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Sharks reach 100 points with 4-2 win over Phoenix Coyotes
#10 CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF CELEBRATES A SECOND PERIOD GOAL #7 MARK BELL TIPS THE PUCK ON #31 CURTIS JOSEPH #11 PHOENIX COYOTES RIGHT WING OWEN NOLAN
The San Jose Sharks achieved 100 total points in the regular season for only the second time in franchise history, after a 4-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. The all-time record is 104 points earned in the 2003-04 season. A photo gallery from the game is available here.
For almost 25 minutes, he was Cujo the Magnificent, making his patented improbable saves. He's almost 40, and he played like someone half his age.
Then, bit by bit, the bottom fell out for Curtis Joseph and the Coyotes, and they dropped a 4-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 17,496 at the HP Pavilion.
[Update] Josh Gratton and Douglas Murray dropped the gloves at the start of the second period for a fight that spanned the length of both benches. After several hard body checks by Murray early in the game, Gratton initiated the fight to send a message. This Hockeyfights.com report has a blow-by-blow recap.
USA Hockey Championships Friday - Honeybaked Detroit 5, San Jose Jr Sharks 4 (U16)
DETROIT HONEYBAKED VS SAN JOSE JR SHARKS FRIDAY HONEYBAKED SCORED THE GW GOAL SHORTHANDED 5-ON-3 WITH SECONDS LEFT 2007 USA HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS AT LOGITECH ICE, SAN JOSE
Honeybaked Detroit's Sami Tatu scored the game winning goal against the San Jose Jr Sharks u16 team with seconds left to earn a difficult 5-4 win at the end of round robin play. Tatu's second goal of the game was shorthanded, while killing a 5-on-3 penalty. Haleigh Hutchinson, Taylor Wasylk and Brittany Dougherty also scored for Detroit. Cori Myers (2), Mikaela Hoffman-Stapleton and Whitney Fraleigh scored for the Jr Sharks team. Goaltender Shannon Ramelot made 22 saves on 26 shots in a winning effort for Honeybaked.
The Jr Sharks team coached by former Sharks defensman Tom Pederson finished preliminary play with a 2-1 record, and move on to the quarterfinals at 9AM today (audiocast underway here). The Girls 19 and under quarterfinal takes place at 3:45PM, the 12 and under semifinal takes place at 5:45, and the 14 and under semifinal takes place at 8PM. A photo gallery from the game is available here.
Recaps of the 4 San Jose Jr Sharks teams in action on Friday, 3 from Logitech Ice, from San Jose Sharks Director of Communications Ken Arnold:
Girls Under 12 (Logitech Ice):
Detroit Little Ceasars: 4 - Jr. Sharks: 0
The Jr. Sharks - coached by Sharks Radio Color Commentator Jamie Baker -
lost to a top-ranked Little Ceasars team to finish the tournament with a
record of 0-3. Complete tournament standings & statistics can be found
Girls Under 14 (Logitech Ice): Posted an 0-3 record after losing to
Honeybaked today 4-0. Forward Delina Perez leads the team in scoring
with two points (both assists). Complete tournament standings &
statistics can be found here.
Girls Under 16 (Logitech Ice): 2-1 record, play Honeybaked at 4:45pm
this afternoon and dropped a thrilling 5-4 decision. Forward Paula
Romanchuk leads the team in scoring with 6 points (1g, 5a), and forward
Cori Myers leads the team in goals (3) and is second in points with 4.
Goaltender Meghan Gallagher from Roseville has been solid in net
stopping 46 of 50 shots for a .920 SVG and a 2.00 GAA. Follows the
team's road to the playoffs by clicking here.
Girls Under 19: Belle Tire (Detroit, MI): 3 - Jr. Sharks:
1. Team finishes with an 0-3 record after playing many of the toughest
teams in the tournament. Team captain Amber Moore, who has committed to
Colgate University next season, lead the team in goals with 2, and
forward Ashley Hickey lead the team in points with 3 (all assists).
Complete standings and statistics can be found here.
The USA Girls Tournament website is available here.
Media coverage of the Girls and Womens Tournaments at Logitech Ice has been extensive. NBC11, KGO7, and KTVU2 all aired video segments on the San Jose tournament.
Radio analyst and youth hockey coach Jamie Baker interviewed Boston University Assistant Coach and and former US National Team Member Erika Silva on the future of Womens/Girls hockey here.
Offwing, NBC Sports, and NFL Fan House blogger Eric McErlain sampled fan opinions on fighting in the NHL at Tuesday's Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins game. A full blog report and photos from the Verizon Center are available here. The fans were decidedly in favor of leaving the status quo as is, and they offered an informed analysis on the debate as well.
San Jose Jr Sharks Bantam B 2007 Norcal Championship
SAN JOSE JR SHARKS BANTAM B - PHOTO DENNIS EVANS
Longtime Sharks/SJSU fan Dennis Evans emailed in a mini-report he wrote on the San Jose Jr Sharks Bantam B 2007 Norcal Championship. His son Chase plays on the team.
2007 NORCAL CHAMPIONS - THE SAN JOSE JR
SHARKS - BANTAM B
The Jr Sharks took it to the Fresno Falcons on Sunday to be crowned the
NORCAL CHAMPIONS for 2007. After defeating Santa Rosa 6-2 in the opening
game on Friday evening, the Jr Sharks crushed Tri Valley early Saturday
morning and sent them packing for home - ELIMINATING the Blue Devils from
the playoff round! This was sweet revenge for the Jr Sharks - knocking off
the team that was seeded first in the playoff tournament. During the long
season, these two teams met 8 times with the Jr Sharks dominating the series
with a 4-2-2 record - but the Blue Devils still dominated the league play
and end up in first place for the regular season.
The Jr. Sharks met the Fresno Falcons in their last playoff game on Saturday
evening - a game that saw the teams battle to a 1-0 victory by the Falcons.
This was a very tough and even battle that saw the Jr Sharks score first,
but with the goal called off because of an "In The Crease" call - which was
very interesting as most of the team had recently viewed the great film by
the same name on Thursday in prep for the NORCAL playoffs. This game truly
showed that more was to come the next day - the battle would continue on
Sunday for the championship.
The boys were focused on Sunday, as they had been all weekend, and now they
had the championship in sight. From the drop of the puck, the Jr Sharks were
all over the Falcons and this time took no prisoners. Jumping out to a 2-0
lead in the first period, the Jr Sharks held the Falcons to no goals until
midway through the 2nd period when they came back with their first goal
making it a close contest for the first time. But the Jr Sharks were not
going to let the Falcons back into the game - as early in the 3rd period
they scored on a power play to make it 3-1. Then late in the period, the
Falcons going for broke pulled their goalie only to see the Jr Sharks
deposit an empty net goal to make it 4-1 with just over 2 minutes to go. But
the Falcons continued to push hard and scored their second goal in the final
minutes, but to no avail as they could only watch the Jr Sharks celebrate
the victory by mobbing their goalie - a sweet 4-2 victory to be crowned
Visit sjjrsharks.com, or Norcalyouthhockey.com for more information. Chase was the Sharks fan who recognized me from this blog while snow boarding at Sierra Ski Ranch near Tahoe with 2 friends from Denmark. Thanks to Dennis for sending this in.
A few more notes on the USA Girls/Womens Hockey Championships underway at Logitech Ice in San Jose: With 80 teams and thousands of hockey players, this will be the largest hockey tournament ever held in California, an opening ceremony for the Girls tournament will be held March 29th featuring local soccer star Brandi Chastain and USA Women's Olympic Hockey team member Katie King. Two former San Jose Sharks coach girl's teams in the tournament, defenseman Tom Pederson (16u and 19u) and Jamie Baker (12u).
Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson signs with the Los Angeles Kings, NHL debut tonight against Vancouver
KINGS DEFENSEMAN JACK JOHNSON WEDNESDAY - PHOTO LETSGOKINGS.COM
On Tuesday the Los Angeles Kings announced a multi-year entry level contract with 20 year old University of Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson. The 6-1, 215 pound defenseman was the third overall selection in the 2005 Entry Draft (Carolina). He was acquired by general manager Dean Lombardi from the Hurricanes in a trade along with Oleg Tverdovsky for center Eric Belanger and defenseman Tim Gleason in 2006.
Jack Johnson represented Team USA at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championships in Sweden, and helped the team earn a bronze medal. Johnson scored 3 goals in 7 games to lead the team in scoring. The defenseman helped the University of Michigan Wolverines to the NCAA West Hockey Regionals, and finished his college season with 39 points (16-23-39) and 87 penalty minutes in 36 games.
Los Angeles plays the Canucks tonight at home, but circle the April 3rd Kings visit to Vancouver on your calendar. Johnson laid the people's elbow on forward Steve Downie during a hotly contested USA-Canada game during the 2006 World Junior Championship. Already anointed a villain by the demonstrably anti-Team USA Vancouver crowd, they boo'd him relentlessly for the rest of the tournament. TSN quoted Johnson on the incident, "I guess it's better to be remembered for something than not remembered at all. I'll take what I can get."
It was interesting to see so much buzz over a practice in late March, especially since the Kings have been out of the playoff race for so long. Of course, Jack Johnson was the topic of conversation. The Vancouver Canucks were on site, waiting to practice after the Kings, and with them came a handful of Canadian reporters eager to talk to Johnson. And, even more stunningly, a Los Angeles-based television crew was on hand. There's something you don't see every month...
Here's some of what Crawford had to say about Johnson, who will make his NHL debut Thursday at Staples Center: On what he expects from Johnson's debut: "I talked to him and said, `Just go out and play with passion.' There's going to be a lot of time for us to make corrections. We're going to give him limited instructions on how we play. We just want him to go with his instincts and play with passion."
On Johnson's game: "People who watched the World Juniors know he plays hard and with a lot of passion. He's a top talent. You see, right away, that he's got some real good skill. When you look at the pedigree of guys who come out of Michigan, they all seem to do well, especially the top-level guys."
Full disclosure, both of my parents and a few other family members went to University of Michigan. The bottom line is that general manager Dean Lombardi jump started the rebuilding process by acquiring a solid defensive talent who can anchor the blueline for several years to come. Given the media onslaught, much of it fueled by the extraordinary Kings fans at LetgoKings.com (who have labeled him Jack M***** F***** Johnson, or JMFJ for short), a lot of pressure is going to be placed on Jack Johnson's shoulders very early. The reality is that Johnson is going to be a feast or famine player with Los Angeles. His spectacular offensive skill will be buoyed by inopportune penalties and a short fuse. He has the potential to be a perennial allstar, but he has a lot of development to do in the interim. Regardless, he enjoys playing the role of villain, and Johnson instantly becomes public enemy #1 in several NHL arenas.
The 6-1, 210-pound Johnson has the potential to be the NHL's next black hat-wearing bad guy, a nasty, take-no-prisoners defender in the mold of a young Chris Chelios. If he lives up to the unanimous ravings of scouts around the league, he'll become a 30-minute defender who can quarterback both special teams and lead the league in highlight-reel hits.
Just as important for a team struggling to gain traction in a crowded sports market, Johnson has the makings of a cult hero. Think Jordin Tootoo with a triple helping of talent. Johnson became a legend at Michigan for his relentless physical play. At Yost Arena, home of the Wolverines, he would hear serenades of "Kill, Jack, Kill" as he drew a bead on an opponent. If hitting's not the best part of his game, it's certainly the element he enjoys the most.
Johnson, who left Michigan and signed with the Kings on Tuesday, makes his NHL debut tonight, repeating the journey Blake made when he left Bowling Green. Blake played four games with the Kings at the end of the 1989-90 season, an invaluable primer. The next season, he was on the NHL all-rookie team.
"It was huge getting that chance right away," Blake said. "It gave me an idea what to expect the following September. Jack has a chance to get familiar with the practice facility, the arena and Los Angeles itself."
Sharks defeat Log Angeles 3-1, clinch playoff berth
#37 CURTIS BROWN SKATES OUT OF THE SHARKS HEAD
LOS ANGELES GOALTENDER #1 SEAN BURKE DURING PRE-GAME WARMUPS
The San Jose Sharks earned a tough 3-1 win against Los Angeles on a night where the Sharks held a pre-game ceremony celebrating Ron Wilson's 1000th game as an NHL head coach. Wilson is only the 13th coach to reach the milestone. In 1004 games with San Jose, Anaheim, and Washington, Ron Wilson has compiled a 465-423-116 record.
Patrick Marleau scored two goals, and was on the ice for a shift late in the third period trying to capitalize on an empty net. Bill Guerin added his 36th goal of the season on a point blank shot up high over Sean Burke, and Brian Willsie scored for the Kings. Evgeni Nabokov (21-16-3) made 24 saves on 25 shots against to notch his 21st win of the season.
2ND PERIOD SCRUM IN FRONT OF #20 EVGENI NABOKOV
Key Plays of the Game:
Starting lineups: SJ - Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Thornton, Christian Ehrhoff, Kyle McLaren, Evgeni Nabokov. LA - Anze Kopitar, Michael Cammalleri, Alexander Frolov, Jaroslav Modry, Mike Weaver, Sean Burke.
The Sharks lead the season series over Los Angeles 4-2. The teams meet for the final time April 1st in San Jose. Kings head coach Marc Crawford prior to the game, "There is something to play for. There will be some intensity." Sharks head coach Ron Wilson prior to the game, "Right now our focus is simple, to catch Anaheim if we can... That is our primary goal." The Sharks honored Ron Wilson with a 1000th game silver stick ceremony prior to the drop of the puck. Game #1000 took place March 18th in Colorado. Thursday against Vancouver will be head coach Marc Crawford's 900th game.
New combination of Bell, Pavelski, Bernier starts of well cycling the puck in the Kings zone. Rob Blake dressed for the game, but is not 100%. The Kings ice 7 defenseman with Kevin Dallman. Evgeni Nabokov is out at the top of the crease, aggressively cutting down angles and challenging shooters. The top line of Cheechoo/Thornton/Michalek is buzzing around Sean Burke. Los Angeles is having problems knocking Thornton or Cheechoo off the puck.
Right wing Brian Willsie hammers Craig Rivet behind the Sharks net to create the first power play of the game for San Jose. A hard point shot by Ehrhoff can not be controlled by Burke. Patrick Marleau steps into a 15 foot rebound, and rifles a shot up high glove side. Score: Sharks 1, LA 0. Marleau's power play tally was his 31st goal of the season. Sharks radio broadcaster Jamie Baker, "Ehrhoff's quick release did not give Burke time to control the rebound".
The rest of the league figured out last season that Jonathan Cheechoo is deadly with the puck on his stick. He is starting to hit his stride during the stretch run with 6 goals in his last 3 games, and was named the 2nd NHL star of the week. Always able to pick a corner with a shot from almost anywhere on the ice, now he is starting to gain enough speed and agility to hit open holes on the ice more often. With Thornton's puck possession, and the room created by Michalek's speed, Cheechoo will be the beneficiary.
Kings defenseman Mike Weaver checks Mike Grier hard along the boards. It knocked Grier off the puck, and created a turnover for Los Angeles. Excellent play. A highlight reel glove save by Burke is followed a little over a minute later by Burke hugging the post and denying a second quality scoring chance. Another stop, although Burke gave up a short rebound and had to make 2 saves. 40 years old, and the Kings goaltender is giving them a chance to win this game.
There was a bizarre confrontation at center ice. Mike Cammalleri went low on Patrick Marleau, who took exception to the play. Players seemed to slow up on the play anticipating a penalty call by the referee, who never made one. Guerin and Clowe also into it with Kings players. Marleau realized the play was still going and sprinted for the puck trying to create a rush, but the Kings gain control in their own zone. Penalty on Clowe for Roughing.
On a Sharks line change, defenseman Jamie Heward finds Patrick O'Sullivan streaking down the right side of the ice. Nice flick of the puck by O'Sullivan to defenseman Brian Willsie who is trailing the play. Hard wrist shot by Willsie beats an outstretched Nabokov. A handful of very loud Kings fans in the corner section celebrate the power play goal wildly. Score tied at 1-1.
A turnover by Joe Thornton at his own blueline bounces to Alexander Frolov. Frolov instantly reverses direction with a hard 180, stickhandles past one Sharks forward, and freezes another taking the puck wide to his backhand. Frolov stops, turns his back, and finds Modry for a big slap shot. Nabokov punches at the puck for a glove save up high.
A penalty on Kings defenseman Joe Piskula early in the first is negated by an interference call on Milan Michalek. A Kings forward backs in on Nabokov, runs into two Sharks players, and dumps the puck to Jaroslav Modry for a huge point shot. Glove save by Nabokov. Less than a minute later, there is a collision in front of the Sharks goaltender and Tom Kostopolous runs him over in the goal crease. The Sharks captain Patrick Marleau takes the three quarters the length of the ice before being checked off of the puck. Ehrhoff dumps it towards Sean Burke. The puck trickles past a Kings player. Guerin picks it from his feet, spins, and wrists a shot over Burke for his 36th goal of the season. Score 2-1 San Jose.
Michalek steals the puck along the boards, and finds Marleau open on the left wing. Marleau freezes Sean Burke with the puck out in front of him. A quick move to his right at the last second, and Marleau slides a backhand past Burke for his second goal of the night. Score 3-1 San Jose. Ehrhoff earns his 3rd assist of the game, a career high in points for a game. The crowd tries a brief wave around the HP Pavilion, but it only makes it 3/4 of the way around the rink. After a hand pass drops to the ice and slides across the crease passed Nabokov, the Kings start to celebrate. The refs blow the play dead and signal no goal, the net was off the moorings before the puck crossed the line.
Penalty on Craig Rivet for holding Anze Kopitar. The sixth penalty on the Sharks for the evening. The Kings are forcing San Jose to take penalties with hard work in the offensive zone. After the Kings pull Burke for a 6-on-4, one Shark lifts a puck on his backhand for a long attempt on goal. 2 feet wide. Marleau takes the ice with less than a minute remaining, and two goals on the evening. Curtis Brown is his penalty killing partner, and Brown tries another long shot on the rink that also travels wide. Fog horn blows to signal the Sharks 3-1 win. Sharks clinch a berth in the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Three stars of the night: 3 - Marc-Edouard Vlasic (4 blocked shots), 2- Christain Ehrhoff (3 assists), 1 - Patrick Marleau (2 goals).
Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:
"I came into the locker room after the first period to check the internet to see what was going on around the league. I saw that (Colorado) lost, and I knew if we could get a couple points tonight at least we could take care of our own business. I do a thing which coaches do, and that's 'worry'... I still think to myself, 'now if we lose 6 in a row, this or that is going to happen'. That is how your mind works, so it is good to clinch tonight."
"More importantly is to narrow the gap and keep pressure on Anaheim. I've got Brian Burke in my office, trying to make him sweat. He doesn't seem to be too intimidated."
"We had a really good first period. We didn't show LA any respect, and got sloppy in the second and they made a game of it. You can't look at the team you're playing, you have to focus on your job and play YOUR game."
Post-game comments from Los Angeles Kings head coach Marc Crawford:
"I thought we did a great job tonight, and we carried the play in the 2nd, and obviously the first was fairly even, but they got the power play goal and then they outshot us."
"They had an ability to reach the level to win, and we were unable to match it late in the game... I thought our guys did a great job of exceeding the Sharks level of play, especially in the 2nd period."
The winningest coach in NHL history, with 1,244 regular season and 223 playoff wins, 9 Stanley Cups as a head coach (Montreal Canadiens 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979; Pittsburgh Penguins 1992; Detroit Red Wings 1997, 1998 and 2002), and 2 Jack Adams awards 19 years apart (1977, 1996), has started a blog for NBCsports.com to cover the rest of the regular season and the playoffs.
Scotty Bowman's first post examines the tight Eastern Conference playoff race: Beware the Senators.
I always look at teams' top six forwards, and the Leafs played a long time without two of their top-six, Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker. When you lose guys in your top-six, you pay for it. I mean the Red Wings lost Henrik Zetterberg, who's a huge player, and it's pulled them right down. But Toronto has two huge games against Montreal and Carolina, and even more dangerous, games in New York against the Rangers and Islanders in the last week.
I thought for a while there were six solid teams in Atlanta, Tampa, Ottawa, Buffalo, New Jersey and Pittsburgh, leaving five other teams for two spots. But the Rangers have seemed to surge ahead. The big factors that go into the last two-week stretch of a season like this are games with teams fighting each other for a playoff spot and then you have the three-point game. The Rangers-Islanders game that went to overtime really hurts those other teams on the bubble with the Islanders picking up an important point.
The Rangers 2-1 overtime win over the New York Islanders on Sunday had a significant impact on the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Rangers vaulted into 6th place, with 6 games remaining. The Islanders received a point in the loss to remain tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for the last playoff spot. NBC's Sunday game of the week was Boston vs Sidney Crosby, errr Pittsburgh, but NBC switched to a 1-1 Islanders-Rangers game at the start of the third period.
Bowman's blog link via Paul Kukla. Underway now, Bowman's former team the Detroit Red Wings are hosting the Anaheim Ducks live on Versus. Anaheim (44-19-12) trails Detroit (45-19-11) by one point in the overall Western Conference standings, but is 2 positions ahead of the 4th place wings based on their Pacific division conference lead.
Anaheim (44-19-12) is in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. The Ducks set team records for wins and points with Friday's victory, breaking the marks set in 2005-06.
"It's nice to clinch a playoff spot, but nobody is talking about that for us. We're in, but what does it mean?" Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "Right now it's about getting our team to play at the top of their game and be more consistent with what we do."
USA Girls/Womens Hockey Championships underway in San Jose
Over the next 2 months, 34 girls/womens/junior/adult hockey championships will be awarded by USA Hockey in 12 cities. The Logitech Ice Center of San Jose is hosting a three tier 32-team women's tournament (A, B, C), and a four tier 48-team girl's tournament (12u, 14u, 16u, 19u). Full details are available from the Mercury News here.
They are invisible to the naked eye and yet all 16 of them can be clearly seen. They are the targets worn on the backs of the 16 members of the Needham (Mass.) Huskies as they walk around the Logitech Ice Center at USA Hockey's 2007 Women’s Senior A National Championship.
Those targets come with being the defending Nationals champions. The other seven teams want what you have and they know how to get it -- they have to win games against you first.
"The chances of girls getting a scholarship are way better than a boy's because there's just not as big a pool of players," explained Tom Pederson, the former Sharks defenseman who coaches two girls teams at Logitech. "We have some great players. We just don't have a lot of them."
The best nationwide - girls as young as 11 - will be playing in San Jose this week when the national tournament comes to Northern California for the first time since the competition began in 1980. It's one of two related events at Logitech over the next 10 days, with USA Hockey's women's championships starting today for skaters who have reached their 20s.
2007 USA Hockey National Championships Schedule:
Youth, Girls and Women's National Championships
MAR23-25 Women (San Jose, CA)
MAR28-APR1 Girls (San Jose, CA)
MAR28-APR1 Youth I/II 12&U and 14&U (Buffalo)
MAR28-APR1 Youth I/II 16&U and 18&U (Fraser)
Junior Tier III National Championships
MAR22-25 Junior C (Northeast Philadelphia)
MAR26-27 Junior A (Walpole)
MAR29-APR2 Junior B (Grand Rapids)
SJ pre-game show Shark Byte takes a look at Sharks training program
San Jose pre-game show Shark Byte and host Amy Gutierrez go inside the training room to sample a few of the Sharks off-ice training and warmup exercizes with strength and conditioning coach Mike Potenza. The program stresses lower body balance and flexibility, and strengthening core muscles, with a focus on injury prevention.
There was no view of a hockey skating treadmill in the video, which was the feature of a CSTV segment on collegiate hockey training last year, but that is more of a preseason conditioning tool that some hockey teams use. A direct link to Episode 11 of Shark Byte is here, and a link to a video player hosting all of the shows is available on FSNBA.com.
The recently aired Episode 12 of Shark Byte showed the 12 hours of prepration at HP Pavilion prior to game against the Nashville Predators, which was Bill Guerin's first game as a Shark.
[Update] The CSTV look at Cornell's hockey treadmill is available on youtube video here. The bottom line for bringing the treadmill to Cornell? $100,000. The ability of the machine to reach a 32% incline and a 16mph speed limit is impressive.
Blueland Blog's Ben Wright previews tonight's Thrashers-Sharks game
Ben Wright of the Atlanta Thrashers Blueland Blog answered a few questions prior to the Atlanta vs San Jose game tonight (4PM):
[Q] Two and a half weeks until the end of the regular season, how are
the Atlanta Thrashers playing heading into the playoffs? What do the
Atlanta Thrashers have to adjust or tweak on the ice to make a long
[BW] The Thrashers have been playing solid hockey for the last 10 games or
so, although there have been occasional letdowns (losses at Philly and
Florida). Earlier in the season they struggled late in games to hold on
to leads. Now they have more of a killer instinct and don't let up when
they're ahead. After a horrible February that saw them throw away a
double-digit division lead, they've regained their confidence.
The only major adjustment I think they need to tweak is their play down
low around their own net. Depending on who is on the ice, there is not
always a clear idea of who should responsible for which opposing
players. A high percentage of the goals the Thrashers give up are
rebounds or close shots that come off of failed clearing attempts or
poor man-on-man coverage down low.
[Q] How have trades for winger Keith Tkachuk and center Eric Belanger
affected the club?
[BW] Marian Hossa is +8 and has 21 points in the 16 games since Belanger came
to Atlanta and got penciled in as his center. Hossa recently went on a
franchise-best 11-game point streak, and its no coincidence that it
started in Belanger's third game as a Thrasher. Belanger isn't the same
player that he was in Los Angeles and Carolina. He has been given a chance to be a
top offensive center on this team, and he is running with it. He has eight
goals and five assists in 16 games playing between Hossa and Slava
Kozlov and only one of those goals has come on the power play. He is a
perfect combination of speed, grit and finesse. He's a Bob Hartley
player. He has also been a fixture on a much-improved penalty killing unit that
has been around 90% since he arrived.
Keith Tkachuk has brought more to the team than anyone could have asked
for. His supreme confidence has brought a much needed swagger to the
locker room, and the fact that he waived his no-trade clause to come here
was a huge boost to the entire team. While everyone in the Thrashers
locker room knows that this is a talented roster, to have somebody else
recognize it and want to be a part of it is huge. On the ice Tkachuk has
been dominant. The jump from the West to the East has been great for
him. He gets more space and more time and there are few defensemen in
the conference who are capable of removing him from the crease. The
All-Star and Olympian has 6 goals and 2 assists in 10 games and has
2 game-winning goals. He is screening shots and making life miserable
for opposing goalies, and he is the perfect center and mentor for Ilya
Kovalchuk, who has five goals and five assists playing with Tkachuk,
including 2 game-winners of his own. Most telling is Kovalchuk's +/-
rating since the Tkachuk deal. When Tkachuk got here Ilya was -10 on the
season. He was -1 in Tkachuk's first game and since then he has been
even or better in nine straight games for a total of +8 in that span.
To sum it up, Belanger has been a huge boost to Hossa and Kozlov as well
as to the penalty kill, while Tkachuk has transformed Kovalchuk's line
and has been the difference maker that the team was looking for on the
power play and in the locker room.
[Q] What have the Thrashers line combinations been over the past few
[BW] Ilya Kovalchuk- Keith Tkachuk- Jon Sim
Slava Kozlov- Eric Belanger- Marian Hossa
Brad Larsen- Bobby Holik- Pascal Dupuis
JP Vigier- Jim Slater- Scott Mellanby- Eric Boulton
Bob Hartley loves to tinker with lines, so they are all written in pencil
and can change drastically from game to game, and shift to shift. The
Hossa line is the only one set in stone simply because Hossa and Kozlov
have incredible chemistry. There is no clear top line since Hossa, Kozlov
or Kovalchuk all take turns leading the ice time for forwards.
Depending on the game situation, Hartley is not afraid to swap Sim and
Mellanby in the third period. Sim stays out if the team needs a goal and
Mellanby gets plugged in if they are protecting a lead. The Holik like is
a defensive stopper that plays against the opposition's top line. Vigier,
Slater and Boulton have been cycled through the lineup over the past few
weeks with each one sitting out for a few games at a time. Any
combination of those bottom four forwards can provide a solid checking
line that can generate chances off the forecheck. Boulton plays against
physical teams while Slater sees more ice against faster squads.
On the defensive end things have been consistent since the trade
Alexei Zhitnik - Niclas Havelid
Garnet Exelby - Greg de Vries
Shane Hnidy - Andy Sutton
Zhitnik is getting close to 27 minutes per game and plays in all
situations, as does Havelid. Exelby and de Vries are reliable, if not
flashy and Hnidy and Sutton round things out. Sutton has been better
since the deadline, playing 10-15 minutes per game instead of 20-25 like
he was. Hnidy has had a career year and has turned himself into a
versatile blueliner who is capable of jumping up when needed.
[Q] I have watched highlight clips of Ilya Kovalchuck since his
playing days in Russia, what kind of season is he having with the
Atlanta Thrashers this year? And can you tell me a play you
remember where he has displayed his jaw dropping offensive skill?
[BW] Kovalchuk is not putting up career numbers, but he might be having a
career year in terms of overall play. He has dialed down the flash a
little bit in favor of being a safer player. Earlier in his career there
were times when he had to put the team on his back and carry it, which
resulted in a lot of high-risk plays. Now that the offensive
responsibilities can be spread around, he is focusing on being a team
player who is responsible at both ends. He probably is not going to win
the Selke Trophy any time soon, but he is not turning the puck over nearly
as much as he used to, and people who have not watched him lately might
be shocked to hear that he's an effective back-checker. He still makes
mistakes, but he has learned how to recover from them.
As for memorable moments, I'm not sure who we were playing, but there
was a play at home that stands out. Ilya took a pass at the redline as
he was flying up the left side and there was only one defender between
him and the net. The defenseman had solid position and went for the hit,
presumably forgetting that Kovy is 6'1" and 225 lbs. Kovalchuk, in full
stride, saw the defenseman coming, got his arms up, leveled the
defenseman, kept possession of the puck and then wired a shot at the
goalie. He did not score, but it was an incredible display of
explosiveness and power.
[Q] Who are two underrated players Sharks fans should keep an eye on?
[BW] Alexei Zhitnik and Bobby Holik. It sounds strange to call them
underrated since they have both been All-Stars in their careers, but
they are key players for the Thrashers. Forget anything you've seen from
Zhitnik this season in New York or Philadelphia. He is Atlanta's top
defenseman, and has brought an incredible calmness and poise to the
blueline. He is calm and collected with the puck, and never panics. Ever.
If he is out of position, it is because he was covering for someone else.
He also has a phenomenal 12 points in 10 games, including an overtime
winner against the Rangers last Friday. He is also +8 in that span. He
might have been a bigger pick-up than Keith Tkachuk.
Bobby Holik is a defensive monster. He is not going to put up flashy
numbers but he is a beast in the faceoff circle, and is sixth in the
league among players who have taken more than 400 draws. If Holik is on
his game the other team's top line probably is not going to score.
[Q] Can you summarize Atlanta's defensive and offensive styles in one
brief sentence each?
[BW] The Thrashers run a fast-break offense that scores off of rushes and
neutral zone turnovers. In the defensive end they are cautious and do not
mind giving up shots from the walls, and from beyond the faceoff circles,
because they know Kari Lehtonen will stop the vast majority of them.
[Q] What is the media situation like for the Atlanta Thrashers and the
NHL in Atlanta, which is a very large media hub in the South. Also
how is fan support this year for the Thrashers?
[BW] Fan support has been outstanding, especially since college football has
ended. The arena is loud night in and night out, and there is a huge buzz
around the team. People that were not hockey fans a year ago are buying
playoff packages. The enthusiasm our fans have for the players, the team
and the game is phenomenal.
As for the media, the situation is getting better. This is a football
town and hockey has to compete for time with college and pro football,
baseball, college and pro basketball, NASCAR, golf and a wealth of
non-sports entertainment options. That being said, the media here loves
a winner, so Bob Hartley's gameday scrums are getting bigger and bigger
with each win. The biggest obstacle is that a lot of the sportscasters
and sports editors are not hockey fans yet. I fully expect that to change
once they see playoff hockey.
Thanks to Ben Wright for taking the time to answer a few questions. I tried to profile the Sharks for the Blueland Blog here.
Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik look to help the Thrashers extend the longest home winning streak in franchise history when they host reigning MVP Joe Thornton and the surging San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
The Thrashers (39-25-10) won their seventh straight at Philips Arena on Sunday, beating Eastern Conference-leading Buffalo 4-3 in overtime. The previous club record for consecutive home victories was six, set from March 20-April 15 of last season.
Sharks 4-1 win over Chicago is the 5th in last 6 games
From the drop of the puck Wednesday night, the Sharks dictated play against the Chicago Blackhawks. The top line of Michalek-Thornton-Cheechoo combined for 4 goals and 8 points in the 4-1 win, and the Sharks gained 1 point on the Dallas Stars for 5th place in the Western Conference. Patrick Sharp scored his 17th goal of the season in the first period on assists by Martin Havlat and Rene Bourque.
San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov [20-16-3, .915SV%, 2.23GAA] made several spectacular saves to keep the Blackhawks off of the score sheet, including one sprawling side-to-side stop with a leg pad while Chicago was short handed in the second period. Nabokov made 28 saves on 29 shots to earn his 20th win of the season. Patrick Lalime [2-5-1, .900SV%, 2.88GAA] made several key saves for the Blackhawks, including 2 on a point blank sequence in front of his own net, but the offensive pressure against him was too much.
Blackhawks goaltender Patrick Lalime probably deserved better. Lalime helped his team hold the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks to a 1-1 tie after one period before three straight Hawks penalties did him in Wednesday night.
The Chicago Tribune points to two reasons why the Sharks will be headed to the playoffs this season while the Blackhawks are not: A 70 goal differential in second period goals vs goals allowed (SJ +30, CHI -40), and a stark contrast in power play effectiveness (SJ 2nd in the NHL, CHI 30th).
The Chicago Blackhawks official website posted a look at the players in the system for the AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals. Radio host Jesse Rogers labels Norfolk (45-18-6) a Calder Cup favorite, and reports that they were the first AHL team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Prior to the start of the 2005-06 season, this blog labeled chicagoblackhawks.com as the top website in the NHL. Two features that lead to that distinction were the detailed fan prospect reports for players in the Chicago system, and the live webcam trained on the ice at the United Center. Both of those features appear to be gone at the moment, hopefully they return.
The Mercury News reports that the Sharks win against Chicago was a step in the right direction, but that the intensity level outside of the top line needed work. It was also noted that goaltender Vesa Toskala is expected to start today's game against the Atlanta Thrashers.
[Update] Max Giese attended the game in Chicago and sent in a few notes:
- The first line has been dominant of late. Thornton is beginning to put the team on his shoulders, and it is just in time as Marleau seems to be
struggling through that nagging shoulder injury. Michalek's emergence has allowed Cheechoo to get open again, and teams now have to respect both wingers. Michalek's beginning to use his speed more on the forecheck, and overall he must be one of the most underrated players in the league. What is scary is the fact that we are only seeing the tip of the ice berg in terms of his potential.
- Bill Guerin is a great guy with the kids. Every time I have seen him play live, he goes out of his way to give a kid a puck, or a broken shaft.
- Nabokov made me eat some crow as he had a remarkable game against Chicago. The Sharks defenseman were guilty of taking shifts that were too long, and luckily
Nabokov was there to bail them out several times.
- The United Center in Chicago had a free ticket promotion in conjunction with Ticketmaster, and yet the building was far from being full.
From Fan to Factory to the NHL, a tale of one goalie pad's journey to the big show
A year and a half ago equipment manufacturer Eagle Hockey launched an equipment design contest, spurring an avalanche of concept pad designs from goalies around the world.
INITIAL EAGLE TALONS CONCEPT DESIGN BY CHRIS LE (AKA LEMIEUX)
University of Alberta student and recreational goaltender Chris Le submitted 4 designs following a similar theme. The designs were titled Eagle Head, Eagle Wings, Eagle Talons, and my personal favorite Eagle Phoenix. The concept design above shows three versions of the Eagle Talons theme. Chris's friend Darcy Chan helped transfer the designs to the computer.
PAD ASSEMBLY AT THE EAGLE HOCKEY FACTORY IN LONDON, ONTARIO
After a lengthy selection process, Chris was selected as the winner and flown to the Eagle hockey factory in London, Ontario for a tour of the facilities, and to meet the staff. Eagle upped the ante on the contest, and put him to work assembling a full set of Infinity pads (including a blocker and trapper) utilizing his design. Chris chronicled the experience with text and photos on the very popular goaltending messageboard at goaliestore.com (scroll down).
A few excerpts from his in-depth factory tour review:
The Eagle factory is an unassuming brick building tucked inside a crop of illogically-numbered offices on Charterhouse Crescent. I met the people at Eagle's front desk before Gus, the Operations Manager, came to greet me. He invited me into his office, which had a wide range of pro-return equipment and potential products: a hockey equipment junkie’s dream...
This is the pad that is on the Eagle website. Check out the tag that's on the side of the pad: my name will be on every pad that has the "Talons" or the "Wings" graphic! In fact, "Talons" will be the official face of the 2006 Infinity. Eagle has made a sample for an NHL pro, and of course had to send it to NHL Head Office for approval. Kris King, one of the "Goalie Policeman", called Gus to tell Gus that the new graphic was the "best graphic that he has ever seen!" That was a cool vote of confidence...
After doing my little part, I had a little tour of the pad-making process. The entire staff was really friendly as I hawked over their shoulders and watched what they were doing; some of then even came up to me to talk while I was tracing and cutting. The staff explained their roles in the equipment building process. I wouldn't be surprised if there was several decades worth of equipment building experience between the entire staff. Building leg pads involves about 200 pieces, so there is a lot to track as the gear is made...
The entire trip was fantastic. Everyone at Eagle treated me really well and it was an experience of a lifetime. The company is top-notch and is committed to providing high-quality gear with customer service that goes head and shoulders above anything one can imagine. I will post a review of the gear once I start playing in them a few more times.
Scroll to the bottom of this messageboard thread for step-by-step photos and Chris's descriptions of the pad assembly process.
NASHVILLE PREDATORS GOALTENDER TOMAS VOKOUN WEARS THE DESIGN IN SJ
On February 28th, Peter Forsberg and Tomas Vokoun traveled to San Jose with the rest of the Nashville Predators for a meeting between two of the top teams in the Western Conference. Tomas Vokoun made 27 saves on 30 shots, and stopped 3 of 4 overtime shootout attempts to give the Predators a 4-3 win. A few pictures of Vokoun and the pads in action are available in this photo gallery.
The pad, glove and blocker design on the Eagle pads he wore during the game? Designed by Chris Le. Vokoun has been wearing the pads for some time, but there is only one word to describe the process from concept, to manufacturing, to on the ice stopping pucks. Cool.
March Madness has swept the nation as the sweet 16 approaches for college basketball. This also means that it is time for the best 16 teams in college hockey to begin their run for a NCAA Hockey Championship. Last year's champion Wisconsin Badgers did not qualify for the tournament this season. North Dakota, Boston College, and Maine are all returning from the 2006 Frozen Four looking to take the final step this year.
Complete television listings for the tournament are available at ESPNU.com. ESPNU will broadcast the regional games, ESPN2 will broadcast the semi-finals on April 5th, and ESPN will broadcast the championship game on April 7th at 5:00PM (PT). Several local Fox Sports Net stations will broadcast the tournament regionally, as well as other networks such as Altitude Sports in Colorado.
For wall-to-wall coverage of the tournament visit U.S. College Hockey Online or
Inside College Hockey. The official NCAA website is available here, with printable brackets and more information. Check in with sharkspage.com for continuous updates, impressions, and predictions from the tournament.
SHARKS PROSPECTS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
C - Steve Zalewski, Junior #15 Clarkson Knights (38GP, 16G, 18A, 34PTS). Zalewski, a Sharks 4th round selection in the 2004 draft is a mature, gritty 2-way player with adequate vision, smooth mobility, and an ever improving finishing touch.
C - Tony Lucia, Freshman #12 Minnesota Gophers, (41GP, 7G, 11A. 18PTS). The son of head coach Don Lucia, Tony has developed steadily this season into a physical 2-way performer. While he lacks offensive upside, he has a knack for coming up with plays in the clutch.
LW - P.J. Fenton, Junior #14 Massachusetts Minutmen, (37GP, 10G, 14A, 24PTS). He is a fierce competitor who has a lot of sandpaper to his game. Fenton lacks the high end offensive ability, but he plays a defensively solid game, and is strong in traffic. He can also finish well in close.
C - John McCarthy, Sophomore Boston University Terriers, (38GP, 2G, 3A - 5PTS). Boasts a nice frame with elite face off skill. McCarthy is a quick skater with a nice long stride, but he has always struggled to manufacture offense.
D - Brian O'Hanley , Junior Boston College Eagles, (32GP, 2G, 1A, 4PTS). A diminutive offensive-defenseman that has good timing and some instincts in the offensive zone. His lack of strength can make him a liability in his own zone, even at this level. Needs to improve drastically before next season.
NCAA EAST REGIONAL
3 Clarkson vs. 11 Massachussetts 2:30PM (ET). Predicted Winner: Clarkson. Clarkson is just too deep up front and on the back end for UMASS to handle. Their roster boasts nearly a dozen NHL prospects, and they can beat the opposition in a number of ways. Massachusetts can make this interesting if it turns into a goaltending battle as Los Angeles Kings Prospect John Quick is capable of stealing a game, and the UMASS first line can battle.
Keep an eye on: Clarkson RW Shawn Weller. The Ottawa Senators 3rd round selection in the 2004 draft is a big and fast power winger with tremendous wheels. Also look for Clarkson center Nick Doge. He is a strong 2-way centerman with crafty offensive skills, a tremendous hockey sense, and can win face offs with the game on the line. Doge is a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick.
13 Maine vs. 6 St. Cloud St 6:00PM (ET). Predicted Winner: Maine. This game will be an excellent hockey contest. Both teams are talented up front, decent on the backend, and brilliant in goal. Each team is coming into the tournament with a bad loss. Maine has the edge because of their coaching and experience.
Keep an eye on: Maine's Goalie Ben Bishop. He is 6-7 with excellent athleticism and reflexes, who can also move the puck up the ice. Austrian center Andreas Nodl is a Philadelphia Flyers 2nd round pick who is the key to St. Clouds offensive attack.
NCAA NORTHEAST REGIONAL
12 St. Lawrence vs. 5 Boston College 4:30PM (ET). Predicted Winner: Boston College. Goaltender Corey Schneider, a 1st round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2004, should carry Boston College deep into the tournament again this year, and it will start with a victory over St. Lawrence. Schneider is mechanically sound, plays large in net, and anticipates the play well. His athleticism has always been superb, and he thrives in the big games. Boston College's exciting top end offensive talent is icing on the cake, and they are the favorite to win it all.
Keep an eye on: Boston College's one-two punch of the 6-7, 230 pound Brian Boyle and the 5-6, 165 pound Nate Gerbe. Boyle is a Los Angeles Kings 1st round selection, and is a force down low. His puck protection and balance make him difficult to knock off the puck, and his rocket of a shot hurts teams who fail to do so. Gerbe will be one of the most entertaining forwards to watch in the entire tournament. He is pint sized, but has elite level talent in all areas, and an impeccable character to match. Gerbe is vastly underrated, and should be a star in the near future for the Buffalo Sabres. He is the best little guy not playing in the NHL.
14 Miami Ohio vs. 4 New Hampshire 1:00PM (ET). Predicted Winner: Miami Ohio. Don't let the rankings fool you, Miami Ohio is a stacked hockey club that will surprise some people. Center Nathan Davis is one of the best 2-way players in the tournament, and goaltender Jeff Zatkoff is as strong as they come when he is on his game. Both players are drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings respectively, and both have represented Team USA at the World Junior Championships. The only concern is that Zatkoff has not showed that he can play his best in big games. This is something to consider.
Keep an eye on: Miami's sophomore defenseman Alec Martinez has been a smooth skating offensive defenseman, and a fan favorite since his days in the USHL. Goalie Kevin Regan of New Hampshire is a Boston Bruins prospect that has come a very long way since last season, and boasts a .936 save percentage.
NCAA MID-WEST REGIONAL
2 Notre Dame vs. 16 Alabama Huntsville 5:00PM (ET). Predicted Winner: Notre Dame. This may be the easiest game to call. Notre Dame has a deadly first line, with depth through all four lines. The Fighting Irish also have a strong puck moving defensive corps, and a Hobey Baker favorite in net with Pittsburgh Penguins prospect David Brown. Alabama has no chance.
Keep an eye on: Notre Dame freshman Kyle Lawson, a Carolina Hurricanes draft pick is one of the most underrated puck moving defenseman in the country. Defenseman Wes O'Neil, one of the captains of the Fighting Irish is a 6-4, 210 pound 2-way defenseman. At one point, O'Neil was projected to be drafted in the 1st round, before he eventually fell to the fourth round in 2004.
8 Boston University vs. 9 Michigan State 8:30PM (ET). Predicted Winner: Boston University. Both teams have strong goaltending and a good offense, but Boston University gets the edge because their goalie is playing better, and BU's depth up front is superb. Also watch for the pint sized, but fearless, Boston University center Peter MacArthur. Some scouts rated MacArthur as a second round talent in the 2005 draft, yet he fell through the cracks and went undrafted.
Keep an eye on: Michigan State center Justin Abdelkader. Abdelkader has all the tools to develop into a Jeff Carter like center in the NHL. He is big a power center, with tremendous speed, and he possesses the ability to finish and create.
NCAA WEST REGIONAL
1 Minnesota vs. 15 Air Force 1:30PM (MT). Predicted Winner: Minnesota. This is another easy game to predict. Minnesota has the most depth of any team up front, on the blueline, and they even have a solid co-#1 goaltending rotation similar to the one in San Jose. Air Force is not a bad team, and Junior Eric Ehn has developed into an offensive dynamo. This could be his coming out party. However, Air Force's goaltending is too inconsistent to whether the Minnesota storm.
Keep an eye on: Minnesota has four 1st round picks, three of which have gone in the top 10. New York Islanders 8th overall selection in 2006 Kyle Okposo, is a Jarome Iginla like power forward with tremendous strength and finishing ability. St. Louis Blues 1st overall selection in the 2006 draft Erik Johnson is a big, mobile 2-way defenseman. He can take over the flow of a game, and occasionally looks like Rob Blake on the power play with his thunderous point shots. Also look for Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Alex Goligoski. He is the Gophers best offensive defenseman, and plays a similar game to San Jose Sharks defenseman and former Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle. Third line center James O'Brien should go in the 1st round this season. Despite being very raw, O'Brien possesses a little bit of everything, which gives him excellent upside.
8 Michigan vs. 10 North Dakota 5:30PM (MT). Predicted Winner: Michigan. North Dakota is a strong team that had to overcome a rash of injuries early in the season. Now they are healthy and ready to make a run. Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie are as good of a one two punch as any in college hockey, but their goaltending has let them down this season. Michigan will try to make this a high scoring game, and play to their strengths. Toews could be the x-factor. He has proven to be clutch, and has a complete game in the mould of a young Joe Sakic. Expect Colorado Avalanche prospect T.J. Hensick, and Edmonton Oilers 1st round selection in the 2005 draft Andrew Cogliano, to be too much for North Dakota to handle.
Keep an eye on: Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson. Johnson is an electrifying player on the blueline. He possesses the best hands of any defenseman at this level, and the Los Angeles Kings are counting down the minutes until he can join their NHL roster (allegedly). North Dakota's T.J. Oshie is a St.Louis Blues 1st round pick that plays like a smaller version of Alexander Ovechkin.
SHARKS SIGN TWO COLLEGIATE PLAYERS TO PRO CONTRACTS:
The San Jose Sharks have been active signing NCAA players to pro contracts over the past two weeks. First to sign was center T.J. Fox out of Union College, who signed a 2 year entry level contract. Fox was a free agent coming off of a sophomore season where he lead the Dutchmen in scoring (13G, 24A, 37PTS). Fox is a crafty 2-way player, with a fluid stride and excellent vision. His playmaking touch is what stands out most, and he will make a solid center at the AHL level.
The more important of the 2 signings is when the Sharks inked their 4th round selection from the 2004 draft, Vermont center Torrey Mitchell. Mitchell is ranked as the 5th best San Jose prospect by sharkspage.com, and could have a shot at playing for the Sharks at some point next season. He will benefit from playing in Worcester for the remainder of the season, where he can adjust to the speed and size of the pro game. Mitchell is a touch grittier than Marcel Goc, and he has developed rapidly since being drafted. He possesses a great initial burst of speed, combined with tenacious puck pursuit and a mature game away from the puck. His shot is above average, but he is more of a playmaker through hard work and strong play in traffic.
STARS SIGN FIRST ROUND PICK:
Minnesota Duluth lost their most talented defenseman as sophomore Matt Niskanen signed with the Dallas Stars. The Stars 1st round selection in the 2005 draft is a fabulous skater, with an elegant and powerful stride. Niskanen sees the ice very well, and excels at moving the puck quickly up to his forwards. Niskanen is a creative offensive defenseman, with the occasional physical edge defensively. It is a bit surprising that he came out this early, but he should not be overwhelmed by the AHL level of play. He is still two years away from being a top six defenseman in the NHL. Niskanen was one of the best offensive defenseman in the NCAA, and he would have challenged for the Hobey Baker Award next fall. He will now join the Iowa Stars of the AHL for their playoff run.
[Update] The news of Torrey Mitchell's signing with San Jose was a bit premature, but the Sharks confirmed it on Wednesday with a press release:
SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General
Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed center
Torrey Mitchell to an entry level NHL contract. In keeping with club
policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Mitchell, 22, recently completed his third season at the University of
Vermont, leading the team in points (12-23=25). In 39 games, he tied
for the team lead in game-winning goals (4) and scored the team's only
shorthanded goal. Serving as a co-captain, Mitchell led the team in
assists, was second in goals, tied for fourth in power play goals and
accumulated 46 penalty minutes. He was named an Honorable Mention
Hockey East All-Star at the conclusion of the season.
"Torrey has made tremendous strides in advancing his hockey career
since we drafted him in June of 2004," said Wilson. "That progress is a
result of not only Torrey's dedication and commitment but the unwavering
support and guidance he has received from Vermont Head Coach Kevin
Sneddon and his staff. We're very excited to have Torrey formally join
the San Jose Sharks organization and look forward to helping him
continue to grow on- and off-the-ice."
Milan Hejduk's game winning goal give Avalanche 4-3 OT win over Sharks
Avalanche captain Joe Sakic earned an assist on goals by Tyler Arnason and John-Michael Liles in the first two periods, but it was his play to set-up the final two goals that gave Colorado a 4-3 overtime win over the Sharks. A win that brought the Avs within 4 points of Calgary for 8th place in the Western Conference.
Down 3-2 late in the third period, San Jose defenseman Matt Carle could not clear the puck out of the defensive zone due to pressure along the boards. Joe Sakic jumped on the puck and drew two forwards to him outside of the faceoff dot. Sakic found an open Ken Klee for a shot along the point. After a few bounces through traffic, Andrew Brunette slams home the rebound to tie the game at 3-3. The 25th goal for Brunette is a career high.
In overtime, Joe Sakic takes the puck behind his own net during a 4-on-3 power play. Sakic skates to the redline and finds an open Milan Hejduk on the right wing. Hejduk takes a few strides, faked a shot, and then wristed the puck up high over the left shoulder of Nabokov. Avs win 4-3 to boost their record to 8-0-1 in their last nine games. The Sharks streak of not allowing a goal in the first or second period ends at 7 games on a goal by Tyler Arnason 11:55 into the first. Joe Thornton (20th, PP), Milan Michalek (20th), and Bill Guerin (33) scored for San Jose. Peter Budaj (26-15-5, .906SV%, 2.72GAA, 3SO) made 21 saves on 24 shots to earn his 26th win of the season. Evgeni Nabokov (19-16-3, .913SV%, 2.26GAA, 7SO) made 36 saves on 40 shots in a losing effort.
It sure seems like something magical is happening with the Avalanche, whose chances of sneaking into the playoffs suddenly aren't so far-fetched.
The Avalanche didn't rely on any hocus-pocus Sunday night to pull out a 4-3 overtime win against the San Jose Sharks at the Pepsi Center, but something special definitely is taking place.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, it was the 13th time the Avalanche have put 40 shots on goal or more this season. The Denver Post quotes Avalanche head coach Joel Quenneville, "Of all the wins this year we've had, that's the most entertaining and exciting". The Avalanche and 8th place Calgary each have 10 games remaining on the season, with Colorado next facing Edmonton twice in a row at Rexall Place. Woody Paige chimes in on the Sharks-Avs game, and labels it a Dazzling display of grit, that "seemed like a playoff victory". The Post also notes that center Paul Stastny was held scoreless for the game, ending the NHL rookie record point streak at 20 games. The Colorado Avalanche team photographer posted a photo gallery from the game here.
on Wilson's 1,000th game just might give him 1,000 nightmares. The Sharks were looking for a fifth straight win, had a two-goal lead by nearly mid-game, and were facing a team that had played the night before while San Jose was rested. Sounds like a certain recipe for victory?
The San Jose Mercury News notes that the Avalanche played with more fire than the Sharks in the third period, possibly a result of the Sharks 3 games in 4 days, and that Colorado has not lost in regulation since February 25th. The Merc quoted San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson after his 1000th game behind the bench, "Our D had a lot of pressure on them, Our forwards? The effort wasn't what we need". A MN forum question asks the perennial question for San Jose Sharks fans, which franchise goaltender do you want to stick with Evgeni Nabokov or Vesa Toskala? And the answer is... Win and You Stay In™.
The NHL named Joe Thornton as its first star of the week after leading all scorers with 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in four games. Joe Sakic earned the second star after finishing second in scoring with 3 goals and 6 assists in 3 games. Mike Modano earned third star for a Western Conference sweep.
SHARKS HEAD COACH RON WILSON COACHES HIS 1000th GAME TONIGHT
SAN JOSE - San Jose Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson will become just the
13th head coach in NHL history to reach the 1,000 game plateau with
tonight's game at Colorado.
Wilson joins an elite group of NHL coaches that includes Scotty Bowman,
Al Arbour and Dick Irvin and is among Ottawa's Bryan Murray and
Florida's Jacques Martin as they only active coaches to that have
reached the milestone.
This season, Wilson has led the Sharks to their third
consecutive 40+ win season, including tying the franchise record of 44
wins. In addition, the team has compiled a franchise-best 23 road wins
in 36 games (T-1st in NHL with Buffalo).
Entering play tonight, only three NHL teams have more wins
than San Jose's 44 (Nashville , Buffalo  and Detroit  and
only one team has allowed fewer goals than San Jose's 173 (Dallas .
The Sharks power play currently sits second in the NHL at 22.0%.
Hired by San Jose on Dec. 4, 2002, Wilson has posted a 150-110-33 record
in 293 NHL games with the Sharks and his .589 point percentage is the
highest in franchise history. In 999 NHL games with Anaheim, Washington
and San Jose, he has a 462-422-115 record and has coached the third-most
games among active NHL coaches (Bryan Murray, 1210 and Jacques Martin,
In his first full two seasons behind the Sharks bench,
Wilson led the team to its first appearance in the Western Conference
Finals against the Calgary Flames in 2003-04 and advanced to the Western
Conference Semi-Finals against the Edmonton Oilers last season. In each
instance, the team succumbed to the eventual Western Conference
In 2003-04, Wilson was named runner-up for the Jack Adams Trophy and was
named "Best Coach" by The Hockey News.
Under his guidance, several players have blossomed to earn
major NHL awards, including Joe Thornton (2006 Hart Memorial Trophy and
Art Ross Trophy), Jonathan Cheechoo (2006 Maurice "Rocket" Richard
Trophy), Olaf Kolzig (2000 Vezina Trophy with Washington), Paul Kariya
(1996 and 1997 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy with Anaheim). Runners up for
major NHL awards included: Teemu Selanne (1997 Art Ross Trophy, 1997
and 1998 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy) and Paul Kariya (1997 Hart Memorial
Internationally, Wilson has been selected by the United
States to lead the Olympic Hockey team in 1998, the World Cup of Hockey
in 1996 (gold medal) and 2004 and the World Championships in 1994 and
Wilson will be honored for coaching 1,000 NHL games in a pre-game
ceremony prior to the Sharks/Los Angeles Kings game on March 27 at HP
Max Giese: Nabokov's confdience still shaky, despite hot streak
One would think that allowing only 4 goals in his last 6 games, including a stretch of 3 shut-outs in 4 games, would be enough to steady the ship and solidify Nabokov's confidence in goal. Sunday night's 4-3 overtime loss against the Colorado Avalanche provided a few question marks. It remains to be seen if the goaltending rotation with Vesa Toskala might affect the consistency of play night in and night out from the Sharks co-#1 goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Taking full advantage of Vesa Toskala's injury to re-establish the impressive goaltending that carried the Sharks to the Western Conference finals in 2004, Nabokov started to carry the Sharks on his shoulders during their most recent winning streak. However, there were a few warning signs Sunday night in Colorado. The last two weeks Nabokov has been patient in the net, allowing him to play a mistake free game mechanically. He has been able to overcome the soft goal or two he has allowed on a regular basis earlier in the season. Nabokov was also using solid positioning and his superior athleticism to make the difficult saves look easy, which is a trademark of his game when he is on. In Colorado, the dark side of Nabokov's game was visible. He was flopping off of rebounds, going down too early, making the first move instead of forcing the shooter to, and he was caught guessing instead of reacting several times.
It is too early to make an ultimate judgement on whether the Sharks 2-man goaltending rotation is the best for the team down the stretch, or if it will work in the playoffs. The rotation also might hurt efforts for either goalie to clearly establish himself as the #1 goaltender. With Vesa Toskala returning to post a shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the question the team needs to ask is if it will have a negative mental effect on Nabokov's game. Evgeni Nabokov appears to struggle with a competition for playing time, instead of flourishing with it. It is clear he tries to do too much on certain nights, and his mental focus may suffer. This leads to an impatient goalie that lacks confidence, and one that can not play to his full potential.
It was a similar situation that Miikka Kipprusoff faced in the fall of 2002-2003. Kiprusoff tried too hard to make highlight reel saves in net, and often played himself out of position in the process. Instead of being patient and playing to his strengths, Kipprusoff struggled during his opportunity to stand out from a crease that featured Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala. Nabokov seems to fall in a similar trap when he is splitting time with Vesa Toskala, and when Toskala is playing well. Evgeni Nabokov may play best as a go-to #1 in the vein of Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, or Miikka Kiprusoff, as a goaltender who will log 70-72 starts a season.
The goaltending plot continues to thicken in San Jose. It will be intriguing to see how this upcoming week will play out. Vesa Toskala should face the easier of the 2 back-to-back starts with Chicago, and Evgeni Nabokov will have to face the red hot Atlanta Thrashers.
Sharks overpower Blue Jackets 3-0, 1st win for Toskala in 15 games
#35 VESA TOSKALA TRIES TO SEE AROUND #61 RICK NASH #13 GUERIN AND #7 BELL GAIN POSITION ON #55 TOLLEFSEN #29 RYANE CLOWE SCORES HIS 16TH GOAL OF THE SEASON
Vesa Toskala started for the first time in 15 games against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, and made 35 saves during a 3-0 shutout in the process. Joe Thornton scored for the second straight game (his 19th), and Ryane Clowe added an insurance goal in the second period. Defenseman Scott Hannan scored on a rinkwide shot into an empty net in the third. With the win, the Sharks move into sole possession of 5th place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Dallas and Minnesota.
Starting lineups, SJ - Toskala, Michalek, Cheechoo, Thornton, Hannan, Vlasic. CBJ - Norrena, Vyborny, Svitov, Chimera, Tollefsen, Klesla. The Blue Jackets are coming off an impressive 5-4 road shootout win over Anaheim, Vyborny with the game winner. Toskala is on the ice for his first start after missing 14 games due to injury.
Sergei Federov is starting the game on the blueline with Ron Hainsey as a defensive partner due to injuries for Columbus. Ehrhoff loses the puck at the blueline and it bounces to Vyborny, who has a clear lane through the neutral zone to the Sharks net. Vlasic forces him wide and gives him a small window to shoot at, and Toskala makes the save. Cheechoo knocks the net off its moorings to spoil a rebound attempt. A long breakout pass springs Rick Nash alone on Toskala. Scott Hannan catches up to him, and reaches around to poke the puck off the rush. Sharks clear the puck. Rick Nash has scored 6 goals in his last 9 games.
Hooking on Nash. Sharks have the top ranked power play in the NHL (80PPG, 22.3%), Columbus has the 23rd ranked penalty kill in the NHL (80.6%). The Columbus radio crew of George Matthews and Bill Davidge are one of the best in the league, they offer a thought on the line of Modin-Nash-Zherdev "You better look at the score sheet, we are going to run out of pens. These guys can score goals".
Joe Thornton scores his 19th goal of the season at 3:02. After digging the puck out of the corner, the puck is sent to Rivet on the point. Pass by Rivet from the blueline, and Thornton beat defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to the center of the ice for a wrist shot. Score 1-0 San Jose. Two solid hits by Steve Bernier on successive shifts, on the last one he hammered Klesla along the boards.
Tollefsen is hammered along the end boards by Joe Thornton, and crumples to the ice. No penalty called. Tollefsen was able to move the puck up ice, and the Blue Jackets clear the zone.
Patrick Marleau finds Mark Bell alone on the opposite side of the Blue Jackets zone, and Bell breaks in alone on goal. Norrena stacks the pads and robs Bell with a glove save up high while prone. A Sharks defenseman fails to hold the puck in the zone, and the Blue Jackets quickly transition the puck up ice. Zherdev and Klesla are 2-on-1 against Matt Carle, and Zherdev rings a shot off of the blocker side post. Columbus radio crew note a Zherdev trend of faking blocker side and going glove, but this time he tried the opposite.
Columbus defenseman Aaron Johnson uses body positioning, and one hand on the stick, to carry the puck around Matt Carle and stop hard behind the Sharks net. Johnson spins and sends the puck through the crease, and Scott Hannan levels Gilbert Brule before he can get a stick to the ice.
At the end of the period, Joe Pavelski steals the puck from Rick Nash and finds Ryane Clowe and Jonathan Cheechoo criss crossing at the Columbus blueline. Clowe winds up and scores on a slap shot from 20 feet out. San Jose 2, Columbus 0.
Again, Thornton hammered Tollefsen along the boards. The physical play is starting to wear down the defenseman for Columbus, and the effect on their mobility is noticeable. 11 minutes into the period, Hannan picks the puck off of Nash in the offensive zone. For a 6-4, 215 pound power forward, Nash is not making the most of his size and power game tonight.
After a collision at center ice, Michalek gains possession and breaks in to the Columbus zone. Three Blue Jackets are trailing, but can not catch Milan. Michalek tries a little hesitation move, but Norrena came far out of the crease to poke the puck clear, again while he was prone on the ice with his pads stacked. One step from the boards, Hannan turned away from a Columbus forward and lofted the puck down ice for a goal from 195 feet away. San Jose 3, Columbus 0.
[Q] What's going on there (with the Sharks recent play)?
[SH] I think it is us being able to roll four lines, playing six D. Having a goalie, Vesa, making big saves for us when we need them. Having a good defense, we don't give up much. We are not turning the puck over, and we are getting the puck deep. Our forwards get back, and when you can play down in their end before they get any offense, it is pretty hard for them to create.
[Q] And the play of Toskala?
[SH] Yes, when teams aren't scoring, you don't have to do too much to win games. We are coming out and relishing 1 goal games. Before, I think we were tentative. We sat back on leads, and it bit us because teams came back. Now we are playing the same game from start to finish.
[Q] Does it feel good to get back in there, and with the result?
[VT] Yes, of course. It is nice to win after the long break, but I am more happy about how my body felt today. It felt good. I kind of set 25 wins as a goal before the season because we (Toskala and Nabokov) were each going to get 41 games. I am happy about that.
[Q] About the way that the team played in front of you... really dominanting the last 7 games.
[VT] I think we kept them outside and let them shoot from there. Today there was a couple of 2-on-1's, but we didn't let them have too many.
[Q] You have been dominating, not allowing a goal for several periods, any idea why that is going on?
[CR] I think guys feel real confident in our system right now. We are scoring goals, but first and foremost we are taking care of our defensive zone, cut down on scoring chances, key scoring chances. Let shots come from the outside. If they want to take those, we will let them and then clear the puck.
[Q] This has to do wonders for team confidence heading into the playoffs with the way this team is playing?
[CR] Yes, but the funny thing is you don't always want to look at the score. Tonight we won 3-0, but I think if you ask any of the guys in this room, did we play our best hockey, I don't think guys would say so. There are still things we can improve on, and prepare ourselves a little better, a little stronger. We are going to take this win and be happy with it, but obviously we want to play better.
Of the 4 Californian teams in the 5-team ECHL Pacific Division, the Bakersfield Condors, Stockton Thunder, and Fresno Falcons are all gearing up to make a playoff run for the Kelly Cup.
Bakersfield Condors (38-13-10) - Rookie center Todd Griffith is 13th in the ECHL in goals with 26. Goaltender Jamie Hodson is tied for 3rd in the ECHL in wins with 27, 5th in the ECHL with a 2.43GAA, and 3rd in the ECHL with a .922SV% . Last 5 games: 5-0, including 1 shootout win, and 1 overtime win. The Bakersfield Condors are on an impressive 6-0-2 road trip that has seen them vault to first place in the Pacific Division, and 2nd overall in the ECHL. The Condors lost All-Star forward Todd Griffith (26 goals, 17 assists, 46 games played) to a broken hand after a fight with Tommy Maxwell, last seen on this blog in a fight at the NHL rookie tournament, and will miss 4-6 weeks. The Bakersfield roster has been bolstered by the re-assignment of center Alexandre Bolduc from the AHL Manitoba Moose.
Fresno Falcons (32-22-6) - Left wing Luke Curtin is 8th in the ECHL in scoring with 19 goals and 50 assists for 69 points. Rookie goaltender Ryan MacDonald is 2nd in the ECHL with a .927SV%, 4th in the ECHL with a 2.38 GAA, and tied for 1st in shuouts with 5. Last 5 games: 3-2. The Fresno Falcons followed their parent NHL club the San Jose Sharks, dipping into the talent pool of the Northeast by signing 3 players from UMass-Lowell: defenseman J.R. Bria, defenseman Jake Pence, and center Jason Tejchma. Fresno faces the top team in the ECHL at home tonight in the Alaska Aces.
Stockton Thunder (27-22-10) - Rookie right wing Mathieu Melanson was named ECHL Player of the Week for Mar. 5-11, 2007 with 4 goals, 2 assists, and a +6 ranking. Rookie goaltender Devan Dubnyk is 10th in the ECHL with .914SV%, 19th in the ECHL with 17 wins, and 10th in the ECHL with a 73% save ratio and 3 wins in overtime shootouts. Last 5 games: 3-2, including a 3 game sweep over the Victoria Salmon Kings with 2 shootout wins and 1 overtime win. The Stockton lineup was recently boosted by the addition of former Greenville captain Colin Pepperall, who should help offset a recent flood of injuries.
Long Beach Ice Dogs (22-34-3) - Center Ash Goldie is tied for 8th in the ECHL in goals scored with 30, and ranks 21st overall in points with 60. Last 5 games: 2-3. With only 13 games left in the season, playoff hopes for Long Beach are dimming fast. A 3-game homestand against the Victoria Salmon Kings and Phoenix Roadrunners, two teams ahead of LB in the standings, will be critical.
[Update] A few notes about the Patrick J. Kelly Cup:
The Patrick J. Kelly Cup, awarded to the ECHL champion since 1997. The Kelly Cup weighs in at 25-3/8 pounds, and stands 19-3/8 inches high with 2 levels of the Cup displaying team and player names.
Patrick J. Kelly was one of the founders of the ECHL, serving as Commissioner for the first 8 years of the league, before being named Commissioner Emeritus in 1996. Patrick J. Kelly coached the Colorado Rockies and lead them to the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs in 1978. Kelly played in the OJHL, AHL, IHL, EHL, and coached in the EHL, SHL, NHL, AHL, and IHL, where he lead the Peoria Riverman to a Turner Cup in 1985. According to the ECHL, Kelly coached 1,900 career games and had 935 wins to rank second all time among professional coaches, second only to the legendary Scotty Bowman with 2,571 games and 1,511 wins.
Prior to 1997, the Riley Cup was awarded to the ECHL champion from its foundation in 1989 to 1996. The Riley Cup was named after influential ECHL player Jack Riley.
VACAVILLE JETS PLAY AT HP PAVILION DURING INTERMISSION ON SUNDAY
- The progression of hockey continued over the weekend with the first high school hockey game in the Bay Area played between Bellarmine College Prep and Valley Christian at the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose. Valley Christain defeated Bellarmine 8-5, despite a 4 goal run by Bellarmine in the third period.
"Since day one, the goal of the Sharks/HP High School Hockey League has been to increase the participation in ice hockey in each local high school in the area," stated Robert Savoie, Director of Hockey at Logitech Ice. "Bellarmine and Valley Christian are the first to 'ice' teams consisting entirely of their own student bodies, and we hope that these teams will serve as models for other schools to follow."
According to the SJ Mercury News high school report, there have been as many as 9 different club teams composed of players from various high schools competing for the last 7 years, but Friday's game was the first between two teams made up entirely of students from each individual school. The game will be an annual event, with a trophy to be housed at Logitech Ice.
In the inaugural showdown, the Warriors jumped out early 6-1 and looked to cruise to victory. But Bellarmine mounted a late flurry to nearly tie the score. In the end, Valley Christian held on in an 8-5 victory in front of a league-record crowd of nearly 750.
Said Logitech Ice Business Development Manager Mike Bruins: "With more teams like Valley Christian and Bellarmine participating, I would love to see a Central Coast Section-sanctioned sport and would love to field as many teams as would like to play.
PAC-8 TOURNAMENT COVERAGE IN HOCKEY AND SKATING MAGAZINE
- Hockey and Skating Magazine, the free ice hockey and ice skating newspaper available at almost every rink in California, used three photos from this blog for their report on the Pac-8 Hockey Tournament last month in El Segundo. The USC Trojans tied the Oregon Ducks with 38 seconds remaining on a goal by Shon Smith, and then took home the Pac-8 Championship with a goal on a deflection by Jason Filantres in overtime.
It was "deja vu all over again" as the USC Trojan Men's Ice Hockey Team faced off against the Oregon Ducks at the 2007 Championship Game. The big game to crown the Pac-8 season champion went into overtime, and again, the USC Trojans prevailed, beating the Ducks 4-3.
To subscribe to H&S Magazine call 951-685-3794, or email lisa at hockeyandskating.com.
MIKE MEYER PHOTO - THE HOCKEY NEWS
- A few weeks after nearly losing it at the Pac-8 Tournament in southern California, USC goaltender Mickey Meyer dropped his pants to moon the crowd at an ACHA National Tournament game. Meyer was frustrated after 5 Trojans had already been sent to the penalty box. The incident made it into the March 6th issue of The Hockey News.
- A full update on San Jose State's participation in the ACHA D2 National Championship Tournament will be posted shortly.
- Past episodes of the Sharks pre-game television program Shark Byte are now available for viewing online via fsnbayarea.com. The online videos also have an embedding feature (too wide for this blog), similar to those on Youtube and Google Video. To view Episode 11's visit inside the Sharks training room, click here.
- The NHL recently launched an online stream of the On The Fly nightly hockey highlight show from the NHL Network. This is something that is long overdue. Thanks to Paul Kukla for the information. A permanent link to OTF is on the sidebar to the right.
The nation’s best female hockey players will skate into Silicon Valley at the end of March to compete in the 2007 USA Hockey Girls’ and Women’s National Championships.
The largest ice hockey tournament ever held in California will take place from March 23 to April 1. Hosted by Logitech Ice, the official practice facility of the San Jose Sharks, the two-week event will feature 80 teams and thousands of players. Their families and fans are expected to book more than 4,500 hotel rooms in San Jose. Logitech Ice, one of just seven four-rink facilities in the U.S., is the largest public hockey facility west of the Mississippi.
Competing in the tournament from March 28-April 1 are USA Hockey Girls’ 12, 14, 16 and 19 & under age groups. The Women’s Senior A, B and C divisions will run the weekend prior, from March 23-25
- The Los Angeles Times reports that sellouts are becoming the norm at the Honda Center for the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks 20 sellouts this season are the most for the team in 9 seasons. According to the Times, Anaheim is averaging, 16,252 fans through 36 home games, up 9.5% over last year.
The San Jose Sharks sellout crowd for Bill Guerin's hat trick over the Chicago Blackhawks was the 20th of the year at HP Pavilion. The Sharks have sold out 20 consecutive games at home, and 29 out of 34 on the season.
Think playing in the NHL is tough? Try verbally calling two-and-a-half straight hours of the fastest game on earth, all while playing off of another broadcaster, and doing it in a manner so listeners can actually "see" the game.
- The Silver Creek Sportsplex fitness/soccer/hockey/restaurant complex in San Jose launched the Rollin Ice proshop and 3 brand new roller hockey rinks on January 19th. Visit rollinice.com or silvercreeksportsplex.com for more information.
- There has been an ongoing movement to save the 67 year old hockey rink at Berkeley Iceland. Home of the Cal Bears club hockey team, and several recreational hockey and ice skating programs, East Bay Iceland decided to close the rink on January 18th.
A Landmark Preservation Commission final ruling on Berkeley Iceland is scheduled for the North Berkeley Senior Center on April 5th at 7:30 PM. For more information, visit saveberkeleyiceland.org.
Bill Guerin scores a hat trick in 7-1 Sharks win over Chicago
#2 KEITH DUNCAN INITIATES A CONFRONTATION AFTER THE END OF THE GAME RON WILSON, BILL GUERIN ON THE BENCH AFTER SCORING A PENALTY SHOT
SHARKS-BLACKHAWKS VERSUS BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS
After facing the Chicago Blackhawks 8 times this season as a member of the St Louis Blues, right wing Bill Guerin made the most of his 9th appearance by registering 3 goals and an assist. In addition to a third period power play goal, Guerin also converted a penalty shot with 13 seconds left to send a shower of hats onto the ice at HP Pavilion. San Jose earned a 7-1 win at home against the Chicago Blackhawks to move into a 3-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota for 5th place in the Western Conference.
The 4 point game saw Guerin break a six game scoreless streak since being traded to San Jose. Former Chicago Blackhawk Mark Bell also scored, along with Milan Michalek and Mike Grier. Martin Lapointe ended Evgeni Nabokov's bid for a shutout with 3:30 left to play in the third period, it would have been Nabokov's 4th shutout in 5 games. The Sharks goaltender made 18 saves on 19 shots to earn his 18th win of the season.
Max Giese: A look ahead at the 2008 and 2009 NHL Entry Drafts
The 2008 NHL Entry Draft will be a strong top end draft, with no shortage of players able to fill out the top 10. The Ontario Hockey League talent is especially deep with five players currently in the top ten, four of them being defenseman.
1. C Steven Stamkos - Sarnia. A prospect similar to Mike Modano, with a lanky frame, an elegant and powerful stride, and excellent offensive abilities. He is a deadly sniper and a creative playmaker.
2. D Drew Doughty - Guelph. He is not overly big, but he has a number of tools. His hockey sense is through the roof, as is his elite puck movement. Confidence and poise with the puck are two standout qualities, and his hands are softer than most skilled forwards at this age.
3. D Michael Del Zotto - Oshawa. He is big and strong, with a powerful point shot to go along with superb puck movement. Zotto makes a great first pass, and is a highly skilled offensive defenseman. His defensive game also improved this year. Compared by some to Bryan McCabe.
4. D Alex Pietrangelo - Missisauga. Similar to Jay Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo is a tall lanky kid with exceptional mobility and poise. Does not possess a mean streak, but he is very intelligent and makes critical plays look almost too easy. Pietrangelo is comfortable on the point, and shows impressive creativity and offensive upside.
5. D Yann Sauve - Rimouski. Hockey sense is the only question as Sauve is Quebec's answer to Dion Phaneuf. Sauve is a big, strapping defenseman with elite mobility and a punishing physical game. His shot is top notch, and he can quarterback the power play. Needs to limit mistakes, and improve his decision making.
6. D Colten Teubert - Regina. This towering defenseman makes a great first pass, and has a cannon for a point shot. Teubert moves the puck well, and is a take charge physical defenseman in his own end. Some compare Teubert to a young Chris Progner.
7. D Tyler Cuma - Ottawa. Cuma has been improving all season. He has all the physical tools to be a #1 or #2 NHL defenseman. His strength and skating ability stand out, and he plays a solid 2-way game. Recently, Cuma's developed a mean streak. Once he adds size to his thin frame, he will develop into a physical presence.
8. LW Jimmy Hayes - USNTDP. Hayes has been hyped for a long time, and it is not difficult to see why. At this age, he is already standing at 6-4, 200 pounds, and he still has several years to grow. His mobility and coordination for a big man is striking, as are his hands. Hayes is a real threat to score. Once his physical game catches up with his skill, he will be a force on the off wing for many years to come.
9. RW Zach Harnden - Peterbrough. Big and very quick with soft hands. Harnden is a creative offensive threat with a lot of upside, but he needs to work on his play away from the puck.
10. D Adam Comrie - Omaha. Tall but lanky, Comrie is a proactive 2-way defenseman that dominates on some nights, and is an enigma on others. Comrie is nimble on his feet, with decent creativity, and a cannon point shot. Can get nasty if provoked, but needs to work on consistency and limiting mistakes. Intriguing prospect on the back end.
The 2009 NHL Entry Draft already has a few prospects in the phenom category. NHL scouts are drooling at the potential of several 2009-eligible prospects. With several years before their draft day arrives, anything can happen.
1. C John Tavares - Oshawa Generals. The next great one according to some scouts. Tavares was awarded an exception which allowed him to play in the OHL as a 14 year old. He will have played four years in the OHL before he is drafted into the NHL. Tavares is big, with silky soft hands, and off the charts offensive instincts and anticipation. John Tavares can do everything at an elite level, but his skating needs improvement. Although for a big kid, he moves rather well.
2. D Viktor Hedman - Sweden. This 6-5 defenseman is said to more upside than Tavares by some scouts. Others have noted that he appears bored at times when playing against his own peers. Viktor Hedman possesses elite hand skill and speed, to go a long with a mean streak. Hedman has it all and could be a franchise cornerstone defenseman for many years. One of those players that is a pleasure to watch as a scout. He is the ideal prospect on the back end, and could go #1 overall if he progresses.
3. C Roman Petrov - Russia. Petrov is regarded as the most dynamic offensive talent to come from Russia since Alexander Ovechkin. Petrov is a wizard with the puck, and is nearly unstoppable one-on-one. At this point in his development, his consistency is still a concern. Petrov is currently the victim of a bidding war for his playing rights in the Russian Super League.
4. LW Steven Anthony - Quebec. It is unknown whether or not this game breaking offensive talent play in the QMJHL or the NCAA. Anthony is big already at 6-2, and possesses offensive skill and superb vision of the ice. Inconsistency and competitive drive are the question marks.
5. C Mathew Duchene - Michigan State recruit. An amazing skater, with the ability to see passing lanes that others do not. His bread and butter is his elite hands, as he can dangle in a phone booth.
6. D Jared Cowen - Spokane. Already standing at 6-5, 210 pounds as a 16 year old. Cowen has the mobility and poise to anchor an NHL blue line in the near future.
7. LW Stepan Novotny - Shattuck. Reminiscent of a young Milan Michalek, he is blessed with exceptional skating ability to go a long with a big frame and a mature 2-way game. Novotny has an NHL caliber wrist shot and soft hands.
8. RW Landon Ferraro - WHL. The son of Ray "Chicken Parm" Ferraro, Landon Ferraro is blessed with his fathers natural ability to finish and create offense.
9. D Cam Fowler - Ontario. Fowler does not play at the highest level yet, but he could be the first overall selection in the OHL draft this spring. He is big, with elite mobility and smooth puck movement.
10. C Charles Inglis - WHL. Inglis plays a mature 2-way game. His hands and shot are top notch, as is his play making. Skating is the only glaring issue at this point, but he has plenty of time to work on it.
Max recently profiled the draft sleepers that might be available in the later rounds of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and profiled the Top 20 Prospects in the San Jose Sharks organization.
As he had been throughout the tournament, Sarnia’s Steven Stamkos was the star of the show in Friday night’s gold-medal game. Stamkos had a goal and two assists against Manitoba. For the tournament, Stamkos had 11 goals and four assists in the six games to lead Ontario in scoring. He netted a goal in every game of the tournament.
Such heroics are not all that uncommon for the center from Unionville, Ont. He already is dominating the OHL in his first year of play. His 87 points, in just 57 outings, is third among all rookies in the League, behind the older duo of Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner, both of whom are eligible for this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
Sources tell TSN that NHL teams have voted 23-6 (with one abstention) in favor of introducing a ranking system that places a greater emphasis on playoff performance than regular season results...
It is a little more difficult to explain than it was, but the basic premise is the farther a team proceeds in the playoffs, the later it will pick in the entry draft.
The six teams which voted against the change were the Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, New York Islanders, San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals. The Montreal Canadiens abstained. All remaining NHL teams voted in favor of the change.
Notre Dame Earns No. 1 Position for Sixth-Consecutive Week on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll
This Week's Top-15 Match-Ups
Friday, March 16
No. 11 Michigan State vs. No. 9 Michigan
No. 14 Dartmouth vs. No. 5 Clarkson
No. 12 Massachusetts vs. No. 3 New Hampshire
No. 8 Boston University vs. No. 6 Boston College
No. 7 North Dakota vs. No. 4 St. Cloud
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of Notre Dame earned the top spot on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll for the sixth-consecutive week. The Fighting Irish received 508 points and 32-of-34 first-place votes following a sweep of the University of Alaska in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association Tournament.
The University of Minnesota (463) earned the No. 2 spot for the second-straight week and garnered the two remaining first-place votes. The University of New Hampshire (412), St. Cloud State University (408) and Clarkson University (390) rounded out the top five.
New Hampshire, the University of Michigan, St. Lawrence University, Michigan State University and the University of Massachusetts each improved two spots from last week's poll on the strength of sweeps during conference tournament play. Meanwhile, Dartmouth College returned to the poll at No. 14 following a 13-week hiatus.
NOTE: The CCHA, Atlantic Hockey, the ECAC Hockey League, Hockey East and the Western Collegiate Hockey Association will all crown a conference tournament champion on Saturday, March 17.
USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll -- #22
(first-place votes in parentheses, Last Week's Ranking, 2006-07 Record, Weeks in Top-15)
1. U. of Notre Dame, 508 (32), 1, 29-6-3, 19
2. U. of Minnesota, 463 (2), 2, 28-9-3, 22
3. U. of New Hampshire, 412, 5, 25-9-2, 22
4. St. Cloud State U., 408, 3, 22-8-7, 17
5. Clarkson U., 390, 4, 23-8-5, 16
6. Boston College, 334, 6, 24-11-1, 22
7. U. of North Dakota, 327, 7, 21-12-5, 18
8. Boston U., 275, 8, 20-8-9, 22
9. U. of Michigan, 250, 11, 25-12-1, 22
10. St. Lawrence U., 195, 12, 22-12-2, 5
11. Michigan State U., 161, 13, 21-12-3, 22
12. U. of Massachusetts, 139, 14, 20-11-5, 3
13. Miami (Ohio) U., 105, 9, 23-13-4, 22
14. Dartmouth College, 50, NR, 18-10-3, 4
15. U. of Denver, 34, 10, 21-15-4, 21
Others receiving votes: Michigan Tech University, 29; University of Maine, 7; Sacred Heart University, 3.
ABOUT THE POLL: The 12th 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 most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.
[Update] Sports Illustrated's Best of College Hockey 2006-07: Best team - Notre Dame, MVP - North Dakota left wing Ryan Duncan, Best Goalie - Boston College netminder Cory Schneider, Best Coach - St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko.
Nabokov earns 3rd shutout in 4 games with 3-0 win over Edmonton Oilers
EDMONTON OILERS GOALTENDER #35 DWAYNE ROLOSON
The Sharks set a record on a recent road game in Minnesota by taking zero penalties, and Sunday they set another by taking only one at home. Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves on all 22 shots he faced to pick up his third shutout in 4 games. Steve Bernier, Kyle McLaren, and Matt Carle scored to give the Sharks a 3-0 win against a struggling Oilers franchise. The win moves San Jose within 2 points of Dallas and Minnesota, who are tied for 5th place in the Western Conference.
There is no truth to the rumour that Craig MacTavish, Craig Simpson and radio colour commentator Rob Brown will dress tonight against the Los Angeles Kings in a desperate move to spark the Edmonton Oilers' anemic offence.
But the hard-core reality is the Oilers still can't win or score.
Spoiling a top-drawer performance by goaltender Dwayne Roloson, Edmonton has now dropped seven straight games after losing 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks at the HP Pavilion yesterday.
The Edmonton Journal solicits the opinion of former Oiler Bill Guerin on Edmonton's recent slide, and notes that Craig Rivet may be a long term option for San Jose instead of a trade deadline rental. The Journal's game report after the 3-0 loss in San Jose, the Oiler's 7th straight defeat, painted a picture of offensive futility, but found some signs of life on the blueline.
Post-game quotes from Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:
"If you've watched the last couple games (Edmonton) has played, even with their injuries, they hang in there right to the end. You just have to stick to your plan, not take too many chances. Tonight, Roloson made some big saves. What I like is that we basically stayed patient for the whole sixty minutes, and yet we were still agressive."
"(Marcel Goc's) line dominated every shift. There was no puck position when they were on the ice. They were using their big bodies, banging the defense, because we wanted to wear them down, and I think we did."
Post-game quotes from Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish:
"(Dwayne Roloson) played good. He did what we needed him to do tonight. He gave us a chance."
"I was reasonably happy with the way we played tonight. It's a frustrating excercize, don't get me wrong, but at the same time, sometimes your objectives change in the course of the season; where it's not all about winning and losing, it's about being in the right spots and playing for one another. I was pretty happy with the way we did that tonight."
Playoff Atmosphere as Vancouver Canucks down the Sharks 2-1 in overtime
VANCOUVER CANUCKS GOALTENDER #1 ROBERTO LUONGO SAN JOSE SHARKS DEFENSEMAN #52 CRAIG RIVET #20 JEFF COWAN AND #13 BILL GUERIN BATTLE FOR THE PUCK
The tightly contested affair between the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks had the look and feel of a playoff game for two periods, until both teams opened up play in the third. Taylor Pyatt scored 1:06 into the period for Vancouver, and Patrick Marleau sent the game into overtime with his 30th goal on the power play at 13:02. Henrik Sedin scored the game winning goal to give the Vancouver Canucks a 2-1 overtime win at HP Pavilion.
The Vancouver Canucks come into the game with the Northwest Division lead, and 3rd place overall in the Western Conference. The Sharks sit in 5th place in the Western Conference, 1 point ahead of three teams tied for the 8th and final playoff spot (81 - Dallas, Calgary, Minnesota).
A little over a minute into the first period, defenseman Craig Rivet receives a large round of applause from the crowd for his first home game at HP Pavilion. The Sharks fourth line takes the ice, Marcel Goc, Ryane Clowe, and Steve Bernier. Two power forwards and a playmaking 2-way center. In all reality the Sharks ice two first lines, and two third lines, and two #1 goaltenders.
On a Vancouver Canucks penalty kill, left wing Matt Cooke is fed the puck at his own blueline and he accelerates through the neutral zone shorthanded to kill time. The Sharks regain possession. Cooke checks Thornton along the boards, spins, and then stretches to poke the puck past Ryan Clowe. Exceptional individual performance. Left wing Alex Burrows also clears the puck on the next rush to kill off the Sharks penalty.
Matt Carle circles behind his own net and fires a pass to Joe Thornton at the blueline. Thornton takes a few strides, beats defenseman Kevin Bieksa, and snaps a shot that just misses Luongo's five hole. The shots were nearly even (8-7 SJ), the Canucks took 2 penalties to 0 for San Jose, but the puck was in the Vancouver zone for most of the first period.
Bill Guerin crashes the net after a save by Luongo, and several Vancouver Canucks take exception. A few shifts later, Cheechoo crashes into Luongo and is held down by several players.
7:17 into the second period, Willie Mitchell moved the puck up ice and then was destroyed along the glass by Ryane Clowe. Mitchell's stick toppled end-over-end about 10 feet in the air. The hit took place just in front of the Sharks bench, and several of the Sharks players looked stunned. The Vancouver bench and head coach Alain Vigneault erupted. Mitchell was motionless on the ice covering his face for a few moments, but as he rose to his feet he yelled at the officials for calling only a 2 minute interference penalty on Clowe. This was the play of the game.
The Canucks dominated play in the second, outshooting the Sharks 18-10, and going scoreless on the only power play of the period.
Roberto Luongo is a different breed in net. At 6-3, 205 pounds, when he drops to his knees to make a save, or to deflect a puck into the corner, his shoulder pads rest about 2 inches from the crossbar. There is little room to shoot up high, and every Shark who tried to go five hole saw it quickly disappear. Luongo uses an economy of motion that places his huge frame in the perfect position for most of the game. In a word, effortless.
After a turnover in the neutral zone, Scott Hannan blocks a Vancouver centering pass in the slot, but can not clear it. Taylor Pyatt jumps on the loose puck and rips a shot on Nabokov, who can not control the rebound. Pyatt lifts the puck up high for a goal. 1-0 Canucks.
Evgeni Nabokov slid across the crease from right to left to swat the puck from a breaking Matt Cooke. It should count as a blocked shot NBA-style, not a save. As Larry Biel would say, with authority.
Defenseman Matt Carle regains possession of the puck on a power play. Joe Thornton gains the zone uncontested, and finds a streaking Patrick Marleau on the left side. Marleau blew past Trevor Linden, and fires the puck far side to beat Luongo. Score tied 1-1.
It was an announced crowd of 17,495. The 19th consecutive sellout at HP Pavilion, which has sold out 28 of 33 games this season. The Canucks have a sellout streak of their own at General Motors Place (capacity 18,630). Going back more than 2 years, the Cancuks sellout streak is currently at 160 consecutive games.
A long pass through the neutral zone springs Henrik Sedin alone on Nabokov. Henrik Sedin dekes right and tries to beat Nabokov blocker side. Evgeni gets a piece of the puck, and it drops to the goal line. Sedin tucked the puck inside of the goal post. Not sure if the puck hit the ice, or if Sedin scored from mid-air. Check the photo gallery for a sequence of the game winning goal in overtime.
"It felt unbelievable," Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo said. "It was like a playoff atmosphere in the building. We're comfortable in these situations. It was a big game for the whole team, one of our better games of the year."
The Vancouver Canucks report that Luongo's 39th win surpasses Kirk McLean for the franchise's single season win record for a goaltender. The Canucks also note that Nabokov's scoreless streak ended at 167:16 minutes with Taylor Pyatt's third period goal, that deadline acquisition Bryan Smolinski has gelled with Marcus Naslund, and that Vancouver was out dueled by San Jose in the faceoff circle during regulation 38-17.
The San Jose Sharks note that the 2-1 overtime loss to Vancouver was Evgeni Nabokov's 10th consecutive start, and point to the fact that he has allowed only 1 regulation goal in 3 starts. The San Jose Mercury News reports that with the 3rd period goal, Patrick Marleau became the first San Jose Shark to score 30 goals in back-to-back seasons.
"At this point you have to get a point, especially at home," coach Ron Wilson said. "We need more guys playing with a sense of urgency at home the way it just doesn't show as it does on the road. Some of our top guys, too, 'Oh, it's home, relax and it'll automatically (happen).' No, we have to work for every inch we get on the ice whether you're playing Vancouver or coming up Edmonton (Sunday).
Max Giese: Diamonds in the rough - 2007 Draft Sleepers
After trading away two 1st round draft picks to obtain Craig Rivet and Bill Guerin at the deadline, finding talent in the later rounds of the draft will be a necessity. Here is a look at a selection of prospects that should be available in the second round or later in the upcoming NHL entry draft.
RW Craig Smith, Waterloo Blackhawks USHL - Just a few days shy of being eligible for the 2008 draft, Craig is very young and is still physically immature. He has untapped offensive potential and already brings an impressive package to the table. If Smith gets passed up in this year's draft, he will be taken in the first round in 2008, similar to Trevor Lewis. Smith possesses a powerful stride, competes night in and night out, and he sees the ice well. He is a creative playmaker, but can also fight for a goal in front of the net. Smith is gritty and possesses a top notch work ethic. San Jose might have an eye on him, as he played alongside Sharks scout Pat Funk's son during last season in high school.
G Kent Patterson, Cedar Rapids USHL - This propsect has first round talent, but could fall to the later rounds because of lack of draft hype. Early in the season Patterson played a perfect game to earn a shutout in front of scouts from several NHL teams at the USA Hockey Junior Jamboree. Patterson possesses Ryan Miller like upside. With near flawless fundamentals, he needs to mature mentally and eliminate the occasional soft goal. Patterson is one day shy of being eligible for the 2008 draft which makes his accomplishments even more impressive. Big, incredibly athletic with exceptional anticipation and leg quickness, Patterson is also difficult to beat up high thanks to a great glove hand. Patterson also controls the flow of the game, and communicates well with his defense. My top rated goalie in the entire draft.
RW Joshua Turnbull, Waterloo Blackhawks USHL - Passed up in last summer's draft as a Junior playing high school hockey in Minnesota, Turnbull has flourished in the USHL this season. His game is similar to St. Louis Blues first round pick in 2005, T.J. Oshie. Turnbull is blessed with soft hands and a creative arsenal of dynamic one-on-one moves. He is also one of the best pure finishers in the draft with a quickly released wrist shot that is powerful and accurate. A fluid skater with deceptive speed, the puck seems to follow Turnbull around the ice. His play without the puck is exceptional, and he can also land the occasional powerful body check. Committed to the Univeristy of Wisconsin.
D John Negrin, Kootenay Ice WHL - Negrin plays a game in the Scott Hannan mould. He has a more fluid stride, but is less physical. Negrin is a stay at home defenseman, with underrated skill and patience when playing the the puck. Plays a mistake-free game ,and is reliable at both ends of the ice. For a big man, he is an exceptional skater, although he needs to take more chances offensively. Defense first type with top notch gap control and defensive awareness. Injuries and inconsistency might force him to fall to the second round, despite Negrin being in my current top 10 for the 2007 draft.
RW Aaron Palushaj, Des Moines USHL - Poor man's Thomas Vanek. He is sturdy on his feet, with amazing hands that can really dangle. He is not an explosive end-to-end player, but he is deadly once inside the blueline with his top notch offensive instincts. What separates Palushaj is his ability to make a play in limited time and space when the opposition is pressuring him. Palushaj can thread the needle with a pass through traffic, or be a precise finisher in close hamering home loose rebounds. Michigan Wolverine recruit.
D Nick Ross, Regina Pats WHL - Similar to Brad Stuart at this stage in his development, Ross has all the physical ability in the world, but his decision making skills and inconsistency are the question marks. He is big and physical, skilled and creative, and has the potential to be an anchor on the blue line. Ross will be a hit or miss selection. Currently in my top 10, I believe the holes in his game will be rounded out with experience and solid coaching.
C Travis Erstad, Stevens Point USHS, Lincoln Stars USHL - Looks to follow in Derrick LaPoint and Brent Gwidt's footsteps as a player drafted right out of Wisconsin High School hockey. Erstad is very tall with a lanky frame, but he is thin as a rail. Erstad needs to bulk up 20-30 pounds before he is finished at the University of Wisconsin. He can be a pug hog at times, and a creative playmaker at others. His release has quickened over the year, and his sniper instincts are beginning to show. Erstad is a dynamic one-on-one talent, and his hands are incredibly soft. On the downside, Erstad is terrible on the defensive side of the puck. His overall game is very raw at this point.
RW Corey Chakeen, Chicago Steel USHL - Chakeen is small, but built like a rock that likes to throw body checks. Blessed with soft hands, Chakeen is a creative and dynamic player in one-on-one situations, with a powerful wrist shot. He is also a superb skater, with a great initial burst out of the gates. Despite playing for the worst team in the USHL, he plays hard every game.
C Drew LeBlanc, Hermantown USHS - He looked like a college player amongst his high school peers in the Minnesota State Tournament. LeBlanc's hockey sense and anticipation are off the charts, as well as his fluid skating ability. Blessed with top notch vision and a creative touch, LeBlanc is a top end playmaker.
C Mark Olver, Omaha USHL - The younger brother of Rangers 2nd round selection in 2004 Darin Olver, Mark plays a similar game. He is small and very thin, but he plays a strong and fearless game. Olver is lightning quick, and possesses a soft pair of hands. He generates an amazing amount of velocity on his shot, and can pick out the corners with his accuracy.
C T.J. Galliardi, Dartmouth NCAA - He was passed up in last summer's NHL Entry Draft, which always hurts a player's stock, but Galliardi has been amazing as a freshman center for Dartmouth. He is a big forward, with an elegant stride, and a creative playmaking touch. Playing a mature defensive game, scouts like the fact that he is close to being NHL-ready in the near future.
D Kevin Marshall, Lewiston QMJHL - Could be this year's Marc-Edouard Vlasic draft day steal. Marshall is an astute two way defenseman with ice water running through his veins. Physically, he does everything good, but nothing great. His hockey sense, defensive awareness, and anticipation are excellent. Marshall is a safe bet to play in the NHL as a reliable second pairing defenseman.
D Teddy Ruth, USNTDP - Probably the best locker room guy available in the draft. Ruth is a strong two way defenseman, with a large build, and the strongest legs in the draft. He can be a powerful open ice hitter, but he picks his spots wisely. Ruth is more of a reliable stay-at-home type. Possessing a heavy point shot with decent vision, he contribute to the offensive game as well. Ruth should slip into the second round, but with a big U-18 tournament he could move up into the first round.
D Colby Cohen, Lincoln Stars USHL - Cohen has size, and possesses arguably the draft's best point shot. Cohen moves well, distributes the puck efficiently, and has first round talent. The trouble is that Cohen becomes complacent, and can make inopportune plays in his own end at times. That said, Cohen will have plenty of time to iron out the kinks in his game playing for Boston College next fall.
C Nick Larson, Omaha USHL - Poor man's Jack Skille, but Larson could end up being just as good if puts all of his raw tools together. He is big, very fast, and skates with a powerful stride. Lacks a mean streak, but he knows how to use his size and speed to create offense.
G Antoine Lafleur, P.E.I. Rockets QMJHL - Lafleur is a big butterfly goalie in the mould of Roberto Luongo, but also has the aggressiveness of Marc-Andre Fleury. Lafleur's leg extension is superb, but sometimes he takes himself out of position when making a save.
NHL and Warner Bros. Pictures team up to promote major motion picture '300'
The NHL and Warner Bros. Pictures joined forces, if you will, to promote today's release of the major motion picture '300'. The film features a small contingent of Spartan soldiers in 480 B.C. who would rather die to the last man than surrender to Xerxes and the overwhelming Persian expeditionary forces at the Battle of Thermopylae. The future of Greek civilization was at stake.
February 28th Ron Wilson conference call transcript
The day after the February 28th NHL trade deadline, the NHL held a conference call with New York Islanders head coach Ted Nolan and San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks to Ron for joining us and thanks to Scott Emerett of the Sharks' public relations department for arranging the call. With a record of 38?24 and 1 for 77 points San Jose sits third in the Pacific division, sixth in the Western conference overall. Ron is ten games shy of 1,000 games coached for his career and will become the 13th coach to reach the 1,000?game coach milestone on March 18th in Colorado.
Yesterday at the deadline, San Jose acquired Bill Guerin from St. Louis. Tonight they host Nashville before heading out on a three?game road trip. Again, thanks to Ron for joining us to answer your questions. We'll open it up now.
[Q] Hi, Coach, I just asked Ted Nolan the same thing, but what does bringing in a guy like Bill Guerin do to the guys in the locker room? Obviously, the fans are excited about picking up a big name, a household name, at the trade deadline, but what's the carry over effect in your locker room going to be?
[RON WILSON] I think it sends a clear message to our players that we believe in our team, and we think that by adding Bill it makes us even stronger in our push to try and win a Stanley Cup this year. We’ve had up until the last two months, the youngest team in the league, and some people could use that as an excuse for possibly not being able or believing that they can win the Cup this year, and we've just said, you know, with Craig reef a and Billy Guerin, we believe the time is now, and we plan on trying to win the Cup this year.
[Q] Two questions for you. The first one, just looking at Guerin, how do you figure he's going to slot into your lineup there?
[RON WILSON] Well, I mean, Billy has been a solid player, possibly St. Louis' best player overall throughout the season, and what we're trying to do is find a position, and right now because he's played with Joe Thornton in Boston in the past, I've asked him if he's comfortable playing the offside on left wing. So tonight he'll play with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. I think there will be an instant chemistry because they have a past. I have a past with Billy and understand what he's capable of doing. Personally I think anybody can jump in and play with Joe. He's managed to make a lot of guys better. And having someone with Bill's experience, it should be a pretty smooth transition.
[Q] Just looking at Richard Zednick, he's a guy you coached when you were with Washington just acquired by the Islanders. What's your take of his game?
[RON WILSON] I think Richard ?? his game has fallen off a little bit the last year or so, but I loved coaching him. He loves to score. He's basically fearless on the ice and as strong as any player I've ever coached in terms of maintaining his balance. He's incredibly strong on his feet, and I think that's a great move for them. You've got a player who just wants to crash the net and make things happen.
[Q] Talk about not only getting Guerin, but talk about losing the players that you did, you lost Parker, you lost Schafer. How hard is it not to hurt the whole dynamic of the locker room as we talked about earlier, not only at the end of this season but going into next year?
[RON WILSON] Well, you don't like to lose players. The players we lost yesterday ?? well, Nolan Shaver hasn't played a game this year, and he was a callup, a backup goaltender. The jury will be out on how much we miss Scottie Parker, but unfortunately, Parks was only able to play 11 games this year because of injury and last year he only played three or four due to injury.
So he was a big part of our team emotionally, but his on the ice contributions haven't been that great. So I'm not sure there.
The same thing with Ville Nieminen. Ville has been bothered by some injuries, as well, this year and his play has tailed off because of that. He wasn't going to be in our lineup with the moves that we've made, and this would just give him an opportunity to continue playing and play regularly in St. Louis?
[Q] How high on the priority list or what do you think the chances are of you getting Guerin long-term or keeping him?
[RON WILSON] I have no idea. That's not something that we've even thought about. I don't even think Billy is thinking about that right now. He wants to try and win the Stanley Cup.
[Q] I guess nothing would surprise you because you got Thornton from Boston, but are you a little stunned that Ryan Smyth did leave Edmonton?
[RON WILSON] Yeah, I was shocked, you know, because all the stuff was flying around. I was actually shocked when Doug called me early in the morning and said that we were getting Billy Guerin. When I left the building the night before, his name wasn't even on the board. So I was obviously happy with that.
I've been paying attention to all the potential free agents, and I didn't think that was would happen. But in the Millennium NHL, business decisions have to be made, players become free agents a little bit earlier, and I think as a general manager first and foremost and as an organization, you have to protect yourself. You can't possibly allow a player like that to go for nothing.
It's, from a fan's point of view it's a hard decision to defend, but from an organizational point of view, you have to do what you think is best for the organization. But yes, I'm sure everybody in the league was shocked that that happened.
[Q] This is a vastly different team from the one you saw in the Playoffs last year. I think there's 11 or 12 guys that are gone. You look at this team compared to then. Does your jaw just kind of drop or do you see what they're going for there?
[RON WILSON] No, those things happen. It's kind of funny, you look around ?? I've been through it in Washington. You go to the Stanley Cup finals, you fall short, and the next year there's a dropoff. Unfortunately for the Oilers, you just see first and foremost how important a player like Chris Pronger was, and that wasn't a decision that the Oilers really were comfortable with. They did not want to trade him, and unfortunately they had to, they were forced to, and it's had a profound effect on the team throughout the year. Look how much Anaheim has improved because of that move. You had to deal one of the best defensemen or one of the most dominating defensemen who logs a ton of minutes and basically can play ?? he can shut down the best players on the visiting team and also dominate the game offensively from a defenseman's point of view.
[Q] Is there a difference to integrating a major star into your lineup as in like December or November like you did with Thornton as opposed to now this late?
[RON WILSON] Yeah, you know, I don't consider Billy like ?? when we brought in Joe, he integrated in easily because of his personality, and I think Billy is blessed with a similar personality, very positive outlook, a real good sense of humor. He's always well?liked by his teammates, and you know, all the players on our team know what he's done and what he can do. I don't see there being a problem in terms of transitioning.
And for me, I know Billy quite well from the World Cup teams and the Olympic team, known him for 15 years or so now, and it's going to be a lot of fun for me to have a player like that on my team.
[Q] And also a question that I asked Ted just before, when you add a key piece like that without really shaking up the roster in the room as is? Does that make it an easier transition, as well?
[RON WILSON] Oh, easily. You hear all these rumors, I don't think we would ever break up the core of our youth that will be great players in this League for years to come. What we were trying to identify was we needed a little bit more leadership in the room, and players who have been in those wars, and our defense has been very young all year, has done an outstanding job, and just adding Craig Rivet is going to stabilize our back end, and Billy is capable of just adding that kind of experience to the people like Milan Michalek and Stevie Bernier and even Joe Thornton, who's never played on a Stanley Cup champion. We actually don't have anybody on our team outside of Billy now who's played on a Stanley Cup champion. So we're going to be asking him to, you know, make sure he mentors people in addition to what he's going to help us do on the ice.
In 4 games with the San Jose Sharks since the trade deadline, right wing Bill Guerin has 0 points, 9 shots, and an average of 22 shifts a game. He has skated on lines with Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe, and Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau. Guerin is tied for 23rd in the NHL with 28 total goals.
In his first 3 games with the San Jose Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet has 1 goal, a +3 rating, 7 shots, and an average of 29 shifts a game. Rivet is tied for 35th in the NHL in goals by a defenseman with 7.
Sharks finish road trip with 3-0 win over Minnesota Wild
XCEL ENERGY CENTER - FLICKR PHOTO BY JPELLGEN
The Sharks played a perfect road game at Minnesota Tuesday on the back end of a 3 game road trip. Evgeni Nabokov made 26 saves in the 3-0 shutout win, his second straight shutout and the 33rd of his career. San Jose was not called for a penalty the entire game, but they were unable to convert on three power play opportunities of their own.
Nabokov denied a hard charging Marian Gaborik twice in the first period, and came up big on two successive breakaways at the start of the second period. After holding the much larger San Jose squad scoreless for almost a period and a half, the damn broke for Minnesota. Milan Michalek, Ryane Clowe and Jonathan Cheechoo scored in a span of 5:48 in the second, and the Wild could not recover. The first two San Jose goals came from a 5-10 foot area in front of the crease, and Jonathan Cheechoo added a third on a hard wrist shot from about 15 feet out. Minnesota could not mark Sharks forwards in front of the crease, and it cost them.
Minnesota Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom was replaced by Manny Fernandez to start the third period. Fernandez returned to the lineup after missing 14 games. Captain Patrick Marleau returned to the lineup after a brief absence to log 18:07 minutes of ice time, and defenseman Scott Hannan nearly reached the 30 minute mark in his second game back. With the win, San Jose leapfrogged the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference standings. The Sharks are in 5th place with 82 points, one point ahead of the Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames with 81. Minnesota holds an 8 point lead over Colorado for the 8th and final playoff spot, with 15 games remaining.
The Sharks didn't play a rock 'em, sock 'em game Tuesday, although they certainly are capable of that style. On this night, it was enough just to be large. It was enough to take up vast quantities of space and dare the Wild forwards to try to penetrate Sherwood Forest....
That's a big bunch of boys general manager Doug Wilson has put together over there. The Sharks are the biggest team in the NHL. In terms of sheer girth, they average 213 pounds a man. That's at the top of the charts. The Wild are 22nd in the league, averaging 202 pounds.
The San Jose Mercury News reported it was only the second time franchise history the Sharks played an entire road game without a penalty. San Jose goaltending coach Warren Strelow was unable to attend the Minnesota Wild game in his home state after suffering a mild stroke while working with goaltenders Thomas Greiss and Dimitri Patzold in Worcester.
Minnesota Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire from the post game press conference:
[Q] It looked like San Jose was the more desperate team tonight, was that the case?
[JL] In the first period and second period, I said that to the coaching staff. I wish we would have started like we did in the third. More intense on the puck. We did not give them a chance to control the game.
We tried that, and talked to the players about that, but it seemed like it took awhile for them to get their legs. Even though we started like that, we were not that bad. We had two breakaway chances. If we scored on 1, it would have been a different game. I think that was a big turning point.
[Q] Did you put Manny (Fernandez) in to shake things up, get things moving?
[JL] It has been a long time, he has not played. It was 3-0. I thought it was a good time to get him wet.
[Q] How tough is it to play a team like the Sharks? They are a big club, they play physical, but I do not think they took a penalty tonight?
[JL] I am sure if we went to the net like we did in the third, if we sent pucks to the net, they would have taken a penalty. In the first and second, we played them from the outside. Everyone was on the outside trying to cycle the puck, and stay along the boards.
I understand they really play well. It is a team that really clogs the front of the net. They get all 5 guys there. It is tough to penetrate. We did in the third, and that is what we had to do before.
[Q] Are they a type of team that wears down your defenseman?
[JL] I wouldn't say our defenseman, I would say more our forwards. Our forwards have to be more determined in the offensive zone. They have to drive right through the defenseman, they have to get in front of the net, get in front of shots. They need to do the dirty work.
Teams control the puck in the offensive zone, they can turn their backs. I understand they have big forwards, and they can do that. But that is not what got us in trouble. It is guys driving to the net. They got two goals like that. Just send the puck at the net, even from bad angles, that is one thing we did not do enough.
The Minnesota Wild have a game day page with a game recap, game notes, game preview, video preview, box score, video in-game features, and the post-game press conference and video highlights on a single page. A Wild-Sharks photo gallery by Bruce Kluckhohn was posted here. The San Jose Sharks posted a game recap, and a feature on the return of captain Patrick Marleau.
Evgeni Nabokov provided a stellar first period for the San Jose Sharks en route to a 26 save shutout, the 32nd of his career. The 4-0 win on the road moved the San Jose Sharks within 1 point of 6th place Dallas in the Western Conference standings, with 16 games remaining.
The Sharks were outshot by Dallas 9-1 in the first period, but Curtis Brown scored on the only shot registered by San Jose. Ryane Clowe showed a nice touch cutting across the crease in the second period. Clowe waited for Turco to go down and commit, and then lifted a backhand into an open net. With the help of Scott Hannan, who returned from injury to log 25+ minutes of ice time, the Sharks tightened up in front of Nabokov. Joe Pavelski added 2 goals in the final 2 periods to put the game out of reach.
- Mike Heika wrote a scathing article today for the Dallas Morning News after the Stars loss to San Jose, Stars 'embarrassed' by 4-0 loss. Dallas was adjusting to a heavy schedule of recent games (4 in 6 days), newly acquired defenseman Mattias Norstrom's first game as a Star, and a tough divisional opponent directly behind them in the standings (San Jose).
Defenseman Darryl Sydor offered a blunt assessment after the loss:
"There's no excuse," Sydor said. "We have two days now to reflect on this and be embarrassed – and if you're not embarrassed, that's not a good thing."
- Today on Versus: New York Islanders at New York Rangers 4PM. Tuesday, Colorado Avalanche at Boston Bruins 4PM. This week on Yahoo streaming: Tampa Bay at Vancouver Canucks Tuesday 7PM, NY Rangers at NY Islanders Thursday 4:30PM, Minnesota Wild at Buffalo Sabres Friday 5PM, Vancouver at Anaheim Sunday 5PM. A live webcasting schedule for Comcast is available here, and more streaming media links are posted daily on hockeywebcasts.com.
A new hockey life for Craig Rivet begins, with this story: "We finished practice Saturday in Anaheim, we're in the dressing room and (teammate) Billy Guerin yells over to me, 'Are you ready for the media?' Rivet said Sunday from a hotel lobby in Dallas, a few hours before his San Jose Sharks would blank the Stars 4-0.
"I said, 'Yeah, let 'em in,' and Billy said, 'He already is in.' I started laughing - there was one soft-spoken reporter, and he wasn't looking for any blood."
The current media onslaught in Montreal is directed at Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey for not doing enough to help his team at the trade deadline. With Cristobal Huet out, oft-acquired goaltender Michael Leighton was picked up off waivers, and young Sharks defenseman Josh Gorges was brought in for Craig Rivet. The Montreal press is hammering Bob Gainey after Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke mentioned in a post-deadline journal on USA Today that he did not know Rivet was on the table.
Joe Thornton escaped a similar media firestorm after coming over in a trade with the Boston Bruins last year. Thornton has declined to talk about the negatives in Boston and focused more on his play with the San Jose Sharks. Rivet has been a little more open when discussing the media in Montreal, but for the most part fans in San Jose are oblivious to the level of scrutiny the players are under in Montreal, Toronto, Boston or New York.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS GOALTENDER #30 MARTIN BRODEUR - PHOTO JON SWENSON
- Last week Hockey News editor Jason Kay revisited a list of the NHL's top goaltenders created by a panel of 50 hockey experts in 1997: (1. Terry Sawchuk, 2. Jacques Plante, 3. Glenn Hall, 4. Ken Dryden, 5. Bill Durnan, 6. Patrick Roy, 7. George Hainsworth).
Jason Kay ranked his current top 7 goaltenders of alltime: (1. Patrick Roy, 2. Terry Sawchuk, 3. Jacques Plante, 4. Dominik Hasek, 5. Glenn Hall, 6. Ken Dryden, 7. Martin Brodeur "On pace for another Vezina, likely #1 spot on this list when he retires.").
The 2007 Hockey News panel of ex-goalies who are current color analysts ranked the Top 30 goaltenders in the NHL this season:
1. Martin Brodeur
2. Roberto Luongo
3. Miikka Kiprusoff
4. J-S Giguere
5. Dominik Hasek
6. Ryan Miller
7. Ray Emery
8. Marty Turco
9. Vesa Toskala
10. Marc-Andre Fleury
11. Kari Lehtonen
12. Chris Mason
13. Rick DiPietro
14. Cam Ward
15. Manny Fernandez
16. Henrik Lundqvist
17. Olaf Kolzig
18. Dwayne Rolsoon
19. Andrew Raycroft
20. Tomas Vokoun
21. Cristobal Huet
22. Manny Legace
23. Johan Holmqvist
24. Nikolai Khabibulin
25. Peter Budaj
26. Evgeni Nabokov
27. Martin Biron
28. Tim Thomas
29. Ed Belfour
30. Curtis Joseph
It goes without saying that the list is subjective, but the drops by Tomas Vokoun and Evgeni Nabokov in the rankings are precipitous. On Evgeni Nabokov, THN noted "numbers not bad, but it's all about wins". On Vesa Toskala, THN noted "wrestled starting job away from Nabokov on a Cup Contender". I want to disagree with THN and claim East Coast media bias, but the rankings are pretty solid.
The most recent Goalies World computerized goalie rankings from Week #21 differ slightly from THN's above: (1. Martin Brodeur, 2. Roberto Luongo, 3. Miikka Kiprusoff, 4. Rick DiPietro, 5. Chris Mason, 6. Dwayne Roloson, 7. Ray Emery, 8. J.S. Giguere, 9. Kari Lehtonen, 10. Cristobal Huet).
Recently, the NHL put together an "all-star" team of television experts comprised of John Shannon, the NHL’s vice president of broadcasting, Jim Wilkes, an ex-Molstar TV executive and Al Mountford, famous in the broadcasting industry for his hockey camerawork and the man who shot the 1980 Lake Placid "Miracle On Ice." The three men have compiled a DVD and have met with every team in the league in an effort to help the regional broadcasters produce a better televised hockey game.
The nation’s best female hockey players will skate into Silicon Valley at the end of March to compete in the 2007 USA Hockey Girls’ and Women’s National Championships.
The largest ice hockey tournament ever held in California will take place from March 23 to April 1. Hosted by Logitech Ice, the official practice facility of the San Jose Sharks, the two-week event will feature 80 teams and thousands of players. Their families and fans are expected to book more than 4,500 hotel rooms in San Jose. Logitech Ice, one of just seven four-rink facilities in the U.S., is the largest public hockey facility west of the Mississippi.
Competing in the tournament from March 28-April 1 are USA Hockey Girls’ 12, 14, 16 and 19 & under age groups. The Women’s Senior A, B and C divisions will run the weekend prior, from March 23-25
This blog should post a lot from the tournament. More information is available from usahockey.com.
BILL GUERIN WALKS THE RED CARPET - PHOTO JULIE HATTON
PHOTO JULIE HATTON
Dallas Stars fan Julie Hatton attended the 2007 NHL Allstar game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, the pre-game skills competition, and the outdoor red carpet arrival ceremony. Julie posted a number of photos from all 3 events, including pictures of the arena and pre-game ceremonies with eye popping color.
She talked about her experience at the Allstar Game via email:
My thoughts on the Allstar weekend? Wow. It was overwhelming! Seeing all the trophies on display at Northpark on Saturday was pretty amazing. It was a great atmosphere, filled with people and great to be surrounded by so many hockey fans.
Of course, the Cup Reunion for the '99 Dallas Stars on Monday before the Salute was pretty heartwarming for this fan. It was great to see some of the old team together again. The crowd went wild for Belfour! Seeing the two teams practice that night was a lot of fun. All of the players seemed to be having fun with it and enjoying themselves.
The red carpet arrivals on Tuesday were incredible. The fan turnout wasn't near what it was for the Cup Reunion the previous night, but seeing all the players walk up the carpet in front of the AAC, shaking hands with fans, signing autographs, and posing for pictures was just awesome. A reminder of how gracious and accessible NHL players really are.
The Skills Competition and actual ASG were my favorites to see. Very entertaining
Julie's flickr photo galleries for the Dallas Stars are available here, her flickr galleries from the Allstar Game are available here. Julie posted more about the Allstar Game and the skills competition on her blog here.
But while the cards have been dealt for the playoffs, there's still the matter of how they are going to be laid down. The Stars today, for instance, will get defenseman Mattias Norstrom into the game for the first time when they play San Jose at 2:30 p.m. The Sharks, meanwhile, will get their second game with newly acquired defenseman Craig Rivet and their third game with forward Bill Guerin, a former Star.
Aftermath of the Sharks 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, a 4 game losing streak
The Sharks 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday was a troubling one. San Jose may have outshot Anaheim 31-25, but a number of shots were from the perimeter without traffic in front of the net. The Ducks outhit San Jose 20-7, had a better takeaway to giveaway ratio (+2, -6), blocked more shots (10-7), won more than twice as many faceoffs (45-22), and converted on 2 of 5 powerplays while the Sharks went 0-6 with the man advantage (including a 5-on-3).
With the loss, San Jose is now 2-5 against their division rival for the season. A win would have given this team a chance to go .500 against them with a victory on April 4th in Anaheim. The 4 game losing streak dropped the Sharks 9 points behind Anaheim in the standings with only 17 games remaining in the season. Minnesota and San Jose are currently tied for 8th place in the Western Conference with 78 points, 11 ahead of 9th place Colorado. 9 of the Sharks next 17 games are against teams out of playoff contention, with an equal number being played at home. A favorable schedule to finish the season, and the return of Patrick Marleau, Vesa Toskala and Scott Hannan from injuries will give the Sharks an opportunity to turn things around before the playoffs. They just need to take it.
This was the third time in the past four games that the Sharks allowed the opposition to score two power-play goals. Before this stretch, the Sharks had gone 18 consecutive games without allowing more than one power-play goal.
The Sharks' penalty-kill has improved noticeably from last season and has been ranked in the top 10 in the league for a good portion this season. But the recent droop has been costly.
San Jose head coach Ron Wilson juggled the forward lines against Anaheim. It looked like Bill Guerin skated on a line with Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe for most of the game, with Thornton-Michalek-Cheechoo forming the top line. Defenseman Craig Rivet logged 22:28 minutes of ice time in his first game as a Shark, and scored a goal in the third period (his 7th). Rivet was active with his stick, good positionally, and his defensive awareness was solid. Rivet is still recovering from an extended absence, but on a blueline with Ehrhoff, Carle, and Vlasic, the difference in speed between the defenseman was noticable.
Ross McKeon of the SF Chronicle notes that the Sharks dominated Anaheim for the second straight game in shots and time of possession, but they ended up with 2 straight losses. In both games, the line of Penner-Getlaf-Perry set the tone for the Ducks with physical play and a heavy forecheck. In addition to drawing a questionable penalty against Vlasic, Selanne spun and fired a blind shot on Nabokov in the third that bounced off a player and almost found the back of the net. Teemu scored the game winning goal in the third period in San Jose on Monday, and has been a huge factor in both games. It is not quite accurate to say the Sharks dominated either meeting.
The OC Register's Dan Wood quoted Teemu Selanne on his blog after the Ducks 3-1 win over the Sharks on Friday:
When this team plays with passion, we're a very good hockey team. When the passion is not there, we're just average.
As he battled with defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic in front of Nabokov, Penner quickly got his stick on the loose puck and banged it in to give him a team-leading six goals in seven games against the Sharks.
"The coaching staff has tried to mold me into a power forward that battles in front of the net and picks up all the loose change," Penner said. "When you get more ice time, you get more confidence and it's kind of a snowball effect."
There was a collective sigh of relief in the San Jose Sharks dressing room after a game in St. Louis Feb. 13... "He was everywhere," defenseman Kyle McLaren said of Guerin, who had three goals and an assist for the Blues and led a three-goal, third-period comeback as the Sharks held on for a 6-5 victory.
Wigge covers Guerin's two years alongside Joe Thornton in Boston, who he thought would take him at the trade deadline, his drive to compete for a Stanley Cup, the resurgence with the St Louis Blues this season, and the struggles last year with Dallas.
[Update2] San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson was a guest on Drew Remenda's radio show this week. Ron Wilson had a few interesting comments about the timeline of the Bill Guerin trade:
[DR] How do you feel about getting Billy Guerin?
[RW] I am ectatic. I was coming in this morning, I was not expecting anything like that. When I arrived the deal had actually not taken place, but it was already on TSN and the Sports Ticker, and Billy Guerin was commenting on it.
Mike Aldrich, our trainer, said we picked up Billy. And I was like Billy, Billy who? Seriously. Then he said Guerin. Right then my phone rang actually, and Doug (Wilson) said 'Do you want Billy Guerin?' Then I said, TSN says we already have him. Then he said no, the deal is not done. We have talked. Then I said, yes I will take Billy Guerin.
Thanks to Jeremy for posting an audio clip of this online.
I speak to Los Angeles about Sopel. Trying to trade is like playing musical chairs. You are always afraid you aren't going to have a chair at the end. You worry that if you say no on one deal, you may not get any. Also, there is a "keeping up with the Joneses mentality," particularly in the Western Conference. Players, coaches and fans want you to add. The allure of making the right trade draws you in. Remember last season when Edmonton was on the verge of missing the playoffs, made some deals, including getting goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they go to the Finals. It's the most pressure you face all year, and it's also the most fun you have.
This is the perfect approach to the NHL trade deadline. It is a little unsettling to see the sheer number of players move like a blue light special (25 trades, 44 players), but it is one of the few times of the year when the NHL pierces the talk radio haze, moves to the front of the line in local news broadcasts, and generates overwhelming interest from die-hard and casual fans alike.
One media commentator said the Sharks traded away their future in packaging both of their first round picks in the deals for defenseman Craig Rivet, and winger Bill Guerin. The Evgeni Nabokov - Vesa Toskala tandem may be perfect for a playoff run this season, but it is far from certain if both players would want to split games for another year. Another first round pick may be picked up if one of these goalies is moved before the NHL Entry Draft, or the Sharks can just draft better than the last time they went to bat without a first round pick (2000, round 2, #41 overall, defenseman Tero Maatta).
Guerin adds depth, playoff experience, and another physical presence at a time when the team needs one. Craig Rivet adds leadership and stability to a potent, but unstable blueline. With Scott Hannan and Patrick Marleau out for tonight's game against Anaheim, Guerin and Rivet are going to be given big roles to fill early.
Predators and Sharks trade blows until Nashville emerged with a 4-3 shootout win
#21 PETER FORSBERG BATTLES #9 MILAN MICHALEK #29 TOMAS VOKOUN JUMPS AGAINST THE GLASS TO STOP A PUCK
The Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks traded 6 goals in regulation, but Alexander Radulov and Jean-Pierre Dumont scored in an overtime shootout to give the top team in the Western Conference a 4-3 win at HP Pavilion.
Newly acquired forward Bill Guerin logged 20+ minutes in 24 shifts for San Jose, nearly 8 minutes on the power play, and made his presence felt on the Sharks top line. Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov stoned Martin Erat on a penalty shot 12:07 into the second period.
Curtis Brown beat Nashville defenseman Marek Zidlicky for the first quality scoring chance of the first period. Vokoun made the save and an alert Peter Forsberg cleared the rebound up ice. The Sharks are dominating play, outshooting the Predators, and keeping the puck in the offensive zone for most of the period. From the Nashville announcers, "If they keep this up, they are only going to have to Zamboni one side of the ice". Hooking penalty on Ryane Clowe the first of the game. The Nashville power play is 20th in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks under rated penalty kill is 8th.
The Predators broadcast booth notes that the Sharks penalty kill noticably sags in towards the goaltending crease, they mention that point shots will be a key to the game for the road team. A too many men on the ice call on Nashville could be a costly error when facing the 2nd best power play in the league. After several point blank saves by Tomas Vokoun, Kimmo Timonen is called for taking down a Shark in front of the crease. It is a brief 5-on-3, but San Jose gets a shot off. Save Vokoun.
Milan Michalek fires the puck wide of the net, and Steve Bernier deflects it back on goal past Vokoun. San Jose leads 1-0. On a scramble in front of the Nashville net, Vokoun stones both Bernier and Pavelksi. Pavelksi did not get enough on the rebound. An instant transition by Nashville forces the puck up ice. A point shot by Timonen bounces off a few people, first Steve Bernier, last Vernon Fiddler. Fiddler gets credit for the goal.
The Sharks are piling up shots on goal in the last two games, over 40 against Anaheim, 30 against Nashville, but most of the time the goaltender has a clear view of the puck and enough time to react. More traffic in front of the net is needed. Vitali Vishnevski shoots the puck over the glass. On the power play, Ehrhoff takes the puck 80 feet up ice to gain the zone. Guerin makes a key play to keep the puck inside the blue line. A heavy point shot by Ehrhoff produces a short rebound by Vokoun. Carle on the doorstep taps it home for his 9th goal of the season.
There is a scramble in front of Vokoun. The puck is shot behind the net and picked up by Cheechoo. He reverses back in the direction of the shot and finds Davison at the side of the crease. Davison buries the puck. At the same time Hamhuis was knocked into the crossbar, but it was actually Vokoun who subtley pushed the net off of its moorings. No goal, penalty on Hamhuis. Fourth penalty of the game for Nashville, three of them of the poor-to-bad variety.
A turnover by San Jose points to one of the strengths of the Predators the last 2 seasons, an instant transition. It leads to a 2-on-1, but a backchecking Shark helps break up the play. A long breakout pass by Kariya springs Erat through the neutral zone. Erat broke up ice even before Kariya had the puck. Davison hauls him down, refs call a penalty shot. Erat takes a lazy stride towards the goal, tries a hesitation move and then fires a puck up high off of Nabokov's shoulder. Score 2-1 San Jose.
Big glove save by Nabokov. Refs call matching penalties after a Predator hacks at Evgeni's glove and Thornton mashes him to the ice. Later in the period on a rush, Joe Thornton saucers a pass around a defenseman. A streaking Mike Grier bats the puck on Vokoun, who is in position to make the save. Grier creates another breakaway scoring chance a few minutes later, it is a very underrated part of his game.
Note by the Sharks television crew, Bill Guerin is the 6th alltime leading goal scorer (356 goals) among active American players. Also from Randy Hahn, Guerin has lead 5 different NHL teams in scoring in his career. Two quality scoring chances for Nashville on the same power play. Nabokov stopped one with his left leg pad, and the second a few seconds later sliding across the crease with his right foot. After moving the puck for a long time around the perimeter, Erat lets a shot go through traffic that beats Nabokov up high. No goal, game still tied at 2-2.
Bad penalty by Mark Bell, hooking on Paul Kariya. This may be a game decided by who makes less mistakes. Lots of intensity by Nashville on the power play. Another point shot is deflected in front of Nabokov for a goal (Radulov). Score 3-2 Nashville. Forsberg tried to clear the puck out of his own zone, but it bounced off of a player in the slot. Marc-Edouard Vlasic jumps on the rebound and fires it past Vokoun. Crowd erupts. Score tied 3-3 with less than 5 minutes to play in regulation.
Kariya is pounding away at a puck trapped under Nabokov's right leg pad, when he is freight trained to the ice by Christian Ehrhoff. No penalty. Forsberg-Weber-Erat cycling the puck in the Sharks zone with less than a minute left. Not a good scenario with the number 1 Shark killer in the NHL. A weak penalty is called on Ehrhoff with 39 seconds left.
A late offsides looks like it will end the period, but the Predators push the puck up ice and Arnott finds Kariya in the slot with seconds ticking off the clock. Kariya did not get all of the puck, and he floated a shot on net. Nabokov kicked his legs out to the side, and made a sweeping glove save in the same motion. Nabokov has a flair for the dramatic and he holds up his glove to make sure Kariya can see he made the save.
1. R. Clowe, save by Vokoun. 0-0.
2. A. Radulov, goal. 0-1.
3. J. Pavelski, goal. 1-1.
4. P. Kariya, save by Nabokov. 1-1.
5. J. Thornton, save by Vokoun. 1-1.
6. M. Erat, save by Nabokov. 1-1.
7. J. Cheechoo, save by Vokoun. 1-1.
8, J. Dumont, goal. 2-1.
From San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, "We got ourselves into a little bit of penalty trouble in the second period, and that's really the only time they were dangerous. We have to get Craig Rivet and Hannan back there and stabilize our defense. Bad penalties resulted in goals by us bringing up the stick and trying to hook them."
From Nashville Predators head coach Barry Trotz, "In the first period I thought the Sharks had a lot of life and we took a couple of penalties there, too many men on the ice. They converted on their power plays twice in that first period, but in the last two periods they only had 12 shots, whiched helped us come back. Our special teams got us back into the game. Their special teams sort of got them going."
Initial reactions after the game: A lot of people lump the Sharks, Ducks, and Predators into the same mould. Big, fast, offensive powerhouses. Watching Anaheim-SJ and Nashville-SJ back to back revealed a few contrasts. The Ducks and the Sharks are bigger, faster, and younger teams. They dominate physical play, force the opponent to adjust to their game, and then try to roll over them. What makes a Ducks vs Sharks game so much fun to watch is that neither team can roll the other, but they still try.
The Predators strength is the quickest transition game from the defense in the NHL. The forward compliment is a mix of youth and not just veterans, not just veteran stars, but clutch players who have delivered in big games. Tomas Vokoun, when healthy, is a top 5 goaltender in the league, despite what the pundits in Toronto or New York proclaim. Trying to predict an Anaheim or San Jose vs Nashville playoff series would be difficult, but it looks like the teams are on a collision course for a second or third round matchup.
Victor Chi in the San Jose Mercury News reports that Bill Guerin was still adjusting to his new lineup, and adjusting to playing on the left wing instead of his usual right side. An audio slideshow from Merc photographer Meri Simon is available here. Ross McKeon of the San Francisco Chronicle noted that the Sharks were without captain Patrick Marleau, Scott Hannan, and the newly acquired defenseman Craig Rivet. Rivet is expected to be in the lineup for Friday's game with the Anaheim Ducks. The Predators were without Shark killer Steve Sullivan and enforcer Darcy Hordichuk.
J.P. DUMONT SKATES IN FOR HIS GW PENALTY SHOT
The Nashville Tennessean's John Glennon reports that the 4-3 shootout win is the Predators first win in San Jose since 2002. Goaltender Tomas Vokoun also said of San Jose, "They've got great fans and a good atmosphere". Right back at you. The Nashville fans I met in the playoffs last year, and at the game last night, were friendly and enthusiastic. It is something that a lot of the recent reporting on the Predators has not accurately reflected.
The Nashville Predators extended their current win streak to three games with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night in San Jose. The win didn’t come easy as the Preds went to a shootout for the second straight game and advanced to overtime for the third straight time. J.P. Dumont scored the game-deciding shootout goal as the Predators regained the NHL points lead with their 43rd victory of the season.
[Update] Here is the playoff preview I posted prior to the series last year, and a handheld fan video of the first home game in San Jose. Nashville Predators color analyst Terry Crisp broke down the series after the fact here.
[Update2] From the Predators blog, Sports Illustrated's Michael Farber published a recent feature on a Nashville home game with Detroit after the trade for Peter Forsberg, and SI photographer David E. Klutho posted a behind the scenes photo gallery of the team's game day preperations here.