Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sharks smother Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin 5-2, two penalty shots and secondary scoring help Sharks to 6th straight win

Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin checks San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray hockey hit

Notes from the San Jose Sharks 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals will be posted soon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

East vs West showdown, San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals pre-game notes and photos

San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Marleau named to 2010 Winter Olympics Team Canada hockey team
Washington Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore practice San Jose
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov named to 2010 Russian Olympic hockey team

- The San Jose Sharks (24-8-7, 1st Pacific, t-1st West, t-1st NHL) gear up for an early 7PM game tonight against the Washington Capitals (24-9-6, 1st Southeast, 2nd East, 4th NHL) which could determine first place overall in the NHL. Riding high after an entire forward line was nabbed for Team Canada's 2010 Olympic roster, Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton an Dany Heatley will have an opportunity to preview the offensive firepower they bring to the table against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

Almost immediately following the Olympic selections announced by executive director Steve Yzerman, a debate and intricate parsing of the players left off the roster began. The addition of San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle and young LA Kings blueliner Drew Doughty resulted in the absence of NHL defensive scoring leader Mike Green (Washington) and hard nosed Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. Including Boston center Patrice Bergeron left off heart and soul players like Phoenix captain Shane Doan and Philadelphia's Jeff Carter. Any selections Team Canada made were going to leave off quality players, but the management staff created a roster that was "mentally strong" and comprised with a number of "team leaders" according to Yzerman.

Globe and Mail columnist Eric Duhatschek noted that the immediate focus on bubble players will not be as important as the tournament performance of key contributors. Possible Crosby-Getzlaf-Iginla and Marleau-Thornton-Heatley scoring lines are as potent and adaptable as any in the game. The fact that Team Canada selected an entire San Jose Sharks forward line could eliminate any feeling out process and make them dangerous from the first drop of the puck. "That's going to make the experience that much better, being there with friends," Patrick Marleau told "There will be a little more confidence being on the ice and going to the rink."

Duhatschek also mentions Marleau's vesatility, moving from wing to center, and his familiary with Thornton and Marleau. That undersells Marleau's selection somehwat. His performance on the penalty kill and his speed creates scoring chances and draws penalties regularly. Along with Thornton at the start of 2008-09, both players displayed a nasty edge to their game that was not as evident in previous seasons. At this point in 2009-10 with the Sharks rolling on a 5-game winning streak, it is Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley being repeatedly noticed by opposing broadcasts for their physical play and back pressure. Everyone knows what all 3 players do well, it is the unexpected aspects of their game that will raise eyebrows in Vancouver.

Chicago Blackhawks teammates Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, and a possible Dan Boyle-Chris Pronger defensive pairing could also benefit from immediate chemistry. "I'm looking to make an impact this year," San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle told the TSN live Olympic selection broadcast after being named to the team. Boyle described skating with Pronger at the 2006 and 2010 Olympic camps, and noted that they could make a formidable pairing this time around.

- Also named to Team Germany's roster today was San Jose Sharks backup goaltender Thomas Greiss. Greiss has previous experience playing for Germany at the 2006 Olympics, 2005 World Championships and 2003 World Junior Championships. Greiss joins a bevy of former Sharks on Team Germany along with former Sharks goaltending prospect Dimitri Patzold, and former Sharks Marcel Goc (Nashville), Marco Sturm (Boston) and Christian Ehrhoff (Vancouver).

Germany has its work cut out in a difficult Group C with Sweden, Finland and Belarus. With only 12 players returning from the Olympic qualification team and only 6 NHL'ers, the pressure will be on Greiss immediately. Sharks fans and Team Germany fans should look to see how well he can manage the defense in front of him, and how well he can inspire teammates in critical situations with big saves. A solid performance by Greiss in the Olympics could help him step into a larger backup role for the San Jose Sharks down the stretch.

- In an interview on CSNBA's Chronicle Live, Alexander Ovechkin discussed scoring 2 goals on Evgeni Nabokov back in October (a 4-1 Caps win), it was the first time he scored against the San Jose Sharks. "It is a pretty good feeling when you score on any team, especially when I was a little kid my favorite team was San Jose," Ovechkin told Greg Papa. "I was nervous when I played against them, but I am happy I scored. Nabokov is a great goalie, and a good friend of mine, I am pretty happy when I scored against him."

It was a departure from a 7-2 thrashing the Capitals received visiting the Tank in November of 2008. The Sharks came at Washington in waves, and by the end of the third period Ovechkin was focused on delivering a physical message to defenseman Douglas Murray more than putting points on the board.

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis graciously took time out of his schedule to answer a number of hockey and technology related questions prior to that meeting. Leonsis and the San Jose Sharks have been two of the most forward looking ownership groups in the NHL. The league, the fans, and the players are better for their participation.

- The Sharks had a light practice this morning. Right wing Brad Staubitz (out for 17 games with an upper body injury), stayed late along with left wing Jody Shelley (out for 21 games) and defenseman Jay Leach to work on conditioning and getting shots on goal from close quarters.

The Washington Capitals were a much more loose team on the ice for the morning practice. Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich each practiced the swiveling over-the-head rugby shot. Ovechkin also bounced the puck on his stick Tiger Woods style before launching a baseball swing pass across the ice. The Capitals worked on transition drills, moving the puck through the neutral zone with speed, 2-on-1's and stretch passes, and short quick passes in the defensive zone. Jose Theodore looked focused and quick in goal, word on if he will be the designated starter should come soon.

According to Tarik El-Bashir in the Washington Post, defenseman Mike Green was disappointed to be left of the 2010 Team Canada roster. "Obviously, (I'm) very disappointed... I really wanted to be a part of that team and felt like I did everything I could. I don't have any regrets. They obviously had something different in mind," Green told the Post.

The Capitals also recently pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Milan Jurcina and team captain Chris Clark to Columbus for tough left wing Jason Chimera. Chimera has a history against San Jose. Japers Rink crunches his career numbers, but with Chimera he brings an edge to his game that is not always present on the score sheet. Ovechkin, Tom Poti and Mike Knuble are listed as alternate captains for tonight's game in SJ with the captain's position remaining unfilled. Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times suggests Ovechkin, Laich or Backstrom for the captaincy.

A photo gallery from the morning practice is available here.

- The Sharks 22-player roster averages 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, 28.3 yrs vs Washington's 6-foot-2, 206 pound average, 27.7 yrs. The Sharks are 18-0-4 when leading after 2 periods, 0-7-1 when trailing after 2. Alexander Ovechkin is an offensive machine for Washington, he leads the team in points (49), goals (25), t-1st power play goals (7), game winning goals (4), penalty minutes (46), shots (167) and +/- (+19).

Washington's power play is 2nd in the NHL (37-153, 24.4%), t-5th on the road (18-76, 23.7%), and the road penalty kill is 29th (22-82, 73.3%). The San Jose Sharks power play has dropped to 9th in the NHL (32-152, 21.1%), 28th in the NHL at home (10-70, 14.3%). The penalty kill ranks 2nd in the NHL at home (7-71, 90.1%). Washington trails the alltime series against San Jose with a 9-15-1-1 record. The Capitals snapped an 11-game losing streak vs San Jose with a 4-1 win October 12th, but remain winless at HP Pavilion since October 30, 1993. Hat tip to Nate Ewell and Japers Rink for the statistic.

- Jeff Schultz is Worth More Than You Think - Eric McErlain for

- A majority of media attention will focus on tonight's meeting with Eastern Conference powerhouse Washington, and last Tuesday's win over the Best in the West Chicago Blackhawks, but the matchups with the most lasting implication may be a pair of games this week against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Sharks edged out Phoenix with a 3-2 shootout win at HP Pavilion on Monday night. The Coyotes could have gained first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

San Jose's shootout specialist Joe Pavelski used the patented "Pavelski move" for the deciding OT shootout tally, but the Coyotes pressed hard down the stretch. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov shut the door on several quality scoring chances, and Shane Doan and defenseman Keith Yandle were causing problems each time they touched the puck. A post on Yandle, and a pair of glove saves by Evgeni Nabokov barely kept the Coyotes off the board in thrilling OT.

One night later Coyotes backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera let in a short side goal by Kyle Wellwood to allow the Vancouver Canucks a late 2-2 tie in the third. LaBarbera played well up until that point, but he finished with 28 saves on 30 shots and stopped every OT shootout attempt to earn a clutch 3-2 win. The Coyotes are battling hard against the top teams in the Western Conference, and they are establishing themselves as a legitimate playoff contender under head coach Dave Tippett.

Sharks winger Jed Ortmeyer was promoted to the second line with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe on Monday night against Phoenix, but Devin Setoguchi was given an in-game promotion up to the second line as an opportunity to regain form. Setoguchi finished with a goal, 5 shots and 3 hits, but he took a critical tripping penalty in OT that put the Sharks behind the 8-ball. "It’s no secret he has been sent a message from the coaching staff. He needs to pick up his game. He played pretty well the other night against Anaheim but we didn’t think he deserved a promotion. This time he came and had a couple of good early shifts. Now it’s up to him. I don’t care where he plays but we need him to play," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of Setoguchi.

[Update] After shock of trade, Caps look ahead to Sharks - Capitals Insider.

Darryl Hunt: Zalewski, WorSharks Crown Monarchs, 5-2

The Worcester Sharks used two goals by Steven Zalewski to defeat the Manchester Monarchs in a rate Tuesday night contest at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,836 fans.

The WorSharks would get on the board just six seconds into their first power play chance of the game. After a clean face-off win by Logan Couture to Joe Callahan at the blueline, Callahan would slide a return pass as Couture set up shop at the half boards to the right of Manchester goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Couture found Zalewski standing all alone between the circles, and Zalewski’s heavy one-timer found the back of the net at 5:56.

Worcester would make it 2-0 at 7:28 on another clean faceoff win by Couture. This time Couture won the draw back to Danny Groulx, and Groulx’s blast through a screen defected right back to Couture. Couture wasted no time and found Benn Ferriero all alone in the slot, and Ferriero blasted the puck past Bernier to light the lamp.

Worcester would grab another goal at 5:08 of the second skating with an extra attacker while referee Ghislain Hebert had his arm raised to call a delayed penalty on Manchester. The WorSharks had several great scoring chances with the extra man, and the home town team would finally connect when John McCarthy just get a small piece of Nick Petrecki’s blueline blast and deflected it over Bernier to make it 3-0.

Manchester would finally stop the bleeding at 12:25 of the second when a power play tally by Patrick Mullen beat WorSharks netminder Alex Stalock, who was screened on the play.

It would be a 4-1 lead for Worcester when Zalewski notched his second marker of the game. The play would be set up by Derek Joslin’s blast over the net, and the loose puck was picked up by Ferriero. Ferriero found Zalewski standing all alone and fed him an easy pass that Zalewski bombed on net. Bernier looked to be distracted by Couture, who jumped high in the air to avoid being hit with the blast.

Manchester would grab a second power play tally at 2:13 of the third period to make it 4-2 when Juraj Mikus put in a rebound of a Viatcheslav Voynov shot from the point. Worcester played mostly defensive hockey the rest of the period, defending the front of the net and allowing Manchester very few legitimate scoring chances.

Ordinarily empty net goals don’t make highlight reels, but Dennis McCauley’s certainly would be a highlight of the game. After a fairly long shift by the WorSharks fourth line, Manchester pulled Bernier in favor of an extra attacker, and kept the fourth liners on the ice for well over a minute as the Monarchs continued to keep the puck in the Worcester zone. At one point McCauley and defenseman Michael Wilson pinned four Manchester forwards behind the Worcester net by kicking the puck along the backboards. With all five Worcester players tiring, Wilson finally got control of the puck and decided to ice it toward the open net to give the defenders at least a small breather.

But McCauley had other ideas, and despite being on the ice for well over a minute out hustled the Manchester defense down to the Monarchs end and pushed the loose puck into the open net at 18:59 for the 5-2 final. McCauley was so tired after the play he could barely celebrate, and spent several seconds on the bench with his head down trying to catch his breath.

Worcester scratches were Joe Loprieno (healthy), Dean Strong (healthy), Ryan Vesce (day to day, groin), and Mitch Versteeg (healthy). Tyson Sexsmith was the back-up goaltender.

The American Hockey League announced its Canadian All Star team for the 2010 All Star Classic in Portland, Maine on January 19, 2010. Rookie Logan Couture was voted in as a starter, and defenseman Danny Groulx was named to the squad by committee of AHL coaches. Manchester's goaltender Jonathan Bernier was voted as the starting goaltender for Team Canada. The Planet-USA squad will be named Wednesday.

NHL veteran and Manchester center Shawn Bates took a very ugly fall late in the second period off a faceoff in the Monarchs zone. It was hard to tell if he and a Worcester player got tangled up or if his skate dug in and he rolled over his right knee/ankle. Bates needed help getting up and couldn't put any weight on the leg as he was helped to the bench. When the period ended he needed help off the ice and it still appeared as if he couldn't put any weight on it. Not surprisingly, Bates wasn't on the bench for the 3rd period.

The three stars of the game were
1. Zalewski (2g)
2. Ferriero (g,a)
3. Couture (2a,+3)

Steven Zalewski was named the AHL's third star of the night.

The Sharkspage player of the game was Nick Petrecki.

Even strength lines


Penalty kill lines


Power play lines


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

1st Period-1, Worcester, Zalewski 11 (Callahan, Couture), 5:56 (pp). 2, Worcester, Ferriero 7 (Groulx, Couture), 7:28. Penalties-served by McCauley Wor (bench minor - too many men), 2:41; Elkins Mch (hooking), 5:50; Clune Mch (fighting), 13:00; McCauley Wor (fighting), 13:00.

2nd Period-3, Worcester, McCarthy 6 (Petrecki, DaSilva), 5:08. 4, Manchester, Mullen 3 (Holloway, Meckler), 12:25 (pp). 5, Worcester, Zalewski 12 (Joslin, Ferriero), 18:05. Penalties-Bernier Mch (delay of game), 7:07; Wilson Wor (interference), 10:29.

3rd Period-6, Manchester, Mikus 3 (Voynov, Holloway), 2:13 (pp). 7, Worcester, McCauley 2 (Wilson, Henderson), 18:59 (en). Penalties-Groulx Wor (delay of game), 0:33; Wilson Wor (interference), 6:50.

Shots on Goal
Manchester 6-4-7-17
Worcester 15-18-7-40.

Power Play Opportunities
Manchester 2 of 4
Worcester 1 of 2.

Manchester, Bernier 16-9-2 (39 shots-35 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 17-8-1 (17 shots-15 saves).

A-3,836. Referee-Ghislain Hebert (49). Linesmen-Bob Paquette (18), Jack Millea (23).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hockey Notes - 12/28

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov named to 2010 Russian Olympic hockey team
San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray named to Team Sweden Olympic hockey team

On Christmas Day in the U.S., San Jose Sharks starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was named to the Russian 2010 Olympic hockey team. Nabokov previously represented Russia in the 2006 Torino Olympics, registering a .940SV%, 1.34GAA, and 3 shutouts to help his national team to a 4th place finish. In the 2008 World Championships, the "Capital line" of Ovechkin-Semenov-Federov put the favored Team Canada on its heels, and Ilya Kovalchuck notched the game winning goal to give Russia a Gold Medal. Nabokov made 25 saves in that pivotal 5-4 OT win over Canada, earning "best goaltender" and "Team MVP" honors for his tournament performance.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native is peaking at the end of December, stopping 131 of 138 shots against en route to a 4-game winstreak over Anaheim (2), Dallas and Chicago. In 5 preceeding defeats, each by 1 goal (including 2 shootout losses), Nabokov stopped 157 of 173 shots against as his team struggled in front of him. Agressively challenging shooters at the top of the crease, Nabokov is focused and combative when he is on his game. Strong communication with his defense and an underrated ability to move the puck up ice make him a complete goaltender capable of carrying a team deep in a short tournament.

According to Ryane Clowe on CSNCA, Nabokov met with legendary Russian goaltender and Team Russia GM Vladislav Tretiak prior to his 45-save performance against the Chicago Blackhawks. "It’s an honor to play for the national team and be with the guys you play against. A lot of them are top top top players in the world and being in the same group with them is a pleasure," Nabokov said of his selection to Mercury News beat writer David Pollak.

6-foot-3, 210-pound Ilya Bryzgalov is also peaking heading into Team Russia's Olympic selections. With 9 wins, 2 shutouts, a 1.82GAA and .937SV% over the last month of play, Bryzgalov is playing the best hockey of his 5+ year NHL career. The edge in consistency and experience goes to Nabokov, and barring any hiccups he should be starting in goal for Team Russia.

More analysis available from, Dmitry Chesnokov at's Puck Daddy, and Russian Hockey blogger Marat Ryndin at

- Also named to Team Sweden for the 2010 Winter Olympics Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver was San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray. Murray's brother and father were in town to watch him play one night earlier against a fiesty Anaheim Ducks squad. Murray joins a deep Team Sweden blueline along with Tobias Enstrom (Atlanta Thrashers), Magnus Johansson (Linkopings HC), Niklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings), Nicklas Lidstrom (Detroit Red Wings), Johnny Oduya (New Jersey Devils), Mattias Ohlund (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Henrik Tallinder (Buffalo Sabres).

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Douglas Murray plays a simple, intelligent game in his own zone. Proper positioning and solid angles allow him to fit in seamlessly with Dan Boyle for his first season as a top pairing defenseman in San Jose. He has also quickly developed into a leadership role. Head coach Todd McLellan mentioned earlier in the season that Murray is a player other players look to in the locker room.

The physical side of the game is where Murray excels. Known as one of the most effective body checkers in the NHL, Murray also clears bodies out of the crease like a snowplow. Along with Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray could be one of the most intimidating players on San Jose ice since former captain Owen Nolan. Local hockey blog Fear the Fin labeled Murray "the most physical defenseman in San Jose since Bryan Marchment", but Sharks and Team Sweden fans will see a player just entering his prime.

"Murray is a pretty solid guy, I think he is one of the heavier guys in the league. I was pretty excited when he fell there, I can't believe he actually fell. I was trying, but he is such a heavy guy, he is a competitor. It is not fair, he has about 75 pounds on me. Guys are giving it to me for being a bowling pin out there." - Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla told HNIC about successfully checking Douglas Murray.

- Team Sweden selects San Jose Sharks' Douglas Murray - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

McLellan called Murray "one of the most improved players" over the past season and a half, and said the entire organization was pleased to see him going to Vancouver.

Murray, 29, played for Sweden in the 2008 World Championships, but this will be his first time at the Olympics. Sweden enters the Vancouver games defending its gold medal.

- Team Sweden's sleeper - Darren Eliot for

- Overall goaltending rankings by #3 Ilya Bryzgalov (22--10-2, .926SV%, 2.02GAA, 5SO), #4 Evgeni Nabokov (20-5-7, .925SV%, 2.32GAA, 2SO), and Russia's alternate goaltender #15 Semyon Varlamov (12-1-2, .924SV%, 2.21GAA, 2SO).

- Globe Sports reporters Eric Duhatschek, James Mirtle and Sean Gordon all selected Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley for Team Canada's 2010 Olympic squad on the latest roundtable podcast. Team Canada will name the Men's Olympic roster December 30th at the IIHF World Junior Championships in Saskatoon.

Team USA will announce its 2010 Women's hockey team December 30th at the Mall of America in Minnesota. The Men's team will be announced on NBC immediaely after the January 1st Winter Classic broadcast of the Boston and Philadelphia game at Fenway Park. The 97-year old venue is the oldest major league ballpark still in use.

According to Team USA general manager Brian Burke, the American contingent needs to make the right decision with every selection to go deep in the short tournament. "Canada can be wrong on three or four players and it's not going to change their team, we have to be right on evey guy," Burke told the Globe and Mail. Former San Jose Sharks and current Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson will lead the USA squad along with assistant coaches Scott Gordon (NYI head coach) and John Tortorella (NYR head coach). A half dozen NHL general managers met with Burke and USA Hockey officials at the recent BOG meetings in Pebble Beach to finalize their selections.

- The final countdown for United States, Canada - Pierre LeBrun for

Burke, of course, would not discuss any players. Had I officially asked, I'm sure he would have responded with a profanity-laced tirade. But I'm going to guess one of Monday's debates revolved around the No. 2 center job, with Scott Gomez and Joe Pavelski the leading candidates as far as I can see. (I think Paul Stastny is the safe bet at the No. 1 spot.) Burke scouted Pavelski firsthand Dec. 17 in San Jose, but he also got a live look at Gomez on Saturday night in Montreal's 3-2 win over Burke's Maple Leafs.

On one hand, Gomez has much more experience, but Pavelski is having the better season. Like all of these Olympic roster decisions at this point, it's a tough call. The safer pick is Gomez; the gutsier pick is the younger Pavelski. If I were deciding, I'd take the San Jose Sharks pivot.

- In his latest blog post, San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle wished his fans Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and called the 2009-10 season "the toughest year for me yet physically."

San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak broke the news on his blog in late October that Boyle began the season with a broken thumb, but he opted to play through it. In the final seconds of a 2-1 win at Phoenix on December 12th, Boyle tried to check Taylor Pyatt against the boards but ended up injured as a result of an awkward collision.

According to several insiders, Team Canada's defensive selections may come down to offensive defenseman Mike Green (Washington) and Dan Boyle (SJ) for the sixth and final Olympic position. Green registered a solid start to 2009-10 season with 8 goals, 28 assists, 16 power play points (2G, 14A), and 103 shots on goal. Boyle registered an equally hot start with 7 goals, 24 assists, 15 power play points (3G, 12A) and 90 shots on goal. In his second year under head coach Todd McLellan's system, Boyle has taken leaps defensively and in a leadership role, but he has struggled with injuries. Prior to Monday night's game with Phoenix, the Sharks have had a leisurely schedule with only 4 games played in the last 15 days (including the holiday break).

- From a NBC press release on Winter Classic III:

(Play-by-play host Mike Emrick) "You should’ve seen Brian Boucher this summer. He’s from Woonsocket, R.I. When he was at Fenway Park for the press conference, you could see in his eye he didn’t want to think anything ill of Ray Emery or anyone else. But he wants to play in this game for the Flyers. We were talking with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, another New Englander who grew up spending a lot of summers at Fenway Park, and how he’s excited getting to coach a hockey game there. On skates and with this his stick raised to maximum heights, Zdeno Chara can get one third of the way up the Monster. Not bad."

- Former San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau scored his 300th and 301st career goals en route to a 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night (video highlights). The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Saskatchewan native holds almost every franchise scoring mark for the San Jose Sharks including games played (909), goals (301), assists (350), points (651), power play goals (91), game winning goals (53), shots on goal (2050) and several others.

How Marleau's franchise-leading goal scoring mark stands up against the rest of the league:

Anaheim Ducks --- Teemu Selanne 366
Atlanta Thrashers --- Ilya Kovalchuck 319
Boston Bruins --- John Bucyk 545
Buffalo Sabres --- Gilbert Perreault 512
Carolina Hurricanes --- Ron Francis 382
Chicago Blackhawks --- Bobby Hull 604
Colorado Avalanche --- Joe Sakic 625
Columbus Blue Jackets --- Rick Nash 213
Dallas Stars --- Mike Modano 548
Detroit Red Wings --- Gordie Howe 786
Edmonton Oilers --- Wayne Gretzky 583
Florida Panthers --- Olli Jokinen 188
Los Angeles Kings --- Luc Robitaille 557
Minneosta Wild --- Marian Gaborik 219
Montreal Canadiens --- Maurice Richard 544
Nashville Predators --- David Legwand 149
New Jersey Devils --- John MacLean 347
New York Islanders --- Mike Bossy 573
New York Rangers --- Rod Gilbert 406
Ottawa Senators --- Daniel Alfredsson 364
Philadelphia Flyers --- Bill Barber 420
Phoenix Coyotes --- Dale Hawerchuk 379
Pittsburgh Penguins --- Mario Lemieux 690
San Jose Sharks --- Patrick Marleau 301
St. Louis Blues --- Brett Hull 527
Tampa Bay Lightning --- Vincent Lecavalier 311
Toronto Maple Leafs --- Mats Sundin 420
Vancouver Canucks --- Markus Naslund 346
Washington Capitals --- Peter Bondra 472

- American celebrity gossip publisher TMZ is planning to enter the sports world fulltime with according to the New York Times. "I don't really see a difference between a sports star and a celebrity," executive producer Harvey Levin said. Given the somewhat rough transition the NHL had in dealing with new media coverage, each and every team needs to have a plan in place to prepare its players for 24-7 celebrity sports coverage.

- Getting To Know: Jed Ortmeyer - Mark Malinowski for

Favorite Players To Watch: "I like to watch a lot of my old teammates from school, see how they're doing. That's who, most of the time, I watch. See what they're up to – (Mike) Cammalleri, Andy Hilbert, Mike Comrie, (Mike) Komisarek, Jeff Jillson, there's a lot of them."

- More notes will be posted soon.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Defeat Devils, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks held the American Hockey League's second ranked offense to just 17 shots and poured on 41 of their own in a 3-2 victory over the Lowell Devils Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

After a scoreless first period where the WorSharks outshot the Devils 11-4, Logan Couture would put Worcester on the board on a deflected pass from behind the goal line. Couture was heading to the end boards to grab a loose puck after Benn Ferriero's shot was blocked, and with his back to the net his backhand pass attempt to Steven Zalewski in the slot banked in off the right skate of Lowell netminder Mike McKenna and into the net for his 11th of the season at 1:39. Zalewski's original feed to Ferriero earned him the second assist.

The Devils had a golden chance to knot the game when referee Ghislain Hebert awarded Lowell's captain Stephen Gionta a penalty shot after calling Dwight Helminen for hooking down Gionta on a breakaway attempt at 7:58 of the second, but Gionta fired his attempt over the net.

Worcester would make it 2-0 at 14:23 of the second when Andrew Desjardins would bang a rebound of a Dan DaSilva shot into a wide open net. John McCarthy sent an easy pass to DaSilva, who blasted it on net with McKenna making the save. But McKenna was unable to control the rebound at the far post, and Desjardins was there for his eighth tally of the season.

Lowell would cut the lead in half at 17:43 when Ben Walter banged home a loose rebound in the crease just two seconds after Worcester had killed off a Lowell power play. WorSharks goaltender Alex Stalock had made two saves from in close, but his diving attempt to cover the puck was just a split second too late.

Brandon Mashinter would give Worcester its two goal lead back at 6:58 of the third when he flipped a rebound of a Joe Callahan shot over McKenna and just under the crossbar from a bad angle. Keven Henderson fed Callahan from the right faceoff circle, and with no good passing lane to a forward, Callahan blasted the puck on net.

Left winger Nick Palmieri would get Lowell back within one at 3-2 when he scooped up a loose puck off a WorSharks faceoff win and wheeled right on net, beating Stalock with a backhand at 11:10. But that was as close as Lowell would get as Worcester's forecheck kept McKenna in the net until very late in the period.

Worcester went with the same line up as Saturday with one exception, Dennis McCauley dressed in place of Dean Strong on the 4th line. McCauley did what he does best, pummeling Myles Stoesz in a battle of heavyweights, sending Stoesz to the locker room for some cut work after their one sided battle.

If it weren't for bad luck, T.J. Trevelyan wouldn't have any luck at all. While sitting on the bench early in the first period, a Lowell clearing attempt hit him in the nose area. Trevelyan, who was playing in just his second game since returning from a broken jaw, was not only wearing an AHL mandatory visor but also a lower face cage to protect his still healing jaw. Somehow the puck found its way between the small opening between the two that resulted in some cut work by trainer Matt White. Trevelyan did not miss a shift.

Every Worcester player except one had at least one shot on goal, the lone exception was first line winger Steven Zalewski. It was just the second time this season Zalewski went shotless, the first time being November 13th at Lowell. In 113 regular season AHL games, Zalewski has been held shotless in just nine of them.

The three stars of the game were
1. Brandon Mashinter (gwg)
2. Andrew Desjardins (g)
3. Michael Swift (2a)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Logan Couture.

Even strength lines


Penalty kill lines


Power play lines


Lowell 0 1 1 - 2
Worcester 0 2 1 - 3

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Groulx Wor (tripping), 14:52.

2nd Period-1, Worcester, Couture 11 (Zalewski, Ferriero), 1:39. 2, Worcester, Desjardins 8 (DaSilva, McCarthy), 14:23. 3, Lowell, Walter 11 (Swift, Halischuk), 17:43. Penalties-Perkovich Low (hooking), 2:00; Henderson Wor (boarding), 5:55; Stoesz Low (fighting), 8:42; McCauley Wor (fighting), 8:42; Moore Wor (hooking), 15:41.

3rd Period-4, Worcester, Mashinter 8 (Callahan, Henderson), 6:58. 5, Lowell, Palmieri 11 (Swift), 11:10. Penalties-Groulx Wor (interference), 7:26.

Missed Penalty Shot-Gionta, 7:58 of 2nd period (rule 55.5)

Shots on Goal
Lowell 4-6-7-17
Worcester 11-17-13-41.

Power Play Opportunities
Lowell 0 of 4
Worcester 0 of 1.

Lowell, McKenna 11-8-0 (41 shots-38 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 16-8-1 (17 shots-15 saves).

A-2,749. Referee-Ghislain Hebert (49). Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Bob Bernard (4).

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Pound Listless Falcons 7-2

The Worcester Sharks returned to action after their week long holiday break and used multiple point nights from eight different players to defeat the Springfield Falcons 7-2 Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 3,473 fans.

The WorSharks would open the scoring with a shorthanded tally 6:23 into the opening period when Logan Couture chased down a Mike Moore clearing pass deep in the Falcons zone. Couture held the puck in the face off circle to the right of Springfield netminder Jean-Philippe Levasseur, waiting for a well covered Benn Ferriero to race into the slot. Couture never took his eyes off Ferriero, and threw a perfect tape to tape pass that Ferriero reached out and deflected past Levasseur for the 1-0 lead.

Dan DaSilva would make it 2-0 at 10:10 of the first when he flipped a rebound of a Andrew Desjardins shot into a wide open net. DaSilva had originally fed Desjardins from behind the net, and then raced around the far post to gather the rebound that Levasseur couldn’t control. John McCarthy had the second assist on the play.

Worcester would convert on a two man advantage to make it 3-0. With the fans getting restless because of the WorSharks continued passing along the perimeter, two quick shots by Joe Callahan and Danny Groulx silenced the buzzing crowd, and Steven Zalewski got them up on their feet when he banged home a rebound at 16:29.

Worcester would continue the onslaught in the middle period when Callahan would net a power play tally of his own with a 50’ laser from just inside the blue line that snuck through traffic and beat Levasseur over the left shoulder for the 4-0 lead. Zalewski and Ferriero had the assists on the goal at 2:55.

Couture would make it 5-0 when he snatched up a rebound of a Moore blast from the blue line and flipped the puck through the legs of Falcons defenseman Cody Wild at 14:40. Ferriero had the second assist on the goal.

The Falcons would show a brief sign of life at 17:28 of the second when Groulx threw a clearing pass right on to the tape of Springfield right winger Bill Thomas’ stick. Thomas would skate to the net unmolested and flip a backhander off the post to the right of WorSharks goaltender Alex Stalock and into the net to make it 5-1.

Springfield head coach Rob Daum replaced starter Levasseur with Aaron Sorochan to start the third period, and it took Worcester just 26 seconds to welcome him to the game. McCarthy picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and drove past Falcons defensemen Alex Plante and Dean Arsene. McCarthy then wheeled to the front of the net in a near carbon copy of his goal last Friday night against Manchester, and beat Sorochan to the far post with a backhander to make it 6-1.

Worcester would make it 7-1 on another Couture to Ferriero connection at 6:05, with Moore tallying another assist on the goal. The Falcons would grab a stat killer power play tally by Taylor Chorney at 7:12 for the 7-2 final. The loss for Springfield extended their winless streak to 14 games

Worcester made a handful of roster changes during the holiday week, recalling Tyson Sexsmith from his two game stint in Kalamazoo and releasing Ryan Nie from his PTO. Worcester also made a defensive switch, sending Will Colbert back to the K-Wings and recalling Mitch Versteeg.

Worcester's healthy scratches were Joe Loprieno, Dennis McCauley, and Mitch Versteeg. Ryan Vesce missed the game due to being "banged up"--at least that's the official story from the WorSharks--and T.J. Trevelyan returned to action wearing a protective lower face cage after missing 17 games with a broken jaw.

Worcester had eight players with multiple point nights: Benn Ferriero (2g,2a); Logan Couture (1g,2a); Mike Moore (3a); Joe Callahan, Dan DaSilva, John McCarthy, and Steven Zalewski were all (1g,1a); and Andrew Desjardins had two assists. In other stat news, Moore tied a team record by going +5 for the game. Callahan, who had made a line change just before Ferriero's shorthanded goal, finished the game at +4.

The game saw one fight, with Brandon Mashinter pummeling Falcons center Geoff Paukovich. The two came out of a scrum of players to do battle with referee Terry Koharski trying to step between the two as the linesmen were tangled up with two other players. Mashinter also received a mystery slashing minor before the altercation, and a ten minute misconduct.

Sports Illustrated released their Top 10 Goalie Masks of the Decade, and the winner was the Minnesota Wild's Josh Harding for his mask depicting classic goalie masks worn by hockey's greatest goalies. What does this have to do with the WorSharks? Harding's mask was painted by Worcester's Director of Youth Hockey and Community Relations Michael Myers. Myers has also painted masks for NHLers Olaf Kolzig, Bill Ranford, Dan Ellis, and a slew of others.

The three stars of the game were
1. Ferriero (2g,2a,+3)
2. Moore (3a,+5)
3. Couture (1g,2a,+3)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Joe Callahan.

Even strength lines


Penalty kill lines


Power play lines


Springfield 0 1 1 - 2
Worcester 3 2 2 - 7

1st Period-1, Worcester, Ferriero 5 (Moore, Couture), 6:23 (sh). 2, Worcester, DaSilva 6 (McCarthy, Desjardins), 10:10. 3, Worcester, Zalewski 10 (Callahan, Groulx), 16:29 (pp). Penalties-Paukovich Spr (fighting), 3:17; Mashinter Wor (roughing, fighting, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 3:17; Helminen Wor (tripping), 5:35; Fretter Spr (high-sticking), 14:42; McDonald Spr (slashing), 15:07; Trukhno Spr (slashing, slashing), 18:37; Desjardins Wor (slashing), 18:37.

2nd Period-4, Worcester, Callahan 3 (Zalewski, Ferriero), 2:55 (pp). 5, Worcester, Couture 10 (Ferriero, Moore), 14:40. 6, Springfield, Thomas 5 17:28. Penalties-Arsene Spr (delay of game), 1:27; Thomas Spr (slashing), 7:38.

3rd Period-7, Worcester, McCarthy 5 (DaSilva, Desjardins), 0:26. 8, Worcester, Ferriero 6 (Moore, Couture), 6:05. 9, Springfield, Chorney 3 (Linglet, Wiseman), 7:12 (pp). Penalties-Helminen Wor (interference), 6:30; DaSilva Wor (goaltender interference), 8:12; Thomas Spr (slashing), 8:37.

Shots on Goal
Springfield 7-7-7-21
Worcester 14-11-10-35.
v Power Play Opportunities
Springfield 1 of 4
Worcester 2 of 6.

Springfield, Levasseur 0-5-0 (25 shots-20 saves); Sorochan 0:00 of third (10 shots-8 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 15-8-1 (21 shots-19 saves).

A-3,473 Referee-Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen-Ed Boyle (81), Chris Aughe (74).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

45-save performance by Evgeni Nabokov powers Sharks over Blackhawks 3-2 in meeting of 2 top teams in Western Conference

Notes from the San Jose Sharks 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks will be posted soon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sharks win streak at two with 4-2 victory over Dallas Stars

The San Jose Sharks bumped their win streak up to two games with a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. More notes from the game will be posted soon.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scott Smith shocks San Jose, upsets former Strikeforce Middleweight champ Cung Le with 3rd round KO, Melendez-Thomson II potential fight of the year

Scott Hands of Steel Smith ko'd former Strikeforce Middleweight champion Cung Le
San Francisco's Gilbert El Nino Melendez downed Josh Thomson for Strikeforce Lightweight title
King Mo Lawal showers himself in Rockstar Energy Drink after ko over Matt Lindland Strikeforce Evolution

San Jose-based mixed martial arts promotion Strikeforce finished off 2009 in dramatic fashion. The Strikeforce:Evolution card televised live on Showtime featured a potential fight-of-the-year candidate as interim Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez avenged only his second career loss. "El Nino" regained his Strikeforce World Lightweight title with a 5-round unanimous decision over Josh Thomson, and sent a message to the rest of the 155-pound division.

Elk Grove native Scott Smith upset the heavily anticipated return of former Strikeforce Middleweight champion Cung Le with a left hook in the third round. Le unloaded an aresnal of different strikes, dominating a majority of the 3-round fight until Smith staggered him back into the cage with less than 2 minutes remaining. According to Compustrike statistics, Le landed 72-of-132 total strikes (55%) to only 25-of-98 (26%) for Smith. A heavily partisan San Jose crowd watched in stunned silence as Smith finished off Le, and then roared uncontrollably at the late reversal of fortune. On the televised undercard, Strikeforce debuted future headliners Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. Each earned a first round stoppage over veteran opponents Matt Lindland and Mike Whitehead. Fan favorite and former Elite XC/ICON Middleweight champion Robbie Lawler was a late scratch after 2 scheduled opponents had to pull out with injuries.

Gilbert Melendez entered the ring against hometown Josh Thomson with a surprising majority of fan support. He avenged his first career loss in August with a 3rd round TKO over Mitsuhiro Ishida. Executing a solid gameplan, Melendez neutralized Ishida's wrestling and low center of gravity and dominated the fight. Against Thomson, Melendez was prepared for the variety of kicks and punches that hurt him in the first fight. "I stopped walking into (them)," Melendez said in the press conference. "I was sick of going to 24-hour fitness... and having random people telling me how to block and how to kick."

San Jose native Thomson came forward in the first round, leaning in to several heavy kicks and punches trying to carry the same story line from their June 2008 superfight. Head movement, feints, and quick footwork opened up lanes for Thomson to land combinations and quickly back out. Melendez's right hand dropped Thomson in the second round. Thomson got to his feet but later slipped on one of the graphics on the mat. He appeared flustered as he had to regain his feet again. Many in press row speculated that the mat may have been slippery from King Mo's energy drink shower, but the location was closer to the corner where water on the mat is common. Thomson tried to finish the 2nd strong, landing 2 flurries and a 3/4 uppercut that landed flush. Melendez and Thomson traded toe-to-toe, and a crushing right dropped Josh as the fans exploded. Thomson quickly regained his feet but was dropped again by another right.

It was Melendez piling up low kicks and stuffing a takedown in the 3rd, and gaining the advantage in each exchange despite a Thomson takedown in the 4th. With Gilbert up 3-rounds-to-1, fans gave both fighters a loud standing ovation to start the 5th. Thomson tried to close the distance, at one point executing a single leg, left hook, straight right combination in quick succession, but he was gassed. With his mouth wide open, Thomson threw a weary leg kick, followed by a soft puch, and Melendez pounced. A patented big right hand by "El Nino" dropped Thomson, and he ate another as he regained his feet. Josh scored a late takedown, but Melendez had too much on the night and finished the round with a loud roar of applause from the stands. The judges awarded Melendez a unanimous decision win, 49-47, 49-46, 49-46. Sharkspge scored the fight 49-46 for Melendez.

"I feel like Josh and I don't get much respect with the rankings," Melendez said after the fight. "All the 155'ers... I feel like now it is up to us to prove that we are the best 155'ers. We're bad ass," Meledez said. "We can take out all the dudes in the UFC, and all the dudes in Dream... I think we are hard to handle." Asked about how much he pays attention to internet MMA rankings, Melendez replied, "it is not about the rankings, it is about the respect." Josh Thomson also called out the media for being too negative towards non-UFC mixed martial artists.

Of late Cung Le's IMDB movie page has been growing faster than his Sherdog fight finder page, much to the dismay of the MMA media and hardcore fanbase that represent the bulk of the discourse online. Twenty one months had passed since Le battered Frank Shamrock for the Strikeforce Middleweight title in what was dubbed The Battle of San Jose. Cung appeared in several major motion pictures during that span including Pandorum (2009) with Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster, Fighting (2009), and Tekken (2010), as well as the Hong Kong action film Bodyguards and Assassins (2010).

Le relinquished his Middleweight title on September 17, 2009 due to an expected busy film schedule, but when production of his latest project was pushed back he accepted a fight with Sacramento-area native Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith. Smith has built a reputation for "heart attack" comebacks after a pair of slugfests with Robbie Lawler (0-1-1) and a spectacular come-from-behind knockout over hard hitting Benji Radach in April. In each fight, Smith was pummeled and out on his feet only to come back strong.

If there was ever truth in advertising, Saturday night was evidence of it. Le dropped a high kick, a side kick, and a spinning back kick to the head to score a knockdown less than 10 seconds into the first round. Another spinning back kick landed to the midsection of Smith with an audible "thwack" the echo'd through the arena.

Scott Smith dropped and covered up for nearly 1:23 seconds while Cung Le stood over him raining down punches and hammerfists. Le fired 52 punches during that span, most of which connected, while referee "Big" John McCarthy stood nearby waiting to stop the fight. After being admonished to become active, Smith ate a big knee as he rose to his feet and backed away. It would become a turning point in the fight. Le landed several more spinning back kicks, and brutal roundhouse kick to the head, but his failure to put away Smith when he had the opportunity would cost him.

A 2-punch, spinning back kick combination droped Scott Smith in the second round, and announcers Mauro Ranallo and Stephen "The Fight Professor" Quadros noted that 2:30 passed before Smith landed his first strike. The pace slowed, and at the end of the round Cung Le told American Kickboxing Academy trainers Bob Cook and Javier Mendez that he was poked in the eye. Ganyao Fairtex, one fight after Jongsanan Fairtex's Gilbert Melendez was successful, was looking to make the preeminent kickboxing gym 2-0 over AKA in main event fights Saturday night with Scott Smith.

True to form, a spinning back kick staggered Smith back into the cage to start the third and final round, but Le was breathing labored and heavy. In phenemonal physical condition even from 2-3 months back, fighting fitness and endurance is truely tested inside the cage. Commentator Frank Shamrock speculated that Le might not be at the top of his game without dedicated training available to him on movie sets.

With Smith trying to land the big knockout punch, Cung Le threw a weak leg kick and feint. His punches became less of a factor, losing steam even as he unleashed a Muay Thai spinning backfist. A talented wrestler, Le attempted a single leg takedown but Smith kept his balance and regained his feet in the scramble. Scott Smith tried a feint, and ate a hard kick to the midsection for his trouble. It was a later feint, flush left hook that staggered Cung Le. Smith stormed forward, then dropped Le with another right hand and finished the fight with ground and pound.

There was a moment of stunned silence from the crowd, then a roar of surprise as Smith dropped to his knees in celebration. "I am never out of a fight, that is why I am fun to watch," Smith said after. "Everybody looks for my right, but my left hook is my best punch." Cung Le was subdued in defeat. "I'm sorry I didn't get the win for San Jose, I fought my hear out and Scott fought his heart out, we did our best," Le said. "I thought I was focused, I just got caught. It is what it is."

The loss by Cung Le was dramatic entertainment, but Strikeforce has a depth at 185 pounds not present in any other weight class. With the likes of Dan Henderson, Jake Shields, Robbie Lawler, Jacare Souza, Scott Smith, Joey Villasenor, Benji Radach, and Jason Miller, competition will be fierce moving forward. Many in the MMA media pounced on the loss, and ridiculed Cung Le's position in MMA as well as his role as a future headliner. Neither is realistic. A refocused 37-year old Le can still make waves in Strikefore at 185-pounds, and he will always be a draw in San Jose. Given the interest by casual fans at a number of non-MMA events, Le should also have a widespread appeal on a CBS network televised card. Smith-Le II already has a ready made audience and storyline.

Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza walked into the cage with his hat on backwards and his fight team performing the alligator chomp. Many fans in the "Shark Tank" mistook it for a the chomp peformed on power plays for the home San Jose Sharks. If "Jacare" is Portugese for alligator, "Tubaro" was more appropriate for Souza on this night (Shark). An ADCC submission wrestling division champion and open weight runner-up, Souza suffered his first loss in the Dream Middleweight Tournament Finals via a vicious upkick by pound-for-pound phenom Gegard Mousasi. A rematch for both down the line in Strikeforce has to be on the mind of CEO Scott Coker.

Souza started the first round against veteran Matt Lindland with much improved standup. After a Lindland takedown early, Jacare's world class jiu-jitsu game became immediately apparent. Souza tried a shoulder lock, a push to escape, and controlled the head for a triangle attempt inside of 10 seconds. Later in the round Jacare locked in an armbar, but a flexible Lindland spun out into a more dangerous near omaplata. "Jacare" Souza quickly locked in a side choke and forced Lindland to tap with 42 seconds left. "Strikeforce is my home now," Souza said as many fans celebrated his win with the Shark/alligator chomp.

A flamboyant Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal made quick work of Mike Whitehead, despite a 43 pound weight disadvantage. Mo, a member of Team Thirsty and Team Get Dat Paper, caught the slower Whitehead each time he was coming in. Lawal missed with the first left of a 2-punch combination, and dropped him with a straight right. A quick ground and pound finished the fight as Lawal grabbed a pair of Rockstar energy drinks, shook them together, then sprayed them over his head as he jumped on top of the cage. He attempted to douse himself with a second can before being stopped by a CSAC official. Asked if Whitehead was the best competitor he has faced today, Lawal said "I don't know." Lawal has finished 5 of his first 6 fights by KO, all but 2 in the first round. When asked whether he sees himself competing at 185, 205, or heavyweight, Mo replied, "I fight where the money is at, I am a moneyweight".

In the post-event press conference, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker introduced a pair of new heavyweight acquisitions in 3-time NAIA collegiate wrestling champ and former TNA professional wrestler Bobby Lashley (4-0, 1KO, 2subs) and 2005 194-216 pound ADCC champion, 2005 open weight ADCC champion, and 6-time world BJJ champion Roger Gracie (2-0, 2subs). "My last fight was June 28th, and I have just been spinning my wheels training," Lashley said. "I opened up a gym in Denver, American Top Team, and have been down there training, hoping we had an opportunity to fight again." It was announced that Lashley will get that opportunity against an as yet unnamed opponent January 30th in Miami. When asked why he signed with Strikeforce, "there were a lot of other organizations throwing in their hat," Lashley said. "the best fighter in the world is at heavyweight (Fedor Emelianenko), and he is signed with Strikeforce." When asked by Sharkspage his thoughts on HP Pavilion and San Jose, "I have been here before," Lashley said. "I have wrestled at almost every venue in North America."

Roger Gracie noted that a date has not been set yet for his first fight, but that he will be active in the first quarter of 2010. "I am pretty excited to fight my first MMA in America, which I have not done before," Gracie said. Roger registered his first submission win in MMA over Ron Waterman at a Bodog event in Vancouver in 2006, and followed that with another submission win over Yuki Kondo at a 2008 Sengoku event in Japan. A 5th generation member of the Gracie family, Roger said that it is difficult to name the best pure heavyweight grappler in MMA right now. "It is hard to find one you consider the best, the level of most everyone is so high, the guy that might win today might lose tomorrow."

Scott Coker also asked Marloes Coenen and Strikeforce 145-pound Women's champ Cris Cyborg to take the podium and answer questions from the media. The tension between the two fighters was palpable. Coenen discussed her background in kickboxing, her training at the Golden Glory gym in Holland, and flaws she has seen in Cyborg's game. "This is my chance to be considered the best in the world," Coenen said. Coming off what many called the most important bout in Women's MMA, Cris Cyborg said she is ready to move forward. "I am looking forward to this upcoming fight, I have recovered from a shoulder (injury)," she noted through a translator. Coenen and Cyborg will also meet January 30th in Miami.

More Strikeforce notes:

In a huddle after the press conference with MMA reporters, Coker noted that Fedor Emelianenko may be on tap for a heavyweight bout with Fabricio Werdum in April. When asked by Sharkspage if the event would be hosted in San Jose, Coker said a location for the April card had not been confirmed. Fresh off a win over Josh Thomson for the Strikeforce World Lightweight title, San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez may be set to face Dream and WAMMA Lightweight champion Shinya Aoki. A dual BJJ and judo black belt, Aoki is considered one of the best ground practioners in MMA. Coker noted that he will be in attendance for Dream's traditional Dynamite 2009 New Year's Eve show in Japan trying to lock down Melendez-Aoki and Thomson-Kawajiri fights as part of the working partnership Strikeforce has with Dream and parent company FEG. Coker worked with FEG earlier in his career promoting K1-USA kickboxing fights on ESPN2.

In a video interview with's Greg Savage, Coker said of Josh Thomson vs. Gilbert Melendez III, "there has to be a rubber match at some point." Coker also said that K.J. Noons (7-2, 7KOs) vs Josh Thomson or a Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro vs Gilbert Melendez matchup could be possible. Noons is a former Elite XC Lightweight champion with wins over Nick Diaz and Yves Edwards, Ribeiro is a 4-time BJJ world champion with wins over Mitsuhiro Ishida, Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri earlier in his career. Coker also told Greg Savage that Strikeforce will take February off for an Olympic break, but that 20 fights will be held from March 1st, 2010 to March 1st 2011. Of those dates, 16 will be Showtime events split between SHOmma challenger series and Showtime Champion series events, 4 may possibly be on CBS, and the first ever Strikeforce pay-per-view event may feature Fedor Emelianenko.

Antwan "The Juggernaut" Britt dominated undefeated San Louis Obispo native Scott Lighty on the undercard. The highly regarded Lighty was staggered and dropped several times with heavy punches, but referee Jon Schorle did not stop the fight. Twice Lighty was out on his feet against the cage while Britt had him pinned while hammering him with punches. The doctor stepped in during the first intermission and ended it. An enormous physical specimen at 155 pounds, Justin Wilcox earned a unanimous decision win over veteran Japanese grappler Daisuke Nakamura. Nakamura twice put himself in a very dangerous position, once trying to jump into a standing guard and landing flat on his back, and another time slipping in the 3rd while trying a flying knee. Wilcox appeared to have a damaged left hand, but despite that and a cut above his left eye he stood toe-to-toe with Nakamura at the end of the fight. In the opening non-televised bout, Alexander Crispim gained an advantage early on his feet and began showboating to the displeasure of the crowd. Raising his arms wide and sticking his head out, circling his fists before punching, and screaming with Bruce Lee-esque fury was not neccessary when fans just wanted him to finish the fight and get to the next one.

Prior to the start of the Showtime televised card, several recent Strikeforce signees and current competitors made their way ringside. Instead of taking their seats, many stood and traded stories while talking and taking pictures with fans who passed by an outer barrier in a steady stream. Spotted ringside was Bobby Lashley, K.J. Noons, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Jake Shields, Cris "Cyborg" Santos, Brett Rogers, Hershel Walker, Nick Diaz, Chuck Lidell, Marloes Coenen, Roger Gracie and several others. During an earlier press conference with Dan Henderson and K.J Noons, the one-time dual division Pride FC champion Henderson commented on signing with Strikeforce. "I am real excited to be a part of Strikeforce now, to have a big impact on MMA thanks to Strikeforce's relationships with Showtime and CBS. It is going to be huge for our sport," Henderson said. When asked if he would like to become a 3-division Strikeforce champion by facing Shields, Mousasi and Fedor, Henderson replied, "I do this for the challenge, the tougher the matchup, the more exciting it is for me. All 3 of those guys would be a great challenge." He added that his first fight may be at Middleweight against Jake Shields for the title, and that he would like to have at least 1 title defense before moving on (if he wins). With the signings of Henderson and Fedor Emelianenko, Strikeforce now has 2 of the most dominant Pride FC champions in its fold. A third, Sharkspage favorite Takanori Gomi, was recently spotted training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.

There was a measure of controversy regarding the signing of Herschel Walker in a few MMA circles. One more item to throw into the discussion, news of Walker's signing was featured in three of the Bay Area's largest sports media outlets. The San Jose Mercury News published a front page photo and feature article on Walker, Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area aired a video interview with Walker that touched on his motivation ("for the love of the sport"), and Walker was also a guest on the largest sports radio station KNBR 680AM (MP3 file) to talk about his training regiment, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and 49er's head coach Mike Singletary. Given the fact that every local sports television broadcast lead with a segment on Walker the night of his signing with Strikeforce, regardless of his performance in the ring he is going to open a lot of MSM doors for MMA and Strikeforce in the Bay Area. No other fighter, no other MMA event in the Bay Area, has drawn a similar level of MSM media coverage. For comparison, the signing of the #1-ranked Heavyweight in MMA, Fedor Emelianenko, was mostly confined to a sports digest note in the local paper. Thomson-Melendez II was covered by only 1 local sports television segment Saturday night, ABC KGO-7 (props for also including the fighting robots). According to multiple insiders, Walker is in phenomenal physical condition training at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, and he is expected to perform well inside the cage for his debut.

According to the California State Athletic Commission, Strikeforce Evolution drew 14,749 attendees for a $633,674 live gate. Cung Le lead all competitors with an announced $150,000 payout, Gilbert Melendez and Scott Smith earned $55,000, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza earned $65,000 (including bonus), and Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal earned $19,000 (including bonus). Lawal was fined $2,000 dollars for a pair of Rockstar Energy Drink showers he gave himself after a 1st round KO over Matt Lindland.

Official Results:

Strikeforce: Evolution
December 19th, 2009
HP Pavilion, San Jose

Scott Smith def. Cung Le
KO (punches), 3rd round, 3:25.

Strikeforce World Lightweight Title
Gilbert Melendez def. Josh Thomson
Unanimous Decision: 49-47, 49-46, 49-46.

Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza def. Matt Lindland
Submission (arm choke), 1st round, 4:18.

Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal def. Mike Whitehead
KO (punches), 1st round, 3:08.

Antwain Britt def. Scott Lighty
TKO (doctor stoppage), 1st round, 5:00.

Justin Wilcox def. Daisuke Nakamura
Unanimous Decision: 30-27, 29-28, 30-27.

Alexander Crispim def. A.J. Fonseca
Unanimous Decision: 30-27, 30-27, 30-27.

A photo gallery from the event is available here. Photo galleries are also available online from's longtime photographer Dave Mandel and MMA Weekly's Greg Ashman. The official Strikeforce/Showtime flickr account with MMA photos from Esther Lin is viewable here.

[Update] Strikeforce rematch to Melendez - Josh Gross for

[Update2] Dan Henderson at Strikeforce press conference - (video).

[Update3] Strikeforce: Evolution recap, Smith stuns Le, Melendez tops Thomson to unify titles -

[Update4] 'Cyborg', Diaz, Lashley and Herschel Walker all confirmed for next Strikeforce card -

If Strikeforce has any luck avoiding the recent injury bug that seems to have run rampant in mixed martial arts, its next card is stacked with some excellent fights. CEO Scott Coker confirmed that Nick Diaz will fight DREAM welterweight champ Marius Zaromskis for the Strikeforce 170 title in the main event on Jan. 30 in Sunrise, Fla. Leading into that five-round fight will be another five rounder between 145-pound female champion Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos defending against Marloes Koenen. Remember it was less than a year ago that women's fighting finally move to three, five-minute rounds. Now the fight could max out at 25 minutes.

[Update5] Muhammed Lawal on CSAC Fine: 'They Don't Want to See Me Have Fun' - Ariel Helwani for AOL Fanhouse.

[Update6] Attendance figures for all Strikeforce MMA events at HP Pavilion in San Jose:


18,265: "Shamrock vs Gracie" (March, 2006)
16,326: "Shamrock vs Le" (March 2008)
15,211: "Shamrock vs Diaz" (April 2009)
14,749: "Evolution" (December 2009)
13,976: "Carano vs Cyborg" (August 2009)
10,374: "Revenge" (June, 2006)
9,672: "Shamrock vs Baroni" (June, 2007)
8,701: "Triple Threat" (December, 2006)
8,233: "Four Men Enter" (November, 2007)
8,152: "Destruction" (November 2008)
7,288: "Thomson vs Melendez" (July 2008)

Sources: Sharkspage,, Strikeforce, Wikipedia. Note: MMA events only.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Let One Get Away In 4-3 Loss To Adirondack

The Worcester Sharks scored three nice goals to seemingly take control of their Saturday night contest against the Adirondack Phantoms, but were then outworked over the last half of the game and surrendered three unanswered goals in a 4-3 loss at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 2,809 fans.

Adirondack jumped out to an early lead at 2:56 of the first period on a shot WorSharks rookie netminder Alex Stalock stops 99 out of 100 times. Adirondack defenseman Sean Curry threw a lazy wrister on net from the blueline that seemed to eat Stalock up, and despite the netminder getting a lot of stick on it the puck slid in through the five hole for the 1-0 Phantoms lead.

The WorSharks would knot the game on John McCarthy's second goal in as many nights. Danny Groulx sent Worcester on a three on two break with a nice feed to Benn Ferriero down the right side. Ferriero fired a rocket that Phantoms goaltender Johan Backlund made an easy right pad save on, but the rebound went right on the tape of McCarthy's stick. McCarthy pushed it into the net under a diving Backlund to make it 1-1 at 6:53.

Worcester would grab a 2-1 lead at 9:44 on another nice rebound goal by Brandon Mashinter. With an Adirondack forward hanging all over him, Dan DaSilva fired a shot on goal that Backlund handled easily, but couldn't control the rebound. Mashinter, who was setting the screen on the original shot while being crosschecked by Phantoms defender Curry, corralled the rebound and flipped a backhand over Backlund to light the lamp. Mike Moore had the second assist on the play.

The WorSharks would make it 3-1 on--what else--a goal off a rebound. Steven Zalewski set up the play by lifting the stick of Phantoms defender Curry, causing a turnover behind the Adirondack net. Zalewski lost his footing behind the net but was still able to slide a pass to Logan Couture from his stomach. Backlund handled Couture's blast, but Worcester captain Ryan Vesce flipped the rebound past Backlund at 12:40 of the second period.

And when a team starts playing like they have a two goal lead as Worcester did, that lead doesn't last long.

Adirondack was able to get the game back to a single goal lead under two minutes after the Vesce tally with a rebound goal of their own. With the Phantoms breaking into the WorSharks zone, Stalock made the save on Rob Bellamy's blast. But the rebound bounced past the collapsing Worcester defense an on to Jonathon Kalinski's stick. Kalinski buried it into the open net to make it 3-2.

The Phantoms would make it 3-3 when Stefan Legein's laser beat Stalock and slid just under the crossbar at 5:35 of the third, and would grab the eventual game winner at 8:52 when Jared Ross' shot hit a Worcester defender and bounced in just under Stalock's arm.

Worcester's scratches were Will Colbert, Dwight Helminen, Dennis McCauley, Dean Strong, T.J. Trevelyan, and Michael Wilson. Ryan Nie was the back-up netminder.

Adirondack winger Patrick Maroon was called for a rare "playing with a broken stick" minor at 1:30 of the first period, a penalty you see only once or twice a season in the entire league. And oddly enough, the Phantoms were actually guilty of the penalty again just a few minutes later while skating with a two man advantage. Referee Mark Lemelin, who many times during the night seemed to be watching a different game then everyone else in the building, didn't make the call despite it happening about five feet in front of him.

The WorSharks went 0-7 on the power play, and by very unofficial count had just 6 shots with the man advantage. The only power play that generated any real scoring chances was their final one of the game inside of four minutes remaining. Worcester's home power play is ranked last in the AHL at under 9%.

The three stars of the game were
1. Jared Ross (gwg)
2. Brandon Mashinter (g)
3. Stefan Legein (g,a)

The Sharkspage player of the game, for the second game in a row, was John McCarthy.

Adirondack 1 1 2 - 4
Worcester 2 1 0 - 3

1st Period-1, Adirondack, Curry 1 (Matsumoto), 2:56. 2, Worcester, McCarthy 4 (Ferriero, Groulx), 6:53. 3, Worcester, Mashinter 7 (DaSilva, Moore), 9:44. Penalties-Maroon Adk (broken stick), 1:30; Vesce Wor (interference), 2:46; McGinn Wor (delay of game), 3:20; Stephenson Adk (hooking), 7:38.

2nd Period-4, Worcester, Vesce 6 (Zalewski, Couture), 12:40. 5, Adirondack, Kalinski 2 (Beaulieu, Bellamy), 14:25. Penalties-Ross Adk (double minor - high-sticking), 3:07; Vesce Wor (high-sticking), 6:08; Bourdon Adk (hooking), 9:09; Clackson Adk (roughing), 17:13; McGinn Wor (roughing), 17:13.

3rd Period-6, Adirondack, Legein 14 (Mormina), 5:35. 7, Adirondack, Ross 3 (Maroon, Legein), 8:52. Penalties-Mormina Adk (interference), 0:29; McLaren Wor (high-sticking), 0:29; Maroon Adk (roughing), 9:21; Syvret Adk (roughing), 12:44; Desjardins Wor (roughing), 12:44; Stephenson Adk (tripping), 16:41.

Shots on Goal
Adirondack 8-10-11-29
Worcester 15-12-12-39.

Power Play Opportunities
Adirondack 0 of 3
Worcester 0 of 7.

Adirondack, Backlund 7-8-0 (39 shots-36 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 14-8-1 (29 shots-25 saves).

A-2,809. Referee-Mark Lemelin (84). Linesmen-Mark Messier (12), Chris Millea (33).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Darryl Hunt: Vesce, Couture Lead WorSharks over Manchester, 3-1

The Worcester Sharks used multiple point nights from Logan Couture and captain Ryan Vesce to defeat the Manchester Monarchs 3-1 Friday night at the DCU center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

One of the problems the WorSharks have had against Manchester this season is falling behind early, and that's exactly what happened again Friday night when Monarchs penalty killer Bud Holloway picked up an errant Joe Callahan pass along the Worcester blueline and skated in alone on goaltender Alex Stalock. Holloway would beat the rookie netminder over the right pad for the unassisted tally and a 1-0 lead at 6:41 of the first.

John McCarthy would knot the game for Worcester on a great individual play. McCarthy took the puck into the Manchester zone down the left side, and wheeled around Monarchs defenseman David Kolomatis at the face-off dot, driving to the front of the net and beating Manchester goaltender Jonathan Bernier to the far post with a nice backhand to make it 1-1 at 12:16. The goal came just three seconds after the WorSharks killed off a Joe Loprieno interference minor, and was assisted by Joe Callahan.

Worcester would actually beat Bernier four times in the opening period, but two shots off the crossbar and one off the near post didn't bounce in Worcester favor.

The WorSharks would grab the eventual game winner on the power play at 4:52 of the second period when Ryan Vesce banged a loose puck out of the air and into the back of the net. Worcester had three players within five feet of the net after Bernier failed to control a rebound of Benn Ferriero's shot, and simply outworked the Manchester defenders in front of the net. Logan Couture had the second assist on the goal.

The key play that lead to the goal was Danny Groulx controlling a hard clearing attempt and just keeping the puck on the blueline and in the attacking zone.

Brandon Mashinter had a great opportunity to extend Worcester's lead at 9:40 of the third period when he and Ferriero broke into the Manchester zone on what was essentially a two-on-zero, but Bernier's highlight reel worthy glove save kept the game within a goal.

Worcester finally get some breathing room at 12:05 on a play where several bounces worked in their favor. First, at the halfboards to the right of Bernier, Couture's attempted centering pass deflected off a Monarchs player and went behind the net. Vesce was the first to the puck, and threw a tape-to-tape backhand pass to Steven Zalewski just behind the goal line at the left post. With the Monrachs defense closing in on Zalewski, his attempted centering feed hit Bernier and found a small opening to light the lamp.

Manchester would pull Bernier with about three minutes to go to skate six on four during a power play chance, but couldn't connect on the two man advantage. A face-off in the neutral zone with 80 seconds to go put Bernier back in net, and he couldn't get back off the ice until time had almost expired due to the WorSharks forecheck.

The Worcester shuttle was in full swing this week, with Jamie McGinn and Frazer McLaren being assigned to Worcester and then recalled on Thursday. They were reassigned back to Worcester Friday, but neither were available for the game. Jason Demers was recalled to SJ Friday to replace Derek Joslin, who was sent to Worcester on Thursday.

Worcester's official injury list has just T.J. Trevelyan on it, and by all accounts he'll be ready to play after Christmas. The WorSharks healthy scratches were Will Colbert, Dennis McCauley, and Michael Wilson. Ryan Nie was the back-up goaltender.

The AHL doesn't officially keep time on ice stats, but this writer would guess Mike Moore and Joe Callahan had two of the longest shifts of the season to open Friday night's game. With Worcester hemmed in their own zone early and two breakouts stopped by takeaways, Moore's opening shift was just under two minutes long before he managed to jump off the ice to be replaced by Danny Groulx. Callahan, on the far side of the ice, was out there even longer as he and Groulx were unable to switch sides. A stoppage in play at 17:47 of the period--meaning a 2:13 first shift--got Callahan a needed break.

The very cold weather made for some interesting ice conditions. Literally within a minute or two of a period starting the snow created by skating was freezing into easily visible ice crystals on the surface, and that lead to many players losing their footing. It wasn't as noticeable on the WorSharks players wearing white jerseys, but when the purple wearing Manchester players fell they got up looking like they were snowmen as they would be covered from head to toe in ice crystals.

WorSharks GM Wayne Thomas was at the DCU Center for the game, and Bryan Marchment was behind the bench with head coach Roy Sommer and assistant coach David Cunniff.

Speaking of Coach Cunniff, the Worcester Sharks Booster Club wishes to extend their thanks to him for his help after the Club's holiday party in handling the toy and clothing donations made at the event. Long after the event ended, Coach Cunniff stayed to help load up vehicles with Booster Club President Rich Lundin and Treasurer Chris O'Shea. The Booster Club raised over $2100 in items for donation to The Friendly House in Worcester.

The three stars of the game were
1. Ryan Vesce (gwg,a)
2. John McCarthy (g)
3. Alex Stalock (24 saves)

The Sharkspage player of the game was John McCarthy.

Even strength lines


Power play lines


Penalty Kill lines


Manchester 1 0 0 - 1
Worcester 1 1 1 - 3

1st Period-1, Manchester, Holloway 9 6:41 (sh). 2, Worcester, McCarthy 3 (Callahan), 12:16. Penalties-Westgarth Mch (hooking), 5:33; Loprieno Wor (interference), 10:13; Nolan Mch (interference), 13:12.

2nd Period-3, Worcester, Vesce 5 (Couture, Ferriero), 4:52 (pp). Penalties-Meckler Mch (high-sticking), 3:32; Mashinter Wor (high-sticking), 13:02.

3rd Period-4, Worcester, Zalewski 9 (Vesce, Couture), 12:05. Penalties-Couture Wor (hooking), 6:05; Henderson Wor (hooking), 16:10.

Shots on Goal
Manchester 5-13-7-25
Worcester 17-11-9-37.

Power Play Opportunities
Manchester 0 of 4
Worcester 1 of 3.

Manchester, Bernier 14-8-2 (37 shots-34 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 14-7-1 (25 shots-24 saves).

A-2,432. Referee-Jamie Koharski (84). Linesmen-Chris Aughe (74), Jack Millea (23).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sharks break 5-game losing streak by pummeling a pliant Anaheim Ducks squad 4-1, Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi line registers 9 points

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks NHL hockey fight Ryane Clowe Sheldon Brookbank
San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks NHL Joe Pavelski Saku Koivu faceoff
San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray Anaheim Ducks

Notes from the Sharks 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks will be posted soon. A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shark Notes - 12/17

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks NHL hockey

The Sharks third meeting of the season the Ducks, San Jose won twice in Anaheim (Oct.03 4-1, Nov.21 3-2), will be more of an exercise of two teams looking to right midseason slumps than a physical flashback to last year's opening round playoff series. San Jose is looking to right a 5-game losing streak after a series of bad bounces and bad calls compounded an embarassing last second defeat to St Louis 2 weeks ago.

Special teams are a concern. The Sharks power play has scored only twice in the last 6 games (2-22, 9.09%), although the penalty kill is at a respectable 22-26 (84.6%) over that same 6-game span. For the season, the Sharks PP unit has dropped to 6th in the NHL (29- 137 21.2%), and the PK unit has dropped to 2nd place behind Boston (19-133, 85.7%).

The Sharks showed a large measure of maturity after a last second collision between defenseman Dan Boyle and left wing Taylor Pyatt left Boyle hobbled on the ice Saturday at Phoenix. He was carried off by Manny Malhotra and Douglas Murray. Two days later Boyle admitted the decision to check Pyatt was a poor one on his part. "I pretty much did it to myself and it was a stupid play on my part," he told David Pollak. Several questions were raised about why the Sharks did not respond physically towards Phoenix after the play, but Douglas Murray said it was not a dirty play that needed to be answered by the team. The Sharks are aware they need to respond to physical challenges by other teams, but they are prepared to do it in an intelligent and veteran fashion. That is a very positive sign moving forward.

Also according to the Working the Corners blog, defenseman Derek Joslin was sent down to Worcester of the AHL and recent waiver acquisition Jay Leach will get his second start in Teal. The Sharks also announced that Jamie McGinn and Frazer McLaren were called up from Worcester to fill out the third and fourth line left wing roles. Dan Boyle is also expected to suit up Thursday night.

The Ducks ended their season long 5-game losing streak with a 4-3 OT win over Dallas on December 8th. It may have been Wade Brookbank losing a difficult scrap with Krys Barch that added a little more intensity to the Ducks play. Joffrey Lupul and rookie Dan Sexton (2) scored to tie the game at 3-3, and Saku Koivu scored with a second effort on a 3-on-1 rush to seal the wild overtime affair.

Anaheim is tied with St Louis for last place in the Western Conference with 33 points, but with the parity of the modern NHL that is only 6 points out of a playoff spot. Joffrey Lupul, 4th on the Ducks in goals with 10, will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing back surgery. Ducks center Ryan Carter is also not expected to play with a foot injury. Rookie Dan Sexton has filled in for injured Teemu Selanne on a revamped second line with Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu. The right winger has been hot early, scoring 7 points in his last 4 games.

SJ-ANA Previews: SJ Mercury News, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, O.C. Register, LA Times, Fear the Fin, Battle of California, and the new SBN ducks blog Anaheim Calling.

- The Sharks 2-1 loss at Phoenix extended their losing streak to a McLellan-era high of 5 games, but the team is far from panic mode despite earning only 3 of a possible 10 points in that span. Two individual mistakes lead to a pair of Coyotes goals 95 seconds apart in the second period, but there were elements the Sharks can build on.

Discussing the loss after the game with Comcast Sportsnet California, head coach Todd McLellan discussed his team's effort trying to break a 5-game losing streak. "We ran into penalty problems early in the game and that put us on our heels a lot," McLellan said. "Other than that I was happy with how the guys worked, especially coming back in the third period".

San Jose head coach Todd McLellan mixed up the top two lines. Dany Heatley joined the second unit along with Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski, and Devin Setoguchi rejoined Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Each combined for late period flurries at the end of the first and third, but Bryzgalov was solid in net and a late shot by Patrick Marleau for the tying goal fluttered just over the crossbar.

Special teams played a factor in Phoenix's ability to press the action throughout the game. On the second day of a back-to-back after facing Dallas in San Jose on Friday, the Sharks committed 7 minor penalties through 2 periods. They were able to kill 7 of 8 Phoenix power plays, an improvement from the 22-26 (84.6%) mark over the last 6 games. With 3 forwards on the ice for a 4-on-3 power play in the 3rd period, Dany Heatley hammered home the lone goal for San Jose. It was only the Sharks 2nd power play goal in the last 6 games (2-22, 9%).

In the past the Sharks have almost routinely relied on Joe Thornton setting up from the half wall or behind the net, but when head coach Todd McLellan and his staff took over the Sharks last year they tried to change the power play modus operandi. Defenseman were agressive making the first pass out of the zone, and were encouraged to bomb shots from the point as often as possible. San Jose is getting to the net with the man advantage, but players are slower entering the zone and chasing down loose pucks. Overall, McLellan said the main issue for the power play drought is a lack of confidence.

- Longtime East Bay reporter Gary Peterson penned a column tying some of the Sharks past playoff problems to the 5-game losing streak: San Jose Sharks' slide a reminder of past postseason failure. Peterson discusses some of the past problems related to special teams, their failure to protect home ice, and their inability to close out close games.

Home ice issues have been all but dead and buried after last season and the start of 2009-10. Special teams is an issue that deserves a more in-depth look, but the 5-game losing streak is not evidence of an inability to close out games this season. Giving up a short handed goal and 3 scoring chances to St Louis with seconds ticking down notwithstanding, the Sharks have hit a patch of black ice with on an otherwise normal road.

In their next game against Calgary, Miikka Kiprusoff performed a no-look kick behind his body to deny the game tying goal. There very easily could have been a delay of game penalty on defenseman Bouwmeester for punching the net off its moorings. The next game against St. Louis former Sharks Patrick Marleau had a late game tying goal waived off by a referee's "intent to blow the whistle". The Sharks received two of their best goaltending performances of the season by Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss in the next two games, but they lost to Dallas 3-2 after an 11-round OT shootout. It was ironically Turco repeatedly using the poke check in the OT shootout at HP Pavilion, and Nabokov stoning 4 five-hole attempts before Niskanen beat him high. Bryzgalov then made 37 saves the next night to earn a win over SJ and 3rd NHL star of the week honors.

There are issues with focus and intensity, situational awareness, and the ability to close out periods and close out games, but this 5-game losing streak has not been evidence of those problems. General manager Doug Wilson said he wants his team to find ways to win games, and during this difficult stretch of bad calls and bad bounces, that is exactly what they need to do.

- USA Today's Kevin Allen posted a multimedia photo gallery along with this SJ-ANA game report detailing the Coyotes luxury bus service. The shuttle brings fans from the Tempe/ASU area to Glendale. Throw the NHL Network on the flat screens, and this could be an option for many other NHL teams to think outside the box. Other markets with heavy college populations can mix in bargain shuttle/ticket deals and instantly liven their arena atmosphere.

According to Allen, announced attendance at Arena for PHO-SJ was 10,650. Attendance for Phoenix is off 35% after the offseason bankrupty/relocation turmoil, dropping from 14,875 in 2008-09 to an average of 9,825 fans through 17 home games this season.

- Shutting down the big Sharks - Arizona Republic.

"For the most part," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said, "(Martin) Hanzal was matched up against Thornton (the NHL's leading scorer) and did an excellent job. Thornton is a tough guy to handle, so big, so strong, and Hanzal's got that size. I think he likes that challenge."

Tippett called Heatley "a very interesting guy." "He's going to get his chances, no matter what," he said. "I had him at the World Championships, and I couldn't believe the opportunities this guy gets, just a lot of times out of nothing.

"He shoots the pucks as good as anybody in the game. He has a few opportunities tonight (Saturday), capitalized on one, but they're dangerous guys, and we did a pretty good job against them."

- The 2-day NHL Board of Govenors meeting was held Tuesday and Wednesday a little under an hour and a half away from SJ at luxurious Pebble Beach. SF Chronicle and AOL Fanhouse reporter Susan Slusser covered the issues raised during the meetings. On the docket was the NHL sale of the Phoenix Coyotes, a video analysis of the change in league play with regards to head shots, the financial health of the league and the expected 2010-11 salary cap, and league expansion. NY Islanders owner Charles Wang and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks also had no new updates on location/ownership situations in their repective cities.

- The latest Dudes on Hockey podcast features the return of ESPN analyst E.J. Hradek. Mike and Doug called Dan Boyle's potentially serious lower body injury "a heart attack moment" for the team, and Hradek noted that the injury was less serious than initially feared to the point that Boyle was able to attend the annual team holiday party the next day. Hradek also discussed the Sharks depth on defense, how Marc-Edouard Vlasic needs to take his game to the next level ("they need him to play with more confidence"), the Michalek-Cheechoo trade for Heatley, and weighs potential trade moves for Doug Wilson as the season progresses.

A week and a half ago Mike and Doug also hosted a 2-hour Sharks radio special on KDOW 1220AM. Audio of the podcast, including guest conversations with former Shark Mark Smith and opinion columnist Mark Purdy, is available for download here. Mark Smith had very interesting insights on the impact of waiver wire moves on young players, and I called in at the end of the show to ask about which younger prospects could best suit the team in the stretch run and in the postseason.

- The latest Hockey News podcast from last Friday features an informative interview with Toronto Maple Leafs and Team USA GM Brian Burke. Burke notes how he deals with playoff expectations in a frustrated Toronto market ("I can't fix anything that happened before I got here"), the play of offseason defensive acquisitions Francious Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek, the biggest trade of the year possibly being the one that brought Phil Kessel to Toronto, the benefits of a holiday trade freeze, and how there may be 5 remaining questions for the Team USA roster.

Along with Burke and Team USA associate GM/Nashville GM David Poile, Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren, Atlanta GM Don Waddell, Kings and former Sharks GM Dean Lombardi, and Pittsburg GM Ray Shero will have hashed out the Team USA roster Monday, and Tuesday morning prior to the first day of the NHL's BOG meeting in Pebble Beach. Burke said that Team USA's Jim Johannson will also be a part of the discussions.

Sharks center Joe Pavelski should be a lock for Team USA, and should garner consideration for a leadership role. At only 25, he has established himself in a leadership role on one of the top teams in the NHL and has been a clutch playoff performer.

- Fantasy Mailbag: Decisions, decisions - Darryl Dobbs for

[Q] Dobber, I was hoping to get your take on Devin Setoguchi.
TK, Los Angeles

[A] I think Setoguchi did too much, too soon last year, but that was attributed to the fact he was on Joe Thornton’s line for much of the campaign. Realistically, without that chemistry, Setoguchi would have entered the league with a 30-point season and then over the course of four or five years he would slowly up that total towards the 55-to-60 point mark before breaking out into a regular 70- or 75-point player.

Now that he is no longer in the mix for a spot on Thornton’s line, he has simply fallen back to where he should be and you’ll just have to wait for him to progress – or for an injury to Patrick Marleau or Dany Heatley, Thornton’s current linemates.

Interesting take on Setoguchi's current slump. After missing 12 games with a nagging lower leg injury in October and November, Devin Setoguchi has 0 points and only 8 shots in 7 games since. Slowly worked back into the lineup with stints on the fourth, third and second lines, head coach Todd McLellan strategically moved Setoguchi up with Thornton and Heatley at the end of the Dallas game on Friday, and continued with the line Saturday against Phoenix.

Setoguchi generated quality scoring chances late against the Stars, and scored the Sharks lone shootout goal in the 11-round OT shootout loss. Against Phoenix, Setoguchi was effective down low. He was able to find open areas that allowed him to pull the trigger (2 shots on net, 3 missed net) and nearly tie the game at the end of the third period.

Setoguchi may have earned a spot on the top line last year with an impressive performance against Phoenix in the preseason. Easily the fastest player on the ice, at times it looked like he skated as if he was shot out of a cannon. A voracious body checker, Setoguchi can create problems for opponents on the forecheck and digging the puck out of the corner. If head coach Todd McLellan shows renewed confidence in Setoguchi, and gives him more time on the top line to get his game back into gear, he could be a fantasy steal in many leagues. For Setoguchi, he has to deliver night in and night out to regain his top line role because there are a lot of options at McLellan's disposal.

- "I thought Seto looked more like Seto should look, he was quick, getting into shooting position, that was a positive sign," head coach Todd McLellan said of Setoguchi after a 2-1 loss to Phoenix.

- Local writer/blogger Mike Chen takes a look at the Ron Wilson blueprint as a head coach in San Jose, and compares it to what might be in store for the Toronto Maple Leafs on Kukla's Korner: The Ron Wilson Pattern. Chen believes that certain elements could remain the same for Wilson in his second season in Toronto, but the goaltending differences between the 2003-04 Sharks (Nabokov) and the 2009-10 Leafs (Gustavsson, Toskala, MacDonald) could be too far a distance for the team to overcome. Of note, 34 games into the season and the t-11th placed Leafs are only 4 points behind 8th placed Florida.

- News from's Max Giese: the Fresno Monsters will join North American Hockey League (NAHL) in 2010. Currently atop the Western Division in the Tier III Junior A Western States Hockey League (WSHL) with a 28-2-0-1 record, the Monsters will become the first Californian franchise in the heavily scouted Tier II NAHL. More from California Rubber magazine.

The Fresno Falcons abruptly ceased operations last December in the middle of the 2008-09 ECHL season.

- For Germany, N.H.L. Is Resource and Quandary - Jeff Klein for the NY Times.

For the selectors of the Canadian, Russian and Swedish men’s hockey teams, with their abundance of talent, the hard part of filling an Olympic roster is figuring out which top players to leave out. But the selector of the German Olympic team faces a different predicament: he actually wants to leave out some of his most talented players.

“It’s a bit of a tightrope act,” said Uwe Krupp, Germany’s coach and the man who will choose the squad. “We can’t simply take all our N.H.L. players just because they’re N.H.L. players. What about the guys who were here all through the qualifying process and got us into the Olympics? Do I tell them to just step aside?”

Former Sharks prospect and current ERC Ingolstadt netminder Dimitri Patzold and current Sharks backup goaltender Thomas Greiss are expected to be the favorites for Team Germany in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Klein notes that KHL goaltender Dmitrij Kotschnew (Spartak Moscow) could also be an option. Patzold and Greiss were both stuck behind a logjam of talent in San Jose, similar to the situation Nabokov, Kiprusoff and Toskala faced breaking into the NHL lineup.

Greiss is coming off his 2 best starts of the season against Ottawa and Phoenix, and a hot stretch at the end of last year in the AHL. Patzold registered an 11-11-0 record, .892SV% and 3.49GAA in the Deutscher Eishockey Liga this season. Kotschnew has helped Spartak Moscow into 3rd place in the Boborov Division with a 14-9-2 record, .894SV% and a 2.69GAA.

With Evgeni Nabokov expected to start for a contending Team Russia squad, the Sharks have expressed a desire for an increased role for Thomas Greiss during the compressed second half of the season. Success on a global stage in Vancouver could instill the confidence and swagger Greiss needs to succeed consistently at the NHL level.

Expectations for Germany are limited, they will need to scratch and claw just to get out of the Group Stage (Group C: Sweden, Finland, Belarus, Germany). "To get anywhere in Vancouver, we'll need a hot goalie and we'll need everyone to be playing well... but we'll want to do it with as many of the guys who got us here as we can," Team Germany coach Uwe Krupp told the New York Times. As the youngest goaltender in the 2006 Olympics, Greiss made 35 saves on 40 shots against a powerhouse Team Canada squad. He has also represented Germany at the WJC (2004, 2005, 2006) and at the World Championships (2006).

- 'Biggest Loser' a winner in DEL scoring race -

- The Fenway Park webcam is live at the Winter Classic homepage. A photo gallery of the rink setup with a Ray Bourque siting is available here.

Bob Costas will call the third outdoor NHL game played in the U.S. for NBC, along with play-by-play host Mike Emrick and analysts Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. NESN should send Boston Red Sox reporter Heidi Watney to cover the Winter Classic. Watney did an excellent job covering the Falcons and the ECHL Allstar Game in Fresno before moving on to Boston.

- 2-on-1: Goalies On the Block - Adam Gretz and Chris Botta for NHL Fanhouse.

[Update] Puck Previews: Round 2 for rivals; Sharks break up top line - Greg Wyshynski for

[Update2] West pummelling the East line - James Mirtle.

One key factor in why the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is so poor is the fact the Western Conference has been beating the tar out of the East all year. The West has a 72-37-15 record in interconference play, which is as lopsided as I've ever seen it. (The chart above is the average point totals for teams divided by conference and the average point totals for non-playoff teams divided by conference.)

The season is nearly 40 per cent over, too, so we're not dealing with too small of a sample size. Is the West really this much better than the East? Or is the East just weak beyond the top teams?

[Update3] Sharks hoping to earn Olympic trip together -

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Doubled Up By Manchester, 6-3

Despite two goals from Jason Demers, the Worcester Sharks eight game point streak came to a crashing halt after a 6-3 loss to the Manchester Monarchs Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire in front of an announced crowd of 3,808.

Worcester's long night began just 1:21 into the first period when Manchester's Dwight King jumped on a WorSharks' errant pass just outside the Manchester zone and skated in alone on Alex Stalock, beating the rookie netminder on the low stick side for an unassisted goal and a 1-0 Monarchs lead.

Jason Demers would draw Worcester even after taking a Dennis McCauley feed and blasting a low shot through traffic to beat Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier at 10:38. And that would be Worcester's lone offensive highlight for the first 50 minutes as Manchester tallied the next four goals.

David Meckler would make it 2-1 at 13:59 of the first when David Kolomatis' shot banked off him and into the net. Marc-Andre Cliche would make it 3-1 at 9:27 of the second period with a two-on-one blast that Stalock couldn't get the glove up in time for. It would be 4-1 at 15:06 when Bud Holloway grabbed a loose puck in the WorSharks zone and his centering feed banked in off Nick Petrecki. The third period didn't start any better for Worcester, with Meckler grabbing his second of the contest at 5:39 after he fired one over Stalock from the far post.

The WorSharks, who outshot Manchester 49-26 in the game, did not go down without a fight. Demers stopped the bleeding for Worcester at 13:46 of the final period when he grabbed his own rebound and beat Bernier to the glove side to make it 5-2. Ryan Vesce had the lose assist on the goal.

With Worcester going on the power play at 14:15 of the third and trailing by three, WorSharks head coach Roy Sommer gambled and pulled Stalock to create a two man advantage. That gamble paid off when Vesce found Brandon Mashinter in the slot just ten second into the power play to make it 5-3. Logan Couture had the second assist on the goal.

But that would be as close as Worcester would get when Cliche connected into the open net at 16:56 of the third after Sommer pulled Stalock again with Worcester pressing in the Manchester zone.

The two teams meet again next Friday night in Worcester.

With Tyson Sexsmith being sent to Kalamazoo the WorSharks have signed Ryan Nie to a PTO, and he was the back-up goaltender for the night. Worcester scratches were Joe Callahan (flu-like symptoms), Kevin Henderson, Joe Loprieno, and T.J. Trevelyan (jaw).

It was a "not so good" night for the defensive pairing of Danny Groulx and Nick Petrecki, who were each minus-3 on the night. Groulx was on the ice for both of Worcester's power play goal but did not figure in the scoring. The only WorSharks player with a "plus" for the night was Jason Demers, who finished +1.

The real back breaker of the night came when Worcester wouldn't score on a four minute power play in the second period after Gabe Gauthier high-sticked Steven Zalewski while the score was just 3-1. Holloway's goal for Manchester came just 1:04 after Gauthier's double minor ended.

The three stars of the game were
1. Marc-Andre Cliche (2g,a)
2. Jonathan Bernier (46 saves)
3. Jason Demers (2g)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Jason Demers.

Even strength lines


Worcester 1 0 2 - 3
Manchester 2 2 2 - 6

1st Period-1, Manchester, King 2 1:21. 2, Worcester, Demers 1 (McCauley), 10:38. 3, Manchester, Meckler 4 (Kolomatis, Mullen), 13:59 (pp). Penalties-Wilson Wor (slashing), 12:23; Martinez Mch (tripping), 18:22.

2nd Period-4, Manchester, Cliche 5 (Mikus), 9:27. 5, Manchester, Holloway 8 15:16. Penalties-Campbell Mch (hooking), 2:15; Desjardins Wor (fighting), 9:02; Clune Mch (fighting), 9:02; Gauthier Mch (double minor - high-sticking), 10:12.

3rd Period-6, Manchester, Meckler 5 (Voynov, Cliche), 5:39. 7, Worcester, Demers 2 (Vesce), 13:46. 8, Worcester, Mashinter 6 (Vesce, Couture), 14:25 (pp). 9, Manchester, Cliche 6 (Kolomatis, Rheault), 16:56 (en). Penalties-Nolan Mch (hooking), 14:15.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 13-16-20-49
Manchester 10-11-5-26.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 1 of 5
Manchester 1 of 1.

Worcester, Stalock 13-7-1 (25 shots-20 saves)
Manchester, Bernier 13-6-2 (49 shots-46 saves).

A-3,808. Referee-Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Chris Libett (19).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Late game winning goal by Patrick Marleau waived off, Sharks lose to Los Angeles Kings in overtime 5-4

Referee Steve Kozari waives off Patrick Marleau's game winning goal in the 3rd period against Los Angeles
Referee Steve Kozari waives off Patrick Marleau's game winning goal in the 3rd period against Los Angeles

Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown ended any suspense Wednesday night in a 5-4 overtime win over the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. After the Kings surrended a 2-goal lead in the 2nd period, and allowed Manny Malhotra to tie the game from the slot in the 3rd, Brown carried the puck into the Sharks defensive zone in overtime. Brown cut high above defenseman Kent Huskins and a back checking Dany Heatley, spun, and rifled a shot through Evgeni Nabokov's 5-hole to down the top team in the NHL.

Wednesday's storyline may have had an alternate DVD ending with less than 5 minutes to go in the 3rd period. On the Sharks 7th power play of the game, Patrick Marleau mishandled a pass from Thornton in the slot. The puck deflected to Dan Boyle parked at the side of the net. Boyle was the first player to attempt to punch it passed Ersberg with Simmonds and Johnson on him. Then Dany Heatley tried to tap the puck passed Ersberg before being taken down to the ice by defenseman Randy Jones. Marleau, alone in front of Ersberg and unchecked, saw daylight between Ersberg's gentlemans equipment and the ice. Marleau poked the puck into the net before referee Steve Kozari blew the play dead.

Kozari emphatically waived off the goal, then obstinately pointed to the left faceoff dot as Marleau skated over for an explanation. "I was just saying the puck was in before the whistle," Marleau said after the game. He continued, "but I guess there is some new rule 'intent to blow the whistle'. I wasn't that good at lobbying." The Los Angeles Kings Fox Sports West broadcast crew of Bob Miller and Jim Fox claimed that Marleau had pushed the goaltender into the net, resulting in a disallowed goal. The Sharks Comcast Sporstnet California broadcast crew of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda expounded on the "intent to blow the whistle" ruling, despite a clear goal cam replay that showed Marleau depositing a loose puck into the open space between Ersberg and the ice (not shown on the above video highlight).

After the game, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said there was no point in arguing the call. "We did (get an explanation from referee Steve Kozari). In his opinion, he was blowing the whistle before it crossed the line. It is unreviewable, so it is hard to argue that," McLellan said.

The loss is San Jose's 3rd straight at home, 4th in 5 games.

[Update] KINGS 5, SAN JOSE 4 (OT), Dustin Brown finally responds - Los Angeles Times.

[Update2] He shoots (and shoots) and scores -

Dustin Brown took 48 shots on goal, during his 14-game goal drought, that didn’t find the net (by contrast, Anze Kopitar had 40 shots in his 13-game slump), so the frustration clearly had to be there for Brown, who was getting good shots but not results.

Rarely did Brown seem to be getting too far away from his overall game, but today Terry Murray was asked if he felt Brown was “pressing” in offensive areas to score goals...

MURRAY: “I do think he was pressing, absolutely. He’s a very intense individual. He really cares about his game and he cares about the team. When you go extended periods of not getting that stat that’s important, for forwards in particular, you start to get some snakes running around in your head...

[Update3] In The Crease, L.A. Kings Should Crown A Goalie From Within - Puck Prospectus.

Hockey Night in San Jose

Hockey Night in Canada featured San Jose Sharks vs Calgary Flames Saturday from HP Pavilion
Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night from HP Pavilion
San Jose Sharks left wing Ryane Clowe scores a goal against Calagary

Saturday night's Calgary Flames vs San Jose Sharks Western Conference goaltender's duel was the late game featured on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada. According to William Houston at Truth and Rumors, 810,000 fans across Canada watched the Flames edge the Sharks 2-1. Despite the late Pacific time zone start, it was the 4th most watched sports broadcast in Canada over the weekend.

During a TOR-BOS Coach's Corner intermission with Don Cherry and Ron MacLean, Cherry raised the focus of proper skate saftey. He showed recent lower leg injuries suffered by defenseman Joe Corvo and Andrei Markov, and previous Achilles injuries suffered by Robert Lang and Kevin Bieksa. In the second Coach's Corner segment prior to SJ-CAL, Cherry went inside the Sharks locker room and showed Joe Thornton taping his tendon guard tight to his leg. "If Joe Thornton can do it, you can do it, if your up this late," Cherry said.

Ron MacLean, former Rangers and Islanders goaltender Glenn Healy, and former Sharks goaltender Kelly Hrudey broke down the 1st period of Calgary vs San Jose on HNIC's Coast to Coast. Healy pointed to video of Jay Bouwmeester's first period performance, He noted that Bouwmeester skated with his head up while moving the puck up ice, and compared it to video of Dion Phaneuf with his eyes locked firmly downward. The Flames acquired Bouwmeester in a trade with the Florida Panthers at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and subsequently locked him up to a 5-Year, $33 million contract.

Kelly Hrudey called Nabokov's comments earlier in the week, where he criticized Marc-Edouard Vlasic for not blocking a shot with 6.6 seconds left against St. Louis, "laughable". Hrudey pointed to Vlasic's 52 blocked shots this season, 30 out of approximately 750 NHL players. Vlasic's 4 blocked shots that night were also the most of any player on either team. "Why have a need to tell the media scribes from San Jose you are calling your player out, this is a club poised to win a Stanley Cup," Hrudey said. "This is not behavior that wins you a Stanley Cup."

In the second intermission, Darren Elliott offered an in-depth look at the power player agents and agencies weild in the modern NHL. In the second intermission the analysts also complimented the play of Evgeni Nabokov, despite calling him out earlier in the broadcast, and noted the "meanness" in Joe Thornton's game against Calgary. "It not only sends a message to the other team, but to his team as well." In the past, Marleau and Thornton could be judged in the postseason by shift-to-shift intensity. At the start of 2008-09, they played a nasty 2-way style that opponents were simply unprepared for. After a first round playoff series against Anaheim, fans and media in Northern California are using a Mean Joe vs Regular Joe metric for performance.

Scott Oake and former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes hosted the HNIC After Hours segment after the Flames downed the Sharks. San Jose alternate captain Joe Thornton was the first guest. Thornton took a question from former teammate PJ Stock on how he has adjusted from a series of right handed shots (Murray, Cheechoo, Setoguchi, Samsonov) to the left-handed Dany Heatley, "I used to like playing with right handed wingers until Dany Heatley," Thornton said. He also noted that playing with 2 lefties in Heatley and Marleau forces him to adjust his game and grow as a player.

Oake and Weekes then sat down with current San Jose Sharks captain Rob Blake (part 1, part 2). Blake answered a Kevin Weekes question about what the Sharks need in the playoffs, how the 2009-10 lineup is different from 2008-09, whether or not Team Canada should take Heatley-Thornton-Marleau as a line for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, his top 9 defensive selections for Team Canada (Boyle, Niedermayer, Pronger, Bouwmeester, Rehger, Phaneuf, Weber, Greene and Drew Doughty), and Blake's latest foray into acting.

After hours has also previously featured extensive interviews with San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson (part 1, part 2), and former captain Patrick Marleau (part 1, part 2, part 3.

"He is a pretty solid guy, I think he is one of the heavier guys in the league. I was pretty excited when he fell there, I can't believe he actually fell. I was trying, but he is such a heavy guy, he is a competitor. It is not fair, he has about 75 pounds on me. Guys are giving it to me for being a bowling pin out there." - Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla in a post-game interview about his physical battles with San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray.

A photo gallery from CAL-SJ is available here.

[Update] Local NBA and NHL ratings on Comcast - Sports Media Watch. One note about the CSNCA NHL ratings, the Sharks switched channels from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area to Comcast Sportsnet California for the start of the 2009-10 season. Fans in non-local regions of California and in near-by states have not made the switch as smoothly in some instances, and without being carried by Charter Communications as many as 12-26,000 Northern California fans may be effected according to reports. Charter Communications recently exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

[Update2] Another interesting post by William Houston at Truth and Rumors, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics will be broadcast in English and French, as well as in the indigenous Cree, Mohawk, Inuktituk, Ojibway and Mi’kmaq languages.

[Update3] On a related note, Hockey Night in Canada has been airing Punjabi versions of its hockey broadcasts online (Canadian viewers only, here is a sample Punjabi call of a Colton Orr vs Shawn Thornton fight). With the tech heavy Silicon Valley and the large Punjabi communities in the South Bay, it would have been a perfect opportunity for HNIC to open up the Punjabi call for local Californian viewers. It was noted at the start of the season that San Jose Sharks center Manny Malhotra, half Punjabi on his father's side, was the second player of south-Asian decent to play in the NHL. The first was former Cow Palace Shark Robin Bawa (1992-1993).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Miikka Kiprusoff drops potential save-of-the-year candidate stop on Scott Nichol

Miikka Kiprusoff save of the year against San Jose
Miikka Kiprusoff save of the year against San Jose
Miikka Kiprusoff save of the year against San Jose
Miikka Kiprusoff save of the year against San Jose

Former Sharks goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff dropped a potential save-of-the-year candidate stop on Scott Nichol late in the second period of Calgary's 2-1 win at HP Pavilion on Saturday night. With the score tied at 1-1, and the Sharks on the power play, Manny Malhotra and Jamie McGinn set up in front of the Calgary Flames netmindeer. Sharks center Scott Nichol drove the slot and tried to deflect a point shot on net.

Malhotra spun to take a whack at the rebound, but Nichol jumped on the loose puck and tried to stuff a quick shot inside the near post. Kiprusoff, already with his leg extended on the initial rebound attempt, shot his left leg out again to seal the post. The puck deflected off of Kiprusoff's pad, but was still on a trajectory for the back of the net. Kiprusoff tracked the puck behind him and deflected it with a desperation heel kick.

The play did not end there, as defenseman Jay Bouwmeester deposited Jamie McGinn in the back of the net as he attempted to punch home the fluttering puck. Scott Nichol circled around the net and fired a shot into an empty net, but the play was blown dead as the net was off its moorings. Nichol raised his hands as referees Steve Kozari and Don Marouelli gathered at center ice. They were on the phone with the head office in Toronto, going over the replay to see if the puck had crossed the goal line. Jamie McGinn complained to the linesman that the net was knocked off its moorings intentionally by Bouwmeester, but the goal was waived off and the tide turned in Calgary's favor in the 3rd period.

A large group of local skateboarders at ice level lead the contingent of fans at HP Pavilion who boo'd the decision.

[Update] On the Comcast Sportsnet California post-game show, Yahoo NHL editor Ross McKeon had an interesting look back at the Kiprusoff for a 2nd round draft pick trade that landed the Vezina winning goaltender in Calgary. McKeon pointed out that Kiprusoff was part of a 3-goalie logjam in San Jose, behind Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala on the depth chart. McKeon also noted that the Sharks hands were tied in the trade market because 5 other teams had similar 3 goalie rotations at the time. The 2nd rounder eventually turned into defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. McKeon finished with the question of which current or former Sharks #1 (Nabokov, Kiprusoff, Toskala) would be the first to win a Stanley Cup.

[Update2] Two alternate video reviews of the play by Hockey Night in Canada and CSN California.

[Update3] Langkow's third-period goal lifts Flames to 2-1 win over Sharks - Canadian Press.

"I saw it hit my glove and I knew it was right there," Kiprusoff said. "It can go anywhere when you kick it like that, and this time it went into the corner."

Scott Nichol was the victim of the improbable save. "I took one look and that was enough for me," Nichol said. "I also hit the crossbar. That's what makes him such a good goalie, he never gives up on the puck."

[Update4] 'Save of the century,' one Flame calls Kiprusoff's save as Nichol's shot approached goal line - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Sink Pirates, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks extended their points streak to eight games with a 3-2 shootout win over the Portland Pirates Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 4,489 fans. The WorSharks are 7-0-0-1 in those eight games.

The first period would be scoreless, but that was primarily because of great goaltending by the WorSharks' Alex Stalock and Portland's Jhonas Enroth. Enroth had to make two of the tougher saves, stopping a Dwight Helminen break away seven minutes into the contest, and then a Danny Groulx one time blast just a minute later. Stalock, on the other hand, needed the help of defenseman Jason Demers to stop a wrap around attempt late in the period while on the power play.

Worcester thought they had taken a 1-0 lead early in the second period while shorthanded. A huge hit at the blueline by Joe Callahan freed Logan Couture to break into the Portland zone. Couture slowed while in the zone to allow Steven Zalewski to get to the net, and fired a shot that Enroth made the save of, but the rebound rolled into the far post. With both Enroth and a Pirate defenseman down and out in the crease, Zalewski jammed the puck into the net from his knees.

The goal light came on, and one of the linesmen, who was leading the play into the zone as referee Chris Brown was following the play into the zone from the Worcester end, signaled it was a goal. At nearly the same time as the linesman, Brown also signaled it was a goal. Video replay, while not showing the puck in the net, clearly shows both officials signalling goal with the red goal light on.

Portland protested the call of goal, and after referee Brown spoke with the linesman, ruled the puck had been covered prior to the puck entering the net. This writer, along with many others, were confused by the ruling because if the referee is the only official that can blow the whistle because of the puck being frozen by the goaltender, and Brown originally signaled goal, how could he then rule the puck was covered?

Worcester would officially get on the board at 9:23 of the second period when Andrew Desjardins blasted a one-timer from the slot past Enroth. Dan DaSilva assisted on the goal with a nice pass to the slot from behind the Portland goal line. John McCarthy had the second helper on the play.

Portland would knot the game 1-1 with under a minute to go in the second period. With Worcester running around its own zone, Mark Mancari would grab a loose puck and blast a slap shot over Stalock's glove.

The WorSharks would grab the lead back just 2:38 into the third period just as Portland finished killing off a Worcester power play. Captain Ryan Vesce grabbed a loose puck just inside the Pirates blueline and sent DaSilva and Cory Quick in on a two on one. DaSilva took a pass from Quick and one-timed a blast past Enroth to make it 2-1.

Portland would again knot the game on a Mancari goal. With Portland swarming the WorSharks zone, Worcester failed on three attempts to clear the puck from the zone. Mancari made them pay when he fired a shot from the slot that beat Stalock at 12:32.

Worcester couldn't convert on a late power play chance that extended briefly into overtime, and neither team could light the lamp during the extra stanza. Benn Ferriero, Vesce, and Zalewski would all connect on their shootout attempts, while Stalock stoned three Portland shooters for the 3-2 final.

With Ryan Vesce being reassigned to Worcester, Dennis McCauley joined Will Colbert and Joe Loprieno on the healthy scratch list. T.J. Trevelyan remains the only player on the injured list. Tyson Sexsmith was the back-up goaltender.

Vesce made it to Worcester because when given a choice Saturday night in San Jose to spend the night and miss Sunday's game or jump on the red eye back across the continent, a trip he had already made twice in under 24 hours, and play, Vesce chose to fly and play. That's just one of the many reasons Worcester Sharks Senior VP of Hockey Mike Mudd has called Vesce "one of the most special players I have ever seen".

The WorSharks wore special "W6" jerseys to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire and the six firefighters that died fighting that blaze. They were black and red, and bore a striking resemblance to Portland's usual road uniforms, causing many folks to comment that the game looked like an intra-squad scrimmage. Many of the jerseys were auctioned off to raise money for various charities.

New England Cable News has a video story that shows the jerseys and talks about the special mask Alex Stalock was wearing that is now being auctioned off on

The three stars of the game were:
1. Dan DaSilva (g,a)
2. Andrew Desjardins (g)
3. Alex Stalock (30 saves, 3-3 in shootout)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Joe Callahan.

Even Strength lines


Power Play lines


Penalty Kill lines


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

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-McCormick Por (boarding), 17:10.

2nd Period-1, Worcester, Desjardins 7 (McCarthy, DaSilva), 9:23. 2, Portland, Mancari 10 (Weber, Schutz), 19:08. Penalties-DiPenta Por (delay of game), 0:52; DaSilva Wor (slashing), 4:06; McCormick Por (roughing), 4:55; Wanvig Por (fighting), 11:55; Callahan Wor (fighting), 11:55.

3rd Period-3, Worcester, DaSilva 5 (Quirk, Vesce), 2:38. 4, Portland, Mancari 11 (Gogulla, Whitmore), 12:32. Penalties-McCormick Por (roughing, roughing), 0:38; Moore Wor (roughing), 0:38; Ferriero Wor (high-sticking), 7:17; Callahan Wor (slashing), 8:48; Kostka Por (interference), 18:29.

OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties

Portland 0 (Mancari NG, Gerbe NG, Byron NG)
Worcester 3 (Ferriero G, Vesce G, Couture NG, Zalewski G).

Shots on Goal
Portland 8-11-10-3-0-32
Worcester 10-14-9-6-1-40.

Power Play Opportunities
Portland 0 of 3
Worcester 0 of 4.

Portland, Enroth 7-8-1 (39 shots-37 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 13-6-1 (32 shots-30 saves).

A-4,489. Referee-Chris Brown (86). Linesmen-Todd Whittemore (70), Chris Millea (33).

Ana Julaton wins WBO Super Bantamweight world title in dominant fashion, Gilroy's Eloy Perez stops Santiago in 5th for NABO Super Featherweight title

Daly City's Ana Julaton earns 10 round unanimous decision over Donna Biggers for WBO World Super Bantamweight title and first defense of IBA Super Bantamweight title
Team Garcia boxer Eloy Perez wins NABO Super Featherweight title with 5th round TKO over Juan Santiago
Novato native Jonathan Alcantara earns a hard fought 4 round decision over Visalia's Aaron Alafa

The Friday night season finale for AM&I's Fight Night at the Tank featured a pair of main event title fights. Daly City's Ana Julaton (6-1-0) outclassed a game but limited Dona Biggers (19-9-1, 4KOs) to win the WBO Super Bantamweight world title and defend her IBA Super Bantamweight title for the first time. In his 5th appearance at HP Pavilion, undefeated Eloy Perez (15-0-2, 4 KOs) turned in a virtuoso performance en route to a 5th round TKO over Denver veteran Juan Santiago (11-3-1, 2KOs) to win the NABO Super Featherweight title.

Julaton set the tempo for her fight with Biggers early. Landing several hard hooks to the body, she was able to move around the ring and use a long reach to pick apart her opponent. Both fighters stood toe-to-toe and traded punches at the start of the second. Biggers connected with a pair of heavy jabs, but suffered a deep cut over the right eye near the end of the round. It would be a downhill endeavor from that point on for Donna Biggers.

Ana "The Hurricane" Julaton began to mix up levels, and use a speed and technical advantage to pile up the damage in the middle rounds. In the seventh, a series of quick jabs staggered Biggers and the crowd at HP Pavilion rose to its feet in anticipation of a stoppage. A cut and bloodied Donna Biggers remained on her feet, and slowly began plodding forward again. Julaton, formerly trained by Nonito Donaire Sr. and Manny Pacquiao's Freddie Roach, signed up with Carina Moreno's trainer Rick Noble two weeks earlier.

Julaton tried to penetrate Biggers clamshell defense, using a long jab that became more accurate in the later rounds. She withstood a late 8th round flurry from Biggers, but by the 10th round the outcome was all but certain. Julaton earned a 100-90, 99-91, 99-91 unanimous decision and a standing ovation from nearly 4,000 local boxing fans. Ana remained in the ring after the fight, and was named the AM&I "You be the Judge" fighter of the night based on fan applause.

The hype surrounding Ana "The Hurricane" Julaton captured the local Phillipine community. After her September win over veteran Kelsey Jeffries in San Jose, the circle of interest grew nationally and internationally. In addition to multiple efforts to raise funds for Phillipine disaster relief, Julaton was also recognized personally by Phillipines president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The interest will only grow as an ESPN E:60 television crew followed Julaton in the leadup to the fight and was set up ringside to document her second title winning effort.

In the co-main event, Salinas native and Team Garcia trained Eloy Perez turned in an athletic performance against late replacement Juan Santiago. Perez was originally scheduled to face San Jose's Arturo Quintero, but Perez dominated every facet of the fight en route to a 5th round TKO and the vacant WBO NABO super featherweight title.

Santiago came forward with his height and reach advantage in the first, but excellent head movement and footwork by Perez made him miss early and often. Eloy Perez did not capitalize on the out of position Santiago enough, but he punctuated the opening round with a 3-punch combination and a heavy uppercut that landed flush. Perez snapped Santiago's head back with a hard jab at the start of the second, and by the end he was doubling and tripling the jab with no answer from Santiago.

A natural athlete, Eloy Perez once rushed for over 270 yards in a football game on a Friday night, only to win an amateur boxing tournament the next day. That athleticism was on display in the fourth when an explosive, lunging hook to the body crumpled but did not drop Santiago. Perez remained focused on the body at the end of the fourth, landing several chopping blows to the taller fighter. After the fifth round, referee Dan Stell stopped the fight after consulting with the ringside doctor. Perez earned the vacant NABO Super Featherweight title, and should be ticketed for a step up in competition in the very near future.

The undercard Friday night featured several boxers who have stood out at recent events. San Carlos native Melissa McMorrow (3-1-2) battled an aggressive fog machine early, but used a piston-like jab and a high work rate to earn what the crowd thought should be her 4th career win. The judges thought otherwise, with 40-36, 38-38 and 38-38 scores resulting in a majority draw. Highly touted San Jose cruiserweight Tony Johnson (4-0, 1 KO) spent 4 rounds slugging it out with Idaho native Ron Simmons (3-4, 2 KOs). Johnson wowed ESPN broadcaster Joe Tessitore in his swing fight brawl with Henry Wells after a June ESPN Friday Night Fights main event broadcast from San Jose. Johnson was back in the pocket against Simmons looking for a KO. A big flurry by Johnson at the end of the first, and an overhand right left hook combination at the end of the third were his closest opportunities. Both boxers were slowed, but standing toe-to-toe to finish the fight as the judges awarded a 4 round decision to Johnson (40-36, 39-37, 39-37). Multiple Sharkspage fight of the night recipient Jonathan Alcantara (2-1-1) earned a competitive 4-round split decision over Visalia-native Aaron Alafa (3-2, 1 KO). In the team competition, Team Blue defeated Team Red with 3-1 record and 1 draw (Team Blue: Julaton, Perez, McMorrow, Johnson, Alafa).

A photo gallery from the fights is available here. Earlier 2009 Fight Night at the Tank recaps: May 7th, July 16th, September 12th.

Full Fight Night results:

AM&I Fight Night at the Tank
HP Pavilion - San Jose, CA
December 4, 2009

Ana JULATON (6-1-1, 1 KO) def. Donna BIGGERS (19-9-1, 16 KO’s)....Unanimous Decision (10 Rounds)

Eloy PEREZ (15-0-2, 4 KO’s) def. Juan SANTIAGO (11-3-1, 7 KO's)....TKO Rd. 5

Melissa MCMORROW (3-1-2) vs. Gloria SALAS (1-3-1, 1 KO).....Majority Draw (4 Rounds)

Tony JOHNSON (4-0, 1 KO's) def. Ron SIMMONS (3-4, 2 KO’s)...Unanimous Decision(4 Rounds)

Jonathan ALCANTARA (2-1-1)def. Aaron ALFALA (3-2, 1 KO) def.....Split Decision (4 Rounds)

Attendance: 3,943

[Update] Julaton, Perez victorious -

[Update2] Julaton Dismantles Biggers; Perez Halts Santiago in San Jose - Mario Ortega Jr. for

With the win, Perez claimed the vacant WBO NABO Super Featherweight title, which could elevate him into a top fifteen world ranking with the WBO. Perez had previously claimed the WBC USNBC 130-pound title with a win over Dannie Williams in September and now has two credentials to use as bargaining chips for future bouts. “We recognize his ability and we match him tough, because we know he can do it,” explained the usually reserved Garcia. “Like I told Al Bernstein, he wants us to be on Shobox, we just put notice that we are ready for anybody. Anybody at 130-pounds; Golden Boy, you have somebody for us, bring it. Top Rank, you’ve got somebody for us, bring it. Give us a chance to make a little money. You will see what we got.” Next up for Perez may be a slot on the undercard of the Shane Mosley-Andre Berto fight at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 30th.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Grab Point In 5-4 Shootout Loss To Manchester

The Worcester Sharks saw their six game winning streak disappear, but managed to score two late third period goals to grab a point against the Manchester Monarchs in a 5-4 shootout loss on a snowy Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire in front of 4336 fans.

The Monarchs got on the board first when Alec Martinez banged home a bad angle shot through traffic that beat WorSharks goaltender Tyson Sexsmith at 2:48 of the first. Martinez converted a pass off the endboards by defensive partner David Kolomatis for the tally.

The WorSharks would grab the next two goals to take the lead heading into the locker room after 20 minutes. Michael Wilson took a quick feed from Dan DaSilva and blasted the puck through a screen and past Monarchs netminder Jeff Zatkoff at 6:31. A clean face-off win by Andrew Desjardins earned him the second assist on the play.

Benn Ferriero would have the second goal on a nifty shorthanded move. Sent streaking into the zone by Steven Zalewski, Ferriero held the puck until Zatkoff committed, and then roofed a backhand over the netminder to light the lamp at 13:17.

Despite outshooting Manchester 12-6 in the second period, the middle stanza would end with the Monarchs in the lead. Marc Andre Cliche would knot the game for Manchester when he somehow managed to flip a shot over Sexsmith while laying on the ice at the top of the crease at 7:39. Kevin Westgarth would give the Monarchs the lead at 14:23 when he found himself all alone in front of Sexsmith after a great pass by Dwight King. Despite being known more for his fists than his goalscoring, Westgarth does know how to bury his chances, and bury it he did to make it 3-2.

Westgarth would convert at 5:13 of the third for his second consecutive two goal game when he fired a bad angle shot on net that snuck past Sexsmith for the 4-2 Manchester lead.

Worcester's top line of Zalewski, Ferriero, and Logan Couture would would drag their team into overtime with two goals in the last five minutes of the third period. Ferriero would grab a lose puck after a Couture blast and throw a blind feed from behind the net to Zalewski, who fired it past Zatkoff at 15:01. The tying goal was after a Zalewski pass to Couture, who skated across the slot and got Zatkoff leaning the wrong way. Couture feed a streaking Ferriero, who jammed the puck into the net to make it 4-4 at 17:18.

Overtime would see just a single shot on goal--for Manchester--as the game headed to a shootout. Neither goaltender looked especially good in the eight shots each faced, with Manchester coming out on top 5-4 in both the shootout and the game.

With the exception of Sexsmith playing in goal, Worcester went with the same line-up as Friday night. Ryan Vesce and Derek Joslin, who never actually made it to the team, were recalled back to SJ very late Friday night. Alex Stalock was the back-up netminder.

The three stars of the game were
1. David Meckler (shootout game winner)
2. Kevin Westgarth (2g)
3. Benn Ferriero (2g,a)
With all due respect to the folks in Manchester, how can you give the #1 star of the game to a player that was minus-3? Is scoring a shootout goal really enough to be the #1 star? Obviously, this writer thinks not.

The Sharkspage player of the game was Steven Zalewski.

Worcester 2 0 2 0 - 4
Manchester 1 2 1 0 - 5

1st Period-1, Manchester, Martinez 2 (Kolomatis), 2:48. 2, Worcester, Wilson 3 (DaSilva, Desjardins), 6:31. 3, Worcester, Ferriero 3 (Zalewski), 13:17 (sh). Penalties-Kolomatis Mch (hooking), 3:55; Helminen Wor (interference), 11:18.

2nd Period-4, Manchester, Cliche 4 (Bagnall, King), 7:39. 5, Manchester, Westgarth 4 (King, Elkins), 14:23. Penalties-DaSilva Wor (delay of game), 1:00; Petrecki Wor (fighting), 3:56; Clune Mch (fighting), 3:56; Bagnall Mch (interference), 4:09; Zalewski Wor (tripping), 4:36.

3rd Period-6, Manchester, Westgarth 5 (Clune, Gauthier), 5:13. 7, Worcester, Zalewski 8 (Ferriero, Couture), 15:01. 8, Worcester, Ferriero 4 (Zalewski, Couture), 17:18. Penalties-Groulx Wor (interference), 1:18; Moore Wor (slashing), 8:52.

OT Period- No Scoring.Penalties-No Penalties

Shootout - Worcester 4 (Couture G, Ferriero G, Mashinter G, Zalewski NG, Groulx NG, Quirk G, Strong NG, DaSilva NG), Manchester 5 (Holloway NG, Walker G, Mikus G, Moller G, Elkins NG, Gauthier G, Rheault NG, Meckler G).

Shots on Goal
Worcester 15-12-6-0-0-33
Manchester 10-6-12-1-1-30.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 0 of 2
Manchester 0 of 5.

Worcester, Sexsmith 2-4-1 (29 shots-25 saves)
Manchester, Zatkoff 6-2-0 (33 shots-29 saves).

A-4,336. Referee-Francis Charron (46). Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Chris Libett (19).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Darryl Hunt: Couture, WorSharks Shoot Down Falcons, 4-2

The Worcester Sharks took an hour drive west down the Mass Pike and extended their winning streak to six games after a 4-2 win over the Springfield Falcons Friday night at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 3,373.

Benn Ferriero would put the WorSharks on the board at 11:34 of the first after Springfield looked to have turned aside a Worcester scoring opportunity. The Falcons defense mishandled the puck and it ended up on Ferriero's stick, which he blasted past Springfield netminder Andrew Perugini for an unassisted tally and the 1-0 lead.

The WorSharks fourth line would grab a 2-0 lead for Worcester at 3:46 of the second period when Dwight Helminen fired a 40 foot laser on net that Perugini badly misplayed, and the puck banked off him and into his net. Kevin Henderson and Dennis McCauley has the helpers on the play.

Worcester would increase the lead to 3-0 with a power play tally at 9:51. The WorSharks broke in three on two, and Steven Zalewski threw an easy backhand pass to Logan Couture at the right face-off circle. Couture fired a blast that broke through the five hole of Perugini to light the lamp. That was all Springfield head coach Rob Daum needed to see of Perugini, who was making just his second AHL start.

The WorSharks escaped the first 40 minutes unscathed, but a scrum of players at center ice at 19:47 of the second period resulted in the Falcons starting the third period on the power play on a fresh sheet of ice. And that fresh sheet of ice would play a big role in Springfield getting on the board.

After a Falcons dump in Worcester goaltender Alex Stalock would go behind his net to play the puck. Because of the new sheet of ice the puck was traveling very quickly along the boards, and Stalock was not able to completely control the puck inside the trapezoid behind the net. The puck bounced outside the trapezoid and right on to the stick of Bill Thomas. Thomas found Colton Fretter all alone in front, and Fretter buried it before Stalock could get back to the front of the net just 53 seconds into the third.

And then it rained stuffed animals. With Friday night being a "Teddy Bear Toss" promotion in Springfield, fans were encouraged to bring stuff animals to the came to be donated to local charities and throw them on the ice after Springfield scored their first goal.

The Falcons would get within one at 3:33 of the third despite some good defensive play by Worcester. Fretter broke into the Worcester zone with Joe Callahan in chase. Callahan, while keeping both hands on his own stick, was able to bring Fretter down to the ice to eliminate a good scoring chance. Unfortunately for Worcester, Fretter was able to get the puck into the slot to Adam Henrich, who had outraced Danny Groulx into the slot. Henrich managed to poke it past Stalock to make it 3-2.

Worcester would grab an important insurance marker at 13:12 on a great shot by Couture. Ferriero and Couture would play give and go heading to the net, and Ferriero's pass looked to put Couture out of position standing behind the goal line to the left of Aaron Sorochan, who had replaced Perugini after Couture's first goal of the game. Couture fired the bad angle shot anyway, and managed to sneak it past the near post and just inside the far post to light the lamp.

From that point on Stalock and the Worcester defense held the Falcons at bay for the 4-2 final.

Worcester's healthy scratches were defensemen Will Colbert and Joe Loprieno. Ryan Vesce and Derek Joslin, both assigned to Worcester Friday, did not make the trip down Route 90. T.J. Trevelyan remains the only player on the injured list. Tyson Sexsmith was the backup netminder.

The WorSharks might start calling the MassMutual Center in Springfield their "home away from home" as there seemed at times to be just as much teal in the building as there was Falcons blue. The fact it's a good barn to catch a game in and very easy to get to from Worcester makes it a favorite road stop for many Worcester fans. My only negative for the building is the $7 beers. I'll stick to the Diet Pepsi, thanks.

With WorSharks killer Devan Dubnyk in Edmonton on recall, Springfield is using two rookie goaltenders in his place. Unlike Worcester, the Falcons are having very little luck using the youngsters, going just 1-5-1 in Dubnyk's absence. Dubnyk's career AHL numbers may not look like it (counting this season, 38-67-3-3) but for my money he's one of the best goaltenders in the world that doesn't have a permanent spot in the NHL.

The three stars of the game were
1. Logan Couture (2g)
2. Colton Fretter (g,a)
3. Benn Ferriero (g,a)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Dwight Helminen.

The AHL named Logan Couture as its #3 star of the night.

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

1st Period-1, Worcester, Ferriero 2 11:34. Penalties-Young Spr (charging), 2:19; McCauley Wor (holding), 5:54; Petrecki Wor (fighting), 13:43; Peckham Spr (fighting), 13:43.

2nd Period-2, Worcester, Helminen 4 (Henderson, McCauley), 3:46. 3, Worcester, Couture 8 (Zalewski, Groulx), 9:51 (pp). Penalties-Fretter Spr (goaltender interference), 4:36; Mashinter Wor (roughing, roughing), 6:08; Plante Spr (roughing, roughing), 6:08; Moore Wor (clipping), 7:34; Fretter Spr (tripping), 9:21; Quirk Wor (interference), 13:43; Kinglet Spr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 15:34; Desjardins Wor (roughing), 19:47.

3rd Period-4, Springfield, Fretter 11 (Thomas), 0:53 (pp). 5, Springfield, Henrich 2 (Fretter, Wild), 3:33. 6, Worcester, Couture 9 (Ferriero), 13:12 (pp). Penalties-Henrich Spr (cross-checking), 6:19; Moore Wor (hooking), 8:37; Paukovich Spr (roughing), 11:55.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 13-12-12-37
Springfield 7-9-6-22.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 2 of 6
Springfield 1 of 5.

Worcester, Stalock 12-6-1 (22 shots-20 saves)
Springfield, Perugini 0-1-1 (18 shots-15 saves); Sorochan 1-4-0 (19 shots-18 saves).

A-3,373. Referee-Shaun Davis (31). Linesmen-Kevin Redding (16), Brent Colby (7).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sharks served a wakeup call by St Louis, Colaiacovo SH goal with 7 seconds left ties game and leads to eventual 3-2 shootout loss

San Jose Sharks St Louis Blues Ryane Clowe BJ Crombeen hockey fight
San Jose Sharks St Louis Blues goaltender Ty Conkin shootout win
San Jose Sharks St Louis Blues NHL hockey Scott Nichol Mike Weaver

The Sharks were playing an effective, reasonably tight-checking game for 58 minutes against the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at HP Pavilion. Then, while holding a 2-1 lead, it all fell apart in a single shift that should have ended the game on a power play. With Blues forward Brad Boyes in the box for tripping at 18:09 of the third, the Sharks top line let up and allowed Paul Kariya and Barret Jackman to create a quality 2-on-1 scoring chance shorthanded.

San Jose cleared the puck 200 feet, but with no icing and goaltender Ty Conklin pulled, the Blues came charging back. David Perron carried the puck into the zone with 12 seconds left in the game, and fed defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo for a backhand shot that missed the net wide. Keith Tkachuk made a desperation play to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and Colaiacovo circled behind the net and re-gained possession high in the slot. Without looking, Colaiacovo spun and fired an uncontested 50-foot slapshot through traffic to tie the game at 2-2 and send it into overtime.

In the OT shootout, Patrick Marleau threaded a backhand top shelf but Ty Conklin bolstered his 32-save performance by shutting down Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski on their attempts. Former Anaheim Duck Andy McDonald beat Nabokov with a backhand, and T.J. Oshie took advantage of an ill-advised poke check for the decisive goal and a 3-2 overtime shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.

"You have your top five players on the ice and they give up two very good scoring chances, it is unacceptable," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov referenced the playoffs, and noted that the Sharks had to learn to close out games in similar situations. "Sometimes it gets to the point where it is just words we use, I don't know, it is not good." Nabokov said of the shorthanded goal by Colaiacovo to tie the game with 6.6 seconds left in the third.

When asked if he should have done more to make the save, Nabokov pointed to defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and said that he should have blocked the shot. "That was the perfect situation for the defenseman up front to block it, he wasn't able to." Colaiacovo's spun and fired a 50-foot shot that traveled through 3 bodies before it found the back of the net. "We were too casual on that last shift, and it cost us a goal," Vlasic said of the play. "There are 5 guys out there, 5 were too casual, I was one of the 5."

Head coach Todd McLellan abruptly squashed any finger pointing, noting that Nabokov could have gotten over more, Vlasic could have dropped down for a block, and several forwards could have not been caught standing in the corner. "We are not going to get in a finger pointing situation," McLellan said. "Our power play let us down, it let us down earlier in the game when we needed a goal, it let us down when we gave up one."

It is a troubling result, compounded by a listless effort and 3 shorthanded goals allowed in a 7-2 blowout loss to Chicago, and a disjointed 5-4 win over Edmonton. Disjointed is a code word for sloppy, and at one point in the game radio announcer Jamie Baker mentioned that the Sharks were mentally checked out of the game. Giving up a win in the final 6 seconds should be a reason to gear up the tar machine and prepare the feathers, but there were a lot of things the Sharks could build on against St Louis.

Dany Heatley came out like a house on fire. He opened the scoring 1:19 into the game, and tied a franchise record with 7 total shots in the first period. It did not register as a shot on goal, but he nearly capitalized on a line change to punch home a point blank opportunity against Conklin in the second period. The pass got caught in his skates, and trickled just wide of the net. According to the game report on Heatley has 13 shots in his last 2 games, many of the point blank variety.

Ty Conklin stood tall early as the Sharks came at him in waves, piling up 16 saves on 17 first period shots. Devin Setoguchi tried to set up Dan Boyle driving the net, but former Maple Leef Alex Steen jumped on the loose puck and broke Jay McClement into the Sharks zone with a long pass through the neutral zone. McClement wristed a fluttering shot from 35 feet out that beat Nabokov cleanly over the right shoulder. The Sharks answered back 5:54 into the second period, as Joe Pavelski scored to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. Pavelski defelected a shot/pass from Douglas Murray for his 4th point in 5 games.

St. Louis and Columbus each had a simple gameplan against San Jose in 2008-09, outwork them. The Blues have a lot of young talent on the roster, but many of the players do not always appear to be on the same page. Right wings B.J. Crombeen and David Backes at times appeared uninterested in defensive zone coverage, choosing instead to make a b-line for Dany Heatley. Crombeen, who registered 148 PIMs last season in 81 games with Dallas and St Louis, got on the wrong side of a first period scuffle with Ryane Clowe. Clowe not only pounded out a decision over Crombeen, Clowe also glanced several punches hard off of the plexiglass.

Thursday night the Sharks addressed the slow starts which have plagued them at times, but they also dealt effectively with the Blues' efforts to goon up the game. At one point after a rabbit punch delivered after a faceoff, Heatley turned and stared quizzically at the non-plussed referee less than 10 feet behind him. If there was going to be an entity keeping the Blues honest on the ice, it was going to come from the Sharks bench and not from a striped shirt.

The intensity level increased in the third period. If there were mistakes and sloppy plays on the Sharks side, there were several stretches in the second and third were the Blues attempts to up the physical play could have ended any comeback opportunity. David Backes checked defenseman Douglas Murray early in the period, and Murray responded by pasting him with a check of his own against the end boards. Murray recently received a compliment from Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault. "I look at Douglas Murray (of) San Jose, there's a guy who, when he was on the ice, our guys knew," Vigneault recently told the Vancouver Province. "He was physical, he was hard to play against, he was a guy who if something happens on the ice, you know he is going to be in there and he's going to defend his teammates," Vigneault said.

Murray had his head on a swivel in the second and third, and it was clear any perceived aggression would be answered swiftly. Less than a minute later, left wing Brad Winchester upended defenseman Rob Blake on the far boards. Blake was able to play the puck up the ice before the hit, but he skated slowly back to the bench staring holes in the back of Winchester's #15 jersey. It was fairly clear that something was going to happen soon, and it was not a surprise to see Blues head coach Andy Murray put the Backes-Kariya-Perron line back on the ice less than 2 minutes later when the Sharks top Heatley-Thornton-Marleau line took the ice.

Again David Backes was up in Heatley's personal space as a scrum took place to the left of Conklin midway through the third. According SJ Mercury News beat reporter David Pollak, Backes threw his helmet to the ice when a penalty was called on him, and he tried to goad Heatley into a fight. 6-foot-4, 225-pound Frazer McLaren came off the bench on a quick change and planted himself in front of Backes before the referees ushered McLaren and Backes to the penalty box. Backes was given 2 minutes for holding at 7:13, but McLaren was given 2 for tripping and a 10-minute game misconduct.

It was not a single missed call, but the overall officiating by Brian Pochmara and Dan Marouelli and linesman Mike Cvik and Vaughn Rody let this game get out of hand. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said when asked, that this was the most disappointing loss of the season for him, but being blown out at home by Chicago and not delivering any sort of message in the process was far worse. The Sharks stuck up for themselves throughout the St. Louis attempts to make it a physical affair, they shut down the neutral zone and defensive zone effectively for large stretches of the game, and they started very strong. There are still issues the Sharks need to deal with, and the problems are becoming clearly identified as the season progresses, but there are 3+ months left to address them before the playoffs.

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

[Update] The morning after: Nabokov says he wasn’t trying to single out Vlasic’s role in 3-2 shootout loss - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

Ana Julaton and Eloy Perez combine for a pair of title fights at Friday's Fight Night at the Tank

Daly City's Ana Julaton will face Donna Biggers for the WBO Super Bantamweight world title tonight in San Jose

Daly City's Ana "The Hurricane" Julaton upset veteran Kelsey Jeffries for the vacant IBA Super Bantamweight title with a dominant performance at HP Pavilion in September. She returns to the tank tonight to face another hard hitting veteran in Donna Biggers for the vacant WBO Super Bantamweight world title. Undefeated and athletic Team Garcia boxer Eloy Perez will compete for the NABO Super Featherweight title, and standouts from recent Fight Nights Melissa McMorrow, highly touted San Jose light heavyweight Tony Johnson, and multiple Sharkspage fight of the night recipient Jonathan Alcantara fill out a solid undercard.

Updated fight card and Thursday weigh-in results:

DECEMBER 4th, 2009

Ana Julaton (5-1-1 1KO), 122 lbs
Donna Biggers (19-8-1 16KO), 120 lbs

Eloy Perez (14-0 3KO), 130 lbs
Juan Santiago (11-2-1 7KO), 129.5 lbs

Melissa McMorrow (3-1-1), 106 lbs
Gloria Salas (1-3 1KO), 104.5 lbs

Tony Johnson (3-0 1KO), 186.5 lbs
Ron Simmons (3-3 3KO), 187 lbs

Aaron Alafa (3-1), 119.5 lbs
Jonathan Alcantara (1-1-1), 120 lbs

[Update] Julaton Looks to Claim Second World Title Friday - Mario Ortega Jr. for

[Update2] President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recognizes Ana Julaton -

[Update3] Al Bernstein's Podcast Preview for Friday Night: One Night, Two Titles - (MP3 file).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hockey Notes - 12/3

Paul Kariya St Louis Blues vs San Jose Sharks

- The Sharks may not have fully recovered from last week's blowout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, but they are riding high on the backs of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley.'s Greg Wyshynski implied the line is the best in the NHL, with 30 total points in 6 games played while together.

Yahoo NHL editor Ross McKeon examines the possibility that all three could be picked up and dropped on a line for Team Canada's 2010 Olympic squad. San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has talked at length about the honor and respect he has for players representing their country internationally, and McKeon rightfully notes that the increased exposure and possible success could have a significant impact on each players image nationally.

There’s an irony in that statement, too, if you’re looking at it from the perspective of San Jose’s front office. As much as the trio can help Team Canada, the Olympics can really help Marleau, Heatley and Thornton.

Let’s just say Canada wins the gold in Vancouver – no certainty with Russia and Sweden, along with the Czechs and Finns, looming. How far do you think that will go to change the perception that Marleau and Thornton can’t succeed in the spotlight? More importantly, how far do you think that will go for Marleau and Thornton personally? It could solidify the fact they are great players in the prime of their careers, on the verge of winning whatever they want.

It is an interesting point, but it also raises the question of whether the focus for all three should be on the Olympics or the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After 5 straight embarrassing playoff exits, fans in San Jose want a single word Allen Iverson-esque vocabulary from top to bottom in the organization: playoffs. Injuries and conditioning are always a concern. Heatley worked back into regular season form after missing training camp with Ottawa, and Marleau has shown no lingering effects from a sprained MCL at the end of last season. Doug Wilson noted recently to ESPN's E.J. Hradek that Joe Thornton was in the best physical condition of his career.

All 3 players could churn through the games in Vancouver and not miss a beat returning to the NHL, but that is not always the case. After last year's NHL Allstar Game, Thornton and Marleau slumped with 5 total points in their next 12 games. Defenseman Dan Boyle suffered an upper body injury and missed 3 games. It was one small factor in a late season slide that the Sharks never recovered from. Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman should and probably will name Heatley-Thornton-Marleau to the 2010 squad, but Sharks fans filling HP Pavilion for 5 straight postseasons have earned the right to be wary of an Olympic hangover.

McKeon also touches on an issue that has flown somewhat under the radar locally, the fact that former captain Patrick Marleau and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov are unrestricted free agents after this season:

This season is his best chance – and San Jose’s as well. And it might be the Sharks’ last chance, at least in their current form. It’s a contract year for Marleau and star goalie Evgeni Nabokov(notes). Thornton is up after next season. It’s hard to imagine Marleau and Nabokov both being retained if the Sharks don’t at least reach the Cup finals in late spring.

Purely speculation, but it appears as if the Sharks are in a wait-and-see mode with both players. After his play over the last season and a half, Marleau should be able to name his price with several NHL teams. Unlike a one-dimensional Brian Campbell, Marleau can be an impact player in all areas of the ice. Playoff success will play a major factor, but the talent-laden team, the lack of an intense Ottawa-Toronto fishbowl media microscope, and the fact that Marleau more than any other player built this team into a perennial contender could convince him to take less than market value to help San Jose keep the band together.

Evgeni Nabokov is in a slightly different situation. A phenomenally successful goalie in the regular season, he is on pace for his third straight 40+ win season, but playoff success has eluded him. A playoff exit is a team effort, but last season the spotlight on Nabokov resulted in more criticism than he has faced in his entire career in San Jose. "You look at yourself in the mirror and you say that wasn't good enough," Nabokov told the media after a first round exit to Anaheim. After a few hiccups early in the season, he is aggressively challenging shooters and playing a confident game reminiscent of his runner-up Vezina campaign 2 years ago. His contract situation will also be significantly impacted by the Sharks playoff performance, but demand for his services might be at a higher premium due to the lack of bonafide #1 goaltenders on the market.

Nabokov should emerge from a group of Ilya Bryzgalov, Semen Varlamov, Nikolay Khabibulin, Alexander Eremenko and Vasily Koshechkin as the starter in February for Team Russia's Olympic squad. No question.

- Olympic Power Rankings: Goaltenders - Scott Cullen for

Russia's goaltending looks to be well handled by Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov and Semyon Varlamov, all of whom have played well through the first third of the NHL season. Nabokov has the experience that puts him a step ahead of the other two.

- San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak posted notes from the morning skate at Working the Corners. Pollak writes that Ryan Vesce will be starting on a 4th line with Frazer McLaren and Torrey Mitchell, and that Jed Ortmeyer will miss a game with an undisclosed upper body injury.

- How long will Blues wait? - Jeff Gordon for the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Blues are scoring just 2.4 goals per game, which is fifth-worst in the league. Given the talent mix this team has up front -– young and old, with both size and speed -– there is no excuse for that.

Injuries to puck-moving defensemen Carlo Colaiacovo and Eric Brewer haven’t helped matters. Due to its ever-changing lineup, this team hasn’t developed the necessary defensive zone cohesiveness.

- Highly touted 19-year old defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, drafted 4th overall by St Louis in 2009 behind only Stamkos, Doughty and Bogosian, is in limbo with the Blues. Pietrangelo dressed for 9 games and registered a goal, an assist and a -9 +/-. Post-Dispatch columnist Jeremy Rutherford writes that Pietrangelo might be used in the lineup more, but the Blues can not send him back down to juniors if he plays more than 9 games.

SEL/AHL defenseman Jonas Junland was called up for a start Monday in a 5-2 loss to Columbus, and Pietrangelo accepted an invite for Team Canada's World Junior team, so the situation may be postponed until later in the season. Rutherford notes that Pietrangelo's Niagara Icedogs junior team is mired in a 9-16-4 slump at the bottom of the OHL standings. The 5-member St Louis media panel gives 2 votes for keeping him in the NHL, 1 for sending him down, and 2 for waiting to evaluate his WJC performance.

The Blues are tied with the 5-17-5 Carolina Hurricanes for the worst offense in the NHL with 62 goals for, and both are also neighbors in the NHL power play basement at 12.9% (STL-12/93, CAR-16/124). The 1st overall selection in 2006, defenseman Erik Johnson, leads the team in scoring with 18 points (4G, 14A).

- The latest DOH podcast is up, with a thorough review of Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo's return to HP Pavilion, the demotion of Jason Demers and acquisition of defenseman Jay Leach, and a Western Conference comparison of top 4 defensive corps. Mike and Doug are going to host a 2-hour Sharks call-in radio show this Sunday from 8-10PM (PT) on KDOW 1220AM. Former Shark Mark Smith and Mercury News opinion columnist Mark Purdy will be guests on the show. The call in number is 1-800-516-1220, and the show should be available at as well.

Mike also takes an interesting look at the waiver wire maneuverings with 27-year old Ryan Vesce and newly acquired defenseman Jay Leach.

Added XM HomeIce 204 to the podcast section on the lower right. The latest Globe Sports podcast delves into the issue of the physical play of Alexander Ovechkin. The Hockey News podcast hosts a roundtable with Scott Laughlin, Adam Proteau, Jason Kay and Ken Campbell. AOL's Pucktalk also discusses the Alex Ovechkin suspension, and the latest Rink Podcast has a guest Avalanche blogger and an indepth discussion of the situation in Colorado.

- The NHL Arena is holding a Sharks blogoff vote between 9 of the top Sharks blogs. As they say in Chicago, vote early and often.

- Currency Rise Helps Canadian N.H.L. Teams - New York Times.

- Local photographer Al Reyes sent in an article on Toronto Star photographer Steve Russell being hit with a puck while photographing a game. Russell was hit in the right cheekbone as Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was trying to clear the puck up ice. Taking photographs of hockey at times can be a contact sport, much more so at the junior, college or minor league level. But you always have to throw the puck back to the fans. Russell did finish shooting the game.

- Peaking Too Early? Dan Boyle on his blog at

With 1/3 of the season complete, I’m happy with the way we have responded as a team after an average start. We have put some good winning streaks together and have bounced back from ugly games/efforts like our 7-2 Chicago loss last week.

The media has frequently asked me if I was concerned we were peaking too early. I don’t think that is a very smart question. We don’t choose when we want to peak and when we want to struggle. The goal is to go out every night and fight for a win. You can’t just turn it on and off as you please. You put your best effort on every given night and hope you’re in the playoff picture at the end.

- The San Jose Sharks are holding their annual "adoption" party Monday, December 7th. Each year the Sharks adopt local families, purchase holiday gifts, and treat them to ice skating and a meal at Outback Steakhouse. This year as the South Bay is in a deep financial downturn, the Sharks players and organization pledged to help 31 local families.

"This is easily the most meaningful event the Sharks Foundation puts on each year and certainly the one that our players and staff enjoy most... All you have to do is look at these kids to know what it means to them and certainly to their parents that people took time out of their holidays to spread a little cheer and hope. It's really overwhelming," Sharks Foundation Manager Laura Johnston said via a press release.

[Update] Blues begin tough haul at San Jose -

Entering play on Wednesday, the Sharks top line had three of the top seven scorers in the League. Thornton led with 39 points, Marleau was tied for third with 33 points, Heatley was one back and tied with Brad Richards with 32 points. On the other hand, the Blues didn't have anyone in the top 75. Johnson was tied for 76th with his 18 points.

[Update2] Sharks Gameday: Home Stand City - FeartheFin.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gamelog: San Jose Sharks vs Ottawa Senators

A gamelog of the San Jose Sharks 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators:


Left wing Dany Heatley's messy offseason divorce from the Ottawa Senators (13-7-4, 30pts), the veto of a trade to Edmonton, and the subsequent trade to the San Jose Sharks (18-6-4, 40pts) spawned a cottage industry of indignation and affrontation from the Canadian media this summer. The fact that the first post-trade matchup occured on friendly ground for Heatley dulled hostilities slightly, but not completely. The Ottawa Citizen's James Gordon covered some of the questions surrounding Heatley, Michalek and Cheechoo, but comes to the conclusion that "the winner of this deal will ultimately be determined by team performance, not individuals." At the time of the trade, this blog said the winner would be the team that left with Patrick Marleau, possibly the best 2-way player in the NHL.

The 6th Sens have been churning through the media coverage in Ottawa, from Bruce Garrioch's blog posts, to recent comments made by Dany Heatley's father Murray, speculation on the reasons Heatley wanted to leave Ottawa, notes from Murray Heatley's interview with Team 1200AM, and a look back at divisive comments Los Angles Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall made about Heatley in the offseason.

"I haven't thought twice about it since I left... it was the product of being one of the only stories going in the country this summer, and it just blew up," Heatley recently told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser. Slusser wrote that Heatley was public enemy #1 in Ottawa and Edmonton, but it became an issue of national pride and it dominated television, radio and print coverage for months. San Jose Mercury News opinion columnist Mark Purdy wrote about what could go wrong with the Heatley trade, but a more interesting comparison was how quickly Heatley was accepted by fans and integrated into the team vs the blowback Golden State Warriors captain Stephen Jackson received for demanding a trade and that 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree received for an extended holdout. Jackson was subsequently traded to Charlotte, and Crabtree signed a 6-year contract.

There may have been a double standard in play with regards to Heatley, but fans in San Jose supported the team through 5 straight disastrous playoff exits. Changes needed to be made, and as a result nearly 50% of the roster turned over from 2008-09. Heatley faced hostile crowds in a pair of wins Friday in Edmonton and Sunday in Vancouver, but fans in San Jose have more questions about his style of play and game preperation. Heatley consistently refused to discuss the reasons for leaving Ottawa, but with 14 points in his last 12 games he has moved on and is clicking on the Sharks top line with Joe Thornton. The only questions from a San Jose perspective are how can head coach Todd McLellan squeeze the most out of him in different situations, and can he deliver in big games in the playoffs.

Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell and Rob Blake recently returned to the lineup from injuries, and Todd McLellan mixed and matched the forward lines adding a scoring threat from top to bottom. After their worst game of the season in a 7-2 loss at home to Chicago last Wednesday and a disjointed 5-4 win over Edmonton on Friday, the Sharks rebounded with a solid 4-2 road performance against Vancouver. The Ottawa Senators earned 16 out of a possible 22 points in November with a 7-3-2 record. Former Shark Milan Michalek leads the team with 13 goals in 24 games played. "We're just trying to simplify our game,... the beginning of the season we had a lot of chances, but nobody was going to the front of the net. We have to go to the front of the net," Michalek told Ottawa defenseman Anton Volchenkov will return to the lineup after a 14-game absence due to an elbow injury.

The Sharks ice the 4th best power play (27-112, 24.1%), and the top penalty kill in the NHL (14-103, 86.4%). The Ottawa Senators have the 21st ranked power play (15-80, 18.8%) and the 12th best penalty kill (20-106, 81.1%). Scratches: San Jose - Jay Leach, Brad Staubitz. Ottawa - Chris Campoli, Chris Neil, Peter Regin.








Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss gets the nod in net for his fourth start this season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound German netminder has a 2-2-0 record in 5 games played with a 3.19GAA and a .897SV%. Greiss looked impressive in a 37 save performance against Philadelphia, but has had critical mental lapses in relief duty against Los Angeles and Chicago. He was strong down the stretch helping Worcester into the AHL Calder Cup playoffs last season, and he has the physical tools neccessary to become a solid backup NHL goaltender, but Greiss is nearing the make or break stage from a San Jose Sharks perspective. In a pregame interview, head coach Todd McLellan noted that Thomas is an important part of the team and that he will continue to see playing time as the season progresses. Last season the Sharks used backup goaltender Brian Boucher to great effect when starter Evgeni Nabokov went down with injury, but his confidence and performance diminished with an extended stay on the bench.

Several players are trying to use this game to make a statement early. After an Alfredsson-Michalek 2-on-1 resulted in missed shot on net, defenseman Anton Volchenkov came flying into the offensive zone trying to backhand the puck back in deep. Joe Thornton corralled the puck on the half boards, and blew by Volchenkov in the neutral zone to create a 2-on-1 with Dany Heatley in the opposite direction. Strong back pressure by Alfredsson broke up the play, but Heatley picked up the loose puck and tried to stickhandle around a pair of Senators before losing an edge. Volchenkov has an opportunity to clear, but Patrick Marleau bodies him off the puck and Healtey keeps it in the zone. Quick pass to Joe Thornton on the left wing, and Thornton waits with the puck on his stick as Marleau drives the lane. Marleau hammers home his 18th goal of the season from 28 feet out. Thornton and Heatley were awarded assists on the goal.

Playing in his 900th game as a San Jose Shark, Patrick Marleau was drafted by the Sharks in the 1st round 2nd overall in 1997, the former captain leads the franchise in several major offensive categories: games played (900), goals (295), assists (348), points (643), PP goals (89), game winning goals (53), and shots on goal (2009).

55 seconds after Marleau's goal, another pair of Senators are caught deep in the Sharks zone on a quick transition up ice. Center Chris Kelley snapped a shot from a hard angle that was blocked by Scott Nichol, then tripped over Jarko Ruutu as Nichol fired a breakout pass to Jamie McGinn up ice. McGinn took 6 quick strides to split the defense, then snapped a shot off the inside leg pad of goaltender Brian Elliot. It was McGinn's 5th goal of the season, but it is McGinn's consistent defensive effort that is going to earn him a permanent roster spot this season.

Second on the team with 65 PIMs, former Sharks and Cleveland Barons defenseman Matt Carkner dropped the gloves with rookie left wing Frazer McLaren on the next shift. Despite the possibility for announcers saying "down goes Frazer" multiple times this season, McLaren is going to be a handful for several enforcers and agitators in the NHL due to his size and very heavy hands. The 6-4, 225-pounds McLaren is matched up evenly size wise this time with 6-foot-4, 231-pound Matt Carkner. As has been the case in several recent McLaren fights, the opponent goes down early. This time Carkner got up and grabbed a hold of McLaren's jersey above the left shoulder, immobilizing his left arm. Carkner rained down several right hands and torqued McLaren to the ice. According to Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, the Sharks are second in the NHL, behind only the Calgary Flames, in fighting major penalties: Calgary 28, San Jose 24, Toronto 24, Ottawa 22, Philadelphia 22.

On the second leg of a 5-game, 9-day road trip the Senators are having trouble maintaining possession in the Sharks zone, and clearing the puck out of theirs. After a half dozen failed attempts to keep the puck deep, Ottawa finally punches through on the rush. Dan Boyle and Dany Heatley combined for a quick shot on goal from the slot, and a rebound attempt by Heatley sent the puck in the corner. Defenseman Chris Phillips fired the puck up along the boards, and Milan Michalek negotiates a referee to gain control and break up the left wing. With Spezza driving the slot, Michalek briefly fakes a pass towards then pump fakes a shot on Thomas Greiss. Greiss doesn't bite, but he does kick out his left leg to prevent Michalek from moving to his backhand. Michalek maneuvers the puck around Greiss and taps home his 14th goal of the season against his former team. A little extra flair on Michalek's dive to the ice is slightly reminiscent of his celebration after scoring a goal from his knees last season.

The Sharks set up 2 quality scoring chances for Dany Heatley on a late first period power play. Thornton wins a clean offensive zone faceoff vs Mike Fisher, and draws it back to the point. A pair of passes down the left wing give Joe Thornton possession behind the net. A short pass finds Heatley in front, but Elliot covers the lower portion of the net for the save. A low cycle is effective for San Jose after another key offensive zone faceoff is won by Thornton against Fisher. Dan Boyle tracks down the puck, and finds Thornton behind the net. Thornton spins and finds an unchecked Patrick Marleau on the half boards. Marleau fires a hard pass to Heatley at his office in front of the net.

If Rob Blake is a study on how a player can get off a heavy slapshot with time and space closing down in the modern NHL, Dany Heatley is an even more exaggerated version. Heatley repeatedly finds a way to cock his stick at a 90 degree angle and still get off a shot before the defense or the back check can take away the shot. Phillips gets a piece of Heatley's shot with his stick, but Elliot was in good position squared up to the shooter in the butterfly. The Sharks keep the puck in the zone again, and Elliot wisely freezes the play when the puck comes within reach.

Milan Michalek is dangerous at the end of the first period. Michalek creates two scoring chances, the first by deking two players at the top of the zone and wristing a hard shot that narrowly misses high and wide. Later in the shift, Michalek gets to a loose puck behind the net and instantly tries to stuff it home in front. Defenseman Rob Blake offers a veteran check to knock him off the puck and prevent subsequent whacks by Michalek. Shift in and shift out, Blake may be the most punishing Sharks defenseman in front of the net. He missed 11 games in November with an upper body injury and returned Sunday against Vancouver.

With 9 seconds left in the period, left wing Nick Foligno tries to stiff arm defenseman Derek Joslin with 1 arm and carry the puck to the net with the other. The collision sends the puck trickling through the crease, but Foligno catches a large part of Thomas Griess with his shoulder and his knee. Joslin initiates the hit, but Foligno alters his direction into the goaltender and the 2 minute minor for goaltender interference is a fairly conservative call at the end of the first. The Senators escape with the Sharks threatening on the power play, and they can make adjustments at intermission after being outshot 15-9.


The Sharks are swarming in the offensive zone to start the second on the power play. Dan Boyle hits the far post with a wrist shot that deflects into the opposite corner. Defenseman Kent Huskins is on the point along with Boyle. Huskins has a respectable 1 goal, 9 assists and 21 PIMs in 29 games played for San Jose this season. Acquired in a deadline trade last year along with Travis Moen, Huskins did not play a game at HP Pavilion due to a lingering injury. Expectations were high for Huskins after he signed a 2-year, $3.4 million contract in the offseason, but he has settled into a role on the third pairing with Jason Demers and now Derek Joslin. Huskins is most effective when he makes instinctive plays on the ice, and his mean streak will be valuable in the playoffs.

Ottawa is effective shutting down the Sharks in front of the net on the penalty kill, and they are opening up the ice and gaining speed through the neutral zone. Kuba registers a quality shot on goal, and Sharkspage favorite Alexei Kovalev carries the puck behind the net and passes it out to the point to defenseman Alexandre Picard, but Picard was outside of the zone for an offsides. A right shooting Dan Boyle loses his stick, and has to wait several seconds before Frazer McLaren hands him a left handed stick. He has an opportunity to change off the ice, but the Senators pressure and he has to cover back in his zone. Jesse Wincester circles at the faceoff dot, and launches a hard shot that deflects into the netting.

The Senators continue to apply consistent pressure in the Sharks zone. Spezza drops a 180 on Patrick Marleau to pass the puck back into the slot, but Marleau deflects it into the boards. Ottawa keeps pressing, and Thomas Greiss makes a glove save and then plays the puck Vlasic. A charging Milan Michalek gains body position on Vlasic, back to the net, and plays the puck up to a teammate to create another quality scoring chance.

Ottawa technically kills a delay of game penalty on defenseman Matt Carkner, but the Sharks are able to convert shortly after Carkner's penalty expires. Thornton makes a good effort to keep the puck in the zone on a clearing attempt, and drops it down low to Heatley behind the net. Heatley and Marleau each chop at the puck, and Marleau buries his second goal of the game for a 3-1 lead. The Senators will still finish 3-3 on the night for the penalty kill, but Marleau punched it home before Carkner could get back into the play.

After a cold stretch of 2 assists in his first 13 games, left winger Ryane Clowe is starting to heat up with 16 points in his last 15 games. Clowe would add another goal Tuesday night against Ottawa. The Sharks fourth line played a solid shift in their own zone, followed by Clowe-Pavelski-Malhotra winning 3 seperate battles for possession in the offensive zone. Malhotra deflected a clearing attempt to Clowe, who spun and fired a quick shot that beat Brian Elliot inside the post. Elliot was checking his position after the play, but a replay showed Clowe beating defenseman Matt Carkner off the boards, and then cutting back inside him to get to the loose puck. Clowe's 6th goal of the season was assisted by Malhotra at 13:25. Score 4-1 Sharks.

The Ottawa Senators are in comeback mode, attempting to break the puck up ice. Three times the Sens are outnumbered in front of the Sharks net, or outnumbered in the neutral zone, and the breakout stalls. Scott Nichol finishes a missle-like check behind the net on Filip Kuba, and Dan Boyle tries to follow up on that by upending defenseman Erik Karlsson along the boards. Boyle was given a 2 minute tripping call. Milan Michalek would get the Senators back on the board with his second goal of the game, his 15th of the season. Rob Blake could not clear a Sens dump-in, and Karlsson carried the puck down the right wing finding Daniel Alfredsson behind the net. Alfredsson fired a pass to Michalek in front with his stick on the ice, and Michalek beat goaltender Thomas Greiss cleanly over the right shoulder. Score 4-2 San Jose.


Statistics were piling up in favor of the Sharks to start the third period. San Jose is undefeated when heading into the third period at 13-0-2, and strong on home ice with an 8-1-2 record and points in 10 of 11 games this season at HP Pavilion. The gameplan for San Jose was simple, force the Senators to skate 200 feet outnumber bodies in the neutral and defensive zones. Clowe-Pavelski-Malhotra forced the Senators deep twice, and the top line for San Jose dropped back in the neutral zone and clogged up the passing lanes early.

Scott Nichol took the first of 4 Sharks penalties in the period at 5:01, a 2 minute minor for hooking. Defenseman Douglas Murray, with his hall of fame grandfather Lasse Bjorn in attendance, took consecutive interference, tripping and roughing penalties, the last coming at the 20:00 mark. The Ottawa Senators were unsuccessful on 3 power play opportunities, with the best scoring opportunity coming on a point shot by defenseman Erik Karlsson. The rebound dropped in front of Greiss with Shannon and Alfredsson poised to bang it home. Vlasic tried to gain body position on right wing Ryan Shannon, but Alfredsson came barreling in and pulling the whole pile towards the right. Alfredsson reached back across his body to try to lift the puck over a prone Greiss, but the German gobbled the shot up faster than an unattended bratwurst in an Octoberfest buffet. Greiss showed excellent mobility with a strong push to his left before squaring up to the shooter, and good reflexes dropping down to freeze the play.

Patrick Marleau wowed the sellout crowd at HP Pavilion by intercepting an errant pass by Filip Kuba. Shorthanded, Marleau accelerated past Kuba, gathered the puck with his right hand on the stick, and lost possession trying to draw it back to his forehand. Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek are each tied with 8 other players for the NHL lead with 2 shorthanded goals this season. The Sharks missed their first opportunity for an empty net goal, but Manny Malhotra split the uprights for his 6th of the season with 16 seconds left. The Sharks earned a 5-2 win over Ottawa for their league leading 19th win of the season.

The Sharks finished outshooting Ottawa 33-27 (66-54 factoring in missed and blocked shots), registering more hits (21-18), and dominating the faceoff circle 39-22 (64%). The biggest mismatch was Joe Thornton vs Mike Fisher (3-5, 60%) and Jason Spezza (6-10, 60%). Fisher lost 2 key defensive zone faceoffs that lead directly to point blank shots by Dany Heatley. Goaltender Brian Elliot deserves credit for bailing Fisher out both times. Goaltender Thomas Greiss finished with 25 saves on 27 shots against for his 3rd win of the season, Brian Elliot stopped 28 of 32 shots against.

[Update] 'Interesting week' for Heatley, Sniper now has first games in Edmonton, and against Ottawa, behind him - Ottawa Sun.

[Update2] Heatley encounter? Just another game, insists Clouston Senators, Sharks play down emotions since trade request -

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Miami University Retains No. 1 Ranking in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from

Miami University Retains No. 1 Ranking in USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Miami University, which secured 483 points and 18 first-place votes, retains the No. 1 ranking in this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. The RedHawks have held the top spot for nine consecutive polls.

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups:

Friday, December 4
No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 1 Miami
No. 2 Denver at No. 5 Colorado College
No. 3 North Dakota at No. 12 Minnesota Duluth
No. 6 Quinnipiac at No. 10 Yale
No. 14 Boston College at No. 9 Massachusetts

Saturday, December 5
No. 15 Notre Dame at No. 1 Miami
No. 5 Colorado College at No. 2 Denver
No. 3 North Dakota at No. 12 Minnesota Duluth
No. 9 Massachusetts at No. 8 Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Denver (470, 10 first-place votes), which split its weekend series with St. Cloud State University, holds the No. 2 position for the second straight week. The University of North Dakota (448, three first-place votes) moves up one spot to No. 3. after defeating The Ohio State University and tying No. 1 Miami last weekend. Bemidji State University (373, one first-place vote) moves up to No. 4 after a victory against No. 1 Miami and losing to Ohio State. Colorado College (366, one first-place vote), which went 1-0-1 against the University of Alaska Anchorage, rounds out the top five. Quinnipiac University (353, one first-place vote) continues its climb up the poll, moving up four spots to No. 6 this week.

Highlighting this upcoming weekend's games are two top-5 match-ups, with a home-and-home series between No. 2 Denver and No. 5 Colorado College. In addition, No. 15 Notre Dame will host No. 1 Miami on Friday and Saturday.

NOTES: The Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association each boast four ranked teams ... ECAC Hockey and the Hockey East Association each have three ranked programs, while Bemidji is the only ranked College Hockey America ranked team ... A total of 23 teams received votes.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #9

(Rank, School, First-place votes in parenthesis, Last Poll's Ranking, 2009-10 Record, Weeks in Top-15)

1 Miami U., 483, (18) 1, 9-2-5, 9
2 U. of Denver, 470, (10) 2, 9-4-1, 9
3 U. of North Dakota, 448, (3) 4, 8-4-2, 9
4 Bemidji State U., 373, (1) 6, 11-2-1, 6
5 Colorado College, 366, (1) 5, 10-3-1, 6
6 Quinnipiac U., 353, (1) 10, 12-1-0, 3
7 Cornell U., 316, 8, 6-2-1, 9
8 U. of Massachusetts Lowell, 244, 3, 8-4-1, 9
9 U. of Massachusetts, 237, 9, 9-3-0, 4
10 Yale U., 198, 11, 5-2-2, 9
11 Michigan State U., 129, 7, 9-5-2, 4
12 U. of Minnesota Duluth, 128, 13, 9-4-1, 3
13 U. of Alaska, 114, 12, 8-3-3, 5
14 Boston College, 57, 15, 6-3-2, 6
15 U. of Notre Dame, 49, 14, 7-5-4, 9

Others receiving votes: Ferris State University, 45; University of Wisconsin, 44; University of Nebraska Omaha, 11; University of Vermont, 9; University of Michigan, 2; Rochester Institute of Technology, 2; Boston University, 1; Colgate University, 1.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 15th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the AHCA and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] Fireside Chats: William Wrenn - Fear the Fin.

Sharks acquire defenseman Jay Leach on waivers from Montreal Canadiens

San Jose Sharks acquire defenseman Jay Leach on waivers

The San Jose Sharks acquired defenseman Jay Leach today on waivers from Montreal. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound blueliner registered 5 PIMs in 7 games played for the Canadiens this season, and 3 assists and 10 PIMS in 12 games played for the AHL Lowell Devils. "Jay adds depth to our organization's defensive core, and we are pleased that we were able to acquire him," general manager Doug Wilson said of the addition.

The Montreal Canadiens originally claimed Leach off waivers from the New Jersey Devils on November 6th. The Canadiens bolstered their defense after injuries to Hall Gill (foot) and Andrei Markov (ankle). The Sharks are responsible for half of the salary left on his 2009-10 contract (NHL $487,500, AHL $200,000).

The Sharks sent rookie defenseman Jason Demers down to Worcester on Saturday to make room for the return of Rob Blake. Demers stressed to the Worcester Telegram that he needed to develop more consistency, "this is just a bump in the road," Demers said.