tape of Derek Joslin's stick inside the right face-off circle. Joslin would beat Courchaine for the unassisted tally with just 2.5 second remaining in the period.

Worcester fans thought the WorSharks had grabbed a 3-0 lead two minuted into the third period when the goal light went on after Ryan Vesce's wrister rang off the far post, but after L'Ecuyer conferred with his linesmen he ruled the puck didn't cross the goal line. Video replay shown on SharksVision confirmed his call.

Worcester would light the lamp again at 13:46 on the power play, and this time there was no doubt as Derek Joslin's blast from the blueline sailed through traffic--and almost the back of the net--to give the WorSharks the 3-0 lead. Vesce and Jason Demers had the assists on the play.

All that was left was holding down the fort for Greiss to earn his first pro shutout in his 140th career start. But Worcester didn't make things easy on themselves. With 3:14 remaining in the contest Worcester lit the lamp again, but referee L'Ecuyer rules that Steven Zalewski had kicked the puck into the net. It was a borderline call, but L'Ecuyer waved it off immediately without hesitation. Vesce and Zalewski briefly argued, but quickly turned to leave the ice for a line change.

Inexplicably, with his team up 3-0 and just over three minutes remaining in Greiss' shutout bid, head coach Roy Sommer picked that time to argue with the referee. L'Ecuyer let Sommer go on for a few seconds and skated away, but after Sommer continued jawing at him L'Ecuyer gave Worcester a bench minor and threw Sommer out of the game.

To make matters worse, 49 seconds later Joslin was called for a trip to put Worcester down two skaters.

With Bryan Marchment stepping into the role of head coach he rallied the WorSharks penalty killers, and with Greiss making three great saves, Worcester killed the bench minor being served by Riley Armstrong. And when Armstrong drew a roughing minor in front of the Providence bench against McQuaid all that was left was the cheering for Greiss.

Worcester's healthy scratch list got a little longer with the signing of goaltender Alex Stalock to an ATO. Stalock, a Minnesota-Duluth product, is not expected to see any action in the playoffs. Worcester's other health scratches were P.J. Fenton, Matt Fornataro, Logan Couture, Brendan Buckley, Joe Loprieno, and Michael Wilson.

Kyle McLaren took a high stick to the lower jaw area during his first shift. He returned to the bench with about six minutes remaining in the period and played the rest of the game.

The win was Worcester's 42nd of the season, a new team record. Their previous best was 41 set in their inaugural campaign in 06-07. Greiss' win was his 30th of the season, also a new team record and besting his own mark set in that same 06-07 season.

Worcester enters the playoffs as the fourth seed, and will face the Hartford Wolf Pack, the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers. The WorSharks finished 4-4 against the Wolf Pack during the regular season.
2008-10-22 Hartford 4 at Worcester 5 SO
2008-10-31 Worcester 4 at Hartford 2
2008-11-07 Worcester 4 at Hartford 3
2008-12-12 Worcester 1 at Hartford 4
2008-12-14 Hartford 2 at Worcester 1
2009-03-04 Worcester 1 at Hartford 3
2009-03-13 Hartford 4 at Worcester 2
2009-03-15 Hartford 1 at Worcester 4

The series will be in the standard 2-2-1-1-1 format. The schedule, as released by the AHL:
Game 1 Thu., April 16 SHARKS at Wolf Pack 7 p.m.
Game 2 Sat., April 18 SHARKS at Wolf Pack 7 p.m.
Game 3 Mon., April 20 Wolf Pack at SHARKS 6:35 p.m.
Game 4 Wed., April 22 Wolf Pack at SHARKS 6:35 p.m.
*Game 5 Thu., April 23 SHARKS at Wolf Pack 7 p.m.
*Game 6 Sat., April 25 Wolf Pack at SHARKS 7:05 p.m.
*Game 7 Mon., April 27 SHARKS at Wolf Pack 7 p.m.

All times EDT
* If necessary

The three stars of the game were:
1. Greiss (23 save shutout)
2. Joslin (2g)
3. FMcLaren (gwg)
Honorable mention needs to go to Dan DaSilva and Riley Armstrong for their overall play in the game.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


PRO 0 0 0 - 0
WOR 0 2 1 - 3

1st Period
No Scoring
Penalties: Marchand Pro (roughing), 8:27; Armstrong Wor (roughing), 8:27; Reul Pro (interference), 13:14.

2nd Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, McLaren 7 (Fox, Jones), 13:56. 2, Worcester, Joslin 10 19:57 (pp)
Penalties: Kaspar Wor (tripping), 7:00; Stokes Pro (roughing), 19:07.

3rd Period
Scoring: 3, Worcester, Joslin 11 (Vesce, Demers), 13:46 (pp)
Penalties: Tremblay Pro (roughing), 2:48; Desjardins Wor (tripping), 6:04; Moore Wor (hooking), 7:48; Zalewski Wor (hooking), 10:15; Ryder Pro (hooking), 11:47; served by Armstrong Wor (bench minor - unsportsmanlike conduct, game misconduct - abuse of officials), 16:46; Joslin Wor (tripping), 17:35; McQuaid Pro (roughing), 19:15.

Shots on Goal
Providence 7-5-11-23
Worcester 14-12-6-32.

Power-play opportunities: Providence 0 of 6; Worcester 2 of 5.

Providence, Courchaine 0-1-0 (32 shots-29 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 30-24-2 (23 shots-23 saves).

A-7,406. Referee: Frederic L'Ecuyer (48). Linesmen: Chris Libett (19), Todd Whittemore (19).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Drop Yawner to Manchester, 3-1

The Worcester Sharks started off slowly against a much hungrier Manchester Monarchs squad, and never really got back on track in a 3-1 loss Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,979 fans.

With Worcester already clinching a playoff spot and Manchester still fighting for their post season lives it wasn't hard to explain why Worcester was less sharp than the Monarchs were, and it was a bad line change that led to Manchester's first goal.

With Brendan Buckley charging up ice on a potential break-in Worcester turned over the puck at center ice, trapping NHL veteran Kyle McLaren in 'no man's land'. Manchester ran a perfect two on one, with Worcester goaltender Thomas Greiss making the save on Scott Parse’s original shot but couldn't control the rebound. With McLaren taking Richard Clune out of the play, Parse was able to grab the rebound and out it past Greiss for the 1-0 lead.

Worcester would have a season low three shots in the opening period.

The WorSharks would make a game of it in the second period on the power play when Lukas Kaspar tipped a Riley Armstrong point blast past Manchester netminder Jonathan Bernier to knot the game at 12:14 of the second. But Manchester would answer at 13:51 with a Trevor Lewis shorthanded tally to retake the lead.

Manchester would grab an insurance marker by Matt Moulson at 14:11 of the third, and while Worcester did hit the post with Greiss off the ice for an extra attacker, Manchester's lead was never in jeopardy. Unfortunately for the Monarchs, despite the win they were eliminated from the playoffs when Portland defeated Providence.

Worcester had just one line-up change from Wednesday night; Mike Moore was scratched in favor of former Monarchs captain Brendan Buckley. Despite having a chance for third place Worcester's line-up against Providence on Saturday night could possibly have a 'junior varsity' feel to should head coach Roy Sommer decide to rest some of his regulars for the playoffs.

The Worcester Sharks announced their team awards during Friday night's game. Brett Westgarth and Andrew Desjardins share the "Unsung Hero" award, Mike Moore is Worcester's "Rookie of the Year", Riley Armstrong won "Star of the Year", and Ryan Vesce is the team's MVP.

Despite Portland's win dropping Worcester to fourth place, the WorSharks magic number for third place is still three. Should Worcester finish third, they would face the Providence Bruins. In a fourth place finish the WorSharks would face the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Lewis (gwg, a)
2. Kaspar (g)
3. Bernier (28 saves)
My ballot would have been Lewis, Kaspar, Moulson (g,a).

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


MCH 1 1 1 - 3
WOR 0 1 0 - 1

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Manchester, Parse 15 (Clune), 7:54
Penalties-No Penalties

2nd Period
Scoring: 2, Worcester, Kaspar 17 (Armstrong, Demers), 12:14 (pp). 3, Manchester, Lewis 19 (Moulson), 13:51 (sh)
Penalties: Westgarth Mch (elbowing), 4:07; Armstrong Wor (boarding), 7:12; Westgarth Mch (roughing), 11:26; Dravecky Mch (hooking), 12:59.

3rd Period
Scoring: 4, Manchester, Moulson 20 (Murray, Lewis), 14:11
Penalties: Cavanagh Wor (hooking), 9:34; Joslin Wor (hooking), 19:56.

Shots on Goal
Manchester 7-7-7-21
Worcester 3-14-12-29.

Power-play opportunities: Manchester 0 of 3; Worcester 1 of 3.

Manchester, Bernier 23-24-4 (29 shots-28 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 29-24-2 (21 shots-18 saves).

A-3,979. Referees: Ian Croft (87). Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Todd Whittemore (19).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fan Appreciation Night leaves little to admire on the ice in 4-1 loss to Phoenix, off the ice it was memorable, Marleau and Clowe return

San Jose left wing hockey fight Phoenix Coyotes Todd Fedoruk
San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau NHL hockey photo

A 4-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes was not the way the San Jose Sharks wanted to finish out their NHL best 32-5-4 record at home. Scottie Upshall, Ed Jovanovski, and Zbynek Michalek gave the Coyotes a comfortable 3 goal lead after 24 minutes of play before the Sharks started to kick it into gear. San Jose outshot Phoenix 35-11 in the second and third periods, and a gritty grind-it-out goal by Travis Moen made it close down the wire. A spectacular 40 save performance by NHL rookie and former University of Michigan goaltender Al Montoya, and an insurance goal by Peter Mueller put the game out of reach in the third period.

For the second straight game, San Jose was outworked and outhustled by younger players on non playoff teams competing for jobs next year. "I don't think we were prepared to play the first 25 minutes of the game," head coach Todd McLellan said. The Coyotes kept their legs moving, and they capitalized early on a quick faceoff win by former Flames nemisis Matthew Lombardi. Scott Upshall picked the puck up on the left side of the faceoff dot and snapped home a quick shot to put Phoenix on the board early.

A series of encounters on the ice, including one near miss hospital check at the Phoenix blueline, left 240-pound defenseman Douglas Murray playing one of his most intense games of the season. Every shift his head was on a swivel looking to make an imprint on a Coyotes player. It worked against him at the end of the first as he took a double minor high-sticking penalty, followed shortely thereafter by a borderline holding call on defenseman Dan Boyle. Phoenix converted the 2 minute 5-on-3 with 33 seconds left. Ed Jovanovski's point shot found the back of the net, with a pair of forwards and Christian Ehrhoff screening Evgeni Nabokov on the doorstep.

The Sharks did receive the return of captain Patrick Marleau, who missed 5 games with an undisclosed injury, and power forward Ryane Clowe, who missed 11 games with an undisclosed lower body injury. For the first time in several weeks the Sharks top two lines of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi and Clowe-Pavelski-Michalek were back together. As was the case at the end of last season, Clowe was dropped into the lineup and instantly became a major problem for the opposition to handle in front of the net. The Thornton line started to pick up their play later in the game. One note from ice level that may not be immediately noticeable from the broadcast was how seamlessly the players were moving off the puck. When Thornton took the puck in the corner, Setoguchi drove in front of the net with Marleau sliding to the high slot. When Marleau chased down the puck at the point, defenseman Christian Ehrhoff slid to center ice with his stick cocked for a shooting opportunity.

The Sharks have 3 lines with enough size to set up where they want to in the offensive zone, one key will be whether or not they start driving the net to start forcing mistakes instead of waiting to make the pretty play. Thursday night was also fan appreciation night for the last home game at HP Pavilion for the regular season. A large number of fans showed up before the game and congregated downtown or in the parking lot before the game. During breaks in play video messages of Sharks players came up on the screen noting the row and the seat number of the fan who would join them on the ice and receive the autographed jersey off their back after the game. Jermey Roenick also gave an impassioned speech thanking general manager and former teammate Doug Wilson for giving him an opportunity to continue his career, and thanking the fans in San Jose for being so vocal and energetic.

The Coyotes continued to pad their lead in the second period. Former Los Gatos native and Sharks Ice veteran Viktor Tikhonov drove the net while Peter Mueller broke into the Sharks zone on the left wing. Right wing Enver Lisin trailed the play with his stick on the ice. Mueller opted for a low percentage shot, which was deflected into the corner by Nabokov. Mueller intercepted Rob Blake's clearing attempt, and hit a driving Zbynek Michalek who snapped home his 6th goal of the season.

The fans for Fan Appreciation night tried to keep up morale, but they were pretty dejected after Phoenix scored their third goal. Travis Moen dropped the gloves with heavyweight Todd Fedoruk near the bench, and in addition to registering 3 hits Devin Setoguchi registered a beatdown on Martin Hanzal after a Hanzal check late in the second. The fights picked up the intensity inside the building, and the Sharks started to feed off that energy on the ice. "In my opinion, we did not start playing until it was 3-0, at this time of the year you can't do that and have a chance at winning," Todd McLellan said after the game.

Cuban-American former Rangers #1 draft pick Al Montoya was strong in goal early. Tall (6-foot-3) with adequate size (193 pounds), Montoya was very quick getting up and down, and he was athletic and solid on his angles. He had the unusual habit of spitting into a different corner of the faceoff circle at every break in play. He held the Sharks tight mostly from perimeter shots in the first period, but then withstood a firing range in the second and third as the Sharks took advantage of their size down low. Visibly excited to play the top team in the league in front of a very vocal crowd, Montoya finished with a 40 save performance for his third NHL win. "Their goalie was a young guy trying to prove himself, we had a lot of point blank opportunities," Ryane Clowe said of Montoya.

The Travis Moen, Marcel Goc, Mike Grier line may have been the best unit on the ice for San Jose. They generated 11 shots on goal, all of them on net, and also controlled the play in the offensive zone for stretches. They combined for the Sharks only goal at 12:22 of the third period. Marcel Goc dropped the puck to Mike Grier behind the net. Grier spun and feathered a pass to Travis Moen who set up shop on the doorstep. Initially battling 2 players, Travis Moen took several whacks at the puck before a third Coyote closed in on him from behind. Moen punched home his 7th goal of the season to put the Sharks on the board.

"We did start to play with authority, they blocked a ton of shots, I think over 30 tonight. That is a pretty committed team for one that is not in the playoffs," head coach Todd McLellan said. After withstanding several flurries in their own zone, Phoenix capitalized on a long rebound later in the third period. Center Joakim Lindstrom poked a rebound into the neutral zone and a flying Scottie Upshall picked it off the wall in stride. Upshall drove the zone and found Peter Mueller in the slot for the insurance goal, sealing the 4-1 win.

Al Montoya stopped 40 of 41 shots for his third NHL win. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 13 of 17 shots against. The Sharks outshot 41-17, but Phoenix blocked 31 shots to San Jose's 11 and finished 6-6 on the penalty kill. Three stars of the game as selected by the media: Al Montoya, Travis Moen, Matthew Lomdardi. The Sharks clinched a Western Conference title with Detroit's 4-3 shootout loss to Nashville. Right wing Jonathan Cheechoo was a scratch with an undisclosed minor lower body injury.

A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Blog Reader Appreciation night, Nabokov black and white desktop backgrounds

18 Fans asked if they could download copies of the Nabokov black and white photo to use as a desktop background after Tuesday's 1-0 win over Colorado. Below are 3 desktop backgrounds with the image, feel free to tweak it to fit your monitor.

Nabokov black and white 1600x1200
Nabokov black and white 1280x960
Nabokov black and white 1024x768

The image was converted to black and white using Phoenix photographer Pshizzy's black and white curve settings. He also has a set of photoshop actions available here, and his photography blog is available at That blog has been added to the links to the right under the Sports subhead.

Thanks for stopping by.

[Update] Another pair of bonus items: free 24-hour pass to the online training courses, and a free 1-year subscription to American Photo magazine.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Clinch Playoff Birth In Win Over Portland

The Worcester Sharks clinched their second playoff birth in three seasons with a 2-1 victory over the Portland Pirates Wednesday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,034 fans.

The WorSharks would grab the early lead when captain Ryan Vesce would skate down the left side on a two on one and fired a wrist shot that Pirates goaltender Jhonas Enroth misplayed, with the puck banking off Enroth's glove and into the net for the 1-0 lead 6:53 of the first. Tom Cavanagh and Patrick Traverse had the assists on the marker.

Worcester would dominate play over the first forty minutes of the game, outshooting Portland 32-14. Unfortunately for Worcester, Portland's 15th shot would net them the equalizer when Colton Fretter wheeled the net and found Felix Schutz all alone in front for the one-timer just 48 seconds into the third period.

Worcester would retake the lead on a heads up play by Dan DaSilva. As DaSilva was getting ready to head to the bench for a line change he saw Steven Zalewski break toward the Pirates zone. DaSilva jumped back into the play to create a two on one, and when Enroth couldn't control the Zalewski blast DaSilva jumped on the rebound to poke it into the net for the 2-1 lead at 3:18.

Portland picked up the pace of play for the rest of the game, but WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss was up to the task, turning aside the remaining ten Portland shots to notch the victory and earn a ticket to the AHL's playoff dance.

With San Jose's ECHL affiliate in Phoenix having their season concluded, and the Sharks getting several injured players healthy, Worcester's locker room is getting pretty crowded. The WorSharks healthy scratches were P.J. Fenton, Matt Jones, Matt Fornataro, Brendan Buckley, and Michael Wilson. Joe Loprieno, signed to an ATO earlier this month, has yet to play for Worcester.

Add Taylor Dakers to the season-ending injury list. According to team sources, Dakers has a hip injury that will require surgery. It is questionable if Dakers will be ready to play to start next season.

Now that Brad Staubitz has been reassigned to Worcester he will have to begin serving his five game suspension. Staubitz was suspended for punching Springfield's Tim Sestito on February 28. It was thought that the games would tick off while Staubitz was assigned to the NHL as other suspensions in the AHL have, but the AHL has ruled that Staubitz must serve all his games.

The Worcester Sharks Booster Club announced their "Player of the Month" awards for February and March. Dan DaSilva was the March winner, and Ryan Vesce was the February. According to Club President Rich Lundin, every award winner has scored a goal in the game he received his trophy this season.

Worcester hit the post three times Wednesday night, all off the stick of Lukas Kaspar. Kaspar rang one loudly off the crossbar in the second period when his slapshot through traffic beat Jhonas Enroth to the high glove side and found iron. In the third period while on the power play, and with his back to the net, Kaspar deflected a Patrick Traverse blast that rang off the far post and bounced away harmlessly. Third time being the charm, later in the third Kaspar fired a wrist shot from a bad angle that hit the post and just bounced over the stick of Vesce at the near post.

Bryan Marchment joined the Worcester coaching staff behind the bench for the game. Marchment has been with head coach Roy Sommer and assistant coach David Cunniff during the season.

With Worcester qualifying for the playoffs as either the three or four seed, they will be hosting games three, four, and six at the DCU Center. Game three is scheduled for Monday, April 20 and game four for Wednesday, April 22. Both will be 6:30pm EDT starts as Worcester attempts to make both games more kid-friendly. Game six, if necessary, would be Saturday, April 25 at the normal 7:05pm EDT start time.

Worcester's magic number for third place is three over the Portland Pirates, with two games remaining. Worcester hosts Manchester Friday night and Providence on Saturday. Portland plays at home Friday against Providence, and then travels to Manchester on Saturday. Portland's magic number over Manchester for the final playoff spot is just one.

The three stars of the game were:
1. DaSilva (gwg)
2. Enroth (41 saves)
3. Greiss (24 saves)
Not too much to complain about in those choices.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


FACEOFFS (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even Strength
Couture 1-1/4-3/3-1 = 8-5
Vesce 2-2/0-1/2-1 = 4-4
Desjardins 4-0/0-0/0-1 = 4-1
Cavanagh 2-0/0-0/2-0 = 4-0
Fox 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Zalewski 0-1/2-1/1-2 = 3-5

Power Play
Vesce 1-1/1-0/0-0 = 2-1
Couture 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Zalewski 1-4/0-0/0-0 = 1-4
Cavanagh 0-2/0-0/0-0 = 0-2

Penalty Kill
Fox 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Vesce 0-0/0-0 1-1 = 1-1
Cavanagh 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

POR 0 0 1 - 1
WOR 1 0 1 - 2

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, Vesce 24 (Traverse, Cavanagh), 6:53
Penalties: Schutz Por (holding), 9:24; Joslin Wor (hooking), 13:32; Kennedy Por (roughing), 16:39; Armstrong Wor (roughing), 16:39.

2nd Period
No Scoring
Penalties: Cavanagh Wor (hooking), 1:26; Macdonald Por (high-sticking), 5:47; Generous Por (hooking), 8:13; Fretter Por (slashing), 15:07.

3rd Period
Scoring: 2, Portland, Schutz 15 (Fretter, Bouck), 0:48. 3, Worcester, DaSilva 6 (Zalewski), 3:18.
Penalties: Rank Por (slashing), 9:59; Moore Wor (tripping), 13:04.

Shots on Goal
Portland 8-6-11-25
Worcester 19-13-11-43.

Power-play opportunities: Portland 0 of 3; Worcester 0 of 5.

Portland, Enroth 25-23-6 (43 shots-41 saves)
Worcester, Greiss 29-23-2 (25 shots-24 saves).

A-3,034. Referee: Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen: Mark Messier (12), Jack Millea (23).

Thursday, April 9, 2009

SportsNet Central and Chronicle Live programs impress in Monday debut, sober local media assessment from Yahoo Sports and Alive Magazine

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area SportsNet Central sports highlight show
Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area Chronicle Live sports talk television show

The local sports media landscape has shifted dramatically downward over the last few years. Bright spots, like the launch of local South Bay paper the Palo Alto Daily Post, have been few and far between. The Monday launch of two new sports programs on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area added two more.

SportsNet Central looks to fill the ESPN Sportscenter role on a local level. The half hour highlight program will feature a similar mix of local team highlights, interviews and scores. Sideline and rinkside Comcast reporters like Kate Longworth and Jaymee Sire will produce insider segments, with hosts Scott Reiss and Damon Andrews covering the news of the day. The highlight program will air 3 times a night (6PM, 10:30PM, 12AM), 7-days a week.

SNC's debut on Monday mirrored opening day for the Giants and A's, along with the NCAA Men's college basketball championship. Sportsnet also delivered a feature on Claude Lemieux's nomination for a Masterton trophy, a preview of Tuesday's Sharks-Colorado tilt, aired Versus highlight's from Detroit's 4-1 win over Buffalo, and quoted Ron Wilson after he was named the 2010 Team USA Men's Olympic Hockey coach. "It is a tremendous honor, a tremendous thrill, I look forward to the challenge," the former Sharks and current Toronto coach said in a video clip.

If SportsNet Central was looking to emulate ESPN's SportsCenter, they failed. In a non-scientific Sharkspage study conducted over 1 week last month, hockey of any fashion was near non-existent on the four letter network. Watching 7 late night SportsCenter programs, one a night, yielded a grand total of 2 hockey stories. Ovechkin reaching the 50 goal plateau, and Martin Brodeur surpassing Patrick Roy with an NHL record 552nd career win. Comcast's SportsNet Central surpassed that number in its debut half hour highlight show. It is painful to hear the passion in John Buccigross and Barry Melrose's excellent play-by-play coverage of the NCAA Frozen Four tournament, and more painful still if you know the central role hockey played on ESPN from its inception as a regional sports network.

The hour long Chronicle Live roundtable talkshow hosted by longtime announcer Greg Papa began with a "Hello Hallifax", and followed with a special feature breaking down the best "Authentic Bay Area Moments". Rollie Fingers, Joe Montana, Barry Bonds and Stanford/Cal all made the opening montage. There was a light discussion about whether or not the Athletics would be able to overtake the Angels, and the roundtable featuring Chronicle talking head Ray Ratto and the Oakland Tribune's Monte Pool also took a crack at the Raiders signing SJSU and 49ers alumni Jeff Garcia as a backup quarterback. Jason Giambi and Tim Lincecum were also interviewed later in the show.

Chronicle Live also featured an apperance by one of the best hockey analysts in the business, Sharks radio broadcaster Jamie Baker. Baker churned over whether the Sharks should be more concerned about the President's Trophy or first place in the Western Conference (easy, first place in the West considering a possible matchup with Detroit and the Sharks dominance at home). Greg Papa finished off the segment hoping for a Sharks-Ducks series, something that would make the Sharks run to the Cup more difficult but would make for incredibly compelling playoff television. Rumor is that this coach would be brought in to train Corey Perry for a Sharks-Anaheim series.

The rotating roundtable panels will have the opportunity to dig deeper into major stories as well as cover other topics. When asked what types of sports outside the Big 4 would be covered on Chronicle Live, Comcast spokesman Jay Dela Cruz mentioned local high school rivalries and mixed martial arts as two examples. Comcast could also tap a number of online personalities. Bringing in new local voices like Athletics Nation and SBN co-founder Tyler Bleszinski, long-time boxing writer/radio host Dennis Taylor, Sharks sportswriter/blogger Ryan Garner or Mike Chen, cycling photographer/writer Ken Conley, any number of contributors from the excellent as well as many others will only draw in new viewers and keep the program fresh.

The platforms SportsNet Central and Chronicle Live give Bay Area sports will have a lasting impact, but by far the most predominant way sports fans gather news is from local newspapers. Several rounds of deep cuts culminated in the loss of both San Jose Sharks beat writers in the same week in July of 2007. Ross McKeon was part of a massive restructuring at the San Francisco Chronicle, but he transitioned to the NHL editor position at without missing a beat. Victor Chi was part of a 31-person layoff at the San Jose Mercury News. He briefly wrote for the Sporting News before creating a cuisine and travel website along with his wife at In an interview with Sharkspage, Chi said "It can be depressing with news of layoffs... I have first-hand experience with that... and buyouts almost every day, but the public has a tremendous appetite for information so other opportunities are going to develop."

The San Jose Mercury News adjusted by moving David Pollak into the beat writer position, supplemented by solid reporting from Mark Emmons and the off-beat musings of Morning Buzz columnist John Ryan. Pollak essentially doubled his workload covering the San Jose Sharks in the print edition, while chronicling breaking news on his Working the Corners hockey blog in addition to other newsroom duties.

Unfortunately cost cutting measures have been implemented at the Mercury News along with several other Media News properties. In an excellent interview today, Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski asked David Pollak Los Angeles Daily News writer/blogger Rich Hammond of the Los Angeles Daily News about the furlough program each has been forced to undergo to cut costs for their respective newspapers.

POLLAK: We had to take five unpaid days off between early February and March 31. We're now waiting to find out if that's going to be a one-time thing, a quarterly occurrence or something in between. My reaction was that if it saved jobs, then this wasn't a terrible thing. Better to share the pain. But journalistically, this wasn't a good thing. I'll try to explain why.

Reporters did not have to take the five days all at once. But any furlough day had to be in a week that also included two other days off. Now that may need seem all that bad, but as a beat writer, I generally work six or seven day weeks during the hockey season. By being forced to essentially work four-day weeks during the furlough period, it took me away from the team something more like 10-12 days instead of just five.

David Pollak is the lone beat writer covering games at home and on the road. It is a major investment for the paper, but the Sharks are the top professional team in the Bay Area with possibly the most stacked lineup in 5 straight years as a Stanley Cup contender.

The situation has raised questions about the status of hockey coverage moving forward if the economics continue on a downward spiral. The trend of reduced hockey coverage in newspapers was noted on this blog in 2006 when the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times each signaled a declining role for the sport in their publications. The New York Times and Washington Post actually supplemented print reporting with excellent onlince resouces, but it was a bittersweet improvement.

New York Times sports editor Tom Jolly answered a question from this blog about their coverage of the Rangers, Devils and Islanders in December:

More broadly, our mission is probably unique among daily sports sections these days. With the expansion of our Web site and our integration with The International Herald Tribune, we’ve evolved into an international news organization. Obviously we’re based in New York and have a substantial readership here, but our national and international audience continues to grow and, in order to serve such a diverse group of readers, we’re focusing more on news and issues that go beyond individual teams. You’ve seen that in our Web coverage and in the way we’ve covered hockey in print. A few years ago, Chris Botta, who was then an Islanders’ public relations executive, posed a question on the team Web site that went something like: When did The New York Times turn into a daily Sports Illustrated? I don’t think he intended the remark as a compliment, but, as I later wrote to him, it accurately captures our larger purpose.

As I wrote to him in a note that was posted on his blog, “In an age when game recaps are so readily available via Web sites (including ours) and 24-hour sports networks, our aim is to give our readers coverage that goes beyond results.”

Don’t get me wrong. Game results are important. But if we are to give our readers coverage that is distinctive from other publications — coverage that matches the big-picture approach of the rest of the paper — we need to deploy our relatively small reporting staff differently from the way we did when we thought of ourselves as predominantly a New York newspaper. Our coverage continues to evolve in all sports as we look for opportunities to do stories of interest to the most readers, including stories that transcend individual teams and games. In other words, we’re looking for news, features and enterprise stories that cover the breadth of individual leagues, the breadth of sports.

It was a bold and definitive step, yet a controversial one for those wanting more coverage of the Rangers, Devils and Islanders. It was a shock when the Islanders and Rangers visited HP Pavilion earlier this year with only 1 New York based reporter in the press box for each game, for the Islanders the lone attendee was with a radio affiliate.

A long line of media analysts have claimed the print and online advertising revenue model has changed, and that newspapers have to adapt to find new avenues in order to survive. The latest to make such a claim was Google CEO Eric Schmidt. At a convention of newspaper executives on Tuesday, Schmidt said that Google can work with newspapers to build new ways of doing business. His suggestion, using Google AdSense. AdSense already gives newspapers pennies on the dollar per thousands of viewers. If Google thinks that will replace big ticket automotive and real estate advertising that funds reporters who track down leads, crunch numbers, and get quotes that power most of the content that is the heart of Google News and Google search results, they are mistaken.

The problem is that the newspaper industry is struggling to find any working alternatives. Printing a pre-game special scouting publication, with scouting reports on opposing goaltenders, a detailed graphical breakdown of X's and O's or opponent's set plays, in-depth analysis, exclusive photos and matchups with a $15 or $20 price tag? Dallas Morning News beat writer Mike Heika and Sharks Director of Communications Roger Ross do not think it would work. That may be the case, but the real problem is that local newspapers do not have the ability or the audacity to try. The demand is there.

Deadspin's Rick Chandler asked San Jose Sharks Director of Media Relations Scott Emmert about his experience with blogs covering the team in an official capacity. After an incident with a hockey blogger covering the Edmonton Oilers, Emmert described his perspective on credentialing's Ryan Garner and Sharkspage's Jon Swenson (me) to cover the Sharks:

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that newspapers are slowly going away," Sharks media director Scott Emmert said. "Blogs are one of the venues that fans are going to, and we realize that. We make an effort to follow what's written. There's the saying about there being no such thing as bad publicity, and while I wouldn't go quite that far, it is true that a pro franchise can make blogs work for them."

The Sharks actively work with sites such as Hockey Buzz and Sharkspage, because they recognize the upside of such a relationship. "But those sites have a large degree of professional accountabilty," Emmert said. "That's the thing that has to be in the equation. A lot of bloggers are out there writing things that are factually incorrect with no accountability, and we don't want to be working with them, obviously."

Not as dramatic a step as the New York Times who have lurched towards increased international hockey coverage, or as dramatic as the Washington Capitals credentialling a legion of reporters and photographers to churn out blog content, but Hockey Buzz and Sharkspage have been able to fill some of the gaps with opinion, prospect and draft coverage, and analysis on a smaller regional level.

The East Bay's Alive Magazine posted an interesting analysis of the Sharks media coverage in February: "Does the Best Team in the Bay Area Receive the Attention in Deserves." The article penned by Paul Hirsch examined the Sharks reach from the local newspapers, to radio and television. "The San Jose Sharks far outperform all other pro sports franchises in the Bay Area, however the local newspaper with the largest circulation does not assign them a reporter, the local regional sports network skips many of their road games, their radio reach is limited, and they score in the bottom of fan interest surveys" was the devestating lead.

The fan interest survey referenced may have been one conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle's sports editor Glenn Schwartz. "We had to trim the budget, and the Sharks were consistently at the bottom of our reader interest surveys," Schwartz told Hirsh. To this day Sharkspage receives a number of emails about the lack of regular coverage in the Chronicle, and regular comments on articles and local sportstalk radio from frustrated hockey fans in San Francisco continue unabated. Two of the top radio hosts in the Bay Area market, Ralph Barbieri and Gary Radnich, have complained on air about the lack of Sharks coverage in the Chronicle.

A few days prior to reading the article, former Oakland Seals Assistant/Director of Public Relations Len Shapiro mentioned this fan survey as one of the reasons the Chronicle cut back on coverage of the Sharks. The Oakland Seals, despite having as many as 5 beat writers from San Francisco (2), San Jose, San Mateo and Oakland, took every opportunity to include new sources to help increase exposure of the team. One example Shapiro mentioned was credentialing local college reporters to help increase coverage of the team at a grassroots level. Another note from Shapiro, the typically caustic towards hockey Ray Ratto was the beat writer for the San Francisco Shamrocks hockey club for 2 seasons.

San Jose Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison also commented on the Chronicle's lack of coverage in a November interview on KNBR 680AM. Jamison credited Ross McKeon for 17 years of coverage, and noted that he was not afraid to call it like he saw it. Jamison said the Sharks have tried to work with the Chronicle, but economic issues were the end reason the largest newspaper in the Bay Area did not have a beat writer covering the team. In 1993, Jamison said the Sharks had 5 beat writers covering the team in San Jose. Now the Sharks lone beat writer from the Mercury News was forced to take 5 furlough days off over the last 2 months.

Chronicle sports editor Glenn Schwartz was quoted in Alive Magazine "It cost about $30,000 to travel with the Sharks two years ago, and with inflation that would be higher now". At this point hockey fans in San Francisco would appreciate a reporter who covers a majority of the games. Boxing yourself into a scenario where your media outlet had to cover every game at home or on the road, or no games at all, does not seem like a responsible or reasoned decision. Alive's Hirsh noted that the Chronicle assigned Susan Slusser to cover select Sharks home games starting December 20th, and mentioned that Ray Ratto would travel with the team in the postseason. The Chronicle also has sent a photographer to shoot games at HP Pavilion.

One reason the number of emails and phone calls to Schwartz upset with the Chronicle's lack of coverage may have tapered off, fans long ago moved to Canadian websites and radio programs, blogs and national hockey websites. While Alive Magazine painted a fair picture of situation at the Chronicle, they missed the mark somewhat with Comcast's contribution and the Sharks radio network.

The Sharks registered a then-season high 2.17 household rating (52,000 households) for a late March game against Calgary according to the Merc's John Ryan. Comcast's pre and post-game shows have increased roles for several analysts like Jamie Baker, Kate Longworth and Scott Reiss, and have nearly doubled the media horde in the Sharks locker room after games. In previous seasons the horde had dwindled down to 4 or 5 people for a handful of games, including at least one blogger and team employee. The fact that Comcast does not cover the Sharks as heavily on the road simply ignores the contributions they have made at home for over half a season. With the additions of SportsNet Central and Chronicle Live, those contributions are only going to increase.

When discussing the Sharks television ratings or the reach of the radio network, it is next to impossible to ignore the large segment of fans using online substitutes to fill those gaps. Online game streaming from Yahoo, Comcast, and TSN in Canada, as well as the emergence of the PPV NHL GameCenter have shifted the way many out of market fans watch and listen to games. The Sharks are not on the "50,000 watt flamethrower" KNBR, but they have a mature online presence dating back to one of the first team websites on the internet in 1995. One of the others at the time? Fans in San Jose also created some of the first online BBS messageboards for sports in 1991, one of the first multi-contributor team specific independant websites in 1997, the first hockey blog in 1998...

The media landscape has definitely changed, with regards to general sports coverage as well as hockey coverage alike. When making an assessment you need to take the good with the bad. The Sharks have been ahead of the curve for 14 years delivering content on, and have won several league awards as the top media relations staff in the NHL. The Sharks most likely will work to improve coverage locally among traditional media outlets whenever possible, but they are also more than likely to keep pursuing new options as well.

Comcast SportsNet Central and Chronicle Live photos used with permission. Links to both programs have been added to the sidebar on the right under San Jose Sharks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Evgeni Nabokov registers 20 save shutout as San Jose Sharks down the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 in OT Shootout

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov hockey photos
San Jose Sharks center Jeremy Roenick hockey photo
San Jose Sharks Colorado Avalanche NHL hockey photo

The San Jose Sharks inched closer to clinching the Western Conference lead and the President's Trophy posting a 1-0 OT shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion. Evgeni Nabokov saw the puck well all night, stopping 20 shots against and 3 shootout attempts to register his 41st win and 7th shutout of the season. Joe Pavelski attacked goaltender Peter Budaj with speed in the OT shootout. He came barreling in, froze Budaj with a quick stickhandling move, then lifted the puck over his right shoulder for the game deciding goal. Wojtek Wolski, Milan Hejduk and Chris Stewart failed to convert for Colorado. The win gives San Jose 117 points with 2 games remaining, good for a 5 point lead on Boston and a 6 point lead on Detroit (who each have a game in hand).

The Colorado Avalanche were coming off a franchise worst 8-game losing streak before they knocked off a streaking Vancouver Canucks club on Sunday. It has been a horrible season for the Lanche, their 32-44-2 record heading into Tuesday night was the worst since the Quebec Nordiques era (1993-94) according to Sean Leahy of Yahoo Sports. The Sharks have been struggling with as many as 10 players on the injured list at one time, but Colorado lost the services of several of their top players for a large chunk of the season. Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny and Adam Foote to name a few.

Colorado responded by playing a very conservative first period, clogging up the middle of the ice and making it difficult for the Sharks to break into the zone. The Sharks registered only 2 shots on goal in the first period (according to Versus both teams recorded a NHL season low 5 shots on goal), but two of the better scoring opportunities came on turnovers. Defenseman Derek Peltier turned the puck over just outside the blueline, setting up a 2-on-1 for Milan Michalek and Joe Pavelski. Michalek threaded a pass around a prone defenseman and through the crease, but just off the stick of Pavelski far side. Later in the period Travis Moen battling deep in the Colorado zone created 2 turnovers on the same play, eventually shoveling a puck on goal that may or may not have made it through traffic.

"I'm not sure we disrespected our opponents, I just think we did not play that well," head coach Todd McLellan said of the first period after the game. "They did a very good job defending, getting above us, making it difficult to enter their zone." Both defenses were strong throughout the game. At times Dan Boyle took on the role of 5-on-5 quarterback, controlling the puck up high before slashing through the Avs defense to set up teammates. Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also flashed their speed moving the puck up ice, while Douglas Murray continues to pile up the smart, simple, high percentage plays in his own zone. The Colorado defense was equally impressive. Scott Hannan may have played one of his best games against his former team, blocking a game high 4 shots and forcing the Sharks to play more often than not from the perimeter. After forcing Milan Michalek to rush a play in the second period, Michalek gave Hannan a light crosscheck after the whistle and both former teammates smiled briefly.

An interesting graphic from Versus on the Colorado defense showed how much they are relying on younger players down the stretch. They listed career NHL games played on defense: Scott Hannan 667, John-Michael Liles 384, Mike Vernace 8, Derek Peltier 7, Ray Macias 2, Aaron MacKenzie 1. Scott Hannan was the Sharks second 1st round selection (after Patrick Marleau) in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Hannan registered 508 of those regular season games with the San Jose Sharks. Mike Vernace was also a 7th round draft pick of the Sharks in 2004, he was traded to Colorado in 2006. Long Beach California native Ray Macias made his Colorado debut April 1st against Phoenix. He is the second California-born player to play for the Avalanche after Sharkspage favorite Scott Parker.

The Sharks are banking on the return of many injured regulars. Tuesday night saw the second act for Claude Lemieux after an 18 game absence as well as the return of Mike Grier. "Mike is going to be a very important piece, if not the captain, of the penalty kill. We expect him to be polished up and ready to lead us in the playoffs," Todd McLellan said of Grier's return. Grier finished with 3 hits, 14:21 of ice time, and 2:14 on the penalty kill. With a new look third line of Travis Moen, Marcel Goc and Mike Grier, the Sharks coaching staff is going to look to them for a large contribution on both sides of the ice in the postseason.

Avs defenseman John-Michael Liles hit Ian Laperriere with a home run pass through the neutral zone early in the second period. Laperriere, on a clean breakaway, snapped a shot off the post and wide. The Sharks picked up their play later in the period. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff was playing a possessed game. Ehrhoff split Hannan and Vernance with a slick stickhandling move. He took a short pass from Murray in full stride, made a hard move to his backhand, held the puck with one hand on his stick before pulling himself around Hannan and snapping a shot on goal. Ehrhoff again split Hannan and Vernance in overtime, but was knocked to the ice in the process. He still managed to get a shot on goal from his stomach, but he complained to the officials when he did not receive a penalty shot.

Ehrhoff had 7 assists in his last 7 games entering the game against the Avalanche, and it is easy to forget that he was tied for the NHL defensive scoring lead in early November. ESPN analyst E.J. Hradek was recently a guest on the DOH podcast (episode 38). Hradek mentioned sophmore Devin Setoguchi as a player to keep an eye on, but he also noted that some of the talent on the Sharks blueline may be overrated. He mentioned Ehrhoff by name. In playoff series against Calgary and Dallas, several Canadian and East coast analysts made similar comments.

Last year, Ehrhoff and Murray were two of the best defensive defenseman on the Sharks. This season Ehrhoff tied the NHL defensive scoring lead in early November, before hitting some obstacles. The reason many in San Jose are so high on the German defenseman is that he has shown the ability not just to do everything well, but to do it phenomenally. The challenge for him is to put all the areas of his game together consistently, and make big plays in critical postseason situations. As it is now the Sharks have a puck moving defenseman on each pairing, Boyle on the first pair with Lukowich, Ehrhoff on the third pair with Murray, and Vlasic and Blake are each capable of moving the puck up ice on the second pair. Alexei Semenov has filled in a depth role as a 7th defenseman, and veteran Kent Huskins has yet to recover enough from an injury join the lineup after being acquired from Anaheim at the trade deadline. Depth on the blueline is not going to be a problem moving forward for San Jose.

The Sharks peppered Budaj with shots on a pair of second period power plays, but the Avalanche collapsed around him and made it difficult to get them through traffic. On the second minor called against Laperriere, a shot by Dan Boyle deflected off traffic and came to a rest directly in front of a splayed, snow angels making Budaj. Several whacks by Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi could not punch it through the mass of bodies. Colorado finished 5-5 on the penalty kill, San Jose finished 3-3.

Budaj was solid in the third period. He shut the door on Milan Michalek, before sealing the post and preventing Joe Pavelski from snapping home a rebound. The Sharks struggled with 2 turnovers playing the puck behind their net in the second and third periods. One resulted in an Avalanche shot off the post, the second forced Nabokov to make a quick reaction save to keep the puck out of the net. Versus play by play host John Ahlers and analyst Neil Smith said the Sharks were playing too non-chalant. Not the case for Pavelski, who seemed to flip a switch in the second period and dominated the last half of the game.

A late third period penalty on Cody McLeod for slashing Rob Blake and an overtime penalty on Mike Vernance for tripping Christian Ehrhoff gave the Sharks two late opportunities to put the game away. A point shot on the first power play deflected off the end boards and Jonathan Cheechoo crashed the net to try to convert a rebound. Joe Thornton intercepted a weak clearing pass and hit Jeremy Roenick at the top of the crease with a crisp pass. Budaj was forced to make a highlight reel save with a strong T-push across the crease. He robbed a point blank Jeremy Roenick shot with a glove save. Budaj has his glove in the perfect position above his leg pad as he made he move across the net. Some goaltenders move into position, then move their glove into position. Budaj's was in the right spot to make the save all the way across the crease.

On the second OT power play the Sharks set up in a star formation, with all 5 players on the perimeter, before Milan Michalek and Jeremy Roenick closed in on the net for the point shot. Michalek gathered a juicy rebound from a Vlasic point shot, and tried to stuff it under the ribs of Budaj as he was diving back to cover the post. Michalek took a couple of courtesy whacks at the puck as a player who is not listed on my roster sheet checked him off the play.

Evgeni Nabokov stopped 20 shots to earn his 41st win of the season, registering his 7th shutout. Peter Budaj stopped all 30 shots in regulation and overtime, and allowed 1 goal on 3 shootout opportunities. The Sharks finished 0-5 on the power play, the Avalanche 0-3. Mike Grier and Claude Lemieux returned after each missed 18 games due to injury. On the Sharks radio broadcast, Colorado captain Joe Sakic told radio analyst Jamie Baker that he would not rule out a return this season. Sakic also mentioned that the Sharks were the top team in the NHL, and that they would match up well against any playoff opponent. The Sharks dominated the faceoff circle 28-18, and outhit Colorado 28-23, but the Avalanched had a clear margin in blocked shots 25-13, played with more intensity, and turned the puck over less.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Photos were shot with a new camera, so it is going to take me a game or two to lock down the settings. Video highlights are available online at

[Update] Dater: Lacroix's silence may sound GM alarm - Denver Post.

Lacroix, the Avalanche's president and alternate governor, will not speak to the media about future plans regarding his general manager, Francois Giguere, or coach, Tony Granato. Again, that's no surprise with the secretive French-Canadian, but his silence is a bit more deafening than usual this time. The quieter he gets, the more people are going to speculate he might replace Giguere with himself.

[Update2] High stakes spring for these stars - Michael Farber for Sports Illustrated.

[Update3] Post game comments from Colorado Avalanche head coach and former San Jose Shark Tony Granato:

"It was a pretty good game all the way around for a 0-0 game. I thought it was very entertaining and I thought our guys had it played pretty darn solid all the way around to be in the game and we did. Obviously both goalies were extremely good. When you think of a 0-0 game you think it's a boring game. I didn't see the game as boring at all."

"They are a great team with a great goalie and Nabokov was probably the in three of the games. Nabokov was the difference in us getting points and not getting points."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Playoff Picture: Sharks battling for Presidents Trophy and West lead, Nashville, St Louis, Minnesota, Edmonton battling for playoff life

San Jose Sharks 2008-09 Playoff position and probabilities
San Jose Sharks Pacific Division 2008-09 NHL Champions

A season's worth of effort and sacrifice have left the San Jose Sharks in the enviable position of holding off the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings for the President's Trophy and the top seed in the Western Conference with 3 games remaining in the season. While other teams are battling for their playoff lives, the Sharks are balancing competing concerns; integrating the return of several injured players into the lineup, managing ice time for key contributors, possibly giving team ironmen Joe Thornton or Marc-Edouard Vlasic their first game off of the season, maximizing playoff position for better matchups and to ensure home ice advantage, and fine-tuning on ice performance among several others.

Asked last night on the debut of the new Chronicle Live sportstalk television show on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, radio analyst Jamie Baker said that hands down the Sharks should be more concerned with the first seed in the Western Conference. "What are the odds San Jose and Boston make the finals and it goes down to 7 games," Baker asked rhetorically. He added that the last time it happened in 2001 Rob Blake helped the Colorado Avalanche earn a Stanley Cup over the New Jersey Devils.

The Sharks first round WCQF series last year against Calgary is a lesson that will not soon be forgotten. After dropping 2 out of the first 3 games, San Jose bore down and emerged as the last team standing in a grueling bloody 7-game affair. Emotion and heart can help a hockey club rise above the sum of its parts to knock off a favored opponent. Any team, whether it be San Jose or Detroit, Boston or New Jersey, has to give itself every possible advantage heading into the playoffs. Expecting things to fall into place is inviting disaster.

The Sharks need 3 points to clinch first place in the Pacific Division and make the regular season tiebreaker moot (games played, games won, points earned between two tied clubs, goal differential). The Red Wings did not help their own cause with 3 straight losses to New York Islanders, Nashville and St. Louis before rebounding against Minnesota and Buffalo. Detroit finishes the season with 2 of 3 games at home, all against playoff teams. San Jose also finishes with 2 of 3 games at HP Pavilion, against the 3 last placed teams in the Western Conference (Phoenix, Los Angeles and Colorado). The Sharks amassed an NHL best 31-4-4 record at HP Pavilion, at times demoralizing teams with a relentless offensive attack early in the season.

San Jose Sharks 2008-09 defensive measureable statistics

The law of unintended consequences comes into play when examining the Sharks over the last 14 games. Since a March 12th 3-1 loss at St. Louis, with minor exceptions in Phoenix and Chicago, and a disappointing 5-2 loss to open a home-at-home with Anaheim, San Jose has adjusted to the loss of as many as 9 roster players to injuries by becoming a more sound and well rounded defensive hockey club.

San Jose Sharks head coach said there were positives in the loss to the Blues. "I thought the game in St. Louis was the first game for a potential turnaround," he said. "We didn't win the game, but we played the way we had to but didn't get the offensive chances". If they continued to play an intelligent defensive game it would bolster the team heading into the postseason he added. Unfortunately it became an immediate necessity when Rob Blake, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Tomas Plihal, Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo and Ryane Clowe were absent from the lineup with injuries. Torrey Mitchell, Jeremey Roenick, Claude Lemieux, and Mike Grier were already out, and newly acquired defenseman Kent Huskins had yet to return from injury suffered with Anaheim.

The Sharks adjusted with large minutes for newly acquired forward Travis Moen, increased roles for Jonathan Cheechoo and Jeremy Roenick when they returned to the lineup, and increased minutes for role players called up from the AHL Worcester Sharks. As Dallas analyst Darryl Reaugh noted in a recent game, despite the number of injuries San Jose was still managing minutes well for the top lines while the Stars were leaning heavily on their big guns. Todd McLellan was averaging 40-45 second shifts, while several Stars were well over the minute mark (center Mike Ribeiro was sandwiched among 4 Russians for the top average shift lengths in the NHL).

The numbers in the graph above are somewhat counter-intuitive. After sagging in February, the penalty kill picked up steam in March: Oct .842% (32-38), Nov .803% (45-56), Dec .895% (43-48), Jan .825% (33-40), Feb .767% (43-56), Mar .877% (43-49), Apr .625% (5-8). Meanwhile, total shots increased during that span: Oct 257, Nov 356, Dec 387, Jan 292, Feb 367, Mar 433, Apr 75. There were 11 total games played in October and January, 13 played in November, December and February, and 15 total games played in April. San Jose has completed 3 of 6 April contests.

Darryl Reaugh also noted that the Sharks had transformed from a free wheeling uptempo offensive style early in the season, to a more defensive get-the-puck-deep, strong forecheck and attack the neutral zone style later in the year. Born out of neccessity, the injury situation forced the Sharks to adopt a more defensive style condusive to the postseason, while leaning hard on starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Stopping pucks while the Sharks have struggled through their worst injury streak in several seasons has forced Nabokov to win games with dominant, focused efforts. He is playing his best hockey of the season now, which could be the biggest unintended consequence of them all.

Cruching the numbers raises some questions. Can the Sharks cut down on shots against? When they play a full 60 minutes over the last 14 games they can wear down opponents and grind out offense, but they have had a few off starts when not prepared to play from the drop of the puck. That can not happen in the postseason. San Jose's offensive modus operandi should remain the same: plant large forwards in front of the net, fire pucks on goal, convert rebounds, repeat. It remains to be seen how quickly key contributors can return to the lineup and get up to speed, and it remains to be seen if the Sharks can regain some of the scoring pace they captured early in the season.

San Jose Sharks down the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of the 2007 WQQF

If the playoff started today, a very helpful ESPN feature, the Sharks (1) would face Nashville (8), Detroit (2) would face Anaheim (7), Calgary (3) would face Columbus (6), and Chicago (4) would face Vancouver (5). St. Louis, Minnesota and Edmonton would be on the outside looking in.

The Nashville Predators would get another in a long line of uphill playoff battles. In 4 franchise playoff appearances the Predators have lost to the San Jose Sharks twice (each in 5 games), and to the Detroit Red Wings twice (each in 6 games). If Nashville can battle its way into the postseason this year, they will mostly likely face either San Jose or Detroit. Again.

Blogger James Mirtle recently posted a multi-part series on the development of hockey in Nashville. In an interview with Mirtle, Predators forward Steve Sullivan mentioned that Nashville has "the most passionate fans in the league". Playoff success is an integral part to building any fan base, but being playoff fodder to Stanley Cup contenders year after year has seen their underdog credentials skyrocket.

A Sharks-Nashville series would be interesting because the teams are so familiar with one another. In 2007 the Predators lead off the WCQF series with borderline dirty hits on Jonathan Cheechoo and Steve Bernier from Scott Hartnell and Alexander Radulov. Then-coach Ron Wilson went ballistic, questioning the calls by the officials, questioning the plays by Hartnell and Radulov, questioning the media and even bloggers. It was an epic tirade, but Nashville could not goon up or slow down the series against San Jose and they were out in 5 games.

Patrick Marleau happened to the Nashville Predators in 2006. "Smashville", a mobile Predators blueline, and Vokoun-replacement goaltender Chris Mason had no answer for the 675-pound Michalek-Marleau-Bernier line. Sharks captain Patrick Marleau went on a scoring tear, registering 7 goals, 1 hat trick, and 2 game winning goals in 5 games. "(Marleau) just played awesome," Joe Thornton said after one game. "Every chance we had we would give it to him because he was scoring on everything."

The Sharks registered a 2-1-1 record against the Nashville Predators this season, including a shootout win and an overtime loss. Goaltender Dan Ellis turned aside 54 of a franchise record 57 Sharks shots on goal en route to an impressive 4-3 OT win November 11th at HP Pavilion. Large 6-foot-5, 207-pound Finnish goaltender Pekka Rinne turned in a simlar performance in the other Predators win in Nashville, making 29 saves on 31 shots while earning a 3-2 win.

With injuries to David Legwand and Martin Erat, Pekka and Ellis would have to replicate those regular season efforts under duress against San Jose for a 7-game series. The Predators have neither the firepower, the size, nor enough animosity to intimidate the Sharks this season. It would boil down to a one game at a time, shock the world, Thermopylae-style scenario for the Predators. If the Sharks shoot enough pucks to blot out the lights, then they will play hockey in the shade.

Under any scenario against Detroit or San Jose, the odds would be heavily stacked against Nashville. Predators fans crunching for playoff scenarios that do not include the Wings or the Sharks are going to be disappointed. Running the table with 3 games remaining only gives them a 27% chance at the 6th seed and a date with the Calgary Flames.

The Sharks are hoping to avoid a first round matchup with either Columbus or St. Louis, two teams that have played the Sharks hard and would make for a very difficult 7-game series. St. Louis, while tied with Nashville at 86 points, loses out in the tiebreak and sits at 9th place in the West. The Blues matchup tonight with Phoenix is pivotal for their playoff future. Columbus is a pretty fair bet to finish at least 6th or 7th, but Anaheim looms large for any team unlucky enough to draw the current 7th seed. Anaheim has the hottest record in the Western Conference over the last 10 games (8-2-0), and the Ducks emerged from a home-at-home with the top seeded Sharks with a confident, physical performance. Key veterans are gone, but the additions of puck moving defenseman Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski, skill players Petteri Nokelainen, Erik Christensen, and the emergence of Bobby Ryan and Andrew Ebbett have made the Ducks in-season turnaround a masterstroke for general manager Bob Murray. A true playoff Battle of California series would be one for the ages, hopefully capturing the same intensity level as the regular season series games in 2006-07. Some of the best hockey this blog has ever seen.

[Update] Duhatschek: Red Wings and Sharks may or may not meet in Conference Finals - Snap Shots.

April 6, Globe and Mail: Steve McAllister: OK, here we go with the questions Eric. Ed Frehner from Detroit writes, Hi Eric, enjoying your work this season, as always. Is it safe to assume that San Jose and the Red Wings will meet in the Western Conference final?

Eric Duhatschek replies: Is it logical to assume that? Yes. Is it safe? No. I saw both the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks play live in Calgary on back-to-back Mondays and those two teams perfectly illustrate why everybody loves the NHL playoffs and especially why everybody loves the first round. They are both excellent teams, and at different times can be wildly entertaining, but each has a potential Achilles heel; in Detroit, it's goaltending; and in San Jose, it is the weight of heavy expectation.

Mike Babcock, the Red Wings' coach, had a great answer when asked about the upcoming playoffs, noting how that opening round is always a mine field, because whichever team happens to grab that seventh or eighth spot is on a high -- they've obviously finished strong and now anything they can accomplish in the playoffs is a bonus, so they play loose and freely, the way Atlanta and some of these other also-rans have in the past little while. Meanwhile, the pressure is heavy on those who wear the crown, so to speak. In short, there are no sure things for either the Red Wings or the Sharks and if teams of that calibre are vulnerable, well, you'd have to think that there are a lot of teams thinking, 'why not us?' going into the first round.

[Update2] Playoff countdown: Ducks showing some life - USA Today.

[Update3] Why we're all pretty much jealous of St. Louis right now - Yahoo's Puck Daddy.

[Note] I have been on vacation since last weekend, posting should resume as normal tonight with possibly a new addition or two.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Take Another Step Toward Playoffs With 3-2 Win Over Manchester

The Worcester Sharks ran their winning streak to four games and jumped into third place in the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division after a 3-2 victory over the Manchester Monarchs Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire in front of 9,118 fans.

The WorSharks would grab the first goal of the game when Tom Cavanagh fed Ryan Vesce into the offensive zone to the left of Manchester goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Vesce would fire a hard wrister over the left shoulder of Bernier for his 23rd of the season and the 1-0 Worcester lead at 12:35 of the first period.

Manchester would get the equalizer on the power play half way through the second period when Thomas Hickey, playing in his third AHL game after four seasons with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, notched his first pro goal after intercepting a clearing attempt by Vesce and beating WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss to the far corner.

Worcester would retake the lead at 17:22 of the middle stanza when Patrick Traverse would fire a cannon shot from the blueline just wide of the Manchester net. Dan DaSilva was able to get his stick on the shot and deflected it past a sprawling Bernier for the 2-1 lead.

The WorSharks would get a needed insurance marker from an unlikely source--Kyle McLaren. Playing in just his second game after missing 50 games due to a hand/wrist injury, fired a 60' blast that hit two Monarchs on the way through the pack and bounced past Bernier for the 3-1 lead at 8:35 of the third period.

The Monarchs would get within one when Viatcheslav Voynov nearly shot one through the net that Greiss had no chance to grab, flying into the far corner before Greiss could even react.

Manchester would continue to press trying to grab the equalizer, but Worcester's tenacious forechecking and strong play at their own blue line kept the Monarchs at bay. The Monarchs would get one final chance with six seconds to go when referee Francis Charron called Kyle McLaren for intentionally knocking the net off the pegs and awarded Manchester with a penalty shot.

Matt Moulson took the shot for Manchester and tried to stuff the puck in under Greiss' left leg. Greiss held his ground, and with a clean Worcester win on the ensuing face-off Worcester took another step toward the Calder Cup playoffs.

With Logan Couture being assigned to Worcester and the return of several recalled and injured players, Worcester had several healthy scratches. Mike Fornataro, Matt Jones, Trent Campbell, and P.J. Fenton all sat the game out. Worcester went with seven defensemen, with Brett Westgarth taking a forward spot on the fourth line. Westgarth, who played forward for a few games earlier this season, stepped right in and had a decent game, drawing a penalty for holding on Viatcheslav Voynov after a nice steal at the Worcester blue line.

Worcester controls its own playoff destiny. Despite both Portland and Manchester having games in hand over Worcester--both play those games today--should the WorSharks win their final three games in regulation they will qualify no matter what any other division rival does. Worcester has games on Wednesday (Portland), Friday (Manchester), and Saturday (Providence).

Worcester finished its regular season road schedule with a record of 18-20-1-1, and on a franchise record five game winning streak.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Greiss (34 saves)
2. Hickey (g,a)
3. Moore (a, defensive play)
Honorable mentions go to Tom Cavanagh (2a) and Frazer McLaren (overall play)

Even Strength Lines


WOR 1 1 1 - 3
MCH 0 1 1 - 2

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester, Vesce 23 (Cavanagh, Moore), 12:35
Penalties: Kaspar Wor (hooking), 8:19; Clune Mch (elbowing), 18:40.

2nd Period
Scoring: 2, Manchester, Hickey 1 (Moulson, Murray), 10:42 (pp). 3, Worcester, DaSilva 5 (Traverse, Demers), 17:22
Penalties: Azevedo Mch (holding the stick), 3:15; Voynov Mch (holding), 5:59; Couture Wor (holding the stick), 9:57; Armstrong Wor (roughing), 12:00; Bagnall Mch (roughing), 12:00; Parse Mch (hooking), 17:46.

3rd Period
Scoring: 4, Worcester, McLaren 1 (Kaspar, Cavanagh), 8:35. 5, Manchester, Voynov 7 (Hickey, Moulson), 12:59
Penalties: No Penalties.

Missed penalty shot: Moulson Mch, 19:54 3rd period; rule 63.5

Shots on Goal
Worcester 14-14-8-36
Manchester 9-18-9-36.

Power-play opportunities: Worcester 0 of 4; Manchester 1 of 2.

Worcester, Greiss 28-23-2 (36 shots-34 saves)
Manchester, Bernier 22-23-4 (36 shots-33 saves).

A-9,118. Referee: Francis Charron (47). Linesmen: Jeremy Lovett (78), Mike O'Neill (35).