Hockey Notes – 2/17

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals NHL Hockey

- The San Jose Sharks (31-21-6, 2nd Pacific) face off against the Washington Capitals (30-18-10, 2nd Southeast) tonight in a high profile battle between the top two teams in the league last season. A flip in the calender year found both offensive squads struggle to maintain consistency. By stressing defensive responsibility and a more fundamental offensive attack, each team has ground their way to the middle of the playoff pack with 2 months remaining. With a 2-0 win in Washington on February 8th, the Sharks upped their all-time record against the Caps to 18-9-1. The Sharks have a 5-1 record against Washington since the lockout. The Capitals have not won at HP Pavilion in 15 seasons, and have been outscored 38-19 in that span.

- In the pre-game media press conference, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan discussed whether defensive responsibility has hindered some of his lineup’s offensive potency. On the power play, McLellan answered questions about a recent 0-11 streak. “Stationary, not competing hard enough to get pucks back after we establish the zone, and we haven’t been winning as many faceoffs in that situation, we have been breaking out far too much. A lot of it is competitiveness. We will need to get that back.” McLellan noted that other than the Nashville game, the Sharks power play has not had a lot of opportunities to get into a rhythm, and that he would use practice time this week to work on it.

“I thought our 5-on-5 play was significantly better than earlier in the year, and you need that when your special teams, or your power play in this case, is not doing as well as it should be,” McLellan said. He added that, “the best defense is playing in their zone with the puck and having some offensive opportunities. When that is not happening, we are getting a committment level from everybody else that is maybe a little higher. We set the record on the road for blocked shots in games, which is important. Net play has improved. We are well aware that can go away on us pretty quick if we don’t maintain that focus.”

McLellan on Washington’s stunning 7-6 win over the Anaheim Ducks yesterday, the Capitals first win against the Pacific Division this season. “We are concerned from their end of it, as far as their explosiveness. You could see last night where they were probably out of the game, they give up a short-handed goal and all of a sudden they are right back in it. You can not go to sleep against them. You look at a guy like Semin, who was not scoring very much. He gets three last night. He has got to feel pretty good about himself. Obviously #8 can find the net at any moment. They are explosive. In the same breath, as an offensive group we are waiting for that to happen. We have got to earn the right to score more than 2 or 3 a night. If we do that, we feel we will have one of those games,” McLellan said.

- Caps Seek to Break Spell in San Jose – Mike Vogel for

Not only is this Washington’s fifth straight game against a Western Conference foe, it’s the Caps’ fifth straight against a Pacific Division opponent. The Pacific is easily the league’s most competitive division. Heading into Thursday night’s NHL action, a mere two points separated the five denizens of the Pacific Division.

When the Caps and Sharks met early last week in Washington, San Jose came in on a hot streak, having gone 7-0-1 in their previous eight games. The Sharks have cooled a shade since, dropping one-goal decisions at New Jersey and Florida before concluding their seven-game road tour with a 2-1 overtime triumph in Nashville on Tuesday. San Jose is now 10-2-1 in its last 13 contests.

Washington’s last win in San Jose was a 4-2 triumph on Oct. 30, 1993. Arturs Irbe, now the Capitals’ goalie coach, was in net for the Sharks on that night more than 16 years ago. Washington is 0-9-1 in its 10 visits to the Tank since. The Sharks have doubled up the Caps on the scoreboard by a combined 38-19 in those 10 games.

Arturs Irbe was recently inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame. His bronze SJSHOF plaque was recently installed on the concourse of HP Pavilion.

- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle was a guest last Monday on KNBR 680′s Fitz and Brooks show. Boyle discussed the season long road trip, how preparing for the road is similar to games at home, and what the Sharks need to do when they return to HP Pavilion. San Jose Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi will be a guest on NHL Live tomorrow at 9:30PT.

- Unusual stat from CBC’s Tim Wharnsby: Washington (8) and San Jose (7) trail only Toronto (9) at being shut out this season.

- Mario’s message good for NHL, plus 30 thoughts – Elliotte Friedman.

5. After the 2009 season, the competition committee was asked to vote on banning MMA-style forearm punches. The impetus was this fight between Brad Staubitz and Jordin Tootoo. The idea didn’t get enough support. Will the damage Gregory Campbell’s elbow pad did to Pyatt force anyone to re-consider?

30. Look at some of the major news announced last week. Francois Beauchemin trade: Ducks Twitter feed. Mike Fisher trade: Predators Twitter feed. Evgeni Malkin injury: Penguins Twitter feed. Anton Volchenkov suspension: agent Jay Grossman’s Twitter feed. Keith Ballard injury update: Mike Gillis Twittter feed. I’m not one of those who believes it’s the Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse, but it’s interesting to see where this is going.

- The lead photo for this AOL Fanhouse article on NHL head coaches/GMs on the hot seat was Todd McLellan: NHL Coaches, GMs on the Hot Seat. Almost across the board the media put the onus on the Sharks players during a tumultous first half of the season instead of the coaching staff. Alan Adams notes that even getting to the playoffs may not save McLellan’s job, and that GM Doug Wilson could be gone as well. Not a word of this has been mentioned or speculated about locally. Most believe that the system/structure put in place by the coaching staff and GM was responsible for the Sharks turnaround, and that it is a solid platform for the team to make the playoffs.

- Logan Couture Coming of Age for Sharks – Sussan Slusser for AOL Fanhouse.

- The great debate: McLellan on how it’s about winning — not just goals — for Sharks’ Big Three (and others) – David Pollak’s Working the Corners blog.

Todd McLellan was initially asked about Joe Thornton’s numbers being down and the coach responded with a variation of an answer he’s given before.

“What coaches have done with Jumbo in the past is trying to get him to play good, strong defensive hockey. For the most part, that was there on the trip, there were a couple moments he’d like to have back…”

“For us to be successful, and I’m not going to just single out Jumbo. There’s Heater, Danny Boyle, Patty, Pavs – those type of players have to produce offensively without cheating for us to have a chance to win games,” McLellan continued.

The same questions have been asked repeatedly about the downtick in Alexander Ovechkin’s offensive production, with a similar explanation.

- Capitals vs. Ducks: Alexander Semin has a hat trick in Washington’s 7-6 win – Katie Carrera for the Washington Post.

- Stat comparison: Sharks record leading after 1 period: 11-4-0, trailing after 2 periods 2-12-1. Washington Capitals record leading after 1 period: 14-1-5, trailing after 2 periods 4-16-4. 3rd period goal differential: San Jose -10 (47/57), Washington +17 (58/41). Power play: San Jose 21.9% (4th, 48/219), Washington 16.1% (24th, 32/199). Penalty kill: San Jose 81.9% (15th, 36/199), Washington 85.8% (3rd, 31/219). Average height (SJ 6-1, WASH 6-2), average weight (SJ 207, WASH 208). Sharks man games lost to injury 99, Washington MGLTI 159.

- Latest Capitals news from Japers Rink. For Capitals photos visit Clydeorama, Capsinpictures, or Offwing Photo. Asked permission to use one of Clyde’s flickr photos, here was his response:

Thanks Jon! I remember finding a lot of really great info about shooting hockey photos at Sharkspage a long, long time ago. I found it to be a very helpful resource and am pretty sure I still have a few pages bookmarked. Including one of my photos gives me one of those internal mental satisfaction feelings. Thanks!

Very cool. Now he can give me a few tips.

- Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis writes on his own blog why every game and every goal matters, “The Capitals are 17-2-4 when we score a goal on the power play. We are 12-16-6 when we don’t. Now we have a lot of work to do. I admit that. But fixing the power play would seem to be a pretty big deliverable. And it isn’t spin to say that is why we aren’t being as successful this year in terms of gaining standings points. We have lost so many games in OT and shootouts as well.”

- While the Sharks may be looking for a defenseman, ESPN’s Scott Burnside speculated today that Ian White and Joni Pitkanen may be available from Carolina. He also noted that that San Jose and Boston may be interested in oft-rumored Tomas Kaberle from Toronto. The Washington Capitals also may be looking to make an acquisition at the Feb 28th deadline. According to veteran Capitals blogger the Peerless Prognosticator, help down the middle behind Nicklas Backstrom may be a position that needs to be filled.

- Losing streak triggers Sharks’ revival – Craig Custance for The Sporting News.

- Upcoming Dates from the NHL: Feb. 18-20: Hockey Weekend Across America, Feb. 19: Outdoor Alumni Game (Montreal vs. Calgary, McMahon Stadium), Feb. 20: Hockey Day in America, Feb. 20: 2011 NHL Heritage Classic (Montreal at Calgary, McMahon Stadium), Feb. 28: Trade deadline (3 p.m., ET).

San Jose Sharks Worcester Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock injury

- San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson made a statement today on the injury to Worcester Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock. “On Feb. 14, Alex underwent successful surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. to repair a laceration to his left leg, suffered as a result of being stepped on by a skate in the Worcester Sharks Feb. 4 game against the Manchester Monarchs,” Wilson said via a press release. “He is expected to miss the remainder of the 2010-11 season. There is no immediate timetable for Alex to resume skating as our immediate focus will be on monitoring Alex as he recovers and begins his rehabilitation.”

After making 9 saves to close out his first NHL win against the Phoenix Coyotes 2 weeks ago, Stalock was sent back to Worcester where he suffered the serious leg injury. As one of the highest profile goaltenders in San Jose’s developmental organization, the Sharks should be cautious with what could be a lengthy rehabilition. Offseason free agent signee Carter Hutton has filled in on the NHL bench while Antero Niittymaki recovers from an undisclosed injury. Jeff Jakaitis and Daren Machesney have filled in on the Worcester bench.

- The Sharks announced the change of a start time for their Feb. 22nd game at Detroit. Start time is now 4:30 p.m. PDT. The game will be televised on Comcast Sporstnet California and CSNCA-HD.

- Chatting with Devin Setoguchi about trade rumors, Sharks’ revival – Greg Wyshynski for Yahoo’s Puck Daddy.

But as Setoguchi’s name is mentioned on the score sheet more often, it’s also making its seemingly annual appearance in the rumor mill. He was mentioned as a possible trade option for the Pittsburgh Penguins by TSN’s Darren Dreger this week, “assuming Sharks GM Doug Wilson is willing to consider moving” him.

“You can’t even think about it. There’s no time. It’s nothing you can control. If you’re going to sit there and stress about it, you’re going to play worse hockey,” said Setoguchi, his words sounding more emphatic as he continued.

“Do I expect anything? No. I want to be here. I talk to my agent, I talk to those guys. That’s the key word: Rumors. Anyone can start a rumor on the Internet, and then 150 people can blog about it.”

The trade rumors regarding Setoguchi were more circumstance than an indictment of him as a player. The Sharks were floundering on the ice, and the highly regarded Setoguchi was struggling to be a productive element on either of the top 3 lines. If San Jose was looking to bring in an impact player, Setoguchi would have been the high cost neccessary for another team to pull the trigger.

Instead, the Sharks waited for their own impact player to turn his season around. Since returning from a 9-game injury absence, at times he has been a missle on the ice in the offensive zone. He is tied for 4th on the team with 124 hits. Setoguchi has also scored 9 points in his last 10 games. Late in a 1-1 game against Nashville, Setoguchi showed more jump backchecking and taking the stick away from a Predators forward than he did on his goal scoring rush up the right wing.

The 24-year old Setoguchi wants to remain in the Bay Area. As the NHL’s best Japanese-Canadian power forward, Setoguchi is a marketable figure that could bring a number of new Bay Area fans to the game over the next few years. Whether or not he can fill the popularity shoes of a Jonathan Cheechoo remains to be seen, but it would not be for a lack of seek-and-destroy hits and flamboyant goals. Fans now want to see it happen in the playoffs.

- From the Sharkspage twitter: “Air Force One just arrived in SF with Obama. If he cant watch Caps in D.C., he can see them in SJ tonight.”

- Thunder aims to attract faithful fans on special night – Jo Ann Kirby for the Stockton Record.

What: The Stockton Thunder promotes Faith Night to attract local church members and youth groups into the stands. The event will feature testimonials and performances by Christian rock band “Radio Friendly.”

When: Friday; doors open at 6:25 p.m. with a pre-game concert at 6:30 p.m. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

- The Sharks announced their participation in Hockey Weekend Across America February 18-20th. On Friday, anyone wearing a hockey jersey will receive 50% off at any Sharks Ice skating session (rinks in San Jose, Oakland and Fremont). On Saturday, Sharks Ice will host ‘Bring a Friend to the Rink Day’ to watch a youth, junior, college or professional hockey game in the Bay Area. On Sunday NBC will air ‘Hockey Day in America’ with a double header broadcast starting at 9AM (PT). Intermission content will feature coverage of local hockey programs across the United States.

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