Friday, April 30, 2010

WCSF Game 1: San Jose Sharks set tone with hard work and three points by Joe Pavelski in game 1, down Red Wings 4-3

San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings playoffs Joe Pavelski faceoff
San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings Semifinals Joe Pavelski Big Lebowski
San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs Evgeni Nabokov save

Notes from the San Jose Sharks 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings in game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals will be posted soon. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here. A Sharkspage photo gallery from the game is available here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

WCSF Game 1: Detroit Red Wings gameday skate video, pre-series comments by head coach Mike Babcock

A few raw video clips of the Detroit Red Wings morning skate, a shoot around with starting goaltender Jimmy Howard, and the post-practice media scrum with head coach Mike Babock is available on youtube here.

The lineup at the Sharks morning skate was status quo, with Torrey Mitchell joining Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on the top line according to beat writer David Pollak. That could change prior to the 6PM drop of the puck, or during an in-game adjustment. Pollak also noted Todd McLellan's wish to spread the offense around, and checking forward Dwight Helminen's 3-year University of Michigan playing background.

On the Red Wings side,'s Ansar Khan noted that defenseman Brian Rafalski was the only player who did not skate in the pregame practice. Lines for Detroit apparently will remain status quo according to Khan: Franzen-Datsyuk-Holmstrom, Filppula-Zetterberg-Bertuzzi, Draper-Helm-Eaves and Miller-Abdelkader-Cleary.

The NHL's national cable broadcast partner Versus will air the first two games of the series, game 1 Thursday at 6PM (PT), and game 2 Sunday at 5PM. HP Pavilion in San Jose is booked on Friday and Saturday for an Eagles concert. According to a press release, there will be a pre and post-game Hockey Central highlight show before and after each nationally broadcast game. Versus will be the exclusive home for the East and West Conference Finals, and games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Comcast SportsNet California announced today that exclusive coverage of games 3-7 can be found on their channel. Each game broadcast will also include a Sharks Pregame Live and Sharks Postgame Live half hour analysis and highlight show. A special edition of Chronicle Live will be aired tonight at 5PM with guests including President/CEO Greg Jamison, EVP/GM Doug Wilson, and former player Jeremy Roenick among others.

[Update] When stars shine, Red Wings are hard to beat - Detroit News.

[Update2] Former comrades Mike Babcock, Todd McLellan have mutual admiration - Detroit Free Press.

McLellan worked as an assistant for Babcock in Detroit in 2005-08, until he was hired by the Sharks to help exorcise their record of regular-season achievement followed by playoff failure. He had a rough opening year, with the Sharks getting upended by Anaheim in the first round last year, but there’s little question he’s a very talented coach.

“He’s smart,” Babcock said this morning at HP Pavilion. “He’s a good man, he’s a good family guy. I rode to the rink with him every year for three years. I coached against him in junior hockey. When I was going to hire him, I met with him early, it was during the lockout year -- I think it was Cincinnati, could have been anywhere -- and kind of put a bug in his ear and met with him a few times.

[Update3] Best of the West fill out its final four - Ross McKeon for

[Update4] Prepare for the 'master versus apprentice' storyline as Red Wings' Babcock tangles with Sharks' McLellan - George Malik for Snap Shots. Not even sure if Malik is aware the Skywalker Ranch is a short hop across the Bay from HP Pavilion. Darth Babcock?

[Update5] Red Wings could be fined for breaking San Jose curfew - Greg Wyshynski for Puck Daddy.

WCSF Game 1: Detroit Red Wings gameday practice photo gallery

Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard
Detroit Red Wings Playoffs goaltender Jimmy Howard

A small photo gallery from the Detroit Red Wings pregame skate Thursday is available here. Video of the practice and pregame notes will be posted soon.

WCSF Game 1 preview: A look back at Colorado, a look ahead to Detroit

San Jose Sharks playoffs Torrey Mitchell
San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup Playoff series stats

San Jose Sharks preview:

The Sharks stressed a theme of overcoming obstacles prior to the start of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and they would return to that theme early and often in the first round against the Colorado Avalanche. Odd bounces off of Rob Blake's skate, Marc-Edouard Vlasic's throat, and a Dan Boyle shot that deflected off of Ryan O'Reilly's stick resulted in three own-goals over the first three games. The Avalanche emerged with a 2-1 series lead, each in one-goal affairs, but the tide would turn.

The Sharks stuck with the Todd McLellan philosophy of playing the body hard, funneling shots on net, and trying to wear down a young and hobbled Avalanche squad on both sides of the ice. Colorado quizzically adopted a counter-punching style, laying back in the neutral zone waiting to capitalize on mistakes. Mistakes that either never came, or were swallowed up by a sharp Evgeni Nabokov. The Avalanche may have been taking a page from the Anaheim Ducks one year earlier. The Ducks lulled the Sharks into complacency early, took the series lead, and then let them beat themselves as they tried a desperation comeback.

What worked for San Jose: The Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi line combined for 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists), and 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) on the power play. Joe Pavelski continued a trend of clutch performances with the game tying goal with 32 seconds left in game 2, the overtime game winning goal in game 4, the game winning goal in game 6 as well as an assist on Dan Boyle's game tying goal in the third period. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Pavelski thinks the game well, makes a b-line for the front of the net, and plays 20 pounds above his weight. Ryane Clowe is a player in the power forward mould, one head coach Todd McLellan called the Sharks MVP down the stretch. Clowe excelled at winning puck battles in the corner, and creating scoring chances with puck possession around the wings. Devin Setoguchi had to be settled down by teammates after a penalty in game 1, but a voracious forecheck and at times a head hunting style made him a handful for Colorado. If Setoguchi can mimic the puck possession style of Ryane Clowe, take it to the net instead of making plays high in his zone, his goal and penalties drawn totals will skyrocket.

Evgeni Nabokov and Craig Anderson each had a forgettable game 2, but Nabokov quickly worked himself back into the series. An aggressive style that saw him challenge shooters at the top of the crease remained consistent despite anemic shot totals from Colorado. Nabokov allowed a combined 1 goal against in games 4 and 5, and held the Avalanche to 2 goals or less for all but 1 game in the series. Not shaken by a puck that deflected in off the skate of Rob Blake for a game winner in the opening contest, or a puck that beat him on Dan Boyle's shot in overtime of game 3, Nabokov kept the team pointed in the right direction for the rest of the series. According to HNIC, a heated offseason meeting between general manager Doug Wilson and Nabokov centered around being a better teammate. Nabokov put that into practice during the regular season, and could be one of the most sought after free agents in the offseason. He needs to direct traffic and at times act as a third defenseman when the d is pressured in his zone.

The overwhelming trend was shots on goal in all situations. The Sharks outshot Colorado 245-149, and the disparity was equal with shots that missed the net 87-57. Getting pucks through traffic was a major factor in the series, as the Avalanche averaged over 20 blocked shots a game (21.3). Also notable was the Sharks play late in game 6 with a one goal lead. From the 12 minute mark to the Sharks second empty net goal at 19:29, San Jose got the puck deep in the Colorado zone 8 times. It forced the Avalanche to skate 200 feet for a comeback. They were only able to set up in the offensive zone 5 times, and the scoring chances lacked the intensity and desperation needed to even the series.

What needs work: The Marleau-Thornton-Heatley line was held to 1 goal in the series. Heatley missed game 3 with an undisclosed lower body injury, looked hobbled in game 4, but started to return to form in the final two games. He directed a shot off the post that nearly ended game 4 in overtime. Marleau registered a goal in the 5-0 blowout in game 5, but needs to have more of an impact on both sides of the ice. Shift-to-shift intensity and compete level have been the criteria this blog used to evaluate Marleau and Thornton the last 3 postseasons. This year both could be better. Thornton had spurts where he bull rushed centers on faceoffs, and where he ran over bodies down low, but it needs to happen every shift. As Owen Nolan proved several years ago during the year of hit posts and crossbars, if you are not a factor on the scoreboard, you need to exact a physical toll on the defense, fluster the goaltender with contact, or draw penalties. Thornton finished the first round 58-45 from the faceoff circle.

The Sharks exhibited a little posteason misdirection regarding the fate of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley for game 1. There have been hints Todd McLellan will leave Torrey Mitchell up on the top line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Heatley skated on a line with rookie Logan Couture and center Manny Malhotra. San Jose Mercury News opinion columnist Mark Purdy speculates Patrick Marleau could join a checking line with Manny Malhotra and Torrey Mitchell. Todd McLellan could reunite "the big three" 5-on-5, but they should be reunited regardless on the power play.

The Sharks were disciplined in their own zone, but the pressure will be on the defense with the amount of bodies Detroit likes to plant in front of the crease. Rob Blake, Jason Demers and Kent Huskins will have to maintain that discipline and keep the play at 5-on-5. Huskins and Demers both took large steps forward in the first round, but they will be targeted by the Red Wings in round two. Communicaton between defensive partners, communication with the goaltender, and communication with the forwards will allow them to determine when they have time to play the puck and when they need to make a hard chip off the boards. It needs to happen on every sequence. McLellan's philosophy of "puck management", making smart decisions with the puck while moving it out of your zone, will be key against Detroit.

The Sharks first defensive pair of Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray also displayed a few rough edges. This is Murray's first season on the top d-pair after the departure of Brad Lukowich and Christian Ehrhoff in the offseason. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Murray blossomed defensively with Ehrhoff by taking straight lines to the puck, and maximizing his size and leverage advantage in front of the net. An intelligent Cornell grad, Murray did not miss a beat playing with Boyle during the first three quarters of 2009-10. Towards the end of the year, coverage mistakes and excess skating started to creep into his game. That was also evident on a few shifts in the first round against Colorado, which Murray admitted to Scott Oake of HNIC during the second intermission of game 6. "We are trying to make too many plays, instead of playing straight lines," Murray told Oake. If Murray creates a 20-25 foot zone of responsibility around Evgeni Nabokov, and makes strong first pass when he has time, it will bode well for San Jose in the Semifinals.

San Jose Sharks playoffs Torrey Mitchell
Detroit Red Wings vs Phoenix Coyotes Stanley Cup Playoff series stats

Detroit Red Wings preview:

The Red Wings also faced a 2-1 deficit in the opening round against Phoenix, but a more informative comparison might be to the regular season finale against the Chicago Blackhawks. With the Sharks finishing their season against Phoenix one night earlier, the Detroit Red Wings dominated the Blackhawks down low en route to a 3-2 overtime win at the United Center. Against a similar speed and puck possession based team, the Red Wings repeatedly pinned the Blackhawks deep and created scoring chances with bodies in front.

A quick look at the Detroit roster shows the usual suspects that will be planted in front of Evgeni Nabokov in round two. Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, Darren Helm and Dan Cleary will offer a fixture in front on all 4 lines. Gaining body position in front, and taking away the stick will be key factors throughout the series. This doesn't need to be a "key to the series", not sure if it even needs to be taught anymore by head coach Mike Babcock, in Detroit it just happens. It is one element of the Detroit style the Sharks utilize often, but have not perfected.

Detroit drew heavily on its veteran leadership in game 7. Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom each scored a pair of goals, and defenseman Brian Rafalski and Henrik Zetterberg registered 3 assists. The Red Wings picked Phoenix apart, and had them staring at the ice as the final horn rang on their Cinderella postseason. Too often the Sharks have allowed Datsyuk and Zetterberg the space needed to skate and make plays. They need to plant a body on both early and often, then offer an elbow behind the play to make sure they get their point across.

Despite recently turning 40, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is still an all-world caliber athlete. He finished third on the team with 49 points (9 goals, 40 assists), but was left out as a finalist in Norris Trophy voting for the first time in recent memory. Lidstrom won the Norris three straight times from 2001-2003, and again from 2006-08. Lidstrom can pick apart a team if given the opportunity. He once fired a 60 foot backhanded saucer pass through the neutral zone at HP Pavilion that lead to a Datsyuk breakaway goal. The Sharks need to burn a few scoring chances a la the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, dump the puck deep, and hammer Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski as they try to play it. Unless this is a physically grueling series for both, they will beat you.

A scouting report on "rookie" goaltender Jimmy Howard will posted later in the series.

Other series notes: The San Jose Sharks have lost the last four playoff game 1's, each on home ice. The last time the Sharks were successful to open a series was in 2007. San Jose defeated Nashville 5-4 in double overtime to open the 2007 WCQF, and began the 2007 WCSF series with a 2-0 shutout against Detroit. The Red Wings were 3-0-1 against San Jose in the regular season this year, and hold a 11-6 alltime edge in the playoffs. The Sharks are 25-55-8 alltime against Detroit in the regular season, but have won only 8 of 44 road games at Joe Louis Arena.

Outside of HP Pavilion, the coldest and wettest local weather season in 10 years continues. Heavy rains have helped Califoria emerge from a 3 year drought. San Jose is expecting a winter-like high of 62 (game time should be in the 50's). More condusive to good ice at HP Pavilion is humidity, and there is a partly cloudy/slight chance of rain on Thursday.

[Update] Red Wings Are Round 2 Opponent -

"They are patient and they play well defensively, they wait for you to make mistakes and then they capitalize going the other way," said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. "We've known for a number of years Detroit’s power play can be really successful."

[Update2] George Malik's Snap Shots blog at should be considered the Drudge Report of blogs covering this series for San Jose and Michigan fans alike. As the first Californian-born descendant from a long line of Michiganders, let me be the first to say "Lets go Blue".

[Update3] Sharks - Avs Scoring Chances Totals - Derek Zona for Copper and Blue.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

DOH Podcast #97: Colorado finish, upcoming Detroit series, report card

Mike Peattie and Doug Santana break down the Colorado Avalanche Western Conference Quarterfinal finale, preview the upcoming Detroit Red Wings series, and grade the lineup top to bottom on the 97th episode of the Dudes on Hockey podcast.

This Sharks podcast is posted here with permission. Visit for more coverage of the team, or download the MP3 file directly here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Joe Pavelski 4-27 NHL conference call transcript

The Wave Magazine October San Jose Sharks issue cover photo Joe Pavelski

A transcript of today's NHL conference call with San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski:

[DAVID KEON] Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. With us we have San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski. Thanks to Joe for taking the time today and answer your questions, and thanks to Scott Emmert and Tom Holy of the Sharks public relations staff for arranging the call.

Joe led San Jose in scoring recording eight points in the Sharks six-game victory over the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round of the National Hockey League playoffs. Among his five goals was a last-minute game-tying goal in Game 2, the overtime winner in Game 4, and the series?clinching game winner in Game 6.

In his fourth NHL season, all with the Sharks, the Plover, Wisconsin native appeared in 67 regular-season games, recording 51 points on 25 goals and 26 assists. He was also a member of the silver medal winning Team USA at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver this past February. Later this week the Sharks will open the Western Conference Semifinals against the winner of the Detroit?Phoenix series, which concludes with Game 7 in Phoenix tonight.

[Q] The post-season you've had statistically has been remarkable. One of the by-products of it in the media has been a comparison, contrasting between your performance and that of Joe Thornton. Does that comparison make you uncomfortable at all, the scrutiny Joe goes under in comparison to the success you've had?

[JoePa] No, I don't think so. I think he would say we're trying to -- obviously, this first series we talked about was overcoming. Didn't really matter how we got there, we just wanted to win. I think other years he's led the way at times. It was just important we won. We found a way, however it got done. I think we're happy to be moving on to the next round.

[Q] Joe, seeing how you're going to be meeting the Coyotes-Red Wings winner, what impresses you about both teams based on regular-season play and what you've seen in the post-season? What is going to be the most challenging aspect of playing against either the Coyotes or the Red Wings?

[JoePa] They're both really disciplined teams. I think that's one of the biggest things. They've had good goaltending throughout the year when we've seen them. They're really structured. You've kind of seen it go back and forth throughout their series. I guess it's going to Game 7.

It's been pretty impressive the way Phoenix has stepped up, and they are really deep. I don't think they have really one guy who steps up all the time; they kind of get it done by committee.

It's the same way with Detroit. They got a lot of really good players and good defense. They're just kind of solid all the way through. They're fairly similar. It will be an interesting Game 7 tonight.

[Q] What about the prospect of the Sharks facing either of these teams? What is going to be the thing that's going to keep you up at night in preparation for the series?

[JoePa] Well, I think we don't care who we're playing right now. We're going to have to overcome a good team throughout the way you look at any team that wins the Stanley Cup at the end. There's good teams along the way, every series, especially this year, the way every series has went pretty deep for the most part.

Whether we see Phoenix or Detroit, obviously you got Detroit, and they've been there and they've had the experience. That's why you give them the edge I think in tonight's game, is they've been there and they've done it.

At the same time Phoenix, you can tell they're really hungry. So a lot of it will be about what we do, how everybody steps up. Every series you need some depth and you need your role players to score a few goals, you need your top lines to perform. It's something that every game is really critical. That first game should be, you know, pretty exciting, I think.

[Q] Joe, can you talk about the feeling in the locker room after Game 6 when you closed out Colorado. Were you happy or was it more of like a sigh of relief that you were able to clear this first hurdle?

[JoePa] By no means was it a sigh of relief. I think we were happy, we were excited. A lot of work went into that series. You look at the first couple games, see the games we lost, putting 50 shots. We invested quite a bit physically. It paid off at the end.

It was good. We didn't want a Game 7. That third period they were up 2-1. We wanted to get it done. We put on a little press. Danny made a great shot there to tie it up. We were able to find a way to win that game.

I think it was more satisfying because it felt like we put the work in and we didn't really take any nights off. We didn't have a good game, then take a step back, kind of let them walk all over us. So that was encouraging there. That was one of the obstacles we wanted to overcome, was keep going, keep pressing, putting the hard work in, see where it gets us. You do it right, you're more than likely going to win most series.

[Q] Joe, it's been a couple days since your series ended. It will be a couple more before the second round begins. I'm wondering what you are doing with the time in the middle and if you prefer it get going sooner than later?

[JoePa] I think the earliest we can play is Thursday, latest Sunday. Guys want to play Thursday. Four days off I think we'll have then. That's more than enough. Either way, I think we'll be ready. But Thursday would be good.

Just trying to keep your legs, get your rest when you can recover. You know, you're still preparing a little bit. You see these teams enough to know that you can go and play them back-to-back and be ready for them either way.

For the most part we have an understanding of what they're doing, their tendencies. So I think we'll have a day or two to prepare and then we'll just go.

[Q] On a personal level, what do you enjoy most about the post-season?

[JoePa] Well, just the atmosphere. It's unbelievable, the intensity. You feel it the night before games. You feel it watching all the games on TV. Sometimes you just got to step away and just kind of try to get away from it because you can get yourself overexcited. That's an easy thing to do.

You step out on the ice, especially in the Shark Tank at the HP there, the crowd has been great. Game 5, we scored a couple goals, I think that's the loudest it's ever been in the building. It helps us. We like playing in there. The fans have been great for us. It's a good thing we have home ice. Hopefully we can use it a little better here in the next series.

[Q] Joe, you talked earlier about the idea of overcoming and how the first round is about overcoming. Obviously the Sharks have done so well in the regular season over the last few years, not done well in the playoffs. Can you talk about the idea of overcoming that reputation or just the feeling that you have trouble advancing. How do you overcome that?

[JoePa] Well, that is our reputation right now. You got to work extremely hard to change your reputation once something happens. A lot of us in that room have only been to the second round. I mean, a few guys won Cups. We know that experience. But it's something, you always got to reprove yourself every year.

So it's a new challenge for us. We haven't made it past the second round in four or five years, I think, not since I've been here. It's new territory. We got to understand it only gets harder and more important games. The mental side of the game I think is really important for us.

Overcoming situations, we got to take it game by game. The first game is important. We haven't won one of those in a while. I think the guys will be ready for that one.

[Q] Is this something that you guys actually have talked about, like, We got to turn this around?

[JoePa] No, not really. We've heard it in the media. You know, I think guys are aware of it. But there hasn't been, We got to win Game 1 or we're not going to win the series. But it's going to make our jobs a lot easier if we can accomplish that and hold on to home ice.

[Q] Joe, you talked a little bit earlier about everybody needing to produce, whether it's your depth players or top line guys. Like your reputation for being in the playoffs, Thornton, Marleau, Heatley are counted on to lead you guys. How can you help get them rolling and have them be the regular-season players they are in the post-season?

[JoePa] You know, that's a tough question. Everybody feels different at certain times. I guess the only way you can help is just worry about yourself.

You know great players are going to work it out. You know, we earned another series, which gives them time. You know, we expect great things from them. They've led us all year. That's what we expect now.

But, as well, everyone's got to lead in their own way and establish their game. You saw in the first series, Scottie Nichol and Manny, Malhotra, they all scored big goals for us, got us going at certain times in the games. It's important. So we expect them.

They had some good looks at the net, as well. A few pucks didn't go in. They're working just as hard as anybody right now. They want it just as bad as anybody. So hopefully it goes in for them and hopefully it keeps going in for everyone else, too.

Dany Heatley loses opening pitch duel with 17-year old girl at AT&T Park

San Jose Sharks right wing Dany Heatley learned the first rule of Bay Area major league baseball Monday night at AT&T Park in San Francisco, always root for the Oakland Athletics. On the mound to throw out the opening pitch, Heatley watched as the young girl that preceeded him threw a high arcing strike. With the pressure on in front of 30,035 fans, Heatley fired a bounce pass to Barry Zito at home plate.

To add insult to injury, teammate Ryane Clowe added on the CSN television broadcast "I was impressed by Zito's pickup." The Sharks had Sunday off after ousting the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but returned to practice for the second round Monday. Heatley, Jed Ortmeyer and defenseman Niclas Wallin were given Monday off to recuperate from undisclosed lower body injuries.

The Giants went on to put a 5-1 hurting on the Philadelphia Phillies. Hat tip to the inestimable Puck Daddy for the video.

[Update] Sharks Settle In to Wait, Watch, Rest - Comcast Sportsnet California.

[Update2] Dany Heatley's First Pitch, The Sharks forward threw out the first pitch at a Giants game -

"I’d never thrown out a first pitch before and it was a thrill," Heatley said. "But now I’d love to take batting practice."

Heatley may have grown up in Canada where hockey is the national sport, but it never stopped him from following baseball. "Definitely I’m a fan," Heatley said. "I'm from Canada, but I've been in the States a lot. I love watching games and love being at the park."

Heatley even attended a Giants game at their previous stadium, Candlestick Park, long before he moved to the Bay Area. "We were just in California," Heatley said of his visit to the Giants old home. "We were on a family vacation and ended up at a game."

[Update3] In other baseball-Shark related news, the San Jose Mercury News featured a Sunday article/photo feature on the city of San Jose's efforts to prepare downtown for a possible Athletics ballpark. A 2-phase traffic project would create a streamlined thoroughfare between I-880 and the new arena/HP Pavilion. It would link Coleman Avenue and Julian Street, and allow fans an easier access to I-880 and 101 to the north.

According to the Mercury News, the city purchased one of four plots for phase one of the project, and made offers on three others. With regards to land needed for the second phase, the city also purchased one of four plots. San Jose spent $24.4 million on land for the proposed ballpark, less than half of what is needed for the 14 acre location. There is also the possibility the city could invoke eminent domain to seize properties needed for the project.

Mercury News reporter Scott Herhold parses the traffic congestion that would follow lengthy construction, and adds more details of the financial costs that could delay the second phase of the proposed "Autumn Street connector". With 2 competing sports arenas in the planning stages for the Earthquakes near the airport, and the 49'ers near Great America in Santa Clara, voters could see a glut of proposed sports complexes on the ballot in the near future. Voters would also have to weigh the city's financial burden during an extraordinaryly tough fiscal crisis.

That being said, the impact the new thoroughfare and stadium would have on downtown would be similar to the massive revitalization efforts of the 1990's. It would provide jobs, add to the "big city status" city leaders have been striving for, and it would make San Jose more of a destination. It could also connect penninsula and east bay baseball fans with those in the south bay for a very successful box office draw. Right now fans in the penninsula are hampered by almost untenable east bay traffic levels, and BART trains leading to Oakland currently cut off in Fremont.

San Jose Sharks right wing Jed Ortmeyer named as finalist for Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

San Jose Sharks right wing Jed Ortmeyer named as finalist for Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

San Jose Sharks right wing Jed Ortmeyer was named Monday as a finalist for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Defenseman Kurtis Foster of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and goaltender Jose Theodore of the Washington Capitals, join Ortmeyer in contention for the annual award given to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey."

The Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy is selected by a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and will be awarded at the 2010 NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 23rd.

Ortmeyer's situation in San Jose was rather unique. Signed in the offseason along with Manny Malhotra and Scott Nichol, Ortmeyer was considered a veteran "grinder" who could add another layer of defensive responsibility and snarl on the Sharks third or fourth line. A fan favorite on the HMO line in New York (Hollweg-Moore-Ortmeyer), Ortmeyer saw his role drastically diminish in Nashville. After registering 51 games played in 2007-08, he skated in only 2 the following year.

According to a November article by San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak, Ortmeyer nearly walked away from the game after battling a hereditary blood-clotting disorder. The condition initially presented itself after knee surgery performed during his sophmore season at Michigan in 2001. It returned while he was with the Rangers in 2006 as pulmonary embolisms in each lung. "Even then I didn't really know how serious it was until all of the nurses came in, one by one, and gave me hugs," Ortmeyer told the Mercury News. "At that point I was like 'What's going on?' And I realized how lucky I was that it pushed through my heart and didn't cause any major problems."

After a third knee surgery in Nashville, more blood clots emerged and Ortmeyer had a filter inserted to stop them from reaching critical organs. He missed the first two months of the 2008-09 season with the Predators, but what was termed a "conditioning assignment" turned into 55 games played with AHL affiliated Milwaukee Admirals. Ortmeyer registered 10 goals and 23 points during the regular season, and 7 points during an 11-game run in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs. He skated only twice with the Predators that season.

The Sharks pointed to Ortmeyer's ability to overcome obstacles when they signed him for 2009-10. According to the Mercury News, Ortmeyer has to take regular shots of an anti-coagulant in order to play in the NHL. He also has a special diet, and uses compression socks to minimize the risks he takes to play. According to the New York Times, Ortmeyer has to wear special rib padding to cut down on the risk of internal injuries, and he undergos monthly ultrasound examinations to detect any potential problems.

"He’s just a very, very driven young man that doesn’t take no for an answer," his brother Jake Ortmeyer told the New York Times. "I wanted to go out on my terms," Jed Ortmeyer added.

The Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy is named in honor of the former Minnesota North Stars center and NCAA tournament MVP. Masterson was checked to the ice by a pair of Oakland Seals during a 1968 home game in Minnesota's inaugural season. Masterson never recovered from the serious head injuries he sustained on the play. The NHL created an award given to the player that best exhibits dedication, sportsmanship, and perseverance.

Since the 1967-68 season, 41 players have received the award including Mario Lemieux, Cam Neely, Lanny McDonald and former Sharks Tony Granato, Adam Graves and Teemu Selanne.

[Update] Hooked on Hockey From a Young Age in Omaha - New York Times.

[Update2] Foster, Ortmeyer, Theodore vie for Masterton -

The veteran forward not only has to work hard each shift to ensure he has a place in the NHL, but also battles a challenging health condition that requires daily attention. At some point each day, Ortmeyer must use a needle to inject a blood thinner directly into his stomach to combat a hereditary blood-clotting disorder that has threatened not only his hockey career, but also his life...

The process is tricky and the timing must be precise. The blood thinner, Lovenox, needs to be in his system during the down time when he's not on the ice and it needs to be out of his system when he plays or practices so that a hard check or a high stick does not cause fatal bleeding.

[Update3] Ortmeyer A Masterton Finalist The Sharks are excited with Ortmeyer's Masterton nomination -

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Darryl Hunt: Zalewski, WorSharks Win Game One Over Manchester 4-3

The Worcester Sharks overcame an early two goal deficit and scored three goals in the third period to defeat the Manchester Monarchs 4-3 in game one of their best of seven Atlantic Division Final Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. Game two is Wednesday in Worcester.

The last thing the WorSharks wanted to do was fall behind early to one of the AHL's best defensive teams, but that's exactly what they did just 35 seconds into the contest. With Worcester opening the game pressuring the Monarchs the WorSharks turned over the puck just inside the Manchester zone, where Oscar Moller was able to stay just a half stride ahead of Worcester defensemen Mike Moore through three zone and skate in on Alex Stalock. Moller fired a wrister over Stalock's glove for the 1-0 lead.

Manchester would make it 2-0 at 9:17 as the teams skated four on four. With the Worcester defense scrambling around in their own zone, Manchester defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov threw a shot on net from the right point that John Zeiler was able to tip past Stalock.

Worcester would cut the lead in half at 14:54 of the second period when a couple of bounces fell perfectly for them. The first lucky bounce went to Dennis McCauley, who scooped up a loose puck in the neutral zone and skated down the left wing side. McCauley then fed Benn Ferriero, who fired a shot that Monarchs Jonathan Bernier looked to have an easy bead on. Unfortunately for Bernier, the shot tipped off a Manchester defenseman and bounced around Bernier to light the lamp.

The WorSharks would get even early in the third period when Brandon Mashinter crashed the net raising the ire of Bernier, who knocked the onrushing forward to the ice. While that was going on Danny Groulx sent a hard pass from the left point across the slot to Steven Zalewski, who was unable to control the speedy puck and it bounced away from him. Dean Strong was able to pounce on the loose puck and blast a one-timer past Bernier at 2:02 to make the game 2-2.

Just seconds after the WorSharks tied the score Manchester almost grabbed the lead right back when Gabe Gauthier found himself all alone in the slot with the puck coming right at him, but Stalock was able to square himself to the shot and get the glove up to snuff out the scoring chance.

Cory Quirk would give Worcester its first lead of the series at 6:29 after a great play by McCauley sent Quirk and Ferriero into the Manchester zone on a two on one. After some pressure from Manchester McCauley was able to dig the puck free from along the left side halfboards and send it up ice, where Quirk picked it up and skated into the Monarchs zone. With several Monarch players diving to get into the passing lane Quirk never took his eye off of Bernier, and beat the netminder over the glove side.

No one expected Manchester to roll over after giving up the lead, and they gave their numerous fans in the building something to cheer about when Dwight King took a Justin Azevedo feed from behind the Worcester net and blasted the puck on goal. Stalock was able to get a small piece of it with his glove, but not enough to stop the laser from lighting the lamp at 9:32.

The WorSharks would put the final nail in the coffin under two minutes later when Strong sent Mashinter deep in to the Manchester zone with a pass from the left point. Bernier made the pad save on Mashinter's blast, but Zalewski was streaking to the far post and flipped the rebound over Bernier to make it 4-3 at 11:10 of the third.

Manchester continued to press in the Worcester zone, with the WorSharks defense collapsing on their netminder to prevent any rebounds from being shot back on goal. The Monarchs were unable to generate much offense with an extra attacker after pulling Bernier, and after an easy clear after a late faceoff in the WorSharks zone time expired on Manchester's hopes of tying game one.

Worcester started the game with the same line-up as game five against Lowell, but lost T.J. Trevelyan for the game to a high stick just over six minutes into the contest. Manchester defenseman Joe Piskula received a double minor for the high stick, although it looked like the stick that injured Trevelyan belonged to linemate Kevin Henderson.

The game one victory was the first ever in WorSharks history, having lost the first game in each of their four previous playoff series. Manchester and Worcester have previously met in the playoffs, with the Monarchs defeating the WorSharks 4-2 in a best of seven opening round series in 2006-2007.

According to the Manchester Monarchs, Oscar Moller’s goal 35 seconds into the game marks the third time in the last three games that the Monarchs have opened up a playoff game by scoring within the first 35 seconds; center Marc-Andre Cliche scored 35 seconds into game three of the Portland series and right wing Trevor Lewis scored 31 seconds into game four of that same series. They also note that Worcester's three third period goals are the most Manchester has given up all season.

The three stars of the game were
1. Zalewski (gwg,a)
2. Strong (g,a)
3. King (g,a)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Dennis McCauley.

Manchester 2 0 1 - 3
Worcester 0 1 3 - 4

1st Period-1, Manchester, Moller 2 (Loktionov, Lewis), 0:35. 2, Manchester, Zeiler 2 (Voynov, King), 9:17. Penalties-Piskula Mch (double minor - high-sticking), 6:18; Braun Wor (hooking), 8:49; Desjardins Wor (high-sticking), 10:11.

2nd Period-3, Worcester, Ferriero 4 (McCauley), 14:54. Penalties-King Mch (hooking), 3:01; Henderson Wor (holding), 9:41; Desjardins Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:56.

3rd Period-4, Worcester, Strong 1 (Zalewski, Groulx), 2:02. 5, Worcester, Quirk 1 (McCauley, Joslin), 6:29. 6, Manchester, King 1 (Azevedo, Holloway), 9:32. 7, Worcester, Zalewski 1 (Mashinter, Strong), 11:10. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal
Manchester 12-7-6-25
Worcester 7-9-11-27.

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

Manchester, Bernier 4-1-0 (27 shots-23 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 5-1-0 (25 shots-22 saves).

A-1,708. Referee-Chris Brown (86). Linesmen-Bob Bernard (4), Chris Libett (19).

WCQF Game 6: Pavelski shines with 2 goals, assist -- Sharks down Avalanche 5-2 and advance to Semifinals

The San Jose Sharks closed out the WCQF with a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at the Pepsi Center. Clutch center Joe Pavelski scored 47 seconds into the game, added an assist on Dan Boyle's game tying goal, and roofed the game winner 9:02 into the third period. Devin Setoguchi and Douglas Murray added empty net goals, and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 16 of 18 shots against to advance the Sharks to the semis.

Two trending themes remained constant throughout this series. The San Jose Sharks stressed a message of overcoming obstacles. That came when Marek Svatos and Brandon Yip erased a 1-goal lead. Svatos drove around Joe Thornton on the left wing, who stopped skating just long enough for him to turn the corner. With Murray and Boyle focused on covering players yet to reach the goal mouth, Svators cut across the crease and deposited the puck in the back of the net on a diving shot. Yip gave the Avalanche their only lead of the game 4:51 into the third period on a hard cross ice feed by Paul Stastny.

The Avalanche threw cauton into the wind all series, but injuries to key players and the physical toll exacted by San Jose started to have an impact. The Avs had no answer for the puck possession style of 6-foot-2, 225-pound Ryane Clowe. Clowe sent a fluttering puck across the goal crease in the second period, and was a screen twice on the scoring sequence by Dan Boyle to tie the game. Clowe plowed defenseman Kyle Cumiskey to the side of the crease, allowing a Dany Heatley shot to ring off the crossbar. He then made a b-line for a screen in front of Craig Anderson. Dan Boyle's heavy point shot beat Anderson gloveside to tie the game at 2-2. The Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi line finished as the hottest line of the game, and the hottest line of the series. On Saturday night they combined for 3 goals, 3 assists, 9 shots on goal, and a +11. Pavelski's intial goal in the first period came on a solid individual effort behind the net. He battled defenseman Kyle Cumiskey for body position, then snapped a wraparound that beat Anderson 5-hole. Pavelski's game winning goal 9:02 into the third period came on a variation of the "Pavelski move" normally unleashed in the shootout. On a 2-on-1 rush with Devin Setoguchi, Pavelski fumbled the puck on his patented hesitation shot. He regained control, and roofed the puck over a Craig Anderson who was clearly thinking 5-hole. The Sharks scored two goals in 1:29 to earn a 3-2 lead.

The Avalanche called a timeout with 1:46 left in the game, and pulled Craig Anderson for an extra attacker. Devin Setoguchi worked the puck free from a pile along the half boards, and scored on an empty net to effectively seal the win. Douglas Murray scored a second empty net goal 21 seconds later.

Evgeni Nabokov turned in another solid performance in goal. His toughest save came on a first period one-timer by former Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter. After making a hard push across the crease to his right, Cody McLeod fell on the prone Nabokov with a hard elbow. No call. Nabokov also made key stops on Paul Stastny and Marek Svatos. He finished with 16 saves on a minisule 18 shots against. "He has one of the best glove hands in the league, and it has been on display all series long," CBC analyst and former goaltender Kevin Weekes said after a highlight reel Nabokov glove save in the second period.

On the physical side of the ledger, 5-foot-9, 180-pound Scott Nichol lead both teams with a game high 6 hits. He launched T.J. Galiardi sideways with a huge hit in the neutral zone in the first period, and followed that up with a big hit on defenseman Kyle Cumiskey in the second. Kyle Porter answered for the Avalanche with a check that sent Nichol hurtling towards the ice later in the period.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Post-series comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco

Post-series comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan:

"It was a hell of a game tonight. They played extremely hard. We knew they would do that. The third kind of mirrors what has happened throughout the whole series. We picked that overcome theme in the beginning. With about 8 or 9 minutes left in the game, we were still trying to overcome."

"I am proud of the way the guys played, but it was a hard series for us to play in. 1-8, we learned how tough that could be last year. Just because the numbers are 1 and 8 doesn't mean the teams are that far apart. I said that earlier in the series. Colorado did a tremendous job in competing. They pushed us to the limit. It was a tough series for us, not only while the play was going on, the passing, the hitting and the shooting. But it was tough between the ears. I was proud that we managed that part of the series well."

"There was some frustration in our team today. We had a lot of the play in some of the games, and maybe showed up expecting some of that again. We talked about it between the second and the third. They are allowed to push back, they are allowed to play hard. We had to channel the frustration the right way. We calmed down, and started to play."

"I believe it does (prepare us for the next round). Obviously we will need some rest. The game we played we will have to take with us to the next round. We don't know who our opponent is, so a lot of things might change. The general type of game we played is the game we have to, to have a chance at being successful."

"I thought Danny (Boyle) got better as the game went on again tonight. You need your top players to do that so that everyone else settles down. I think you are refering to his goal, but he did a lot of real good things down below our goal line. Their dump and their forecheck was a lot better tonight than it had been earlier. He and the other 5 defenseman did some really good work below the goal line to get our puck out."

"Joe (Pavelski) has talent. You can't do what he did in this series and not have talent. He has the ability to do it. He has got a real good drive and a will to win. He wants to be up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with 2 men out, is probably the best way of putting it."

"I talked about (top line scoring) earlier. I thought they needed to get on the scoreboard for us to have success. Patrick Marleau did. They were probably not at the top of their game. I actually liked their last 15 minutes of play. I thought that was maybe some of their best hockey. They looked strong and fast. They got themselves through it, they will be fine. We will continue to work, we will move forward."

"If I wasn't involved with any of the teams, I would tell you this anyhow. It is so competitive, it is hard to win. 1, 8, 2, 7, it is hard to win when the playoffs start. It just doesn't matter. The only benefit you have is home ice for one extra night."

"Nabby was very, very good. I think when I talked about the game between the ears, in game 2 Nabby put it behind him. We also talked about how tough that game was for him to play. He hadn't had any shots. They got a couple of bounces again. I thought you could tell he was a veteran that had played in a lot of pressure type games down the stretch."

"I think the second period of game 1 (was the turning point). When we didn't peform well. We didn't manage the neutral zone, that was the talk after game 1. I thought we made some adjustments, and did a much better job coming through and playing in their end."

Post-series comments from Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco:

"I think that from day 1 in training camp we tried to recreate the identity of this organization as far as how we wanted to play. How we wanted to be perceived. We wanted to try to do it as quickly as possible. We had no timetable on it, but we thought we could do it quickly. We thought we could turn things around quickly. I think we did that. I think we got back on track. We established the type of team we want to be, and how we want to play."

"I think there were a couple of good turning points in the series. I thought we battled extremely hard. We got off to a good start in game 1. In game 2 we gave up the lead with a minute to go, or under a minute to go. In game 4 we lose in overtime, kind of a turning point to the series. It was what we expected, it was hard fought. I am proud of the way our guys competed throughout the series. Not once did we ever mention our injuries. I have to admit that it really took a toll on us. It affected us over the course of a series, there is no question we were missing some key players. I am proud of the guys that stepped in there and did a good job, the guys that were able to come in and grab an opportunity."

"We are certainly headed in the right direction. We are going to be a team that is young, full of energy, we are going to play to our identity. I really see a lot of upside here. It is tough right now because we are disappointed. We thought that we if we could win tonight we could force a game 7, but its not going to happen. There is a lot to look forward to, the future is bright. We have to work and do the right things to get ready for next season."

"I thought that whole line played very well (Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi). When you lose in a series, somebody has got to beat you. It was that line, and the other line I thought we did a good job against. They were opportunistic, they did well. It is a good mix with him, Clowe and Setoguchi. They were probably the difference, they were the difference in the series for sure."

[Game Notes] With the 5-2 win over the Avalanche in game 6, the San Jose Sharks increased their overall franchise playoff record to 63-68, and their overall franchise playoff series record to 10-12. A dismal 2-13 franchise record (13.3%) in game 6's now stands at 3-13 (18.75%), but the Sharks are a respectable 9-4 in the opening round of the WCQF (69.2%).

Center Joe Pavelski scored a pair of goals, including the game winner and an assist on Dan Boyle's game tying goals in the third period. Pavelski (5G, 3A) and linemate Ryane Clowe (1G, 7A) lead the San Jose Sharks in playoff scoring with 8 points each. Paul Stastny lead the Avalanche with 1 goal and 4 assists, including an assist Saturday night on Brandon Yip's third period goal. The Sharks top line of Marleau-Heatley-Thornton was held to only one goal in the series, but they registered a combined 7 assists.

The Sharks overcame a littany of unexpected obstacles and odd bounces. The Avalanche received deflection goals off the skate, throat and stick of defenseman Rob Blake, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Dan Boyle in the first three games. The fans, media and players keyed on Boyle's "own goal" to end game 3. He quickly made ammends with a bomb from the point 1:12 into game 4, but he did not put the incident behind him. "I put it aside, I didn't necessarily put it behind me," Boyle told CSNCA's Brodie Brazil after the series finale. "Now I can officially turn the page."

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov held the Avalanche to two goals or less all but once in the series, and earned his 7th career playoff shutout in game 5. When asked whether he would like an extra day or two of rest prior to the next series, Nabokov displayed a little combative truculence with the media. "It is really tough to even think what do you like and what you don't. Whatever comes, we will take it. We have no choice, you would rather play a game 7?" Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson set a franchise record for saves made in a playoff series with 223. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 138-of-149 shots against for a .926 save percentage, Anderson stopped 223-of-239 shots for a .933 mark to lead the NHL.

NCSF Game 4: Stockton dominant with 6-2 win over Bakersfield in ECHL Battle of California playoff matchup, lead series 3-1

ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs national conference semifinals Stockton Thunder forward Matt Marquardt
ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs national conference semifinals Stockton Thunder fan mohawk
ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs national conference semifinals Bakersfield Condors Stockton Thunder J.P. Levasseur

The Stockton Thunder exploded for 3 goals in a span of 5:09 against Bakersfield on Friday night. In what has been a very tight ECHL National Conference Semifinal series, both teams combined for 5 goals in a wild second period. One game after being a healthy scratch, left wing Matt Robinson scored a goal and added two assists, and 5 other Stockton players scored in a 6-2 route on home ice.

"I don't think we scored the first goal all series, or even in the playoffs. It was huge," Robinson said after the game. "It was very big to get the ball rolling, we were all over them in the first period."

Right wing James Bates split a pair of defenseman to find Robinson in front of the net with one minute left in the first period. After a slight hesitation, the British, Columbia native snapped it pased Bakersfield Condors goaltender J.P. Levasseur. It was the first time in 8 playoff games the Thunder have scored the first goal.

"As well as we played in the first period, to only score with a minute left, I think if it ends up 0-0 after one there is a potentially different element to the remainder of the game," Stockton Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said. "It was a huge goal, and a huge play. More importantly it was a play we have been preaching. James Bates doesn't try to beat a guy one-on-one, he puts it into a space and goes over and gets it. We have good support with Robby driving down the gut... and a good finish. It was an important goal for us, it really got us going and we responded well with that momentum in the second period."

Left wing Garet Hunt's hit on Bakersfield defenseman Kevin Morin set the tone physically for Stockton in the second period. The Condors were scrambling in their own zone, resulting in a goal by Jason Pitton with one minute left. Morin tried to retaliate behind his own net with a monster hit that a Stockton forward sidestepped at the last second. Pitton, alone on the right wing, popped in an easy shot far-side against Levasseur. The 5-1 lead carried into the second intermission all but sealed Bakersfield's fate.

"You want to win every game. Waiting to win a game is something you never want to do. As much as the playoffs are a marathon, for us it is a sprint. You want to get to those wins as quick as you can," Stockton head coach Matt Thomas said on his team's approach to Game 5. "At the end of the day, it is a seven game series for a reason. We are looking to take care of business in our own building where we have all of the elements that give us an edge."

Stockton goaltender Andrew Perugini stopped 27 of 29 shots against. The Thunder were held without a power play for the game, but took 4 minor penalties of their own in the third period. Bakersfield's only penalty came on matching fighting majors when Pokuluok fought Gongalsky in the first. The Condors finished 1-4 on the man advantage. The Thunder will have an opportunity to advance to the third round of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs tonight for the first time in their 5-year franchise history.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Video highlights and postgame reaction from Thunder left wing Matt Robinson, left wing Garet Hunt and head coach Matt Thomas are available from the Stockton Thunder youtube channel here.

Official box score:

Bakersfield Condors 2 at Stockton Thunder 6
Apr 23, 2010 - Stockton Arena

Bakersfield 0 1 1 - 2
Stockton 1 4 1 - 6

1st Period-1, Stockton, Robinson 3 (Bates), 19:00. Penalties-Pokulok Bak (fighting - major), 20:00; Gongalsky Stk (fighting - major), 20:00.

2nd Period-2, Stockton, Eizenman 3 (Caudron, Constant), 0:53. 3, Stockton, Young 1 (Hunt, Eizenman), 4:46. 4, Bakersfield, Goulet 3 (Regan, Stoflet), 7:04. 5, Stockton, D'Alvise 5 (Robinson, Hemingway), 9:55. 6, Stockton, Pitton 4 (Hunt, Bendfeld), 19:00. Penalties-No Penalties.

3rd Period-7, Bakersfield, Regan 2 (Naglich, Calder), 10:07 (pp). 8, Stockton, Marquardt 3 (Robinson, Pitton), 18:50 (en). Penalties-Marquardt Stk (interference), 6:02; Caudron Stk (tripping), 9:34; Constant Stk (high-sticking), 11:52; Robinson Stk (hooking), 16:28.

Shots on Goal-Bakersfield 6-6-17-29. Stockton 11-10-2-23.

Power Play Opportunities-Bakersfield 1 of 4; Stockton 0 of 0.

Goalies-Bakersfield, Levasseur 3-2-1-0 (22 shots-17 saves). Stockton, Perugini 6-2-0-0 (29 shots-27 saves).

Referees-JM McNulty (21).
Linesmen-Steven Berry (77), Wally Lacroix (89).

[Update] GAME 4 RECAP: Stockton 6 - Bakersfied 2, Robinson's three points help Thunder take 3-1 series lead, put Bakersfield on brink of elimination -

[Update2] Winning one the easy way - Scott Linesburgh for the Stockton Record.

Stockton scored first to grab its first lead in regulation in the series and used a four-goal second period to overwhelm the Bakersfield Condors 6-2 in front of 4,952 fans at Stockton Arena. Stockton leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 and can finish off Bakersfield at 7:30 p.m. today at the arena...

The Thunder had not scored the first goal in any of its postseason contests until Matt Robinson took a pass from James Bates and beat Jean-Phillippe Levasseur to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead with 59.7 seconds left in the opening period. It was Stockton's first regulation lead in 199 minutes, 0.3 seconds of play against Bakersfield.

[Update3] Bakersfield digs early hole, faces elimination in Game 5 today - Bakersfield Californian.

DOH Podcast #96: WCQF game 5, Sharks second line, first round surprises

Mike Peattie and Doug Santana break down a dominant peformance after a 5-0 shutout in game 5, discuss the Sharks second line and first round surprises in the 96th episode of the Dudes on Hockey podcast.

This Sharks podcast is posted here with permission. Visit for more coverage of the team, or download the MP3 file directly here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

WCQF Game 5: Scoring across the board, 2 goals by Logan Couture 2 points by Patrick Marleau power Sharks over Avs 5-0

Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov makes a third period save
Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks fans HP Pavilion celebrate goal
Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks left wing center Patrick Marleau scored a goal and registered an assist

The hockey gods finally smiled on San Jose, for one game. Two goals by rookie center Logan Couture, and another goal by rookie Dwight Helminen helped shut down a fatigued Colorado Avalanche squad 5-0 Thursday night. Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 28 shots he faced for his 7th career playoff shutout. A sellout crowd of 17,562 fans, dotted with orange 'get loud' shirts from a playoff promotion, wobbled the Tank with several enormous standing ovations as the Sharks took a 3-2 WCQF series lead.

San Jose sent waves of pucks and bodies to the net in the first period, but Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson held firm. An early Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot off the end boards caromed dangerously on net, forcing Anderson to clear it to the side under durress. Manny Malhotra batted at the long rebound, sending it bouncing on goal. A quick healing Dany Heatley tried to fire a wrap around on the right side before running into traffic. Logan Couture tried a wraparound centering pass on the left side that deflected off of a stick. Four seperate scoring chances came at Anderson on the sequence, from four different angles. He would have his hands full all night.

Anderson maintained his composure, but there were cracks. The confidence and puck handling ability that allowed him to shine in this series eluded him on play after play. A Kent Huskins rush up ice and point shot was bobbled by Anderson, allowing a charging Joe Pavelski to crash the net and jostle the puck free. An early whistle prevented the scoring chance from developing any furthur.

Patrick Marleau also exposed a gap in the defense on a late rush down the right wing. Marleau snapped a shot on goal around the body of defenseman Kyle Quincey, and followed his shot into the 6-foot-2, 180 pound Colorado goaltender. The puck trickled free across the goal crease. Torrey Mitchell tried to backhand a quick shot off of the body of Anderson, but a late stick check muffled his shot.

After registering only 2 shots on goal in the first period, the Avalanche were placing their entire hopes on Craig Anderson in the second. Almost like a counter puncher in boxing, the Avs were hanging back and looking to capitalize on any Sharks mistake. For a series that had yet to see a single 2-goal lead, one mistake is all it could take to make the difference in each game.

As mentioned in the earlier scouting report, Yahoo NHL editor Ross McKeon mentioned an "off" body language for the Colorado netminder during the end of year slide. Two followups to that scouting report, the Sharks television broadcast tandem called Anderson's puck handling a strength in this series, and noted that he works on it extensively in practice. An NHL front office official, who asked not to be named, also pointed to Anderson's positional strength and sometimes borderline stickwork regarding opposing bodies parked in front of his net.

The fumbling and bobbling of pucks continued in net for Anderson. His body language screamed anxiousness and frustration. A turnover at center ice created a breakaway opportunity for checking line center Scott Nichol. Chased by 3 Avalanche players, Nichol snapped a backhand 5-hole that was not played cleanly by Anderson. Minutes later a one-touch pass by Jamie McGinn broke Helminen through the neutral zone with speed. Helminen blew by defenseman John-Michael Liles, who reacted late on the play. Helminen turned the corner with his off-hand on the stick, then shoveled a shot that rang off the near post.

The Sharks had sustained pressure through half of the game when rookie Logan Couture finally broke through. Patrick Marleau pulled up just inside the blueline on a 3-on-3 rush. He found Heatley on the right wing, who fired a shot-pass at Couture in front of the net. With his back to the goal, Couture redirected it under the leg pad of Craig Anderson to open the scoring at 8:25. The Sharks would add a second goal on their third power play attempt. After Devin Setoguchi was third man in to win a Manny Malhotra faceoff, Joe Pavelski wound up and fired a big point shot to make the score 2-0. Anderson intially stumbled to his left, then dove back to his right on Pavelski's shot. It was a desperation attempt, and it should have been a signal for rookie head coach Joe Sacco to pull him.

The lack of net front presence and goaltender contact against the Anaheim Ducks in last years WCQF is a distant memory. Devin Setoguchi did his part to serve as a giant eraser with a highlight reel collison. After a heavy Ryan Clowe slapshot, Setoguchi split a porous Cumisky-Foote defense and "lost an edge". It resulted in a spectacular collision with the goaltender. A hurtling Setoguchi took Anderson, the puck, and any stray piles of snow flying into the back of the net. Frustrated, Craig Anderson punched the prone Sharks right winger after the play.

A poor line change and another unfortunate carom off the end boards resulted in a tap-in goal for Dwight Helminen at the end of the period. The Sharks would add two more goals in the third. Couture cleaned up a rebound after a dominating puck possession drive by Ryane Clowe, and Patrick Marleau scored his first goal of the playoffs on the power play at 13:24.

Evgeni Nabokov was solid in goal, but he needed a pair of clutch saves to close the shutout in the third period. A two-pad stack shut down T.J. Galiardi's centering pass to Darcy Tucker in front of the net. With time ticking down in the game, Nabokov also sealed off the post with Quincy and Stewart driving hard. Nabokov was able to freeze the puck down low as a pile of bodies collapsed around him.

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

Sharks lines and pairings:



[Update] Ratings for Game 5 via Jay dela Cruz of Comcast Sportsnet California:

Comcast SportsNet California's telecast of last night's San Jose Sharks-Colorado Avalanche game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals delivered an average 4.15 television household rating An average of over 104,000 households were watching in the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose television market. The game drew a peak audience of over 140,000 households (5.58 rating). In addition, playoff ratings are up 8% versus the comparable period last season.

Game 5 of last season's WCQF with Anaheim drew a 4.62.

[Update2] These Sharks aren't folding just yet - Pierre LeBrun for

[Update3] Postgame Avs-Sharks Game 5 – Washington Generals would have been ashamed - Adrian Dater's blog for the Denver Post.

At least when the Generals know they are going to lose every single game to the Harlem Globetrotters, they at least make a good run that gives some pause for worry to the kids and moms in the crowd. Tonight, the Avs were the Washington Generals version that refused to even make a run.

Dater has a point with some of the officiating calls that have been made in this series, but when you receive 3 goals in 3 games (including 2 game winners) off of the opposing team, it is hard to make the case that you have been wronged. Tradionally, Joe Thornton is a teach-your-rookie-defenseman-how-to-slash video waiting to happen. Refs have been enormously reluctant to call penalties taken against the 6-foot-4, 230-pound center. It makes his 379 consecutive game ironman streak all that much more impressive.

As for Dater's earlier claims of borderline/suspension-worthy Rob Blake checks, fellow captain Adam Foote has matched him borderline hit for borderline hit. Both former teammates play a snarly, old school style of hockey that is slowly starting to disappear in the modern NHL. In a word, they play mean. The Avs have been worn down physically, and are throwing spaghetti at the wall trying to overcome injuries to Mueller, Hejduk, Jones et all. Given the Sharks sustained attack throughout the series, they are going to have their work cut out for them in game 6.

[Update4] Couture, Helminen score first playoff goals as Sharks push Avs to brink -

Scott Hannan made sure the Avalanche went into the second intermission with some fire as he skated into the middle of a confrontation behind the Sharks' net and took on Jamie McGinn, drawing a double-minor.

It was instigated when Cody McLeod shoved Doug Murray into Nabokov, who took a stick to the mask. It was clearly a response to Devin Setoguchi's uncontrolled rush into Anderson earlier in the period.

McLeod eventually drew a major for charging into McGinn with 9 minutes remaining.

It was the largest melee of the game, and a clear blown call by the officials. Nabokov was down on the ice for nearly a minute after the play. The McLeod vs the Sharks angle was up front and center during the last two head-to-head games of the regular season. Almost every McLeod shift would devolve into pushing and shoving, with McLeod vs Ryane Clowe the most involved pair. At this point in the series it is hard to figure out if McLeod's antics will help or hurt the Avalanche. Their margin for error is slim.

[Update5] Game 5 aftermath: On wearing down the Avs, McGinn’s physical play — and orange T-shirts - David Pollak's Working the Corners blog.

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco

Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan postgame press conderence

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

In any series, you have to invest in the series. It is not won or lost in game one. As you go deeper and deeper, emotionally and physically you have to be invested in it. I thought again tonight we had some real good board work. You can be physical with the puck, so we held on to the puck tonight and ended up wearing them down for a few shifts in a row where we got the line changes we needed. Fatigue takes over, then you end up making mistakes. There have been moments thoughout the series where they have done that to us as well. That is the nature of the game, whoever can do it longer and harder usually wins.

It has been a strange series, with the bounces and the way the pucks are going into the net, the number of shots and production goal-wise. Finally tonight, the puck went over the goal line when we needed it to. In fact, I think we were probably better offensively in game three, and probably game four, than we were tonight but we were rewarded with 5 goals. I think that is a matter of that investment again. Players wearing down, goaltenders getting tired. We have to keep doing it.

Leadership. I think the leaders in the locker room kept everything calm, when we could have been riled up. I think there is a lot of leadership there. The fact that they came out and established their game, the players game again, they did that right off the bat, with the power play off the opening faceoff in Denver the other night. Tonight we came out and established our game right away again. We didn't put our toe in the water, for a lack of a better word. We jumped in the water and went after them.

Our leadership group is a big one. We can talk about the guys wearing C's and A's, we have all been through that in San Jose. You don't necessarily have to have a letter on. In my opinion, Scott Nichol is a hell of a leader. Everybody leads in a different way. I think we needed some depth of leadership to get through the adversity we faced, or to get to this point anyway.

We talked about momentum this morning with some of the media people. I really believe that momentum has to be reestablished every night. So we will be looking to go in there (to Colorado for game 6) and try to establish our game, establish our momentum. To think we can just go in there and play, we will be very sorry if we have that attitude.

We have a lot of confidence in Logan (Couture). We saw it during the year. For his development, it was good that he got to spend almost a full year in the American Hockey League. He got to lead and become one of the go-to guys, and I think it paid dividends for him now that he is up here and playing.

I was really glad Dan Boyle did score that goal. If you could pick anybody to leave it behind him, then three hours later Nabokov gets the win. We did put those demons behind us that night. We got the win, Boyle contributed. I don't hear anyone in the locker room talking about it. I think we have moved on.

I was really pleased with the contributions throughout the lineup. Often you win games 5-0 and one line takes over and dominates, everybody else is a supporing cast. I think everybody found a way to contribute. That is what we are happy with. There are still some concerns in our game. There always are, as coaches we are never happy. We will address them as we go.

The (defense) moved the puck up, they got it out of the end quickly. It is one of the things we want to do, get it into the forward's hands and let them do some work down low. The d-men did a real good job there.

We don't have to talk about it any more for one (after Marleau's goal). We don' have to answer the questions. I think that takes a little pressure away from them. I thought the three of them, not together on the same line, but I thought the three of them had real good games. They found a way to contribute, and maybe the monkey is off their back tonight. Heatley skated much better than he did in game four, they found a way.

Stanley Cup Playoffs Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco

Post-game comments from Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco:

I don't think we played well in the second half of the second period. They started to play in the offensive zone and wear us down a little bit. We got caught on some long shifts in our own end. Then when we tried to change our defenseman were not able to change because the puck wasn't deep in their zone. You get caught back a little on your heels. First period we killed a couple penalties off, obviously they outshot us but it was still 0-0 and we were in decent shape to start the second period. I feel we got what we deserved tonight. I don't think we played well enough to win for 60 minutes.

I don't think it is so much generating more shots, I think it is maybe not giving up as many shots as we did again. I go back to you want to play with energy in this game. That is something we talk about as a group all the time. If you want to play with energy, you really have to do a good job looking after the puck in the neutral zone. Because if you start to turn it over, you end up chasing the puck, you end up backchecking. You spend more time in your own end, in turn that leads to more shots against. For me, it is just how we look after the puck, and make sure part of our gameplan is to get it deep. We didn't do that consistently enough tonight.

This is playoff hockey here. We shouldn't be tired at this time of the year. We should be reenergized. We should be playing with energy and passion. You have to find a way to get yourself going because the level of the play picks up in the playoffs. Certainly it did tonight. I think each game has picked up the intensity. At this time of the year you have to find a way to battle through. If you are feeling fatigued, if you are feeling tired, you have to find a way to battle through it.

I meant on the scoreboard we got what we deserved. Things happen quick out there. It is a fast game. There is a descrepancy in penalties again. Part of that is our fault, no question. We need to do a better job. I thought the McLeod hit was a hit from the side, not neccessarily worthy of 5 minutes. Things happen quick out there. We can't use that as an excuse. We have to be better than that, more disciplined.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hockey Notes - 4/22

San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs Joe Thornton
San Jose Sharks Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup playoff hit game 1
San Jose Sharks Colorado Avalanche playoff regular season faceoff percentage

- In 4 previous playoff home openers, the San Jose Sharks have had a small cadre of VIP's, team officials and kids welcome them on their brief walk to the Sharks head. Usually smiling, Thornton often high fived children on his way out, offering words of encouragement to help fire up the team before taking home ice for the first time.

In 2010, the Sharks passed by a lone blue coat security guard and an aggressive fog machine en route to the rink. It was a small change, but it signaled a move towards a more business-like, more playoff hardened approach. There are no frills to this playoff squad in 2010, no Presidents trophy, no Art Ross or Rocket Richard trophies. They started the playoffs with an immediate sense of urgency that had not been seen in years past.

It was s small, but very good sign for Sharks fans.

- Latest updates for Game 5: According to San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan may experiment with splitting up the big line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley. Pollak notes that it might be playoff misdirection, but that Thornton skated with Torrey Mitchell and Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley may join a line with Logan Couture and Manny Malhotra.

McLellan experimented shifting Mitchell, Malhotra and even Setoguchi for shifts on the top line to add a speed element against Colorado, but late in the regular season he had success mixing all 3 on seperate lines for a change of pace. He was noncommittal at the start of the playoffs whether he would adopt that strategy again.

The Sharks held a light practice on Wednesday, right wing Jed Ortmeyer and defenseman Niclas Wallin were listed as day-to-day. Dany Heatley told Mark Emmons his injury was improving. "I wasn't 100 percent, but I was able to do a little more out there," he told Emmons. When asked to describe where and how he was injured, "We don't have to say... it's not the NFL," Heately said.

Denver Post beat writer Adrian Dater reports that Marek Svatos might join Ryan O’Reilly and Kevin Porter for game five. Porter, the 2008 recipient of the Hobey Baker award as the top player in college hockey, missed two previous contests with an upper body injury suffered in game two. Milan Hejduk did not fly to San Jose with the Avalanche after injurying his jaw skating into Paul Stastny with his head down in game three. Center Peter Mueller will also remain out of the lineup.

"We have had some injuries, we need some guys to step up. I don't know what the scenario is going to be tonight, but if it is there it is an opportunity for us to score some goals, we need some secondary scoring", right wing Darcy Tucker on tonight's game.

Dater also posted video of brief chats with Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco yesterday and this morning.

- A couple of trends are starting to emerge after 4 games in the faceoff circle, and with the hit register. Through 4 regular season meetings the Sharks averaged 21.25 hits a game vs 22 for the Avalanche. That would include the late season Rob Blake hit that injured trade deadline acquisition Peter Mueller. In the playoffs the physical play has intensified considerably with ferocious yet borderline play by captains and former teammates Rob Blake and Adam Foote. The Sharks averaged 31.5 hits a game, with checking line center Scott Nichol registering a series high 8 in the 6-5 win on April 18th. The Avalanche averaged 30.25 hits a game, including a team high 6 by veteran center Stephane Yelle in game 4, and agitating Cody McLeod in game 1.

In the regular season, the Sharks were far and away the faceoff kings with three players in the top-16: Scott Nichol (1st - 60.6%), Joe Pavelski (4th - 58.1%) and Joe Thornton (16th - 53.9%). Manny Malhotra finished with a 62.5% from the dot, but a late season switch to the wing did not give him enough draws to qualify for the league lead.

In four head-to-head matchups, the Sharks averaged a 56.25 faceoff percentage vs a 43.75 for Colorado. In the playoffs that has dipped to 51% for San Jose and a 49% for Colorado. Key offensive zone draws have helped Colorado gain momentum, and faceoffs won on the penalty kill automatically wipe 15-20 seconds off the clock. In order to advance in the series, a return to form in the faceoff circle is one area where the Sharks need to key on.

- Sharks still waiting for top line to break through -

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley have 103 regular season goals, three gold medals and plenty of other accolades accumulated already this season. The one thing the high-scoring trio is missing so far is a playoff goal. The Sharks' top line has played nothing like that in the first four games of their first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche.

"We need them to get on the scoreboard," coach Todd McLellan said Wednesday. "We can talk about how they're playing and the chances they're creating and their contributions at the other end of the rink, which are all very important. They're doing a pretty good job in those areas. But ultimately they have to find a way to get on the scoreboard, particularly on the power play. It will come."

- National Post writer Joe O'Connor ratchets up the annual playoff pressure on Sharks assistant captain Joe Thornton: Thornton still an ordinary Joe in playoffs, Shark never seems to find extra gear in post-season.

O'Connor points to Thornton's dip in production from the regular season to the playoffs, from 1.26 points per game to 0.82 points per game, points to his 2 assist total after 4 games against Colorado, and points to the success of Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg leading their teams early in the playoffs. He calls for Thornton to do more to lead his team.

It is a fairly standard rant, but Thornton is doing more than backchecking and "playing hard". He has been storming opponents on the faceoff dot, a sign he is playing a more physical game, and bull rushing defenseman in front of the net and in the corner. Out of the "big three" line, Thornton may be playing the best playoff hockey at this point in time. Dany Heatley was hobbled after a check during overtime in game 2, but he rang a shot off the crossbar earlier in that game, and redirected an OT shot inches wide of the post in game 4.

"As long as we win, everybody’s OK... Obviously we’d like to contribute offensively. That’s what everybody looks for, but if we’re doing things defensively and we get scoring from other areas, that’s good too. But definitely, we look upon ourselves to get the job done," Thornton told SJ Mercury News beat writer David Pollak on Tuesday.

The X-factor on the big line has been Patrick Marleau. There are bursts of speed, and glimpses of the scorer who racked up 44 goals and 39 assists in the regular season, but the playoffs are a completely different animal. Shift-to-shift intensity and compete level need to be redlined at almost a constant pace. Right now Marleau, an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, is being clearly outworked by T.J. Galiardi, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart.

The team may have bristled at former Shark Jeremy Roenick's recent proclamtion on Toronto 640AM, "When's Patty Marleau going to come out and hit somebody in a playoff game... When is he going to come out and start showing why he was so good in the regular season? Not just scoring goals, but playing physical and being emotional in a playoff round."

Not exactly sure what the problem with Roenick's statements are. Marleau does not need to come out and pretend to be Douglas Murray or Brad Staubitz, but his blazing speed has been sorely lacking on the top line. Speed that opens up holes in the defense for Thornton and Heatley to slide into, speed that gets the defense on their heels instead of challenging entry into the zone. Marleau started the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons playing an almost angry style of hockey, something out of the ordinary for the mild mannered, even tempered former captain. That speed and that snarl disappeared at some point prior to the Olympic break.

That sentiment was reinforced when eyeballs outside of the Bay Area labeled the big line "slow", almost an unheard of thought for a line with Marleau on it. After the gold medal winning Olympic performance, New York Times blogger Stu Hackel tackled the matchup problems between Team USA head coach Ron Wilson and Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock in the finals.

Ron Wilson, his U.S. counterpart, on Sunday. But he had one big matchup he wanted, even without the luxury of the last change. He used the Jonathan Toews line, with Mike Richards and Rick Nash, against the top U.S. line of Parise, Paul Stastny and Jamie Langenbrunner. Wilson would have been happier with his big line skating against the slightly slower, less defensive Shark line of Joe Thornton centering for Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley.

With about 12 minutes gone in the first period, the game having been roughly even, Babcock had the the Shark line on and Wilson changed on the fly to get the Stastny line on against them. Erik Johnson of the U.S. misfired a pass that went for icing and, with the play stopped and a faceoff coming deep in the U.S. zone, Babcock without hesitation pulled the Shark line off and sent the Toews line on. The icing call prevented Wilson from changing players.

Galiardi-Stastny-Stewart have not looked out of place in the slightest against Marleau-Thornton-Heatley. During the second intermission of game 4 on CBC, the speed of the young Avalanche line was touted against the "slower" Sharks. One analyst added, "the Sharks are a fast team, but not a hungry team." Canadian analysts can always be expected to throw another log on the fire with a controversial take, but unlike last season this year the criticism is warranted.

Last year Marleau played somewhere around 60% against Anaheim after suffering the first major knee injury of his career. This year, there are no excuses. If the Sharks played in a major Canadian market, or in Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit or Pittsburgh, a lackluster performance on the ice would result in an onslaught of grinding media criticism. Criticism that can either inspire or grind down talented players. In San Jose, Marleau is going to have to inspire himself.

- San Jose Sharks President/CEO Greg Jamison discussed the play of goaltender Evgeni Nabokov and Patrick Marleau today with Gary Radnich on KNBR 680AM:

Evgeni Nabokov, if he is not the best goaltender in the league, he is in the top three. We have great faith in him. He has played well, he has fought. He takes some criticism, for a game or two, but he always comes back. He made a huge save, huge save in overtime to preserve that and help the bench, and help set the stage for Pavelski to go forward. We have great belief and faith in Nabokov. I think he is going to have great success.

The thing we have always had with Evgeni is a wonderful relationship, a great understanding. He has really played well for us the last few years. Every player goes through a time where it doesn't go as well as he wants it to go. It is really the mark of a player or a man, how they hang in there, how they fight through it and emerge on the other side. Over the years Evgeni has done a great job of that...

There was a lot of criticism about Patrick Marleau last year. The captain's C was changed and he steps up with 44 goals in the regular season. It is a real good season in the modern day NHL. I think Patty is working hard. I think that line is working hard, sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. They have played defensively, they move the puck. I think they will get rewarded. I believe that. If they continue to bring their effort, it will turn out positive for them. There is a lot written about 'the big line'. You know that with that type of publicity comes the possibility of criticism if you don't produce at people's expectation levels. I honestly think if they keep working at it they way they have, they will break through.

- A Sharkspage photo gallery from game one of the Avs-Sharks playoff series is available here.

- The Sharks television crew of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, as well as the radio side Dan Rusanowsky and Jamie Baker, are at or near the top of the league with their accessible blend of information and entertainment. Longtime hockey fans or transplants are as apt to follow along with commentary as are casual fans or first time viewers. They have been having a little fun during the playoffs with a series of road "Sharks Late Night Confidential" videos posted on youtube. The second edition with Jamie Baker is available here, the third with Drew Remenda is here, (link to episode one here). Episode 4 will be posted from Denver on Friday night.

- One reader asked about whether the responsibility for Dan Boyle's "own goal" in overtime for game 3 belonged to him or Evgeni Nabokov. Neither. Boyle's soft chip deflected off the stick of a forechecking O'Reilly and apparently snuck inside the post and Nabokov. To be honest, after Boyle scored 1:12 into game 4, the incident was put behind Boyle and the San Jose Sharks. The attempted play back around the wall in his own zone may have been a low percentage play when outnumbering the forecheck 2-on-1, but the deflection off of O'Reilly's stick was also an astronomical 1-100,000 play. To end up the game winning goal in playoff OT? A 1-1,000,000 play.

That being said, the responsibility for the play if it has to be meted out has to fall on Evgeni Nabokov. Doing the small things right for a goaltender means being mentally focused even when your defenseman is playing the puck in his own zone. He did not seal off the post. The allowed goal was every bit as bad as the goal Thomas Greiss allowed in from a hard angle below the goal line early in the season on the road in Los Angeles. Greiss performed admirably up until that point, holding the Sharks in the game as they stormed back from a 4-goal deficit. The Sharks lost that game, and game 3 vs Colorado, on plays that should not have been made. No excuses.

- The latest episode of the Globe and Mail's hockey podcast is available here. Eric Duhatschek, James Mirtle and Darren Yourk break down each series. On San Jose vs Colorado, Mirtle points to the offseason bargain acquisition of goaltender Craig Anderson as being a large part of the Avalanche turnaround. Duhatschek talked about Thornton's playoff scoring struggles, "One of these days, Joe Thornton will have a big playoff game. I wonder if he has 1 or 2, if it will change the dynamic of his career." Duhatschek continued, "For now, most of the people have have been down on him have had the last word." He also called the 2009-10 regular season for the San Jose Sharks, "the longest 82-game preseason in the history of the National Hockey League."

- Former San Jose Sharks defenseman Andy Sutton vs. a non-expert hockey reporter, one of the first Stanley Cup Playoff video memes of 2010.

WorSharks Defeat Lowell 5-1 To Win Series

The Worcester Sharks used two goal games from both Benn Ferriero and T.J. Trevelyan and another stellar goaltending performance from Alex Stalock to defeat the Lowell Devils 5-1 Wednesday night at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell in Lowell, Massachusetts to win their best of seven series four games to one.

Because of scheduling conflicts Sharkspage wasn't able to cover the clinching game, so for folks interested in reading about the victory you can check out what WorSharks beat writer Bill Ballou from the Worcester Telegram has to say about the game in his story Sharks, Ferriero end it and his WorSharks notes column Manchester on a roll, too.

Ryan Holt has the story Sharks Torch Devils, 5-1, Take Series in Five Games on the WorSharks official site.

Worcester 2 2 1 - 5
Lowell 0 1 0 - 1

1st Period-1, Worcester, Trevelyan 3 10:24. 2, Worcester, Ferriero 2 (Trevelyan), 13:02. Penalties-Strong Wor (high-sticking), 4:59; Joslin Wor (interference), 17:52.

2nd Period-3, Lowell, Palmieri 1 (McIntyre), 2:26. 4, Worcester, Ferriero 3 (Quirk, Wilson), 9:44 (sh). 5, Worcester, Desjardins 2 (Groulx, McCarthy), 19:00 (pp). Penalties-Robitaille Low (roughing), 6:59; McLaren Wor (tripping), 8:52; McCarthy Wor (slashing), 14:38; Mashinter Wor (roughing), 17:01; Davison Low (roughing), 17:01; Nagy Low (roughing), 17:01.

3rd Period-6, Worcester, Trevelyan 4 (Henderson, Braun), 4:21. Penalties-McCauley Wor (interference), 6:24; McLaren Wor (roughing, roughing), 7:53; Sestito Low (roughing), 7:53.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 11-11-8-30
Lowell 9-10-15-34.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 1 of 2
Lowell 0 of 6.

Worcester, Stalock 4-1-0 (34 shots-33 saves)
Lowell, McKenna 1-4-0 (30 shots-25 saves).

A-1,153. Referee-Francis Charron (46). Linesmen-Bob Bernard (4), Brian MacDonald (72).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CSN California ratings up 27% for game 4 of the WCQF, up 14% for Sharks-Colorado series

San Jose Sharks California Sports Net California ratings up at start of the season

A recent article by John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal ranked regular season television ratings numbers for 22 regional broadcasts. The Pittsburgh Penguins on FS Pittsburgh lead the NHL ratings drive in 2009-10 with an 8.05 average (up 26.2%), followed by solid ratings in traditional markets for MSG Buffalo (6.45, down 19%), FS Detroit (4.21, up 5.3%) and CSN Chicago (2.45, up 131.1%). Steve Lepore posted a team-by-team ratings/households chart available at Puck the Media.

In the first year since switching from CSN Bay Area to CSN California, CSNCA Sharks broadcasts finished 12th among the 22 listed teams with a 1.11 regular season average (down 20.7%), and 28,000 households (down 20%). CSN California playoff ratings are up 27% for game 4, and up 14% during the 4-game series vs. comparable ratings data from last year.

The move to CSNCA was expected to increase the coverage area statewide for the Sharks, as well as adding additional games broadcast in HD, but a regular season ratings decline of 20% is notable for a team that finished first in the Western Conference. According to CSN spokesman Jay dela Cruz, the move to a new channel at CSN California may not be directly attributable for the ratings decline. He noted that A's broadcasts on the same channel have been up 60%. CSN California also switched from channel 89 to channel 41 late in the season on March 24th. The move placed it lower on the dial adjacent to its previous CSNBA home on channel 40, and created a mini sports block along with ESPN (38) and ESPN2 (39).

Another factor may have been the failure of Charter Communications to pick up the CSNCA channel. According to reports, it left as many as 12-26,000 subscribers looking for another option. CSN spokesman Jay dela Cruz notes that Comcast Sportsnet is still in communications with Charter to make Sharks and A's broadcasts available, but that many of those television customers also have options such as Dish Network, AT&T U-verse, and DirecTV . Each of those options has CSN California available. Sharks fans can call Charter at 1-888-438-2427 or send them a message via contact form to request CSNCA.

CSN San Jose Sharks playoff ratings for the last two seasons:

2009-10 Western Conference Quarterfinal ratings vs. Colorado:

Game One - 3.85
Game Two - 4.40
Game Three - 3.70
Game Four - 4.70

2008-09 Western Conference Quarterfinal ratings vs Anaheim:

Game One - 4.16
Game Two - 3.75
Game Three - 3.15
Game Four - 3.70

source: CSN California

In a Sports Media Watch comparison of all NBA, MLB and NHL media markets, Comcast California ranked 65th for the Sharks (1.11) and 69th for the Athletics (0.82), and by household ranked 61st (28,000) for the Sharks and 70th for the Athletics (20,000). Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area finished 25th for the Giants with a 3.27 ratings and 61st for the Warriors with a 1.35 rating.

National ratings for the league's cable broadcast partner are also up. Versus averaged 478,000 viewers and a .5 rating for its triple header to open the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 14th, up 25%. Through five nights Versus averaged a .6, with 543,000 viewers. It was the largest audience since the 2002 playoffs according to a press release. NBC broadcasts through 2 days over the weekend were on par with last year at 1.4.

Video usage on and unique visitors were also up 108 and 20 percent respectively during the first two days of the post season, with mobile page views up 174 percent. During the first game of the Sharks-Colorado series at HP Pavilion, a rough survey of 44 lower bowl patrons saw all but 9 using mobile phones for content (or text messages/calls) during intermission. Rough survery conducted on my walk to a photo hole. It is without question the wave of the future for NHL broadcasters and media.

Top 18 NHL markets based on growth of unique visitors to (through the first week of the playoffs):

1. Phoenix (+121 percent)
2. Buffalo (+100 percent)
3. Nashville (+ 85 percent
4. Denver (+74 percent)
5. Boston (+63 percent)
6. Chicago (+42 percent)
7. Dallas-Ft. Worth (+41 percent)
8. Ottawa (+41 percent)
9. Montreal (+34 percent)
10. Los Angeles (+34 percent)
11. Philadelphia (+22 percent)
12. Washington D.C. (+21 percent)
13. Vancouver (+17 percent)
14. Tampa-St. Pete (+13 percent)
15. Pittsburgh (+11 percent)
16. Toronto (+10 percent)
17. Atlanta (+6 percent)
18. Edmonton (+6 percent)


[Update] 2009-2010 NHL Attendance & Television Ratings - Derek Zona for From the Rink.

[Update2] Mighty Pucks: Capitals, Sharks, Drawing Good Numbers - Sports Media Watch.

[Update3] Games 2-4 of Sharks-Avs Series Up in the Bay Area - Puck the Media.

[Update4] Via CSNCA play-by-play announcer Randy Hahn's facebook page (hat tip PTM):

People like Sharks Playoffs Broadcasts on Comcast Sportsnet California: The 3.85 game rating for Game 1 vs Colorado destroyed the season high of 2.09 (1/21 v Anaheim). The 1.78 Sharks Pregame Live rating destroyed the season high of 0.82 (10/6 at LA Kings)

Darryl Hunt: DaSilva, WorSharks Take Game Four Over Lowell, 4-2

The Worcester Sharks twice overcame one goal deficits and used three unanswered third period goals to defeat the Lowell Devils 4-2 Tuesday night at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell and grab a 3-1 series lead. Game five is Wednesday night in Lowell.

In the previous 13 meeting between the two clubs the team that had scored first won the contest, so both teams knew that grabbing the first goal would be huge in determining who won the game. Unfortunately for Worcester, it would be the Devils that would light the lamp first when Nick Palmieri caused a Derek Joslin turnover and hit a wide open Alexander Vasyunov. Vasyunov fired the puck over WorSharks goaltender Alex Stalock for the 1-0 lead at 1:55 of the first.

Andrew Desjardins would get Worcester even at 9:18 on a nice bang-bang play. Dan DaSilva took a pass from John McCarthy and headed behind the net, but instead of wheeling the cage threw a pass behind him into the circle where Desjardins was standing. Desjardins knocked the puck from the air past the glove of Lowell's netminder Mike McKenna to knot the game.

Devils winger Patrick Davis would give Lowell a 2-1 lead early in the second period after taking a pass from former San Jose Sharks defenseman Rob Davison. Davis' backhander seemed to surprise Stalock a little, and the puck slid through the legs of the rookie netminder at 3:36. McKenna did everything he could to make that goal stand up, and made incredible save after incredible save to keep Worcester off the board in the middle stanza.

Entering the game Lowell was 31-0-1-2 on the season when leading after two periods so the WorSharks knew it would be an uphill battle to just even get the game tied. Luckily for Worcester a Devils miscue resulted in an odd man rush for the "Crazed Rat" third line, and that was all the opportunity the WorSharks would need. With DaSilva holing the puck trying to freeze the defense McCarthy headed for the net, and a nice tape to tape pass to the top of the crease allowed McCarthy backhand the puck past McKenna to knot the game 2-2 at 4:28 of the third. Nick Schaus had the second assist on the goal.

Special teams play is huge in the playoffs, and Worcester would capitalize on their first chance with the man advantage. With Davison off for hooking, Danny Groulx fired a wrist shot on net that Benn Ferriero was able to deflect past McKenna to give Worcester a 3-2 lead at 10:27. DaSilva had the second assist on the power play tally. The goal was Ferriero's first since late February, a streak going back 24 games.

The WorSharks would gain an insurance goal skating with a two man advantage after Lowell's Louis Robitaille and Matt Taormina we both called for delay of game minors within 47 seconds of each other. T. J. Trevelyan beat McKenna at 13:16 from the bottom of the left wing circle to give Worcester the 4-2 lead. Joslin and Groulx both had the helpers on the goal.

Worcester would survive two Lowell power play chances, including over a minute of the Devils skating six on four, to take game four of the best of seven series.

Worcester went with the same line-up as game four. Earlier this week the WorSharks signed Marek Viedensky, San Jose’s 7th round pick last season, to an ATO. Viedensky, who still has junior eligibility left, will be old enough to play in the AHL next season should the San Jose Sharks wish him to.

Lowell announced the attendance at 1,236. The true number appeared to be less than half that.

The win extends Worcester's undefeated string to four in game fours. The WorSharks are also undefeated in round one game fives having defeated Manchester 4-1 in 2006-07, and Hartford 3-1 last season. Worcester lost its second round game five to Providence last season.

The three stars of the game were
1. DaSilva (3a)
2. McCarthy (g,a)
3. Groulx (2a)

DaSilva was also the AHL's second star of the night.

The Sharkspage player of the game was Andrew Desjardins

Worcester 1 0 3 - 4
Lowell 1 1 0 - 2

1st Period-1, Lowell, Vasyunov 2 (Palmieri), 1:55. 2, Worcester, Desjardins 1 (DaSilva, McCarthy), 9:18. Penalties-Schaus Wor (tripping), 9:38; McCarthy Wor (high-sticking), 19:03.

2nd Period-3, Lowell, Davis 2 (Davison, Gionta), 3:36. Penalties-No Penalties

3rd Period-4, Worcester, McCarthy 2 (DaSilva, Schaus), 4:28. 5, Worcester, Ferriero 1 (Groulx, DaSilva), 10:27 (pp). 6, Worcester, Trevelyan 2 (Groulx, Joslin), 13:16 (pp). Penalties-Davison Low (hooking), 9:20; Robitaille Low (delay of game), 11:26; Taormina Low (delay of game), 12:13; McLaren Wor (slashing), 15:29; Mashinter Wor (high-sticking), 18:45.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 10-15-16-41
Lowell 4-12-11-27.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 2 of 3
Lowell 0 of 4.

Worcester, Stalock 3-1-0 (27 shots-25 saves)
Lowell, McKenna 1-3-0 (41 shots-37 saves).

A-1,236. Referee-Chris Ciamaga (41). Linesmen-Chris Aughe (74), Chris Libett (19).

WCQF Game 4: Joe Pavelski's OT game winning goal ties series at 2-2, heavy weight lifted off of Bay Area shoulders for 48 hours

The Sharks 2-1 win in overtime at the Pepsi Center was a difficult game to watch, a difficult game to play in, and a difficult game to coach. What was easy to see was that a building internal and external pressure, combined with inconceivable bad bounces earlier in this series, weighed heavily on the team in teal. At times, the Sharks looked like they were skating against 10 men instead of 5.

Considering they have been playing against themselves as much as any opponent for several postseasons, that may very well have been the case. It could also have been the byproduct of a third straight overtime playoff game, or the fact that a younger, faster and banged up Colorado Avalanche squad threw the kitchen sink at them in game four. That kitchen sink, along with a pair of Avalanche players in Kyle Cumiskey and Brandon Yip, bounced off the shoulders of defenseman/fullback Douglas Murray 10:20 into overtime. With Colorado in the process of a sloppy line change, Douglas Murray carried the puck into the offensive zone and planted a shoulder into two of the three players in front of him. A trailing Joe Pavelski gathered the puck, dragged it around the chaos at the line of scrimmage, and picked top corner far side using Adam Foote as a screen.

Series tied 2-2, this WCQF now became a best of three contest. A theme song for the Sharks 2010 playoffs: Carry that Weight by the Beatles. San Jose Sharks EVP/GM retooled the roster from top to bottom in the offseason, saying that he wanted to bring in players who could overcome obstacles and find ways to win. For the first time in the 2010 playoffs, those obstacles were strictly of the difficult playoff opponent variety. For the first time in the 2010 playoffs, the San Jose Sharks scored the opening goal of the game, and they did not score on themselves.

Joe Pavelski reprised his role yet again as deliverer of late game heroics. Scoring with 32 seconds remaining to send game two into overtime, his winning goal and brief stint as playoff Elvis against Dallas in 2008, and his game winning goal against Colorado last night smashed talk of playoff curses, voodoo and hexes. There are no aggrieved goats or egregious trades to point a finger at (not including Ed Belfour). The Sharks started game four with a misson to seize the momentum, and set the tone early. They battled significant ebbs and flows over 70+ minutes, and remained confident throughout.

The Sharks opened the scoring 1:12 into the first period on the power play. Dan Boyle took a feed off the wall from Ryane Clowe and hammered a slap shot that beat goaltender Craig Anderson far side. The Altitude Colorado broadcast said it was a small, then corrected to large, measure of redemption for Boyle. The CBC Canadian broadcast bizarrely focused on who Boyle was looking at after the goal, and whether or not he was trying to send a message. The local Sharks broadcast was a little shocked that Boyle was able to answer a lot of questions so quickly into the game. To use a very overused phrase, it looked like a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.

After a Boyle chip deflected off of Ryan O'Reilly's stick and beat Nabokov to end game three, Boyle said it was a play that he would not wish on anyone. To add insult to insult, the local San Jose Mercury News ran a front page selection of the top 12 "Dirty Dozen" self-inflicted moments in Bay Area sports. Boyle's own goal, and stay tuned for a note later today of Evgeni Nabokov's role on the play, ranked 5th behind Roger Craig's fumble in the 1990 NFC Final, Dennis Eckersley's home run pitch to a hobbled Kirk Gibson (the horror), Jeremy Giambi's non-silde in 2001, and Roy Reigel's 70-yard wrong way run in the 1929 Rose Bowl (this should be first). When asked if the opening goal made up for game three, Boyle said that only a series win would make him feel any better.

The goal of playoff goaltending is to give your team an opportunity to win. For the fourth straight game, Evgeni Nabokov smoothed over some rough patches in his own zone and held tight on a pair of quality scoring chances in overtime for Colorado. Chris Stewart and Ryan O'Reilly were joined on the rush by former San Jose 1997 first round draft pick Scott Hannan five minutes into overtime. A delay move by Stewart opened up O'Reilly for a clear shot to end the game. Evgeni Nabokov blocked the shot with his body, and squeezed tight to prevent a rebound.

Dan Boyle also might have registered the biggest save of the game eight minutes into overtime. A stick check by O'Reilly knocked the puck from Joe Thornton back to Paul Stastny, who had body position on Boyle in front of the net. Stastny feathered a pass to an unchecked Stewart on the left wing, but Boyle moved over and kicked out his legs to make a sliding blocked shot. In addition to a power play goal, and a game high 30:10 of ice time, his save in overtime might have been the biggest play of the series to date.

Game Notes: Evgeni Nabokov stopped 33 of 34 shots for the win. Dany Heatley rejoined the lineup after missing 1 game with an undisclosed injury. Niclas Wallin and Jed Ortmeyer were not in the lineup, Jay Leach, Brad Staubitz and emergency goaltender Henrik Karlsson were healthy scratches. A battered Colorado lineup was missing Peter Mueller for a fourth straight playoff game after a late season collision with Rob Blake. Milan Hejduk and Ryan Stoa were out of the lineup after suffering injuries in game three, Kevin Porter and Ryan Wilson were also out. There was a moment of silence at the start of the game to honor the death of Colorado Rockies owner Keli McGregor.

[Update] Purdy: Sharks get some redemption in win, but getting goals would be better - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update2] Pavelski's OT goal lifts Sharks over Avalanche - San Francisco Chronicle.

[Update3] Another draining OT game - Adrian Dater for the Denver Post.

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco

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

Stick with it, overcome, words we have used since the beginning of the series. When I look at how the game played out, one it was nice to see Danny Boyle score right off the bat. I think that put game three to rest in his mind, and probably a lot of other player's minds. It was a real good start for us. Then at the end of the night when Nabby made a real good save for us in overtime, that probably helped us as well, and of course winning the game. It is a best of three now, that is where we are at. Both teams are playing really hard. It is some fierce hockey in the corners, along the boards, and net front. I don't see any reason why that would change for either team right now.

Danny Heatley obviously returning is something we were excited about. He hadn't skated since our last game, I think it showed a little bit. He didn't have the jump in his legs he probably needed. We had to shuffle lines to spread out some of our speed. When we did that, we kind of got rolling a little more. It became a factor as the night went on.

To be real honest with you, coaches hate when you say it is a must-win, and you had to have it. I don't think you will ever get any of us to admit that it has to be a must-win. We feel good about the team we have, we feel good about the game we are playing. Had we not won, the task would have got that much harder, become that much narrower. I still believe we are doing things the right way. It is hard for me to answer (whether or not this was a must-win game) question, and I don't think you are going to get a lot of coaches to answer that question honestly.

(The second) line has been very good for us. Seto, Pavs and Clowe, it is rewarding because last year we took a lot of heat without secondary scoring. This year they are scoring big goals, and playing well at the other end of the rink. It is nice to see them score, nice to see them produce, but it is a must that it needs to continue.

We are seeing the same thing you are watching (regarding Craig Anderson's play), that his teammates are watching, that those on tv are watching. He is in the zone. He is playing extremely well. He is playing with confidence, exuding confidence, and his teammates are building off of it. Much the same way Nabby was tonight to tell the truth. Nabby made some very good saves, you could feel our bench settle down. It was real important Nabby performed the same way, the way he did tonight. Give Anderson credit, but I would really like to talk about what our goaltender did tonight. He stood in and did what he was supposed to do.

We would like to have the lead, we would like to get the second goal. We need production from a few more players. If that comes, I believe we can get a 1-2-3 goal lead. It still has to come. That is why we play seven games. We wait for it, expect it, and believe it will show up.

Post-game comments from Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco:

It was a hard fought game out there, it certainly is going to be a hard fought series, just like we thought it would be at the start. I thought it was a good game tonight. I thought we responded well, I thought we had more energy in our game. When it gets into overtime, it just takes one good shot. That is what happened tonight.

We had a couple of good chances before Pavelski, unfortunately we were not able to capitalize on them. I think there are some positive things to take out of this game for our team. Now it becomes a best of 3 series. We look forward to the next game.

I liked the way we spent more time in the offensive zone tonight. I thought we were able to sustain a forecheck, and just keep the play in their end more than the last game. That is something positive we can take out of this game. I think we are competing hard, our guys are really laying it on the line.

I always go back to the identity of our team, trying to use our speed, trying to play agressive and forecheck hard. We try to take away time and space from the opposition, that is it. We try to go back to the things that we have done well in the past, not one specific thing.

We were out there, we had some guys caught out there on a line change after an icing call. Then after the faceoff in our end, we got the puck deep, and we had a couple forewards change. I know there defenseman had jumped up in the play. I just saw the puck bouncing everywhere inside our own zone. I saw it bouncing, unfortunately for us it went to one of their guys. He made a nice shot.

[Update] More post-game reactions are available from CSN California and the Colorado Avalanche podcast.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Scouting Report -- Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson scouting report
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs
Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche WCQF game 3 shot chart
Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche WCQF game 2 shot chart

6-foot-1, 180-pounds, 28 years old

Career reg. season record - 74-68-2-18
Playoff record - 2-1
Career reg. season GAA - 2.77
Playoff GAA - 2.26
Career reg. season SV% - .913%
Playoff SV% - .946%

Goaltender Craig Anderson passed over multiple offers last July to sign a 2-year, $3.6 million free-agent contract with the Colorado Avalanche according to the Denver Post. At the time, few would have suspected Anderson's impact would be equal to or greater than that of big ticket acquisitions Chris Pronger, Marian Gaborik and Dany Heatley. "I admit there were a lot of times when I was playing behind Nikolai Khabibulin in Chicago and Tomas Vokoun in Florida where my career seemed like it was on hold, but I never lost confidence that I could play at the NHL level," Anderson told's Larry Wigge in October during his first week as a definitive starting goaltender.

Anderson's performance more than held its own. In his first full season, he registered a 38-25-7 record while setting franchise marks for games played (71) and minutes (4,235). He also set franchise records while leading the NHL in shots faced (2,233) and saves (2047). Despite Colorado's 3-10 finish, the Avalanche edged the Calgary Flames for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference during the final week of the season.

In his first three Stanley Cup Playoff games Anderson has been the beneficiary of a pair of fluke bounces for game winning goals, but his performance in net has been impressive. Anderson made 46 saves on 52 shots against in a game two where the Sharks attempted 100 total shots (16 missed the net, 32 were blocked). The pressure was far more lopsided on home ice in game three. Anderson stopped all 51 shots on goal, but San Jose also missed the net 20 times and Colorado blocked 22 shots. In just over 120 minutes of play, the Sharks tried to put 193 shots in the back of his net.

In a word, pressure.

A long, lanky butterfly goaltender whose pads seem to have grown slightly with the trip to Colorado, Anderson excels at coverage around the lower part of the net. Not taking up as much space as Anaheim's technical Jonas Hiller, Anderson instead anticipates the play well and uses quick reflexes to get into position. Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco, according to CSNCA's Drew Remenda, said that Anderson excels at reading the puck off the stick of a shooter. Even on shots in tight, solid rebound control allows him to deflect pucks into the corner and away from the goal scoring red zone in front of the crease.

According to Red Line Report scout and Sharkspage contributor Max Giese, a former goaltender himself, Anderson "is focused on each shot, sturdy in traffic... and tough to rattle in net." Another former Blackhawks scout added that Chicago's 1999 draft pick Michael Leighton was a more talented goaltending prospect, but "Anderson got to where he is because he worked his (bleep) off for it."

A video review of the shots Anderson faced against the Sharks in the postseason and regular season show excellent rebound control, and a propensity to flash a wide 5-hole to shooters before quickly snatching it away. Even with 2 or 3 bodies proving a screen in front of him, Anderson is often able to keep eyes on the puck. His glove might not be the most flashy in the NHL, but it is positionally strong when standing, and when held low above the pad in the butterfly.

Very quick up and down, when Anderson is struggling he will remain set in one position too long. During the Sharks 4-2 win against the Avalanche on March 28th, Yahoo NHL editor Ross McKeon described Anderson's body language as "off". A few national hockey analysts attributed it to the jump from 29 and 31 games played, his previous career highs with Chicago and Flordia, and the 71 games played he just completed with Colorado. One play that might be representative of that late in the season was Anderson putting his paddle down to block a wraparound, then pushing it out in front of his body several times instead of regaining a set position in goal.

San Jose Sharks blog Fear the Fin speculates fatigue may be a factor in game four, and it is possible. Each playoff win the Sharks afford Colorado and goaltender Craig Anderson increases their energy reserves as they to attempt to close out the series. Instead, the Sharks need to be crashing the net, piling up shots, and attempting to wear #41 down.

How do the Sharks get pucks by Craig Anderson... shoot where he isn't. Use Anderson's anticipation and aggresiveness against him. A shot/pass for a redirection at the side of the net, tips in front, side-to-side passes to force lateral movement and open up holes. The Sharks struggled to get bodies in front of Jonas Hiller last year, and contact with the opposing goaltender was non-existent until the final games of the series. This year the Sharks piled up more net front presence and goaltender contact in the first period of game one, than 3 of the first 4 games against the Ducks last year combined. Heatley, Pavelski, Thonrton and Ryane Clowe lead the way. Devin Setoguchi scored a goal while falling, and took a goaltender interference penatly, on the same play late in game two. The goal was disallowed. Head coach Todd McLellan would take that penalty every day of the week and twice on Friday. It was evidence of the his game plan being put into action on the ice.

The Sharks piled up 103 shots on Colorado in games two and three, but the net front presence (using head coach Todd McLellan's terminology) went down from Friday to Sunday. A rough estimate, the Sharks fired a third to half the number of shots below the faceoff circles on Sunday. The Sharks finished 0-5 on the power play, with only 10 shots. They struggled mightily to get a shot on goal during the final 2-minute minor on T.J. Galiardi. Defenseman Adam Foote registered a shorthanded shot, and another Pavelski shot was blocked before the Sharks could register the final two power play shots on goal.

San Jose either needs to hit the offensive zone with more speed on the power play, or dump the puck deep and overload that side of the ice. Instead the Sharks are trying to make too many finesse moves at the top of the zone, and stationary forwards are not providing outlet support. One of Craig Anderson's weaknesses according to the Denver Post is puckhandling. The Sharks have yet to test him in that area that enough.

The team defensive effort in front of Craig Anderson has also been stifling. Averaging 23.6 blocked shots a game, the Sharks are having trouble getting pucks on net. In a practice years back, Christian Ehrhoff, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Matt Carle and Derek Joslin each practiced taking two hard strides to the left or right after receiving a pass on the point. It opened up shooting and passing lanes, and made setting up for a blocked shot take a split second longer. CSNCA television analyst Drew Remenda said the Sharks are looking at tweaking the shooting angles and shooting lanes to cut down on blocked shots, whether they can put that into practice in game four remains to be seen.

Remenda also at one point in Sunday's game exclaimed, "there is an invisible force field in front of their goal line." That force field wore #41 for Colorado.

[Update] Avalanche goalie follows tradition - Tracy Renck for The Chieftan.

DOH Podcast #95b: the Sharks curse, 'The Incident', exorcism

Mike Peattie and Doug Santana perform a playoff exorcism, discuss 'the incident', and try to expel the ghost of Ed Belfour on a shortened episode 95b of the Dudes on Hockey podcast.

This Sharks podcast is posted here with permission. Visit for more coverage of the team, or download the MP3 file directly here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

WCQF Game 3: Own-goal by Dan Boyle sinks Sharks less than a minute into overtime, San Jose trails Colorado in series 2-1

The Sharks have scored three game winning goals so far in this edition of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, unfortunately two of them have been scored into their own net for the Colorado Avalanche. After a puck off the skate of Rob Blake sealed game 1, and a Rob Blake clearing attempt when off the throat of Marc-Edouard Vlasic to open the scoring in game 2, a soft Dan Boyle chip along the boards deflected off the stick of Ryan O'Reilly to beat Evgeni Nabokov in game three. The own goal gave the Avalanche a 1-0 win less than a minute into overtime, and a 2-1 series lead.

There is a tried and true saying in the National Hockey League that you work hard to earn your own bounces. Despite a blistering offensive attack that saw the Sharks outshoot Colorado 42-7 in the second and third periods, hard work earned a bagel on this night. "We didn't beat their goalie, we found a way to beat ours," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game.

McLellan was making the proper adjustments before and during game 3. The Sharks returned to more of a puck possession style and used their size well down low. For the first time in possibly the last 2 months, all 4 San Jose Sharks lines were rolling and creating scoring chances. With Dany Heatley scratched due to an undisclosed upper body injury, McLellan started the game with Marleau and Thornton joining Manny Malhotra. That changed as Mitchell was moved up to the top line later in the first, with Malhotra joining Logan Couture and AHL Worcester Sharks forward Dwight Helminen.

Rookie defenseman Jason Demers was in the lineup on the blueline with Niclas Wallin and Jay Leach scratched. Demers was goaded into an undisciplined penalty by Darcy Tucker, but a second holding the stick minor later in the first has to go down as one of the softest calls of the postseason to date. Tucker cross checked left wing Jamie McGinn, then was wrapped up by Demers. Colorado was unable to convert on either power play, and it would be the only time in the game they would skate with the man advantage.

Evgeni Nabokov received a lot of criticism locally and nationally for his play in a sloppy game 2, and in the pre-game interviews he pointed the finger at himself and said he needed to make more big saves. That started early as Nabokov exploded to his right with a strong t-push to stop Cody McLeod. O'Reilly and McLeod broke in on a 2-on-1, but Nabokov stuffed the low shot with his right leg pad.

Despite only facing 17 shots against, Nabokov was forced to make several spectacular saves in the second period to match the play of Colorado Avalanche goaltender Craig Anderson. Nabokov stoned AHL callup Ryan Stoa on a pair of shots in close. Stoa was in the lineup due to the injury to Kevin Porter. Evgeni Nabokov also came up big, with a clutch butterfly save on T.J. Galiardi. Nabokov bit slightly on the backhand to forehand move, but with his pad on the ice Galiardi could not lift it over him on the far side. Nabokov was also solid on an innocent point shot that deflected off of Matt Duchene. The puck nearly deflected into the net off of Matt Hendricks at the top of the crease.

Concentration and mental focus were key for Nabokov, because he went long stretches without facing any rubber. The Colorado Avalanche did not register a shot in the second period until the 7:53 mark, and they were outshot 10-0 before registering a shot in the third at 10:10.

The scouting report on Craig Anderson in years past labeled him as a quality "journeyman", struggling to break the 30 start plateau with Chicago and Florida. That is easier said than done behind the likes of Nikolai Khabibulin, for a long time Team Russia's #1 starter, and Thomas Vokoun. At 6-2, 180-pounds Anderson is a lanky goaltender with quick reflexes and solid coverage down low. Tenacious on plays in front of his own net, excellent rebound control allows him to direct pucks into the corner in order to minimize them. According to CSNCA, head coach Joe Sacco credited Anderson's hockey IQ and ability to read the puck off the stick as large contributors to his success.

Anderson finished with a 51 save shutout, two days after registering 46 saves on 52 shots against in San Jose (the Sharks put up 100 shots Friday, 52 on goal, 32 were blocked, 16 missed the net). That being said, Anderson is not yet on par with Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller and Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco from seasons past. Anderson can be beat, but what became readily apparent Sunday night was that he can stop 52 shots if he could see all of them.

Manny Malhotra rejoined the Marleau-Thornton line early in the second period, trying to break the playoff drought for the big guns by mixing things up. The Sharks generated several scoring chances with a strong forecheck that pinned Colorado deep, a second sequence with Jamie McGinn and Jed Ortmeyer finishing their checks down low created another low cycle.

A second line of Clowe, Mitchell and Ortmeyer created the best scoring opportunity of the game. Second and third forechecking efforts from Torrey Mitchell pressured the Avalanche to turn back into their own zone. Ryan Clowe was able to keep the puck in at the blueline, and he quickly fired a shot on Anderson. A driving Mitchell ran into the netminder and freed up the puck down low. Mitchell threw it back to Clowe, who spun and fired a blind shot on Anderson. A prone Ortmeyer took a whack at the loose puck, which was also chopped at by Mitchell as Clowe ran over Paul Stastny at the side of the net. Craig Anderson freezed the play, but it was a grinding playoff shift by a San Jose club that was building momentum.

The question of whether the Sharks would be able to continue their momentum in the third period was answered quickly. The second line of Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi was churning early. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were being dropped into other lines, Thornton joining Setoguchi and Clowe, and Marleau joining Couture and Malhotra. An excellent pinch by Malhotra created a turnover along the half boards, and Malhotra hit Marleau who had just made a line change. Two quick strides by Marleau and he unloaded a hard shot deflected into the air by Anderson. Marleau batted down the rebound and tried to hit Malhotra at the top of the paint, but Malhotra was leveled by Kyle Quincy. Couture was horse collared by Matt Duchene attempting to get to the rebound.

It was Marleau's best shift of the game, but the Sharks need more from their former captain if they want to pull out a tight series win. Marleau stretches defenses with his speed, and can use his size to manhandle opposing forwards in the corner... when he is motivated. Shift to shift intensity is key. At the start of the 2008-09, 2009-10 seasons, Marleau appeared to be playing a nasty style of hockey. It may or may not have been a result of rampant offseason criticism and speculation, some of it warranted, much of it not. Whatever the reason, he was a driving force in open ice and down low that created matchup problems for Western Conference teams. Repeatedly in this series Marleau has been noted shying away from physical play, not playing the body hard along the boards, and being absent from the goal scoring zone in front of the net. That needs to change for Marleau to have an impact on this series.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Kyle Quincy and left wing T.J. Galiardi took nearly unforgiveable cross checking and boarding minors with 6 minutes left in the third period. After Craig Anderson shut down big point shots by Dan Boyle and Devin Setoguchi to kill off the first power play, CSNCA announcer Drew Remenda noted, "there is an invisible force field in front of their goal line." That force field wore #41 for Colorado. For a player that did not look comfortable in net at times during a 3-10 run to finish the regular season, Anderson was in perfect position anticipating shots by Ryane Clowe and Manny Malhotra to kill off the second PP.

Dan Boyle's own goal 51 seconds into overtime may go down in the annals of San Jose Sharks playoff futility, but the effort on the ice and the contributions up and down the lineup are enormous warning signs for the Colorado Avalanche moving forward in the series. Last year San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said possibly 3 players were playing to an acceptable level of intensity against Anaheim, a year before this blog pegged that number at 6-7 (until being down several games into the WCQF series against Calgary, and the WCSF series with Dallas). If the Sharks can match the top to bottom effort in the lineup with scoring by Marleau, Thornton and a possibly returning Dany Heatley, this could be the playoff series to watch in the first round.

The Avalanche are going to have to address those challenges with the addition of center Ryan Stoa and right wing Milan Hejduk to the injury list. Hejduk ran into the shoulder pad of forward Paul Stastny early in the first period as he was looking over his shoulder. The collision appeared to injure his jaw. Hejduk immediately left the ice and went to the locker room. Peter Mueller was already on the injured list after a hit by Rob Blake in the last regular season meeting between the two teams. Kevin Porter was out with an injury in the previous contest.

WCQF Game 2: Sharks overcome five 1-goal deficits, emerge with 6-5 win on Setoguchi's overtime goal

Work done in the regular season has a way of playing itself out in the postseason. The Sharks reverted back to mid-March struggles early in Friday night's 6-5 overtime win over Colorado at HP Pavilion. Significant defensive zone lapses and coverage mistakes lead to five straight 1-goal leads for the Avalanche. The Sharks answered as they have all season, with an offensive punch Colorado could not contain.

Center Joe Pavelski reprised his role as deliverer of late game heroics, most notably in game 5 of the 2008 WQSF series, by burying the rebound of a Dany Heatley shot with 32 seconds remaining in the third period. With the game sent to overtime tied 5-5, an emotional Devin Setoguchi wrapped another rebound around goaltender Craig Anderson before being mobbed in a pile of leaping teammates.

"You never want to go down 2-0. It's a tough hole to climb out of. It can be done, but you don't want to do it. Now we're on a clean slate," Setoguchi told the media after the game.

The playoffs are a results oriented business, but how the Sharks arrived at this win may raise troubling questions for the future. For the second straight game, a fluke puck off the stick of defenseman Rob Blake resulted in a goal for the Avalanche. In game 1 on Wednesday it resulted in a game winning goal for Chris Stewart with 50 seconds remaining in regulation. In game 2 it was a failed clearing attempt by Blake that gave the puck up to right wing Milan Hejduk less than 10 feet in front of Evgeni Nabokov. Apparently Hejduk fanned on the attempted shot, but the fluttering puck deflected off of the throat of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic to give the Av's a 1-0 lead 1:10 into the first. The goal was credited to defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, who also fanned on the initial centering pass.

Fluke play or not, the goal counts on the score sheet. As they did for 9 out of 10 games after the Olympic break, and for the second straight game in this playoff series, the Sharks allowed the other team to score first. Playing from a position of strength allows a team to wear down an opponent over 60 minutes, not to mention a 7-game series. Constantly allowing the first goal against only amplifies the pressure on a somewhat fragile team.

The Sharks have had problems with perimeter movement on the power play, and not enough pucks and bodies sent in front of the crease. After the Avalanche took a too many men on the ice penalty at 17:25, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton combined to keep possession of a Dan Boyle rebound down low. The Sharks were able to generate a pair of solid scoring chances down low, then on a subsequent scramble Heatley ringed a shot off the crossbar with Anderson prone.

The Sharks second power play unit was able to convert with 7 seconds left in the man advantage. A clean faceoff win by Manny Malhotra, who finished 8-2 from the circle on the night (80%), drew the puck back to Dan Boyle on the point. A give-and-go created a quality shot from Boyle in the slot, and Malhotra buried the rebound up high on his second attempt.

The momentum gained after scoring the late first period goal, and by drawing on the enthusiasm of the fans in the home building, lasted all of 24 seconds in the second period. Sophmore forward Chris Stewart, credited with the game winning goal on Wednesday, took a long feed from goaltender Craig Anderson and exploded through the neutral zone. Defenseman Douglas MUrray had a step on Stewart, but set up on the left side he did not realize his right side partner Dan Boyle was caught pinching in. Murray could not close fast enough to prevent or even challenge a wrist shot that beat Nabokov 5- hole.

The big line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley cycled the puck down low, then fed defenseman Rob Blake at the point who tied the game at 2-2. While HP Pavilion in-arena announcer Danny Miller was still calling off the names of the previous goal scorers, the Avalanche answered 25 seconds later. NHL rookie scoring leader Matt Duchene blew by Dan Boyle on the far side, but Devin Setoguchi was backchecking in an effort to force a low percentage shot. Instead, Duchene read defenseman Douglas Murray also coming over to play him and quickly slid a pass to the unchecked Milan Hejduk on the doorstep. Hejduk one-timed a shot just over the top of Evgeni Nabokov's glove, 3-2 lead Colorado.

To the Sharks credit, they put their heads down and continued grinding. "It was real evident that everybody showed up to play tonight. We had a little extra in the tank that we didn't have the other day," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game.

That was nomoreso evident than on the Sharks third and fourth goals. Ryane Clowe continued his late season trend of carrying the puck down low, drawing bodies to him and opening up space and shooting lanes for his linemates. This time Clowe carried it behind the net and backhanded a shot on Anderson. A driving Devin Setoguchi beat a pair of stationary Av's to the rebound, then pulled the puck around the side of the net and bounced it in off of traffic in front.

An unwieldy Nabokov puck handling turnover resulted in Brandon Yip's goal at 17:30, but the Sharks grinding fourth line was able to tie it at 4-4 with 15 seconds left in the middle period. A Jamie McGinn forecheck forced Craig Anderson to hurry a clearing attempt up along the boards, but Scott Nichol was there to deflect it into the center of the ice. Jed Ortmeyer gathered the puck high in the slot, spun and fired it on net. Anderson could not control the rebound, and a jabbing stick from Scott Nichol punched it home for his first career playoff goal.

The Avalanche capitalized on a blind pass up ice from Kent Huskins in the third period, resulting in a neutral zone turnover and a quick transition up ice. With a pair of Sharks changing or caught deep, center Paul Stastny drove the center of the ice and drew both Huskins and Demers to him. Open on the right wing, Chris Stewart took a hard pass and rifled it past Nabokov far side for his second goal of the night. On a subsequent center ice shot, local San Jose fans gave Evgeni Nabokov a bronx cheer as he made the routine save.

The Sharks came close to tying the game on a power play shift, as Joe Thornton tried to stuff a loose puck by Anderson from the side of the net. Anderson was able to seal off the post with his leg pad, and goalcam and overhead camera angles were not conclusive regarding the puck going over the line. No goal. Anderson was able to stop two more point shots by the defense to close out the sucessful penalty kill. A second near miss denied Devin Setoguchi a potential goal seconds later in the third. Setoguchi jumped on a turnover in the offensive zone, drove the net, and stopped just short of the net to chop a shot on goal. Momentum, and a cross check from behind carried Setoguchi over the top of Anderson, but he poked the puck in the net on his way down. Goal waived off, Setoguchi was called for goaltender interference at 8:28.

The comeback would be delayed slightly after a large Rob Blake hip check sent T.J. Galiardi cartwheeling to the ice along the blueline giving the Avalanche 38 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time. Center Torrey Mitchell fumbled a clear pass up ice, but the Avalanche could not capitalize and instead clung to a 1- goal lead.

The Sharks were misfiring late, a Dan Boyle d-to-d pass popped off the boards, only to be mishandled by a Colorado forward trying to clear. Former Sharks captain Patrick Marleau drove the net, then committed a turnover of his own. Unseasonably cold April temperatures in San Jose should result in better than average ice conditions, but players were struggling to get a handle on the puck late.

The Sharks were able to pull Evgeni Nabokov for the extra attacker, adding Pavelski and Clowe and defenseman Dan Boyle to the top line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley. A quick entry into the offensive zone left Thornton unchecked with possession along the half boards. Drawing a pair of Avalanche forwards to him, Thornton made a long cross ice pass to Heatley on the far side. Heatley held the puck for a split second, then lifted a shot over the prone Adam Foote. The Avalanche had blocked a whopping 32 shots on the night, with Foote responsible for a game high 6.

This time the shot and a jumping Pavelski both cleared Foote, and the rebound dropped to the right of Anderson. Pavelski quickly snapped the puck near side to tie the game at 5-5 lighting off a loud celebration from anxious fans on home ice. Pavelski's 7th career playoff goal was his first of this series.

A strong forecheck by Devin Setoguchi set up his game winning goal in overtime. After pinning the Avalanche deep, Ryane Clowe regained possession and circled high in the slot. He lifted a shot on goal wide of traffic, which was then deflected underAnderson's 5-hole by Setoguchi. HP Pavilion exploded in pom-pom waving Sharks fans as the series was sent back to Colorado for game 3 tied 1-1. The goal by Devin Setoguchi gave the Sharks their first lead of the game.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Darryl Hunt: Stalock, WorSharks Take Game Three Over Lowell, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks jumped out to the same 2-0 lead they had in game two but didn't suffer the same mental lapse and were able to hold off a final Lowell Devils charge in winning game three 3-2 at The Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell Saturday night in front of a reported attendance of 2,016. The WorSharks now lead the best of seven series 2-1, with game four coming Tuesday in Lowell.

The "Crazed Rats" third line would again put the puck in the net early for Worcester, only unlike Thursday the tally would stick on the board to give the WorSharks the lead. With Worcester continuing to pressure Devils goaltender Mike McKenna Andrew Desjardins threw a centering pass to Dan DaSilva just outside the crease. DaSilva misfired his first attempt but was able to recover and bang his second attempt home at 5:24 of the first for the 1-0 lead.

The WorSharks would grab a power play goal at 16:05 for the 2-0 lead. With the two teams skating four on four, Devils winger Patrick Davis skated out of the Lowell zone down the left wing side. Unfortunately for Davis that was the exact moment Frazer McLaren's minor for interference was ending, and McLaren stepped on to the ice right in Davis' path and threw a huge open ice hit Davis never saw coming. Nick Schaus picked up the loose puck and fed Desjardins into the Lowell zone. Desjardins threw another nice cross ice pass to T.J. Trevelyan, who blasted one past McKenna.

A misplay while shorthanded late in the second period by Worcester would lead to Lowell cutting the lead in half. A good defense play by Schaus in the slot put the puck on the rookie defenseman's stick, but his attempt to stick handle out of the zone was foiled by a Devils forecheck. Danny Groulx then tried to clear the puck from the zone but misfired into a pile of player, and after two nice passes David McIntyre found himself all alone against WorSharks goaltender Alex Stalock. Stalock made a great effort but couldn't keep the Devils off the board at 17:52.

The WorSharks managed to put that miscue behind them, and continued pin Lowell in their own zone as time was winding down in the second period. Steven Zalewski would eventually find Derek Joslin all alone just inside the blueline, and Joslin's wrist shot through traffic found the high corner to light the lamp with 40.2 seconds remaining in the stanza for the 3-1 lead.

Joslin's tally would prove to be big when Matt Taormina converted on a power play chance for Lowell at 14:07 of the third to cut the WorSharks lead back to one. But Taormina's own tripping minor on his next shift was enough to kill any momentum Lowell had generated, and despite pulling McKenna late in the contest Lowell couldn't mount any significant pressure against the WorSharks defense.

The Worcester Shuttle continues to run during the playoffs, with Dwight Helminen being recalled to San Jose before Saturday's game. Dennis McCauley dressed in his spot. Worcester had one other line-up change from Thursday, with game two hero Ryan Vesce sitting out due to being "banged up". Vesce had missed much of Thursday's third period after being hit in the open ice earlier in the contest. Dean Strong took Vesce's place and skated on the second line.

Another player injured in game two played with a full cage on for game three. Early in the overtime period Thursday Mike Moore went into the end boards face first, and as he skated off the ice could be seen bleeding from the nose/mouth area. After heading to the locker room Moore wanted to go back to the ice but was held out by team trainers. Saturday Moore looked like he had gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson, and is probably thankful he was wearing the extra protection as he took a puck to the cage right in the mouth area late in the third period.

Nick Schaus and Justin Braun, two collegiate players added to the roster and playing very well in their pro debuts, learned the hard way that playing with the AHL's mandatory half shield is a lot different than playing with the full cage required by the NCAA. In the first period Braun took a puck to the face, and as he boarded the team bus still had cotton in his nose to help stop the bleeding. Schaus took a high stick and face planted himself in the second period, although he looked no worse for wear after the contest.

While there were no fights in the contest there was plenty of roughhousing between the teams, including several confrontations as the second period expired. After Joslin's late tally Dan DaSilva threw one of the biggest open ice hits of the season in the Lowell zone when he leveled Tim Sestito in the right wing circle. Sestito, best known in these parts as the player Brad Staubitz knocked out cold in a one punch fight last season, took exception to the hit and tried to go after DaSilva deep in the Worcester zone as time expired. He must not have seen Andrew Desjardins near DaSilva, and when he did Sestito spent a lot of time chirping at the pair while hiding behind the linesman.

In a moment of unintentional comedy, Stephen Gionta got in the face of Frazer McLaren about half way through the second period. Well, maybe more correctly, Gionta (5'7" 185#) got into the midchest region of McLaren (6'4" #235). After a few moments of listing to Gionta, McLaren patted the diminutive forward on the top of the head and skated away laughing.

The boxscore reports the attendance at 2,016 but it certainly didn't appear to be anywhere near that many in the building, with huge sections of the Tsongas Center being empty. The number was probably closer to 1,000, and of that number a pretty high percentage were WorSharks fans. It's a shame too, because the Tsongas Center is a great place to see a hockey game with very nice site lines from every seat. With the whispers of New Jersey moving the franchise to Albany next season--the fact the Devils aren't offering season ticket packages for next season adding fire to those rumors--one has to wonder if the AHL is dead in Lowell.

Worcester's win in Lowell puts the series back "on serve", although that's not necessarily good news for the WorSharks as the visiting team has won nine of the 13 contests between the two teams this season. Another interesting note is the team that has scored first has won all 13 games.

The win gives Worcester a three game winning streak in game threes. Worcester lost it's first game three 5-0 in round one against Manchester in the 2006-07 season, and then won game threes last season against both Hartford and Providence.

The three stars of the game were
1. Stalock (32 saves)
2. Desjardins (2a,+2)
3. Taormina (g)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Dan DaSilva.

Even Strength Lines


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

1st Period-1, Worcester, DaSilva 2 (Desjardins), 5:24. 2, Worcester, Trevelyan 1 (Desjardins, Schaus), 16:05 (pp). Penalties-Swift Low (high-sticking), 2:50; Robitaille Low (double minor - spearing (attempt)), 5:50; Schaus Wor (holding), 8:37; McLaren Wor (interference), 13:51; Eckford Low (tripping), 14:28; Magnan Low (tripping), 17:39.

2nd Period-3, Lowell, McIntyre 1 (Perkovich, Cohen), 17:52 (pp). 4, Worcester, Joslin 2 (Zalewski, Mashinter), 19:19. Penalties-Davis Low (hooking), 10:47; Palmieri Low (interference), 13:26; Moore Wor (interference), 15:56.

3rd Period-5, Lowell, Taormina 1 (Swift, Walter), 14:07 (pp). Penalties-Groulx Wor (high-sticking), 5:34; DaSilva Wor (interference), 13:26; Taormina Low (tripping), 15:28.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 18-7-6-31
Lowell 7-16-11-34.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 1 of 8
Lowell 2 of 5.

Worcester, Stalock 2-1-0 (34 shots-32 saves)
Lowell, McKenna 1-2-0 (31 shots-28 saves).

A-2,016. Referee-Ian Croft (87). Linesmen-Scott Whittemore (96), Frank Murphy (29).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Darryl Hunt: Vesce Leads WorSharks To Overtime Victory Over Lowell, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks scored two first period goals and looked to be cruising to a game two victory but two tallies by Lowell just nine seconds apart in the third period forced the game into overtime, where Ryan Vesce scored the game winner with just under a minute remaining in the overtime period for a 3-2 WorSharks win Thursday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. With the series tied one win a piece the teams move on to Lowell for game three Saturday night.

It looked like a great start for Worcester just 1:25 into the contest when Andrew Desjardins fired a blast past Devils netminder Mike McKenna, but referee Mark Lemelin ruled that Dan DaSilva interfered with McKenna and not only waived off the goal but put DaSilva in the penalty box as well. Video replay disagreed with Referee Lemelin.

Worcester would get on the board for real at 7:36 while continuing pressure after their first power play chance was over. Steven Zalewski skated into the right circle with the puck, drawing the defense toward him. His easy pass to the blueline was blasted through traffic on net by Derek Joslin and by McKenna for the 1-0 lead. Justin Braun had the second assist on the goal.

Danny Groulx would give Worcester a two goal advantage at 13:48 when he blasted a puck from the top of the left wing circle just inside the far post, with assists from DaSilva and John McCarthy. While Worcester was celebrating the goal along the bench Desjardins was accosted by Lowell goon Louis Robitaille, whose IQ seems to be very close to the number he wears. Despite Desjardins repeated attempts to extricate himself Referee Lemelin gave the pair matching roughing minors and misconducts. The incident would pale in comparison to later shenanigans.

After a scoreless second period the frustration started to surface for Lowell, who began to take some liberties with WorSharks netminder Alex Stalock. After an altercation that resulted in matching minors to both clubs, the real fireworks began when Brad Mills knocked Stalock to the ground. Frazer McLaren jumped Mills and was preparing to administer some justice when he was held back by former San Jose defenseman Rob Davison. Mike Moore, who was not penalized on the play, had a great opportunity to introduce himself to the otherwise occupied Davison but chose not to. Should that opportunity arise later in the series he probably will choose differently.

As the on-ice scrum was separated tempers flared at the benches, with WorSharks head coach Roy Sommer having to be restrained by the officials as he and Lowell coaching staff exchanged pleasantries.

All of the silliness Lowell was causing paid off for the Devils when they finally connected to beat Stalock when Tyler Eckford's blast through traffic found a small opening into the far corner at 15:29 to get Lowell within one. Unfortunately for Worcester, Lowell would tie the contest before their first goal was even announced.

Throughout the season Sommer has put the "Crazed Rats" third line out on the ice after nearly every goal scored by or against the WorSharks. After Eckford's tally Sommer stuck with the line that had been on the ice, Worcester's first line. It took just nine seconds for that to blow up in the team's face.

After winning the draw Lowell broke right back into the Worcester zone, where Brad Snetsinger ripped a shot from the left wing side. Stalock made the kick save, but the puck ended up right on the stick of Patrick Davis, who banged home the rebound to knot the game at 2-2.

Worcester had several great chances at the end of regulation but couldn't get one past McKenna as the game went into overtime. Both goaltenders were up to the pressure of overtime hockey as each netminder turned aside every attempt heading into the last minute of the first overtime period. As fans were getting restless Worcester's first line broke into the Lowell zone three on two, and a great pass by T.J. Trevelyan set up Vesce for the game wining shot that beat McKenna five hole.

Worcester made a roster move between games one and two, summoning Dean Strong from Kalamazoo(ECHL). The WorSharks also made one line-up change, scratching Brett Westgarth for Michael Wilson.

Referee Mark Lemelin had a tough night, missing several obvious penalties and seemingly being unwilling to actually met out the penalties players deserved. He also not only disallowed Desjardins goal but stole one away from the Devils' Patrick Davis early in the third when he ruled the puck had not crossed the goal line before a scrum of players knocked the net off its pegs. Video replay showed the puck clearly in the net long before the net moved.

In Worcester's three post season journeys, the list of players that have scored overtime playoff goals is a short one: Ryan Vesce. Vesce now has two, with his first coming almost exactly one year ago, on April 20, 2009 in double overtime during game three of the Hartford series.

The three stars of the game were
1. Vesce (gwg)
2. Davis (g)
3. Joslin (g)

Vesce was also the AHL's second star on the night.

The Sharkspage player of the game was Alex Stalock.

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines

v Power Play Lines


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

1st Period-1, Worcester, Joslin 1 (Zalewski, Braun), 7:36. 2, Worcester, Groulx 1 (DaSilva, McCarthy), 13:48. Penalties-DaSilva Wor (goaltender interference), 1:25; Swift Low (roughing), 2:06; Desjardins Wor (roughing), 2:06; Groulx Wor (tripping), 3:52; Mills Low (high-sticking), 5:32; Robitaille Low (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:48; Desjardins Wor (roughing, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:48.

2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Davison Low (holding), 5:30; Zalewski Wor (hooking), 7:26; Groulx Wor (holding), 11:02; Murphy Low (hooking), 13:00; Davison Low (slashing), 14:56.

3rd Period-3, Lowell, Eckford 1 (Taormina, Mills), 15:29. 4, Lowell, Davis 1 (Snetsinger, Taormina), 15:38. Penalties-Sestito Low (roughing), 7:29; Wilson Wor (roughing), 7:29; Davison Low (roughing), 9:58; Mills Low (goaltender interference), 9:58; McLaren Wor (roughing, roughing), 9:58; Sestito Low (roughing), 10:54; Ferriero Wor (roughing), 10:54; Henderson Wor (roughing), 10:54.

OT Period-5, Worcester, Vesce 1 (Trevelyan, Ferriero), 19:03. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal
Lowell 15-6-9-6-36
Worcester 10-9-6-10-35.

Power Play Opportunities
Lowell 0 of 5
Worcester 0 of 4.

Lowell, McKenna 1-1-0 (35 shots-32 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 1-1-0 (36 shots-34 saves).

A-1,522. Referee-Mark Lemelin (84). Linesmen-Jim Briggs (83), Frank Murphy (29).

San Jose vs Colorado Avalanche - Game 1 pregame fan rally video

Posted a short video with sights and sounds from the streets of San Jose and outside HP Pavilion at the WCQF Game 1 fan rally in this youtube video.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Drop Series Opener To Lowell 3-2

The Worcester Sharks started their first ever playoff series with home ice advantage, and then promptly lost it after a 3-2 defeat to the Lowell Devils Wednesday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 1,714 fans. The Devils now lead the best of seven series 1-0.

The Devils would get on the board at 15:16 while the Worcester defense stood around in front of netminder Alex Stalock. Lowell winger Nick Palmieri came from behind the net and tried to jam one home, which Stalock kicked aside. But the puck bounced right on the stick of Brad Mills, who was uncovered in the slot. Mills beat Stalock for the 1-0 lead.

Lowell had a great chance to grab a two goal lead late in the first as they broke in one a two on one against Brett Westgarth, but Stalock held his ground and made a pad save right on the goal line to keep the WorSharks within one.

Dan DaSilva would get Worcester even with a power play tally at 8:36 of the second period. The WorSharks were having some issues getting a decent scoring chance with the man advantage, and were beginning to show a little frustration. While behind the goal line to the right of Devils netminder Mike McKenna, DaSilva tried to make a centering feed but the puck hit McKenna and bounced into the net to knot the game 1-1. Ryan Vesce and Danny Groulx had the assists on the play.

Lowell would regain the lead while skating with a two man advantage. With Cory Quirk in the box for slashing--a good call--and John McCarthy joining him for tripping--a not so good call--Lowell was able to work the puck around for a Matt Taormina shot. Stalock made the save, but Ben Walter was standing behind the netminder for the easy goal at 10:10.

McCarthy would get the WorSharks even again at 14:53 when he skated down the left side and beat McKenna to the short side with a lazy wrister that ate the netminder up. Westgarth and DaSilva picked up the assists.

The Worcester defense again got caught standing around leading to Lowell's third goal. Palmieri took a sot on net that Stalock saved, but Alexander Vasyunov was able to grab the puck in the slot and put it back on net while the flat-footed defense watched to give the Devils a 3-2 lead at 18:33.

The WorSharks would outshoot Lowell 13-5 in the final period, and despite several great chances couldn't get another one past McKenna to knot the score. Worcester will have a chance at quick revenge as game two is Thursday night at the DCU center.

Worcester's scratches were Joe Loprieno, Matt Irwin, Tony Lucia, James Marcou, Dennis McCauley, Nick Petrecki, and Michael Wilson. Frank Doyle was the back-up netminder. Despite their being no official announcement, earlier this week San Jose reassigned Thomas Heemskerk to Worcester from Everett (WHL). Heemskerk is practicing with the team but is not expected to play for the WorSharks.

The remaining games in the series are (all times EDT):
Game 2 – Thu., Apr. 15 – Lowell at Worcester, 7:05
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 17 – Worcester at Lowell, 7:00
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 20 – Worcester at Lowell, 7:00
*Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 21 – Worcester at Lowell, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 24 – Lowell at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Sun., Apr. 25 – Lowell at Worcester, 5:05
For those wanting to listen online, WTAG has a stream available in the US.

The three stars of the game were
1. Vasyunov (g,2a)
2. DaSilva (g,a)
3. Mills (g,a)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Kevin Henderson.

Lowell 1 2 0 - 3
Worcester 0 2 0 - 2
v 1st Period-1, Lowell, Mills 1 (Palmieri, Vasyunov), 15:16. Penalties-Sestito Low (slashing), 2:30; Moore Wor (high-sticking), 17:13; Davison Low (holding), 19:56.

2nd Period-2, Worcester, DaSilva 1 (Vesce, Groulx), 8:36 (pp). 3, Lowell, Walter 1 (Taormina, Vasyunov), 10:10 (pp). 4, Worcester, McCarthy 1 (Westgarth, DaSilva), 14:53. 5, Lowell, Vasyunov 1 (Palmieri, Mills), 18:33. Penalties-Magnan Low (roughing), 2:02; Trevelyan Wor (roughing), 2:02; Robitaille Low (goaltender interference), 4:51; Walter Low (holding), 8:08; Quirk Wor (slashing), 9:27; McCarthy Wor (hooking), 9:35.

3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Braun Wor (holding), 4:28; Stalock Wor (served by Trevelyan) (tripping), 7:14.

Shots on Goal
Lowell 8-11-5-24
Worcester 12-11-13-36.

Power Play Opportunities
Lowell 1 of 5
Worcester 1 of 4.

Lowell, McKenna 1-0-0 (36 shots-34 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 0-1-0 (24 shots-21 saves).

A-1,714. Referee-Chris Brown (86). Linesmen-Todd Whittemore (70), Chris Libett (19).

WCQF Game 1: Colorado winger Chris Stewart scores game winner with 50 seconds left in third, Avs down Sharks 2-1 to open series

Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche
Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche Joe Pavelski Devin Setoguchi scoring chance

More notes on the Colorado Avalanche's 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks in the opening game of the WCQF series will be posted soon.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco

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

They did not do too much different in the second period than they did in the first, I thought it was more us. We didn't execute very well. Our passing was a little bit off, whether it was the passer or the receiver. As a result it slowed our game down a lot. They did a really good job of clogging up the neutral zone. Anything we seemed to dump, we dumped to the goaltender. As a result we were chasing it for a whole period. If I could eliminate that 20 minutes, and play the way we did in the first and the third, we would have given ourselves more of an opportunity to be successful.

No (our backs are not against the wall). It is playoff hockey. We talked about overcoming, and they need to overcome. We are in that situation. We knew they were going to be tough. We knew it was not going to be an easy or a simple series. Why would it be, they are a very good team. They work very hard. They have a very good game plan. Our backs aren't against the wall, we have to play a little bit better. We look forward to doing that on Friday.

No (their game plan did not surprise us). I didn't see a big change in their game plan from what they played during the regular season. That's what makes them one of the better teams, or at least a playoff team. They were consistent. I thought their work ethic was strong, they did a good job clogging up the neutral zone. They goalie made some saves when he had to. There were not a lot of surprises. They did a very good job of executing.

I have to watch the game again and look at the number of chances, I do not think we gave up a lot. We do have to be better around the blue paint. Both teams score a lot of goals rebound-wise, and second chance-wise. I thought below the goal line to the paint, that is what we call it, we can be better in that area.

You look at the two goals (before the game winner), the one we got and the one they got. That is how it happens in the playoffs. Sometimes it works your way, sometimes it doesn't. Obviously the difference maker was the power play. They got one on the power play, we didn't, not that either team had many opportunities. That was the difference in the game when you look at pure goal scoring. Again I thought the biggest difference was that middle 20 minutes. They were much quicker than we were because of the way they managed the puck.

He was on top of him, and he had to gather his equipment. I think Nabby was set. He was in good position, I believe it went of Blake's skate and in. That happens. There is nothing we can change there, nothing we can do about that. It was a break that went their way. I do belive that Nabby recovered well and was in position. It was a bad break.

Post-game comments from Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco:

We played well defensively (in the second), but I think it was moreso what we did offensively. It allowed us not to spend too much time in our own end. We were really conscious we made sure not to turn the puck over in the neutral zone that period. We were able to spend time in the offensive zone. When you do that, you are going to spend less time in your own zone. I do think in the neutral zone we did a pretty good job of clogging up the middle.

I thought (Craig Anderson) was solid. All you can ask your goaltender to do is give you a chance to win, and he certainly did that tonight.

I would say there was more excitement in the locker room, more than being nervous. We had our typical preperation for the game. I thought the guys seemed pretty even keeled. We weren't too high, we weren't too low. OUr game is going out and skating, and make sure we are trying to play around the puck as much as possible. For all the guys that didn't have any playoff games before tonight, they played with a lot of composure.

DOH Podcast #95: Interview with Avs blogger David Driscoll-Carignan, San Jose vs Colorado Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff preview

Mike Peattie and Doug Santana interviewed Avs blogger David Driscoll-Carignan from Mile High Hockey, and previewed the San Jose Sharks vs Colorado Avalanche Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series on the 95th episode of the Dudes on Hockey podcast.

This Sharks podcast is posted here with permission. Visit for more coverage of the team, or download the MP3 file directly here.

KNBR San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan interview transcript

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan photo

Ralph Barbieri and Tom Tolbert interviewed San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan Monday for 'The Razor and Mr. T show' on KNBR 680AM. McLellan discussed the recent play of Evgeni Nabokov and Manny Malhotra, talked about whether it is better to play the Colorado Avalanche or the Detroit Red Wings in the first round, discussed playoff scoring and the changes he made to the team in his second season among several other topics.

A direct link to the MP3 file is available here. A partial transcript of the interview is available below:

(On playing Colorado instead of Detroit)

It is interesting, in sport it doesn't matter who we are going to play. That is what we are going to say as coaches, that is what we are going to say as players, yet you play better against some teams than you do others for whatever reason. Whether it is the other team's system, the other team's players, whatever it might be. There is no doubt we played better against Colorado than we did against Detroit this year. Ultimately, if you want to win a championship, if you want to get to the next round, you have to be able to beat what is considered the best. Looking into the playoffs, Detroit might be the favorites in all of their series based on the way they played down the stretch.

They have been to the Stanley Cup Finals two years in a row, they have won it once. They have a ton of experience, and they are a very good hockey club. For a lot of teams that plan on getting to the Stanley Cup Finals, the road goes through Detroit.

(What is different about the team, and the coaching staff, this season)

The changes started immediately after last season. (General Manager/EVP) Doug Wilson and his staff did a real good job in retooling our third and fourth lines, also adding to the back end a little bit. We still have those same components, but they may be a little more gritty, a little more abrasive. Then it was our job as coaches to look at the way we approached the game. We made some minor changes to our forecheck, to our defensive zone play. Putting more focus and more emphasis on board play and net play. What I mean by that is the battles along the boards, the battles in front of the net, even in the faceoff circle. I believe we are a grittier team, maybe a little more physical than we have been in the past.

With that, it comes at a price. We weren't as fast as we were last year. We didn't make as many pretty plays. We are hoping that is the difference that makes a difference in the playoffs.

(On the contributions of Manny Malhotra)

Scotty Nichol is actually leading the NHL in faceoffs, Manny Malhotra is right there with him. Manny plays both wing and center, he didn't take enough face offs to qualify for the faceoff championship. The two of them, if they did take enough, would be one and two in the league. Manny has been a tremendous player for us. He plays in all situations, he is a character, quality individual in the locker room. His teammates respect him. When he first got here, I don't know if he knew what he was getting into. He was used to playing in other environments. I think the move for him has been a real good move for him personally, for his career, and we are excited about having him here.

(On the play of Evgeni Nabokov)

He came into the season, there is always heat on goaltenders when teams don't win in the playoffs. That is the way it is, and you have to accept that with the position. Over the summer, we had a plan for him. In year one it was more of a comfort plan with him. We would sit and talk with him about what he might need, what he might not need. This year it was very simple. We just told him when he was playing, and when he wasn't, and away we went. It was a little more of a dictatorship. I know many people question how many games we played him down the stretch. If you look at all of the high end goaltenders in the league, they all played in and around that range. In that cap world we live in, these goaltenders have to play that much. That is what their paid for, and in my opinion that is when Nabokov plays his best... we don't need supermen. What we need is a very good Nabby in the playoffs. If we get that, we will have a chance.

(Why haven't the Sharks received more scoring in the playoffs?)

I think your points are very accurate and reasonable. When the playoffs come around play gets tighter. There are teams that are built for get through that a little more. This year, when I talked about some of the changes Doug (Wilson) made over the summer, I would like to think we are more apt to play through that this year. We are a little more tenacious, a little more gritty, we should have a little more sandpaper and a little more drive. What we were looking for in last year's playoffs was more secondary scoring. Down the stretch Ryan Clowe has perhaps been our best player, Joe Pavelski has provided some scoring, Logan Couture has come up and scored. It is not just the three big guys, Marleau, Heatley and Thornton. The others have to contribute.

I thought in the last 7 or 8 games, the workers if you will, drew some of the skill players into the game. That is different than it has been in the past. A lot of times the skill players play, they play very well, then the skill players get into the game and away we go. Recently it was the other way around. The workers were buzzing around and the skill guys said 'hey, we need to get going", and away they went. Maybe that will be the difference this year, we will see.

(On Joe Pavelski)

He is a very special player, a very astute player. Not the most gifted when it comes to pure talent. He is a very good student of the game, and he wants to play the right way. We as coaches, and his teammates, appreciate that.

(On using Couture for the game winning shootout goal in the regular season finale against Phoenix)

Our scouts and our staff keep us informed of what is going on in Worcester. He did a very good job in the American Hockey League when it came to the shootout. He did a very good job in juniors when he was given the opportunity in those situations. We knew he had a real positive past, quite frankly the other coaches on the bench were pushing for him earlier. I made the decision for him not to go until that point. That is how much we belived in him. The other thing he had going for him is that he is an unknown. (Phoenix goaltender Ilya) Bryzgalov had never seen him before. He handled the pressure very well.

(Bryzgalov) certainly has played very well (and will get MVP consideration). He was one of the best goaltenders in the league. He plays a large part in the responsibility for turning the Phoenix organization around this year. They have a ton of belief in him when he is in goal, they play loose in front of him. They could be a very, very dangerous team in the playoffs.

(What is the scouting report on Colorado?)

We played them very early twice, then we played them twice late in the season. One they are a youthful team, so they are going to bring that energy. They are not going to go away, they are not going to pack it up and say 'hey, we're done'. They are going to play until the very end whether they are winning or losing. Two they have veteran leadership with Adam Foote, Darcy Tucker is a big leader for them, Milan Hejduk, these guys have played and won championships in the past. Their goaltending, (Craig) Anderson has come in, this is his first year as a starter in the NHL. He played over 70 games and really did for them what Bryzgalov did in Phoenix. He gives them a ton of confidence. They believe when he puts on the pads, they can win.

With all of those ingedients, they are a tough team to play. They are quick, they believe they can win. We are going to have our hands full.

San Jose Sharks center Manny Malhotra was also interviewed by Barbieri and Tom Tolbert on Tuesday here. The Fitz and Brooks show also interviewed center Scott Nichol and Washington Capitals/Versus play-by-play host Joe Beninati on Tuesday.

ECHL Stockton Thunder survives wild weekend, advances to second round of Kelly Cup playoffs with 7-4, 8-5 wins over Alaska

San Jose Sharks Colorado Avalanche NHL hockey Thomas Greiss save
ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Stockton Thunder Alaska Aces Eric Boguniecki
ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Stockton Thunder Alaska Aces goaltender Scott Reid

For the second time in the franchise's 5-year history, the Stockton Thunder will advance to the second round of the ECHL's Kelly Cup Playoffs after a weekend sweep of the Alaska Aces. The Thunder righted the ship late on Friday night and survived a wild 8-goal third period. Jason Pitton (PP), Matt Marquardt and Kelly Czuy scored in the third to erase a 3-2 Alaska lead, and helped Stockton notch a 7-4 come from behind win on home ice.

"You know the difference between executing and being sharp, and we were a little off today," Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said Friday night in a post game interview. "I couldn't believe we were letting it slip away in the third period." Turnovers and maintaining possession in the offensive zone were a constant struggle for Stockton through two periods, but the scoring binge in the third ignited the team's confidence, and they did not let up.

Jason Pitton's power play goal at 11:23 tied the game at 3-3 and started a deluge that lead to three quick strikes in less than 3 and a half minutes. Pitton's centering pass from the goal line deflected off Alaska defenseman T.J. Fast to beat goaltender Scott Reid. Then left wing Matt Marquardt ripped a blistering slap shot from 35 feet out. He celebrated the goal by pumping his fist and sliding through center ice on one knee. Right handed shot Kelly Czuy scored on a hard angle from the left wing goal line at 14:44, assisted by J.F. Cauldron and Oren Eizenman.

The Alaska Aces, who had yet to lose in the first round in its 7 year franchise history, kept pushing with a goal by Judd Blackwater to bring the game within one. Blackwater scored only 9 seconds after Czuy's goal, adding another layer of anxiety to the proceedings for the 4,212 Stockton fans in attendance. Then first star of the game Chris D'Alvise scored another emotional goal to effectively seal the the game late.

The Thunder closed out the best-of-five National Conference Quarterfinal series with an 8-5 win in the fourth game Saturday night at Stockton Arena. Both teams did not wait this time for third period heroics, scoring a combined 8 goals in the first 20 minutes alone. As they had done for each game in the series, Alaska scored first and added a second goal for good measure inside of the first 5 minutes.

A potent Stockton squad with offensive production on three seperate lines responded with 5 goals of their own in the first. Left wing Matt Robinson punched home a rebound after a shot by James Bates to give the Thunder their first of two power play goals scored in the period. D'Alvise continued his hot streak with another goal from the slot, and James Bates deflected a point shot from defenseman Anthony Aiello for another power play goal to tie the game at 3-3. With 3 Alaska players back, Oren Eizenman and J.F. Caudron kept their feet moving to effectively make it a 2-on-1. A soft saucer pass set up Caudron on the doorstep, and he redirected it against the grain to beat Billy Sauer down low.

Alaska head coach Brent Thompson pulled goaltender Billy Sauer for Scott Reid, but the Thunder kept coming. Left wing Jason Pitton hit defenseman Jordan Bendfeld, who had just left the penalty box, with a home run pass. Bendfeld made a quick deke, then snapped a wrist shot 5-hole to complete the first period onslaught at 17:39.

"I have never seen a series as volatile as this one in terms of lead changes and goals being scored," Stockton Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said after his team overcame a pair of 2-goal deficits in the first period. "I liked the way we competed, there was no giveup in this team's vocabulary. We really found a way to win, especially at home."

Stockton Record beat reporter Scott Linesburgh described Alaska's struggles in the second period:

The second period also didn't go well for Reid and the Aces. Garet Hunt smashed a long shot that Reid seemed to catch, but it popped out of the glove, fluttered over his head and into the net. After Igor Gongalsky scored at 9:45 in the second, Thompson once again went to his bench and brought Sauer back in.

"We just wanted to get it over with tonight, we had a bad start," J.F. Caudron said in a post-game interview Saturday night. "Right now I cant compare this run to Atlantic City because we won it all that year, but we are on the right path. We have 3 lines, 6 defenseman and a goalie that can contribute." Right wing James Bates, who piled up a goal and 3 assists on Saturday, added, "We know if we go into the next series, to get a win we are going to have to tighten up defensively."

The Thunder begins the first game of the National Conference Semifinal playoff series (best-of-7) at Bakersfield on Friday. Saturday's series clinching win was the first time the Thunder have advanced in the Kelly Cup playoffs after winning on home ice. After leading the ECHL in attendance for 4 straight seasons, the Stockton Thunder finished the 2009-2010 season third in ECHL attendance (217,098 total, 6,031 average). It is the fifth straight season Stockton has surpassed the 200,000 attendance mark. The second year southern Californian Ontario Reign (232,223) and first year Toledo Walleye (226,575) franchises finished first and second in league attendance. Albertan oil executive Brad Rowbotham received unanimous approval from the ECHL Board of Governors in his bid for ownership of the Stockton Thunder according to beat writer Scott Linesburgh. "It feels wonderful to get everything settled with the sale. We've been looking forward to this day," Rowbotham told the Stockton Record. The Stockton Thunder is the ECHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, one of two NHL teams based in Alberta. According to Alaska hockey guru Doyle Woody, the Aces gave up 20 goals in three consecutive losses, and blew 5 leads in the four game series. A Kelly Cup bracket is available from the ECHL here.


I took a puck below the temple at the start of the game on Friday. Hardest shot I have taken rinkside while photographing 300+ hockey games. Needed to take a day or two off with an ice pack before I could resume blogging.

A Sharkspage photo gallery shot through the glass on Friday night is available here. Video highlights and post-game comments from Friday night are available via the Stockton youtube channel here, video highlights and post-game comments from Saturday night are available here.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Win Atlantic Division Crown in 3-0 Defeat Of Providence

The Worcester Sharks used Alex Stalock's fourth shutout of the season to clinch the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division title after a 3-0 whitewash of the Providence Bruins Saturday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of a sellout crowd of 7,296.

The WorSharks wanted to avoided the slow start that they had Friday night against Hartford, and Mike Moore made sure that would happen four minutes into the contest when he chased down Providence winger Guillaume Lefebvre after Lefebvre had thrown a big hit on Dan DaSilva in the Worcester zone. Lefebvre is a more experienced fighter than Moore is, but Moore gamely held his own while landing several shots.

The first period would be scoreless with both Stalock and Providence netminder Nevin Hamilton, making his first pro start after finishing his collegiate career at UMass-Lowell, calmly turning aside the ten shots each faced. Luckily for Worcester, it would be Hamilton who blinked first.

Half way through the middle stanza with a faceoff to the right of Hamilton, Cory Quirk won the draw cleanly back to Derek Joslin. Joslin blasted the puck on net as traffic began to move in front of Hamilton. The netminder got a piece of the shot, but the puck trickled through his legs and just into the net for the 1-0 WorSharks lead at 9:22 of the second.

Worcester would make it 2-0 off a great individual play by Steven Zalewski. With the WorSharks pressuring and defenseman Michael Wilson pinched in down the right wing boards, the puck was bounced away toward the blueline Wilson had vacated. Zalewski swooped in and dove along the line, keeping the puck within the zone. Eventually the puck would end up on the stick of Moore at the left point. Moore hit a wide open Wilson at the right point, who quickly threw a return pass that Moore blasted on net. Zalewski was in front screening Hamilton, and just got just enough of the shot to deflect it off Hamilton and into the net at 14:20.

After not being able to get much offense going during an early third period five minute power play, the WorSharks would connect again to make it 3-0. Andrew Desjardins broke into the Providence zone and fed Wilson as the defenseman drove to the right wing circle. Wilson threw a hard pass right on to the stick of DaSilva, who deflected the puck over Hamilton for the 3-0 lead at 7:24.

All that was left was protecting Stalock's shutout, and Worcester did just that as the fans counted down the clock to the WorSharks first division title.

Worcester's scratches were Joe Callahan, Matt Irwin, Joe Loprieno, Tony Lucia, James Marcou, Cameron MacIntyre, Dennis McCauley, Nick Petrecki, and Brett Westgarth. Frank Doyle was the back-up goaltender.

Worcester's season series with Providence is over, and for the first time in franchise history the WorSharks have defeated their Route 146 rivals over the course of the season, going 6-4-0. Saturday was also the last time the two clubs will meet this season as the Baby-Bs failed to qualify for the post season.

WorSharks fans will be doing a little scoreboard watching Sunday to determine who Worcester's first round opponents will be. Currently Lowell and Bridgeport are tied for 4th place in the Atlantic division, with Bridgeport hosting Hartford and Lowell hosting the Baby-Bs. Should the two clubs remain tied, Worcester will face Bridgeport in round one as the Sound Tigers hold the tiebreaker against the Devils. Both Bridgeport and Lowell have qualified for the post season though, with the team that finishes 5th heading over to the Eastern Division to cross over into those divisional playoffs. Regardless of who Worcester plays, game one will be Wednesday at the DCU Center.

Despite Sunday's game at Portland being for nothing but pride, Alex Stalock is expected to play as he attempts to become the first goaltender since Ryan Miller in 2004-05 (41-17-4 for the Rochester Americans) reach the 40 win plateau. The AHL record for regular season wins is 48, set by Hockey Hall of Famer Gerry Cheevers in 1964-65 when he went 48-21-3, also for the Amerks.

Some other personal milestones within reach: If Danny Groulx and Andrew Desjardins play Sunday they'll each have played in every game this season; Benn Ferriero and Desjardins each need a goal to reach 20 on the season, T.J. Trevelyan needs two for 30; Mike Moore needs an assist for 20 on the season; Frazer McLaren, who is not expected to play after crashing to the boards late Saturday night, would need 2 PIMs for 150 on the season.

Prior to the start of the game the WorSharks announced several team awards. The "Unsung Hero Award" went to Worcester's third line of John McCarthy, Andrew Desjardins, and Dan DaSilva. Logan Couture was named "Rookie of the Year", and Alex Stalock won both MVP and "Star of the Year".

As in previous season, the last home game sees a pregame charity exhibition between the Why Me All Stars and the Boston Bruins alumni team. The Bruins team defeated the Why Me All Stars 13-9, with former Worcester IceCats and San Jose Sharks forward John Carter leading the Bruins alumni with three goals and two assists. Tim Reidy, also with three goals and two assists, led the Why Me All Stars. Former Worcester IceCats Shawn Heaphy and Jason Zent also played for the Why Me All Stars.

The three stars of the game were
1. Stalock (19 save shutout)
2. Moore (a,+2)
3. Wilson (2a,+2)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Steven Zalewski.

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


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

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Lefebvre Pro (fighting), 4:17; Moore Wor (fighting), 4:17; DaSilva Wor (tripping), 8:22.
v 2nd Period-1, Worcester, Joslin 5 (Quirk), 9:22. 2, Worcester, Zalewski 22 (Moore, Wilson), 14:20. Penalties-Roloff Pro (hooking), 15:01; Wild Pro (high-sticking), 16:10.

3rd Period-3, Worcester, DaSilva 21 (Wilson, Desjardins), 7:24. Penalties-Nelson Pro (major - boarding), 1:19; Nolan Pro (roughing), 1:19; Desjardins Wor (roughing), 1:19; Helminen Wor (interference), 12:08.

Shots on Goal
Providence 10-3-6-19
Worcester 10-15-10-35.

Power Play Opportunities
Providence 0 of 2
Worcester 0 of 3.

Providence, Hamilton 0-1-0 (35 shots-32 saves)
Worcester, Stalock 39-18-2 (19 shots-19 saves).

A-7,296. Referee-David Banfield (44). Linesmen-Chris Libett (19), Jack Millea (23).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Stumble Against Hartford, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks played uninspired hockey like a team that was just waiting out the regular season and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Hartford Wolf Pack Friday night at the DCU center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of 4,129 fans. Despite the outcome Worcester's magic number for clinching the Atlantic division crown dropped to one and Hartford was eliminated from the chance of post season play for the first time in their team history.

The first period was a defensive affair that saw just nine shots between the two division rivals, with neither team really being able to gain an advantage. The best scoring chance for either club was actually a misplay of the puck by Danny Groulx that almost banked into his own net off the end boards, but goaltender Frank Doyle was able to avoid having the rebounding puck carom off him and into the net. Unfortunately for Worcester, the next misplay of the puck would be by Doyle himself, and it would cost the WorSharks on the board.

At 9:25 of the second period with Doyle heading behind his net to play the puck, he hesitated clearing it around the left side because a Wolf Pack forechecker was standing along the boards. That hesitation was enough for Chris McKelvie to steal the puck away from Doyle and beat the netminder and newly signed defenseman Matt Irwin back to the open net for the 1-0 Hartford lead.

The WorSharks had two great chances to tie the game just moments later while on the power play but Mike Moore's blast off the opening face-off hit the crossbar, and after the power play was over Brandon Mashinter's breakaway chance found the iron to the left of Hartford goaltender Chad Johnson to keep the game 1-0.

Derek Couture would make it 2-0 Wolf Pack with a goal at 14:52 when Brodie Dupont skated in the left wing face-off circle unmolested as the WorSharks stood around in their own end confused as to who was supposed to be where. Dupont's shot was tipped past Doyle to light the lamp and give Hartford a two goal advantage.

Mike Moore would get Worcester back within one at 2-1 at 17:07 when his bad angle backhander had just enough "good angle" to sneak inside the far post after sliding past Johnson. Brett Westgarth and Andrew Desjardins had the assists on the play.

Hartford would get their two goal lead back at 2:52 of the third off a clean face-off win by Corey Locke. Locke won the draw back to Julien Brouillette, who fired a low blast past through a screen of players. Doyle never moved until the puck rebounded out of the net as the score went to 3-1.

Worcester didn't give up, and got back within one with a shorthanded tally by Groulx. Cory Quirk sent Steven Zalewski off on a two on one with Groulx, and as Groulx held on to the puck as long as he could to send a return pass to Zalewski his centering feed bounced off a diving Kris Newbury and ended up in the net. Groulx would have a great chance for another shorthanded tally late in the period, but his deflection of John McCarthy's centering pass his Johnson in the mask and bounced away harmlessly.

Worcester would pull Doyle for an extra attacker, but couldn't mount much pressure in the Hartford zone. Worcester kept playing hard though, and as Derek Couture approached the Worcester blueline along the penalty box side for an empty net goal attempt he was absolutely blown up by a huge shoulder check by Groulx. Couture went down like a rag doll and the remaining Hartford players jumped Groulx. Inexplicably, referee Ghislain Hebert whistled just Groulx and Dane Byers for matching roughing minors despite there being several players taking shots at Groulx, and with the resulting face-off in the Worcester zone the WorSharks saw the cock run out without garnering another chance.

Worcester's scratches were Justin Braun, Benn Ferriero, Kevin Henderson, Joe Loprieno, Frazer McLaren, Nick Petrecki, and Nick Schaus. Cameron MacIntyre, who has yet to dress for Worcester, is in San Jose working with trainer Ray Tufts and strength/conditioning coordinator Mike Potenza on a rehabilitation program for his bad back. MacIntyre has played in just 24 games over his last two season because of back issues. Joe Callahan was supposed to make his return to the line-up after being out since January 9th, but was a late scratch. There was no word from the WorSharks as to why he was scratched.

The season series between Hartford and Worcester is over, with the WorSharks going 3-5-0 against the Wolf Pack. Hartford will be the only division rival Worcester will be under .500 against.

There was a scoring change in Worcester's 9-2 win over Hartford Wednesday. Justin Braun was credited with an assist on Dan DaSilva's opening goal, but the "plus" was erroneously given to T.J. Trevelyan. The scoring has been changed and now Braun is +4 for the game.

US Women's hockey silver medalist Erika Lawler, listed at 5 feet tall but probably measured wearing skates, dropped the ceremonial first puck. Also on hand for pregame festivities was AHL President and CEO Dave Andrews, who along with WorSharks Senior Vice President of Hockey and Business Administration Mike Mudd gave awards to Mike Moore for being the Sharks Man of the Year, Alex Stalock for being named to the AHL All-Rookie team, and Groulx for being a AHL first team All-Star selection and the winner of the AHL's Eddie Shore Award as best defenseman.

The Worcester Sharks Booster Club also announced their Players of the Month for February and March, with T.J. Trevelyan winning for February and Dan DaSilva winning for March. Friday was the first time in recent memory that a POTM winner didn't score in a goal in the game he received his award.

The three stars of the game were
1. Brouillette (gwg)
2. Locke (2a)
3. Moore (g)

The Sharkspage player of the game was Danny Groulx.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Hartford 0 2 1 - 3
Worcester 0 1 1 - 2

1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Couture Hfd (goaltender interference), 14:20; Dupont Hfd (slashing), 19:03.

2nd Period-1, Hartford, McKelvie 1 (Garlock), 9:25. 2, Hartford, Couture 11 (Dupont, Locke), 14:52. 3, Worcester, Moore 3 (Desjardins, Westgarth), 17:07. Penalties-Moore Wor (interference), 6:01; McKelvie Hfd (interference), 9:37.

3rd Period-4, Hartford, Brouillette 1 (Locke), 2:52. 5, Worcester, Groulx 13 (Zalewski, Quirk), 6:10 (sh). Penalties-Newbury Hfd (interference), 0:42; Moore Wor (tripping), 4:49; Desjardins Wor (tripping), 15:46; Byers Hfd (roughing), 19:41; Groulx Wor (roughing), 19:41.

Shots on Goal
Hartford 3-10-6-19
Worcester 6-10-9-25.

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

Hartford, Johnson 22-18-2 (25 shots-23 saves)
Worcester, Doyle 6-3-0 (19 shots-16 saves).

A-4,129. Referee-Ghislain Hebert (49).Linesmen-Brian MacDonald (72), Bob Paquette (18).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Vancouver Canucks wake up a sleeping giant with goon antics, receive the business end of 96 total penalty minutes and a 4-2 loss

San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks Ryane Clowe hockey fight
San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture celebrates second period goal
San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks hockey fight rugby scrum PIMs
San Jose Sharks Vancouver Canucks hockey fight goon antics penalty box

The Vancouver Canucks handed San Jose a belated Easter present en route to a 4-2 loss to the Sharks at HP Pavilion Thursday night. San Jose battled its way out of a 6-game losing streak and extended bouts of inconsistency, but playoff passion and playoff intensity remained maddeningly elusive. Enter Vancouver Canucks forward/goon Aaron Rome. Rome nearly demolished center Joe Pavelski with a hit up high in the second period. A run of the mill 3-0 blowout then devolved into a knock down, drag out mass of rugby scrums with a combined total of 96 penalty minutes, 18 minor penalties, 4 five minute fighting majors, and 4 ten minute misconducts. At one point in the third period, the Sharks had a team record six players in the penalty box, and a seventh who was kicked out of the game (Nicklas Wallin).

6-foot-2, 225-pound forward Ryane Clowe immediately skated up to Rome after the hit on Pavelski, dropped his gloves, and then flopped Rome against the ice twice like an Asian chef handling product at a fish market. The referees and linesman have to stop the fight when one player hits the ice for their saftey, but Clowe's message was not completely received by the Canucks bench.

The hostilites sparked again with more volume and intensity in the third period. Sophmore forward Jamie McGinn put a blindside hit on defenseman Nolan Baumgartner, then later in the period cut in front of Henrik Sedin on his way back to the bench. The contact drew a 10 minute misconduct for McGinn, a punch did not draw any penalty for Sedin. Several fans were vocally booing referee Dennis LaRue for the non-call when Rob Blake and Mikael Samuelsson earned double minors for slashing each other in front of the net. Blake dropped his gloves and landed a punch against Samuelsson, while Samuelsson just stared back at him. Two lone Canucks fans in the lower bowl rained catcalls down on Larue for not giving Blake the obvious extra minor.

Fans at HP Pavilion were now standing, booing vociferously in referee Dennis LaRue's direction on general principle when Alex Burrows laid out Joe Thornton at center ice. On the penalty kill, Thornton had his eyes in the other direction on a puck carrying Henrik Sedin when he was hit from behind by Burrows. Thornton immediately jumped Burrows, and then a much shorter Canucks defenseman jumped on his back for what looked like a horseback ride (best description available, watch the video). A fourth man in Dany Heatley ripped Burrows off of Thornton, sending him and his helmet to the ice. While the referees were sorting out a laundry list of penalties, Thornton was smiling broadly and jawing at Daniel Sedin who was equally agitated. "Even the Sedins are getting mad," CSNCA television broadcaster Randy Hahn said.

"In that situation there was a lot of emotion in the game. We perhaps lost our composure a little bit, what I liked about it was that there was emotion in it," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "Both teams stood their ground. Instead of cruising through the night, we were still in it."

Ryane Clowe noted after the game that he was yelled at by an official for standing up in the penalty box, but with Rob Blake, Devin Setoguchi, Jamie McGinn, Scott Nichol and Joe Thornton joining him, there was little room to spare. Dany Heatley stared down Daniel Sedin on the ensuring faceoff, delivering a steady stream of in-your-face commentary in the process. Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton were taunting Canucks players on the ensuing faceoff from the penalty box.

The Sharks were fighting mad, and if the team and head coach Todd McLellan are smart, they will roll that sentiment over for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That kind of intensity and passion needs to be on display in the first minute of the first game of a playoff series, not in the trailing minutes facing elimination.

The game itself was somewhat anticlimactic for a late season duel between division champions. Locked into the third playoff seed, the Canucks were coasting into the playoffs by resting several key contributers. They decided to sit goaltender Roberto Luongo and defenseman Sami Salo, while Willie Mitchell and Christian Ehrhoff were scratched with injuries. Defenseman Shane O'Brien left after only 5:43 of ice time in the first period, defenseman Aaron Rome left the game in the third after registering 16:12 of ice time. Both will be re-evaluated today.

Evgeni Nabokov provided stellar goaltender to mute Vancouver's attack early. He made a quick butterfly save down low on Alex Burrows, then later made the save of the game on a strong push across the crease to stone Michael Grabner on a breakaway. With a 6-1-1 record in his last 8 games, the Sharks netminder is starting to heat up before the start of the playoffs. Backup goaltender Andrew Raycroft stopped 14 of 15 shots in the first period, but puck possesion by the Clowe-Pavelski-Setoguchi line and a pair of penalties provided an ominous sign. At 18:35, Clowe beat a pair of Canucks to a loose puck in the corner, then drove directly to the side of the net. Pavelski slid behind an unaware Aaron Rome to match his career high 25th goal of the season.

Earlier this week, left wing Ryane Clowe earned his first Sharks Player of the Month honor after registering 4 goals, 9 assists and and 20 PIMs in March. More important have been his recent contributions that do not appear on the score sheet. "Clowe has been our best player over the last month. He has a real horse, he holds onto pucks, strong along the boards, he has been a real confident player and he has the ability to lead on the bench and in the locker room," San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said in a pre-game interview. "He has helped us get through a couple of our rough spells since the Olympic break. He has been a real big part of it."

The dam burst for Vancouver in the second period as the Sharks piled up 3 more goals against a conference rival that appeared to be mentally checked out of the game. Rookie Logan Couture continued his hot streak, scoring his 5th goal of the season on a tip down low before Raycroft could shut his 5-hole. Couture was knocked to the ice by defenseman Al Alberts, before getting up and tipping home his 3rd goal in 5 games. Joe Thornton added to the Canucks problems, taking a slick Dany Heatley feed and buring it from in tight for his 20th goal of the season. It is Thornton's 10th 20-goal season in the NHL. Manny Malhotra added his 14th goal of the season at 16:41, assisted by Torrey Mitchell and Douglas Murray. Raycroft fell backwards in frustration as Malhotra's shot again found ample room 5-hole.

The 4-0 lead gave the Sharks breathing room, but a series of consecutive 5-on-3's (1:23 and 2:00), 5-on-4's, and 4-on-3 power play situations willed Vancouver back into the contest. After several penalties were successfully killed off, a highlight reel between-the-legs pass from Daniel Sedin to Henrik Sedin created a scoring chance down low. Henrik slid the puck over to Pavol Demitra, who buried only his 3rd goal of the season. Later at 4-on-4, Evgeni Nabokov errantly cleared the puck behind the net to a charging Mason Raymond. Raymond gained possession, then tried to center a pass into the crease. The puck deflected off a skate and back onto his stick. Without missing a beat, Raymond fed a crisp pass to defenseman Al Alberts on the point. An Alberts shot wide deflected off the leg of Douglas Murray for the second goal of the game.

The Sharks received solid goaltending, scoring from the top and bottom of the lineup, and an impassioned performance from several key contributors. "Heading into the playoffs, you have to have contributions from everybody. Teams will zero in on top scorers, the top players on each team," head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. "As they try to stay even, and stay ahead if they can, the third and fourth line players need to contribute."

With only 6 goals in the last 30 games combined for Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton, it is the Big-3 that need to start ramping up the offense for the playoffs. "I think it is important (for the big guys to be productive). What we talk about with the big guys is the scoring. Thats natural because they are very talented and that is what they do," Todd McLellan noted. "With that being said, it has also been the defensive side of the game. I thought the three of them played pretty well together. There is always going to be some risk when you have that much talent together. They have to be allowed to be creative. For the most part, they were responsible defensively. That is a good sign."

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

[Update] Canucks tank it against Sharks, again, San Jose continues to thrive on home ice, while more Vancouver D-men get banged up - Vancouver Sun.

Already without key defencemen Willie Mitchell and Christian Ehrhoff, the Canucks decided to give Sami Salo a rest for Thursday night's game against San Jose.

Then they handed the puck to backup goalie Andrew Raycroft, who should also have been given a blindfold and cigarette.

The result was as predictable as sunshine in the Silicon Valley as the Sharks took advantage of Vancouver's makeshift defence and skated to an easy 4-2 win over the Canucks, who suffered their sixth straight defeat in the Shark Tank.

[Update2] Shorthanded Canucks beaten 4-2 by Sharks in chippy game - Vancouver Province.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks top Vancouver Canucks - San Jose Mercury News.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Score Nine In Record Breaking Night

The Worcester Sharks got points from thirteen different players, including multiple point nights from nine, in route to a franchise record nine goals Wednesday night during a 9-2 victory over the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Hartford, Connecticut.

Dan DaSilva would get the WorSharks on the board with his 20th on the season after collecting a rebound of Derek Joslin's blue line blast at 1:27 of the first. Hartford netminder Matt Zaba made an easy save on the blast but couldn't control the rebound and DaSilva was able to bank one into the net off the netminder. Justin Braun got the second assist on the play while on his first professional shift.

T.J. Trevelyan would give Worcester a 2-0 lead at 7:32 of the first when he banged home a rebound of his own shot past Zaba. Cory Quirk had the only assist on the goal with his pass to Trevelyan before the forward broke down the right side.

Worcester added a third goal late in the period when Brandon Mashinter tipped Braun’s shot from the right point past Zaba with just 1.2 seconds remaining on the clock. James Marcou had the other assist on Mashinter's 20th on the season.

Hartford would get on the board at 4:00 of the second when Kris Newbury fought off Nick Schaus and deflected a Dane Byers' centering feed past WorSharks goaltender Alex Stalock for a shorthanded tally to cut Worcester's lead to 3-1. Later in the period Newbury would have a slight disagreement with referee Terry Koharski, and 22 minutes in penalties later Newbury's night was done.

Trevelyan would need just 10 seconds of that power play time to give Worcester a 4-1 lead when his shot from the left side hit off defenseman Corey Potter's leg and somehow ended up in the back of the net at 17:06 of the second. Mike Moore and Andrew Desjardins had the assists on the play.

Over the past few weeks the WorSharks third line has opened periods with goals several times, and Wednesday night's third period was just another to add to the list when DaSilva stole the puck from Derek Couture and fed John McCarthy for a one-timer 39 seconds into the period.

Marcou would give Worcester a 6-1 lead at 1:27 of the third when he tipped captain Ryan Vesce's blast past Zaba for his first pro goal. Mashinter had the second assist on the goal that sent Zaba to the showers early.

Hartford would turn to rookie Cameron Talbot, but the results for the Wolf Pack would be the same when Quirk made a nice diving deflection of a pass by Braun to make it 7-1. Joslin had the other assist.

The WorSharks would make it 8-1 with a power play tally at 8:37 when Mashinter tipped Danny Groulx's blue line blast past Talbot. Schaus had his third assist in three games on the goal. After a Byers power play goal made it 8-2, the WorSharks would add a record breaking 9th tally by Groulx with just 6.3 seconds remaining as Vesce and Joslin added more assists to their total.

Worcester's scratches were Joe Callahan--who is expected to play before season's end Sunday, Matt Irwin, Joe Loprieno, Tony Lucia, Cameron MacIntyre, Dennis McCauley, Nick Petrecki, Michael Wilson, Steven Zalewski. Frank Doyle was the back-up netminder.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Trevelyan (2g,+3)
2. Braun (3a,+3)
3. Mashinter (2g,a)

Mashinter was also the AHL's third star for the night.

The Sharkspage player of the game was Cory Quirk.

Even strength lines


Worcester 3 1 5 - 9
Hartford 0 1 1 - 2

1st Period-1, Worcester, DaSilva 20 (Joslin, Braun), 1:27. 2, Worcester, Trevelyan 27 (Quirk), 7:32. 3, Worcester, Mashinter 20 (Braun, Marcou), 19:58. Penalties-Westgarth Wor (fighting), 2:31; Soryal Hfd (fighting), 2:31; McCarthy Wor (slashing), 9:02; Baldwin Hfd (tripping), 14:11.

2nd Period-4, Hartford, Newbury 14 (Byers), 4:00 (sh). 5, Worcester, Trevelyan 28 (Moore, Desjardins), 17:06 (pp). Penalties-Ambuhl Hfd (tripping), 3:47; Nightingale Hfd (hooking), 4:34; Nightingale Hfd (delay of game), 14:36; Newbury Hfd (unsportsmanlike conduct, misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct, game misconduct - unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:56; served by Mashinter Wor (bench minor - interference), 18:07; Henderson Wor (roughing), 18:07; McLaren Wor (fighting), 18:07; Couture Hfd (roughing), 18:07; Nightingale Hfd (fighting), 18:07.

3rd Period-6, Worcester, McCarthy 15 (DaSilva), 0:39. 7, Worcester, Marcou 1 (Vesce, Mashinter), 1:27. 8, Worcester, Quirk 8 (Braun, Joslin), 6:48. 9, Worcester, Mashinter 21 (Groulx, Schaus), 8:37 (pp). 10, Hartford, Byers 23 (Couture, Heikkinen), 10:45 (pp). 11, Worcester, Groulx 12 (Vesce, Joslin), 19:53 (pp). Penalties-Soryal Hfd (boarding), 8:30; Moore Wor (interference), 10:10; Dupont Hfd (goaltender interference), 19:41.

Shots on Goal
Worcester 15-10-13-38
Hartford 10-7-9-26.

Power Play Opportunities
Worcester 3 of 7
Hartford 1 of 3.

Worcester, Stalock 38-18-2 (26 shots-24 saves)
Hartford, Zaba 6-12-2 (27 shots-21 saves); Talbot 0-0-0 (11 shots-8 saves).

A-1,961. Referee-Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen-Kevin Redding (16), Luke Galvin (2).

DOH Podcast #94: Interview with Sporting News columnist Craig Custance, playoff predictions, Couture and Pac Division title

Mike Peattie and Doug Santana interviewed former Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer and current Sporting News columnist Craig Custance on the jumble that is playoff seedings in the Western Conference, whether this is a make or break season for Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov and the San Jose Sharks, and the situation in Calgary. Mike and Doug also dip into the recent play of Logan Couture, whether the Sharks should dress 7 defenseman or call-up a forward from Worcester, and the recently released 2010 CSS draft rankings on the 94th episode of Dudes on Hockey.

This Sharks podcast is posted here with permission. Visit for more coverage of the team, or download the podcast MP3 file directly here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sharks hold on to eliminate Flames from playoffs with 2-1 win, lock up a fifth Pacific Division title

Calgary Sun San Jose Sharks eliminate Calgary Flames from NHL Playoffs
Calgary Herald San Jose Sharks elminate Calgary Flames from NHL Playoffs

A combination of the Sharks 2-1 win at Calgary, and Colorado's 4-3 OT shootout win at Vancouver, eliminated the Flames from the Stanley Cup playoffs Tuesday night. It ended a streak of 5 straight playoff appearances for Calgary, including 4 straight first round playoff exits. "We all feel like we failed, and we did fail," a crestfallen Jarome Iginla told the assembled media after the game.

For its part, San Jose clinched a fifth Pacific Division title (01-02, 03-04, 07-08, 08-09, 09-10), and guaranteed at least a first or second seed for their 6th straight playoff appearance. "We still have two games left," head coach Todd McLellan said. "At the end of the season we will open up the paper and see where stand and who we play. There is nothing else we can do. We have to play hard, we can't play careful. We have to work on our game so that when the times comes we are not catching up, we are where we need to be."

The businesslike approach of the coach was echoed by the team on the ice early. A strong Sharks forecheck and short shifts helped pressure a defense-first Flames squad that at times stacked 4 players wide through the neutral zone. "Rotating people in and out of the game, especially early in the game, kept the other team off balance," McLellan said. "If they wanted to match, they never really knew who was coming next." Who was coming next was a reunited Marleau-Thornton-Heatley line, on the ice for their second straight game since Thornton's return, and a jumble of Clowe-Pavelski-Malhotra, Nichol-Mitchell-Setoguchi and McGinn-Couture-Demers. Defenseman Jason Demers was used for a few shifts at forward, then moved to the blueline later in the game. "It is an experiment we want to play with moving forward... We need him to be able to do that 4 or 5 minutes a night, then be able to go back and play the point on the power play," head coach Todd McLellan said.

Two key areas of concern for San Jose as they finish out the regular season have been scoring first, and executing a more effective power play. Tuesday against Calgary the Sharks opened the scoring for the sixth time in the last eight games, after a stretch of being scored on first 9 times in 10 games after the Olympic break. Defenseman Rob Blake also connected on the first of only 2 power plays for the game, ending a 2-game drought with the man advantage (0-6). The Sharks power play has been somewhat one dimensional after the Olympic break, scoring only 13 PP goals on 66 opportunities (19.6%), a drop from the season average of 21.6%. Shots on net, finesse moves and turnovers high in the zone have been consistent problems.

Demers offers another puck moving element and another PP quarterback on the blueline, but at times he can be a liability defensively. He has yet to tighten up his game enough for the playoffs when one mistake could end a game or a series. The Sharks coaching staff has to weigh whether his contributions on the power play, and a possible 4-5 minutes at forward on the fourth line (with occasional double shifts by Marleau-Pavelski-Malhotra), would be a better option than calling up a Ryan Vesce or Benn Ferriero for the playoffs. The "experiment" has two more regular season games to play itself out. Demers has an opportunity to string together simple plays out of his own zone, and second and third efforts in front of his own net, to give the coaches enough confidence to use him in postseason crunch-time scenarios.

Evgeni Nabokov was also strong for 60 minutes against Calgary. He came up big just over 5 minutes into the first when Rene Bourque deked the puck around Dan Boyle to set up Ales Kotalik for a chip shot 5 feet from the crease. Nabokov made the save down low, then dove to his right with his stick on his ice and his glove up to stone Bourque's rebound attempt on the far side. With Calgary's playoff life on the line, the play briefly went to video review. Nabokov also held firm at the end of the first as a physical forecheck lead to waves of Flames forwards and defenseman Mark Giordano repeatedly crashing the net.

Rob Blake surpassed Paul Coffey for 3rd all-time (PP goals by a defenseman) with his 136th career power play goal 10:15 into the first. With trade deadline acquisition Ian White in the box for holding, Blake fired a pair of heavy shots from the point. The first was blocked by right wing David Moss up high, but it broke his stick in the process. The second booming Blake point shot from a little closer in came as rookie centerman Logan Couture provided a screen in front of Miikka Kiprusoff. After being worked over on the right side of the net, Couture was left alone and he made a b-line for the left side. With three bodies in front of him, Kiprusoff went down late and reacted only after the puck had passed by him.

CSNCA analysts Brodie Brazil and former Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican recently described Couture as the best player on the ice for San Jose in the 11 games since he was called up from the Worcester Sharks of the AHL. Couture has 3 goals and 3 assists in that span, but he has been effective on both sides of the ice. Aware defensively in the rookie tournament and early in the preseason, Couture is more mobile now that he uses a harder first few steps in his stride. Offensively, Brazil and Hedican compared Couture to Joe Pavelski, describing him as a player with a high hockey IQ that Todd McLellan can confidently use in critical situations. Adding a late season spark to the lineup, that also raises questions about the late season performance of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. They need to return to form quickly if the Sharks expect to make a long run at the postseason.

The Sharks also received secondary scoring from Jamie McGinn. Affectionately dubbed "the Rocket Man" by a few season ticket holders in San Jose due to his league leading 14 AHL callups, McGinn scored his 10th goal of the season at 5:47 of the second. McGinn beat the highly touted offseason acquisition Jay Bouwmeester off the wall, and blew through a pair of Flames to punch home a rebound off of Logan Couture's shot. The coaching staff recently said they expect more out of McGinn, who appeared to stall out on the ice after a flurry of trips on the "Worcester Shuttle". Firmly entrenched in the lineup with his 17th start in the last 18 games, McGinn has the skill to sub-in on any lines and can be an impact player on any shift. The Sharks are just looking for more impacts. At the start of the year this blog said McGinn would make the team with his effort on the defensive side of the ice, and make a place for himself in the NHL with his offensive instincts and a tenacity larger than his 190-pound frame. Still applies.

The game had a playoff intensity for the final 30 minutes, as the Calgary Flames were in pure desperation mode. That was somewhat different than the start of the game, where the trademark Sutter chip and chase seemed to work against the circumstances facing the team in the playoff race. Calgary was also losing a string of faceoffs, not in the circle, but in the lack of second efforts by the wingers and defense. Fans and media are going to point to the lack of offensive output, but Tuesday there were shortfalls in a number of blue collar aspects of the game. The Sharks also showed glimpses of recent problems in the second period, most notabley in the neutral zone. They allowed a quick Colorado Avalanche defense carve through the neutral zone repeatedly in a pair of recent games. Against Calgary, the Sharks played too far off and allowed easy entry into their own zone. After a bad penalty to Torrey Mitchell at the end of the period, Thornton had his best shift since his return from injury on the penalty kill. He showed speed, excellent stick work to partial block a shot, and a second effort to making a clearing play.

The third period was the playoff atmosphere many expected from the Flames for the entire 60 minutes. "The Flames are playing for their season," CSNCA play-by-play broadcaster Randy Hahn said. Calgary would bring themselves within one goal as Rene Bourque scored on the power play at 4:20. Defenseman Ian White kept the play in his own zone, and Jay Bouwmeester did the same on the other side of the zone with a spinning cross ice pass to Bourque on the back door. Bourque tapped in his 26th goal of the season. San Jose defenseman Kent Huskins and Niclas Wallin were manned up with forwards in front of the net, Bourque was left open on the far side of the ice and he made the Sharks pay.

Calgary pressed furiously at the end of the third. One problem the Sharks have yet to overcome is allowing opposing teams back into games. Deserving honorable mention for the game, defenseman Mark Giordano carried the puck through the neutral zone and wristed a shot on goal, but all 3 trailing Flames forwards were 15-20 feet from any rebound opportunity. Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff was pulled with 1:10 left, and again it was Giordano breaking through a logjam of bodies to carry the puck into the zone. The Flames made a few too many extra passes up high as the clock ticked down and the bell rang on their season with a 2-1 loss.

Evgeni Nabokov (42-16-10, .921SV%, 2.45GAA, 3SO) finished with 38 saves on 39 shots for his 42nd win of the season. Nabokov is 2nd in the NHL with 42 wins, behind only Martin Brodeur with 43. Brodeur earned his second straight shutout, and reached his 600th career win with a 3-0 defeat of Atlanta on Tuesday. The Thrashers struggled mightily to even get the puck in the Devils zone the last 5 minutes of the third period in an embarassing performance. Defenseman Jay Leach and wingers Jed Ortmeyer and Brad Staubitz were scratches as Todd McLellan went with 7 defenseman against Calgary. The 2 points earned against Calgary give the Sharks (49-20-11) 109 for the season with 2 games remaining. The Blackhawks (50-22-7) trail with 107 points but has 3 games remaining (Chicago holds the edge in a tiebreak over San Jose). Sixth place Los Angeles (45-27-7) with 97 points, seventh place Detroit (41-24-14) with 96 points, and eigth place Colorado (43-29-7) with 93 points each has 3 games remaining in the season to battle for playoff position.

[Update] Kipper's heroics wasted - Steve MacFarlane for the Calgary Sun.

Jarome Iginla didn’t wait for the result of the other game.

The captain apologized to all those the Calgary Flames let down by missing the NHL playoffs for the first time since 2004 after losing 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night at the Saddledome. Most of all, he was sorry for his own goaltender.

If anyone showed up nightly this season, it was Miikka Kiprusoff. Spoiling his potentially Vezina-winning numbers was the fact his team too often didn’t do enough to help him.

[Update2] Flames sink to defeat, officially eliminated from playoff race - Calgary Herald.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks beat Calgary Flames to clinch Pacific Division - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update4] More on the Flames departure from the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek and's Greg Wyshynski. Duhatschek speculates on what it would take to acquire Iginla in the offseason, in his usual understated fashion Wyshynski looks at the possibility of firing the coach, GM and Jarome Iginla simultaneously.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

AHL: Danny Groulx Wins Eddie Shore Award

The American Hockey League announced today that Danny Groulx of the Worcester Sharks has been named the winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman for the 2009-10 season, as voted by AHL coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 29 cities.

In his first season in the San Jose Sharks organization, Groulx has provided a solid veteran foundation for one of the youngest teams in the AHL. His 11 goals, 51 assists and 62 points all represent career highs for the eighth-year pro, and he leads all league defensemen and all Worcester skaters in assists, points and shots on goal (247) while his plus-17 rating ranks first among Worcester rearguards. Groulx has played all 76 games to date for the Sharks, and his 184 consecutive games played represent the longest active streak in the AHL.

A 28-year-old native of LaSalle, Que., Groulx has not looked back since recording 11 points in his first nine games of the 2009-10 season. His nine-game scoring streak from Jan. 16 to Feb. 6 included his first career four-point game (2g, 2a at Springfield on Feb. 3), and he had a career-best four assists in a game vs. Abbotsford on Feb. 26. Groulx participated in the 2010 AHL All-Star Classic back in January, and last week was named a First Team AHL All-Star. In 491 career AHL games, Groulx has recorded 35 goals and 157 assists for 192 points, and he was a member of Hamilton’s Calder Cup championship team in 2007.

Press release courtesy of the American Hockey League

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Max Giese: Sharks sign four collegiate free-agents

Cam MacIntyre, LW, Princeton, 6'1"/215lbs. - This strapping powerforward rather drive through defenders than go around them. Can drag defenders on his back to the net. Has good hands and fires the puck with a quick, hard release. Not an explosive skater but is strong on his feet with a wide, thick stride. A forceful hitter that needs to be taught defense to become a regular in the NHL.

Nick Schaus, LD University of Massachusetts-Lowell, 5'11"/190lbs. - The type of defenseman that is always involved in the play, whether it be with a big hit or by joining the offensive attack. Aggressive and always in motion looking to put his stamp on the game. Jumps into the offensive rush every chance he gets and quickly releases a hard, right-handed slap shot. Lacks prototypical size but he gets good leverage on his hits and knocks his man off of his skates.

James Marcou, LW University of Massachusetts, 5'8"/165lbs. - Creative playmaker with dynamic skating ability. Has agility and quickness. His east-to-west speed with the puck is as good as it gets and it allows him to dance around defenders one-on-one. Sees the passing lanes that most don't and he's a skilled passer with a delicate touch. Can make plays in tight spaces and shows no fear going up against larger opponents. Just a featherweight though and his defensive play is poor.

Matt Irwin, LD University of Massachusetts, 6'1"/200lbs. - Was partnered with Sharks' draft-pick Justin Braun this season in all-situations. Braun was able to go all-out offensively because Irwin was exceptionally solid defensively and could cover for him. Has good size and while he isn't a killer, Irwin's positioning is flawless and he uses his size to sustain it and neutralize the puckcarrier. Passes the puck like a pro. Makes a good first pass and shows decisive vision in the offensive zone while delivering crisp, accurate passes to the right man.

Friday, April 2, 2010

AHL: Danny Groulx named first team AHL All-Star

The American Hockey League announced today the 2009-10 AHL First and Second All-Star Teams, as voted by AHL coaches, players and media in each of the league's 29 member cities.

2009-10 AHL First All-Star Team

G Jonathan Bernier, Manchester Monarchs (56gp, 29-20-6, 2.07gaa, .936sv%, 8 SO)
D Danny Groulx, Worcester Sharks (74gp, 11+51=62pts., +18)
D P.K. Subban, Hamilton Bulldogs (71gp, 18+34=52pts., +43)
LW Alexandre Giroux, Hershey Bears (63gp, 44+53=97pts., +34, 14 PPG)
C Keith Aucoin, Hershey Bears (67gp, 35+65=100pts., +29, 10 GWG)
RW Jerome Samson, Albany River Rats (72gp, 37+39=76pts., 327 SOG)

2009-10 AHL Second All-Star Team

G Cedrick Desjardins, Hamilton Bulldogs 42gp, 26-8-3, 1.93gaa, .923sv%, 6 SO
D Maxim Noreau, Houston Aeros 71gp, 18+32=50pts., 22 PP pts.
D Clay Wilson, Rochester Americans 73gp, 14+46=60pts., +19
LW Charles Linglet, Springfield Falcons 75gp, 19+55=74pts., 31 PP pts.
C Corey Locke, Hartford Wolf Pack 73gp, 29+51=80pts., 18 PPG
RW Andrew Gordon, Hershey Bears 73gp, 36+34=70pts., +25, 18 PPG

Each All-Star Team member will receive a custom designed crystal award in recognition of his selection to the 2009-10 AHL First and Second All-Star Teams

2009-10 AHL First All-Star Team
Jonathan Bernier, Goaltender (Manchester Monarchs):
A native of Laval, Que., second-year pro Jonathan Bernier has enjoyed a stellar season for Manchester, leading all AHL goaltenders in save percentage (.936) and shutouts (8) while ranking second in goals-against average (2.07) in 56 appearances (29-20-6). Bernier, 21, who earned the start in net for Canada at the 2010 AHL All-Star Game, has also been the busiest goaltender in the AHL, leading the league in minutes played (3,306), saves (1,672) and shots faced (1,786). Drafted 11th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006, Bernier is 2-0-0 in two games for the Kings this season and earned his first career NHL shutout on Mar. 30.

Danny Groulx, Defense (Worcester Sharks):
A Calder Cup champion with Hamilton in 2007, Danny Groulx has authored a career year for Worcester in 2009-10. The native of LaSalle, Que., leads AHL defensemen with 51 assists and 62 points, both personal bests, and has skated in all 74 games for the Sharks, running his ironman streak to 182 games, the longest active run in the AHL. One of only two rearguards currently leading his team in scoring, Groulx has tallied 16 multiple-point performances and enjoyed a nine-game scoring streak from Jan. 16 to Feb. 6.

P.K. Subban, Defense (Hamilton Bulldogs):
Rookie standout P.K. Subban has been among the AHL's top-scoring defensemen all season, currently ranking first in goals (18-tied) and third in points (52) in 71 games for Hamilton. Named to the AHL's All-Rookie Team on Wednesday, Subban is second in the AHL with a plus-43 rating and leads all AHL rookies with 11 power-play goals. A Toronto native and second-round draft pick by Montreal in 2007, the 20-year-old Subban represented Hamilton in the 2010 AHL All-Star Game and has appeared in his first two career NHL games for the Canadiens.

Alexandre Giroux, Left Wing (Hershey Bears):
Coming off a 60-goal performance as AHL MVP in 2008-09,Alexandre Giroux again leads the AHL in goals (44) and ranks second with 97 points in 63 games for Hershey, earning him his second straight First Team AHL All-Star berth. Needing one more point to set a career high for the second straight year, Giroux rattled off a 16-game scoring streak (15-17-32) from Dec. 27 to Jan. 31 and played in his third AHL All-Star Classic. A Quebec City native, Giroux notched both his 500th career AHL point and his 300th career AHL goal this season, and has chipped in three points in nine NHL games for Washington.

Keith Aucoin, Center (Hershey Bears):
Poised to finish among the AHL's top three scorers for the third time in the last four years,Keith Aucoin currently leads the league with a career-high 100 points--including a personal-best 35 goals--in 67 games for Hershey. Aucoin, who had an assist in 16 straight games from Dec. 27 to Jan. 31 (14-25-39), one game shy of the AHL record, also shows a league-high 10 game-winning goals, and appeared in his fifth consecutive AHL All-Star Classic this winter. A native of Waltham, Mass., Aucoin recently became the highest-scoring American-born player in AHL history (629 points). He also has five points in nine NHL matches with Washington this season.

Jerome Samson, Right Wing (Albany River Rats):
Third-year pro Jerome Samson has enjoyed a breakout season in 2009-10, pacing Albany's offense with career highs in goals (37), assists (39) and points (76) through 72 games. He ranks second in the AHL in goals and fourth in points and has recorded four separate four-point performances this season, and his 327 shots on goal are 33 percent more than anyone else in the league has registered. A native of Greenfield Park, Que., Samson earned his first NHL action with Carolina this year and has tallied one assist in six games.

Press release courtesy of the American Hockey League

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Steve Ott scores first career hat trick in 5-1 win over San Jose, Sharks served a wake up call

The Sharks failed to build on a successful homestand, registering a 5-1 loss at Dallas in a lethargic opening to a 4-game road trip. Less than a minute into the game Mike Ribeiro took a bizarre unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during an offensive zone faceoff. It was the Stars who would open the scoring short handed. Patrick Marleau turned the puck over to Steve Ott 25 feet from his own goal, and the agitator-turned-goal-scorer buried it with a one-touch slapshot gloveside. It was the first of three goals Ott would score for his first career hat trick.

Logan Couture, recently named to the AHL All Rookie Team along with Worcester Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock, provided the lone goal of the game for San Jose with 17 seconds left on Ribeiro's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After a clean faceoff win by Dany Heatley and a point shot by Dan Boyle, Couture gained position inside of defenseman Karlis Skrastins and deflected a high shot under the glove of Marty Turco. The play went to video review, but Couture's stick was judged to be lower than the crossbar.

The game would steadily decline from there from a Sharks perspective. Prior to the drop of the puck, head coach Todd McLellan said his team's memory was short, but not short enough to erase memories of the 8-2 meltdown in the last visit to Dallas on March 16th. "I think if you head into a game and that is your primary motivation, you don't end up doing what you want to do," McLellan told reporters. That loss, combined with undisciplined and uninspired play, helped the Sharks tack on 3 more games to a season worst 6-game losing streak.

McLellan stressed that the team needed not just to win, but to win playing a fundamentally sound game with all 20 players contributing. The Sharks fell short on both fronts, with sloppy defensive play and individual performances that failed to congeal into a unified effort. Simple plays, a goaltender to d pass, a d pass up ice, were bobbled or not made cleanly. Rookie defenseman Jason Demers failed to see Loui Eriksson driving back door, resulting in a clean tap-in goal. After Brad Staubitz took an interference minor at 13:19 of the first period, defenseman Douglas Murray took a second interference minor 45 seconds later. Two blocked shots by Manny Malhotra, and a spectacular Evgeni Nabokov save on Trevor Daley with traffic in front, helped kill off the 5-on-3.

The Sharks would have to attempt to turn it around in the second without forward Ryane Clowe, who left the game after taking a puck up around the throat area. The breakdowns and sloppy defensive zone coverage would actually intensify. On another power play, Patrick Marleau tried a between the legs pass up high in his own zone and turned the puck directly over to James Neal. The points on the power play, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski, had no chance to catch up to Neal allowing for a clear breakaway scoring chance. Nabokov bailed out Marleau with a quick pad save down low.

On Brian Sutherby's goal at 12:16, CSNCA television color commentator Drew Remenda detailed a series of San Jose mistakes that lead to the goal. Nicklas Wallin's initial turnover in the neutral zone to Jamie Benn, Demers and Wallin both moving over to Sutherby allowing Benn a clear lane to the net, and a failure to clear the puck out of the crease or to box out Sutherby's stick or body from getting a shot at the rebound. Wallin fell down while trying to get over for the second man. In the third period, Remenda would plantiffly state that Sharks players were making errors on simple defensive reads, jumping up into plays and missing their guys, not taking their man, and that their minds were checking out on plays they have made all season. With 5 games left in the regular season, this is the exact opposite of where the Sharks need to be.

At one point, the Sharks television broadcast team of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda were speachless when trying to figure out a reason for the lackluster play on the ice. "If you are scratching your head, so are we tonight," Hahn said. Both also discussed last season's early playoff exit and ruminated on the question of whether it was the Sharks players or coaching staff's responsibility to have them ready to play at the start of the game. Drew Remenda noted that head coach Todd McLellan tried all season long to shift the responsibility for being game ready to the players, but at some point they have to take it upon themselves to make it happen. "You would like to see the Sharks moving their feet, and showing they care," Remenda said while the Sharks were down 5-1 and on a power play.

Ott added two more goals in the second period. Sutherby may deserve first star honors over Ott for taking an enormous hit from Douglas Murray to set up the fourth Stars goal. On a breakaway down the right wing Sutherby tried to turn back into the middle of the ice and was "decleated" by the 240-pound Murray. Sutherby was able to hit a driving Ott with a crisp pass in the split second before being knocked flat. With his stick on the ice and body position inside of Scott Nichol, Ott tipped the puck just inside the near post. Ott sealed the hat trick on a failed clearing attempt by Kent Huskins. The longtime agitator who has averaged nearly 120 PIMs a season, 152.2 in the five full NHL seasons he has played, recorded his first career hat trick. "We've got a lot of pride in this dressing room. We might not make the playoffs, or it's pretty unrealistic right now, but to finish with character and finish with pride, I think means more than anything." Ott told reporters after the game.

Marty Turco made 29 saves on 30 shots for 21st win of the season. After stopping only 16 of 21 shots against after 20 minutes, backup goaltender Thomas Greiss started the third period and made 8 saves on 8 shots. Joe Thornton sat out his second straight game after being injured against Vancouver. Ryane Clowe left the game after only 4 shifts and 4:33 of ice time due to an undisclosed upper body injury. According to beat reporter David Pollak, Clowe has been wearing an 'A' on his jersey in Thornton's absense. Rob Blake returned after sitting out a game, his usual defensive partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic was scratched after previously returning to play 5 games after a lower body injury. Defenseman Jay Leach was scratched for the 6th straight contest. Mike Ribeiro returned after being suspended for Monday's game against Anaheim for missing a team meeting. Mike Modano was scratched for the 9th straight game after having an appendectomy, an interview with him played on the Sharks radio network during the second intermission.

[Update] Ott's hat trick helps Stars stave off elimination - Mike Heika for the Dallas Morning News.

Maybe Steve Ott was being weighed down by his appendix.

Since emergency appendectomy surgery on Feb. 8, Ott has been on a tear. He has eight goals in his last 16 games, including the first hat trick of his career Wednesday in a 5-1 win over the San Jose Sharks.

"It was probably in junior – a lot of years ago," Ott said when asked when he last scored three goals in a game. "I've had a lot of seasons with low numbers. It seemed things have bounced my way."

[Update2] San Jose Sharks uninspired in loss to Dallas Stars - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan's post-game comments after the Dallas loss via Comcast Sportsnet California:

"It is going to be a collective thing for me again tonight with you guys. I am not too sure it starts with skill, it starts with something else..."

"Clowe has played very well for us. I thought we had a little letdown after he left. Maybe he means that much to the team, but moving forward we don't get to pick and choose who is going to be healthy and who isn't. Mother Nature takes care of that. When you lose people, you should be able to elevate your game, elevate the intensity and become more competitive rather than go the other way. That is the way we went."

"It has got nothing to do with where you lose em (on being asked about second straight lopsided loss in Dallas), it is how you lose em."