Back-to-back losses put the Sharks playoff hopes on the outside looking in

This AP photo captures the 5-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday perfectly.

After building a 2-1 lead in the first period, San Jose missed a point blank scoring chance that would have added a crucial insurance goal. Zbynek Michalek fired a shot that hit the net and bounced bounced behind Evgeni Nabokov. Steve Reinprecht reached the puck first and tapped it home for the first of his two goals. The flood gates erupted in the third, as Phoenix scored 3 of their 4 unanswered goals to seal the win.

The SF Chronicle notes that 38-year old Curtis Joseph improved his career record against the Sharks to 31-7-0-1. The SJ Mercury News reports blunt self-criticism from defenseman Scott Hannan, and details the Phoenix domination of San Jose this season [1-4-1].

"I'm supposed to be leading on this team, but the puck's bouncing the wrong way," defenseman Scott Hannan said after the 5-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Everybody's got to step up. Veteran guys on the back end, veteran guys up front. Everybody. Down low some of our best players tonight were the young guys. Every one of us, myself included, needs to step it up."

Coupled with a 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday [nice fans in Columbus], the Sharks are 4 points out of a three-way tie for 8th place. San Jose trails Anaheim, Vancouver, and Edmonton with 10 games remaining.

What does that mean for San Jose's Western Conference playoff picture? As the official website states, the Sharks took 11 out of 12 points on the last homestand, losing in an OT shootout to the Dallas Stars. The Sharks finished the latest trip 3-2, with an OT win in Chicago, and uninspired losses in Detroit and Columbus.

The running Playoff Push feature by James Mirtle notes that 91 points was enough to ensure a Playoff berth last season. This season Mirtle pegs 95 points as the magic number for dreams of Stanley. With a record of 36-26-10 [82 points], the Sharks will need 15 points in the next 10 games to reach that magic number. A 6-3-1 record for the remainder of the season will get it done from that perspective.

The Los Angeles Kings are in disarray, after being shutout 4-0 against Minnesota on Thursday, the Kings have dropped 3 straight games to plummet out of playoff contention with only 8 games left to play. Winning 8 straight games would not guarantee Los Angeles a playoff spot, and they need to finish 7-1 to reach the 95 point magic number. Head coach Andy Murray was fired and replaced with John Torchetti. According to Helene Elliot, the players stopped listening to Murray but he maintained his driven coaching style until the end. The ownership was just as hard on veterans who have not produced.

Current first round playoff matchups - ESPN.

Six playoff hopefuls nearing home stretch - SJ Mercury News.

Mighty Ducks

Pro: Anaheim has only one set of back-to-back games in April.
Con: Five of their final six games are on the road.

The Edmonton Oilers lost two of three to the Vancouver Canucks in an unusual 3-game series. Trade deadline acquisition Dwayne Roloson rebounded winning 2 out of 3 after the Canucks series, the last a 4-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Kings.

Roloson's shutout helps Oilers climb playoff ladder in West - ESPN.

Finishing the season 6-3-1 is in line with how San Jose has played recently, but the reality is that no amount of wins will get it done unless the teams in front of them lose. Bookmark this Yahoo NHL scoreboard.

[Update] Carter clutch for Canucks - CBC.

After the victory, Carter deflected praise away from his play and heaped it onto his linemates – Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

"My job is to get open, hit the holes – the quiet areas – and lull them to sleep," Carter said. "But you can't do that unless you're playing with two guys [the Sedin twins] that are great with the puck."

Class guy, and Carter set a new career high with 30 goals in 72 games played this season. His previous high was 28 for Edmonton in 2001-02. Anson Carter needs 8 points in the remaining 8 Vancouver games to tie his career high for points in a season at 60.

San Jose MMA, Shamrock-Gracie, Cung Le, available on Google Video

Shamrock vs Gracie, Cung Le MMA San Jose

Google Video has the Shamrock vs Gracie mixed martial arts event from San Jose available for paid download for a limited time. Cung Le vs Mike Altman, Josh Thomson vs Clay Guida, Gilbert Melendez vs Harris Sarmiento were also on the card among others. For more information visit shamrockvsgracie.com, or this blog post.

The "Shamrock vs. Gracie" event broke the all-time record for attendance at a mixed martial arts fight card in North America. The previous record was set on April 16, 2005 when superstars Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell squared off with one another at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. That event played host to 14,562 fans.

18,265 fans attended the event on March 10th, 2006. Thanks to Cung Le for the email.

Hockey related video news from the inbox this week: HDHockey.tv announced a website re-design and a massive collection of new hockey videos that have been added to the index. A small sample of the games added:

2005 NHL Fights & Mayhem 1-6
Holy Cross vs North Dakota 3.25.06 Frozen Four
Holy Cross vs Minnesota 3.24.06 Frozen Four
Devils vs Bruins 3.24.06 Daneyko Night
Penguins vs Senators 3.22.06
Capitals vs Hurricanes 3.25.06
Boston University vs Boston College 3.25.06 Frozen Four

The Hockey Enforcers DVD hits the street April 11th, and the Behind the Brawl documentary airs April 8th on CTV (for Canadian Viewers Only). Visit hockeyenforcers.net or my interview with Hockey Enforcers promoter Darryl "Beef" Wolski for more. James Mirtle recaps the Hockey Enforcer event here. Unfortunately Sharks fans, Link Gaetz did not win.

Received my first DVD in the mail for this website a few weeks back: Hockey Mom [2005]. Will post a review shortly. Hockey Mom


Blogroll Update - Campaign 2006 edition

Added Kara Yorio of the Sporting News, Wes Goldstein of Sportsline, and the Boston Herald's Bruins Insider to media blogs.

Wes Goldstein of Sportsline notes the new PR campaign surrounding San Jose Shark center Joe Thornton as a Hart Memorial Trophy candidate:

When it comes to getting attention from the NHL's media nerve centers, West Coast teams often complain, with some justification, that their successes tend to get overlooked.

That's why the San Jose Sharks are taking no chance when it comes to Joe Thornton's candidacy for the league MVP award, launching an unusual campaign reminiscent of those run by NCAA schools with Heisman hopefuls. The Sharks sent out a league-wide media release Tuesday called "Joe Thornton - Hart Memorial Trophy Candidate" that made a strong statistical case for the big center.

Take a look at the Thornton-for-Hart 2006 material [PDF file]. The campaign started here: Campaign 2006: The NHL Most Valuable Player race, Jagr vs Thornton?. Although the opening poll in that post has been hit by questionable late MVP voting surges for Tomas Vokoun and Eric Staal.

Expect a late campaign salvo for Jagr from Hockey Bird or the NY Rangers media relations department. Might I suggest a campaign ad on NHL.com?

Michigan College Hockey and Wisconsin Hockey have been added to colleges. Congratulations to the NCAA Champion Wisconsin women's hockey team. Devils Due has been added to blogs. A quote from Tom Lycan's Devils Due manifesto:

My goal with this blog is to provide a rational source of links and commentary on the Devils that is updated frequently and is not inflammatory or boring. Ideally, I would like this blog to be the first source of information that is checked by Devils fans-- to make hockey interesting again so that people can stand around the water cooler and TALK ABOUT IT.

Thehockeyblog.com is a recommended visit to keep an eye on the AHL, especially Binghamton, Chicago and the Manitoba Moose. The Binghamton Senators are represented online almost as well as the parent Ottawa Senators, if not better. Still waiting for any word on Hasek.

[Update] Hart of the Sharks, Thornton touted for MVP - SJ Mercury News.


Vesa Toskala named NHL defensive player of the week, Teemu Selanne takes offensive honors

Vesa Toskala

A press release from the NHL:

Anaheim right wing Teemu Selanne, whose League-leading 10 points (four goals, six assists) in four victories propelled the Mighty Ducks to fifth place in the Western Conference standings, has been named the NHL’s Offensive Player of the Week for the period ending Sunday, March 26. San Jose goaltender Vesa Toskala, who led the Sharks to three victories with a 1.66 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and one shutout, is the League’s Defensive Player of the Week...

Toskala began the week by recording his first shutout of the season and third of his NHL career, making 33 saves in a 6-0 victory at St. Louis March 21. The 28-year-old Tampere, Finland native turned aside 24 of 25 shots in a 5-1 victory at Minnesota March 25 and made 30 saves in a 5-4 overtime victory at Chicago March 26.

Toskala improved to 16-6-3 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .898 save percentage in 28 games this season. The Sharks (36-24-10, 82 points) have climbed to eighth place in the Western Conference playoff race.

[Update] How is this for blog-media fusion? Toskala emerges from the shadows in San Jose - NHL.com. This article from Bill Meltzer last week is also a good read: NHL reaps benefits of Finnish goaltending invasion - NHL.com.

Top 5 Finnish goaltenders for the 2005-06 NHL season:

1. Kiprusoff [CAL] - 35-20-8, 2.20GAA, .918SV%
2. Niitymaki [PHI] - 22-12-6, 2.96GAA, .896SV%
3. Lehtonen [ATL] - 18-13-0, 2.84GAA, .906SV%
4. Toskala [SJ] - 16-6-3, 2.69GAA, .898SV%
5. Maarkanen [EDM] - 15-12-6, 3.13GAA, .880SV%

[Update2] The Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche slug it out tonight at 6PM on OLN. Sharks vs Blue Jackets on FSNBA at 4PM, Zherdev and Nash have been scoring goals by the handful of late. Both account for 4 goals and 6 assists in the last 5 games.

[Update3] More on Toskala from NHLPA.com: Toskala, Sharks backbone is their back-up.

And while the new rule changes in 2005-06 have brought tougher challenges for the men behind the masks, Toskala isn’t exactly complaining.

"I like the new rules," he said. "As long as it's the same for everybody I don't really care. But I think it's great for the fans, it's a lot more exciting. It may be mentally tougher for the goalies because there are more goals, but as long as it's the same, I'm fine with that."

Tia Carrera, Toronto Maple Leafs fan?

Tia Carrera

Is this the new Reebok line of hockey jerseys? Archive video of Tia Carrera at a Toronto Maple Leafs publicity event is here.


Wings vs Blues, Kings vs Canucks in double-header tonight on OLN


The Detroit Red Wings will face off against the St Louis Blues in the first game of a double-header tonight at 5PM on OLN. The Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks will drop the puck in the rubber match at 7:30PM.

The Red Wings [70GP, 48-15-7] are one point ahead of the Ottawa Senators [70GP, 48-16-6] in the race for the Presidents Trophy with 12 games left to play in the season. Defenseman Chris Chelios, skating in his 400th game for Detroit, commented on the Sharks in the pregame interview; "You hate to give away points to Columbus or San Jose, teams you might face in the playoffs. You don't want to give them any confidence".

On Friday, St Louis Blues owners Bill And Nancy Laurie agreed to sell the team to Dave Checketts of Sports Capital Partners. A statement on the Blues website details what the Laurie's will miss about owning an NHL franchise:

"Owning the Blues has been a wonderful life experience for our family," Bill Laurie said. "We'll miss the thrills of arriving on game night, the big wins, the loyal fans and the best people in the world … and that's hockey people - the staff, players, coaches, trainers and everyone associated with the game. We fell in love with hockey and we'll always love the Blues."

Laurie proud of his time owning Blues, Family may have helped city keep team - Belleville News-Democrat.

As Laurie turned the keys to the franchise over to the Checketts' group Friday, his thoughts may have wandered back to 1999.

In his first season as owner, the team responded with a franchise-record 114 points and had the NHL's best regular-season record.

That star-studded team included Al MacInnis and Chris Pronger on defense, four 20-goal scorers (Pavol Demitra, Pierre Turgeon, Michal Handzus and Scott Young) and airtight regular-season goaltending by Roman Turek.

St Louis Blues 25 year playoff streak

The Blues 25 year streak of postseason appearances will end this season, but the fall from grace started in 2000. The Sharks shocked the hockey world that year by bouncing a Blues team that many expected to win the Stanley Cup. St Louis exacted revenge by defeating the Sharks 4-2 in the opening round, before losing to Colorado 4-1 in the 2000-01 Conference finals. St Louis was blown out of the 2002-03 semifinals by Detroit, and lost to Vancouver [4-3] and San Jose [4-1] in back-to-back first round playoff losses.

Thanks, Bill and Nancy, for at least giving it a shot - St. Louis Post Dispatch.

St Louis Blues Keith Tkachuk

The problems began to build at the end of the 2004 season. The Mike Danton murder-for-hire scandal erupted before the playoffs were over, and became more sordid by the week. The 2005 season opened with a Keith Tkachuk suspension for not showing up to training camp in playing shape. Tkachuk played well for Team USA in the Olympics, but he has struggled with injuries this season playing only 29 games. The trade of Doug Weight to Carolina prior to the deadline was seen by some as a sign the firesale was on. The sale never materialized.

The Blues find themselves at a crossroads. It will take time to see which direction the new ownership moves in. All roads lead to a major reconstruction. The development system has a few bright spots on the horizon, but management would be wise to pass on the Phil Kessel sweepstakes and draft 6-4, 225 pound defesenman Erik Johnson. The vacuum left by the departure of Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis has never been filled. The Blues can build from the net out with Curtis Sanford, although the franchise pedigree in St Louis makes a long term re-build unlikely.

Dave Checketts was quoted by the NY Times describing how the new NHL CBA made the purchase of the Blues possible for him. Checketts, the former president of Madison Square Garden, mentioned that past ownership left "few long-term contracts and little long-term debt".

Analysis: Blues' upgrade must wait for summer - St Louis Post-Dispatch.

"What's critical is being responsible about it. It should be good news to the St. Louis fans that I understand what we did right in New York with the Rangers, and I also understand what we did wrong.

"Where we started to go wrong with the Rangers is when we got away from a drafting, developing, being careful about team chemistry approach ... with an owner that just wanted us to buy every big name in the business. That doesn't work in hockey.

"I knew it then; I especially know it now. It doesn't mean we shouldn't have the right mix of stars and young guys, veterans. But I want people who are committed to wearing (the Blues) sweater ... who consider it an honor to put it on ... who play hard for that uniform ... who protect their teammates. That's the kind of organization I want to have."

[Update] Detroit put the foot on the gas, and did not give the St Louis Blues offense room to move on Monday night. With 4 goals from 4 different goal scorers, the Wings were able to down St Louis 4-1 with a solid 20 save performance from goaltender Manny Legace. Petr Cajanek scored with less than a minute left to break the shutout, and Patrick Lalime made 28 saves on 32 shots in a losing effort.

[Update2] Rumors of a divided Vancouver locker room made waves around the blogs. A South Florida Sun-Sentinal writer reports that dissent within the team may hurt their playoff chances. There is precious little provided as evidence, but the claims themselves forced players, head coach Marc Crawford, and GM Dave Nonis to respond.

This reminds me of one St Louis reporter's quest to reveal Owen Nolan's negative impact on the Sharks locker room in 2003. The reporter cited three anonymous sources, and then made three disparaging statements of his own in a second report. Nothing else came out to substantiate the claims, but the charges are still rehashed every time his name comes up in trade rumors. Negative news sells, true or not.

Vancouver's play on the ice against Los Angeles spoke for itself. With the Canucks [39-28-6] tied with San Jose [36-24-10], and the Kings [38-29-5] trailing by 1 point, the winner of this game would leapfrog into the final Western Conference playoff spot with 10 games left to play in the season. Alexandre Burrows netted a hat trick with 3 point blank goals for Vancouver. Daniel Sedin, Anson Carter, Brendan Morrison and Richard Park rounded out the scoring for a 7-4 Canucks win. Alex Auld made 34 saves on 38 shots to earn his 31st victory of the season.

Video highlights from OLN.

[Update3] AbeltoYzerman liveblogged the Wings-Blues game and noted that captain Steve Yzerman tied Mario Lemieux on the all-time NHL goal scoring list with 690.

The Canucks Hockey Blog posts side-by-side brainwashing analysis of comments made by Sean Avery at different times this season. Avery brainwashed many so-cal Kings fans into saying, What Would Avery Do? I can think of no better individual to help divine the right path in day-to-day situations. Movie corroboration here.

What would Avery blog? Check my next post to see my answer.


One more pie chart

top goal scorers

Pardon me while I try out another graphic. This pie chart breaks down the goal distribution for current San Jose Sharks with 13 games left in the 2005-06 NHL season. Totals for Marco Sturm [6], Brad Stuart [2], Wayne Primeau [5] and Niko Dimitrakos [4] while they were on the Sharks are not included.

More notable stats prior to today's 4PM tilt with the Chicago Blackhawks:

Chicago has lost 23 one-goal games this season, the Blackhawks have a record of 83-3-16-8 in their last 110 games when they lead after two periods, Sharks total man games lost to injury: 117, as of friday the Sharks were the 4th least penalized team in the league averaging 13.4 penalty minutes per game, the Sharks are 16-2-0 when leading after the first period.

This week on the Chicago Blackhawks Hawkcast: Chicago prospect news including those still playing in the NCAA tournament, the new interactive flash depth chart, AHL Norfolk Admirals head coach Mike Haviland, and a health status update on Tuomo Ruutu and Eric Daze.

The podcast focuses more the future of the Blackhawks than a breakdown of upcoming opponents. Two things missing from the website that were highlights in the past, the United Center Arena webcam, and the fan prospect reports.

Cheechoo scores franchise record 45th goal, Sharks power past Wild 5-1

top goal scorers

The Sharks came into the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota looking to gain precious Western Conference points against a team that has lost 10 of its last 13 games.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored his 44th goal of the season early in the first period on a cross ice feed by Nils Ekman. Milan Michalek chipped in a backhand PP goal, and Marleau also converted on the PP to make it 3-1 on a give-and-go with Joe Thornton. Cheechoo scored his 45th goal on a drop pass in front of the net, and new defenseman Matt Carle wristed a shot home with seconds left to give the Sharks a 5-1 win over the Wild.

Cheechoo left the building with 2 goals, the Western Conference goal scoring lead, and the new San Jose Sharks franchise single season goal scoring record [45]. Owen Nolan held the previous mark, scoring 44 goals in the 1999-2000 season. Joe Thornton [54A] registered 3 assists to break Kelly Kisio's record [52A] for the most assists in a single season by a San Jose Shark. Former Denver University defenseman and current Hobey Baker favorite Matt Carle also scored the first goal of his NHL career in his first NHL game.

Vesa Toskala made 24 saves on 25 shots to earn a personal best 15th NHL win. With 80 points in 69 games played, the Sharks remain 2 points out of a playoff spot trailing Edmonton and Los Angeles in the Western Conference standings.

The SF Chronicle has Cheechoo's reaction after scoring the 45th goal:

Cheechoo scored his franchise-record goal -- nudging past Owen Nolan's 1999-2000 mark of 44 -- at 11:41 on a one-time shot from the mid-slot after Thornton gave him a perfect drop pass to cap a San Jose rush led by Nils Ekman.

"It's neat to get that many goals, I never expected to," Cheechoo said. "I just wanted to contribute to the team's success and luckily I've been finding the back of the net this year."

An ominous quote from Minnesota Wild captain Wes Walz from the Star Tribune:

"The emotions have dropped. I'm not sure if it's because we've officially fallen out of the playoff race and it's taken the wind out of our sails," said Walz. "Obviously we're out of playoff [contention], but there are guys in here that are playing for their careers, whether it is for our team or for whoever else.

"I know one thing. I know the coaching staff and management will remember the last 10 games of the season more than they'll remember the first 10 games."

The Minnesota Wild have had 5 captains this season, rotating between Alex Henry [Oct], Filip Kuba [Nov], Willie Mitchell [Dec/Jan], Brian Rolston [Feb/Mar], and Wes Walz [Mar/Apr] (source: Wikipedia). The San Jose Mercury News reported that Matt Carle became only the tenth Shark to score a goal in his first NHL game. The others: Grant Stevenson, Milan Michalek, Miroslav Zalesak, Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, Alexander Korolyuk, Marcus Ragnarsson, Jan Caloun and Jeff McLean.

A trivia question from the Hockey Zone:

[Q] Which San Jose Sharks rookie scored goals on the first four shots on net of his NHL career in 1995-96?

[A] Jan Caloun - In March of 1996, Jan Caloun was called up by the Sharks from the Kansas City Blades of the IHL. He played his first game on March 18, 1996 against Boston and scored his first NHL goal on his first shot. In his second game against Winnipeg, he scored twice (on his second and third shots) and in his third game against Calgary, he scored once (on his fourth shot) and then finally missed a shot later in the game. Caloun ended the season with eight goals on 20 shots, an accuracy rate of 40 per cent.

[Update] Local skater starts NHL career with goal - Anchorage Daily News.


A look back: Bernier's 360 and Dimitrakos in Orange

Steve Bernier highlight 360 goal

Listening to a game on the radio, you miss the occasional highlight reel goal. Apparently, ESPN missed it too.

San Jose coach Ron Wilson was steamed that Sharks rookie Steve Bernier's highlight-reel goal Tuesday at St. Louis never made the highlight reels. The Quebec City native scored with a one-handed, between-the-legs spin move at close range. ESPN never showed it. "That's one of the best goals I've ever seen from a trick-shot point of view," Wilson said.

The full article is subscription only at the National Post. After reading the comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, I needed to see the goal for myself. Video is available on the official Sharks website.

A recap of Steve Bernier's one-handed spin-o-rama goal:

Steve Bernier [#26] carries the puck down the right side of the ice and is challenged along the boards by Blues defenseman Christian Backman [#55]. Bernier holds him off with his left arm, and turns in hard towards the goal. He controls the puck with the stick in his right hand.

At the top of the crease, Backman twists Bernier hard at the last minute, so his back faces the goaltender. Bernier stays on his feet, but instead of coming to a stop, he keeps his momentum moving. Still maintaining possession of the puck with one hand, Bernier completes the 360 spin to the left and shovels the puck towards a foot of open space between Reinhard Divis's leg pad and the goal post.

The puck banked off the post into the back of Divis's skate and ricocheted into the net. It was the second goal for the Sharks rookie right wing in the second period. San Jose went on to defeat the Blues 6-0.

St. Louis Blues 0, San Jose Sharks 6 - St Louis Blues.

[Update] Rookie Bernier follows in Cheechoo's footsteps - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update2] After being traded to the Philadelphia Flyers at the March 7th trade deadline, right wing Niko Dimitrakos has jelled on a line with rookies Jeff Carter and R.J. Umberger. According to Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Tim Panaccio, the line is starting to develop chemistry after playing together for 4 straight games.

That Carter's line is producing in many ways is a huge plus because it takes some pressure off Peter Forsberg's line, with Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble, to carry the scoring load down the stretch.

"It's a big difference for us right now," Carter said. "Up until a few games ago, you never knew who you were going to play with because of our injuries."

Niko Dimitrakos has 2 goals and an assist in his last 5 games.


Hector Camacho Jr. and San Jose's Ricardo Cortes headline the 2006 opening Fight Night at the Tank


Hector Camacho Jr. begins a rebuilding effort tonight that he hopes will lead him to the top of Jr Middleweight ranks. Camacho Jr. [40-1-1, 23KOs] heads a card that also features hard punching Super Middleweight Ricardo Cortes [15-1-1, 11KOS] of San Jose.

The preliminary fight card for the 2006 opening Fight Night at the Tank can be found here.

[Update] From FightNews.com:

Camacho Jr. victorious!

Welterweight Hector Camacho Jr. won an eight round unanimous decision over Virgil McClendon before a crowd of 3,579 on Thursday night's "Fight Night at the Tank" at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA. With the win, Camacho moves to 41-1-1 with 23 KOs. McClendon, who stepped in on late notice, falls to 22-8-1. In other featured bouts, super middleweight Ricardo Cortes (16-1-1, 12 KOs) scored a third round KO over Juan Carlos Sanchez (24-17-3, 16KOs) and heavyweight Malcom Tann (17-2, 9 KOs) stopped Shaun Ross (3-4, 1 KO) in round three.

Campaign 2006: The NHL Most Valuable Player race, Jagr vs Thornton?

View the NHL MVP Poll.

TSN's statistical player rankings score New York's Jaromir Jagr [69GP, 49G, 55A, 104P, +22] first with a 98.58, Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredson [64GP, 38G, 48A, 86P, +33] second with a 96.94, and Philadelphia's Simon Gagne [60GP, 41G, 29A, 70P, +28] third with a 96.20.

ESPN's John Buccigross makes the case for Joe Thornton.

Only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr have had 100 assists in a single NHL season. Others came close -- Adam Oates had 97, and Doug Gilmour and Pat LaFontaine had 95-assist seasons. Will Joe Thornton join them? I wrote this back in July: "If the Boston Bruins don't offer Joe Thornton a four-year, $28 million extension, they are nuts. Thornton is ready to take off. He will win the scoring title this season." As I write this, Thornton needs 30 assists in 19 games to get 100 assists. Difficult, but possible. Thornton will win his first Art Ross Trophy. He and Peter Forsberg are the two best playmakers in the NHL, and they have something else in common, they make their linemates rich.

The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle gives the NHL MVP to Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff at this point in the season. After registering the lowest goals against average in the modern era [1.70], and carrying his team to the Stanley Cup Finals, Kiprusoff is continuing to improve. Miikka Kiprusoff [34-18, 61GP, 2.17GAA, .919SV%] ranks 3rd in the NHL in wins, 1st in shutouts [8], and 6th in goals against average this season.

I'll admit it'll be a tight vote, but mine at this point is cast for Calgary Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff, who, with Dominik Hasek injured, will likely run away with this year's Vezina Trophy (with a nod to rookie Henrik Lundqvist). (When I say Kiprusoff will run away with it, keep in mind that the only teams that have scored fewer goals than the Flames this season are Chicago and Columbus. If that's not valuable, I haven't a clue what is.)

Jagr carrying Rangers to success - NHL.com.

On March 18, Jaromir Jagr scored a goal, added three assists and hit the 100-point mark for the first time since the 2000-01 season, leading the Rangers to a 5-2 victory over the Maple Leafs and making team history in the process...

"I don't really think about it," Jagr said after the game. "I'm not trying to look for any records. I wanted to help this team make the playoffs. That was my goal, nothing else."

Fans at Madison Square Garden were a bit more excited about his mystical performance and chanted, "MVP! MVP!"

Alfredsson leads the way again - The Globe and Mail.

HockeyDirt is running another NHL most valuable player poll, with Ovechkin, Thornton, and Kiprusoff leading the pack. Hockeydirt believes Joe Thornton is not getting the respect he deserves.

Thornton is simply not getting the respect he deserves. The big center was moved out of Boston at the end of November, despite leading the Bruins at the time with 9 goals & 33 assists in 23 games. At the time of the trade, the Sharks were languishing near the bottom of the Western Conference with 8 wins, 12 losses and 4 overtime/shootout defeats. Since Big Joe's arrival the Sharks have a 26-11-6 record, and now find themselves in 10th place out West, a single point behind the Oilers & the last playoff position.

Thornton hit the 100 point milestone in last night's 6-0 win over the Blues. Not surprisingly, the century point was an assist on a goal by Jonathan Cheechoo. The assist was Thornton's 75th - 20 more than any other player in the league. Cheechoo is among the league leaders in goals with 43. Since becoming a Shark Thornton has notched 16 goals and 51 assists and is a +22, averaging 21.24 minutes a game. Five of Thornton's goals are game winners, putting him among the league leaders in that category as well.

If Thornton carries the Sharks into the playoffs he should win the Hart Trophy. If he does, he will become the first recipient traded during an MVP season.

Thornton could be rare two-team league MVP - Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

This is the second version of the Offwing NHL most valuable player poll. Results from the first poll are here.

[Update] Big upsets in LCS's March Madness: Wayne Gretzky took out Marty McSorley in the first round, Patrick Roy advanced past Owen Nolan, Joe Sakic took out Bob Probert, and Cam Neely knocked out Calder favorite Alexander Ovechkin. The only one left on my bracket is Al Iafrate, who still has a darkhorse chance to win it all.

[Update2] The Pride of Moose Factory - Kevin Allen in the USA Today.

Any pressure San Jose Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo might face in his pursuit of the Rocket Richard Trophy is secondary to the pressure he faces as the pride of the Moose Cree First Nation. Born in Moose Factory, Ontario, population 2,000, an island in the Moose River at the tip of Hudson Bay, Cheechoo is the first member of the Moose Cree to play in the NHL. Even when he was young, word spread far and wide about the talented, young aboriginal hockey prospect.

Link and quote from The NHL Today daily newsletter.

[Update3] Postseason honors could come Sharks way - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update4] Even more on Cheechoo, this time from ESPN's Scott Burnside: It Takes A Village, Cheechoo's story starts long before Thornton. Long before Scott Thornton or Joe Thornton? This article is a great window into the Moose Cree First Nations community that helped build Jonathan Cheechoo into the player he is today.


Jonathan Cheechoo NHL Media Conference Call transcript

NHL Media posted a transcript today of a chat held with San Jose Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo:

Jonathan Cheechoo conference call transcript, March 22

NHL Media Conference Call, San Jose Sharks RW Jonathan Cheechoo

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. Our guest is San Jose Sharks forward, Jonathan Cheechoo. Thanks to Jonathan for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Scott Emmert and Tom Holy of the Sharks public relations staff for helping to arrange the call.

In his third NHL season, Jonathan is tied for third in the National Hockey League in goals with Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk with 43. Jaromir Jagr leads the League with 46 followed by Alexander Ovechkin with 44. The Moose Factory, Ontario native has set single?season highs in goals with 43, assists with 28 and points with 71. His 19 power?play goals also set a career high and place him fourth in the league at this time. His 71 points place him tied for 18th in overall National Hockey League scoring.

Since being placed on the line with Joe Thornton in early December, Jonathan has posted 56 points on 36 goals and 20 assists in 43 games. Following last night's 6?0 win over the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks have a record of 34?23?10 for 78 points, tenth in the Western Conference but only one point behind Edmonton and Los Angeles, who are tied for the final playoff berth with 79 points. San Jose continues a five?game road trip tomorrow in Detroit.

Again we thank Jonathan for taking the time to join us and answering your questions.

Q. Talk about Joe Thornton and what he's meant to you and to the Sharks and how your chemistry has worked?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Obviously our record speaks for itself, the numbers. It's been quite a turnaround. It's great to have a player like Joe on the line. (Inaudible.)

Q. Is there something that he does that makes it work really well for you?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: For me, we're both pretty good along the boards, so that helps, and our game down low in the offensive zone, we can just ?? I can feed it to him behind the net and he's so big and strong that, you know, he can beat a guy or he draws somebody else to him. That opens everybody on the ice up and you've just got to find the hole for him and he's a great passer, so he'll put it right there for you.

Q. Can you explain to people us in the States, some of us have never been much further north than Toronto, what it's like to grow up in Moose Factory, Ontario and how somebody that grows up there makes it to the National Hockey League?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Growing up in a small?city atmosphere, we grew up, there's 2000 people and it's on an island, so you know, you know everybody on the island. But I think it was good growing up. I had a lot of friends and it was cold up there, so all we did was play hockey almost all the time. So for me it worked out well growing up there.

Q. There was no indoor rink, though, was there?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: We got one when I was nine years old in Moose Factory. So I had one since then. You know, playing on the outdoor rink, I think that helped out a lot. It's good for your skills because it's smaller ice rink than a regular rink, and a lot of times you have just as many guys as you have on a regular rink out there. It's playing hockey when you're in a tight little spot when you're a kid and working on your hands and handling the puck in traffic.

Q. And you left home at 14; correct?


Q. And where did you go from there?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: From there I went to Timmins. I played a year in Timmins and then I went to Kapuskasing the following year and played a year there. Then I played Junior B in Kitchener the year after that, and that's when I got drafted.

Q. You're quoted as saying it's a lot of pressure to be under, and you're talking about the nation that you're from and sort of carrying the expectations of your people with you, can you talk about that a little bit?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: There's a lot of pressure on you growing up right from the start I guess. You know, everybody used to come and watch all my games and I used to have people come down from all over the place to watch my games when I played Junior. In Ottawa, people that came from further north than I was would come down to watch the games.

It's something that you've got a lot of kids that look up to you when you grow up, and even when I was playing junior, I had all the kids in Moose Factory and kids around the whole area were just amazed that I was playing at that level. It's pretty tough when you're 17, 16, trying to deal with that kind of stuff.

Q. What's it like now?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Now it's a little ?? I've gotten used to it, and I kind of embraced it. You know, it's something that guys like Ted Nolan have done; I've looked at them and talked to them. Now it's something that I kind of take pride in and I enjoy speaking to the kids. We had kids come up in Ottawa and Edmonton, and I enjoyed taking the time out and try to talk to them and give them any advice I can and let them ask as many questions as they want.

Q. A lot of my question you just answered to the previous caller but I was just wondering who was your biggest influence, was it neighborhood kids, older brothers, dad or an uncle who brought you out to the rink and put you out there when you were young and got you going in the sport?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Probably maybe my dad. He got me going. Actually my whole family, like all of my uncles played. So they actually had a team that was basically made up of my uncles and my dad, a men's hockey team. I just watched them since I was a little kid and I guess growing up, they are all hockey fanatics, they always watched hockey night in Canada every Saturday no matter what.

It's just something I grew up around and my dad got me skates early and got me walking around on them and brought me out to the ice when I was two, I think. You know, I just loved the game ever since.

Q. Growing up in Ontario, would you have been a Leaf fan? Was that the big Saturday night game to watch?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: You know, that was probably a big Saturday night game to watch. But actually I grew up a Vancouver Canucks fan.

Q. Who is your idol then?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: I used to like Richard Brodeur when I was real young, he was my favorite by far. But, you know, a little later on, I grew to like Pavel Bure because of his speed and goal scoring.

Q. Richard Brodeur played in the 80s, so you must have been young watching him. JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Yeah, I watched him when I was a little kid. They used to put me in front of the TV when I was just a little kid, and that's the only time I would be quiet, my mom said.

Q. Never played goalie yourself, though?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: I played one game, one or two games, goal, when I was a younger kid. I always enjoyed playing forward more.

Q. I read that you have plans to do something for your nation and for your community, have you finalized those plans?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: I haven't got the them finalized yet but I know they're in the works. I've been working with my agent trying to get something set up. I'd like to definitely ?? that's one of the things I've always wanted to do was do something for the community, just give back because they gave me so much growing up. Not just my community, but the communities around. One of the things I think I'm going to start doing is a hockey school for sure because they are big hockey fans up there. We are going to hopefully work out the other part of that later.

Q. And why the Canucks?

JONATHAN CHEECHOO: Why the Canucks? My mother was a big Canucks fan. Everybody back home either cheered for the Maple Leafs or the Canadiens, so I grew to dislike both teams. So Vancouver was ?? I don't know why all the way out there when we had the good Edmonton teams and stuff, but, I don't know, Vancouver just ?? I guess because my mother cheered for them.

The Nils Ekman, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo line has emerged as a dominate force in the NHL. Joe Thornton uses his large frame and long reach to Harlem Globetrotters the puck away from opposing defenseman, piling up assists with Meadowlark Lemon-esque passes. His partner in crime is Moose Factory's own Jonathan Cheechoo.

In 67 games played this season, Jonathan Cheechoo scored 43 goals and 28 assists for 71 total points. Cheechoo trails the San Jose Sharks single season goal scoring record by 1 goal. Owen Nolan scored 44 goals in the 1999-2000 season. Three players are tied for third place; Jeff Friesen [31, 1997-98], Owen Nolan [31, 1996-97], and Patrick Marleau [31, (67GP), 2005-06].

Tied with Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk [43G], Cheechoo trails only Jaromir Jagr [46G] and Alexander Ovechkin [44G] for the 2005-06 NHL goal scoring lead.

For a large collection of news, links, and photos, visit the unofficial Jonathan Cheechoo website at jonathancheechoo.com.

[Update] Thornton Good Fit With Cheechoo, Sharks - Hartford Courant.

[Update2] Teal tandem scores for Sharks: Thornton, Cheechoo racking up big points - Sports Illustrated.

Look at it this way: Cheechoo had scored 34 goals since the trade, and Thornton assisted on 27 of them.

But when he was traded from Boston to Team Teal, Thornton was like most East Coast hockey fans: He barely knew anything about Cheechoo, beyond recognizing the San Jose forward's evocative last name.

"The secret's out, though," Thornton said. "He's up there with the best guys in the league. He's too good."

[Note] Nils Ekman, the fifth Beatle of this line if you went by recent media coverage, is fourth on the Sharks in scoring with 16 goals and 30 assists. Ekman finished second in team scoring in 2003-04, setting career highs in goals [22], assists [33], and points [55]. Nils Ekman missed a game last Thursday against St Louis as his fiancee Johanna gave birth to their son Melvin.

San Jose Sharks sign Denver University defenseman Matt Carle

A press release Sunday from the San Jose Sharks:


SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed defenseman Matt Carle to an entry level NHL contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Carle, recently completed his junior season with Denver University where he was named WCHA Player of the Year, WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All WCHA. Carle became the first player in WCHA history to garner both the Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Awards in the same season and is a finalist for the Hobey Baker Trophy, presented to college hockey's top player.

Named Denver's team captain, Carle is tied for fifth among all NCAA scorers with 53 points (11 goals, 41 assists) in 39 games and first in assists. Overall, he led all NCAA defensemen in goals (11), assists (42), points (53) and is second in points per game (1.36). Carle ranks first in the NCAA in assists per game (1.08) and is tied for 10th in points per game (1.36). "We are excited about Matt joining the San Jose Sharks," said Wilson. "His accomplishments over the past several years speak for themselves. He has made tremendous progress in the last few seasons and that is a testament to the program at DU and guidance and leadership provided by Head Coach George Gwozdecky and his staff. We are looking forward to taking his development to the next level"

Carle ranked tied for third in WCHA overall scoring and led all WCHA defensemen in points, goals and assists in league play. Carle set DU's single-season assist record for defensemen at 42 and his 53 points rank second on DU's single-season points list for defensemen. He was named WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on Dec. 5, Dec. 19 and Feb. 13. In addition, he was named to the All-WCHA All-Academic Team.

In 2004, Carle became the first U.S.-born player to capture the World Junior and NCAA titles in the same season. The following season, he helped lead Denver to a repeat NCAA title.

Also in 2004-05, he led all WCHA defensemen in scoring with 39 points (12 goals, 27 assists) in 39 games and was eighth among all WCHA scorers. Carle was named a NCAA Defenseman of the Year, NCAA All-American Team (West), First All-WCHA Team, USCHO First Team All American and First Team All American by InsideCollegeHockey.com.

In 2003-04, he was named to the All-WCHA Rookie Team after finishing sixth among WCHA defensemen with 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) in 30 games.

The six-foot, 190-pound native of Anchorage, Alaska was selected by the Sharks in the second round (47th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Carle takes a lucrative leap to NHL Title shot still on line for Alaska collegians - Anchorage Daily News.

DU's Matt Carle Signs with San Jose Sharks, All-American co-captain leaves DU after three seasons - Denver Pioneers.

"Matt is ready to play at the next level," head coach George Gwozdecky said. "We were very fortunate to have him back this season. It's been amazing how he has contributed to our program since Day One. I think he's more ready to play in the NHL than any other college player at this point. He's the best defenseman I have ever coached and a terrific young man. We wish him well at the next level."

[Update] Hockeydirt.com profiled the finalists for the 2005-06 Hobey Baker award, the award given to the top college hockey player in the country.

The finalists are: Matt Carle [Denver], Chris Collins [Boston College], Brian Elliott [Wisconsin], Andy Greene [Miami], Greg Moore [Maine], Scott Parse [Nebraska-Omaha], Ryan Potulny [Minnesota], Marty Sertich [Colorado College], Brett Sterling [Colorado College], and T.J. Trevelyan [St. Lawrence].

The Hobey Baker nomination process began with every NCAA D1 head coach ranking the top three players in their league, and the top three players in the country. The coaches ballots and preliminary fan voting are used to determine the ten Hobey Baker finalists. Voting for the final round of the award takes place between Friday, March 17th and Monday March 27th. Registered fans may vote once, with the weighted results being counted along with those of the selection committee [media, NHL scouts, AHCA coaches, USA Hockey].

Minnesota junior forward Ryan Potulny leads fan voting with 7099 points, Scott Parse [5733] and Greg Moore [4789] are in second and third place respectively. Matt Carle [3609] is in 7th place, trailing first place by 3490 points.

[Update2] The Hobey Baker profile for Denver University defenseman Matt Carle:

Matt Carle – Denver, Junior, Defenseman, Anchorage, Alaska

• Leads the country in assists (42) and assists per game (1.08), and currently ranks tied for fifth in points (53) and tied for 10th in points per game (1.08).
• Among NCAA defensemen, ranks first in assists and points (53), shares the national lead in goals (11) and stands second in points per game (1.36).
• The WCHA's assist leader in all games sits eight ahead of his next closest competitors and is in a third-place tie in the league's overall scoring race.
• In conference games, led the WCHA in assists (33) and finished second in points (42).
• His 42 assists established a Denver single-season record for defensemen in that category, and his 53 points is the second-best total for a Pioneer blueliner.
• Earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors of three occasions.
• Posted career highs in assists (five) and points (five) in DU’s 7-4 win over Minnesota State Mankato on Feb. 10.
• Owns a 3.30 grade point average in real estate and construction management.
• Participates annually in the DU Youth Hockey program and Starlight Foundation's "Skate with the Pioneers" event for terminally ill children, and has also volunteered at the Alaska Food Drive and Amber Homes' "Teaming Up for Tikes" holiday charity drive.

More information is available at hobeybaker.com:

[Update3] Young defenseman may get ice time soon - Contra Costa Times.

[Update4] 2006 Canadian men's university hockey championships - James Mirtle.


Mexico downs USA 2-1, Dominican Republic vs Cuba, Japan vs Korea in World Baseball Classic semifinals

World Baseball Classic Japan Korea

Much of the legacy baseball media panned the World Baseball Classic prior to its start, but the international competition is delivering unprecedented upsets. This is the World Series for many nations, and stands full of cheering, flag-waving, referee arguing, plastic-cone-waving baseball fans are a testament to its popularity.

I never thought I would root for Korea over Japan, argue balls and strikes along with fans in Puerto Rico, or pull for Mexico over the USA, but I did. The World Baseball Classic has one thing that the MLB could only dream of, nary a mention of Barry Bonds. That, and the ire of Fidel Castro's arch-nemisis Eric McErlain.

The view from fans in the stands courtesy of Flickr.com: Mexico, Korea, USA, and more here, here, and here.

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig on the World Baseball Classic:

"The intensity has been just remarkable," Selig said. "In the end, the beneficiary of all this will be baseball all over the world. I mean, who knows, long after I'm gone, this event will be big. But more importantly than this event will be big is what it's going to do for baseball, including American baseball."

USA third baseman Chipper Jones on playing in the World Baseball Classic:

"If I don't get another hit the whole tournament, just going around the bases with that 'USA' across my chest is a career highlight." Your words we catch, fair Chipper Jones. Even after 92 postseason games, this speaks volumes about the World Baseball Classic. The Atlanta Braves veteran hits one of two homers in the 2-0 opening victory over Mexico, and the other comes from Derrek Lee, who says, "When you hit a home run during the season, you feel like you did your job. When you hit a home run in something like this, it's kind of different."

Mexico exacted revenge for numerous soccer upsets, as a 2-1 win eliminated the U.S. from the WBC.

Japan and Ichiro Suzuki get another shot at Korea and Hee-Seop Choi after Korea defeated Japan twice in the preliminary rounds. David Ortiz and the Dominican Republic will face Ariel Borrero and Cuba in the other Caribbean seminfinal.

Mexico 2, United States 1: United States Runs Out of Chances in Classic - NY Times.

Save the Merc

An impassioned plea from savethemerc.com:


We — the writers, editors, photographers, advertising sales staff and other employees of the Mercury News — are worried about the future of our newspaper.

Several large shareholders forced Knight Ridder Inc. to sell its 32 newspapers. In announcing its purchase on March 13, the new owner, the McClatchy Company, said that it does not intend to buy the Mercury News. It and 11 other former Knight Ridder papers are still for sale. Their fate remains very much in doubt.

We are apprehensive that a buyer who does not understand our community and value the journalism that we provide will adopt what one Wall Street analyst termed a "scorched earth" policy. Under this scenario, substantial cost-cutting and smaller staffs would follow a sale. The impact on our community of readers and advertisers would be severe.

The Merc is part of the fabric of Silicon Valley. For generations, the San Jose Mercury News has informed readers and built a sense of community in the South Bay Area that would be a model for other newspapers to follow. The Silicon Valley fishwrap of record deserves an owner that would not only maintain the level of excellence in reporting, but build on it.

[Update] Sale of Knight Ridder means San Jose losing a corporate leader - San Jose Business Journal.


Hockey Notes - March 16th edition

NHL players find it hard to knock Jonathan Cheechoo off the puck

- Jonathan Cheechoo's fourth hat trick of the season propelled the Sharks to a 4-3 win over division rival Los Angeles on Monday. Linemate Joe Thornton's [25G, 70A] 3 assists put him ahead of Jaromir Jagr for the NHL scoring lead with 95 points. The San Jose Sharks are 5 points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference heading into Thursday's game with St. Louis.

- Cheechoo enjoying breakout year - TSN.

Jaromir Jagr, Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Jonathan Cheechoo are the first four players to break the 40-goal barrier in the NHL this season.

- Sharks back within striking distance - NHL.com.

- When Cheechoo scores for Sharks, he also does so for whole Moose Cree First Nation - Inside Bay Area.

Cheechoo became the first member of the Moose CreeFirst Nations to reach the NHL, battling his way through prejudice and loneliness as he made his unlikely journey.

"I set a lot of goals for myself growing up," Cheechoo said. "It just gives you something to work hard toward."

Growing up in Moose Factory, Ontario, a remote town of 2,000, Cheechoo could not possibly have imagined the fruits of his youthful labor.

Learn the Cheechoo story mainstream hockey media, practice your catch phrases now, this is going to be one of the biggest stars in the league.

Roger Phillips also notes the heartbreaking story of Inuit brothers Terence and Jordan Tootoo. Read the article for a brief background, and then visit teamtootoo.com for personal memories and photos.

- Nominations for best supporting yet unknown Shark - April 2004.

For east coast reporters too sleepy to stay up and watch San Jose this season, this is your handy checklist for best supporting Shark. The nominees are...

RW - Jonathan Cheechoo
From Moose Factory, Ontario, tied for the club lead with 28 goals, had seven 2 goal games this season, increased his point total from 16 last year to 47 this year, has 2 goals and 4 assists [+5] and several fine defensive plays in 8 playoff games, will fire the puck from absolutely anywhere on the ice. Cheechoo seriously hurt his chances at being unknown to the East with a goal between the legs described as the prettiest this season.

The award may be named after legendary Sharks defenseman Magnus von Magnasson, aka Marcus Ragnarsson if you watched him in San Jose instead of on ESPN.

- Interesting discussion on the lack of a rookie of the year race this season at James Mirtle's weblog.

A related comparison from the 2006 Winter Olympics. Stats are a limited representation of the entire game played out on the ice, but fun to examine nonetheless.

Evgeni Malkin - 7GP, 2G, 4A, 6PTS, 31PIMs, +5, 1SHG, 17SOG

Alexander Ovechkin - 8GP, 5G, 0A, 5PTS, 8PIMs, +3, 2PPG, 31SOG

Evgeni Malkin was banned for a game after an alleged kicking incident involving Team Canada's Vincent Lecavalier. Sports Illustrated recently ran a feature asking the question: Will Evgeni Malkin be the next young star? Yes he will Sports Illustrated, thanks for asking.

- I missed this Olympic hockey blog from CBC, a few pre-game highlights:

Sweden takes the ice wearing its superb blue jerseys featuring those three gold crowns on the front. Finland is sporting its slightly-less-impressive white jerseys featuring that shield with the lion-like creature in the middle.
7:55 a.m. EST | 10 minutes to game time

Count me among those who are not looking forward to the alleged "Scandinavian showdown." Hats off to Finland for getting this far, but they may have singlehandedly bludgeoned hockey back into the dark ages with their play in the Olympic tournament. Finland is employing the same formula (get an early goal, don't make any mistakes, get a few big saves from your goalie, concentrate on defense, trap the other team into submission) that nearly ruined the pre-lockout NHL. This strategy will win you games but, for those watching at home, it sure ain't pretty.
7:45 a.m. EST | 20 minutes to game time

I know it's a little early (especially out west) for a geography lesson, but here goes: Sweden is a Scandinavian country but Finland is not. In the past few days I've run into a few people who have mentioned they're looking forward to the "Scandinavian showdown," at which point I feel the need to play Pretentious Geographically Knowledgeable Guy and point out that Finland is not considered part of Scandinavia. Now you know.

All I know about Finland I learned from Conan O'Brien. At least my post Olympic report called it the Nordic Hockey Superbowl, which appears to be accurate.

- After declaring that 6-4, 218-pound defenseman Erik Johnson might overtake Phil Kessel as the first overall 2006 NHL entry draft selection, Red Line Report's Kyle Woodlief focuses on the play of Sudbury's Nick Foligno in his February 23rd column.

- Email from K.L.:

I don't know if you missed Drew Remenda on the Razor and Mr. T. show yesterday. Drew went to a weekend boxing match with Owen Nolan. Drew said Owen was in excellent shape at 205 pounds, and that his knee was 90%. Owen was also concerned with Drew being too negative in his San Jose Sharks coverage. Go Shaaks!

Missed that. Drew Remenda is the Sharks television color commentator and hockey's ambassador for local sports radio. To date, I do not know of a single local radio host who has attended an NHL game this season. On Remenda's previous appearance on TRAMT show, he specifically called out Niko Dimitrakos as one player who was underperforming in the leadup to the trade deadline. Dimitrakos was dealt at the deadline to the Philadelphia Flyers for a third round draft pick.

- Questions for Don't Feed the Sharks blogger Max Giese:

[Q] Do you give the team back to Evgeni Nabokov when he is ready, or let Vesa Toskala start until he loses?

[MG] Without question you continue to ride Toskala if I'm calling the shots. Let him play against the Blues and then the Stars. I would try to get Nabokov a star though on Sunday against the Avalanche. Past that keep riding him until the hot streak is over or until Nabokov out plays him. To say the least its been awhile since we've seen that.

[Q] What is the offensive outlook outside of the top line, will Michalek-Marleau-Benier build its momentum, or falter?

[MG] Michalek-Marleau,Bernier seem to have good chemistry and a liking to playing with each other. I love the speed along with the ability to grind out a chance down low. Michalek and Bernier are immensely skilled with a good team attitude, but I would't mind seeing them be more greedy down the stretch. They will be huge players for us in their prime with 1st line upside, no less then second line... but for now I expect them to show flashes of brilliance along with strong play, but I don't see that line taking over games often like they did against Edmonton regularly.

[Q] Finally, do you think Ehrhoff can keep it up the final 20 games of the season. Twice facing playoff elimination, Brad Stuart took over the game every time he touched the puck. The Sharks still lost. I was looking for that from Stuart game in and game out in the regular season but it never happened, for whatever reason. What do you think Christian Ehrhoff needs to do to reach that level?

[MG] I think Ehrhoff can keep it up. He has been our best defenseman the past two weeks along with Kyle McLaren. His offensive element has sparked our power play and he seems to have that determination where he thinks he can be the difference maker late in the game, and he lives for that role it appears. Consistency is the hardest aspect to grasp for a young player and some times it takes years, or some times they never really get it... Ehrhoff has put together a month straight now of good hockey, and two weeks of great hockey... The key for him is to keep scoring and creating, to boost his confidence because he has all the ability and competiveness that you are looking for. Stuart lacked that edge as his career progressed I believe.

Max is knowledgeable and prolific evaluator of talent online. At the 2005 State of the Sharks event, San Jose's Director of Amateur scouting Tim Burke complimented Giese's pre-draft online report on Hockeys Future.

Brad Stuart [10G, 25A, 62GP] came out of the gates on fire after the trade to the Boston Bruins. He has cooled off of late, but a change of scenery may have jumpstarted his career. The boost in confidence I predicted for Evgeni Nabokov after playing in the Olympics may have been destined for Christian Ehrhoff.

- Need to increase the column width of this blog to 425 so I can go crazy posting youtube.com videos. Because Google is a kind and benevolent massive technology giant, and they gave me free Marzen after SES, I am going to fire off an email to Google Video about the authorization time needed to ok videos. Google should port its paid Google Video option to Google Images, and add to the video posting features.

- 2006 AIHA Singapore Ice Hockey Tournament photo gallery, by Howiephoto.com.

- Contagiousideal.com posted a gallery of photos for sale from the ACHA D2 National Tournament in Rochester. ACHA Tournament photos are here, galleries of Liberty's regular season games are here.

- Why do I have to use a search engine to find NHL.com's Photo Gallery of the Week webpage? That feature deserves to be front and center. Photo of the Week, Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi watching Dallas goaltender and University of Michigan alumni Marty Turco make a save.

- More soon.


USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll

From USAhockey.com:

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll Mar. 13, 2006, Minnesota No. 1 for sixth straight week

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -­- The University of Minnesota was unanimously awarded the No. 1 spot for the fourth-straight week on this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. The Golden Gophers swept their Western Collegiate Hockey Association first-round match-up against the University of Alaska Anchorage last weekend and advanced to the WCHA Final Five, to be held Thursday through Saturday (March 16-18) at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

Moving up one spot into the top five this week is the University of Maine, who swept the University of Massachusetts Lowell in the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East playoffs. Returning to the top 15 for the first time since the preseason poll (Oct. 3) is Dartmouth College, which swept Yale University in the quarterfinals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League playoffs and has lost only one game in its last 12 outings.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 11th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the official publication of USA Hockey.

No./Team/Points/First place voted in parentheses/Record/Last Week/Weeks in top 15

1. Minnesota 510 (34), 27-6-5, 1, 23
2. Miami (Ohio) 472, 25-7-4, 2, 19
3. Boston University 432, 23-9-4, 3, 13
4. Wisconsin 414, 25-9-3, 4, 23
5. Maine 364, 26-10-2, 6, 23
6. Michigan State 342, 22-11-8, 5, 14
7. Cornell 297, 20-7-4, 8, 23
8. North Dakota 261, 25-15-1, 10, 23
9. Boston College 209, 22-11-3, 13, 23
10. New Hampshire 205, 20-11-7, 12, 21
11. Michigan 134, 20-13-5, 14, 23
12. Harvard 113, 19-11-2, 15, 9
13. Colorado College 103, 24-15-2, 9, 23
14. Denver 98, 21-15-3, 7, 20
15. Dartmouth 53, 18-11-2, NR, 2

Others receiving votes: Northern Michigan University, 29; University of Nebraska Omaha, 15; Colgate University, 14; St. Cloud State University, 11; College of the Holy Cross, 6.

Visit Inside Collge Hockey, US College Hockey Online, or College Sports TV for more information on the regional hockey tournaments. Links to individual conferences are available to the right under COLLEGE LINKS, scroll down.

The Frozen Four Men's Hockey Tournament will be held on April 6th and 8th at the Bradley Center of the University of Wisconsin. The Women's Frozen Four will be held March 24th and 26th at the Mariucci Arena of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. New Hampshire [#1], Harvard, Minnesota, Princeton, St Lawrence, Minnesota Duluth, Wisconsin [#2], and Mercyhurst are all in the Women's tournament. More on the Men's Frozen Four NCAA Championship Tournament next week.

[Update] USCHO.com/CSTV Division I Poll - NCAAsports.com.

San Jose State finishes season 1-2 at National Tournament in Rochester, NY

The Oakland University Grizzlies defeated Liberty 7-6 in overtime Saturday night to win the 2006 ACHA D2 National Championship in Rochester, New York. Oakland's Brandon Lipari [5 goals, 8 assists] was named Tournament MVP. San Jose State finished the tournament 1-2, with losses to Liberty [5-2] and Penn State [4-3], and a win over 2005 defending Champion Michigan State [3-1].

On the opening day of the tournament, San Jose held it close with 4th seed Liberty University. Tied 1-1 after the first period, two goals in the second and third provided Liberty with enough offense to down SJSU 5-2. John Garcia and Sean Scarbrough scored for San Jose. Liberty goaltender Dalton Stoltz made 33 saves on 35 shots for the win. On the second day of the tournament, SJSU came out determined to get revenge for a 12-1 loss to Michigan State in the 2005 ACHA Tournament, which Michigan State went on to win. Michigan State scored first on a goal by David Berger, halfway through the second period. San Jose responded with goals by Kelly Spain, Adam Smith-Toomey, and an empty net goal by Ian Fazzi to earn a 3-1 win and keep the tournament hopes alive.

Circumstances did not work in the Spartans favor, as Liberty defeated Michigan State on the second day. With a 2-0 record and a head-to-head advantage over San Jose, Liberty was a lock to advance to the semis. SJSU lost on Friday 4-3 to the Penn State Lions. San Jose State finished the trip 10th based on tournament results.

Visit SJSUhockey.com or the ACHA National Tournament webpage for more information. Photos from the tournament are available for purchase from SJSU's Don Hoekwater.

From ACHA Hockey:

Brandon Lipari - Forward/Oakland University

All Tournament Team – FIRST TEAM
(F) #10 Brandon Lipari (Oakland)
(F) #71 Alexandre Gelinas (Liberty)
(F) #18 Will McMahon (Oakland)
(D) #4 Jordan Stover (Colorado State)
(D) #22 JJ Price (Davenport)
(G) #33 Dalton Stoltz (Liberty)

All Tournament Team – SECOND TEAM
(F) #11 Marc Lira (Davenport)
(F) #44 Pete Masterton (Liberty)
(F) #28 Angelo Serse (Stony Brook)
(D) #4 Dan Musgrove (Wagner)
(D) #39 Dale Swims (Oakland)
(G) #30 Greg Lindquist (Colorado)

[Update] Denver and Colorado University advanced to the National Tournament as third and fourth seeds, after running the table at the West Regional Tournament at Logitech Ice in San Jose. San Jose State and Colorado College advanced to Nationals as the top two teams in the West during the regular season.

[Update2] Spartans Finish Hockey Season No. 1 - Spartan Thunder.

Blogroll and Sharkspage downtime update

Added HDnet, Direct TV, The Score, and Bell ExpressVu to broadcast links. Added Radio-Canada.ca and The-Hockey.net to radio/podcast links. The-Hockey.net is an archive of informative NHL player interviews from Peter Steen. Added Battle of Alberta and Kulichki to blogs.

Posting will be light on Sharkspage until Monday. Former Sharkspage webhost Justin donated a workstation for the cause, and it will take a few days to stuff it full of hard disks and memory.


NHL suspends Scott Parker 2 games for over-the-plexiglass fight

Scott Parker San Jose Sharks

A press release today from the NHL:


TORONTO (March 13, 2006) – San Jose Sharks’ forward Scott Parker has been suspended for two games, without pay, as a result of being assessed a game misconduct penalty during NHL game #942 against the Nashville Predators on March 11, 2006.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Parker will forfeit $5,971.42. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Parker was assessed a game misconduct as a result of an off-ice incident in which he became involved in an altercation at the Nashville bench at 6:54 of the second period.

Parker will miss tonight’s game against Los Angeles and March 16 against St. Louis. He will be eligible to return March 18 against Dallas.

More on the Parker-Witt incident, and the Sharks 3-2 overtime win against the Nashville Predators can be found here.

This morning, a San Jose Mercury News report was leaning against a suspension. Two games is serious enough to address the off-ice fighting, and lenient enough to acknowledge Nashville's contributions to the mayhem.

[Update] What exactly set off Parker? Time sitting, seeing, and then enforcing - San Jose Mercury News.

Then came the detour. Parker cites Nashville forward Darcy Hordichuk as the cause. "He's leaning over and yapping at me and whatnot," Parker said. "Enough's enough. I'm on the ice and you have a chance to go at me and you guys back down. Then when I'm getting escorted off, everybody wants to talk big. That's not the way it's meant to be played."

Parker also gets a nice verbal jab in at Jordan Tootoo, says that Brendan Witt declined to fight when asked on the ice, and shrugs off Tomas Vokoun's comment that he does not belong in the NHL. Sharks head coach Ron Wilson equates the Brendan Witt Scott Parker ejection with that of Scott Nichol and Milan Michalek.


Sharks edge Predators 3-2 in OT, Scott Parker and Brendan Witt fight over the glass on the bench

Parker Witt fight on the bench

That this was going to be a different type of game became apparent early in the first period. Recently activated Scott Parker, and newly acquired Predator Brendan Witt set the tempo with crushing body checks. A misplayed hip check in the second period sent Sharks rookie Milan Michalek flying along the boards. Another Sharks rookie, Steve Bernier, stepped up for his teammate along with Kyle McLaren. Michalek and Nashville's Scott Nichol were tossed for fighting after the ensuing scuffle. Michalek got the worst of the fight, getting hit several times by Nichol.

Brendan Witt was given 5 for fighting, and 2 minutes for tripping. Scott Nichol was given 2 minutes for roughing, 5 for fighting, and a 10 minute game misconduct. Bernier was given an instigator, unsportsmanlike conduct, 5 for fighting, and a misconduct. Milan Michalek was given 5 for fighting, and a game misconduct. The carnage provided the bulk of the 116 total penalty minutes for the game, but more was on the way.

With each team down a player and tempers still raw, San Jose's Scott Parker took an elbowing penalty on Jordan Tootoo. After arguing with the referee from the penalty box, Parker was escorted to the dressing room. Brendan Witt stood up to yell at Parker through the plexiglass separating both teams. Parker and Witt hopped up on the boards and traded punches before their teammates eventually pulled them apart.

Nashville's Paul Kariya willed the Predators back into this matinee game at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Kariya converted a cross-ice pass during a second period power play, and scored a late goal to tie the game 2-2 with 11 seconds left in the third.

Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff ended the suspense in overtime with a low shot that beat Vokoun for a PP goal. The Sharks 3-2 OT win gave them two crucial points in a tight Western Conference playoff race. Vesa Toskala made 17 saves on 19 shots for his 10th win. Nashville goaltender Tomas Vokoun's spectacular effort fell short as he made 39 saves on 42 shots.

San Jose 3, Nashville 2, OT - Yahoo Sports.

"A player like (Parker) shouldn't be in the NHL anyway," said Vokoun, who made 39 saves. "The penalty cost us more than them. We got an impact player thrown out. They lost a marginal player."

But while the Predators decried Parker as a goon, the Sharks praised him for providing an emotional boost.

"It was kind of old-time hockey," coach Ron Wilson said. "I'm not happy that we had to go to overtime to win, but we certainly deserved both points with the way we played physically."

Scott Parker and Brendan Witt were thrown out of the game after the incident. The fighting majors in the second period were the first of Steve Bernier and Milan Michalek's NHL careers.

Old School Hockey 116 Penalty minutes, 4 game misconducts, 1 overtime goal lead to Sharks' 3-2 win - La Voz Online.

In overtime, the Sharks were fortunate to take advantage of a tripping penalty called on David Legwand. At 2:56 in overtime, Sharks forward Joe Thornton fed a pass to Ehrhoff who wristed a shot through Predators’ goalie Tomas Vokoun.

"I had the lane at that time and I didn't know how quick the guy is going to come back and take my shot away," said Ehrhoff who picked up his fourth goal of the season. Ehrhoff led both teams with 10 shots.

Q & A: Scott Parker - Hockeyfights.com.

[Q] As an NHL enforcer, how do you view fighting as part of the game?

[SP] Fighting limits the injuries that would happen to other players and it polices everybody to stay within the boundaries so things like the Steve Moore incident don't happen more frequently. That's the thing that a lot of people don't see – if one fight happens, it's better than two guys with their legs broken and a collarbone dislodged because of dirty play. Fighting actually limits the injuries that do happen throughout the whole year.

[Update] Interesting note from James Mirtle, as Brendan Witt waited out the trade deadline, the HNIC feature showed him surfing Spectors trade rumors website. A few weeks ago Ken Daneyko mentioned that he was a regular visitor of hockeyfights.com. Daneyko retired from the NHL in 2003 after winning a Stanley Cup Championship with the New Jersey Devils. With 2 assists Saturday against Nashville, Joe Thornton [25G,67A] is tied with Jaromir Jagr for the NHL scoring lead at 92 total points. Video of the Parker-Witt incident is available at Hockeyfights.com with a mirror on Youtube. The Witt vs Bernier, Nichol vs Michalek fights are also mirrored on Youtube.

[Update2] What's hockey without the fights? - The Wave Magazine.

The Sharks enforcer in 2003-04 was Scott Parker, a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder who was picked up in trade from Colorado, primarily "to prevent cheap shots, such as when Jody Shelley of Columbus sucker-punched Brad Stuart" near the end of the 2003 season, says Remenda. Parker, known as "The Sheriff," earned 15 of the Sharks 44 fighting majors in 50 games last season, including three scrums with Shelley.

Injuries have sidelined Parker this season, limiting him to just three games. Meanwhile, rookie defenseman Doug Murray, a November call-up from the minors, could be the next Sharks enforcer. "He is built like a wall and he has a great sense of how to throw a strong body check," Remenda observes.

Murray's only fight came on December 22 in Arizona, after Shane Doan of Phoenix Coyotes took exception to being leveled by a big hit from him. Doan picked himself up from the ice and went after the rookie, dropping his gloves on the way. Murray was ready for him, grabbing Doan and taking him down almost immediately.

Thanks to J.B. at The Wave Magazine for pointing out this Mike Barnhart article in issue #22.


Frank Shamrock, Cesar Gracie face off in first sanctioned MMA event in California

MMA San Jose Shamrock Gracie

Cung Le Strikeforce kickboxing

The first sanctioned MMA event in California takes place tonight as former UFC middleweight champion Frank Shamrock (20-7-1) faces undefeated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Cesar Gracie (14-0). 3-time ISKA Champion and 4-time K1 Superfight winner Cung Le (16-0), Fairtex's Gilbert Melendez (10-0), and Eugene "The Wolf" Jackson will also compete at HP Pavilion in San Jose. For tickets and more information visit the official event website at shamrockvsgracie.com.

Sherdog.com is providing wall-to-wall coverage with a pre-fight photo gallery, and features on Cesar Gracie, Frank Shamrock and Cung Le. The San Jose Mercury News previewed the event earlier this week, and Fairtex notes that Gilbert Melendez is ready to take the next step. The official event website posted features on WWE "Tough Enough" reality show winner Daniel Puder, heavyweight Krzysztof "The Experiment" Soszynski, and Cung Le as he gears up for his cage fighting debut.

The Contra Costa Times reports that MMA's Ultimate Debut in California is a step in the sport's growing popularity.

"It was around 2000 when we got together with the state of New Jersey," Ratner said. "We got together representatives of martial arts groups such as Pride, King of the Cage and UFC, and hammered out united rules for mixed martial arts. That's where we started. New Jersey had the first one, and we followed with our first mixed martial arts card in September of 2001."

Nevada has hosted about 25 mixed martial arts events since then, according to Ratner.

"We had a fight in February, Chuck Liddell against Randy Couture, that did $3.382 million at the gate," Ratner said. "The big Fernando Vargas-Shane Mosley boxing match (on Feb. 26) did $3.6 million at the gate. That shows that mixed martial arts is big business. It's been a great moneymaking venture for our state, and the crowd loves it."

California noticed.

Shamrock/Gracie Updated Card - MMAnews.com.

The popularity of martial arts related events in the Bay Area has been growing steadily. The 2005 Strikeforce Fighting Championship was held at HP Pavilion last year, with 11 different full contact, Muay Thai, San Shou, and International kickboxing fights on the card. San Jose's Cung Le and Gary Owens, San Mateo's Brian Schwartz, Ra'Karma Young, Ryan Roy and Lynda Loyce of San Francisco all competed.

Local Sanshou champion Cung Le regularly hosts amateur San Shou and Muay Thai events as part of the Born to Fight series. A few photos from last year's B2F event are here.

Berkeley held the First Annual UC Yongmudo Championship and Martial Arts Expo in October with competitors from the prestigous Yonggin University of South Korea team participating. San Jose State added Judo to their curriculum in 1937, and SJSU judo coach Yosh Uchida became the first USA Olympic judo head coach in 1964. The SJSU Judo program has spawned a long list of Olympic and International judo champions. The 2005 Silicon Valley Open Tae Kwon Do Championship was held at the San Jose Civic Auditorium in October.

San Jose is one of the leading areas for mixed martial arts training. There are too many training gyms to list, but after tonight I will link to a few of the most popular ones.

SJSU also has a sumo wrestling connection. San Jose was the second American city to host a Sumo Basho outside of Japan in 1993 [NYC was the first in 1985]. Akebono, Konishiki, and Musashimaru competed in San Jose for $50,000 in prize money according to the Mercury News. Last year, Las Vegas held a Grand Basho with a top to bottom lineup of top sumo wrestlers in early October.

World Sumo Challenge

The 2005 World Sumo Challenge at Madison Square Garden was a hit with the media on a slow news week in New York City. Sharkspage's photos and notes from the amateur sumo competition are here, including a Musashimaru siting. In a pre-fight press conference, the promoter from Big Boy Productions mentioned a desire to bring more amateur sumo events to different venues across the USA. The 2006 US Sumo Open will be held for amateurs at the Los Angeles Convention Center on April 9th.

This is more of a list of local martial arts events than a regular blog post, but it is nice to have all the links in one place. In my experience, a lot of younger fans are drawn to mixed martial arts events because they can see the particular styles they study play out inside the ring. You can see a fighter with a Jiu-Jitsu background face off against a kickboxer, a boxer vs a judo specialist, etc. An even bigger appeal is the fact that what you see inside the rink is real.

[Update] With the UFC on the Spike Network, the Japan-based Pride Fighting Championships on Fox Sports, K1 on ESPN, in addition to several events on PPV, the exposure of mixed martial arts in the USA has never been greater.

Long march to playoffs begins with 5-2 win over Edmonton Oilers

Challenged both internally and externally earlier this week, the Sharks came up with one of their best performances of the year in a 5-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers. Newly acquired left wing Ville Nieminen debuted on a line with Alyn McCauley and Scott Parker, and picked up 5 hits in 15:21 minutes of ice time. The Michalek-Marleau-Bernier line provided the bulk of the offense, piling up 4 goals and 4 assists. Joe Thornton also scored for San Jose.

Jarret Stoll and Raffi Torres scored for the Edmonton Oilers. Dwayne Roloson had a rough debut for Edmonton, one day after the Oilers traded a 2006 first round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild for his services. Roloson [6-18-0, 3.08GAA, .908SV%] made 26 saves on 31 shots in a losing effort. Vesa Toskala [9-6-0, 2.99GAA, .889SV%] made 19 saves on 21 shots to pick up a crucial home win for the San Jose Sharks.

The win gives the San Jose Sharks [29-23-9] 67 points in 61 games played. The Sharks trail the Edmonton Oilers [32-22-9] by 7 points for 8th place in the Western Conference standings. The Detroit Red Wings [42-15-5] lead the Western Conference with 89 points in 62 games played.

Sharks show some life, gain ground with victory over Oilers - SF Chronicle.

Sharks narrow gap with Oilers - SJ Mercury News.

Rolli Left Alone, Oilers don't offer newcomer much support in crucial loss - Edmonton Sun.

Defence goes in the Tank, Sharks third-period feeding frenzy spoils Roloson's debut in Edmonton net - Edmonton Journal.

After getting a goalie and a goal scorer at the NHL trade deadline, the Oilers got next to nothing from their defence Thursday night and wound up dropping a 5-2 decision in the HP Pavilion.

"They could have blown us out if he hadn't made some good saves. We just gave up too many opportunities," said blue-liner Steve Staios, who had his share of struggles. "We were standing in front of the net. We didn't give him a very good chance. "Not a very good welcome for him. We'll be better."


NHL Trade deadline wire-to-wire liveblog

- From NHL.com:

NHL clubs made a record 25 trades, involving 40 players, between 9 a.m.-3 p.m. ET Thursday. The number of trades eclipses the previous trading deadline high of 24, set in 2003, while the number of players involved ranks second all-time to the 46 in 2003.

A complete chart of the NHL deadline transactions.

- Poll on OLN: Which team is most likely to trade for a Goaltender?

Poll Results: 39% Edmonton Oilers, 24% Vancouver Canucks, 23% Colorado Avalanche, 12% Ottawa Senators.

86% of the answers were correct. Edmonton traded for Dwayne Roloson, Vancouver traded for Mika Noronen with Cloutier out for the season, Colorado swapped David Aebischer for the Canadiens Jose Theodore, and the Ottawa Senators picked up Mike Morrison on the waiver wire to back up Ray Emery.

- TSN's Jay Onrait blogged the trade deadline day as well. Click here for part 1, or here for part 2. Complete list of all the trades from TSN here.

- Leafs silent on deadline day, Toronto was the only Canadian team not to make a deal Thursday - Sportsnet.ca.

- A press release from the San Jose Sharks on roster moves for tonight's game with the Edmonton Oilers:

SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has activated Scott Parker from Injured Reserve and recalled goaltender Nolan Schaefer from the Cleveland Barons, the Sharks top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Parker has missed the last 26-games on his latest Injured List stint. He has missed 56 games this season in total, all related to a head injury suffered in training camp. He has appeared in three games this season, totaling one goal and six penalty minutes...

This will mark Schaefer's third recall to San Jose this season. In seven NHL games this season, he has posted a 5-1-0 record with a 1.88 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. He was victorious in his first five appearances, becoming the first Shark to begin his career with five consecutive wins. Schaefer also posted his first career shutout in a 1-0 overtime win against Anaheim on Nov. 4.

Sharks goaltender Vesa Toskala was named the San Jose Seagate Player of the Month today. Toskala earned a 4-0-1 record in February, registering a .929 save percentage and a 2.15 goals against average.

Toskala is expected to start in net across the ice from brand new Edmonton Oiler goalie Dwayne Roloson. Newly acquired forward Villie Nieminen will also make his first start for the San Jose Sharks tonight.

Oilers vs. Sharks: Line-up Card & Statistics - Edmontonoilers.com.

Oilers acquire Sergei Samsonov from Boston - Edmontonoilers.com.

- More late trades breaking across the wire: The Pittsburgh Penguins send defenseman Ric Jacman to Florida for center Petr Taticek, the NY Islanders traded forward Oleg Kvasha to the Phoenix Coyotes for a 3rd round pick, the Calgary Flames pick up center Jamie Lundmark from Phoenix for a 3rd round pick, the Minnesota Wild trade defenseman Willie Mitchell and a 2nd round draft pick for Dallas Stars defenseman Martin Skoula and Shawn Belle, Chicago Blackhawks trade center Jim Dowd to Colorado for a 4th round pick, and the Vancouver Canucks trade defenseman Steve McCarthy to Atlanta Thrashers for conditional draft pick.

- Some players react to being traded differently than others.

- Vancouver picked up another veteran defenseman, Eric Weinrich. Tomas Mojzis and a 3rd round pick were sent to the St Louis Blues. Someone take away Dave Nonis's Vancouver Canucks credit card, he is on a blueline shopping spree at the trade deadline.

The Canucks picked up a trio of defenseman in Sean Brown, Keith Carney, and Eric Weinrich. Mika Noronen was added to back up Alex Auld, with Dan Cloutier out for the season. The Canucks needed to shore up their defensive corps with Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund, and Sammy Salo on injured reserve. The Canucks filled holes that needed to be filled, but the Edmonton Oilers reloaded an already stocked team for a playoff run. It is close, but I still have to give this deadline day to Edmonton.

[Correction] The Ottawa Senators picked up second line center Tyler Arnason from Chicago for right winger Brandon Bochenski. Puzzling trade by Chicago. Arnason is a young player that the team could build around. But the rich get richer.

- Larry Wigge is one of the regular columnists at Stlouisblues.com.

Niko Dimitrakos

- Sharks right winger Niko Dimitrakos was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for a third round draft pick according to TSN. Confirmed from SI.

Dimitrakos had 4 goals and 12 assists in 45 games played for the San Jose Sharks this season. The photo above was Niko Dimitrakos's OT game winning goal to open the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs with a 1-0 win over the St Louis Blues.

- Audio from Cory Cross, Luke Richardson, Dwayne Roloson, Marty McSorely, and Tomas Kaberle is available from Toronto FAN590. It would be nice if TSN, and ESPN added a half hour or hour podcasts of their trade deadline recaps.

- Assorted musings before the NHL trade deadline lowers its boom on fans - Jim Kelley.

Miikka Kiprusoff last week became the first goalie to hit the 30-win mark this season and he has a good shot at breaking the franchise record for most wins by a goalie. That honour currently belongs to Mike Vernon, who notched 39 regular season wins the year the Flames won their only Stanley Cup.

As someone who has been able to watch Miikka Kiprusoff's athleticism, and Evgeni Nabokov's confidence and anticipation firsthand for several years, I went out on a limb in 2003 and said San Jose backup goaltender Vesa Toskala might have the best career potential out of all three. Kiprusoff went on to reel off the best regular season goals against average in the modern era, and Nabokov threw 3 shutouts in the 2006 Olympics, but that is a statement I could still stand behind.

- More on Edmonton, 2 of the 3 major goaltending controverseys seeing significant movement [Fernandez-Roloson in Minnesota, Miller-Biron-Noronen in Buffalo, and Nabokov-Toskala-Schaefer in San Jose], and any trades I missed coming up later today.

- Not only did Edmonton pick up Chris Pronger in the offseason, and take two of the brightest offensive-defenseman options off the table long before the trade deadline [Jaroslav Spacek and Dick Tarnstrom], but the Edmonton Oilers acquired Sergei Samsonov from the Boston Bruins for Marty Reasoner, prospect Yan Stastny and a 2nd-round pick.

Along with the trade for Minnesota Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson yesterday, Edmonton wins the Sharkspage trade deadline title hands down.

Who do the San Jose Sharks face tonight? The Edmonton Oilers. It will be interesting to see who suits up for Edmonton tonight, who is on the plane departing Silicon Valley for parts unknown, and who will be called up to fill in until newly acquired players can arrive. This could be shades of the Detroit Red Wings missing 5 Swedish Olympians and getting pummeled by the Sharks 5-1.

The Edmonton Oilers (32-21-9) face off against the San Jose Sharks (28-23-9) tonight at the HP Pavilion in San Jose (8:30 p.m. MST, Oilers PPV). The Oilers will have a new look between the pipes as Dwayne Roloson will make his debut with Edmonton.

Tonight's game has huge playoff implications for the Sharks as they sit eight points behind the Oilers with two games in hand. A win could move them within striking distance of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference but a loss would almost assuredly eliminate them from playoff contention.

- Edmonton Oilers acquire speedy forward Sergei Samsonov from Boston - Edmonton Sun.

- Mark Recchi traded from Pittsburgh to the Carolina Hurricanes for Niklas Nordgren, Krys Kolanos and a 2nd-round draft pick. Carolina President and GM Jim Rutherford on the acquistion of Recchi:

"Mark is an accomplished goal scorer and playmaker who will be an asset to the Hurricanes forward lines," said Rutherford. "His playoff experience will provide added leadership for our team as we look forward to the postseason."

This trade deadline pales in comparison to one of the largest salary dumps in NHL history by the Pittsburgh Penguins in February of 2003.

- If you wanted Olli Jokinen from the Florida Panthers, you were going to have to pull a Mike Ditka, put on a wig and trade your entire team for him. Mike Keenan, NHL's version of Mike Ditka, signed Jokinen to a 4-year, $21-million contract extention.

Florida Panthers radio announcer "Goldie" Goldstein's trade deadline blog.

- James Mirtle's 2006 trade deadline recap. But who wants trade news in such an easy to read, detailed, succient format?

- The busy Anaheim Mighty Ducks traded veteran defenseman Keith Carney to the Vancouver Cancucks for prospect Brett Skinner and a second-round pick originally from the Islanders.

Earlier in the day the Canucks traded for defenseman Sean Brown from the New Jersey Devils for a 4th round draft pick, and acquired goaltender Mika Noronen from the Buffalo Sabres. More on Noronen later.

The Canucks took the biggest hit at the Olympics, losing defenseman Mattias Ohlund and defenseman Sammy Salo to injuries. The SF Chronicle's Ross McKeon laid out the injury toll from the international competition:

The Canucks' top defensemen, Mattias Ohlund (ribs) and Sammy Salo (shoulder), the Senators' No. 1 goalie, Dominik Hasek (groin), the Flyers' leading goal scorer, Simon Gagne (knee), the Kings' fourth-leading scorer, Alexander Frolov (shoulder), the Devils' top offensive threat, Patrick Elias (ribs), and the Blues' second-leading scorer, Petr Cajanek (wrist), all got dinged during the tourney.

The Canucks were already without the services of defenseman Ed Jovanovski, on IR after abdominal surgery. So the Canucks respond by adding the veteran Keith Carney, and a solid Sean Brown. The freefall in the playoff standings some were predicting for the Canucks down the stretch may not materialize.

- The Phoenix Coyotes traded defenseman Sean O'Donnell to division rival Anaheim for center Joel Perrault, and traded a 7th round draft pick to the Detroit Red Wings for defenseman Jamie Rivers.

- The internet is sluggish right now. Blame Canada. TSN and Sportsnet are down. Feel for their systems administrators right about now.

- The trade deadline is technically up, but trade news usually filters in for 30 minutes to an hour after the deadline. More on the rest of the moves today coming shortly.

- The New York Rangers acquired Sandis Ozolinsh from the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for a 3rd round draft pick. Ozolinsh looked solid against the Sharks on Tuesday.

- In addition to his Prince of Pucks column, and personal trade rumors website, Lyle Richardson [aka Spector] has a new blog up on Fox Sports. Latest trades: Red Wings acquire Cory Cross from Pittsburgh Penguins, Brendan Witt traded from Washington to the Nashville Predators for a first round draft pick and Kris Beech.

- Breaking Up is Hard to Do - Ted's Take. Link via Eric McErlain at Offwing, who gives Captials GM George McPhee an "A" for his deadline moves.

Jeff Friesen

- Jeff Friesen was traded by the Washington Capitals to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks for a 2nd round draft pick according to TSN.

Friesen has struggled to get up to speed after suffering through injuries this season, and has scored 3 goals and 4 assists in only 33 games played. Jeff Friesen was initially traded to Anaheim in 2001 along with Steve Shields and a second round pick as Selanne went to the San Jose Sharks.

Earlier this eason I asked Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis about Friesen's struggle with injuries this year:

[Q] What do you think of the play of Jeff Friesen, who went down with a groin injury?

[TL] I have always admired his game. I thought he would be fabulous for us. He has always been fast and worked very well defensively. And he never was injured. He really struggled because of his health. He has a severe groin injury, and he has not played for around 20 games.

I have gotten to know him personally. He is really happy here. He likes the guys, he likes the coaches, he likes the building. He is itching to get back out there. He is another reason our power play is struggling. He was on our second power play unit.

A transcript of Jeff Friesen's postgame comments to reporters in 2001 from his first game in San Jose after being traded to Anaheim. Friesen has since played with the Devils and Capitals before returning to southern California.

- Kukla's Korner is flexing his bionic posting skills today as he covers the NHL trade deadline reports that come across the wire.

- The Philadelphia Flyers sent two 2nd round draft picks and minor league forward Josh Gratton to the Phoenix Coyotes for defenseman Denis Gauthier. The Flyers needed to shore up the blueline with Johnsson and Therien out, and Derian Hatcher going down with a knee injury Wednesday night against Carolina. Broadstreetbully.com should be happy with this acquisition. Opposing forwards need to know where Gauthier is on the ice at all times.

- Highlights from trade deadline eve:

The Montreal Canadiens traded goaltender Jose Theodore to the Colorado Avalanche for David Aebischer. Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix first brought Patrick Roy to Colorado, and with this trade the Avalanche are betting that Theodore will return to form and become a franchise goaltender for many years. The Canadiens remove a player who has been a magnet of controversy for the team, and find a solid backup who could challenge Cristobal Huet for the starting job. Theodore is expected to be out until late March with a heel injury.

The San Jose Sharks traded a third round 2006 draft pick to the New York Rangers for winger Ville Nieminen. The price is high, but no players or prospects were given up in the deal and Nieminen could provide a spark that the Sharks desperately need to get back into the playoff hunt. More on Nieminen here.

The Minnesota Wild finally made a move to break up one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL. The Wild traded Dwayne Roloson to the Edmonton Oilers for a first round pick in the 2006 entry draft. Manny Fernandez is now the uncontested #1 in Minnesota, but the Wild could suffer the effects of dealing Roloson to a conference rival 7 points ahead of them in the standings for the last playoff spot.

Edmonton waived goaltender Mike Morrison, who was picked up by the Ottawa Senators today. Morrison will back up Ottawa's Roy Emerey while Hasek is out with an injury suffered at the Olympics. The Oilers sent Ty Conklin down to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack and will go with a rotation of Jussi Markkanen and Dwayne Roloson in net.

Leafs Nation made two deals: Defenseman Ken Klee was traded to the New Jersey Devils for right wing Aleksander Suglobov, and acquired Luke Richardson from the Columbus Blue Jackets for a conditional draft pick. Richardson was initially drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1987, and logged time in Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia and Columbus before returning to the Leafs at the 2006 deadline.

The last notable trade on trade deadline eve saw defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, left wing Jeff Tambellini, and a conditional 3rd round pick go to the New York Islanders with right wing Mark Parrish and defenseman Brent Sopel going to the Los Angeles Kings. A few pundits are predictably labeling this a lopsided deal in favor of the Kings, but Grebeshkov is a smooth skating offensive-minded defenseman, and Tambellini is a blue chip offensive prospect. Kings get fire power now, Islanders get two players who could provide significant contributions in the future.

- NHL trade deadline at 12 noon PT today.


Sharks acquire Ville Nieminen from NY Rangers for a third round pick

Breaking over the trade wire, the San Jose Sharks traded a 3rd round 2006 draft pick to the NY Rangers for agitating forward Ville Nieminen. The 6-0, 200-pound Finnish winger has 5 goals, and 12 assists for 17 points in 48 games played for the Rangers this season. According to NHLPA.com, Nieminen's compensation for 2005-06 is listed at $700,000.

In Olympic play for Finland, Nieminen scored a goal and an assist in 8 games to help his team take home the silver medal. Ville Nieminen also represented Finland in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, the 2002 Olympics, and the 1997 World Junior Championships. Nieminen was an integral part of last season's Calgary Flames playoff run. The Darryl Sutter coached team downed San Jose in 6 games to advance to the 2004 Stanley Cup finals.

The NHL trade deadline is Thursday at 3PM ET/Noon PT. Look for news of trades to break on TSN, Sportsnet.ca, and Spectors. There will be a liveblog on Sharkspage Thursday covering all of the deadline deals.

More from ESPN's Scott Burnside:

Funny, this is the kind of deal the Rangers used to make, but in reverse. The Sharks are a long-shot to make the playoffs, but by adding Nieminen, they bring in a player who won a Cup in Colorado in 2001 and went to the seventh game of the 2004 Cup final with the Flames.

[Update] Sharks Acquire Nieminen From Rangers - SF Chronicle.

"He brings grit, and he gets very involved in the game," [Doug] Wilson said. "You saw what he did at the Olympics with Finland, and he plays very well in the playoffs. He just has that energy that you need. Every team that he goes to, he makes them better."...

"I like our team, and I believe in our team a lot," Wilson said. "I think we're all frustrated that we haven't performed up to our capabilities. I also know that sometimes you need some type of spark to get you going. Ville is that type of spark type of player."

The addition of Ville Nieminen will bolster the Sharks lineup which is backing into the trade deadline with three straight losses. Initial thoughts are that Ville could skate on the third line with Scott Thornton and Marcel Goc, but a Thornton/Smith/Nieminen line could cause more than a few matchup problems. Key is the fact that a player or a prospect were not given up to get Nieminen.

The Sharks are going to need a huge run to have a shot at the playoffs this season. That run will require a lot of goals. The strength of San Jose last season was balanced scoring from three different lines. This season the offense drastically drops off after the first line. If the Sharks can not create more goals from the second line and the blueline, and use Nieminen to cobble together an effective third line, the playoffs may be out of reach.

[Update2] Ville Nieminen siirtyy San Jose Sharksiin - jatkoaika.com.

SJSU begins ACHA National Tournament in Rochester

San Jose State, the top seed in Pool B, begins play in the ACHA D2 National Tournament in Rochester, NY today. SJSU faces Liberty at 4PM, 2005 defending champion Michigan State Thursday at 12:30PM, and Penn State Friday at 1PM. The semifinal round will begin early Saturday morning, with the Championship scheduled later in the day at 5PM.

Visit the official ACHA tournament page for more information. Live online radio broadcasts are available on the tournament website, with a nightly recap at the end of each day. SJSUhockey.com will also post interviews from Rochester.

Denver advanced to nationals as a #3 seed, with a 6-2 win over Weber State at the West Regional tournament in San Jose. Colorado University held off EWU 5-3 with a late empty net goal to win a trip to nationals, and a #4 seed. San Jose State [#1] and Colorado State [#2] earned byes as the top two teams from the West. Photos and results from the Regional tournament in San Jose are available here and here.

[Update] San Jose State dropped their first game of the tournament 5-2 to Liberty, Colorado State shut out Bryant 3-0, Denver lost to Indiana PA 5-1, and Colorado lost to Stonybrook 2-1. SJSU's next opponent, Michigan State, defeated Penn State 4-3 in OT. The game of the day was a 10-9 Oakland win over Indiana in overtime.

Kyle McLaren and Scott Thornton question lack of team effort after weekend losses

Earlier this week, San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren addressed the Sharks performance in back-to-back losses to Edmonton and Calgary on the Rick and Rod show. McLaren, a hard hitting team leader, questioned the effort that several San Jose Sharks brought to the ice.

[Rod] There was a quote I saw from Scott Thornton after the Flames game that said at times in the game we worked hard, we had some individuals working hard, but we also had some passengers. Now I am not looking for you to come out with any names and blast your teammates. I know that is not the way you work. I am curious, you know you guys have to get it going to get into the playoffs. How is it that a couple of guys or a group of guys are not actively engaged in the game as they should be in this situation?

[Kyle McLaren] I wish I knew too. This time of the year with 23 games left to go you don't need any passengers. Its all drivers. That comment has to hit home now. We can not wait another 2-3, or even 1 week. We have to get everyone on the same page. We should be on the same page now, its been 4 or 5 months since the start of the season. After the trade we have played well, but its been kind of a roller coaster season.

For us to make the playoffs we need 20 guys, even 23 guys need to be working hard in practice, and in games, being prepared to play every single night. What killed us in Calgary was the first 5 minutes of the game not coming out and playing hard. That's inexcusable. That is our fault. We can't let that happen anymore.

Kyle McLaren was named the Sharks October "Player of the Month" for leading the team in hits [30], blocked shots [22], finishing second in defensive scoring [1G, 5A], and second in average ice time [23:26]. McLaren currently has 2 goals and 17 assists in 55 games played. Audio of the Rick and Rod interview is archived at KNBR's instant replay.

Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle published the quote Rod was referring to after the Sharks 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday.

"At times we worked hard, we had some individuals working hard, but we also had some passengers," Sharks forward Scott Thornton said. "We can't have that at this time of the year."

The San Jose Sharks [28-23-9] trail the 8th place Edmonton Oilers [32-21-9] by 8 points after a 5-4 OT loss in Anaheim on Tuesday. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks [29-20-12] are 3 points behind the Oilers, and the Minnesota Wild [30-28-6] are out of the final playoff spot by 7 points. The Detroit Red Wings [41-15-5] lead the Western Conference with 87 overall points in 61 games played.

Not trying to make this post completely negative, but I have to point out a cheap shot taken on a Sharks team report by the Sports Network.


Left wing Scott Thornton hasn't been playing up to par. Instead of competing in individual time trials at the Amen [sic] Tour of California, Thornton could have spent more time on the ice. Granted cycling will keep Thornton's legs in shape, but how can he improve on nine goals and nine assists with no stick to practice with?

Scott Thornton has 9 goals and 9 assists for 18 points in 55 games played. The veteran left winger is 11th in scoring this season for the Sharks.

Scott Thornton and Mike Ricci struggled in 2003-04 to put pucks in the net, but both made extraordinary efforts to get the puck to linemate Jonathan Cheechoo who put up a then career high 28 goals. It was as entertaining to watch Thornton make a blind pass with a defenseman draped on him, or Ricci dish the puck seconds before hitting the ice, as it was to see Cheechoo deflect the puck into the net with a stick between his legs.

20 goals is a benchmark that Scott Thornton may or may not achieve this season, but it has absolutely nothing to do with his riding a Tour of California time trial course. Zero. His participation not only helped the inaugural cycling race, but it also drew attention back to the NHL after a long Winter Olympic hiatus.

[Update] Sharks forced to own up to defeat, San Jose loses to the Mighty Ducks after an own-goal in overtime - Contra Costa Times.

[Update2] Sharks Scott Thornton isn't your typical 'Joe' - NHLPA.com.


Honoring Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman San Jose sports hall of fame

Nearing the second anniversary of Pat Tillman's death, many in the media are calling for a criminal investigation from the Pentagon, reports of an ongoing investigation by the Defense Department are surfacing, but the most appropriate way to honor Pat Tillman may have been voiced by the Merc's Mark Purdy:

Now, in yet one more twist, comes the announcement that the Pentagon has launched a criminal probe into Tillman's death. Internet message boards have whipped up conspiracy theories, wondering who Tillman's real enemies might have been. Some people say it's wrong to give him more honor and glory than our other dead soldiers. Some say that anyone who questions the Army is being disrespectful...

But guess what? None of it has anything to do with Tillman's spirit, or with the qualities he brought to the table as a football player and human being -- namely, considerable passion, insatiable curiosity and an almost demented love for his sport. In my few brief interviews with the guy, his energy practically leaked out of his body into my notebook.

So let me simplify one part of this for you. If you empathize at all with Tillman's friends and family as they cope with these complications, or if you admired Tillman in any way, or if you want to pay tribute to the American troops who fought alongside him, let me offer you this suggestion:


Pat Tillman was inducted into the 10th Anniversary class of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in September 2004 along with John Brodie, Amy Chow, and Kurt Rambis. A complete list of San Jose Sports Hall of Fame inductees can be seen here.

The Pat Tillman Foundation is sponsoring the 4.2 mile Pat's Run April 15th in Tempe, Arizona, and April 30th in San Jose, California. The first run in 2005 drew over 5,578 participants. More information can be found at PatTillmanFoundation.org or the or patsrun.com.

[Update] Pentagon Probes Possible Tillman Cover-Up - Washington Post.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll Released For March 6-12

The latest college hockey poll from USA Today and USAhockey.com:

University of Minnesota Unanimous No. 1 For Third Straight Week On USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Minnesota claimed the No. 1 spot for the fifth consecutive week on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. The Golden Gophers swept a weekend series against the University of Minnesota Duluth and garnered all 34 first-place votes for the third straight week.

Moving up four spots to No. 7 is the University of Denver, which took three points from No. 9 Colorado College during last weekend's home-and-home series. Also moving up four spots to No. 11 is the University of Nebraska Omaha, which swept Bowling Green State University in two games in the first round of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.

NOTES: The 2005-06 Division I regular season came to a close last weekend. The Atlantic Hockey Association, College Hockey America, CCHA, Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League, Hockey East Association and Western Collegiate Hockey Association have all entered their playoffs ... There are no top-15 match-ups this week.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 11th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the official publication of USA Hockey.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #22

(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week, Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1. University of Minnesota, 510 (34), 1, 25-6-5, 22
2. Miami (Ohio) University, 472, 2, 23-7-4, 18
3. Boston University, 432, 3, 21-9-4, 12
4. University of Wisconsin, 394, 6, 23-9-3, 22
5. Michigan State University, 384, 5, 20-10-8, 13
6. University of Maine, 325, 7, 24-10-2, 22
7. University of Denver, 262, 11, 20-13-3, 19
8. Cornell University, 258, 8, 18-7-4, 22
9. Colorado College, 233, 4, 23-13-2, 22
10. University of North Dakota, 212, 10, 23-14-1, 22
11. University of Nebraska Omaha, 161, 15, 20-12-6, 4
12. University of New Hampshire, 125, 12, 18-11-7, 20
13. Boston College, 119, 9, 20-11-3, 22
14. University of Michigan, 71, 13, 18-13-5, 22
15. Harvard University, 66, 14, 17-10-2, 8

Others receiving votes: University of Vermont, 22; St. Cloud State University, 6; Dartmouth College, 4; Sacred Heart University, 3; Northern Michigan University, 1.

Inside College Hockey has a list of college hockey playoff tournament brackets for the AHA, CCHA, CHA, ECACHL, Hockey East, and the WCHA. The Minnesota Gophers also top the USCHO.com/CSTV Networks college hockey poll helped by a 12-game winning streak [poll results here].

College Sports TV hosts a livechat with Denver defenseman Matt Carle today at 1PM. CSTV also takes a stab at college hockey playoff bracketology and predicts which teams will be the ones to watch in the upcoming conference tournaments.

[Update] February college prospects notebook - Hockeys Future.

[Update2] Yale's 5 OT win over Union sets longest game mark - ESPN.

It took nearly two full games' worth of hockey for Yale and Union to settle their first-round ECAC Hockey League playoff game.

David Meckler scored a short-handed goal at 1:35 of the fifth overtime to give Yale a 3-2 win over Union on Saturday, capping the longest men's hockey game in NCAA history. The win gave Yale a two-game sweep of the best-of-three first-round series.

At 141 minutes, 35 seconds, the game eclipsed a 1997 WCHA playoff game between Colorado College and Wisconsin that went 129:30.


A day at the track - Rain or Shine, Golden Gate Fields races 9

Golden Gate Fields Horse Racing

Golden Gate Fields Horse Racing

Photo gallery from Saturday's races at Golden Gate Fields here.

Sandwiched between two heavy storms, the sun beat down on a full day of horse racing Saturday at Golden Gate Fields. The landmark sports venue hosted 6 races at six furlongs, one at a mile, and two at a longer mile and sixteenth length. Several tracks were broadcasting live simulcasts for patrons to wager on, but most in attendance were alternating between the live action in front of them and the million dollar Santa Anita Hanidcap.

The fourth race at Golden Gate Fields was the first that jumped out off of the program. The #8 horse in dark pink and purple, Flyer Mine, stared down jockeys, race officials, and fans as they gathered to examine the field in the pre-race walkthrough. Flyer Mine got loose from one harness, and kicked a wall when they put on a second. Flyer Mine was able to put plenty of distance on the second and third place No More Borsch and Touchdown USC for an uncontested win.

Sacred Senor sprinted out to the front in the sixth race, the first mile and sixteenth effort on the day. The rest of the horses were bunched up at the first turn, three across at one point. The GG program preview of the race picked three horses that did not make the top 5, but the Daily Racing Form called for fans to look for Derby Rider [#10] at the 8th pole. Happy Zone [#8] and Sacred Senor [#6] were neck and neck coming out of the final turn. Almost on cue, Derby Rider turned it on and finished first by a head.

The seventh race was another lesson in watching the horses instead of betting on the odds. Brooker, the #3 horse owned by Dennis Avila and trained by Doug F. O'Neil, snorted and stomped his way around the pre-race walkthrough. He was easily the most excited horse in the field, and one that earned five straight wins last year. Brooker came from behind on a hard sprint to earn a late victory.

The eighth race was the final mile and sixteenth length. The race featured leading local owner and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer [working three horses] and the top two jockeys in Northern California, Russell Baze and Martin Garcia. Adreamisborn and Sharp Writer were the pre-race favorites, with Baze in pink and blue atop Adreamisborn [#1a]. #4 Symphony Sid led at the final turn. Adreamisborn was almost blocked out by two horses on either side, but Baze managed to squeeze through and sprint to a 1/2 length win. Daily Racing Form nailed the prediction on this race as well.

Adreamisborn is too tough - Goldengatefields.com.

The 7-year-old gelding Adreamisborn scored his seventh career stakes victory Saturday when he charged down the stretch to win the $41,050 San Quentin Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. Ridden by Russell Baze, Adreamisborn rallied between horses to take the 1 1/16 miles race for older horses by 1 1/2 lengths over Alexandersun in 1:42.53. Symphony Sid finished third.

Adreamisborn was coupled in the wagering with stablemate Sharp Writer, who finished fifth in the field of six. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained entry was made a 3-to-5 favorite and Adreamisborn paid $3.20. Adreamisborn is owned in partnership by Hollendorfer, Mark DeDomenico and George Todaro. The San Quentin win was worth $23,050 and increased Adreamisborn's earnings to $669,580.

The first race I placed a bet on was in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in southern California. Last year's Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo was picked to finish third behind High Limit and Lava Man. This was expected to be a three horse race, so a top three finish for Giacomo was a safe bet. Unfortunately it was not even close. Pre-race favorite High Limit finished fourth, and Giacomo finished fifth out of a field of nine. Lava Man beat Magnum by three quarters of a length at the wire for his ninth win in 29 starts.

Thanks to Golden Gate Fields, publicity manager Tom Ferrall and track photographer Bill Vasser for the opportunity to watch a great day of racing. Free race replays are available with multiple views from calracing.com [select 3/4 on the calendar], and the photo finish shots from February are available here.

[Update] Bay Meadows title is split Baze, 20-year-old, share jockey crown - SF Chronicle.

[Update2] Bay Meadows Weathers Wet Winter Meet - Bloodhorse.com.

Racing at Bay Meadows, which is under imminent threat of redevelopment in the next two years, resumes May 10 for another brief meeting that ends June 18. Thurman says she expects business to improve significantly with better weather.

"We're all sort of hopeful," Thurman said of the track's future. "We're continuing to work hard to keep it going."

[Update3] Jockey's struggle eclipses any race - SF Chronicle.


Blogroll update

Added the Toronto Star's Damien Cox, ESPN's E.J. Hradek [PPV], and Colby Cosh to the media blogs list. Added the Philadelphia Inquirer, National Post and the O.C. Register to the NHL news links, and Japer's Rink to blogs.

The 8th place Edmonton Oilers activated captain Jason Smith and left wing Ethan Moreau Friday, and received a goal from Ales Hemsky with 1:07 left in the third period to defeat the 10th place San Jose Sharks 3-2. The Oilers pulled out of a four game losing streak and handed the Sharks their first loss in 5 games. Ty Conklin made 19 saves on 21 shots for the win. Vesa Toskala made 27 saves on 30 shots to lose for the first time in 11 starts.

Late Hemsky goal snaps Oilers' losing streak - Edmonton Sun.

Cheech and Chong make great pair - The Edmonton Journal.

Only five players - Jaromir Jagr, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Simon Gagne and Eric Staal - have more goals this season, yet Cheechoo could walk down Jasper Ave and probably not get asked for an autograph.

"He should be a big name, but not too many people know about him. Yet he's scored the most goals in the league since Dec. 1," said Thornton. "All I know is he's easy to play with. I like to pass and he's a great shooter."

Sharks blow it, giving up two goals in last four minutes in Edmonton - San Francisco Chronicle.


Owen Nolan will not return to NHL this season, plans on signing during offseason

TSN broke the story today that Owen Nolan is not going to return to the NHL this season. According to the right winger, the rehab from knee surgery did not progress enough to make a comeback feasible for this season.

"I have decided not to resume playing hockey this season," Nolan said. "My knee is still not at the stage where I could be cleared to play. I was looking forward to signing and making an impact in the playoffs, but I am simply not as far along as I had hoped."

"It would not be fair to the teams that expressed an interest in my services if I could not give them one hundred percent of my abilities. Overall, I am probably in the best shape I have been in years. I look forward to getting my rehab finalized over the next few months and signing with a team this summer."

[Update] Nolan nixes return, It's believed San Jose, Calgary and Philly were all actively campaigning for Nolan's services - Sportsnet.ca.

San Jose has publicly maintained its interest in bringing Nolan back on board, while the Calgary Flames and Philadelphia Flyers have also been actively campaigning, with the Flyers believed to have made the strongest push of late.

Nolan's announcement will come as a disappointment to these teams, as sources say he's trimmed eight pounds off his frame, intending to enter the new NHL at a playing weight of 205 pounds.

[Update2] More on Nolan from the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek:

In some ways, Nolan's decision makes perfect sense on any number of levels. If he came back now, six months into the season, he'd be miles behind every other NHL player, who has been playing since September. This year, most players that fell into his category (30-something NHL players who didn't play during the lockout) have had all kinds of trouble coming back after a year away from the game. Considering that Nolan endured further surgeries during his year away hockey and is only about 90 per cent physically right now, the chances of him coming in and making an impact in the final month of the season were slim. Moreover, if he did come back and played poorly, that would undermine his marketability for 2006-07.

Nothing more on this out of Philly, who just lost team captain Keith Primeau for the season. Primeau has been out for an extended period with post-concussion symptoms, and he decided to gear for a return next season.

Bay101 Shooting Star tournament highlights

Bay 101 Shooting stars World Poker Tour

Bay 101 Shooting stars World Poker Tour

Close to $5 million in total prize money is on the line, pros have a $5000 bounty on their head, and grizzled poker enthusiasts young and old lined the rails to watch the Shooting Star tournament at Bay 101 this week. The World Poker Tour event finishes Friday with a televised final table of six. Running commentary is available from Bluff Magazine and Worldpokertour.com.

David Williams 1 | 2
Dan Harrington 1
Jennifer Tilly 1 | 2 | 3
Gus Hansen 1
Bruce Feldman 1

Highlight from day 1: The story of the day was the meltdown by Palo Alto's Phil Hellmuth. The large stack, Hellmuth accused Scott Reese of slow rolling him after losing to pocket aces. The loss flustered Hellmuth who dropped chips precipitously before being busted out by Chip Reese.

Highlight from day 2: Sharkspage pre-tournament favorite Shannon Elizabeth was bounced from the event. All-in with pocket aces against a Q-T, her opponent got drew a pair of Queens to win the hand.

Highlights from day 3: Doyle Brunson attended his first hockey game Tuesday night to watch the San Jose Sharks against the Detroit Red Wings. Brunson, equipped with all the stats and articles on the game, accepted a $3000 wager from Paul "Yukon" Booth. Booth was one of the large stacks on the first day, and was easily identifiable by his ever present Team Canada hat. The Sharks hammered the Wings 5-1, scoring 5 power play goals. Gus Hansen, Doyle Brunson, Carlos Mortensen and Jennifer Tilly all knocked out of the tournament. Bay 101 employee Yip Wai lost close to the cutoff for day 3.

Highlight from day 4: "Action" Dan Harrington knocked out in 22nd place, Bluff Magazine's Jason Kirk wrote a brief piece on "Bullseye" Bruce Feldman from Berkeley, CA. Feldman started out just to survive day, and he has a shot at making the final table. Interesting Feldman photo coming up shortly. David Williams is knocking out players and taking down huge pots. At or near the large stack on the table, should be considered a favorite tomorrow.

World Poker Tour photos.

The final table is at 5PM Friday. The Travel Channel will air the final table taped-delayed June 7th at 9PM. The first Sharkspage post on the Shooting Star tournament can be found here. Thanks to Bluff Magazine and former Predator's Den blogger Jason Kirk for a lot of this info.

[Update] With popularity and prize money growing, poker's best come to San Jose for tournament - San Jose Mercury News.

The cards don't lie -- poker has a hold on America. And this week San Jose is at the center of the poker universe. With an estimated 60 million poker players in the United States, the game has gone from being a fad to part of the fabric of American culture.

[Update2] Poker is cool. Hockey is cool. I am watching a tape from OLN of the third to last stage of the Dakar 2006 rally and there is simply nothing like it.

The broadcast began with a solemn quote that one racer dies on average every year of the Dakar rally. Australian motorcycle rider Andy Caldecott died on January 9th, 2006 while racing on stage 9 between Nouakchott and Kiffa.

[Update3] Nam Le takes down the 2006 Bay 101 Shooting Star tournament. Le earned $1,172,800, and a $25,000 entry in the World Poker Tour Championship. Ravi Udayakumar finished second, Danny Smith third, and David Williams, Fabrice Soulier and Chad Brown finished out the final table.


NHL rules interpretation bulletin

A press release from the NHL:


TORONTO - NEW YORK (February 28, 2006) -- At the recent National Hockey League General Managers’ Meeting, two procedural changes were recommended with respect to the measurement of sticks prior to the shootout and pucks shot out of play from the defensive zone. These changes will be in effect beginning with tonight's games.

1. Measurement of sticks in shootouts

- The Referee will quickly and efficiently measure the first shooter from each team during the scrape and that player will be on the ice beside his bench.

- Before the second player in the shootout is allowed to proceed to take his shot by the Linesman, the Referee will measure the third shooter’s stick. This procedure of measuring the next shooter's stick shall continue to the conclusion of the shootout.

- If a shooter’s stick is found to be illegal, that player will be disqualified from shooting and the Coach will promptly and efficiently designate a replacement shooter. This replacement may be a player from the three players submitted (if they have not shot) or any other skater on the team.

- If a team receives three disqualifications for illegal sticks, the third disqualification will result in that team forfeiting one shooting opportunity in that game.

2. Pucks out of play penalty

It was determined by the General Managers that, regarding Rule 51(a) (NOTE 1), delaying the game for shooting the puck out of play from the defensive zone: a puck shot out of play will now be judged by the route the puck leaves the playing surface, not the final destination. The four on-ice officials can converse to get the correct call on where the puck left the playing surface. Referees will continue to use discretion under Rule 51(b) where a player anywhere on the ice deliberately bats the puck with his hand or stick outside the playing area.

The 2005-06 NHL Official Rulebook can be viewed online here. There is also video of NHL Senior VP & Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom describing rule enforcemant, and video breakdowns of the new rules using the NHL 2K6 and EA 2006 video games.

Sharks hammer depleted Red Wings 5-1, franchise record 5 power play goals

San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings

San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings

The San Jose Sharks built on their 3 game winning streak heading into the Olympic break with a 5-1 win over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. With 4 of their gold medal winning Swedish players still en route after a celebration in Stockholm, Niklas Kronwall assigned to the minors, Chelios/Draper/Lang losing baggage in travel, 2 late callups, and playing one man under the NHL limit of 20 players, San Jose had the Red Wings primed for a blowout.

The Sharks needed to make a statement. Recording a franchise record 5 power play goals [Ekman, Cheechoo, Marleau, Ehrhoff, Thornton], San Jose powered its way to a 5-1 victory. The win puts the Sharks 4 points behind 8th place Edmonton in the Western Conference standings, with 25 games left to play in the season.

Attention is starting to turn towards the March 9th trade deadline. Sharks GM Doug Wilson notes to Merc's Mark Purdy that they are looking for a detail guy up front who can play short handed, instead of the usual deadline search for a veteran defensive-defenseman. Ray Ratto, hero of sports fans from 8 to 80, put the screws to GM Doug Wilson on the trade deadline:

"We've been getting more calls from people than anyone, I'd bet," he said, "and I'll tell you that if the right thing came along, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But one of the things about the new rules and the compressed schedule is that the kind of guy teams used to want at the deadline, like veteran defensemen, aren't necessarily as valuable anymore. Plus, you've got guys I would have been interested in who either got hurt, or someone else at that position got hurt and the market shrunk."

Penalty killing has been an area of concern, but the Sharks threw a shutout on the Detroit Red Wings killing all 6 penalties, including 4 in the third period. The effort raised their season PK average to 80.7%, 22nd in the NHL. Pinning all of the tumultuous up and down play on one area is a bit of a misnomer. At times, faceoffs, second line scoring, lack of offense from the blue line, and the penalty kill have been areas for concern this season.

Photos taken with an Olympus IR-500 from the University of Michigan alumni section. Darren McCarty was still a fan favorite in Detroit customized jerseys even though he is now a Calgary Flame, but Steve Yzerman is the uncontested leader. Number of Stevie Y chants: 2. Number of Wingnut headgear: 2. Number of Hail to the Victor chants: 0.

Sharks throttle Detroit in return 5 power-play goals a San Jose record - SF Chronicle.

Nabokov's return trip from Turin a rough one - SJ Mercury News.

[Update] National Hockey League Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly watched the Detroit Red Wings vs San Jose Sharks game from the stands Tuesday night. Daly answered one of my questions prior to the expected start of the 2004-05 NHL season in October of 2004:

[Q] What are fans specifically going to get out of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement?

[Bill Daly] A new economic system will produce a more stable and competitive League, which should mean that each fan's favorite franchise will operate in an environment of economic stability and will be able to compete for championships on the same basis as all other teams in the League.

We believe that an economic system that is more equitable, and which provides all Clubs with relative equal abilities to compete for championships, will also produce more compelling competition and a more attractive product. The style of play can and should be improved simply by the fact of improved parity throughout the league as lower-payroll teams with lower-salaried players with have to depend less on defensive systems and defensive tactics to compete on a nightly basis.

Finally, we believe that in a more certain cost environment, Clubs will be less dependent on ticket price increases to finance competitive payrolls, leading to a more consistently affordable product in many markets.

It is hard to argue with the results.