Sharks battle early but game 3 slips away with third period and overtime Dallas goals, Stars win 2-1 in OT to take 3-0 series lead

Dallas earned their second overtime win in 3 games as a Mattias Norstrom point shot deflected off of Jeremy Roenick's stick and into the net to give the Stars a 2-1 OT win. Dallas holds a 3-0 WCSF series lead over the San Jose Sharks. Defenseman Sergei Zubov tied the game at 1-1 early in the third period on a 5-on-3 power play point shot that deflected off traffic and beat goaltender Evgeni Nabokov far side. Brenden Morrow provided a screen in front of Nabokov on the play. Dallas was unable to convert a third period Nicklas Hagman penalty shot, awarded after defenseman Christian Ehrhoff hooked Hagman to the ice on a breakaway.

The Sharks opened the scoring on a short handed goal by captain Patrick Marleau 19:25 into the first period. Sergei Zubov missed Jere Lehtinen with a pass, and Marleau jumped on the loose rebound in the neutral zone. After a quick acceleration, Marleau snapped a shot that beat Marty Turco up high. An earlier goal by Marleau was waved off after an early whistle by referee Don VanMassenhoven. Joe Thornton drove the net hard, and tried to stuff the puck passed Turco. Turco could not control the rebound, and Marleau came in and punched the puck home as the whistle was being blown. The referee was behind the net on the play. The Sharks also had a near miss scoring opportunity in the second period as a snap shot by Devin Setoguchi deflected off Turco and trickled an inch wide of the left post.

Marty Turco made 19 saves on 20 shots to give the Dallas Stars a 3-0 series lead. Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves on 29 shots. The Sharks finished 0-3 on the power play, Dallas finished 0-2 with a 5-on-4 advantage, and 1-1 with a 5-on-3 advantage. Dallas captain Brenden Morrow, with 25:56 of ice time, 2 blocked shots, and 11 hits, was named the first star of the game.

[Update] Sharks on brink after OT loss - San Jose Mercury News.

It came down to this: Forward Jeremy Roenick sprawling on the ice to block an overtime shot, the puck clipping his stick, then floating into the net over Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov's left shoulder. Game over. And, with one more loss, season over. The Sharks fell to 0-3 in their Western Conference semifinal series with the Dallas Stars. Not exactly where a team that considered itself a serious Stanley Cup contender expected to be at this point.

[Update2] After Game 3 win, Dallas Stars have sweep dreams - Dallas Morning News.

Interview with Offwing.com's Eric McErlain and Offwing Photographer Allen Clark

Washington Capitals Ottawa Senators NHL photo Allen Clark
Washington Capitals hockey photo Allen Clark

Offwing Opinion creator, AOL Fanhouse lead NHL blogger, and Sporting News columnist Eric McErlain answered a few questions about the state of the Washington Capitals rebuilding plan, whether forward Alexander Ovechkin is the most entertaining player in the league, hockey blogs in Washington and the result of the new media push by Capitals owner Ted Leonsis.

[Q] What does this playoff run mean for the Capitals rebuilding effort, and what can fans expect of this team next season?

[EM] At the start of the season Caps owner Ted Leonsis said that the rebuild was over and he meant it. Come around Thanksgiving, there were plenty of understandable doubters, but then new head coach Bruce Boudreau came on board and authored one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in NHL history. As to next season, I think Leonsis and General Manager George McPhee expect this team to qualify for the playoffs for many years to come, with the next goal winning a playoff series -- which in this case will be the first since 1998.

[Q] Watching Ovechkin day in and day out, is he hands down the most entertaining player in the league? What contributes to his success on and off the ice, and do you have a story or two from the regular season or the playoffs that expands on that?

[EM] If he isn't the most exciting and entertaining player in the league this season, I really don't know who else might be. He's really just the complete package when it comes to a hockey player: He's incredibly talented, driven and plays the game with absolute passion. Best of all, he holds himself accountable for his own play and never takes a shift off.

There are almost too many stories from this season: How about the four goals in the OT win against Montreal? Or the shot that looked like it was taken from a golf tee that beat Cam Ward in the last week of the season? Then there's the game-winning goal in Game One of the series against the Flyers where he ripped the puck off of Kukkonen's stick and put it past Biron?

[Q] With the amount of regular season travel, and with a team possibly having to come out of Dallas, Anaheim, Detroit, SJ, Calgary and Minnesota, is the West at a disadvantage for the Stanley Cup Finals?

[EM] Considering that the furthest West the Caps traveled this season was St. Louis, I can't help but think that the current schedule format makes for easier living for Eastern Conference teams. [Q] How many of the Capitals blogosphere did you get to meet while covering games, or while in the stands this season?

[EM] Between games and other get togethers, I've met plenty of folks, in fact, way too many to remember. The fact is that the team made a decision to reach out to local bloggers and it's working great. In Washington to understand what's going on with the team you really must read Japers' Rink, On Frozen Blog and the Peerless Prognosticator. Here's something that's hard to admit: There are so many Caps blogs out there now, I simply don't have time to read them all.

[Q] What impact has owner Ted Leonsis had on the NHL and the fan base in Washington with regards to innovation, adoption of new media, and a genuine passion emanating from the owners box?

[EM] You can't say enough about what Ted Leonsis has done for blogging locally. From the start, I always said that his reaching out to bloggers was just a natural extension of the way he does business. He's said that there will always be room for bloggers in his press box, and come playoff time when the place was packed he kept his promise, and that included finding a place for the Off Wing Photographers during the playoffs too.

Considering that the Caps already treat bloggers like any other members of the media, there really isn't anything else to do in that area. And the only suggestion I would deign to make would be to please keep it up and spread the word to other NHL and major league sports franchises.

Offwing Opinion photographer and Offwingphoto.com blogger Allen Clark answered a few questions about the logistics of shooting NHL hockey for a blog in Washington, which other local sports he has been able to cover, what equipment and techniques he uses to shoot hockey, and which photographers have helped him while shooting this season.

[Q] What equipment do you use to shoot for offwing.com and offwingphoto.com? And where can readers find more of the photography from the offwing photographers?

I use Nikon, of the two others one shoots Nikon also and the other Cannon. I have a Nikon D200 as my primary with an old D70 as a backup. Typically I will bring both down to the ice. On the D200 I put on my 70-200 2.8 Nikon lens, this is my primary set-up for nearly anything.

On my D70 I will then put a wild angle lens (11-18, 4-5.6). This is just a fun different thing to do. When the players get near my hole I can stick that lens through the hole and get a different perspective. Honestly, 90% of the stuff is horrible, but that leaves me with 10% of cool stuff that you don't often see elsewhere.

Nearly all of our photos of course show up on www.offwing.com, which was started by Eric McErlain. Last year we started making a concerted effort to expand our coverage to other sports. This led to Eric and I covering the Legg Mason tennis tournament, which is part of the US Open Series. Eric couldn't make it to the early rounds so I was put into the place to do some writing for OffWing. After that Eric urged me to start a blog and some writing, so OffWing Photo was born, a place where we could do more with our photos, experiment a little, and talk about sports photography specifically.

We also use Photoshelter as a way to syndicate photos of the events we cover to our clients. You can also find us on Flickr which is a great place to network with other photographers and people that love the same sports we do.

[Q] What arrangements did you have with the team to shoot this season,. Did they assign any blogs a photo hole, or was there an open policy if there was space available? Did that change for the postseason?

[AC] This is the second year that OffWing has had both editorial and photo credentials. I am fortunate on two accounts, first I followed in the steps of Eric, who worked hard to lay out a plan to credential bloggers. Secondly both Eric and I were lucky that the Cap's owner, Ted Leonsis, is a former AOL exec and hip to blogging.

The Caps treated us with a great deal of respect. In fact they didn't treat us any different than any other photographer. We were there when the Caps were in last place shooting every game and in the end as division champs. Fortunately, I have had a photo hole for every game that I have shot, there have been times when we did not have a hole for a period or two, but for the most part we have been down on the ice.

This didn't change for the post-season, although honestly I would have totally understood. If Sports Illustrated shows up you give them the the hole...but again, we were always treated with respect and I really appreciate it. I would also like to think that we in part earned the respect in the way that we covered the games.

[Q] In addition to the NHL, there were a number of general sports photos posted on offwing. What were a couple of your favorite NHL photos posted this season, and your favorite general sports photos?

[AC] Here are some of the favorites of photos that I took over the past year. Some I like for the straight photo, others I like because of the situation, where I was in the "wrong place," had the "wrong lens," etc. The adversity that I had to overcome forced me shooting the situation in a different/creative way.

NHL Favorites: 1, 2, 3.

General Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

[Q] Did you get a chance to meet other photographers this season, and who were your favorites?

[AC] Over the past year I have been able to meet a lot of great photographers. I have found that the temp of a particular sport determines to what extent you chat with the other photographers. Hockey is tougher because of the speed and that we are spread around the rink, then crashing to post images between periods. Lacrosse is similar in that play is moving so quickly up and down the field.

So far, soccer seems to be the most social. For the most part the photographers are camped out on the ends of the field and there doesn't seem to be the pressure to file photos during the game. Tennis was also a very social sport to shoot.

Mitchell Layton (www.mitchelllayton.com) is a great sports photographer, he is the team photographer for the Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards, and Washington Capitals, he also shoots for Getty and Sports Illustrated. He is a great person and also very open in giving constructive advice. As the Cap's team photographer he assigned holes for games and was very fair, like Eric's experience we were treated just as well as the other credentialed press.

[Q] Is there a tip or two you have learned this season that would help other photographers shoot hockey?

[AC] Over the past couple of years I have learned a few important things for shooting hockey:

- The camera's built in light meter will likely underexpose because of the ice (in the same way it would with snow). Either correct in camera by increasing the exposure more than what the camera reads or in post processing.

- Use custom white balance. This makes the color of your shots very uniform and more pleasing. With a DSLR, this is SO easy, it is something new to learn but it will make a huge difference.

- A friend who shoots belly dancing turned me onto this trick.....use variable ISO. I will turn this setting on and set the uppermost ISO that I will accept for quality purposes. I put the camera on manual mode and set my aperture wide open (I have a 70-200/f 2.8) and the shutter at what ever I need. Voilà a I did this all season and was very happy with the results.

- OK, this last one is a little crazy, I don't know if anyone else does this or not, I haven't heard or read of it anywhere. I shoot without looking through the viewfinder. When I first shot hockey I was missing so many great shots and was unable to track the puck fast enough. So I started looking down the barrel of my lens just over my camera. I kind of lock my upper body and head so that it moves as a unit (no doubt I look silly).

Shooting this way I can use my peripheral vision to anticipate where the action will take place more easily. I have gotten pretty good at this, and also use it when shooting lacrosse. For me the number of keepers went up and the total number of pictures went down.

Thanks very much to Eric and Allen for taking the time to answer a few questions.

The photographers that have stood out this year in San Jose are of course the official team photographers Rocky Widner and Don Smith (Don took a midseason photo of defenseman Douglas Murray checking a forward completely off his feet at center ice that may have been the best of the year), Getty's Christian Petersen, the AP's Tony Avelar, Gary Reyes of the SJ Mercury News, the East Bay's Aric Crabb who does not come down to cover much hockey with the newspaper consolidation, and Rob Galbraith who was at HP Pavilion shooting playoff hockey (hopefully the same R.G.), among many others.

[Update] Ovechkin In Hart Of The MVP Race - National Post.

Hockey Fundamentals: Power Skating

Laura Stamm is an icon in the field of instructional skating. The author of 4 books, Stamm has developed power skating techniques used by amateur and professional hockey players alike. Her teaching system has been used by the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, the German National team, the Swedish National team, the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation, and numerous individual players.

Originally a competitive figure skater, Stamm later became a figure skating coach at an ice rink also used by the New York Rangers. The Rangers asked Laura Stamm to teach power skating at their summer hockey school. At the request of New York Islanders GM Bill Torrey in 1973, Stamm began working 1-on-1 with Islanders rookie Bob Nystrom. Nystrom became known as one of the hardest working forwards on the team, earning the nickname "Mr. Islander". A pivotal part of the Stanley Cup winning Islanders dynasty from 1980-83, the team later created the Bob Nystrom Award for the player who "who best exemplifies leadership, hustle and dedication". Nystrom has said that without the help of Laura Stamm, he never would have made it to the NHL.

Laura Stamm believes there are three key rules to power skating, that a player must have 100% of his body weight directly above his working skate, that a player must attempt to skate with a 90 degree knee bend, and that the edge of the working skate must always be at a 45 degree angle to the ice. Stamm has also broken down power skating fundamentals into different areas: Balance and Control, Stride, Lateral Mobility, Starts and Stops, Transition, and Agility.

According to Laura Stamm skating is fundamentally a one legged activity, and balance on 1 skate is an important factor for power skating. The modern hockey skate blade has an inside and an outside edge seperated by a a crescent-shaped hollow. The depth of this hollow is known as the Radius of Hollow (ROH), and can vary from 1/4" and 1". Balance on the inside edge generates speed and direction, balance on the outside edge is critical for crossovers and maneuverability. Skating backwards maintaining balance is the same as skating forwards, except the weight is placed on the front half of the blade instead of the back half.

The Laura Stamm power skating system dictates that there are 4 core elements to a powerful stride: windup, release, followthrough, and return/recovery. The windup digs the thrusting skate into the ice at a 45 degree angle, with the body weight centered over the skate, knees bent, and the feet coming together in a V position with each stride. The release transfers the entire body weight to the inside edge of the thrusting skate. The followthrough snaps the hip, thigh, knee, ankle and toe of the thrusting leg into a locked, straightened position providing a strong final push. The recovery returns the free leg to the center of the body for the next push. A powerful arm swings adds rythmn and momentum.

Forward and backward crossovers are used by hockey players to accelerate on curves, circles and corners, weave, change direction, and move laterally. On the forward crossover the inside skate glides on its outside edge while the outside skate glides on its inside edge. The forward crossover consists of two pushes, one by the outside leg on the inside edge of the blade to maintain the momentum of the stride, and on the second push the outside leg crosses over the front to glide while the inside leg crosses behind to push on the outside edge of the blade. The backward crossover uses a similar two pushes, with the crossover outside skate passing in front of the inner skate.

According to Stamm's power skating system aggressive starts contain three elements: quickness, power and distance. The first few strides are taken quickly on the toes, power is developed by pushing off explosively with each skate in the proper direction, and distance comes from the body leaning forward with each stride. Three types of starts can be utilized, the front start, the side or crossover start, and the backwards start. Each start utilizes a specific first step, its own system of pushes for acceleration, and a stance designed to maximize power and efficiency with each stride. Basic stops include the forward snowplow and the t-stop, but the most commonly used stop at the professional levels is the hockey stop. Both skates and the hips are turned 90 degrees from the direction of travel and the players weight is driven into the ice with a deep knee bend.

Professional hockey players must be able to change directions quickly, pivot, and instantly turn on a dime. According to Stamm, two-foot turns are the most basic where a player switches his body from facing forward to backward or vice versa with a quick change of direction simultaneously by each skate. The open turn consists of gliding forward on the inside edge of one skate, drawing the free skate in while facing it backwards. The hip is turned, and the lead skate is lifted off the ice while the trailing skate is placed on the ice. Both feet are in a wide V while briefly together on the ice. Forward-to-backward turns, and backward-to-forward turns can be executed more explosively, and each can be used at an angle, on a straight line, or in a circle. Each can utilize an open V or a crossover.

For more information on Laura Stamm's power skating techniques and a list of skating clinics and schools visit laurastamm.com. Also make sure to take a look at her skating tips section. A sample Laura Stamm forward stride analysis video is available on youtube here.

Laura Stamm's Power Skating, a Pro Coach's Secrets, and Power skating the hockey way books are available on Amazon.com.Laura Stamm

[Update] Hockey Fundamentals: Goaltending - Sharkspage.com.

[Update2] Interview with San Jose Sharks scout Pat Funk - Max Giese for Sharkspage.com.


Four unanswered goals in third period down Sharks 5-2, San Jose heads to Texas down 2 games to 0

Dallas Stars center Brad Richards
Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow celebrates a goal
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski
San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars playoffs

There is a train station next door to HP Pavilion. After each game a number of fans race across West Santa Clara street to catch the last train out of San Jose. After the Dallas Stars scored 4 unanswered third period goals en route to a 5-2 win on Sunday night, the Stars second straight win on San Jose home ice, the Shark train literally and possibly figuratively left the building.

The turning point of game 2 came with the Sharks up 2-1 at the start of the third period. As the Sharks were moving the puck out of their own zone, Dallas center Brad Richards stepped up to center Joe Pavelski at the blueline. Pavelski caught an edge and hit the ice, leaving the former Conn Smythe winning Richards alone in front of Evgeni Nabokov with the puck. Richards uncorked a hard wrist shot to tie the game, igniting a 4-goal onslaught by Dallas in the final 20 minutes of play.

After the game Pavelski mentioned to the media that the turnover was something he would think about, but try to put behind him as quickly as possible. It is something he should not think twice about. Pavelski (4G, 4A, 9GP), tied with Ryane Clowe (4G, 4A, 9GP) and Joe Thornton (2G, 6A, 9GP) for the Sharks playoff scoring lead, has been the most consistent offensive threat for San Jose. Pavelski has two power play goals in the postseason, two game winning goals, and has shown the killer instinct around the net that at times has been lacking from other forwards. The Plover Wisconsin native led the Badgers to their sixth NCAA national championship in 2006, and he has won at every level of hockey he has participated in a la Chris Drury.

Midway through the first period, Pavelski expertly deflected a Craig Rivet point shot high over the shoulder of Marty Turco. It was the Sharks first power play goal, after three consecutive penalties by Grossman (holding the stick), Turco (interference) and Lundqvist (roughing) had the Stars reeling. Marty Turco kept the game from getting out of hand early, getting a shoulder on a Jeremy Roenick deflection and the tip of his leg pad on another point blank shot emanating from a pile of bodies in front of the crease.

On the other side of the ice, Evgeni Nabokov struggled with his most uneven performance of the playoffs. After the Stars kept the puck in the zone late in the first period, a Brenden Morrow point shot ricochetted off of the end boards. Center Mike Ribeiro noticed that Nabokov did not seal the near post after making a save on Richards, and Ribeiro banked a shot off the Sharks goaltender and into the net to tie the game at 1-1. After the bad break led to a Richards game tying goal early in the third period, Nabokov did not look good on goals allowed to Mike Modano (PP) and Niklas Hagman. San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson pulled Nabokov for backup goaltender Brian Boucher with over three minutes remaining, but in the post-game press conference he said that he wanted his team to have a breather without having to take a timeout.

After the game a TSN reporter asked Sharks assistant captain Joe Thornton if the Sharks needed better goaltending from Evgeni Nabokov in order to win this series. Thornton scoffed at the question, said that the team needs to give Nabokov better goal support, and politely excused himself from answering any more questions. It was a similar theme taken later that night by NHL on the Fly's Dave Reid. Reid broke down Nabokov's collision with Ehrhoff and stumble getting across the crease on Brenden Morrow's OT game winner in game 1, broke down his misplay on the Ribeiro goal and the shaky third period in game 2, and noted that Nabokov had the worst save percentage in the playoffs (.883).

It was a similar concern voiced by some in the media when the topic of the Vezina trophy was raised, but it should be noted that the Sharks forwards focus on dropping down to block shots, and the suffocating play by the defense greatly skewed that save percentage number during the regular season. In the playoffs the Sharks often outshot their opposition 2-1, registering 287 shots while facing only 205 shots against. Nabokov faced only 10 in game 4 of the WCQF against Calgary, and only 18 shots in the overtime loss to Dallas in game 1 of the WCSF. To the Sharks coaching staff and the Sharks locker room only one statistic matters, wins and losses.

NHL on the Fly's Dave Reid also broke down the return of Dallas Stars offensive defenseman Sergei Zubov. The 6-foot-1, 220 pound blueliner has missed the last half of the regular season with a foot injury and surgery to repair a sports hernia. He has not played since a January 17th regular season game in San Jose. In Zubov's return, he registered 16:19 of ice time, 2 shots, 1 assist, and 2PIMs. On the fly focused on his slow reaction to a Michalek drive to the net resulting in a first period hooking penalty, another weak stick check by Zubov that Michalek powered through to score the second Sharks goal, an errant pinch leading to a 2-on-1 and a missed point blank opportunity by Torrey Mitchell (a Stu Barnes backcheck bailed out Zubov on the play), and a spin-o-rama assist setting up Mike Modano for the game winning goal on the first Stars power play of the game in the third period. It was a mixed bag performance by Zubov in his return, but he can only be expected to improve with each game.

Marty Turco made 29 saves on 31 shots to earn his second straight road win to open this WCSF series. Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves on 25 shots, and backup goaltender Brian Boucher did not make a save in 1:19 of reserve duty. The Stars finished 1-3 on the power play, the Sharks finished with 1 power play goal in 4 opportunities. The San Jose Sharks are 9th out of 16 playoff teams in power play percentage (17.9) scoring 7 power play goals on 39 opportunities, and last place in penalty kill percentage (73.3) allowing 8 goals against on 30 power plays. The Stars are 2nd on the power play (12-46) and 6th on the penalty kill (6-33) in the postseason.

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

Post-game press conference transcript, San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson

Post-game press conference comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

We are down 2-0. Am I disappointed? Yes.

They got a lucky break. Joe Pavelski lost an edge. They were in a great position, and a great player took advantage of just a bad break. We got a power play and we were doing great. There was a bad call on Christian (Ehrhoff). He got called for holding. I would like to see the hold, but nonetheless they took advantage of that situation as well. From that point on we were playing against a team that shuts down things as well as anybody. We had a tough time generating offense. We had a tough time trying to shut down the Ribeiro line. They were dangerous just about every shift, until the third period when we changed up who was playing against him. Now we just have to look. We have played very well in Dallas all season long. We are down 2-0. We can just relax and push the pace. Simple as that in Dallas, play as a desperate hockey team.

We missed a lot of chances. There's the Torrey Mitchell open net chance, we hit a post on a power play, in the second period there were plenty of missed opportunities, but you have to keep playing on you don't wory about your missed opportunities. We went into that third period with a lead. Again, there is nothing you can do when a guy loses an edge on a play.

It is a combination of two things. When you are playing against some really good hockey players, the Ribeiro line is as good as any in the playoffs right now, you have to be aware of that and keep them on the outside, not turn pucks over, and win little battles down low. We got caught on a couple of poor exchanges between the goal and defense, and when they sense a potential for a turnover they jump on it. If not, they back right off. They took advantage. The first goal they scored, they took advantage of a miscommunication behind the net, and 25-30 seconds later they scored. In the third period, it is kind of difficult to say. Ignore the fourth and the fifth goals, the tying goal is nothing we can do about it. A guy slips and falls, in an almost non-dangerous situation. The other one we got puck focused, and Zubov made an unbelievable pass.

We believe (in our team). That is all that matters. Not what you (the media) believe. We have been counted out a number of times this year, so we'll bounce back. I am confident of that. The record showed it throughout the season, were the best road team in the NHL. Now we have a chance to prove that.

Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett

Post-game press conference comments from Dallas Stars head coach Dave Tippett:

On the goal in the third period, it is simply a situation where a player lost an edge. Richy is an opportunistic guy that way. It is one thing to get a turnover, but it is what you do with it that makes you really look at it. What he did with it was pretty special.

I look at (Zubov's absence) as three months of rest, not three months of rust. That is what we said after the game. All the guys that have been playing two pass with him after practice to get him in shape, cheers to them tonight.

We happened to mention that pass in the scrum after the game. That is shinny hockey at its finest. But Zuby, that is part of his game. That is pretty special. To find a guy right on his tape, spinning around like that, that is a pretty special play. But we have seen that from Zuby around here for a long time.

The game was pretty tight, we got a break early in the third. I think we started the game pretty well. Then we ended up taking those penalties which really put us on our heels. We clawed ourselves back in, and in the third period we wanted to come out and push the envelope a little bit and we got a break on the early goal. We kept pushing. I thought we pushed right until the end. We needed a strong period to win the game, and our guys came up with that.

There are certain times, you see the way a guy prepares. (Niklas Hagman) has really worked hard at it here the last few days. He was a little bit snake bit in the Anaheim series, so it is good to see him come up and get a couple. That is the kind of team we have to be. We are not going to rely on any one or two guys to do it. There were stretches where I thought the Ribeiro line was the only line we were getting things from, but it was great to see Richards and Hagman put up a little speed, I thought it would be good for them tonight. We were fortunate to get a couple. Haggy got a couple. One on an empty net, but he still got a couple.

We should recognize what happened last series. We came out of there with a 2-0 lead. We knew our opponent was going to play a very strong game. There is no reason not to think they are going to come in (and play the same way). We talk about a desperate team, whatever it is, but we have to go back and make sure we play our best game at home. If we do that, we will have the best chance to win.


Brenden Morrow scores twice in Dallas 3-2 OT win in Game 1, defensive lapses and Stars neutral zone trap a concern for San Jose

San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars
San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals
Dallas Stars NHL photos Brenden Morrow

The San Jose Sharks outskated, outshot (27-18), and outhit (31-27) Dallas on Friday night in the first game of the Western Conference Semifinal, but the Stars emerged with a 3-2 overtime win based on a tight defensive game and more intensity in critical situations. Three defensive miscues by the Sharks lead to three Dallas Stars goals, and despite a late push to tie the game in regulation it was too big a deficit to overcome. As with Calgary, the Sharks displayed a vastly different game than the suffocating defensive style that helped them become a dominant team in the second half of the regular season.

San Jose captain Patrick Marleau hopped over a Mike Modano power play point shot in the second period that may have given goaltender Evgeni Nabokov less time to see the shot, but that was the least of the Sharks problems on Friday night. 9:09 into the second period, Stars captain Brenden Morrow battled defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in the corner before backhanding the puck deep behind the Sharks net. Mike Ribeiro beats Torrey Mitchell to the puck, and explodes to the side of the net with two hard strides. Ribeiro tries to stuff a backhand wraparound attempt, but the puck deflects off a mass of bodies to the far side of the crease. Morrow beats Ehrhoff off the wall and sweeps in an uncontested goal to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. A collision between Jere Lehtinen and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left Vlasic on the ice, Mitchell tried to tie up Ribeiro for a rebound but a backchecking Patrick "Rizzle" Rissmiller ran into him and fell to the ice, and Mike Grier was too far off from the play to help Ehrhoff contain a crashing Morrow. Every Shark on the ice save for Nabokov made a mistake on the play, and with a disciplined style and a tight defense from Dallas one goal could be the difference in any game this series.

The third defensive breakdown for San Jose resulted in the overtime game winning goal for Brenden Morrow at 4:39, his second of the night. The Sharks outshot Dallas 27-15 in regulation, but the Stars registered all 3 shots in OT. Dallas center Mike Ribeiro drives down the left wing and pulls up at the half boards. Ribeiro saucers a cross ice pass to defenseman Stephane Robidas, who can not control the puck at first touch. A diving Patrick Marleau forces Robidas back behind the net before crashing into the boards. Robidas circles behind and finds his defensive partner Mattias Norstrom open on the left point. Norstrom moves it to an unchecked Brenden Morrow near the right faceoff circle and Morrow slaps a one-timer passed Evgeni Nabokov glove side. Dallas Stars take the WCSF game 1 with a 3-2 win in overtime. The Stars have won 7 of their last 8 games at HP Pavilion.

Offensively, the Sharks did what they needed to do in order to score goals on Marty Turco. One Canadian analyst held his hands 6 inches apart and noted that all of the San Jose Sharks goals came from that distance, with a mass of bodies creating traffic in front of the net. Milan Michalek rung a shot off the crossbar in the first period, but in the second period the left winger scored his first goal of the postseason. Many in the media have been focusing on Michalek's lack of playoff production, but when the large scoreboard flashed that it was his first goal the crowd at HP Pavilion erupted in a near standing ovation. A turnover by Dallas in their own zone started the play. Brian Campbell moved the puck to Joe Thornton in the slot, who kicked the puck to his stick and then fired it to Michalek on the right side. Michalek stickhandled twice to his left forcing Turco to go down early, then snapped a shot that found its way through a Niskanen/Cheechoo battle in front. Turco was caught out of position, and the puck trickled its way over the goal line. After the initial San Jose goal there was a long Tuuurrr-cccooo, Tuuurrr-cccooo chant from the crowd.

The second San Jose goal to tie the game at 2-2 late in the third period was of a similar variety. The Sharks had a number of shots from the defense all night, 10 total, but more importantly they were finding their way on net and creating opportunities for rebounds and deflections if the forwards were in position. A point shot by Rivet was blocked, but the puck deflected to Matt Carle on the opposite side. Carle fires a low shot on net as the Sharks outnumber Dallas 3-1 in front of Turco. Two Dallas Stars are too far off the crease and out of the play. The puck deflects off the upper body of Turco and drops to the ice in front of him. Three Sharks are in position to take a whack at the rebound, but Cheechoo is the first to hammer it home before getting checked on top of Turco. Cheechoo started celebrating mid-air before falling on Turco.

Marty Turco made 25 saves on 27 shots to earn the game 1 win. Evgeni Nabokov made 15 saves on 18 shots, including only 2 shots taken by Dallas in the first period. The Stars finished 1-5 on the power play. San Jose was held scoreless in 4 power play attempts. Semenov, Ozolinsh, Brown, Shelley, and McLaren (lower body) were scratched for San Jose. Barch, Winchester, Boucher, Crombeen, and Zubov were scratched for Dallas.

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


NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal preview, #2 San Jose Sharks vs #5 Dallas Stars

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco

The San Jose Sharks emerged from the most physical and intense playoff series of the first round with a strong game 7 performance against the Calgary Flames. The Flames challenged the Sharks to within an inch of their breaking point, but they could not withstand a withering offensive attack that could cause damage with any line. A fifth seed Dallas Stars lineup will be an even more difficult matchup. The Stars, as with Calgary, had regular season success registering a 4-2-2 record against the Pacific Division winning Sharks. The Stars established a high intensity work ethic 5-on-5, on the penalty kill, and on the power play that is perfectly suited for playoff hockey. Dallas plays a smashmouth style of hockey, relies on a more balanced offense, and athletic goaltender Marty Turco will probably not be pulled at the first sign of adversity.

There were a number of warning signs exhibited by the Sharks in the first round, primarly their performance early in game 1, allowing four unanswered goals to Calgary in game 3, and the entire 60 minute performance en route to a 2-0 shutout loss in an elimination game 6. San Jose has depth unmatched by any team left in the postseason, but the shift-to-shift intensity needs to improve in order to realize that potential. A strength for San Jose during the regular season, a mobile puck-moving defense that initiates offense, had trouble getting into gear against the Calgary forecheck. The Flames gave the Dallas Stars a blueprint for how to shut down the Sharks offense. San Jose will need to rely on its leaders, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, Milan Michalek, and Joe Pavelski to win battles and score goals from in front of the net.

The Dallas Stars will not get the free penalties that helped them dethrone last season's Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks in the first round. In fact, if the Sharks coaching staff could take anything from the first round and apply it to round two it should be to lobby the referee's more often. Dallas plays with patience and poise, and ESPN analyst Barry Melrose labeled them "the hardest working team in the NHL". Defenseman Stephane Robidas may be the MVP of the first round for Dallas, scoring a goal and 5 assists while defenseman Sergei Zubov and Philippe Boucher were recovering from injuries. Former Los Angeles Kings captain Mattias Norstrom and rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen will face a heavy load trying to contain a Shark attack that will keep pressing the action. Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards may be the most difficult offensive threats on the surface, but the Stars have a gritty lineup top to bottom that will make San Jose pay for turnovers and inopportune penalties.

Prediction: Sharks win in 7 games.

Regular season SJ-DAL series: 4-4

Oct29@DAL - SJ 4, DAL 2
Nov7@SJ - DAL 3, SJ 1
Nov14@DAL - SJ 4, DAL 3 (SO)
Dec5@DAL - SJ 3, DAL 2
Dec15@SJ - DAL 4, SJ 2
Jan17@SJ - DAL 4, SJ 2
Mar27@SJ - SJ 3, DAL 2 (OT)
Apr6@DAL - DAL 4, SJ 2

Interview with Sportingnews.com reporter and former San Jose Sharks beat writer Victor Chi

Sportingnews.com NHL reporter Victor Chi, a former San Jose Sharks beat writer for the Mercury News for over 10 years, answered a handful of questions about working in the American half of the orginal six, visiting Columbine High School after the school shooting tragedy, Mike Ricci taking a ceremonial faceoff with Queen Elizabeth, the Sharks-Flames series, the impact of late goaltending coach Warren Strelow, questions and expectations surrounding Joe Thornton and Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, and offered insight into the rigors of covering a team over an 82-game regular season.

A graduate of Northwestern University, Chi returns to campus each summer to teach journalism as part of the Cherubs program. Victor Chi and his wife Jenny recently started a blog on travel and cuisine at grubtrotters.com.

[Q] After 15 years working at the Mercury News, 10-11 as the beat writer for the San Jose Sharks and time spent in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and New York, what are your thoughts on the state of the industry?

[VC] Yes, I’ve had the pleasure of working in the American cities of the Original Six plus covering an Original 22 franchise. It’s a unique perspective. The newspaper industry is obviously going through a painful transition phase. It can be depressing with news of layoffs --- I have first-hand experience with that --- and buyouts almost every day. But the public has a tremendous appetite for information so other opportunities are going to develop.

[Q] How would you compare the hockey coverage in each market?

[VC] Each has a distinct characteristic that lends itself to the media’s coverage and the fans’ interest. Boston has a huge and tradition-laden college hockey scene in the city, which helps create a generally more puck-centric culture. Chicago is a great hockey market, but unfortunately the relevance of the Blackhawks and the NHL really diminished over the past 10 years. Between untelevised home games and a poor on-ice product, even the devoted fans with Indian heads tattooed on their arms lost faith. It was great to see the start of a revival this season. There are three teams in the New York metropolitan area. The Rangers are clearly No. 1 in terms of media attention, even though the Devils have won three Cups since the Rangers’ last title. The Red Wings did a great job of creating the Hockeytown identity. Their fans embraced it, and while other pro teams in town were struggling --- and in the case of the Lions still are --- the Wings were winning three Cups.

But looking at the big picture, even though these are Original Six markets, hockey is generally going to find itself behind football, baseball and basketball in the pecking order. Minnesota might be an exception. The Red Wings, because of their success plus proximity to Canada, have been able to get a bigger slice of the media pie in Detroit. The dynamics can change somewhat, particularly during a playoff run, because everyone loves a winner. Frank Deford made the best analogy I have ever heard to describe how hockey fits in the landscape of sports in this country. He said the NHL is like RC Cola, while the NFL, MLB and NBA are like Coke and Pepsi. RC Cola has been around a long time, has a loyal following and continues to do a nice business. RC will never be as big as Coke or Pepsi, but it also doesn’t waste time trying to mimic the big boys or fighting an inferiority complex. In the Bay Area, the Merc always gave the Sharks more space and exposure than the other area papers because the team is in San Jose. But overall the same deal applies here: teams like the 49ers and Giants are Coke and Pepsi. On the flip side, the Sabres get a lot of attention in Buffalo because there is no NBA or MLB team in the market.

Canada is obviously a different story. After Vesa Toskala got traded to the Maple Leafs over the summer, he showed up for a press conference in Toronto. There was a swarm of reporters and cameras waiting for him. When somebody asked if he had ever seen such a media gathering in San Jose, Toskala said, "We only had two of them around." The next day Ross McKeon sent me an e-mail, saying: "Not anymore."

[Q] As a graduate of Northwestern, when you return each summer to teach journalism as part of the Cherubs program, what are new journalism students thoughts or plans for their future profession?

[VC] They are excited about multimedia because this generation of students has never lived in a world without the Internet. (Wow, does that make me sound old, or what?) Cherubs will learn about podcasts, online video editing, etc. But the Cherub program’s main points of emphasis are teaching students how to become better writers, sharper thinkers and above all sticklers for accuracy. You can have the fanciest high-tech equipment, but it is all worthless unless you can deliver a good story with relevant information in a clear fashion. You can't do that without knowing how to interview a source, how to structure a story or how to not get sued for libel.

[Q] In your time covering the San Jose Sharks, what are one or two of the stories that stick out the most from your reporting?

[VC] I had so many memorable moments on assignment that it is difficult to isolate just one or two. The Sharks' win in Game 7 at St. Louis was obviously a huge moment in franchise history. Visiting Columbine High School with the Sharks on an off-day in Denver about a week after the tragedy was heartbreaking. Seeing Mike Ricci take a ceremonial faceoff with Queen Elizabeth dropping the puck was comical. Ron Wilson is a big fan of team-building functions, and I was fortunate to tag along when they ate lunch with the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. They had two Sharks assigned to each table, so some midshipmen got to hang out with stars like Damphousse and Marleau and Nabokov. I felt sorry for the midshipmen at my table, who were stuck with me and a Sharks media relations guy.

The night of the Joe Thornton trade in Dallas was wild. Ross McKeon and I saw Jim Fahey and Niko Dimitrakos, dressed in suits, get off the elevator in the press box about 10 minutes before faceoff. Then just as the game was about to start, we noticed Fahey and Dimitrakos in full hockey gear, scrambling to get to the bench because Stuart, Sturm and Primeau had become last-minute scratches. Of course, we didn’t know exactly why they were scratched at that point. Vesa Toskala was injured that night, so he was in the press box. During the first intermission, Rossie and I tried grilling Toskala, but if he knew anything, he wasn’t giving it up. Then Jari Kurri, who was in town to scout for the Finnish Olympic team, tried his hand at quizzing Toskala, and he didn’t get any answers either. Thornton’s first two games were at Buffalo and Toronto with the Leafs game being the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, so the media scene was an absolute zoo. It's probably smart for me to end my rambling here, because this could go on all night.

[Q] What was your favorite headline?

[VC] Reporters, of course, don’t write the headlines to their stories. I know you understand that, but I thought I would mention it here because I was constantly receiving e-mails from readers ripping me for what they considered to be bad headlines. Anyway the one headline that really sticks in my mind was from Game 4 of the 1998 playoff series against Dallas. The Sharks won 1-0 in overtime. Dan Brown, better known to readers as the Merc’s outstanding baseball and football writer, was working the copy desk that night. He wrote the legendary "Suddenly Zyuzin" headline.

[Q] Which road trip had the most problems, and which was the most rewarding?

[VC] Considering how extensive the travel was, I consider myself lucky that I didn't encounter more nightmares. But here are a few:

- I was flying home from Edmonton on Christmas Eve. I was supposed to connect through Vancouver. But a huge blizzard closed down the airport in Vancouver. Same with Seattle. I got to the Edmonton airport at 9 a.m. and saw that all flights heading west were cancelled. Fortunately for me, I found a helpful agent at the counter, and she re-booked my ticket without charging any fees. The route, though, was Edmonton to Calgary, Calgary to Dallas, Dallas to San Jose. I kept telling myself I was racking up more frequent-flyer miles this way. I got home at midnight.

- Heading to St. Louis for the 2000 playoffs, I had to connect through Dallas. The Dallas-to-St. Louis flight was about a minute from taking off when a big thunderstorm hit. No takeoff. We had to wait out the storm. Five hours later, the storm had passed, but the pilots had exceeded their FAA-mandated daily limit for hours in a cockpit. The flight was cancelled. Dallas was hosting some massive convention so getting a hotel room was nearly impossible. I ended up at some motel along the freeway. I slept about four hours with one eye open, caught the first available flight to St. Louis the next day, but still missed the morning skate.

- Getting to Detroit for the playoffs last year was a farce. The connecting flight to Dallas was cancelled. All the subsequent Dallas flights were full. I ended up flying San Jose to Austin, Austin to Chicago, Chicago to Detroit. I arrived in Detroit at 1:30 a.m., but my luggage didn't.

- The most rewarding trip is easy. I take some pride that I logged every mile of the Sharks' 10-game, 18-day trip in 1999. I can still rattle off the travel sequence: Phoenix-LA-Phoenix-Chicago-St. Louis-Tampa-Florida-Detroit-Buffalo-Washington. And the games against the Sabres and Capitals to end it were on back-to-back nights. That was the same season the Sharks opened with two games in Tokyo against the Flames.

[Q] You wrote recently about center Joe Thornton, and the Sharks come-from-behind win against Calgary in Game 4. What are your thoughts on some of the postseason criticism Thornton receives from the press?

[VC] The best player on the team is always going to take heat after a disappointing playoff exit. That comes with the territory. Thornton was a first overall pick in the draft and he has been league MVP. The expectation is that he has to deliver a championship to fulfill his destiny, like Peyton Manning. Fair enough. But let’s also remember that Steve Yzerman didn’t win his first Stanley Cup until his 14th season in the league. This is Thornton’s 10th. This isn’t to suggest that I expect Thornton will go to win three Cups like Yzerman. But much of the skepticism heaped on Thornton now --- can he win the big one? --- is similar to what the pre-Cup Yzerman had to absorb.

Obviously his no-points performance in the Bruins’ upset loss to Montreal in 2004 is a glaring blemish on his record, but that was the series he probably should not have played because of a bad rib injury. Not to be an apologist for Thornton, but the guy has 36 points in 40 playoff games as a Shark. Those aren’t exactly hiding-behind-the-sofa numbers. But could he have done more to help the Sharks turn the corner against Edmonton and Detroit the past two years? Absolutely --- they got shut out in the elimination game both years --- and I think Thornton has always acknowledged that. But sometimes in the heat of the moment, rational and legitimate criticism loses out to piling on.

[Q] Do you think those questioning Marleau's heart are ignoring his playoff contributions the last 3 years, and what he brings to the lineup on a daily basis? In the oft-referenced playoff series with Detroit, I took photos of Marleau throwing his body around, battling Holmstrom in front of the net, and making plays with the puck. But compared to Joe Thornton, his shift-to-shift intensity was not there. He did make plays, but was not a factor for 2 or 3 shifts afterwards. He did not provide the usual dominant contribution fans and the team expect from him, and an avalanche of criticism from fans, the media, and coach Ron Wilson followed. What are your thoughts of Marleau's captaincy overall, and what he has meant to the team this postseason?

[VC] The Sharks could have won that series against Detroit with no points from Marleau. But they couldn’t survive it with no points AND his string of late-game defensive gaffes. The no points didn’t kill them. The minus-5 did. That’s why after everything that happened in the Detroit series and the miserable first half of this season, it is worth noting that Marleau was one of forwards on the ice near the end of Game 7 when the Flames had pulled the goalie.

[Q] Evgeni Nabokov or Martin Brodeur for the Vezina trophy? Who would have your vote and why?

[VC] I don’t actually have a vote on this one because NHL GMs handle the Vezina balloting. But I did have a vote for the NHL All-Star teams and went with Nabokov. Why? This might seem like a cop-out, but it’s just because I saw more Sharks games than Devils games. They were so close that ended up being the tiebreaker for me. They played the same number of games. Nabokov held the edge in goals-against (2.14 to 2.17) and wins (46-44). Brodeur was on top in save percentage (.920 to .910) and shutouts (6-5). It would be foolish to, as they say in politics, go negative against either candidate.

[Q] Late San Jose Sharks coach Warren Strelow helped establish the science of coaching goaltenders. What were some of the keys to his success, and what did a Strelow-coached goaltender learn to help him compete and excel at the NHL-level?

[VC] Strelow’s brilliance was knowing how to coach both the technical and mental aspects of goaltending. He was not doctrinaire in terms of a goalie’s style. Strelow understood that each goalie had natural strengths and weaknesses. The best style, in his estimation, was one customized to maximize an individual goalie’s strengths and minimize weaknesses. Square people don’t die round.

Strelow worked his goalies very hard on the ice as he stressed the fundamentals. There is good reason why his nicknames were the Taskmaster (self-explanatory) and the Doctor (he had a PhD in goaltending).

But his goalies loved Strelow because they knew he cared for them like sons. Strelow’s support was unwavering and he emphasized positive reinforcement in handling adversity. Strelow used to say that the position of goaltending itself is inherently negative, so he wanted to accentuate the positive.

[Q] Which NHL Stanley Cup Playoff series has been the most intense and physical of the first round?

[VC] The Sharks-Flames series was the most physical. The Flyers-Captials was the most entertaining. It was great for the league that these were among the series that went the distance.

[Q] Do you think a West team that has to advance past a Detroit, Anaheim, Dallas or San Jose, along with the rigors of regular season travel, will be at a disadvantage against an East team in the finals?

[VC] The wackiest travel disparity between two Cup finalists might have been 1994. Vancouver kept having to fly further in each round of the playoffs with Calgary, Dallas and then Toronto. The Rangers played the Islanders (bus trip), Washington (one flight) and New Jersey (bus trip). Travel for Western teams is a grind that can take its toll. But Anaheim’s success last year should be a message to the other Western teams: You can’t use travel as a crutch or an excuse.

[Q] If you could make one change to the NHL on the ice, and one change to the NHL off the ice what would they be?

[VC] I am going to cheat and give you two on-ice changes. One, scrap the instigator rule. Two, whenever there is a video review, make referees use their microphones and explain the decision to the people who pay good money for their seats. Don’t just say “goal” or “no goal” and then line up for the faceoff. Tell the fans inside the rink precisely why. They deserve it just on general principle, but it becomes even more of an issue when some buildings do not show the replay in question on the big screen.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer a large number of questions. This blog is more of an informal jumble of notes and photos than a traditional column, but time and time again I would write a phrase or focus on one aspect of a game only to read a near identicle comment in one of Victor Chi and Ross McKeon's articles. A product of reading both for 10+ years each. What made both two of the best hockey writers in the NHL was that they had more facts and information than could fit in one article.

Interesting comments by Victor Chi regarding headlines written for his content, there was a good man-bites-dog headline after one game but "Suddenly Zyuzin" was a great one too. Also interesting analogy with regards to the NHL and the other big 3 sports, and the relationship between media coverage and the NHL locally. Most of the fans I interact with understand the lay of the land, but far too many reporters take shots at hockey fans and the sport itself instead of offering legitimate criticism.

Pinning down a New Jersey guy and a former Sharks beat writer on Nabokov vs Brodeur is almost as difficult as asking a French Canadian to choose between Brodeur or Roy.

[Update] Interview with SF Chronicle columnist Ross McKeon - Sharkspage 9/2004.

Three Californian ECHL teams bounced in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, Stockton, Bakersfield, and Fresno fail to advance

It was a rough opening round for the three Californian teams in the 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Stockton Thunder, Bakersfield Condors, and Fresno Falcons joined the defending champion Idaho Steelheads on the outside looking in for the second round. Next year a fourth CA team will join the ECHL, the Ontario Reign will operate out of southern California as an affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

The Stockton Thunder (27-40-5) lost its National Conference Quarterfinal series with the powerhouse Las Vegas Wranglers (47-13-12) 4-2 in a battle of Alberta affiliates (Edmonton vs Calgary). After shocking Las Vegas with a 4-2 win on the road in game 1, the Thunder dropped three straight games including critical overtime losses on goals by left wing Ryan Donally and right wing Adam Cracknell. A strong start by Las Vegas in game 6, and 31 saves by goaltender Kevin Lalande held off a brief Stockton rally as the 4-1 Wranglers win ended the series and the season for the Thunder.

The 7th seeded Bakersfield Condors (26-37-9) lost its National Conference Quarterfinal series with the only Canadian team in the league, the Victoria Salmon Kings (42-23-7), 4-2. The Bakersfield Californian's Andy Kehe notes that the 6-5 loss in game 6 was not as painful as back-to-back second round playoff exits after previous 40-win seasons. Although the Condors had to fight down the stretch to make the playoffs this season, with 147 wins over the last 4 seasons the franchise has quietly built itself into an ECHL contender with a solid and enthusiastic fan base.

Kehe writes that it is not in-game promotions or contests, or even wins and losses that help an ECHL team succeed in local markets, but it may just be an affiliation with an NHL team. As NHL and AHL teams are eliminated from the postseason, the prospects are typically flooded back down through the system. Playing in the postseason helps their development, and fans are excited to get a look at prospects that might be able to take it to the next level. The Bakersfield Condors have played without an NHL or AHL affiliation for some time, but with success on the ice, one of the largest fan bases in the league, a content-heavy website, and a cult blog following, they should be an attractive target for any NHL team paying attention.

The third seeded Fresno Falcons (42-22-8) also lost their first round National Conference Quarterfinal series with six seed Utah (32-30-10) 4 games to 2. The Falcons closed out their 5-year stay at Fresno State's Save Mart Center on a sour note. Next year the team will move down the street to a smaller Selland Arena, where the Falcons won a 2002 Taylor Cup in the WCHL. The Fresno Bee's Jeff Davis reports that the Falcons fell behind in the series deciding game 6 by two goals, and could never recover. Davis notes this is the second straight first round playoff exit for Fresno.

A full first round Quarterfinal playoff game-by-game recap, and second round Semifinal matchups and previews are available from the ECHL here.

[Update] Stockton Thunder silenced. Thunder season ends, Las Vegas advances on Fraser's two-goal night - Stocktonthunder.com.

Curtis Fraser scored two goals and the Las Vegas Wranglers led in a wire-to-wire fashion, elminating the Stockton Thunder from the Kelly Cup Playoffs in a 4-1 Thunder defeat, before a crowd of 3,464 at Orleans Arena on Tuesday night in game 6 of the National Conference Quarterfinal round.

The Thunder, who fell in the best-of-seven series at a 4-2 series mark and got its only goal of the game from Stephane Goulet, were also backstopped by Tim Boron's 32 saves, setting a new Thunder playoff record with 230 saves in the series, shattering Devan Dubnyk's mark (188, set in 2007). Las Vegas, who advances to the second round of the playoffs for the third straight season, will face the Alaska Aces in the National Conference Semifinals.

[Update2] Salmon Kings advance with overtime win! Ash Goldie's OT goal eliminates Bakersfield in Game 6 - VictoriaSalmonKings.com.

[Update3] Falcons Help ECHL Increase Attendance - Fresnofalcons.com.

The Falcons welcomed the largest crowd of the ECHL season with 12,590 on Feb. 9 for the second-annual "Pink at the Rink." Falcons players wore special pink jerseys which were auctioned off following the game to benefit the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. Fresno also had the league’s fourth-largest crowd of the season with 11,582 on Mar. 22 against Bakersfield, and the sixth-largest crowd with 10,669 on Jan. 11 against Phoenix. Fresno attracted 181,271 fans to Save Mart Center this season, and finished the regular season seventh in the ECHL with an average attendance of 5,035.

"This is the first time since the team moved to Save Mart Center in 2003-04 that we have averaged 5,000 fans per game in back-to-back years," Falcons CEO John Tull said. "We would like to thank our fans for the tremendous support over the last two seasons, and for giving us a lot of momentum for our return to Selland Arena in October."

Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton are putting up impressive attendance figures year after year. Central California is more of a traditional hotbed for football and basketball, but when you mention hockey in California you have to note the 3-season ECHL attendance champion Stockton, one of the largest single game playoff attendance figures in Bakersfield, and a whopping 12,590 regular season mark in Fresno. Fresno (2006) and Stockton (2008) recently hosted ECHL Allstar Games.


Sharks part the Red Sea, 4-point game by Jeremy Roenick clutch as Sharks advance to WCSF with 5-3 win over Calgary Flames

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks goal Devin Setoguchi
Marc-Edouard Vlasic Robyn Regehr post-game handshake

There was a mix of nervous energy and excitment inside the packed HP Pavilion on Tuesday, but from the Sharks locker room there was only a quiet confidence. A confidence in themselves, a confidence in their style of play, and a confidence in the ability of Evgeni Nabokov to bring home a win in one of the biggest games of his career. Jeremy Roenick, a healthy scratch for game 6, was an impact player in game 7. Roenick registered 2 goals and 2 assists to help the Sharks battle back from a 2-1 deficit and earn a 5-3 win to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan called Roenick a "difference maker" after the game, and with the puck on his stick the 9-time All-Star looked determined and menacing.

From the drop of the puck, the Sharks pressed the action forward. San Jose head coach Ron Wilson said the Sharks came at Calgary in waves, and eventually he thought they would break. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Ryane Clowe, and Joe Pavelski were battling in front of the net early, the Sharks defense was aggressive on both sides of the ice, and Evgeni Nabokov was focused despite seeing less than half the action of his counterpart Miikka Kiprusoff. Each team traded power play goals in the first, Joe Thornton scored his second goal of the series at 10:57 after a laser of a pass through the crease by Cheechoo. Jarome Iginla countered, deflecting Adrian Aucoin's point shot past Nabokov 16 seconds into a power play to tie the game at 1-1.

A sustained San Jose attack did not slow down in the second period despite a breakaway goal by Owen Nolan that gave the Flames their first lead of the game. The Sharks outshot Calgary 14-5 in the first period, and that margin continued with a lopsided 21-8 output in the second. A strong forecheck in the Calgary zone allowed Christian Ehrhoff to keep the puck in and deflect it to Jeremy Roenick. Roenick slowed the puck with one touch, spun, and snapped a shot that beat Kiprusoff from the faceoff circle at 6:04. Exactly three minutes later, Roenick followed his initial shot from the half boards and one-timed his own rebound up high before exploding in a goal celebration.

The obstacles continued to mount for Calgary, with Regehr coming out of the penalty box Ehrhoff fired a shot/pass to Mike Grier at the side of the net. Grier trapped the puck with his body, and then feathered a pass to Joe Pavelski in front of the net. Pavelski has been a hammer all series with 7 points and 2 game winning goals in seven games. The Wisconsin native buried the puck from the doorstep to give the Sharks a 4-2 lead at 14:01. Calgary Flames head coach Mike "captain hook" Keenan then pulled Miikka Kiprusoff in one of the most questionable moves of the series. Shades of soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov pulling Vladislav Tretiak.

With Kiprusoff on the bench, the Sharks Devin Setoguchi scored 52 seconds into the Game 7 tenure of backup Curtis Joseph. Setoguchi took the puck off the half boards, and wristed a shot that beat Joseph far corner. Calgary defenseman David Hale leveled Patrick Marleau initiating a scoring chance in the third period. Hale then moved the puck down low to Nystrom. Pass to Moss, who fires it into a mass of bodies crashing the net. Primeau with his stick on the ice scored his first goal of the series to make it 5-3. The Flames outshot the Sharks 9-6 in the third period, but pulling Kiprusoff appeared to deflate Calgary instead of energizing them.

The Sharks finished with a 5-3 win, defeating the 7th seeded Calgary Flames 4-3 in the only opening Western Conference Quarterfinal series to go seven games. Evgeni Nabokov finished with 19 saves on only 22 shots. Miikka Kiprusoff and Curtis Joseph combined for 36 saves on 41 shots. Jeremy Roenick's 4 points tied a San Jose Sharks playoff single game scoring record. In his first playoff start, fourth line center Marcel Goc won 4 of 5 faceoffs in 7:04 of ice time. Jody Shelley, Curtis Brown, Alexei Semenov, Tomas Plihal, and Sandis Ozolinsh were healthy scratches. Defenseman Kyle McLaren is listed as day-to-day with a groin injury.

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

Post-series press conference transcript, San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson press conference Game 7

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson post-game press conference comments:

"J.R. was struggling a little bit. Throughout the season we gave him convenient little rests for him. We tried to schedule it where it is not a rest for 1 day, it is a rest for 3 or 4 days. I told him that well before game 6. He wasn't going to play, but he was going to play either game 7, or game 1 of the next series if it came to that. We needed his energized play. I texted him last night and told him I am going to rely on him heavily. He was real excited about that."

"Did I expect him to have 4 points? No. Maybe I chip in on our power play. He has got a lot of poise. I did not expect the kind of game he gave us, or Marcel Goc, or Devin Setoguchi. They ended up being the difference in the game, and we hadn't had that from a 4th line all series. In fact, we were struggling with our 3rd line, giving up way too many scoring chances. Mitchy's line had a great game tonight, applied a lot of pressure, and drew penalties. That was the deciding factor."

"I have to compliment everybody, those that critiqued Joe (Thornton) and Patty (Marleau), and the whole organization or the team. We won 2 huge games. Game 4 was an incredbile effort statistically, and tonight was as dominant as you could be in a Game 7. I am very proud our team played its best hockey when it mattered most."

"We have been tentative in the first 10 minutes of game. Outside of Game 3, where we stormed out of the gate and got a 3 goal lead, Calgary essentially outplayed us in the first 10 minutes of every game, even the game we won. We wanted to play our game, forget about what Calgary was trying to do. Establish our forecheck, and chellenge their defense at every opportunity to see if we can draw some penalties. To our team's credit, they stuck with the game plan the whole way through. We were skating and we had every body going. It was fun to watch."

"This is the first round. It was my first 7th game with the Sharks, and for our fans to feel that atmosphere, and some of our younger players, and for the Joe Thornton's and Patrick Marleau's who receieve a lot of criticism for not performing when it mattered most, those guys were giants tonight. It is gratifying (winning game 7), but it is just one small step. We have a ton of work ahead of us. History says the first series, they are wars out there. They are usually difficult."

"I'm not going to talk about Dallas. I am going to enjoy beating Calgary, focus on enjoying tonight's game for a couple of hours. We'll sit down and talk about Dallas tomorrow."

"The first period (not the second period) was our best period. We outshot them 14-5. We kept coming. We knew that, we didn't know but we planned on them breaking at some point, if you keep applying the pressure. So the second period was basically a continuation of the first. The important thing for our team was not to lose its poise after we went down 2-1. We didn't. We kept hammering away, drew a penalty, and got ourselves back into the game."

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan post-game press conference comments:

"I didn't think the play was controversial, Kipper didn't play very well. So that was the 4th goal we had scored against us. Certainly I was surprised he wouldn't give us his best game. He just wasn't on tonight."

"They started the game with a strong push. We didn't get the response early in the first period. Certainly we didn't get the response in the second period. As I said, Miikka did not play well but our team didn't respond very well, particularly when we had the 2-1 lead. That is when we should have kicked it up a notch, and maybe carried the play, or at least neutralized the play rather than sitting in a position where we really ignited their resolve. I have to give them credit for really turning it up in the second period. After Owen Nolan had scored a goal to make it 2-1. They took control of the game from then on."

"In the end, it was Jeremy tonight (who made the difference). Ryane Clowe had a prety good series overall as well, he was a strong player. Jeremy did not have the consistency that he did, but he was a good player from start to finish, a difference maker to be sure. (Jeremy Roenick) was ready to play, and he stepped up. He was one of the players who took over when we had the 1 goal lead. He has responded well in game 7's historically, and he was ready to play tonight. He got a little more ice time as the game wen ton. He found himself in a position to make a difference, and he did."

[Update] Tickets for the first two games of the Western Conference Semifinals will go on sale Thursday, April 24 at 10 a.m. Tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Box Office, ticketmaster.com and Ticketmaster ticket centers, and charge by phone (408/998-TIXS or 415/421-TIXS).

[Update2] The schedule for the San Jose Sharks vs Dallas Stars WCSF series was announced late Tuesday night:


Game 1, Friday April 25, 7PM - HP Pavilion
Game 2, Sunday April 27, 6PM - HP Pavilion
Game 3, Tuesday April 29, 4:30PM - AAC
Game 4, Wednesday April 30, 6PM - AAC
Game 5*, Friday May 2, 7PM - HP Pavilion
Game 6*, Sunday May 4, 6PM - AAC
Game 7*, Tuesday May 6, 7PM - HP Pavilion

*If necessary
AAC - American Airlines Center

[Update3] And here come the questions... - Inside the Flames.

Scenes from Game 7

San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames Game 7
Calgary Flames fans outside HP Pavilion
Mini Calgary Flames pool of red
San Jose Sharks game 7 national anthem Mike Mendoza

Earlier this series, Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy traveled to Calgary and witnessed a flood of Flames jerseys downtown. There were a large number of Calgary fans out on the streets of San Jose prior to Game 7 on Tuesday night, but after 5PM a sea of teal jerseys filled downtown. Cool temperatures (60 degrees) and a light rain did not prevent many Evgeni Nabokov's (#20's), Joe Thornton's (#19's) and Patrick Marleau's (#12's) from filling the Tied House and Britannia Arms to the bursting point.

Pat Falloon (#17) was in front of Vincent Damphousse (#25) and a Hernandez (?) in line at Washington Mutual. Joe Pavelski (#8) and a Capital's Rod Langway (?) tipped the trumpet player after he played taps for a group of Calgary Flames fans. Outside of HP Pavilion, there were only two groups of fans. Those with tickets, and those frantically trying to find them. There was no pregame street party prior to Game 7. This series deciding game was all business.

When asked what to expect when the puck dropped later that evening, a Joe Thornton jersey wearing fan said "The Sharks are going to take it to them." A solemn fan wearing Jeremy Roenick's #29 agreed.

A small photo gallery of fans preparing for game 7 in San Jose is available here.


Hockey Fundamentals: Goaltending

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov two pad slide save
Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff closed butterfly save
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov seals off the post
Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff open stance

Steve McKichan was drafted in the second round as a goaltender out of Miami University by the Vancouver Canucks in 1998. After debuting with the ECHL Virginia Lancers, McKichan played briefly with the IHL's Milwaukee Admirals and one period with the Vancouver Canucks in 1990-91. After returning to Milwaukee, McKichan suffered a neck injury that eventually ended his playing career.

Off the ice, McKichan created the Ontario-based Future Pro Goaltending School in 1992 to furthur his involvement in the game after his playing days. Steve McKichan served as the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending coach over the last 4 seasons, working on and off the ice with all of the goaltenders in the Maple Leafs organization as well as scouting draft-eligible and professional goalies.

McKichan's Future Pro Instructional DVD series lays out the basics and the more advanced aspects of the goalie position. A few of the key fundamental save mechanics are described below:

The basic stance consists of straight line running through the head, knees and balls of feet, with the stick on the ice and centered. An open stance opens up the arms and legs to take away more shooting space from a distance, with the upper body angled forward and the glove open and facing the shooter.

The two primary forms of movement for a goaltender across the crease are the shuffle and the T-Push. The shuffle covers short distances, minimizing holes with the stick on the ice. The T-Push covers a large distance quickly. The power derives from the back foot planted perpendicular to the goal line, sliding across the crease with the front foot parallel to the goal line. A quick recovery, and maintaining stick discipline throughout the move cutting down on shooting areas for opponents. Telescoping and retreating in and out of the crease can be done with a series of C shape cuts. Speed is more important than reflexs for this movement.

The butterfly is a save and not a style according to Steve McKichan. The open butterfly position defends against low shots that allow the goaltender more reaction time. With the stick on the ice, and the body upright, the goaltender performs the open butterfly at the top of the crease to cut down on shooting angles. The closed butterfly position, with arms pressed and knees pressed in-tight, is effective against 1-timers, screens, and deflections in front. The glove is pressed against the edge of the leg pad, with the legs flared wide.

The half pad reaction save is a butterfly position with 1 leg extended to the side. The support leg is positioned under the hip, with the face of the pads vertical. The knees are flush on the ice, with the arms pressed in tight. The stick can be used to direct the rebound into the corner.

This blocking save covers a large distance quickly and may leave the goaltender out of position if used in the wrong circumstance. The leg pads are stacked on top of each other, with the opposite arm on top. A strong T-Push at the start of the play, quick recovery, a focus on the shooter, and keeping the body facing the play are all important factors in this save.

Stick saves can be used to deflect, stop, control, or redirect incoming pucks. A strong stick discipline allows for good control of the puck on low shots. The stick save is usually backed with a half pad or butterfly save. Small, precise movements with the puck allow you to remain in position.

The glove save is a product of proper shot preperation according to Steve McKichan. The glove is open to the shooter, and on a plane in front of the body. The glove position is set early, and the eyes follow the puck into the glove. Any puck touching glove should be stopped. Anticipation and reflexes are important during a scramble.

The stick or the blocker can be used to redirect pucks out of harms way and into the corner. Shots inside the body should be controlled with an active glove or gut trap with a concave body. Deflecting the puck into the air when pressured and to the corner forces opponents to take more time to control it.

For sample video clips, or to order Steve McKichan's Future Pro Instructional DVD series visit futurepro.com. Also visit one of the largest communities of goaltenders online on the messageboards at goaliestore.com.

[Update] From Fan to Factory to the NHL, a tale of one goalie pad's journey to the big show - Sharkspage.

[Update2] Nabokov Is A Vezina Finalist - SJsharks.com.

The Vezina Trophy was presented to the National Hockey League in 1926-27 by former Montreal Canadiens owners Leo Dandurand, Louis Letourneau and Joe Cattarinich in memory of Georges Vezina, the outstanding Canadiens goaltender who collapsed during an NHL game on Nov. 28, 1925 and died of tuberculosis a few months later. Until 1981-82, the trophy had been awarded to the goaltender(s) on the club allowing the fewest number of goals during the regular season -- the current basis for the William Jennings Trophy.

[Update3] Brodeur sick of 'circus', Goalie worn out by focus on feud - New Jersey Star-Ledger.


Flames want Game 6 more, shut out Sharks 2-0 to even series

In a series full of momentum swings, the pendulum swung about as far as possible in the Calgary Flames direction after a 2-0 shutout win over the Sharks on Sunday night. From the drop of the puck Calgary initiated a hard forecheck and applied constant pressure in the offensive zone. Owen Nolan opened the scoring at 11:33 of the first period, burying a rebound after Kristian Huselius battled a bouncing puck long enough to get off a backhand. It was the 36-year old Nolan's second game winning goal of this series.

After being outshot, outhit, and outscored in the first period, the Sharks answered in the second with a string of scoring chances by Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, and several shots by Ryane Clowe from in close. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Clowe registered 6 of the Sharks 21 total shots in Game 6. The proverbial "dagger in the heart" according to a CBC analyst came with less than a minute remaining in the second period. The Sharks turn the puck over in the netural zone cleanly to Calgary center Daymond Langkow. Langkow drives down the left wing and snaps a shot from 34 feet out that beats Evgeni Nabokov short side. Score 2-0 Calgary.

Miikka Kiprusoff stopped all 21 shots he faced for the 6th playoff shutout of his career. Facing elimination, the Flames evened the Western Conference Quarterfinal series at 3-3, and forced a first ever Game 7 at HP Pavilion on Tuesday. Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves on 25 shots. The Flames finished with the advantage in hits (32-14) and faceoffs (35-19), but each team was unsuccessful on the power play (CAL 0-2, SJ 0-3).

[Update] Sharks lack urgency, desperation in Game 6 - David Pollak for the San Jose Mercury News.

This one didn't have the crunching hit against the boards. It lacked any heroic goals in the third period. No, Sunday night's game at Pengrowth Saddledome was your basic old-fashioned defeat, where the Calgary Flames played like the desperate team they were and the Sharks didn't play like the desperate team they've now become.

The main problem for the Sharks, and it was evident from the first couple of shifts in game 1, is the defense's struggle to move the puck up ice. They are taking too much time to settle the puck, too much time to make decisions, and they are taking the puck back behind their own net with even the slightest forward pressure. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, named last year to the NHL's All-Rookie team along with Matt Carle, was the best defenseman moving the puck up ice in Game 6. Defenseman Brian Campbell is struggling with turnovers and an ineffective first pass, slick skating Christian Ehrhoff had a forgettable Game 6 (finishing -2), Matt Carle has provided a spark with puck movement on the power play and a lifeline for the Sharks quick transition 5-on-5.

Credit has to go to a well coached Calgary Flames team, and the forecheck they are bringing night in and night out. Mike Keenan noted that that the Flames are looking to challenge the Sharks defense each time they touch the puck, to block passing lanes and anticipate and close down options they have to move it up ice. The Sharks need to have better communication, allowing them to know exactly how much time they have to make a play. The forwards need to come back and provide outlets. The Sharks defense also needs to challenge the forecheck. Instead of taking the puck back and losing a turnover deep in your own zone, turn hard up ice and take several powerful strides to put the forecheckers on their heels. If a Calgary forward pressures a Sharks defenseman for the puck, fight him off. Dump the puck in as a last resort only, giving up possession should be avoided at all costs.

Game 7 will pivot on the puck moving ability of the Sharks blueline, the battle in front of the net, and the Calgary Flames internal struggle to remain out of the penalty box. Ron Wilson may need to try the nuclear option in Game 7. Dress seven defenseman, double shift Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton until their legs fall off, and go to the bullpen to give #24 Sandis Ozolinsh his first playoff start of the series.

[Update2] Nabokov, Brodeur, Lundqvist are Vezina finalists - NHL.com.

Nabokov led the NHL with 46 victories. His 77 games played tied him with Brodeur for most in the League. His 2.14 goals-against average was third in the NHL and topped his previous best of 2.19 in 2000-01 when he won the Calder Trophy. Nabokov didn't take a seat at the end of the bench and watch a backup goalie play until Jan. 13. He started the first 43 games of the season, winning 25 of them. He won 25 games all of last season when he played in only 50.

"There aren't many goalies like him out there with that same competitive fire," Sharks center Jeremy Roenick said. "He's our backbone and the guy we rely on every night. When we don't play well, he's always there. He's one of the best goalies I've ever played with and no matter how many games he plays he's the same steady goalie every night. That's a tribute to his dedication to what he does."

The Sharks were the hottest team in the second half of the regular season. Registering an 11-game win streak and a 20-game unbeaten streak, the best road record in the NHL (27-10-4), winning a Pacific title in the toughest division in the league, and on many nights they were carried by their goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Any East Coast general manager still on the fence needs to look at the Sharks 2-1 overtime win over Columbus in February, and find a way to watch video of Nabokov in that game. The NHL awards will be unveiled June 12th in Toronto.

According to a press release, Nabokov was named 2007-08 Seagate Technology "Sharks Player of the Year" for 2007-08, he reeled off 43 consecutive starts at one point in the season, and he finished 2 wins shy of Martin Brodeur's all-time NHL wins record of 48. Nabokov holds the San Jose Sharks all-time record for games played (430), wins (208) and shutouts (40). In 2001, Nabokov won the Calder Trophy given to the top rookie of the year. This is the first time Nabokov has been a finalist for the Vezina trophy, although he finished fourth in the voting in 2001-02.

The NHL Video Portal's Hockey Show profiles the history of the Vezina trophy, and goaltender George Vezina after whom the trophy was named. 1987 Vezina trophy winner Ron Hextall announced the finalists on the show.

[Update3] George Johnson of the Calgary Herald offers a toothless recap of Game 6 that focuses on the lack of effort by San Jose. Scott Cruickshank, also of the Herald, contrasts the blazing performance by Calgary on the ice with the frozen landscape outside. Cruickshank quoted former Shark center Wayne Primeau, "Everyone in this room didn't want the season to end, and it showed." A photo gallery from Game 6 is available from the Calgary Herald here.

Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun praised the performance of left wing Kristian 'Juice' Huselius, and hits at the pressure he has faced from fans and media in this series. Steve MacFarlane of the Sun reports on the struggle San Jose Sharks left wing Milan Michalek is having trying to contibute in the postseason. The Sun also notes that one game in each first round series will be broadcast in Mandrin on the CBC website.

More from the Battle of Alberta here. A fan in Calgary uploaded pre-game video from earlier in the series to give fans in San Jose a look at the atmosphere inside the Pengrowth Saddledome. A full roundup of Game 6 coverage from the Calgary Flames official website is available here.

[Update4] Post-game video of Jarome Iginla, Robyn Regehr, Kristian Huselius, Cory Sarich, Jim Vandermeer, San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, and Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan is available on the Flames Insider blog.


Big Guns Firing, Cheechoo scores twice and Marleau once en route to 4-3 win over Flames in Game 5

San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla photo
San Jose Sharks left wing Milan Michalek

The Calgary Flames needed a tight-checking, hard nosed road effort Thursday if they were going to derail a potent Sharks team that has started to show flashes of the firepower that steamrolled the last quarter of the regular season. After a second period power play goal by Jarome Iginla, the Sharks responded with 4 unanswered goals by Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and 2 by Jonathan Cheechoo en route to a 4-3 win and a 3-2 series advantage. Goals by Daymond Langkow and David Moss (EN) in the last half of the third gave Calgary an opportunity to win, but the Sharks sent them back to Alberta facing elimination in Game 6.

Calgary carried the play in the first period, registering 1 more shot on goal than they had in all in Game 4 (11). Two breakaways by the Flames left the critical opening goal frustratingly out of reach. Captain Jarome Iginla broke in with Kristian Huselius on Sharks 2nd year defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Iginla snapped a shot that deflected off Nabokov's right leg pad and trickled towards the goal line. The Sharks allstar goaltender turned and swept the puck to the corner with 4 inches to spare. Later in the first, Alex Tanguay exploded like he was shot out of a cannon on another odd man rush. Tanguay beats Cheechoo and McLaren cleanly, but he wristed a puck that clanged off of the post and deflected wide.

The second period saw a number of odd man rushes, with a Kiprusoff poke check swallowing a breakaway by Joe Thornton whole. Calgary and San Jose traded 5-on-3 conversions by Iginla and Joe Pavelski, although technically Wayne Primeau stepped on the ice as Ehrhoff pinched in and fired a shot on net. An unchecked Pavelski was in front to bang home the rebound. Strong pressure by San Jose resulted in a rush by Joe Thornton down the right wing. Thornton pulls up and lasers a cross ice pass to Patrick Marleau on the left side. Hard wrist shot by Marleau clangs off the crossbar and in, as the Sharks take their first lead of the game (2-1).

The building offensive momentum by the Sharks turned into an avalanche in the third. After another scramble in front of Kiprusoff, Pavelski again found himself hammering at a loose rebound on the doorstep. 4 players focus on Pavelski in front, but Stephane Yelle sees Cheechoo closing in at the last second. Cheechoo hammers the puck passed a prone Kiprusoff, 3-1 Sharks.

A point shot by defenseman Cory Sarich in the offensive zone only compounds Calgary's problems. Patrick Marleau blocked the shot at the point, and the puck deflected out into the neutral zone. Marleau sprints to the puck first, creating a 2-on-1 rush with Cheechoo against Flames defenseman Robyn Regehr. Regehr backs off Marleau to play the pass, but the Sharks captain fires the puck under his stick right on the tape of Cheechoo. When he receives the puck, Kiprusoff is 6 feet out of position and 6-foot-3 225-pound Regehr is closing fast. Regehr stretches his stick flat on the ice to block a shot, and a hard push by Kiprusoff with his glove up sees the goaltender recover quickly. Cheechoo pauses with the puck slightly, as Regehr and Kiprusoff both get over, then wrists a shot slightly against the grain just under the crossbar. Phenomenal goal, and you can tell Jonathan Cheechoo is in the groove when he makes a shot more difficult and still converts with ease.

The Sharks let up slightly in the third period, as a breakdown on the penalty kill lead to a Daymond Langkow goal 10 seconds into the man advantage. In a desperation final two minutes, Calgary pulls Miikka Kiprusoff and gets a clutch goal from David Moss as he is checked to the ice at the side of the crease. Jarome Iginla tracked down a loose puck behind the net, and backhanded the puck to Moss with a slick exhibition of speed and skill.

Evgeni Nabokov closed out the win with 33 saves on 36 shots, to earn his 3rd playoff win in this second season. Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 24 of 26 shots. Calgary outshot the Sharks 36-26 and took only 3 penalties, but the Sharks held favor in hits (41-37), blocked shots (13-10), and faceoffs won (33-24). In the post-game press conference, Calgary Flames head coach stressed the need for his team to deliver secondary scoring.

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

[Update] Marleau playing with vengeance, Sharks follow suit - Ross McKeon for Yahoo Sports.

[Update2] A press release from Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area:

COMCAST SPORTSNET BAY AREA TELECAST OF SHARKS/FLAMES GAME FIVE DELIVERS HIGHEST RATING OF SEASON; Over 70,000 Television Households Watched Sharks Take 3-2 Series Lead; Sharks Playoff Ratings Up 167% Compared to Regular Season Ratings

SAN FRANCISCO (April 18, 2008) - Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's telecast of game five of the San Jose Sharks/Calgary Flames Western Conference Quarterfinal delivered an average local rating of 2.9 (over 70,000 households). The game drew a peak audience of over 116,000 households (4.8 rating). To date, the Sharks/Flames game five telecast is the highest-rated Sharks game of the season on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

Sharks ratings have increased 167% when compared to the regular season ratings (2.4 playoffs vs. 0.9 regular season). Through five playoff games, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Sharks/Flames ratings have averaged over 58,000 households watching per game. The Sharks 2007/08 playoff average to date rating of 2.4 represents a 20% increase over 2006/07 first round average of 2.0 in four telecasts (Sharks/Nashville Predators). Comcast SportsNet Bay Area will present game six of Sharks/Flames on Sunday, April 20 at 5:00 PM from the Pengrowth Saddledome.

1 rating point = 24,194 TV Households in SF DMA (ratings information provided by Nielsen Media Research).

Comcast SportsNet Bay Area reaches nearly 4 million households in Northern California and Northern Nevada. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's programming includes Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants baseball, Golden State Warriors basketball, San Jose Sharks hockey, San Jose SaberCats football, and San Jose Earthquakes soccer.

Comcast SportsNet operates 10 sports networks that cover more than 2,400 live sporting events annually and deliver comprehensive sports news and analysis to nearly 40 million cable and satellite homes. Comcast SportsNet's networks are: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Comcast SportsNet Chicago, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Comcast SportsNet New England, Comcast SportsNet Northwest, Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, Comcast SportsNet West, SportsNet New York, The Mtn. - MountainWest Sports Network, and CSS. These networks provide live game coverage of 18 professional teams as well as college, minor league and other sports. For more information see ComcastSportsNet.com.

[Update3] Sharks take 3-2 series lead, Cheechoo scores two in Game 5 - SJ Mercury News.

[Update4] BOOOOOO! Phaneuf seen as bad boy, but Fleury Public Enemy No. 1 in Silicon Valley - George Johnson for the Calgary Herald.

It was during the 1995 playoffs, opening round, that the Theo Fleury-San Jose feud planted firm roots. The prohibitively favoured Flames, coached by Dave King, inexplicably lost the first two games of the series at home, but Fleury reeled off 11 points over the next three, all Calgary wins, two of those being contested at the Tank.

Taking a spin as the evening's first star following Game 4, Fleury was greeted by the usual intense disdain. Trooping off the ice to the echoes of abuse, heading for the dressing room, he suddenly stopped, a small, malicious grin spreading across his face. And promptly spun back around, underneath the stands, out in the open, into the very epicenter of the verbal funnel cloud.

"I shoved it so far up your (bleep),'' he screamed, gesturing appropriately with his stick, "you'll never get it out!''

Intensified booing. A veritable debris field of garbage pelting down from above. He couldn't have been happier. A burst of air into the lungs of a drowning man.

Great story, but the crowd vs Fleury feud in San Jose was not as intense as it was at the Cow Palace. Fans in San Jose enjoy booing Fleury, fans traveling to San Francisco hated him. The Sharks posted back-to-back first round playoff upsets against Detroit and Calgary in 1994 and 1995 establishing early success the first two seasons played in San Jose. In 1992-93, the Sharks posted a record of 11-71-2 in the final year played in San Francisco for a grand total of 24 points. There was not a lot to cheer for on the ice, and the Sharks lost to Calgary 6-2, 5-4, 6-3, 3-2 (OT), and 4-3 at home that season. They were must-see games other reasons, many of which are unprintable.

Johnson also fails to mention that the Sharks went on to upset the Calgary Flames in that pivotal 1995 Western Conference Quarterfinal series. Current Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker scored the game winning goal to give the Sharks a 5-4 win in Calgary May 7th, 1995.

Scenes from HP Pavilion, Game 5

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov photo
San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion
Calgary Sun headline after Flames Game 4 loss
Mike Ricci interviewed by NBC 11 Raj Mathi

The atmosphere was electric inside HP Pavilion for the Sharks 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames in the fifth game of the WCQF series. Prior to the game, there were a number of interviews with fans just outside the row of TV trucks in the parking lot. Above is a photo of San Jose Sharks scout Mike Ricci during an interview with NBC 11's Raj Mathai.

The Canadian media was well represented with only two teams north of the border left alive in the postseason. The Sharks called up a large swath of the Worcester Sharks AHL lineup, so they can soak in the playoff atmosphere and put tangible first-hand experience to their goal of making it to the NHL. The third image above is a gallery of photos in the lower season ticket holder concourse featuring every San Jose Sharks player that has put on a uniform. Irbe, Errey, and Baker were on display alongside others like Sykora, Craigwell, and Cronin. Could not find Ed Belfour.

After the Sharks weathered two late Calgary goals and held on for a critical 4-3 win, for the first time this season fans were leading cheers in the main concourse as they left the building. The first cheer or two could have been a celebrity sighting in the crowd, it soon became clear they were still buzzing from the action on the ice. Then a helpful group of Calgary Fans tried to offer some constructive criticism, and the volume of boo's in unison increased 10-fold.

In the parking lot, many fans were waving flags, hanging out of cars and screaming at fellow teal-clad passersby as they drove along Santa Clara Street in downtown San Jose. After the 8th seed Sharks upset the top-rated Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fans spilled out of the Shark Tank and had no idea how to react. There were people running up and down Santa Clara street thinking a Stanley Cup Championship was an absolute certainty. In a few of the local bars, vastly divergent segments of the community joined together to celebrate the win.

Today, fans are a little more demanding, possibly a touch more cynical, but they are waiting to pop like a cork if given the opportunity. You saw a little of that outside the Tank on Thursday night.


Jumbo collapse by Calgary as Sharks down Flames 3-2 in Game 4 -- WCQF "Who wants it More" series now best of 3

Calgary Sun headline after Flames Game 4 loss
Calgary Herald front page on San Jose Sharks game 4 WCQF win
San Jose Mercury News feature on Sharks Ice hockey rink in San Jose

The Sharks answered the call on Tuesday night. San Jose dominated the final two periods of play and scored 2 unanswered goals in the third period to ice the Calgary Flames 3-2. Team Teal evened the WCQF series at 2 games apiece in front of a hostile but quiet sea of red. The big guns delivered, with goals by Ryane Clowe and Jonathan Cheechoo setting the table for the game winner by Joe Thornton with 9.2 seconds left in regulation. Calgary picked its spots, and looked like they would be able grind out a solid road win on home ice with goals by Jarome Iginla on a phenomenal play in the first period, and a Phaneuf point shot that found the back of the net through a mass of bodies in the second. The Flames registered a franchise low 10 shots on goal for the entire game, and had trouble sustaining or even generating an attack against San Jose's puck possession offense.

A scramble in front of Evgeni Nabokov early in the first lead to the opening Calgary goal. Joe Thornton tried to bat the puck out of the air and into the neutral zone while both of his linemates released up ice. Jarome Iginla checked the puck off his stick and drove into the Sharks zone on an odd man rush. Dish to Tanguay, who with his stick on the ice and his head up one-times a cross ice pass to Daymond Langkow. Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell looked caught between playing the shot from Tanguay, and the passing lane to Langkow. Falling to the ice, he played neither. Three Flames crash the net. The puck hops wide of Tanguay's stick, but behind him is Iginla who gathers the puck and rips a shot far-side that beats Nabokov top shelf.

On a second period power play, Joe Thornton hits Patrick Marleau at the point with a pass from the half boards. Point shot by Marleau as a Thornton/Aucoin battle in front of the net frees up Ryane Clowe on the doorstep. Clowe deflects Marleau's shot up over Kiprusoff's shoulder. According to Sharks television broadcaster Drew Remenda, he noted that 2 of the 3 players on the Thornton line were bent over breathing heavy before a late faceoff in the Sharks zone with 1:30 remaining in the period. Thornton loses a faceoff cleanly to Iginla, who draws the puck back to Phaneuf on the point. A seeing eye slapshot by Phaneuf finds its way through a large mass of bodies to give the Flames their second lead of the game after 40 minutes.

A turnover by the Sharks early in the third period lead to a 3-on-1 breakaway for Calgary. Iginla, Langkow and Huselius broke in on defensmen Christian Ehrhoff, who returned for his first playoff game after suffering a lower body injury at the end of the regular season. A Huselius pass to Iginla was broken up by a backchecking Douglas Murray. Huselius digs the puck out from behind the net and fires a pass to Langkow in front. Daymond Langkow rings a shot off of the top crossbar and raises his hands in the air to celebrate. No goal, Sharks clear the puck up the boards.

Several San Jose Sharks flurries in front of Calgary Flames goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff. The Calgary defense are standing around and watching the Sharks skate to pucks instead of playing the body. Michalek gains possession behind the net, and finds Jonathan Cheechoo down low in the right faceoff circle. Cheechoo wires a half slapshot up high on the far side. Impossible angle to tie the game at 2-2. Cheechoo's release, hard shot, and accuracy have been evident since Mike Ricci and Scott Thornton fed him pucks on the third line in 2003-04. He scored 28 goals that year from his knees, from a shot between his legs, hard angles from the goalline, out on the point, from any area on the ice. The next season after the lockout Cheechoo surprised everyone but readers of this blog scoring 56 goals to lead the NHL. It took a significant part of the regular season for Cheechoo to recover from offseason double hernia surgery, enough to be able to skate to open spaces. Like Ryane Clowe and Christian Ehrhoff, every game that passes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will see Cheechoo edge closer to 100%.

Late in the third period, the Calgary Flames looked as disorganized and as panicked as the Sharks did at the start of the first. A desperate Sharks team sees Clowe and Thornton bang at the puck in front of Kiprusoff. Thornton gains possession and takes the puck behind the net into the corner. Two centering passes are blocked by Calgary. Defenseman David Hale and forward Kristian Huselius fail to clear the puck up the boards on two attempts. Clowe skips Campbell on the point, and passes to Murray on the left point. Murray snaps a low shot on line for Kipusoff's glove. Joe Thornton stabs at the puck, and deflects it just under Miikka's glove for the game winning goal with 7.3 seconds left. Seconds run out, Sharks mob goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.

Evgeni Nabokov made 8 saves on only 10 total shots for the Calgary Flames. It was representative of his play in the regular season, as a smothering Sharks defense and a puck possession offense often halved the average number of shots Nabokov faced on a nightly basis. If you watched Game 4 against Calgary, it was a microcosm of the regular season. Calgary is supposed to be a knowledgeable and sophisticated hockey town. The discussion on Calgary sports talk radio and by some in the media centered around whether or not Miikka Kiprusoff or Curtis Joseph would start in Game 4. I have firsthand seen Joseph in Shark-killer mode with St Louis, Detroit and Phoenix. Look at the shot selection by San Jose in Game 4, mass of bodies in front or deflections because Kiprusoff was going to stop everything he could see. Kiprusoff vs Nabokov for the duration, battle of the Warren Strelow proteges with CuJo and Brian Boucher capable of carrying each team in case of emergency.

Interesting lineup changes and line combinations on display by SJ head coach Ron Wilson, who described taking a Rubik's Cube approach in the post-game press conference. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff returned after missing the first three games of the series with a lower body injury. Ehrhoff along with Douglas Murray both emerged as defensive cornerstones for the Sharks this season. Seven defenseman were used, and for the most part 10 forwards with limited ice time for enforcer Jody Shelley. It would mitigate the impact of one defenseman having a bad game, and it gave Wilson more options to see who was more focused every shift. Also added to the lineup was rookie power forward Devin Setoguchi, a native of Taber, Alberta appearing in his first playoff game. Seto was returning from a nebulous head/neck/face/back/chest playoff injury, and at times he was driving the net and playing the body like a 10 year veteran. Patrick "Rizzle" Rissmiller and Curtis Brown were out of the lineup for Game 4.


too many, use timeoneice.com.


Phaneuf - Vandermeer
Regehr - Sarich
Hale - Aucoin

Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

[Update] On many of the television broadcasts of the game, you could see a young fan in complete goalie gear and fake magic marker beard mimmick each move by Kiprusoff during the pre-game warmups. The Sharks are not a regular staple of the two main nightly sports recap shows here in the U.S., ESPN's Sportscenter and Fox Sports "Final Score". On Sportscenter, analyst Barry Melrose opined, "Finally the Sharks look like they care. Look like they have heart. Huge win by San Jose." That criticism is leveled far too often by the media, and far too often by those watching highlights instead of the games themselves. On Final Score, the 30 minute program began and finished with back-to-back calls of the Thornton game winning goal by Sharks radio play-by-play announcer Dan Rusanowsky and television broadcaster Randy Hahn.

Mike Milbury on the Versus "Hockey Central" highlight show said, "I was real close to sticking a fork in (the Sharks). Joe Thornton had real trouble figuring out how to compete in this game... Whet it counted, Joe Thornton was the man for the San Jose Sharks." An interesting stat by Versus, the game winning goal by "Big" Joe was the 6th game winning goal in Stanley Cup Playoff history scored with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game. E.J. Hradek on Wednesday's NHL Live radio show, "If the Sharks are able to go on and win a Stanley Cup, they will be able to look back at this game as a huge turning point for them".

Quote by Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan from the post game press conference, "We carried the play early, and then it was all San Jose. They outplayed us. I wasn't satisfied. The team has to revisit their thinking in terms of generating offense. We didn't go to the net often enough. We didn't shoot the puck as often as we should have."

[Update2] Thornton's late goal wins game, evens series - SJ Mercury News.

For two days the Sharks had to live with the consequences of their Game 3 loss in enemy territory. Their physical and mental toughness was questioned. So was their heart.

Then, on a deflection goal by center Joe Thornton with 9.4 seconds left Tuesday night, they dramatically answered their critics by crafting a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames that sends their series back to San Jose tied at two games each.

More grilling science from Mark Purdy.

[Update3] Notes from Max Giese:

Now that is an example of Sharks hockey! Joe Thornton was a monster on the puck late, was patient with the puck to make plays, and the two final Sharks goals were a direct result of Thornton driving his big frame to the front of the net and causing havoc. Tuesday night was also the Jonathan Cheechoo everyone has been waiting to see. Even before Cheechoo tied Game 4 in the third period with a goal scorers shot, this was his best game of the postseason. Cheechoo was crashing the net and throwing his body around both ends of the rink.

Jeremy Roenick performed his veteran role, adding energy to the lineup when needed. Roenick also was throwing his weight around with reckless abandon, while playing a reliable game in his own end. Taber, Alerta native Devin Setoguchi was brilliant in his NHL playoff debut. Not only did Setoguchi's skill and bone rattling shot give the Flames a few nervous moments but his speed, tenacity, and overall energy on the puck gave the Sharks a much needed offensive shot in the arm. Setoguchi was a clutch playoff performer in the WHL, and he may be developing into the same at the NHL level.

Craig Rivet made instinctive plays in his own zone, and truly lead by example. The rest of the 7-strong defensive corps wore down Calgary after the first period, and played exceptionally well in the second and third. It was a team effort, when a team effort was needed, and a significant win that can bring the team closer together. Most important, the Sharks outworked Calgary and played with passion and desperation all night.

The Sharks need to conquer Calgary in game five, nothing is going to be given, only earned in what may turnout to be the most physical series of the first round. The Sharks need to play with the same chip on their shoulder they had after a difficult loss in Game 3. San Jose has to play desperate hockey from the drop of the puck, and find a way to string together two wins in a row. Calgary plays a style that only needs one goal to lock down a win, even if their shot total does not reach double digits.

[Update4] The Call Of Thornton’s Goal - Kukla's Korner.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Awards

With the Worcester Sharks missing the playoffs the off-season kicked off much earlier than WorSharks’ fans hoped it would. It also means an earlier than normal release of a couple of Worcester hockey staples, the “210 Awards” and regular season report card.

For those new to the "210 Awards", they are a mix of serious and (hopefully) slightly humorous awards named for the moniker this writer uses on many message boards. This season’s winners are:

Despite not leading the WorSharks in any offensive category except power play goals, Graham Mink gets my vote here. Mink finished the season second in goals and tied for second in team scoring, and did that while playing most of the season on one good leg. An old knee injury flared up on Mink, but after missing just a handful of games Mink came back and proved he was still one the premier power forwards in the American Hockey League.

This one caused me a slight headache as I went back and forth between two players both nearly equal in deserving this award, but in the end my vote goes to Patrick Traverse. When it came to crunch time in the last minute of close games, the one defensive player that was on the ice in either end was Traverse. Traverse won’t blind you with speed, and still makes a mistake or two. But he is the most solid defenseman the WorSharks have, and that’s what it takes to win this award.

This is another one that has multiple possible winners, but my vote goes to Nate Raduns. Raduns went from not having his name listed on the preseason game roster to becoming one of the WorSharks top forwards. Despite missing over 20 games due to injuries, Raduns still finished in the top ten in team scoring and was second in rookie scoring. His steady play in both ends of the rink allowed him to be used in all situations, and he played with a poise not usually seen in a rookie.

This is one of those “no brainers” despite some quality play from several WorSharks rookies. Derek Joslin gets my vote, and were it not for a slow start and a bunch of rookie mistakes he could have won the Best Defensive Player Award too. Joslin anchored the second defensive pairing all season, and saw time on the first power play and second penalty kill units for much of the season. Joslin carried himself like a veteran on and off the ice. If one of the team captains does not return for next season, Joslin, should he not make the San Jose roster, will most certainly take their place.

Many people would automatically give this award to the best player on the team. But the MVP should really go to the person the award describes, the player most valuable to his team. My vote for WorSharks MVP goes to Riley Armstrong. Armstrong led the team in plus/minus, and when he was out of the line-up the team played with significantly less energy. The stereotypical “pest”, there was no player better at causing the other team headaches and drawing penalties. And other teams noticed this as Armstrong was the name that came up the most among WorSharks at the trading deadline. No one will mistake Armstrong for being the most talented player on the team, but there is no doubt he was its heart and soul.

While it’s normally hard to be the most improved player on a team and not have anyone really talk about it, Brad Staubitz managed to do that and gets my vote for both. Over his first two seasons Staubitz combined for just a single goal and ten assists. This season was headed for more of the same, with Staubitz tallying a goal and eight assists through the end of January. But then the decision was made in San Jose to try Staubitz at right wing, and he’s never looked back. Staubitz ended the season with six goals and 14 assists to shatter his career high in points at twenty. Staubitz also recorded his first career Gordie Howe hat trick 3/14 in Lowell.

So now that we've gotten the serious awards out of the way, he’s a few that I think should be handed out....

The Greg Louganis Award goes to Riley Armstrong, who this season became the first--and so far only--player ever suspended in the AHL for diving.

The Barker Lounger Award goes to Jonathan Tremblay, who despite being on the roster for the entire season played in only 17 games.

The Two-By-Two Award goes to Lukas Kaspar, who while wearing #22 was called for 22 minor penalties, leading the team in penalty minutes without being called for a major.

The Buzzer Beater Award goes to Tomas Plihal, for his goal at 19:59.9 of the first period against Providence on 1/19.

The Shouldn't He Be Wearing #4? Award goes to Patrick Traverse, for his end to end unassisted game tying goal against Springfield on 1/26.

The No Respect Award goes to Tom Cavanagh, who despite being second on the team in assists and tied for second in scoring hardly gets a mention when the top players on this team are discussed.

The Clutch Goal Award goes to T.J. Fox, for his five first goals, four game winning goals, and two short handed goals.

The Dead-Eye Award goes to Brennan Evans, for having the fewest goals--one--out of any player with more than 50 shots on goal.

The Couldn't You Stay Longer Award goes to Marc-Edouard Vlassic, for his one game stint in Worcester where he had two assists.

The You Could Have Warned Us Award goes to the Worcester Sharks, who while announcing the engagement of Booster Club President Rich Lundin to Josie Brown, attempted to show the lovely couple on the Jumbotron. The problem? There was three people--including yours truly--sitting between them.

The Chris Kenady Award goes to Graham Mink, who while one of the most amazingly insane things was going on at the Worcester Sharks Booster Club’s awards dinner maintained a totally professional attitude.

And finally, the Wait 'Till Next Season Award goes to all the Worcester Sharks fans, who after seeing some of the young players that will be playing here next season have high hopes for a successful regular season and long playoff run.


Hockey on Television and Online --- Comcast Sportsnet, Versus, NBC, NHL Video, ESPN, Hulu, Youtube, Verizon and more

A roundup of the lastest hockey television and online streaming news will be posted soon. The above clip featuring a mic'd up Sharks center Joe Pavelski and Philadelphia goaltender Martin Biron is available from the NHL Video Portal under NHL Productions Presents.

The exclusive cable home of the NHL will broadcast games from each round of the playoffs including the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. In its third year televising the NHL, Versus has seen a 50% boost in regular season television ratings (.2 to .3), and a 28 percent increase in average total viewership (212,366 to 272,417). Versus broadcasts are non-exclusive and subject to local blackout in the Conference Quarterfinals, but the Conference Semifinals starting April 23rd will feature two exclusive games on Versus. During the Conference Finals scheduled to begin May 8th, Versus will air exclusive coverage of each series. Versus will air the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals May 27th and May 29th, with NBC picking up the coverage of games 3-7 (if neccessary). All Versus-produced games will be available in high definition.

The nightly Versus "Hockey Central" highlight show featuring host Bill Patrick, and analysts Brian Engblom and Keith Jones will provide commentary along with rotating players and coaches as special guests. Versus-on-demand offers a condensed highlight package through most cable operators the morning after play. Highlights, videos and interviews are also available via Versus.com.

Now available in more than 74 million homes, Versus has bolstered its sports lineup recently with several solid WEC mixed martial arts events, Pac-10 and Big-12 college sports, the Tour de France, Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Roubaix, and Giro d'Italia cylcing coverage, professional boxing (including Ricky Hatton vs Juan Lazcano in England May 24th), tennis, the Dakar Rally (no Baja), PBR, and field sports offerings.

According to a Gary Bettman radio show excerpt, expect the status quo with regards to a new Versus television deal with the NHL. In other Versus news, Jamie Davis was recently hired to replace outgoing President Gavin Harvey, and VS also recently signed a content-sharing agreement with 2 regional Comcast networks in the Washington and Philadelphia markets.

Earlier this month, The Globe and Mail's William Houston broke the news that the NHL and NBC were nearing a contract extension for the 2008-09 season. Houston notes the ratings boom from the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Winter Classic outdoor game (2.2), the slow progression of regular season ratings, and an issue with primetime Stanley Cup Final broadcasts bumping higher rated programming that may be solved with 4 of a possible 5 games coming on the weekend.

According to Sports Business Daily, NBC averaged a 1.0 rating over its 10 regular season NHL broadcasts. A slight bump from its 0.9 average last season. SBD also notes the ratings for NBC's first weekend of Stanley Cup Playoff coverage were down from 2007. Predators-Red Wings was down 16.7% (1.0/3 overnight), Flyers-Capitals was down 16.7% (1.0/2). The Stanley Cup Playoffs on NHL had stiff competition in the Masters.

Offwing.com and Sporting News contributor Eric McErlain broaches an interesting topic, the impact of online viewing on national television. Watching games on NHL Center Ice Online, Slingbox, or highlights via Youtube, Hulu or Verizon is going to allow fans greater access, but a major network television partner is the greatest conduit to the casual and first time viewer. A cornerstone in coverage the league needs to work hard to maintain. The NHL section on NBCsports.com could be better utilized to drive more viewers to the broadcasts.

Recently rebranded Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area (formerly Fox Sports Net Bay Area), had a rough start out of the gate with its NHL Stanley Cup Playoff coverage of the San Jose Sharks. Mercury News columnist John Ryan (aka Morning Buzz), chronicled the problems local Bay Area viewers had during game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Calgary. CSNBA's broadcast of a A's-Blue Jays game went over its scheduled three hour broadcast window. With a local blackout of the Versus national telecast enacted, viewers missed 6:14 of the first home playoff game of the year. In that span 3 goals were scored (2 by Calgary, 1 SJ) effectively putting the Sharks behind the eight ball the rest of the night. To add insult to injury, those with DISH Network missed the entire first period of game 1 when the blackout for markets outside the Bay Area was accidentally reversed for local viewers. DISH Network apologized to its viewers, and a spokesman said steps were taken to make sure it would not happen again.

Buzz also covered the launch of the new Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area channel which in the future will produce new local sports programming, a new pre-game sports talk show, post-game highlight show, and a late evening news program hosted on a new set in San Francisco. There is even a small new media push on bayarea.comcastsportsnet.com with standout local bloggers Tyler Bleszinski (Athletics Nation), a column from the Golden State of Mind (Warriors), and the Sharks broadcast third man John Shrader's Tales from the Tank blog among others. There is a huge opportunity for CSNBA locally, but hopefully they reach out for new opinions and insight. Repackaging Ray Ratto or Tim Kawakami with local broadcasters would be a let down.

Two San Jose Sharks programs on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area were nominated for two Northern California Emmy Awards by the San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of the National Television Academy. The Sharks pre-game show Shark Byte (#601) was nominated in the regularly scheduled daily or weekly sports program (Ted Griggs, Executive Producer; Sean Maddison, Producer/Editor; Sean Day, Producer/Editor; Mike Phillips, Director of Photography; Jack Pavelick, Editor). San Jose Sharks television play-by-play, color analyst, and on-ice interviewer Randy Hahn, Drew Remenda and John Shrader were nominated in the On–Camera Talent-Sports Play-by-Play category. The 37th Annual San Francisco/Northern California Area Emmy Award ceremony takes place Saturday, May 10 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

The NHL has never been a trail blazing internet pioneer, but the last few years has seen a complete and almost total reversal. The NHL developed an online and new media strategy that will compliment its traditional offerings and position the league and each individual team well for a vastly changing sports landscape.

With the rollout of the new NHL Video Portal, the league now has a platform for future internal and externally developed content. For viewers, NHL VP of Broadband and New Media Andre Mika hopes the Video Portal will create more interest in hockey outside of local markets. Mika notes that the portal features an archive of data going back 2.5 years, that everything is embeddable and available for full screen viewing, and that a scheduled relaunch of NHL.com along with Center Ice Online will be taking place in the fall.

Bryan French of the Star-Telegram reviews the new 7-channel NHL Video Portal: The Hockey Show produced from the NHL Manhattan studio, NHL LiveWire which will focus on live press conferences, interviews, morning skates, the NHL Live radio show on XM Radio, Game Highlights, NHL Radio including NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's NHL Hour, NHL Productions Presents including professionally produced video features, Podcast Central, and a Playoffs Channel with nothing but Stanley Cup Playoff content.

Two more channels will be available in the fall according to the Washington Post, a moderated channel with user generated content, and another channel called MyNHL to that will use personalization to deliver relevant content.

As an early beta tester for the Hulu.com video portal, the viewing experience and technology has been rock solid and reliable from the start. The amount of screen real estate allows ample room for text navigation and descriptions below each episode or video clip, a fundamental key of information architecture. The writer's strike and suspension of new television programming was a perfect storm of opportunity to launch the service, but behind the scenes they had to have moved mountains for television networks to allow their content to appear next to their competitors. Hulu's blog chronicles new features and new content as they are added.

Available on Hulu are a wide selection of ad-supported television shows and movies. Sports related offerings include clips and full length offerings from the NHL, NBA, Versus, Fox Sports bowl games, and Fight Network boxing.

The streaming of live NHL games on Yahoo.com for U.S. based viewers has flown somewhat under the radar. A tight integration of video, statistics, fantasy hockey, and original analysis and content have set a model that many other media organizations try to follow. Yahoo has several video channels of NHL content available online including nightly video recaps from Versus, play of the night videos from the NHL, best hits/saves/plays of the week from the NHL, and Y!Sports analysis and predictions.

That being said, there appears to be no main page for live video streaming of NHL games, a somewhat clunky video player, and no schedule of games to be streamed (there used to be a few updates on the Y!Sports blog). Ottawa vs Pittsburgh are scheduled to air on Yahoo April 16th and 20th* (*if necessary). Most video streams are available via a small video camera icon next to the game scores. The Yahoo company as a whole is locked in a struggle of figuring out the corporate identity it needs in order to be successful. Recent layoffs, and a decision on Microsoft's final offer to purchase the company looms large. With the exception of possibly Excite at Home early on (now defunct), no other internet company in Silicon Valley has helped coverage of the NHL longer than Yahoo. Last summer after both long-time beat writers for the San Jose Sharks were let go in the same week, Yahoo hired former Chronicle writer Ross McKeon to be their online NHL editor.

Youtube's NHL video channel is still the heavyweight king for online highlights and videos. Although there have been a few hiccups in service, and a few questions about the long-term cooperation with the NHL, Youtube features the lightest weight embeddable code and the easiest viewing option for consumers. The NHL needs to work on its embedded code, which often loads slowly and occasionally draws the focus of a website to video clips far down from the top of a web page. Youtube needs a weekend NHL editor to contribute highlights from games held Friday through Sunday. Notoriously unresponsive to questions from the media, there are a few occasional updates on the official YouTube blog.

NHL podcasts on Itunes, an NHL channel on the independent Joost video player, and an unreleased video offering from Slingbox's Sling Media also figure into the NHL's new media strategy. Google Video apparently died on the vine.

[Update] Regionally Televised Games, By Team - Blueland Blog.


Fylers Fan and star of the Fox series "Bones", David Boreanaz makes an appearance on NHL Live Radio and blogs for NHL.com during the playoffs

Fox Bones David Boreanaz NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Philadelphia Flyers

A roster of celebrity fans has been featured front and center over the last two years to help promote interest in the National Hockey League stateside. One of the more colorful and informed celebrity supporters, David Boreanaz is a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan and the star of the Fox television series Bones (new episodes return tonight, April 14 8pm ET/7pm CT on FOX).

Boreanaz contributes to a hockey blog on NHL.com, recently commenting on the Flyers 6th seed matchup against the dynamic 3rd seed Capitals, the number of 20-goal scorers for a balanced Flyer offensive attack (7), and he asks if goaltender Martin Biron is capable of carrying the Flyers to the promised land in his first playoff run.

Boreanaz also writes a behind-the-scenes blog for his show on Fox, with a few comments on sports and interesting photos from the set. Originally born in Buffalo, his filmography includes appearances on the television shows Married with Children, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Bones, and the films Valentine (2001), I'm With Lucy (2002), The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005), Mr. Fix It (2006), and The Hard Easy (2006).

Thanks to Nirva Milord from the NHL for the original pointer.

[Update] Boreanaz recently appeared with Don La Greca and E.J. Hradek for a segment of NHL live on XM radio, available through the new NHL video portal. He mentions turning from a Sabres to a Flyers fan after attending his first game in Philadelphia, that he knew of the impending doom facing the Los Angeles Kings upong their acquisition of goaltender Roman Cechmanek, talks about the death of Flyers goaltender Pelle Lindberg, and breaks down the Philadelphia vs Washington playoff matchup.

[Update2] An archive November 11th, 2006 San Jose Sharks vs Philadelphia Flyers photo gallery is available here.

[Update3] Flyers beat Capitals to even series - Tim Panaccio for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

It is funny how utter shame can change the way a hockey team plays the next time the puck is dropped. "We were feeling a bit humiliated during the 48 hours between games," winger Mike Knuble said of the Flyers, who had blown a two-goal lead and lost their playoff opener. "That's a pretty good motivating factor."

So the Flyers got into the Washington Capitals' faces yesterday and never let up in a 2-0 shutout that evened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at one game apiece. Game 3 is tomorrow night at the Wachovia Center.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks End Season On High Note

The Worcester Sharks finished of their regular season in impressive fashion defeating three division rivals in three days, including a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon against the Springfield Falcons Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 6,266.

The WorSharks have had issues all season getting off on the right foot, but they couldn’t have done any better when their first shot of the game ended up lighting the lamp. Graham Mink and Tom Cavanagh broke into the Springfield zone two on one, and Mink held the puck until the very last second before hitting Cavanagh with a pass just as his line mate got to the top of the crease. Cavanagh deflected the hard pass past Falcons goaltender Devan Dubnyk for the 1-0 lead just 1:54 into the game.

Springfield would tie the game 23 seconds later on their first shot on goal when Viacheslav Trukhno fired a low slap shot on net that Justin Chwedoruk deflected past WorSharks netminder Taylor Dakers and just inside the far post.

Worcester would take the lead again at the 18:08 mark on their first power play when Brad Staubitz blasted a slapshot through traffic and into the back of the net. The WorSharks would make it 3-1 on their next power play when Derek Joslin blasted a low laser on net that Cavanagh deflected over Dubnyk and in to the top corner.

The WorSharks would tack on another just 31 seconds later when Kaspar broke into the Falcons zone and stopped just outside the face-off dot to the left of Dubnyk as the Springfield defender slid by trying to prevent a cross slot pass to Ashton Rome. Kaspar held the puck just long enough for Rome to get to the crease and hit him with a pass that Rome could easily deflect in to the net.

Springfield would close the gap to 4-2 with a power play goal that Dakers would probably like another chance at. After a couple of passes Falcons defenseman T.J. Kemp blasted a shot from between the circles that Dakers looked to have a bead on, but the puck deflected just off the top of his catching glove and into the net.

The Falcons would have a golden chance to pull within a goal early in the third period after referee Dean Mortin awarded Marc Pouliot a penalty shot after he was tripped from behind on a clean breakaway by Tom Walsh. Pouliot would not even get a shot off on Dakers during his penalty shot as he lost control of the puck in the slot and it dribbled wide.

The Falcons would pull Dubnyk with just over two minutes to go in the game, but could generate much offense. Worcester’s best chance at the open net was Mike Iggulden’s attempt at his 30th of the season from just inside the Worcester blue line. It skidded down the ice and off of the right post, going wide.

When Grant Potulny was called for tripping Cavanagh inside the Worcester zone with 58 seconds remaining the result was no longer in doubt. On the power play Iggulden made several attempts at notching his milestone marker while Cavanagh was trying to tally another for a hat trick. Neither succeeded and the final remained 4-2.

Pre-game festivities included a game between the Boston Bruins Alumni team and the Why Me All Stars. The Bruins defeated the Why Me All Stars 11-10 in a surprisingly competitive game. Why Me is a Worcester based non-profit organization created to help Central New England families cope with childhood cancer, and has assisted over 350 families completely free of charge since 1985.

When the WorSharks skated on to the ice for warm-ups not a single player--including Dakers and Patzold--was wearing a helmet. No one can ever remember Worcester players doing that before, and no one knew why they did it. Patzold and Dakers did put on their masks after stretching.

For their final game of the season the WorSharks went with mostly a veteran line-up with only Moore and Zalewski playing of the try out players. Scratches were Marc Busenburg, P.J. Fenton, J.D. Forrest, Matt Jones, David MacDonald, Jamie McGinn, Frazer McLaren, Mike Morris, Nate Raduns, Jonathan Tremblay, and Ty Wishart.

Springfield winger Ben Simon was called for hooking at 10:23 of the second period. The player he hooked? Worcester netminder Taylor Dakers. I can’t recall a player ever being called for hooking the goaltender before.

Worcester finished the game 2 for 5 on the power play, Springfield went 1 for 3. The three successful power plays went a combined 46 seconds, with Worcester scoring in 22 and 12 seconds, and Springfield scoring in 12 seconds.

Brad Staubitz missed his personal goal of 20 points and 20 fights. He got to 20 points with his power play goal, but like the Lowell game not a single player from Springfield was interested in battling the defenseman turned winger.

Updates on some other milestones: Mike Iggulden didn’t score a goal against Springfield and ended the season with 29. With his assist on Cavanagh’s first goal Dennis Packard reached 30 points. T.J. Fox was kept off the score board and finishes his rookie campaign with 24 points. Patrick Traverse also did not record an assist and stays at 19.

Brennan Evans and Derek Joslin both played all 80 games for the WorSharks this season.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Cavanagh (2g)
2. Chwedoruk (1g)
3. Kaspar (2a)
My vote would have gone to Bryan Lerg (2a) over Chwedoruk.

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) Unofficial
Armstrong 2-0/3-3/1-3 = 6-6
Zalewski 6-1/2-0/2-3 = 10-4
Cavanagh 6-2/2-3/5-1 = 13-6
Fox 1-0/2-3/0-1 = 3-4
Valette 0-0/0-1/1-0 = 1-1

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

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Cavanagh, Tom 18 (Mink, Graham 31; Packard, Dennis 19) 1:54. 2, Springfield-Chwedoruk, Justin 1 (Lerg, Bryan 1; Trukhno, Vyacheslav 21) 2:17. 3, Worcester-Staubitz, Brad 6 (power play) (Zalewski, Steven 4; Kaspar, Lukas 23) 18:08.
Penalties: WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Tripping), 7:21. SPR-Kemp, T.J. (Tripping), 17:46.

2nd Period
Scoring: 4, Worcester-Cavanagh, Tom 19 (game winner) (power play) (Iggulden, Mike 37; Joslin, Derek 24) 4:05. 5, Worcester-Rome, Ashton 7 (Armstrong, Riley 19; Kaspar, Lukas 24) 4:36. 6, Springfield-Kemp, T.J. 8 (power play) (Lerg, Bryan 2; Reddox, Liam 28) 15:18.
Penalties: SPR-Chwedoruk, Justin (Tripping), 3:53. SPR-Simon, Ben (Hooking), 10:23. WOR-Fox, T.J. (Hooking), 15:06.

3rd Period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Obstr goalie interfe), 8:05. SPR-Kemp, T.J. (Tripping), 10:49. SPR-Potulny, Grant (Tripping), 19:02.

Shots on Goal
Springfield 10 5 8--23
Worcester 9 12 11--32

Power Play Conversions: Springfield - 1 of 3, Worcester - 2 of 5.
Missed Penalty Shot: Springfield - 3rd period, 5:26 Marc Pouliot
Goalies: Springfield-Dubnyk, Devan (58:54, 32 shots, 28 saves; record: 9-15-2). Worcester-Dakers, Taylor (60:00, 23 shots, 21 saves; record: 7-11-1).
A: 6266. Referee: Morton, Dean. Linesmen: Patry, Rich; Murphy, Frank.

Max Giese: "Sharks need to play like men" according to Evgeni Nabokov

Evgeni Nabokov's post-game comments after Sunday's 4-3 debacle aptly summed up why the San Jose Sharks have struggled against the Flames, and now find themselves down 2-1 in the series. "It takes men to play this sport, not a bunch of boys, and we looked like a bunch of boys out there and they looked like a bunch of men" Nabokov said. "Now we have to turn it around and respond".

The playoff problems stem from the fact that the Sharks have been far to soft in the early goings of what could turn into a horrific series. The Sharks appear to have their heads stuck in the regular season, where players can get away with picking their spots and only playing hard for a portion of a game. That is not how the Stanley Cup Playoffs work. The playoffs are about sacrificing your body, and battling for every inch of ice on every shift. It is about taking or giving a hit to make the play, it is about laying down your body on the line to block a shot, it is about taking a beating in front of the opposition's net to creat a scoring chance, and it is about coming to play prepared to run through walls from the first second of the first period to the last second of the 3rd and beyond.

The Sharks as team are doing little to none of the above, with few individual exceptions. Players who were giving a workman's effort in game 3 were Ryan Clowe, Patrick Marleau, and Torrey Mitchell. That is a short list.

The traffic in front of the crease on both sides of the ice has been a microcosm of the entire series. In front of Nabokov, the Sharks have been routinely beaten for body position. The Sharks netminder has had to deal with waves of traffic, and the havoc created by attacking Flames forwards. In front of the Flames goal it has been a different story. Both Kiprusoff and Joseph have been able to see almost every shot, while not having to worry as much about their rebound control. The Flames defenseman have forced any attacking Sharks to the outside. Jeremy Roenick and Jonathan Cheechoo have been kept a good five feet away from the Flames goal crease at all times, and they have not shown the willingness or determination needed to camp in the paint for a sustained amount of time.

Captain Patrick Marleau has showed why he is wearing the "C" on his right shoulder, but the Sharks need more from assistant captain Joe Thornton. He is not only the Sharks most skilled player, one of the biggest at 6-foot-4 235-pounds, but the rest of the team feeds off of the energy he brings to the ice. "Big Joe" has played anything but big, and he has been disappointingly absent during a very physical series. Thornton needs to match the shift-to-shift intensity and desperation on display by Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla. Remember the Joe Thornton that laid out Matt Cooke last season to put an end to that forward's stream of obscenities and taunts? The Joe Thornton that pummeled Steve Ott to make a point in the regular season finale against Dallas? Where is that Joe Thornton, the one the Sharks need to take the puck off the half boards, drive to the net and sit on top of Calgary's goaltender.

Jeremy Roenick has been an emotional release valve for the Sharks this season through good and bad stretches. The 38 year old veteran may be watching his final opportunity to win a Stanley Cup slip through his fingers. Roenick needs to fill in the heart and stability gaps that emerge from this team over 60 minutes. Roenick needs fill in areas where the Sharks are not performing, providing an outlet and communication to help the Sharks defense break out of the zone, be a solid defensive pest to Calgary through the neutral zone, hammer the Flames defenseman when the puck is deep, and run over a goaltender or two to set an example for the rest of the team.

San Jose needs to get nasty, and play with a sense of purpose. Soft play against a hardened Calgary Flames team will be their instant playoff demise. The time is now for one of the largest lineups in the NHL to compete hard every shift, for an entire 60 minutes. When this happens, their talent has taken over games and put Calgary on their heals. This series is still the Sharks to lose, but it is slipping out of their grasp.


1. Sharks need to compete harder - San Jose must outwork the Flames from the drop of the puck on, instead of putting themselves in a come from behind position early.

2. More traffic in front - San Jose is lacking enough of a presence in front of the Flames net. They must begin to pay the price more. Torrey Mitchell's goal in game 2 is an example of the hard work necessary to score in this series.

3. Setoguchi-Time. Devin Setoguchi should be inserted into the line-up in the place of enforcer Jody Shelley. Shelley is not going to answer the Flames invitation for ill advised penalties, he does not want to put his team in a position not to score. Devin Setoguchi's speed, size, tenacity, and game breaking goal scoring ability is much needed.


Game 3 Notes Calgary vs San Jose, Sarich's elbow to head of Patrick Marleau earns Flames a decisive power play

Cory Sarich elbow to the head of Patrick Marleau in game 3
Borderline Dion Phaneuf hit on Patrick Marleau in game 3

- Notes from the Calgary Flames come-from-behind 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of the WCQF will be posted soon. A full size image of the CBC screen capture is available here. Video of post-game player comments is available from SJsharks.com.

- There is no clear image or footage of the play in question widely available yet, but look at the position of Sarich's shoulder far above Marleau's head in image 2, and look at the position of Sarich's elbow level with Patrick Marleau's head in image 3. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was in the building watching the game, and he mentioned that NHL headquarters in Toronto was monitoring the play as it happened.

(Hockey Night in Canada video has a clear ice level angle of the elbow. On the Behind the Mask segment, Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey break down the Cory Sarich hit on Patrick Marleau and a previous Cory Sarich headhunting hit on Quinn Hancock in juniors here.)

Sharks right wing Ryane Clowe was given a two minute roughing penalty for challenging Sarich/Godard. Defenseman Matt Carle immediately checked Sarich after the dangerous elbow to the head of Marleau, and he was assessed a 2 minute roughing minor as well. End Result? A 2-minute Calgary power play that resulted in the Flames initial goal by captain Jarome Iginla, one that ignited a run of 4 Calgary unanswered goals. Sharks captain Patrick Marleau was the best player on the ice for San Jose, and he was clearly targeted by the Calgary Flames. Earlier in the period, Dion Phaneuf ran Patrick Marleau's head into the end boards with such force that he needed several stiches on the bench.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL Senior VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, and Senior VP and Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom have some explaining to do. Obviously, game referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O'Halloran were aware of the 6 consecutive penalties called on the Flames in the second period of game 2. The Flames implosion in game 2 was equal parts ill-advised penalties of their own fault, and equal parts a zealous interpretation of the rule book. If the NHL is serious about the saftey of its players, and serious about the dangers of allowing an entire team multiple unfettered opportunities to take shots at a player's head, then there needs to be a serious review of the Calgary Flames actions in Game 3 and a possible suspension.

Owen Nolan hit to the head of Grant Marshall 11 game suspension Colin Campbell

In a February 2001 email regarding the 11-game suspension of Owen Nolan for a hit to the head of Dallas Stars forward Grant Marshall, league disciplinarian Colin Campbell stressed to this blog the need for the league to protect the saftey of its players, and that an 11-game suspension was an appropriate response to deliver that message. It is obvious the Calgary Flames of 2008 have not received that message, or were aware that last night's crew of officials would not deliver it. It remains to be seen whether the NHL head office will be consistent in the execution of that message.

In an odd twist, a determined Owen Nolan scored the game winning goal, registered 2 assists and a +2 in one of the finest playoff performances of his career. One random note about Owen Nolan, at the start of the regular season he was the 100th overall goal scorer in NHL history with 365 goals in 991 games played for Quebec, Colorado, San Jose, Toronto and Phoenix (this season Nolan had 16 goals in 77 games for Calgary). In 1999-2000, Owen Nolan scored a personal best 44 goals and registered 110 PIMs while serving as the San Jose Sharks de facto enforcer, team captain, and leading goal scorer.

- Post-game comments on the hit by San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

"I clearly thought it was an elbow right in the face. He came out of it with a bloody nose. I mean you got a cut over the eye and I always thought if you came out of those situations with an injury, a clear injury, you're bleeding, that there should be something".

- Post-game comments on the hit by Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan:

"It certainly energized our team after we struggled with a very difficult start. It was a big hit, solid contact that seemed to as I said energize our team and ignite our team in terms of emotion."

- Difficult Calls Start Flames Rally - SJsharks.com.

Calgary's first goal came later in the first when Patrick Marleau, who had already been cut above the right eye earlier, was hit flush in the face with an elbow, bringing more blood from his nose. When Matt Carle and Ryane Clowe came to their Captain's defense, the end result was a power play for the Flames. The Calgary player who delivered the blatant elbow was not even served a minor penalty and Jarome Iginla ended up putting Calgary on the board.

- The Calgary Herald's Flames Insider blog published post-game video interviews with Owen Nolan, Curtis Joseph, Cory Sarich, Jarome Iginla, and head coach Mike Keenan.

From the Herald's liveblog of game 3 on the Sarich hit on Marleau:

8:34 p.m. — This could get very ugly. Cory Sarich destroys Patrick Marleau on the sideboards, getting his elbow up on him. Second time Marleau's been hit (Phaneauf got him earlier) and been bloodied. Matt Carle goes after Sarich, and various dance partners square off. Doesn't matter how many times they show the replay, that was a bad elbow by Sarich.

8:37 p.m. — Wow, no penalty to Sarich, San Jose gets the extra deuce and, wouldn't you know it? Iginla gets the Flames on the board, deflecting Phaneuf's shot from the point.

Shocking actually. The Flames could have garnered 12 consecutive penalties in game 2, and this call would still have been worse. And then there is this from the Herald blog: Sarich and destroy!

- Flames stage stunning comback - Eric Duhatschek for the Globe and Mail.

It all started at the 12:54 mark of the first, when Sarich leveled the Sharks' Patrick Marleau with a crushing and controversial hit along the boards. "I just saw him curling," said Sarich. "I saw a chance to move up and get a hit in. I know he took a look at me and I was moving backwards at the time. When I started to move forwards, he just kept his head down. I tried to make a clean hit. He didn't happen to see me until the last second."

All shoulder? Or some elbow? The refereeing tandem of Eric Furlatt and Dan O'Halloran ruled it a legal hit. Sarich was originally escorted to the penalty box by the linesman, but was eventually sent back to the Flames' bench. At that point, Sarich wasn't sure what the call was — or if he might even be getting tossed out of the game.

"Well, the linesmen don't know what the refs are going to call," said Sarich. "They were trying to get me out of the scrum and settle things down. I was asking Iggy, 'What's going on? I don't think I deserve a penalty.' Then they escorted me to the bench and told me to get out. I didn't know if they were going to assess something more. I just sat on the bench. They gave me all my gear back. I saw there were no penalty minutes. I think they got it right."

[Update] Bettman backs stripes - Calgary Sun.

[Update2] Joseph leads way as Flames stun Sharks - National Post.

It took a hellacious hit by Flames defenceman Cory Sarich on Marleau to put some juice back into the rink. Not only was Sarich not penalized on the play, which left Marleau with a bloodied nose, the Sharks actually wound up with the extra minor in the ensuing scrum.

To add insult to injury, Jarome Iginla tipped in a Dion Phaneuf point shot 28 ticks later to get the hosts on the board. It was the Calgary captain's first of the series and the Flames' first tally since the second period of Game 1.

[Update3] Purdy: It's a big blow. Can the Sharks pick themselves up off the mat? - San Jose Mercury News.

Sunday's such moment occurred with 7:06 left in the first period. Marleau was on the sideboards in his own end, passing the puck out over the blue line. Time for violence. Seconds after Marleau released the pass, here came Calgary defenseman Cory Sarich, flying in hard with his elbow up. He snapped back Marleau's head, which already was stitched up beside the right eye from an earlier hit. The captain's helmet hit the glass with a sickening thud.

Marleau, astonishingly, quickly pulled himself up as teammates Matt Carle and Clowe rushed in to confront Sarich. They started a scrum. When things were sorted out, Carle and Clowe received penalties along with Calgary's Eric Godard. But incredibly, Sarich received none. That gave the Flames a power play.

More from David Pollak here. If this refrain sounds familiar, it is. Last year in the first round on the playoffs Nashville Predators right wing Scott Hartnell intentionally stuck his knee out and injured Sharks forward Jonathan Cheechoo en route to a 5-4 double overtime win by San Jose. In the second game of that series, Alexander Radulov leveled Steve Bernier with a check from behind into the glass. Radulov was suspended for 1 game. The Sharks won the most intense WCQF opening series in 5 games.

[Update4] Calgary's Incredible Comeback - James Mirtle.

[Update5] Implosion, Sharks blow 3-0 lead - TheFeeder.com.

The Sharks made a statement on Sunday night. They made it clear that they're still a team that has playoff issues to deal with. After taking a commanding 3-0 lead in the first 5 minutes of the game, San Jose allowed a feisty Calgary Flames team to chip away at their lead and then knock off the Sharks 4-3 at the Pengrowth Saddledome. The Flames take a 2-1 lead in the series after staging either one of the greatest comebacks in playoffs history, or being the beneficiaries of one of the biggest failures.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Burn Devils, 4-1

The Worcester Sharks, riding out the AHL's last weekend of the regular season, continued to use a mix of veterans and players on tryout contracts looking for that diamond in the rough and used that mix to almost perfection in Saturday night's 4-1 win against the Lowell Devils at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 4,821.

All season the WorSharks have had issues getting out of the gate quickly, and it was the same Saturday night when Lowell would grab a quick 1-0 lead on the game's first shot just 33 seconds into the contest. Lowell winger Nicklas Bergfors skated behind the WorSharks net and with no Worcester defender moving to intercept him he made a backhand pass to Ryan Murphy in the slot for an easy flip past netminder Taylor Dakers.

Despite this game meaning nothing in the standings, many young players are fighting for jobs next season so play was chippy and of a fairly high intensity. With the WorSharks swarming Devils rookie netminder Jeff Frazee, Riley Armstrong and Lowell winger Patrick Davis began a shoving match right in front of the net that drew in all ten players.

WorSharks recent addition Mike Moore and Lowell winger Brad Mills escaped the pack and dropped them, with Moore taking off his own helmet with Mills quickly following suit. Mills probably wished he kept his lid on as Moore landed several good shots as Mills tried for the take down, only to have Moore land on him hard as they hit the ice. It was Moore's first pro fight in his second pro game, although it was his second major. He was called for a high sticking major in Portland Friday night.

One of the things you hope for in these last few games is no one gets seriously injured, but unfortunately for Devils defenseman Rosario Ruggeri that appears to have happened. As Lowell was breaking out of its zone he collided with another Lowell player who was already falling, and Ruggeri's left knee bent oddly as he fell to the ice and slid into the far boards. He was helped to the locker room by training staff and did not return. There was no word on his condition at game's end.

Worcester would knot the game 1-1 on a great individual effort by Tom Cavanagh. Cavanagh picked up a loose puck and wheeled the net, hitting Dennis Packard with a tape to tape pass through the legs of Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre. Packard blasted a one timer through the 5-hole of a standing Frazee, who didn't even react until the puck was already in the net.

Worcester would take the lead for good early in the second stanza while shorthanded when Craig Valette collected a long feed off the far boards from Derek Joslin and beat Frazee to the high stick side with a 15' wrister just 70 seconds into the second stanza. Again, Frazee barely moved until the puck was well past him.

After three fairly unimpressive power plays Worcester would need just 10 seconds of its fourth as Lukas Kaspar flipped a rebound of a Steven Zalewski shot into the net for a 3-1 lead. Brad Staubitz had the secondary assist.

Mike Iggulden would beat Frank Doyle, who replaced Frazee at the start of the third period, when Zalewski hit him with a perfect back hand pass from the far corner right to his stick. Iggulden wasted no time in firing the puck past Doyle to make it 4-1.

Iggulden wasn't done getting in the box score as after being checked behind the net he dropped them with Mills. Iggulden dodged a bullet by not being called for an instigator minor in the last five minutes of a game--which by rule he clearly should have been--as that would have ended his season with an automatic one game suspension.

With Armstrong and Nate Raduns returning to the lineup the only player injured is Mike Morris. Healthy scratches included Marc Busenburg, P.J. Fenton, J.D. Forrest, Matt Jones, Jamie McGinn, Frazer McLaren, Ashton Rome, Jonathan Tremblay, Tom Walsh, and Ty Wishart.

Brad Staubitz's personal goal of 20 points and 20 fights is coming down to the wire. He needs just one point, but needs three fights. He could not have tried harder to get into a fight against Lowell, but not a single player he challenged would drop them.

Other milestones in reach for this afternoon's game against Springfield: Iggulden needs a goal for 30 on the season; Dennis Packard needs a point for 30; T.J. Fox needs a point for 25; Patrick Traverse needs an assist for 20; Brennan Evans and Derek Joslin both have a chance to play in every game this season.

Before the game it was announced that Dennis Packard was Worcester Sharks Booster Club Player of the Month for March. The booster club does not present an award for April, but if it did Steven Zalewski would certainly be the front runner.

The three stars of the game were
1. Dakers (24 saves)
2. Valette (SH GWG)
3. Packard (1g)
Honorable mention should go to Fox and Zalewski.

The WorSharks had 32 shots on goal, with every player except David MacDonald collecting one. It is the third time in seven games he's been the only WorSharks without a shot on goal. Speaking of MacDonald, he got in his first professional fight--and an instigator to go with it--when he dropped them with Portland's Darryl Bootland Friday night.

Even Strength Lines
Sommer mixed up his lines as the game went on. These are the ones that started the game.


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Faceoffs (offense/neutral/defense = total) Unofficial
Zalewski 5-2/2-3/5-2 = 12-7
Cavanagh 6-2/2-4/1-2 = 9-8
Fox 0-0/2-1/3-1 = 5-2
Armstrong 0-0/2-1/0-0 = 2-1
Valette 1-0/0-0/0-2 = 1-2
Raduns 0-0/1-2/3-0 = 4-2
Packard 2-0/1-0/0-0 = 3-0

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

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Lowell-Murphy, Ryan 9 (Bergfors, Nicklas 14; Fraser, Mark 17) 0:33. 2, Worcester-Packard, Dennis 11 (Evans, Brennan 12; Cavanagh, Tom 36) 13:27.
Penalties: WOR-Valette, Craig (Interference), 6:07. LOW-Grand-Pierre, Jean-L (Hooking), 7:56. LOW-Davis, Patrick (Roughing), 10:34. LOW-Mills, Brad (Fighting, Major), 10:34. WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Roughing), 10:34. WOR-Moore, Mike (Fighting, Major), 10:34. WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Roughing), 19:53.

2nd Period
Scoring: 3, Worcester-Valette, Craig 4 (game winner) (short handed) (Joslin, Derek 23; Fox, T.J. 11) 1:10. 4, Worcester-Kaspar, Lukas 17 (power play) (Zalewski, Steven 2; Staubitz, Brad 14) 13:56.
Penalties: LOW-Vrana, Petr (Roughing), 4:49. LOW-Burton, Tyler (Hooking), 8:58. LOW-Mills, Brad (Interference), 13:46. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Tripping), 18:12.

3rd Period
Scoring: 5, Worcester-Iggulden, Mike 29 (Fox, T.J. 12; Zalewski, Steven 3) 13:37.
Penalties: WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Cross checking), 13:49. LOW-Mills, Brad (Fighting, Major), 17:30. WOR-Iggulden, Mike (Fighting, Major), 17:30.

Shots on Goal
Lowell 10 8 7--25
Worcester 9 16 7--32

Power Play Conversions: Lowell - 0 of 4, Worcester - 1 of 4.
Goalies: Lowell-Frazee, Jeff (40:00, 25 shots, 22 saves; record: 0-1-0); Doyle, Frank (20:00, 7 shots, 6 saves). Worcester-Dakers, Taylor (59:53, 25 shots, 24 saves; record: 6-11-1).
A: 4821. Referee: Cozzan, Chris. Linesmen: Boyle, Ed; MacDonald, Brian.


Sharks respond with 2-0 shutout to even WCQF series, Evgeni Nabokov records several highlight reel saves to blank Calgary

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames
San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski

Every game remaining in this series is going to be the biggest game of the series, and the Sharks earned a pivotal 2-0 shutout win over Calgary for the biggest win of the season to date. The Sharks treated game 2 as a must-win game, aware that Calgary will lock down any lead and try to squeeze out playoff wins with an agressive forecheck and 5 players collapsing deep in the defensive zone.

Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell (PP) put the Sharks on the scoreboard in the second period, as Calgary sent a parade of players to the penalty box with 6 consecutive penalties. Evgeni Nabokov and Miikka Kiprusoff traded highlight reel saves in this unconventional goaltenders duel, with Nabokov's explosive side-to-side mobility and flashy glove hand competing with Kiprusoff's stoning of three seperate breakaways. The Flames routinely gave up twice as many shots as they took against San Jose in the regular season, and that trend continued in game 2 (43-21), and game 1 (39-23) of this first round playoff series.

Defenseman Matt Carle was added into the lineup in place of Alexei Semenov for the San Jose Sharks. Scratches for San Jose: Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Devin Setoguchi, Alexei Semenov, Sandis Ozolinsh, and Tomas Plihal. Worcester Sharks goaltender Tomas Greiss was called up to serve practice duty, allowing starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov more recovery time in between starts. Scratches for Calgary: Anders Eriksson, former Shark Mark Smith, Marcus Milsson, Dustin Boyd, and Rhett Warrener.

Calgary radio compared the conditioning of Jarome Iginla to legendary fitness enthusiast Chris Chelios. Two years ago, a pre-season profile offered a very detailed look at the general fitness routine Iginla followed, including a detailed breakdown of his diet and hockey specific workouts. San Jose strength and conditioning coach Mike Potenza is often mentioned as being on the cutting edge, and a year spent under his direction has a noticeable impact on the ice, Evgeni Nabokov being a perfect example. Hockey Night in Canada analyst and former Sharks goaltender Kelly Hrudey compared the number of shots allowed by Calgary on Miikka Kiprusoff, keeping him sharp and focused, to the far fewer amount allowed by the Sharks on Evgeni Nabokov.

A strong forecheck by Calgary gets the puck deep in the Sharks defensive zone early. Second year defenseman Marc Edouard Vlasic dumps the puck in the Calgary zone, and Mike Grier arrives at the puck the same time as Calgary Flames defenseman David Hale. Huge hit by Grier takes out Hale, and keeps the Sharks possession of the puck. The cycle with the puck does not lead to a quality scoring chance, no bodies in front of the net.

The Sharks struggled moving the puck out of their own zone early during the 3-2 loss in game 1. Brian Campbell and Matt Carle are not hesitating to turn the puck up ice quickly despite strong pressure from Calgary forwards. This will be a key to this series in every remaining game. Miikka Kiprusoff is agressive in his crease early, coming out past the paint to challenge shooters, and using his athleticism and a strong push to get back into position in a scramble. The Sharks break the puck into the Calgary zone, and a back pass to Brian Campbell results in a point shot/pass deflected by Joe Pavelski that hits the post. With 2 bodies in front of Kiprusoff, it is a positive sign for San Jose.

Both teams are challenging skaters as soon as they touch the puck, Sharks playing more defense by puck possession in game 2 than in game 1. The checking line provides energy, with Grier hammering Robyn Regehr, and a hit by Torrey Mitchell on Stephane Yelle freeing the puck. Craig Rivet keeps the puck in at the blueline, fires it deep, but Calgary gains possession and breaks up ice. A strong transition on display by the Flames. Quick, hard pass by Sarich to Yelle, from Yelle to Moss. Moss hits Sarich streaking down the right wing, Nabokov extends far to his left and picks the puck out of the air with his glove just off of the goal line. Tremendous glove save.

Calgary Flames are outshooting the Sharks 5-0 at the 6:20 minute mark, when Craig Conroy takes a hooking penalty. San Jose was 0-2, with 8 power play shots on goal during game 1. A very aggressive penalty kill by Calgary results in a slashing penalty by captain Patrick Marleau, negating the man advantage.

Somtimes a single a play, or a single sequence on ice can be representative of a player's or an entire team's performance. At 11:07, Flames captain Jarome Iginla draws the puck in past the Sharks blueline, and is challenged by three San Jose Sharks (Vlasic, Pavelski, Clowe). The passing lane down low, and the passing lane to the right Calgary point were both blocked. Realizing this, Iginla spun and snapped a hard, low shot on Evgeni Nabokov. In the regular season, spot focusing on Iginla showed him picking his spots. He would find an open space, and dynamically explode up ice after receiving a pass. In the playoffs, with or without the puck, Iginla is flying at full speed. Sharks 6-foot-3, 240 pound defenseman Douglas Murray has drawn the task of shutting down the Flames 50-goal scoring captain, and Murray used his size, reach, and positioning to try to fend Iginla off of the goal crease. Both players locked into several 1-on-1 battles throughout game 2.

The San Jose line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Ryan Clowe are having another strong game. A forecheck hems the Flames in their own zone, and playing the body hard results in a turnover and a solid scoring chance for Patrick Marleau from 15-20 feet out. Another notable shift by the checking line cycles the puck down low. As each player takes possession of the puck, another moves directly to the front of Miikka Kiprusoff. Two chances result in attempted deflections in front. The Flames respond with several hard checks forcing the Sharks back into their own zone. The Sharks briefly have trouble moving the puck up ice as a result of the Calgary pressure.

10 seconds left in the first, with the Sharks dumping the puck deep in the Calgary zone, center Daymond Langkow hits Jarome Iginla in the neutral zone with a long home run pass. Iginla deftly drops the puck behind him to Alex Tanguay, who already has a head of steam accelerating up ice. Tangauy breaks down the left wing, pulls up near the faceoff circle, and fires a hard pass to Iginla on the right wing. Nabokov far out of the crease, challenging the shooter, glove up, Iginla hammers a shot off his right shoulder. Despite a number of quality scoring chances by San Jose, the Calgary Flames outshot the Sharks 10-8 in a very tight first period.

Sharks checking line provides an early scoring chance early. Mike Grier intercepts a pass, and finds Patrick Rissmiller on the left wing. Kiprusoff all over the initial shot, but the rebound hops over the stick of Torrey Mitchell. It is clear that Miikka Kiprusoff is in the zone, and it will take a deflection, one-timer, or a screen off bodies in front for San Jose to get a puck passed him. San Jose's fourth line of Shelley, Brown and Jeremy Roenick wins a faceoff, digs the puck out of the corner, and then sets up a point shot by Brian Campbell. Jody Shelley takes several whacks at the puck before it reaches Kiprusoff, Flames defenseman Cory Sarich gave him too much room in front.

David Moss and Curtis Brown take matching roughing penalties at 3:03, setting up 4-on-4 play. A give-and-go by Ignila and center Daymond Langkow at the side of Evgeni Nabokov creates a solid scoring chance from in close. The CBC broadcast of the game notes that San Jose and Pittsburgh are two of a very few number of NHL buildings where opposing teams have to skate off the ice from a corner of the rink, instead of being able to head to the locker room via a tunnel behind the bench. Only the Sharks bench has access to a tunnel that leads to the locker room. After Owen Nolan left the ice with a skate issue, the CBC announcers note the former Sharks captain and current Calgary right wing can not return to the bench until a stoppage in play.

Patrick Marleau avoids a check by Eric Nystrom at center ice, and gathers speed heading into the Calgary zone. Craig Rivet pinches in and keeps the puck deep. His defensive partner Marc Edouard Vlasic shot the puck wide right off of the end boards. Second year center Joe Pavelski reaches the rebound first and moves the puck in front. With his back to Kiprusoff, Pavelski spins and fires a shot that surprises the Calgary netminder. A replay from a very tight CBC camera angle shows Kiprusoff starting to move to his left, leaving a small opening between his stick and right leg pad. The puck threads the needle, and the Sharks are on the board first with a Pavelski goal at 4:56, with assists by Marc Edouard Vlasic and Patrick Marleau.

The shift following a goal, or a goal against, will be another key for the San Jose Sharks this series. San Jose lost its composure early in game 1, allowing two Calgary goals less than three minutes apart after lost faceoffs. The Michalek/Thornton/Cheechoo line cycle the puck down low, and draw a penalty on Miikka Kiprusoff for holding the stick. It would be the beginning of a long parade to the penalty box for the Calgary Flames.

The first Sharks powerplay unit of Patrick Marleau (tied with Iginla for most goals in last 3 playoffs [20], Joe Thornton [Art Ross, MVP], Jonathan Cheechoo [Rocket Richard], Brian Campbell [t-3rd scoring by defensman], and Joe Pavelski [Mr Wisconsin] is a dangerous one. Even Evgeni Nabokov is the only goaltender to score a power play goal in NHL history. Joe Thornton feeds Patrick Marleau on the doorstep. Sharks keep it in the zone. Marleau fires a shot from the half wall that is blocked by Kiprusoff, but it rests next to his left leg pad. 4 San Jose Sharks crash the net as 3 Calgary Flames try to hold them off.

Jarome Iginla was called for a holding penalty at 8:37, one of the most critical calls of the game from a Calgary perspective. Iginla shoved Douglas Murray at the side of the Sharks net. Murray was moving the puck up the boards to a forward at the time. Stephane Yelle, the offensive hero of game 1 for Calgary with 2 goals, registered his best shift of the game on a second period penalty kill. Yelle dropped down to block a huge slapshot from the point by Brian Campbell at the start of the shift, and finished at the end by deflecting a Joe Thornton pass out of the zone. Yelle finished game 2 with 1 minor penalty, 4 blocked shots, 4 faceoffs won, 6 faceoffs lost, and 17:09 of total ice time.

Center Matthew Lombardi is another key role player for the Calgary Flames. The frighteningly quick right wing flashed his speed on a second period breakaway down the right wing. Lombardi created enough room with several hard strides to turn the corner on former Hobey Baker and 2-time NCAA national championship winner Matt Carle, a very fleet of foot NHL player in his own right. Lombardi held off Carle with his left hand, while directing the puck in on Evgeni Nabokov with only his right hand on the stick. 99 goalies out of a 100 would prepare for a deke, and for Lombardi to take the puck around to the far side of the net, but instead he tried to tuck a 3 inch puck into a 1 and a half inch opening between Evgeni Nabokov's leg pad and the goal post.

Another critical play follows. The puck deflects into the neutral zone, and a streaking Owen Nolan beats two San Jose Sharks on the play. He breaks into the Sharks zone, and a diving stick check by Matt Carle pokes the puck out of danger. Nolan goes down as a result of the contact, instigating a firestorm of criticism from Calgary, but he went down on the play trying to gain a call not a result of contact. It was a veteran move, but it did not work.

4 consecutive Flames penalties, Kristian "Juice" Huselius hooks Kyle McLaren down to the ice at 14:17. McLaren flubbed an attempted shot on goal, and Huselius got his stick up around his upper body and pulled him down. Not a great penalty to take down 1 goal. Stephane Yelle follows with an ill advised check from behind on Joe Pavelski, giving the Sharks over a minute of 5-on-3 power play time. Patrick Marleau wins a faceoff and directs the puck to Joe Pavelski, who rips a shot on goal from the left slot. Excellent, athletic save by by Miikka Kiprusoff. Puck around the boards, and Flames defenseman hacks Joe Thornton hard at the knees as he moves to play the puck. The slash causes Thornton to crash into the boards, and he remains on the ice for a short period before tentatively rising to his feet. 2 minutes on Vandermeer at 15:33, Calgary's 8 penalty of the game.

Sharks power play is not looking crisp, even with the extended 5-on-3 time. San Jose fans inside HP Pavilion are very quick to boo in frustration if a Sharks player fumbles the puck, or if Calgary is able to clear the zone. The confidence the Sharks need to gain on the ice to succeed in the playoffs this season is matched by the confidence the fans inside HP Pavilion need to gain in this team after 3 straight embarassing playoff exits.

CBC announcers note that the Sharks are trying to pass the puck through the crease, and that they are not getting bodies tight in close in front of Miikka Kiprusoff. Sharks head coach Ron Wilson takes a time out to conference power play strategy, and to give his top power play unit a breather. Another strong power play flurry in front, but Sharks trying to force puck to Joe Thornton even when Calgary is out of position trying to block his passing lanes.

Torrey Mitchell adds his first goal of the season at 18:09, a power play goal with assists by Ryan Clowe and Craig Rivet. Mitchell scored shortly after the expiration of a 5-on-3. Penalty call on Sharks defenseman Craig Rivet at the end of the period breaks up a period of 6 straight Calgary Flames penalties (not including matching minors to Brown and Moss early in the second). Mattew Lombardi tried to stickhandle his way in between two defenseman, and Rivet planted a shoulder knocking him off his feet and sending him sprawling on the ice.

During the Calgary power play, CBC announcers remark that at age 23 Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf is already drawing arena-wide boo's from fans in San Jose. Fans at HP Pavilion like to designate a villian for each game, and boo him every time he touches the puck. During a regular season meeting with Anaheim, one Ducks forward kept fainting a pass to Pronger at the point. Sharks fans would start a round of boo's, before having to cut them short when Pronger did not receive the puck. It happened 3 or 4 times on the same play, which must have made for interesting audio on the television broadcast.

Flames lost their composure, and played very undisciplined hockey giving up 9 and a half minutes of penalties in the second period. With the puck deep in the Sharks zone, Phaneuf starts to change direction before running into Torrey Mitchell and hitting the ice. Any borderline play is going to be called in Calgary's favor after the second period, and several non-borderline plays if San Jose is not careful. Torrey Mitchell given 2 minutes for interference at 4:22. CBC cameras zoom in on Ron Wilson, and broadcasters comment that now it is time for the veteran head coach Wilson to yell at the referees. A contrast of several closeups of Mike Keenan yelling at the referees in the second period.

Joe Pavelski is playing a phenomenal game, one year after he was held out of the Sharks playoff lineup despite a strong rookie season. Pavelski mentioned post-game that he wanted to make the most of each opportunity he had on the ice, and he is standing out 5-on-5, and on the point for the power play. In possibly his only penalty kill shift, he challenges two Flames for a loose puck near the blueline. Both Calgary players try to corral the puck with their sticks, but Pavelski drives through them to break up possession. Mike Grier, supporting just behind the play, pokes the puck out to the neutral zone. Pavelski takes several hard strides on a breakaway as Miikka Kiprusoff comes far out of the crease to challenge him. Pavelski fakes an initial slapshot, and then tries to sneak a wrist shot by him short side. CBC replay shows that Kiprusoff bit on the initial play, but Pavelski did not hold on to the puck long enough to see any open net. His wrist shot was deflected wide.

Mike Grier takes off on a breakaway after a rebound bounced out passed both Calgary Flames defenders. Flames defenseman Adrian Aucoin tries to chase down Grier, and it forces him to push the puck out far in front of him so he can gain more speed. Seeing this, Kiprusoff charges hard to clear the puck before Grier can reach it. It is a flashback to the time Kiprusoff was first given the starting reigns as a San Jose Shark. The powerful, athletic Finn was very aggressive in net, but without a lot of support from his defense he often played himself out of position. On one representative play, Kiprusoff charged out of the net to try to meet a loose puck only to have the opposition forward reach it first. While moving forward, Kiprusoff had to stack his pads at the blueline to break up the play. Out of Kiprusoff, Nabokov, and Toskala, only Vesa Toskala displayed patience to force shooters to make the first move from very early on in his career. For Kiprusoff and Nabokov, it was a learned trait that took time for both aggressive and determined netminders to master. It resulted in a Vezina Trophy for Kiprusoff in 2006, and Nabokov being a frontrunner for the award after a string of phenomenal performances this season.

End-to-end action by both teams. Phaneuf skates down right side and backhands a cross ice pass to Jarome Ignila. Jarome lifts the puck up high, which handcuffs Nabokov, but he makes he save as the puck bounces off his shoulder. Later in the period, Kristian Huselius breaks up a pass in the neutral zone and sprints up ice. Jonathan Cheechoo has Huselius in his sites, and takes 3-4 strides to move in for the check. Huselius distorts his body at the last second to avoid the check, spinning akwardly in midair and falling to the ice. Kyle McLaren follows the play with a huge check on right wing David Moss. Sharks very intense and focused in the third period.

Strong pressure by the Calgary line of Owen Nolan, Stephane Yelle and Craig Conroy. A point shot by Aucoin is defelected wide by Nabokov, and Yelle beats a Sharks to the puck and takes a quick glance over his shoulder to survey the action in front of the net. Yelle wires a hard pass to Owen Nolan on the far side, and Nolan hammers a one timer that the CBC announcer calls a goal. A slow motion replay shows Nabokov diving back and to his left, with an extended glove picking the puck out of the air before it crosses the goal line. Nabokov has made 3 spectacular highlight reel saves in game 2, matched by Miikka Kiprusoff shutting the door on 3 San Jose Sharks breakaways. Somewhere, the late San Jose Sharks goaltending coaching Warren Strelow is smiling.

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau has the final breakaway of the game. After a faceoff, former ASG fastest skater competitor Marleau breaks in on Kiprusoff and takes the puck from backhand to forehand twice. Kiprusoff swallows him whole on the play, but Adrian Aucoin takes a slashing penalty on the play.

Post-game comments and photos from the San Jose Sharks locker room are available on Battle of California.

[Update] Notes on Game 2 from Max Giese:

- Goaltending was absolutely stellar - Kiprusoff came up with several breakaway saves and has played incredibly focused hockey in the first two games. Nabokov was solid all night and came up with several extended glove saves with an explosive push, including maybe his best of the year against Owen Nolan late in the third.

- Special Teams is a mixed bag for San Jose. The penalty kill has been phenomenal and has actually generated more scoring chances for the Sharks than those allowed for the Flames. The Sharks must begin to convert on the power play and make Calgary pay for their thugery. The Sharks need to find a way to get more traffic in front of the net, instead of passing through the crease and trying to beat Kiprusoff from outside.

- Young guns are perfoming well for San Jose. Center Joe Pavelski has come of age, and Matt Carle moved the puck well all night from the back end, before making the play of the game by holding the puck in the zone, creating an opportunity that lead to Torrey Mitchell's goal.

[Update2] Sharks top Calgary 2-0, tie series, Nabokov comes up big in goal in Sharks' bounce-back victory - San Jose Mercury News.

Game 1 pre-game video highlights, San Jose Sharks vs Calgary Flames

This short video includes clips of the pre-game atmosphere, the annual drop of the Shark head for the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs to Carmina Burana "O Fortuna", the Canadian National Anthem sung by Annemarie Martin, the American National Anthem sung by local radio host Greg "Our love's in jeapordy" Kihn, photos from the second period, and post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson.

Many fans tuning in for the the first game of the Calgary Flames vs San Jose Sharks Western Conference Quarterfinal series on recently re-branded Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area (formerly FSN Bay Area) missed six minutes plus of the first period due to an Oakland-Toronto baseball game that ran late. The Calgary Flames came out the much crisper team, and capitalized on two faceoff wins with goals by Stephane Yelle and Dion Phaneuf in the first five minutes. The San Jose Sharks answered with a goal from the top of the crease by Ryane Clowe, on a slick feed from Patrick Marleau at 6:06. CSNBA switched to the Sharks playoff game at 6:14.

Game 1 of the series had an early 7PM start to accomodate a national and Canadian audience, but according to John Ryan of the Morning Buzz Comcast Sportsnet was unable to contact Versus to lift the local blackout prior to the start of the game. Ryan also covered a blackout of the entire first period of game 1 that frustrated Dish Network users. The blackout actually was a result of a mix-up lifting the blackout for markets outside of the bay area, and blacking it out for its intended local market.

In the arena, the national broadcast on Versus was blacked out in the press box but the game was available on a CSNBA overflow channel and the in-house video feed. The above youtube video shows a slice of the atmosphere inside the arena, but even on a small tripod the table in the press box was shaking noticeably with the cheering and noise.

[Update] NHL Net Online Debuts - Eye on the Media.

The National Hockey League (NHL) today launched the NHL Network Online, the premier Web destination for NHL multimedia. Available for free at NHL.com and delivered through a sleek new broadband media player, NHL Network Online gives fans a completely new experience for interacting with the League’s digital content.

The difference in the NHL Network Online is how it is programmed. Fans will now enjoy seven dedicated channels of NHL multimedia, all programmed around distinct themes, such as exclusive studio shows, live events, news, video features, Podcasts, NHL Radio and much more.

Permanent links to the NHL video channel and Sharks TV are available under the Sharks and NHL headings on the right sidebar.

[Update2] Versus, Comcast SportNet Skate With NHL Series, Regional Sports Networks To Carry Versus Programming Tied To Caps-Flyers - Multichannel News.

Versus is teaming with a pair of Comcast regional sports network linemates on its coverage of the National Hockey League playoff series between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. Viewers of Comcast SportsNet, regional television home to the Capitals and Flyers, will find exclusive national playoff previews, highlight and wrap-ups from Versus' NHL studio experts Bill Patrick, Keith Jones and Brian Engblom. Versus, the NHL's exclusive national cable carrier, is also owned by Comcast.

A little cooperation between Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area and Versus would be nice, especially for the drop of the puck for the first game at HP Pavilion (which is one of the loudest games of the postseason). Versus has cooperated with this blog a number of times, from a massive quantity of Versus playoff gear given to fans outside last years playoffs, information on regular season broadcasts, and using photos from this blog on their website during the initial NHL on OLN season. The problems with the Game 1 broadcast, while irritating to many fans in the short term, could create a better long term working relationship between both channels. The new CSNBA sports highlight show could use an East Coast perspective in the form of Versus analysts every so often to dissect the Sharks, Flames and Ducks.


Playoff torch passed to Calgary, Flames dominate Sharks en route to 3-2 win in WCQ series opener

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau
San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau, Jeremy Roenick, Joe Pavelski
Annemarie Martin Canadian National Anthem O Canada

The Calgary Flames got on the board early with early first period goals by Stephane Yelle and Dion Phaneuf en route to a 3-2 win over the San Jose Sharks in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Playoff Western Conference Quarterfinal series. Stephane Yelle added a second goal in the second period, and two goals from point blank range by Ryane Clowe kept the Sharks within striking distance until the final seconds. Miikka Kiprusoff made 37 saves to earn a critical road playoff win, Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves on 23 shots.

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

[Update] Notes on Game 1 from Max Giese:

- Flames received better goaltending in Game 1. Kiprusoff made several brilliant stops at critical moments. Nabokov's poor rebound control really hurt him in this game, and was the direct result for two goals against.

- San Jose Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren had a rough night. He was caught flat footed several times, and lost several one-on-one battles for loose pucks. He was a defensive liability.

- Captains for each team brought their A-games for the Western Conference Quarterfinal opener. Patrick Marleau and Jarome Iginla were dynamic power forwards tonight.

- Ryan Clowe played one of his best games of the season. Two goals, and he was the strongest Shark along the boards, in traffic, and in front of the crease. Clowe returned to the Sharks lineup for 4 regular season games after a lengthy recovery for a knee injury, in that span he registered 2 assists and 7 shots on goal.

- Faceoffs and one-on-one battles for the puck were key. San Jose must be stronger on faceoff draws to have a chance to advance in this series, they must begin to win the one-on-one battles for the puck with more regularity.

- Flames had better success on the break-out. The Flames routinely made two quick pass breakouts while the Sharks' struggled to get the puck out of their own end.

- Flames fourth line outperformed the line of Roenick- Shelley-Brown.

[Update2] Sharks drop opener 3-2 - San Jose Mercury News.

Post-game press conference transcript, Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan, San Jose Sharks coach Ron Wilson

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan

Calgary Flames head coach Mike Keenan post-game press conference comments:

[Q] The Flames had a lot of energy in the first period?

[MK] It helps particularly when you come into a game like tonight, there is a high energy level in the building. They were certainly looking for some momentum with the support of the crowd and the enthusiasm of the environment, but when you can diffuse that enthusiasm by scoring early, and scoring on the road, it helps. That was a big goal for us.

[Q] How much would it effect ths series if the Flames can take game two, then the Sharks would travel to Calgary needing to get a win?

[MK] Well you always feel you are in a must-win situation in playoff hockey. We will prepare our group to expect that kind of preparation from San Jose. We would not expect anything but that. We have to prepare ourselves to be ready for it.

[Q] You outshot them around 7-1 in the first period, can you describe what lead to that?

[MK] We had a lot of energy, a lot of momentum to start the game with. We were pretty crisp. I think we had a real strong start, we were focused. And we were able to establish a pretty good road game overall.

[Q] Was center Stephane Yelle a game time decision? Are you glad you made that decision.

[MK] No he was not a game time decision. We just wanted to make sure he was comfortable, and he said was actually a day or two ago but we wanted to take it right to the start of the game to make sure he was comfortable. He said he felt really good.

[Q] Over many years, the Flames always seem more uptight. This year they seemed more relaxed, even moreso after tonight. Do you sense that? Is that something you want from them right now?

[MK] That is a good state to be in. When your playing you play with a lot of emotion, a lot of intensity. You could enjoy each success as it comes. At the same time, a relaxed athlete in terms of playing with intensity but not being tense is a better performer. Our group is I think overall in that state.

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson post-game press conference comments:

[Q] How did this team come out in the first period?

[RW] I think we were fine. We made a couple of mistakes. They took advantage, and we bounced right back and carried the play in the second half of the period. We lost two faceoffs and they resulted in goals against. One 5-on-5, and the other on their power play. It is little detail stuff we have to fix up and we will be ok.

[Q] How did you feel about the officiating, with the fans complaining about several calls?

[RW] The home fans are always going to disagree. I am going to disagree with some of the calls and non-calls, but it all washes out in the end. (The two goals for review) were goals. They called a goal on the first one, there was no definitive replay that shows it was high sticked or not. It was really close, so they will go with what the referee says. Both referees called it a goal. The second, that one is a tight call but it goes to the league office and if they rule it a goal you have to play.

[Q] Can you talk a little about the unrealistic expectations coming into the game, was this a reality check?

[RW] I am encouraged by how we played. We played hard all night. We have got to make Kipper's job a little more difficult, get more traffic in front of him. You look at how a guy like Ryane Clowe played, he six or eight shots on goal as he was going to the front of the net, and he was rewarded. We need going forward, more guys willing to go to the front of the net, stay there, and be screening when the d gets the puck at the point. Keep Kiprusoff inside the paint. We are capable of doing that, but for some reason we can't do it consistently. We had enough scoring chances, Kipper made a lot of great saves, but we can still be a little more determined in front of the net.

[Q] Do you think you are handicapped with back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday night?

[RW] No, they have to play the games too. It is better to get back on the horse if you think you fell off. If we continue playing the way we did for most of the game, the puck has to go in for us at some point. Again, a few little tweaks and we will be ok.

[Q] Will defenseman Christian Ehrhoff play tomorrow night?

[RW] I doubt it.

[Q] You shuffled the forwards a little bit from the second period on?

[RW] You just try to get different people in there. You are trailing in a game and you have to get Jeremy Roenick a little more ice time. Some people weren't going hard to the net, and you have to get some people banging and crashing. Ryane Clowe was having a great game, and reward him with a little more ice time. I have Devin Setoguchi that I will probably get in the lineup tomorrow, he will bring speed and a little more offense. On the back end, there is a good chance we will play Matt Carle. We will see what happens.

Fan photos from Game 1 Calgary vs San Jose

San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames fans game 1
San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames fans game 1
San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames fans game 1
San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames fans game 1

Posted a small photo gallery of San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames fans attending game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday night. Post-game coaches press conference quotes and a play-by-play recap coming soon. Also will add local media links to the playoff preview post as well.


NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Quarterfinal preview, #2 San Jose Sharks vs #7 Calgary Flames

San Jose Sharks Calgary Flames NHL Stanley Cup Playoff preview
Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla

This is a make-or-break playoff series for the San Jose Sharks. After a tumultous start to the season at home, and a 5-game losing streak that overlapped a long Eastern Conference road trip, the Sharks have been playing loose and almost pressure-free en route to an 11-game winning streak. San Jose finished down the stretch without a loss in regulation for 20 straight games (the best March statistically in NHL history), .5 games shy of a quarter of the season.

The pressure for the Sharks comes from all sides. From within, the Sharks must be looking to exorcize playoff demons that include 3 losses at home to Calgary in the Western Conference Finals in 2004, a triple overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers in the 2006 WCS that was the first of four straight defeats, and a playoff implosion last year against Detroit that lead to an offseason of discontent. The pressure also comes from the fans. The Sharks have not just been a good team for a long time, they have been a dominant one. The fanbase has been vocal and demanding this season, and they expect nothing less than a Stanley Cup Final berth. This has at times pushed players on the ice to try to do too much.

With the Niners and Raiders, Giants and A's each struggling with regular season futility, you would expect the pressure on the Golden State Warriors and San Jose Sharks from the local media would be strong. Unfortunately, with the consolodation of newspapers and radio stations, and downsizing at local television stations, the pressure on the Sharks to win comes from a few, lone authoritative voices. The need to win, win often, and win now has been drummed into the organization as a whole, and they take that responsibility seriously.

Head coach Ron Wilson may be one of the top hockey minds in the U.S., Doug Wilson may oversee a tremendous scouting staff and excel at squeezing talent out of other teams, but one has to believe that the future direction of this franchise hinges on the 2007-08 playoffs. A consensus Stanley Cup favorite from hockey insiders on the East Coast and in Canada, the San Jose Sharks have an opportunity to answer all the questions about heart and determination with a strong run deep into the postseason.

Playoff Preview SJ-CAL:

Season series: 3-1 Calgary Flames
Oct22@CAL - SJ 4, CAL 1
Jan3@SJ - CAL 3, SJ 2 (OT), blog post, photo gallery
Jan30@CAL - CAL 5, SJ 4
Feb12@SJ - CAL 4, SJ 3 (OT), photo gallery

San Jose: The Sharks could be the hottest team at the end of the regular season, so much so many suggested the need for a loss so the bubble would not pop in the playoffs. Head coach Ron Wilson in his typically dry fashion, said he will let teams at the bottom of the standings worry about that problem. San Jose was buoyed early in the season by the stellar play of Evgeni Nabokov in net, and the top-heavy offensive contribution by Joe Thornton. It took several months for Jonathan Cheechoo to recover completely from offseason double hernia surgery, and he regained the speed and power needed to get to open spaces and score goals. Along with Patrick Marleau, whose move to wing sparked a goal scoring streak of his own, the main pistons in the Sharks offensive attack are firing. As a whole, the team needs more consistent secondary production. Jeremy Roenick needs to carry his impressive streak (10 of 14 goals were game winners) and his passion for winning into the second season.

On defense, trade deadline acquisition Brian Campbell transformed an already speedy puck moving blueline. When the Sharks are rolling, they are blocking shots and playing a shut-down defense instead of the run-and-gun style of years past. Craig Rivet adds a veteran leadership presence, and has adapted to a more robust system than the one he played last season with Montreal. With the initial loss of defenseman Christian Ehrhoff who will miss game 1 with a lower body injury, the Sharks will lean on Douglas Murray, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Kyle McLaren to absorb more minutes. Vlasic may skate on a pairing with Alexei Semenov, with defenseman Matt Carle and Sandis Ozolinsh serving as healthy scratches.

Calgary Flames: Much of the talk in Calgary has been if they will approach this as a physical series or a fighting series. The Flames need a more balanced offensive contribution outside of Jarome Iginla, Kristian Huselius, and Daymond Langkow. They will need a clutch goal from a Marcus Nilson, an Owen Nolan, a Matthew Lombardi, or a Wayne Primeau, and they will need to be able to lockdown a 1-0 or 2-1 win. If this game turns into a Calgary parade to the penalty box, they will lose the series out of hand. The Sharks are averaging double the shots on net againt Calgary at HP Pavilion, and Miikka Kiprsuoff will have to have an extraordinary performance against the goaltender he used to battle with for playing time if that continues.

The Flames feed off the energy defenseman Dion Phaneuf brings to the rink, but he skates a fine line between intimidation and putting the Calgary Flames in position not to win games. A veteran blueline with Adrian Aucion, Rhett Warrener, Corey Sarich and Jim Vandermeer is built for postseason battles. The Sharks have one of the largest lineups in the NHL, and enforcer Jody Shelley, Ryan Clowe, Craig Rivet or Douglas Murray are not afraid to drop their gloves. Coach Ron Wilson has engrained in the Sharks that two points is more important than a highlight video on hockeyfights.com. If Calgary can not win a game on the road, master motivator Mike Keenan will have his team amped enough to run through walls for him in Calgary.

Special Teams: Flames head coach Mike Keenan has already brought up the issue of physical penalties days before the start of the series, and there is a reason. For Calgary to advance they will need to keep the Sharks power play unit off the ice. A unit that includes a former Art Ross and MVP winner Thornton, a former Rocket Richard winner in Cheechoo, a player who along with Iginla tied for most playoff goals over the last 3 seasons (Marleau), a defenseman tied for 3rd in NHL regular season points (Campbell), and another forward on the point from Wisconsin who has won at every level of hockey he has played (Pavelski). The Flames penalty kill is tied for 20th in the NHL (81.4%), 24th on the road (79.3%). San Jose is tied for 8th in the NHL on the power play (18.8%), 12th at home (18.9%).

Defenseman Brian Campbell has helped change the Sharks puck possession attack, and other defenseman are making a quicker first pass up ice and dumping the puck in the zone less. The Sharks top ranked penalty kill (85.8%), along with a defensive focus that smothers an opposition's attack, helped San Jose win 11 straight games and earn points in 20 straight. Jarome Iginla and defenseman Dion Phaneuf lead the Flames in power play points with 33. Alex Tanguay and Mattew Lombardi have each scored 2 shorthanded goals during the regular season.

Outcome: Sharks win in 6 games.

[Update] The SJ Mercury News senior opinion columnist Mark Purdy previewed the Calgary-Sharks series here. Purdy opines that the Sharks should hold on to the regular season success, instead of the more traveled path of putting regular season success in the past. Purdy also notes that no other NHL team has won more Stanley Cup Playoff games over the last 4 years without reaching a Stanley Cup Final, and drops in a Chicago Cubs reference for emphasis. Ray Ratto, the visible San Francisco Chronicle columnist with a questionable hockey pedigree, shows a subtle nuance of hockey knowlegdge pointing out the difficult matchup the Calgary Flames pose for a San Jose Sharks club that has not overcome much playoff adversity. Ratto also believes the special teams advantage is heavily in favor of San Jose, that the Calgary Flames veteran defense is deeper than that of a Sharks blueline that could legitimately ice 9 defenseman (8 with Ehrhoff scratched), and notes that the Sharks-Flames first round WCQF series will be a character test for the heavily favored Sharks franchise.

George Johnson in the Calgary Herald notes that a possible Kyle McLaren and Craig Rivet defensive pairing will try to match up against Jarome Iginla's line, and that Calgary will try to match physical defenseman Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich against the top Thornton line so Dion Phaneuf can match Patrick Marleau's second line. Johnson also smacks Phaneuf with the "pefect youtube defenseman" label, great fights, point shots and hits, but still has a ways to go in the subtleties of the defensive posistion (high percentage plays out of your own zone, positioning, footwork). The Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank quotes Sharks right wing Ryane Clowe on the Sharks approach to playing Dion Phaneuf, "We know what he's about now. We'll play him hard, go at him. I'm sure he'll try to dish it out. He like to run around a bit. We know if we can finish (hits on) him, we can get him rattled." Cruickshank also published a pair of excellent profiles on Sharks defenseman Brian Campbell and Calgary defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

[Update2] Lots of Stanley Cup coverage is available in the lastest issue of Sports Illustrated. Scott Wraight's Western Conference predictions online are fairly spot on, but they vary widely from those for a different writer in the current issue. Picking Nashville to push Detroit deep in the series and for the Sharks to wax Calgary is very avant garde, if that word is even applicable for the National Hockey League. For a more complete perspective, "2-of-4 Sports Illustrated hockey experts recommend the San Jose Sharks". The venerable Michael Farber published a feature story analyzing the current goalie competition as the playoffs begin, and Sarah Kwak blurbed four #1 goaltenders who have the exclusive playoff reigns for their respective team's playoff hopes.

[Update3] Flames Game Day - Battle of Alberta.

Darryl Hunt: First Imressions, a report on the new additions playing for the AHL Worcester Sharks

Worcester Sharks AHL Matt Jones
Worcester Sharks AHL PJ Fenton
Worcester Sharks AHL Jamie McGinn

A report on the San Jose Sharks new additions playing for the AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks:

6-foot-5, 210 pounds
2006 1st round pick, #16

Ty Wishart played all three games this past weekend and showed a confidence generally not seen from players coming up from juniors. He played within himself and did not make many errors. The one mistake he did make that led to a Springfield goal didn't seem to get to him. He played with the right mix of aggression and positional play.

Offensively he had his first goal as a professional stolen by one of the best saves seen in Worcester this season. So far he tends to be looking just to get the puck out of the zone vs trying to send forwards rushing out of the zone, but with more time getting used to the players around him I suspect his offensive capabilities will rise to the surface.

He played on the second defense pairing with Derek Joslin, and in Sunday's game played on the second power play and penalty kill units. He is currently "even" with no points.

6-foot-4, 215 pounds
2004 7th round pick, #225

Dave MacDonald played just Sunday this past weekend, but he has played four games for the WorSharks since March 29th. He is a stay-at-home defenseman who uses his size and strength to dictate play in the defensive end. MacDonald has been called for three minor penalties, and he has shown some issues dealing with the much faster forwards in the pro game. MacDonald may need some seasoning in the ECHL before being ready for every day play in the AHL.

Offensively there is little to speak of, having just one shot in his four games. But his reputation at Harvard was that of a shut down defender, so anything he generates offensively is a bonus. MacDonald played in the third defensive pairing on Sunday with Tom Walsh, and did not see any special teams shifts. He is currently minus-2 with no points.

P.J. Fenton
5-foot-11, 185 pounds
2005 5th round pick, #162

Fenton played two games over the weekend, on Friday and Sunday. While not doing anything noteworthy, he didn't look out of place in the pro game. He looked much more comfortable at RW on Sunday vs playing center on Friday. In Friday's game he seemed a little lost at times early, but his confidence seemed to grow with each shift. On Sunday he had a very good game, causing several Springfield turnovers. Fenton showed some feistiness when he mixed it up a little with Rob Schremp, and the minor he drew canceled out a Falcons' power play. The current plan by the Sharks is for Fenton to play center in the pros, but based on the small sample size it looks like he's much more comfortable at RW.

Fenton played on the third line both games and also saw some action on the penalty kill. He is currently minus-1 with no points.

Right Wing
6-foot-4, 205 pounds
Free agent signing

Jones has "NHLer" written all over him. He has the speed and size teams dream of, and could easily become one of the NHL's premier power forwards. Jones was a healthy scratch Sunday, but has played six pro games to date. The transition from Hockey East to the professional game was almost seamless as he notched points in three of his first AHL games.

Jones is one of those are players that can beat a defender using either his speed or his size, so he presents match-up problems for even the best players. Once he familiarizes himself with the Sharks offensive system he could be a train that is very hard to stop.

Jones played on the second and third lines, but did not see any special teams play. He is currently minus-1 with two goals and an assist.

Left Wing
6-foot-0, 180 pounds
2006 2nd round pick, #36

This is McGinn's second cup of coffee in the AHL, and the player that's returned this season is much improved over the one we saw at the end of last season. In the three games this weekend he was much more physical and didn't show the puck handling errors that were so common for him last season. His puck handling skills have also improved, and he seems to have much more confidence in the corners.

He did not look good Saturday in Manchester--although to be fair most of the team didn't look so good against the Monarchs--but the poor game didn't seem to affect him Sunday as he again was firing on all cylinders despite not getting on the score sheet.

He played on the second line with fellow newcomer Steven Zalewski and Mike Iggulden, and the three seems to jell together very well. He is currently minus-1 with two goals and two assists.

Left Wing
6-foot-4, 225 pounds
2007 7th round pick, #203

McLaren played just one game over the weekend, in Saturday's debacle in Manchester. He earned a lot of WorSharks fan's and player's respect when after Worcester went down 3-0 he took on one of the premier tough guys in the AHL in Kevin Westgarth. McLaren not only held his own in the battle, he emerged the winner of the bout handily.

One game isn't a great sample size, but it sure seemed like every time he had a chance he was standing in front of the net. One thing it did show was Worcester fans want to see more of him in the future. He is currently "even" with no points scored, and one well earned fighting major.

6-foot-0, 180 pounds
2004 5th round pick, #153

Zalewski played all weekend, and was the most solid of all the new players over the three games. His play is very much like Tom Cavanagh's--not very flashy, just very good fundamental two-way play.

He always seemed to do the right think with the puck, and never hurried himself to make a rush play when there was no real opening. Defensively he was very responsible in his own zone, never straying too far from his man. He has been playing on the second line with McGinn and Iggulden, and is also on second penalty kill line. He is currently minus-1 with one assist.

A photo gallery from Darry Hunt in Worcester is available here. Darryl is using a Nikon s51c Coolpix camera given to this blog by NikonUSA.com.

[Update] Sharks put an end to Springfield’s postseason dream - Steve Brown for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.

The Springfield Falcons came to town yesterday fighting for a playoff berth but left on the outside of the postseason looking in after the Sharks posted a 4-2 victory at the DCU Center.

Worcester's postseason hopes officially ended Wednesday with a loss at Springfield, so the Sharks certainly had some motivation to return the favor. "This was a high-tempo game," Sharks coach Roy Sommer said. "They are a desperate team. They were in survival mode. We came out with a lot of energy."

And despite missing the playoffs, Worcester had something to play for as well. "That was one of the hardest games we’ve played in a while," Sharks center Mike Iggulden said. "We love what we do. We take pride in what we do."

New 2-man advantage video features an interview with Patrick "Rizzle" Rissmiller

In this refreshingly unusual video interview, the 2-man advantage crew interview San Jose Sharks left wing Patrick Rissmiller from a makeshift Shark tank. Rissmiller talks about his hometown New England Patriots undefeated regular season and subsequent Super Bowl loss, his Easton stick with an exclusive Rissmiller curve ("almost straight"), says that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has better hockey hair than Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, calls second year defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic "sneaky good" and fellow checking line member Mike Grier "a workhorse", and does not decline being dubbed with a freshly minted nickname (Rizzle).

In his second full season with the San Jose Sharks, Rissmiller has blossomed on a checking line along with rookie center Torrey Mitchell and veteran Mike Grier. Rissmiller regularly performs in a shutdown role against opponent's top lines, and he has added 8 goals and 9 assists in 79 games played this season. Despite some online criticism towards Rissmiller last season, the Sharks were 7-0-0 when he scored a goal during 2006-07. Rissmiller and Torrey Mitchell contribute a solid defensive game with a grand total of 3 full NHL seasons between them, but each can step up situational offense to take pressure off of the top 2 lines.

The potential is there. With confidence in their own defensive ability and those of their linemates, they can afford to flip the switch when the Sharks are behind and provide another scoring option. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Rissmiller can use his size and positioning around the net, Mitchell needs to add a finishing move to go with the innumerable breakaways his blazing speed creates. Each plays an intelligent game, and will only improve with regular season and playoff experience.

[Note] The 2-man advantage video above almost wins the title for the most bizarre interview posted on this site in the last 9 years, but this Joe Thornton interview with Wave Magazine Editor-in-Chief John Newlin in 2006 earns that honor.

Max Giese: Sharks Sign Four Prospects; Mike Moore, Steve Zalewski, Frazer McLaren, and David MacDonald

San Jose Sharks Sign defenseman Mike Moore, a free-agent from Princeton University. The 23-year old defenseman recently graduated from Princeton University, where as team captain he lead the Tigers to a surprise NCAA tournament birth before being knocked out by second seed North Dakota at the Mid-West Regional. Moore was named the ECAC's best defensive-defenseman, and he also lead Princeton in all defensive scoring categories.

Scouting Notes: "Moore is a big, savvy defender that can also land a thunderous open ice hit. He is a physical defenseman that can also skate, and move the puck up ice. His mobility, strength, and defensive awareness are his best assets. Moore owns a big point shot, and was dangerous on the rush, but he will need to develop his passing game more at the next level".

Sharks Sign Steven Zalewski, the 153rd overall selection in the 2004 Entry Draft. The San Jose Sharks felt Steve Zalewski was ready for the professional ranks a year ago and tried to sign him after his junior season. Zalewski lead the Clarkson Knights with 21 goals as a senior, and he was named to the All-ECAC First Team. The fact that Zalewski scored 21 goals on a defense-first team, while killing penalties and lining up against the opposition's top lines every night speaks volumes about his complete game.

Scouting Notes: "Zalewski is a cross between Joe Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell. A combative two-way center with great hockey sense, Zalewski's skill has blossomed since being drafted. His shot has especially became a huge weapon. He will be wearing a San Jose Sharks jersey sooner rather than later, as he is your prototypical Shark with a defensive maturity beyond his years. He can kill penalties and win key face-offs all while providing a ferocious forecheck and timely goal scoring."

Sharks Sign Frazer McLaren, the 203rd overall selection in the 2007 Entry Draft. A left winger with tremendous size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds), McLaren is an imposing figure on the ice. He scored 19 goals this season in the WHL while accumulating 164 penalty minutes. The Sharks are trying to get him to a play a style similar to current San Jose Shark Ryan Clowe. Clowe skated extremely hard his first year in the NHL, his determination and physical play were never an issue, but he did not stick with the big club. When Clowe learned to use his size to gain position in front of the net, and skate to the open areas with his stick on the ice, goals followed.

Scouting Notes: "A big man that utilizes his hands while fighting, and when in close around the opposition's net. McLaren's skating has improved steadily throughout the years, and he provides the roster with character on and off the ice. He projects as a 3rd-4th line forward that can bang in front of the net, and one who can stick up for teammates."

Sharks Sign David MacDonald, the 225th overall selection in the 2004 Entry Draft. 6-foot-4, 235-pound Harvard Crimson senior defensive captain David MacDonald signed an ATO with the Worcester Sharks to finish this season in the AHL. MacDonald is not known for his offense, but did finish the season +7 in the ECAC.

Scouting Notes: "Healthy sized defenseman with underrated mobility, and one who can play the body effectively. There is not anything flashy with his game, but defenseman that are big, mobile, and steady in their own end are coveted players for depth purposes. MacDonald's hands are decent, and he can make the first pass although he will never quarterback the power play in the AHL or NHL."


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Clip Falcons, 4-2

The Worcester Sharks, already eliminated from playoff contention last Wednesday by the Springfield Falcons, returned the favor by bouncing their Miss Pike rivals out of the playoff picture with a 4-2 win Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 4,259.

After a disappointing 4-1 loss in Manchester Saturday night, the last thing the hometown faithful wanted to see was a quick score by the Falcons, but that's exactly what they got when just 1:42 into the first period when Grant Potulny picked up a lose puck at the WorSharks blue line and skated around rookie Ty Wishart and beat netminder Thomas Greiss with a quick wrist shot. It's one that Greiss most definitely would have like a second crack at.

Worcester would get a break on what was just about the only mistake Falcons goaltender Jeff Deslauriers made all game. With Springfield on the power play Worcester cleared the puck into the Falcons zone and Deslauriers went into the corner to his right to field the puck. His pass attempt to his defenseman at the blue line missed badly and ended up on the stick of T.J. Fox just inside the red line. Fox wasted no time firing the puck into the yawning net to knot the game at 1-1.

The WorSharks would take the lead on their first power play opportunity when Tom Cavanagh threw a long pass from deep in the WorSharks zone to Lukas Kaspar at the Falcons blue line. Kaspar entered the zone and skated around waiting for Worcester to get set up in the zone, and then hit Brad Staubitz with a great pass. Staubitz faked the shot and skated around the sprawling defender, firing a laser through a crowd and past Deslauriers.

Worcester, which outshot Springfield in the first period 17-10 in the first period, totally controlled play in the second period but couldn't light the lamp. Deslauriers made 15 saves in the second stanza, including one on a Wishart backhander as the WorSharks broke in 3 on 1 while shorthanded that may be the best save of the year seen at the DCU Center.

Not to be outdone, Greiss, who had to make just three saves in the second period, made a great save of his own after Liam Reddox picked newcomer David MacDonald's pocket cleanly at the Worcester blue line and streaked in alone on Greiss, firing a wrister Greiss just got the blocker on. Greiss had to have quick reflexes as the rebound was fired right back at him, but he easily steered it aside to preserve the 2-1 lead.

After Staubitz was called for a terrible hooking call early in the third period--he had lifted the stick of a Falcons player with the puck and got called for a minor--Springfield would tie the game 2-2 when Rob Schremp knocked in a lose puck after Greiss had made two quick saves.

Mike Iggulden would get the eventual game winner on the power play at 9:13 when he took a Derek Joslin feed across the slot and beat Deslauriers cleanly over the blocker and into the top corner. Graham Mink would add an insurance goal at 15:55 when he skated into the slot from the left side boards and fired a backhander past Deslauriers for a 4-2 lead.

Springfield, which needed a win to keep its slim playoff hope alive, pulled Deslauriers for an extra attacker with 3:22 remaining in the game but could only muster two shots with the extra man. Several attempts by Worcester at the empty net went wide for the 4-2 final, with the WorSharks not only doubling up Springfield in goals but also shots on goal, 44-22.

Before the game Worcester Sharks President & CEO Mike Lehr addressed season ticket holders in a Q&A session that covered many different topics, including the possibility of adding teams to the WorSharks schedule. Teams like Rochester and Syracuse were mentioned as teams the WorSharks were looking at possibly adding. The WorSharks also announced the date of the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic, with an official announcement coming from the AHL very soon. While the thought of scooping the AHL is intriguing, I'll let them announce the dates. The NHL All-Star game, taking place in Montreal, is set for January 25, 2009.

Lehr was a busy man during afternoon as he present Riley Armstrong with his "Man of the Year" Award in a pregame ceremony. Armstrong was one of 29 candidates for the AHL's Yanick Dupre Memorial Award. Lehr and Armstrong also ended the day together as Armstrong had his head shaved at center ice for the “Locks of Love” charity. He was joined by 13 fans and WorSharks staffers in the charitable cause. Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under age 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

When I left the DCU Center the cutting was still going on, but it turns out I should have stayed as according to the WorSharks website broadcaster Eric Lindquist also had his head shaved after $400 in donations were raised.

The WorSharks announced several team awards during the course of the game. The Unsung Hero Award was given to Brennan Evans. The Star of the Year Award, given to the player with the most starts of the game, was Mike Iggulden. The Rookie of the Year was Derek Joslin, and the MVP was Tom Cavanagh.

Before the game I spoke to Bruce Landon, President & General Manager of the Springfield Falcons. The Falcons are in the middle of a drive to add 500 season tickets to their base. Landon, who has been involved with Springfield hockey for 24 years since retiring from playing pro hockey, indicated that if that target isn't reached the future of AHL hockey in Springfield is uncertain.

Cap Raeder joined Roy Sommer and David Cunniff behind the WorSharks bench.

The only Worcester skater to not register a shot on goal was defenseman David MacDonald. MacDonald did attempt a couple of shots, but none of them made it to the Springfield net.

Worcester's scratches were Nate Raduns, Matt Jones, Ashton Rome, Mike Morris, Riley Armstrong, Frazer McLaren, Dan Spang, J.D. Forrest, and Marc Busenburg.

Speaking of Frazer McLaren, the rookie took on one of the AHL's legitimate tough guys in Kevin Westgarth Saturday night in the WorSharks 4-1 loss in Manchester. McLaren handled Westgarth pretty easily, hitting him with from several angles leaving Westgarth unsure of where the next shot was going to come from and forcing him to take McLaren to the ice.

The three stars of the game were
1. Mink (1g,1a)
2. Potulny (1g,1a)
3. Iggulden (1g)
My vote would have been Mink; Cavanagh (2a), and Deslauriers (40 saves)

Even Strength Lines

To start the third period the WorSharks went with Wishart/Walsh and MacDonald/Joslin, but went back to the original lines about 5 minutes into the period.

Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines


Faceoffs (offense/neutral/defense = total) Unofficial
Zalewski 6-1/5-1/4-3 = 15-5
Cavanagh 6-4/2-2/4-2 = 12-8
Fox 3-2/3-3/1-0 = 7-5
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
McGinn 1-1/0-0/0-0 = 1-1
Fenton 0-1/1-0/0-0 = 1-1
Iggulden 1-0/1-1/0-0 = 2-1

Springfield Falcons 1 0 1 -- 2
Worcester Sharks 2 0 2 -- 4

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Springfield, G. Potulny (28) 1:42
2. Worcester, T. Fox (12) 7:17 SH
3. Worcester, B. Staubitz (5) (T. Cavanagh, L. Kaspar) 14:37 PP
Penalties - B. Staubitz Wor (interference) 5:55, R. Schremp Spr (roughing) 10:42, P. Fenton Wor (slashing) 10:42, C. Wild Spr (holding) 12:47, T. Peckham Spr (tripping) 19:59

2nd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - T. Sestito Spr (tripping) 7:11, B. Evans Wor (hooking) 13:07

3rd Period
Scoring - 4. Springfield, R. Schremp (22) (M. Pouliot, G. Potulny) 6:35 PP
5. Worcester, M. Iggulden (27) (D. Joslin, G. Mink) 9:13 PP
6. Worcester, G. Mink (24) (D. Packard, T. Cavanagh) 15:55
Penalties - B. Staubitz Wor (hooking) 6:26, C. Wild Spr (hooking) 8:49

SPR Shots: 10 3 9 -- 22
WOR Shots: 17 15 12 -- 44

Power Play Conversion
Springfield Falcons 1-3. Worcester Sharks 2-4.

Springfield Falcons: Deslauriers 25-23-5 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 56:38 SV: 40 GA: 4 [L]
Worcester Sharks: Greiss 18-21-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:59 SV: 20 GA: 2 [W]

Start : 4:10 PM
End : 6:23 PM
Attendance : 4259
Referee: Frederic L'Ecuyer (48)
Linesmen: Chris Low (88); Tim Low (68)

ECHL Pacific Division Review: Stockton Thunder squeezes into playoffs on final day

ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs Pacific Division

The Las Vegas Wranglers (47-18-7), Calgary's ECHL affiliate, registered 104 points for the top regular season record in the National Conference. Three other Pacific Division teams earned Kelly Cup playoff appearances, the Fresno Falcons, Bakersfield Condors, and the Stockton Thunder sneaked in based on a 4-3 overtime loss to Utah in the last game of the regular season.


Captain Peter Ferraro set the Las Vegas single season goal scoring record with 36, and the top National Conference seeded Wranglers became the only ECHL team to record three straight 100 point seasons. Las Vegas left wing Ryan Donally was recalled to the AHL Quad City Flames, and defenseman Jason Dest signed a tryout contract with Peoria of the AHL, but the Wranglers signed former Providence College goaltender Tyler Sims (6-foot, 190 pounds). Center Curtis Fraser (11 points in 5 games) was also returned to the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL, but he remains eligible for the Las Vegas Kelly Cup playoff roster. Las Vegas opens the postseason at home against National Conference 8th seed Stockton April 11th at 7:05PM.

The third seed Fresno Falcons will open their National Conference Quarterfinal series against the Utah Grizzlies at the Save Mart Center in Fresno Sunday April 13th (5PM). Former Stockton Thunder goaltender Jake Moreland registered a 22-11-4 record, 2.64GAA, .911SV%, and 1 shutout in 39 games played for the Falcons this season. Ken Robison of the Fresno Bee notes that the Falcons are playing in their final season at the Save Mart Center after 5 seasons, next year they are moving to the nearby Selland Arena. Robison also reports that leading scorer Oren Eizenman should return soon with Worcester out of the AHL playoff hunt, defenseman Kenny Macaulay should return from Rockford of the AHL, and John Morlang (C), Tyler Kindle (D) and Jarrett Konkle (LW) should return from injured reserve.

Bakersfield locked up a 7th seed Friday, and they will open the playoffs on the road April 10th against the West Division regular season champion Victoria Salmon Kings (Vancouver Canucks affiliate). Both teams played to a stalemate in the regular season series with a 3-3-3 record. The Bakersfield Condors are an independent franchise with no NHL or AHL affiliation, but with a very sophisticated website (spanish section, new media heavy, interactive), an intimate arena (Rabobank Arena seats 9000, great sightlines, clear seamless glass), and an enthusiastic fanbase, Bakersfield is a model minor league hockey franchise. Mike Griffith of the Bakersfield Californian reports that left wing Mark Derlago's 39 goals was the most goals by a rookie in franchise history, surpassing a 36 goal mark by Steve Dowhy in the inaugural Bakersfield Fog season of 1995-96. Griffith also notes that Bakersfield needed a strong run of 7 wins in their last 9 games to ensure a playoff berth.

Eight of nine National Conference teams make the Kelly Cup ECHL playoffs. With a late season surge by Bakersfield for the 7th seed, the playoff battle between the Stockton Thunder (Edmonton Oilers) and Phoenix Roadrunners (San Jose Sharks) came down to the last day of the regular season. Actually it came down to the last 1:15 seconds of the third period in Stockton's 4-3 overtime loss to Utah on Saturday night. With Stockton goaltender Glenn Fisher pulled for an extra attacker, a point shot by defenseman Tim O'Connell was deflected past Utah goaltender Nathan Lawson by center Brandon Schwartz. Stockton Thunder's Manager of Broadcasting and Media Relations Mike Benton has the radio call of the play here (MP3 file).

Grizzlies right wing Olivier Labelle would score the game winning goal in overtime at 3:24, but the point for an overtime loss propelled the Stockton Thunder into the playoffs in the final game of the season. Following Stockton's stretch run on Scott Linesburgh's blog and Mike Benton's blog has been difficult, as the Thunder registered a 4-7 record during the last 3 weeks of the season to put themselves behind the 8-ball. The Stockton Record notes that 2 goals by center Brandon Schwartz were critical to the Thunder's playoff berth, his third period game winning goal against Utah on Friday night, and his third period game-tying goal against Utah on Saturday night. Saturday's contest was a very emotional game according to the Salt Lake Tribune, with a second period team-wide fight sparked by an Ian Forbes sucker punch that may be reviewed by the league. Stockton opens the first round of the playoffs on the road against top seeded Las Vegas Friday, April 11th at 7:05PM.

In the 20th anniversary season of the ECHL, the Cincinnati Cyclones and Texas Wildcatters each finished with a league best 115 points. Cincinnati won the Brabham Cup trophy awarded to the ECHL team that finishes with the most points in the regular season based on a higher win total (55). The Cyclones 55 wins was one behind a league record 56 set by Louisiana in 2001-02. Cincinnati center David Desharnais earned the regular season scoring title by a large margin, with his 106 points (29G, 77A) 15 ahead of the next closest player.

Kelly Cup playoff brackets are available here. The Kelly Cup Playoffs begin today with a 2PM (PT) American Conference matchup between the No. 4 seed Johnstown Chiefs (36-30-6) at No. 5 seed Dayton Bombers (29-31-12). An online video broadcast of each ECHL playoff game is available from B2 Networks for $6.

[Update] Ontario take cover, the Reign is coming. Logo Unveiling Ceremony Conjures Up Excitement Over Impending Season - ontarioprohockey.com.

The Ontario Reign Professional Hockey Team of the ECHL and affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, formally unveiled their official logo today at a press conference at the Hilton Ontario Airport Hotel. The historical event marks the official debut of Ontario, California’s first-ever professional sports team...

The name ‘Reign’ came from a team naming contest that was held from November through December, 2007 with over 600 entries submitted. The winning entry was submitted by Mike Brewster of Fontana, Calif. The Reign will begin play of the 2008-2009 season in October at the state-of-the-art Citizens Business Bank Arena with the schedule to be released to the public in the near future.

Not sure exactly where Ontario, California is, but this blog will try to make it down for the franchise opener next season. The Ontario Reign will be the fifth franchise in the National Conference's Pacific Division, balancing out 5 teams in the West Division. California has lost 2 ECHL franchises in recent years, the San Diego Gulls franchise ceased operations despite strong fan support with ownership issues in 2006, the Long Beach Ice Dogs never got off the groud attendance-wise and folded in 2007.

The Stockton Thunder's 4-0 win over the Phoenix Roadrunners to open the Stockton Arena in 2005 was a special night. They set a high bar for Ontario to match.

[Update2] Season Ends With 4-3 Loss In Las Vegas - phxroadrunners.com.

Jason Krischuk snapped a 3-3 tie with 4:06 remaining in regulation to lift the Las Vegas Wranglers to a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix RoadRunners in the regular season finale before 6,717 at the Orleans Arena in ECHL action Saturday...

The RoadRunners were eliminated from the Kelly Cup Playoffs before the start of the third period when Stockton forced overtime at Utah to gain a point and clinch the eighth and final playoff spot…Walsh finished with five goals in 12 games against the Wranglers…Phoenix completed their 12-game season series against Las Vegas with a record of 1-10-1. The RoadRunners will return to US Airways Center in October for their fourth season of ECHL hockey. For more information on season tickets, half-season packages, and flex plans for the 2008-09 season of Phoenix RoadRunners hockey, call (602) 462-GOAL or visit www.phxroadrunners.com.

San Jose's 5th round (140th overall) selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, goaltender Taylor Dakers, finished with a 6-8-1 record (2.34GAA, .930SV%) for the Sharks ECHL affiliate Phoenix Roadrunners this season. In 18 games played for the AHL Worcester Sharks this season, Dakers registered a 4-10-1 record, 3.24GAA, and .886SV%.


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Use Pups To Defeat Portland

The Worcester Sharks, using a line up that contained five players straight from juniors and college, stunned the Portland Pirates with a 2-1 overtime victory at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 3,562. The loss means the Pirates have clinched the third seed in the divisional playoff round. The WorSharks were eliminated from the playoffs after Wednesday's loss in Springfield.

Despite the playoff elimination fans in attendance were upbeat prior to the game as attention begins to be focused on next season with the arrival of several junior and college players, many of whom Worcester fans have already penciled into the 2008 open night lineup. With the WorSharks on the road for the previous four games this would be the first time many of them would see these players.

They did not leave disappointed, at least based on the final score.

The opening period saw the WorSharks play the three top lines fairly evenly, with neither team really getting any offense going. Portland would have both power play chances in the stanza, but even with the man advantage they couldn't generate much offense. The teams combined for just 10 shots in the period as play was for the most part confined to between the blue lines.

The second period saw more of the same very early on, but Portland would light the lamp on what seemed like a fairly routine play. With Simon Ferguson streaking down in front of the benches he blasted a shot that WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss kick saved easily, deflecting the puck out toward the right side boards. Unfortunately the bouncing puck went past two Worcester players and right to the stick of Michal Birner, who pushed it into the open net for the 1-0 advantage.

Portland defenseman Brian Salcido got the secondary assist on the play giving him 51 points on the season, which sets the season high record for points scored by a defenseman for the Pirates. The previous record of 50 was held by former Worcester IceCats blue liner Nick Naumenko when he played for Portland in the 2001-02 season.

That single goal looked like it might stand up as both teams clogged the neutral zone and really limited each other's scoring chances, and especially as both goaltenders were on their game. In one 10 second span Pirates netminder Jean-Sebastien Aubin made a huge save and then swiped the puck off the Pirates goal line--it was so close to being in both Graham Mink and another WorSharks player had their sticks raised in celebration--and then as the Pirates rushed into the WorSharks zone on an odd man rush Greiss made an incredible glove save.

It was another play that looked routine that got the WorSharks on the board. With Worcester controlling the puck along the blue line after a face off win Dan Spang fired a shot on net that Aubin handled easily, but the rebound was batted out of the air by Mink and into the open net to knot the game at 1-1. The goal snapped Aubin's shutout steak at just under 136 minutes.

Worcester would get its only power play of the game late in the third period but couldn't generate any scoring chances, and the man advantage was cut short when Tom Walsh was called for hooking Brett Festerling as he broke into the Worcester zone.

The WorSharks, who have had problems on the penalty kill lately, killed the man advantage that extended into overtime with relative ease. With both teams in the middle of line changes Mike Iggulden pucked up a lose puck just inside the Worcester blue line and raced up the penalty box side and past both Portland defenders. As Aubin moved off the near post to cut down the angle Iggulden flipped the puck through the five hole for the winning tally.

Iggulden was then mobbed in the far corner by his team mates to the loud cheers of the fans in attendance.

Worcester went with five new players to the roster: defenseman Ty Wishart, and forwards P.J. Fenton, Matt Jones, Jamie McGinn, and Steven Zalewski. Worcester's other two recent signees, forward Frazer McLaren and defenseman David MacDonald, were both healthy scratches.

Other healthy scratches for Worcester included Lukas Kaspar, Jonathan Tremblay, J.D. Forrest, and Marc Busenburg. The injured list currently includes Nate Raduns, Mike Morris, and Riley Armstrong.

Referee Francois St. Laurent must have had a flight to catch as he let the teams play, only calling penalties on plays that eliminated scoring chances and on Walsh's clear boarding penalty.

With the NCAA hockey regionals in town last weekend the DCU Center has a new sheet of ice, and several players--and St. Laurent--seemed to have issues with their footing.

In a recent "Meet the Coach" session with season ticket holders Roy Sommer indicated that at the AHL trade deadline he wanted to stand with the team he had and not attempt to add anyone to help the WorSharks into the playoffs. Worcester record from the trade deadline until being eliminated Wednesday night was a woeful 5-9-4.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Iggulden (OT GWG)
2. Greiss (24 saves)
3. Salcido (assist)
Not too much to argue about there.

Iggulden's overtime goal was the fourth for the WorSharks on the season, and the first at home. Worcester's other three overtime tally were Tom Cavanagh in San Antonio and Springfield, and Spang in Portland.

Even Strength Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Power Play Lines
Zalewski was on the ice during Walsh's penalty call replacing Iggulden, but a whole second line never made it on to the ice.


Faceoffs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (Unofficial)
Fox 2-3/2-3/4-5 = 8-11
Zalewski 4-2/2-1/2-5 = 8-8
Fenton 3-1/0-2/2-2 = 5-5
Rome 1-0/0-0/1-0 = 2-0
McGinn 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Iggulden 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Packard 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1

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

1st Period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: WOR-Jones, Matt (Interference), 7:39. WOR-Walsh, Tom (Board check), 15:21.

2nd Period
Scoring: 1, Portland-Birner, Michal (Ferguson, Simon; Salcido, Brian) 6:19.
Penalties: None.

3rd Period
Scoring: 2, Worcester-Mink, Graham (Walsh, Tom; Spang, Dan) 14:28.
Penalties: POR-Festerling, Brett (Holding), 17:13. WOR-Walsh, Tom (Hooking), 18:55.

Scoring: 3, Worcester-Iggulden, Mike (game winner) (unassisted) 1:06.
Penalties: None.

Shots on Goal
Portland 4 10 11 0--25
Worcester 6 8 7 2--23

Power Play Conversions: Portland - 0 of 3, Worcester - 0 of 1.
Goalies: Portland-Aubin, Jean-Sebastie (61:06, 23 shots, 21 saves). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (61:02, 25 shots, 24 saves).
A: 3562. Referee: St. Laurent, Francois. Linesmen: MacDonald, Brian; Messier, Mark.


Ron Wilson conference call transcript, NHL Live radio interview with Jeremy Roenick

The NHL held a conference call with San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, Monday March 31st. Wilson talked about the addition of defenseman Brian Campbell, breaks down a possible playoff matchup between San Jose and Anaheim, whether or not Anaheim plays a "dirty" game, how he feels with the 2007-08 roster heading into the postseason compared to 2006-07, the addition of goaltender Brian Boucher, and discusses the difference between "rest" and "maintainence" with a week left in the regular season.

DAVID KEON: We have with us San Jose Sharks head coach, Ron Wilson. Thanks to Ron today for taking the time to answer your questions, and thanks to Scott Emmert of the Sharks' public relations department for arranging this call. San Jose leads the Pacific Division and sits second in the Western Conference with a record of 48-20-10 for 106 points, and trail the Detroit Red Wings by five points in the race for the Presidents Trophy as the San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings tomorrow night, and close out the regular season with games in Los Angeles Thursday, and in Dallas on Sunday. Again, thanks to Ron for joining us.

[Q] Brian Campbell has made a difference in your lineup; in your mind, where has he had the biggest impact overall?

[RW] Probably in our puck possession time. He's come in, and obviously loves to have the puck. It's just kind of changed our game, a little less dump-and-chase and forecheck. And more into a controlled attack through the neutral zone type of a game, where we'll still use our size up front and forecheck, but we have to dump the puck less. And you've seen a difference in the rest of our D-pickup that he does well.

[Q] In these days those puck-rushing defensemen, are they more important than in past years, and how important are they, just having guys that can make a play to get it out?

[RW] Yeah, I think it's huge, and he skates things out of danger; he doesn't have to necessarily pass the puck. And then that threat of the way he handles a puck, whether it's skating or passing, or his little spin-around move, seems to back the forecheck off and creates more passing lanes and openings for us to create speed through the neutral zone.

[Q] Has he been the guy, the player, that put you guys over the top; can you say that?

[RW]No, I can't say that. I think leading up to the trade deadline, we started to play some pretty good hockey, and kind of got some breakthroughs in how we were playing. He's certainly added another element that was lacking. To say that you've got all the pieces now is hard to say.

We are on a great role and we've got to continue it. Our confidence is where it should be, and we're playing the kind of hockey you need to to be successful in the playoffs.

[Q] You know how Anaheim plays with their physical and on-the-edge style; in a seven-game series, if you see them, do you almost have to match that to beat them, or does it really matter?

[RW] I don't think it really matters. We just played them twice this past week, and I wouldn't say they were overly aggressive games. We had one in their building and one in our building.

Obviously they were missing a couple of pieces, but so were we. I thought we controlled the pace of the game, which is what we set out to do. I mean, if it gets physical, we have the size to be able to handle that.

So I think we're better equipped going into the playoffs this year than any other. They are a strong forechecking team which generally we are, as well, but I think with Brian Campbell and the way some of our defensemen have improved, like Christian Ehrhoff and Marc Vlasic and Douglas Murray, that we are not as susceptible to being hemmed into our zone as we might have been in the past and in past playoffs. I think that we'll be able to handle any game that any teams throw at us.

[Q] Any hesitancy that you're going to peak too soon? Don't you want to lose a couple of games before you get to the playoffs?

[RW] That's for the people at the other end of the standings to worry about. We try and prepare to win every game. You don't plan on a streak like this. And I'm not about to tell our team to change; - that's when you get in trouble is when you have a rope pulling in one direction and you loosen the grip and sometimes it slips out of your hands. We want to keep playing our kind of hockey right now, playoff hockey, and see what happens.

[Q] Trading deadline acquisitions, you've been around for a long time, and is it your feeling that it's a toss up, 50/50 when you pick up guys at the trading deadline? You picked up Campbell, and he's done a terrific job for you but he never really know.

[RW] Yeah, we won't know until we see how far we've gone in the playoffs. Obviously it's worked up to this point. You know, last year we picked up Billy Guerin, and we only lost one of our last 17 games. People forget that last year going into the playoffs, and we played great for six games and lost to the Red Wings. And that trade looks like our chemistry wasn't right; who the heck knows?

I feel confident that Brian fit right in on in our team. He's got a friendship that he's had in the past with Joe Thornton, and he just seems comfortable with our group and there have not been any issues.

I think it's a little easier to fit a defenseman of that caliber into your lineup, and you don't have to worry about who you're pairing him with. He's been pretty capable of playing with any one of our six or seven defensemen that we've been using recently. He seems right now a best fit with Douglas Murray.

[Q] Do you get a better feeling about your team right now than you did last year's team going into the playoffs? Do you have more pieces, or is it the same feeling that you had going into last year's playoffs?

[RW] Oh, I feel a lot more comfortable with our defense. I think with the improvement in particular of Christian Ehrhoff and Douglas Murray, two prime examples. Vlasic was always good last year, but Ehrhoff and Douglas Murray have really improved. And I think the fact that it's a little bit harder to forecheck us because of some of the speed we have on the back end now, makes me feel a little bit better going into the playoffs.

[Q] Acquisition that slipped under the radar, picking up Brian Boucher, how important was that in terms of giving Nabokov some rest down the stretch? And did it also reinforce the message that, skaters, we feel you're Cup-ready and giving them peace of mind with an experienced guy in the event of a worst-case scenario?

[RW] Definitely. We had seen Brian play a lot, obviously when he was in Phoenix; he played really well at times. There was a time ten years ago when he was the hottest goalie prospect on the planet, and for some reason, things had not worked out for him. And we were just lucky enough that he was available, and he's done everything and more.

He's got a good attitude. I think more than anything, he understands what his role is in terms of supporting Nabby, and then he's followed up by playing very calmly and has really earned the respect and confidence of his teammates in front of him.

[Q] Wondering if early in the season, what they accomplished last year, was that used as inspiration or to motivate you guys; or does it help from the standpoint that now you only have to answer questions about your team and not about whether a team from the Pacific or California can go all the way?

[RW] No, I think what they were able to accomplish last year has given us -- or it proves that it's possible with our travel schedule and so on and so forth that a Pacific time zone team can win the Stanley Cup.

We feel going into the playoffs, worst-case scenario, if we were to go all the way, if Detroit remains an obstacle later in the playoffs, we would have home ice all through the Stanley Cup. So we have worked really hard to get to this point, but we realize that winning the division isn't our primary focus this year. It's just a feather in our cap, and an opportunity now awaits that we want to take advantage of.

[Q] Some pundits have raised the issue of whether the Ducks are considered a quote, unquote, dirty team, because of their physical nature, and you obviously see them quite a bit. Are those fair comments, or is it kind of, you know, garbage whether they are quote, unquote, dirty, or not?

[RW] You know, the games that we've played against the Ducks, I've never considered -- I've never considered any of the games dirty. They are physical. There's an intensity there.

There will always be in the course of the game, whether it be your own player or a player on the other team where somebody may cross the line, and then it's up to the officials to recognize the situation. But I don't think I've ever felt in our games with Anaheim that I would classify them as dirty. They play hard, they play aggressive and they are successful doing it.

We have added some elements to our team like Jody Shelley, and we have Douglas Murray on the back end that can hit with the best of them. I really don't believe they are dirty. They are aggressive and they are fun to watch.

[Q] How much of that physical play is integral in their success?

[RW] Well, that's like our physical play is a big part of our success, as well. If you can forecheck and finish checks, that's great. Our hitting has been way down since we picked up Brian Campbell, though; and why would that be? Because we have the puck all the time.

If you play a game, and Anaheim likes to stretch you out, with a lot of long plays, deflections into the zone and trying to establish a physical superiority, and a relentless attack on your team's defense, and I have a similar philosophy, maybe in a different way of going about it, but I think that's how you win hockey games, through a strong forecheck.

[Q] Do you lose your sense of normalcy once the playoffs starts?

[RW] My sense of normalcy?

[Q] If there is one -- like your lifestyle, how much does that get altered once the playoffs again?

[RW] No, I try to stay -- I try to keep the same routine essentially, how we prepare for games so on and so forth. What changes is that you can focus on one team. Once you're prepared, you make tiny adjustments. And to be honest with you, it's a little easier once the playoffs start, because your focus is on one particular team; which we don't know who we're playing yet and probably won't until the weekend. And then you focus on what you've done against a particular team in the regular season and what you think they might try to do in the playoffs; and you focus on what their coach likes to do in terms of matchups, or try to anticipate things like that.

And then during a series, you just are looking for little things that would give you an advantage, and it's a lot easier to do that when you're only focused on one team.

[Q] Being that you probably won't know who that team is going to be until this weekend, is that enough time to make all of those matchup decisions, all of those adjustments and all that, or do you start looking at it now, the potentials?

[RW] To be honest with you, I'm just worried about the Los Angeles Kings game tomorrow. I hate to say this, but this isn't rocket science, and you know, I've been around long enough. I have an idea what I'm doing, and we studied these teams a lot throughout the season.

I have a great coaching staff; Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler watch tons of video and we have a good understanding. We'll have a meeting next weekend. We'll probably sit on the flight back from Dallas and talk about the team. We'll already have edited all of the DVDs and have it in our computers. That stuff will be broken down.

Generally we won't change the game plan from what we've used against a particular team in the regular season, and you just kind of make adjustments on the fly. When the playoffs start, you see what the other team is doing, and you respond accordingly.

[Q] Does it matter if you win the Presidents' Trophy?

[RW] No, I mean, I don't think it's possible, but, you know, I didn't think it was possible for Edmonton to get to where they are today.

[Q] Are you surprised, because they actually won a game in a shootout against you; one of the few teams that's got any points against you in the last little while.

[RW] Yeah, that was kind of funny. Of all the games we've played recently, that was probably our best, and we lost a point. But that being said I never would have thought six weeks ago that we could creep within five points of the Detroit Red Wings.

So I guess it's not impossible about, but very unlikely so we are not even thinking about it. At this point it's irrelevant. We want to continue to fine-tune our game and remain confident while not stressing the important people on our team. For example, last night in our game with Phoenix, there really was not one forward who played more than 15 and a half minutes in the game, and we still won the game. We still did the things that we needed to do. We still played hard but some guys didn't have to play as much.

And that's -- you know, I'm having this debate with some of our own reporters regarding rest; I use the word "rest" like I'm not going to play anybody. What we're doing is maintaining guys who have bumps and bruises; they won't play. But the other guys who are healthy are going to be in there; and just continuing to stay confident and do the detail work that you need to be successful in the playoffs.

The NHL Live radio program with hosts Don LaGreca and E.J. Hradek interviewed San Jose Sharks veteran center Jeremy Roenick on Wednesday March 2nd. A few highlights from the interview will be posted soon.

[Q] I wanted to get you on because I saw what was a special moment last week, last Friday against the Ducks at home. You got the game winning goal in that one?

[JR] Yes, I did. The crowd gave me a four minute standing ovation, so I could not talk. It was out of left field for me. I didn't expect it. I got on camera and the whole place stod up and gave me a standing O. It overwhelmed me. There is not that much you can think of doing at that point...

It has been a real treat being here, and obviously the fans in San Jose are very passionate. I know you guys get all the email and all the talk about not talking about San Jose. That is just how they are. They are proud of their hockey club. This is a great organization. First class through and through, from the bottom to the top. Its been a real pleasure for me, I have that excited feeling back again. I am like a kid in a candy store when I go to the rink again. I have missed that the last couple of years, and it is nice to get that back again.

[Q] What were your expectations going to San Jose, what was your best case scenario?

[JR] I cam here with the fact of helping the young guys, with my experience. Being a guy other guys can look to, ask a lot of questions. Maybe be on the 4th line, a solid 4th liner who can throw his body around and chip in a goal every once in awhile. Be a good motivator with my energy. I told both Wilsons that my job was to make sure you can't take me out of the lineup. Its gone even better than that.

Yes I am playing with great players, and that helps me. But when you are playing with the confidence given to you by the coach and general manager, and their respect and appreciation day in and day out, it can do wonders. You feel better about yourself. When you feel better about yourself, you are going to play better. It has been a really good situation here.

[Q] Was the tone set early with Ron Wilson playing you a lot with other players injured?

[JR] No, Ron Wilson threw me in right away. I was a part of the lineup from game 1. I dont know if he was going to start me from the beginning of the season, Devin Setoguchi getting hurt (in the preseason) may have opened the door for me possibly. If that was the case, I made sure I would take full advantage of the situation.

It steamrolled. I never would have expected to contribute this many game winning goals. It is eeery how that has happened, but helping out the young guys has been fantastic. You feel like you are wanted. That makes all the difference in the world.

[Q] I know you are close to Torrey Mitchell, how has he handled all of the things with Chris Foster, the criticism around the league for that hit?

[JR] It is a really unfortunate play. Its one of the problems we have in the league, situations of races for the touch up icing is a dangerous thing. Torrey Mitchell is a phenomenal person. He is really a special kid, considerate, good head on his shoulders, respectful. He would never try to do anything like that on purpose. In the heat of the game you are going to have situations that you are going to react. Sitting on the bench, It looked like simply a race for the puck. He got caught maybe with a push, I don't know if that happened or not. Our ice the way it is, he may have lost an edge. We really don't know what happened. He feels terrible. He could not sleep for 2 days. He called 3 or 4 times to try to apologize. I think the leavue is going to have to look at touch up icing to avoid situations like that happening again. It is really dangerous.

[Q] You went over and gave Foster some words of encouragement while he was on the ice after the play?

[JR] Yes I did. He is a hard nosed player. He plays the game hard, he plays it with passion. To go into the boards at that kind of speed to play the puck, he is trying to do what is best for his hockey club. You have to give a guy props for doing something like that. We are in the same organization, we are all trying to win and not hurt each other. I think it makes them feel a little better when they get that respect from their opponents too.

[Q] JR, you have been in the leauge a long time, and been on a lot of good teams. Have you ever been on a team like this, where a team is playing this well going into the playoffs?

[JR] Never. I don't think I have ever been a team on a roll like this in my career, maybe ever playing the game. Our team is extremely, extremely confident right now. I want to find out if a team has ever gone undefeated (in regulation) in the month of March. Teams are fighting for playoff spots, fighting to seed themselves for the playoffs. The best hockey is being played in the month of March and we pretty much stomp right through it with ease. That is what is incredible about the whole situation. Last night we played the worst game we have played in the last 3 or 4 months, and we still came out with a win. When you can play badly and still do that, you know you are flowing and confidence is high.

[Q] This seems to be an introverted league with the players. You are an extrovert, someone who likes to talk. A lot of people gravitate towards you, and try to get your opinions on the game. They went to you during the lockout because you were outspoken about it. Do you sense a responsibility to be outspoken and talk up this game because you are one of the people, one of those who has the personality to do that?

[JR] I love it. I take on that responsibility very seriously. It gets me in a lot of trouble sometimes, but I deal with that. I try to be truthful and honest, and if some people don't like that, so be it. It is funny, because the media and the people want to hear the truth, and want to hear what everyone is really thinking. Then when they here it they will turn around and say ah what an idiot. The media say ah what an idiot, and then uses that against you. It is what it is. It is one thing the league has to work on, but I don't know if you can work on it or not, personality training around the league. It just seems like it is too generic. Too many guys with the hum drum answers, the hum drum tone in their voice. You don't draw people with that kind of attitude, or that kind of personality. It has to be talked about it rooms, it has to be accepted by teams. Some teams look down upon guys being happy and smiling, and playing with the crowd.

It's a thin line they have to cross in hockey. Obviously I can do it, I have been around 20 years. You don't have to tell me what to do after 20 years, you know what you are going to get from me. You will probably see one of my fingers raised up higher than the others. I really think that kids have to show a lot more enthusiasm, to let the people know they enjoy what they do, and that they appreciate them coming out to watch. That is important. I stress that to (Torrey) Mitchell, to (Devin) Setoguchi. When we are on tv, make sure you have a smile on your face, that you play to the crowd, play to the camera, and give people what they want to hear. Don't give them a generic we worked hard, we gave 150%, we got the bounces. Tell them how you feel.

[Q] Hockey is such a team game, people hesitate to step out. Its not in the culture, but we need that more. There are guys you have played with who were hilarious in the room, but on tv they toned it down?

[JR] Right. It goes back to what you said, the mentality around the NHL is that it is a very humble organization. The guys feel that if they come out and they are boisterous, or they have charisma, or they do something crazy on tv... It is almost like they are trying to put themselves above everybody else. That is just ludicrous. Its all team, team, team. Its fine team, team, team when you are on the ice. Give 150% and make sure you do what is best for your hockey club. That does not mean you cant dance around the locker room, or throw a couple of winks at the camera, or show some personality. Lets not take away from how much fun it is to be a professional hockey player.

Roenick goes on to discuss his draft day in 1988, about being so small his agent implored him not to step on a scale during draft weekend. At a chance meeting with Mike Keenan in a Montreal urinal, Keenan asked him straight up why he should draft him. Roenick said, "because I love to win, and I love to score goals". Roenick also talked about Gordie Howe scooping up snow from the ice onto his stick, and dumping it on his head as 6 year old in the stands. Roenick told a second Howe story about signing autographs prior to the Tampa Bay Allstar Game. As he was signing autographs, he tried to pull one of the cards away from a fan to sign it. After repeated attempts, he looked up and it was Gordie Howe. "You want my autograph?", Roenick asked. "No, I just wanted to say hi" Howe responded.

During a pregame skate a month or two back, Roenick reached through a photo hole I was sitting at to sign an autograph for a young fan. As he passed the pen back through the hole, he grabbed the young girls hand and she let out an excited scream. Sitting in the seats directly behind me, she could not stop talking about it for the entire game. The circle continues.


Sharks Dispatch Kings 5-2 in regular season home finale, point streak at 20 games

San Jose Sharks Los Angeles Kings nhl photos
San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton

The San Jose Sharks closed out the regular season with a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings in the home finale Tuesday on fan appreciation night. In between stoppages of play, video segments of Sharks players on the hi-def jumbotron identified individual fans in attendance to meet them after regulation to receive their game worn jersey.

The official start time of the game was 7:38, first official "Beat-L-A" chant commenced at 7:39. The first few minutes the Sharks put on a puck possession clinic. Enforcers Jody Shelley and Raitis Ivanans dropped the gloves to a loud roar from the crowd at 6:42. Shelley kept distance with his left hand, but a long reach by Ivanans allowed him to connect with several huge right hands.

The Sharks checking line struck first with 11 seconds left in the first period. A point shot by Patrick Rissmiller pinballed to Mike Grier, who wasted no time flicking the puck home gloveside. Grier scored his 9th goal of the season at 19:49, with assists by Rissmiller and McLaren. Fans at HP Pavilion imposed themselves twice during breaks in action on the ice. As the video board showed the career San Jose statistics of current King Scott Thornton, fans continued cheering until Thornton acknowledged them with a raised hand. Joe Thornton got a similar treatment, after an assist bumped his carrer point total in teal to 300. Fans continued cheering until he was obliged to wave to the crowd from the bench as well.

Patrick O'Sullivan may have been the player of the game for Los Angeles. After a late O'Sullivan hit on McLaren received a round of boos from the crowd, O'Sullivan then seperated Marc-Edouard Vlasic's feet from the ice as he tried to play the puck in the corner. He came out for the second period flying, and scored a shorthanded goal at 0:57 after intercepting a Brian Campbell pass and beating Evgeni Nabokov on a breakaway with a slick backhand.

Patrick Marleau (PP), Milan Michalek, and Curtis Brown also scored for the Sharks. Raitis Ivanans scored his 5th goal of the season, as the Kings dropped to a league worst 31-42-7. Evgeni Nabokov made 16 saves on 18 shots, to earn his 46th win of the season.

After the game the Sharks honored Evgeni Nabokov as Seagate Technology "Sharks Player of the Year" as voted by the Bay Area media. It was second Sharks Player of the Year award along with his performance en route to winning the Calder Cup in 2001. Assistant captain Joe Thornton was named as the winner of the 2007-08 PlayStation Three Stars of the Game award after the game. Thornton accumulated the largest number of post-game first, second, or third star nominations during the regular season. Thornton was also recently named the NHL's "First Star of the Week" for the week ending March 3rd. San Jose's rookie center from Vermont Torrey Mitchell was named in a videotaped presentation as the "Playstation Sharks Rookie of the Year". Mitchell has appeared in every game this season, provided tenacious defense on a checking line with Mike Grier and Patrick Rissmiller, and he uses his blasing speed to cause matchup problems for opponents. A complete list of Sharks Rookie of the Year award winners: 2007-08 Torrey Mitchell, 2006-07 Marc-Edouard Vlasic, 2005-06 Milan Michalek, 2003-04 Tom Preissing, 2002-03 Jim Fahey, 2001-02 Matt Bradley, 2000-01 Evgeni Nabokov, 1999-00 Brad Stuart, 1998-99 Alexander Korolyuk, 1997-98 Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Andrei Zyuzin, 1996-97 Stephen Guolla, 1995-96 Marcus Ragnarsson, 1994-95 Jeff Friesen.

A small photo gallery from the second period is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here. An NHL video of the top 5 hits of the week is also up online. Two hits from the SJ-LA game made the top 10, and a huge Beregeron hit that cartwheeled a diving Torrey Mitchell to the ice during the SJ-ANA game.

[Update] Will Campbell retain his bite in playoffs? - Edmonton Journal.

[Update2] 'It just snapped apart' - Minneapolis-St Paul Tribune.

Foster was overwhelmed by the support he received from the Sharks during his nine-day San Jose stay. President and CEO Greg Jamison visited with a gift basket full of goodies and magazines. General Manager Doug Wilson spent an hour with Foster and gave Foster and his fiancee full access to his secretary, Rosemary Tebaldi.

"Every day she drove my fiancée to and from the hospital. She was phenomenal, even bringing in lunch and dinner," Foster said. Wilson also sent over the Sharks' information technology director so Foster could watch Wild games on a laptop. "Doug worded it, 'I would expect this from another team if this happened to one of my players,'" Foster said. "We talked hockey and life. He told me how broken up Mitchell was, how he was in tears in the penalty box as they carted me off."

Mitchell called Foster the next day. "He almost didn't know what to say," Foster said. "He said 'I'm sorry, I didn't want that to happen.' I stopped him and said, 'I know you're not that type of player and things happen in a game,' and 'I'll be OK, I'll heal.'


Shark Notes - April 1st

San Jose Sharks Phoenix Coyotes NHL photos
Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov

- Sharks power forward Ryan Clowe returned to the lineup for the first time since injurying his knee in late October as the Sharks powered to a 3-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday. Head coach Ron Wilson started him on a line with Milan Michalek and Joe Thornton, and the move paid instant dividends. Coming off a hat trick in Phoenix last week, Thornton drove the net and dropped a back pass to Clowe. Thornton then circled behind the net, gathered a rebound that bogged down in traffic, and flicked home a goal to open the scoring 14 seconds into the game.

Thornton continued his goal scoring tear. After Shane Doan put Phoenix on the scoreboard with a quick forehand catching an over-extended Evgeni Nabokov out of position, Thornton answered with another drive into the Phoenix zone. Thornton cut left between two Coyotes, and ripped a shut up over the shoulder of Ilya Bryzgalov for his second goal of the game at 17:31. It was Thornton's second goal of the game, his 28th of the season. Bryzgalov denied a second straight hat trick opportunity by Thornton against Phoenix, knocking his point blank shot out of midair late in the third period.

Sharks head coach Ron Wilson moved Ryane Clowe to a line with Patrick Rissmiller and Curtis Brown, and cycled centers Torrey Mitchell and Marcel Goc in as well. Clowe finished with an assist, 2 shots on goal, lead the Sharks with 6 hits, +1, and 15:06 of total ice time. He looked a little tentative after missing 68 games, but during the pregame skate Jeremy Roenick "accidentally" ran into Clowe and did a superman slide on the ice easing a lot of tension. Clowe adds a physical presence the Sharks need for the playoffs. He will add a big body in front of the net (6-foot-2, 225 pounds), will battle for pucks int he corner, and add a furthur dose of mean to a lineup peaking at the right time.

Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves on 20 shots to earn his 45th win of the season. The Sharks incredible point streak was increased to 19 games with the win. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here. A photo gallery from the game is available here. A SJ Mercury News recap of the game is available here.

- Instead of nominating an individual Shark for March player of the month honors, the Sharks instead singled out the team for player of the month honors. It was the first time such a decision was made in the team's history, and the entire team posed for a photo on the bench prior to the start of the game. In March, the Sharks did not lose a game in regulation (13-0-1-1), and they clinched their third Pacific Division regular season title with a 3-1 road win against rival Anaheim on Friday.

- Sharks continue torrid stretch with win over Coyotes - Sports Network.

- After the Sharks 5-4 OT loss to Phoenix last week, where the Sharks stormed back with 4 third period goals to salvage a point, I sent an email to Coyotes blogger Paul Becker about Phoenix's season this year:

The Coyotes will miss the cut this year and even though Bryzgalov has had some very difficult games, when other goal scorers go ice cold (i.e. Radim Vrbata - no goals in last 17 games), wins are not going to happen. Plus, when Tocchet came back, he re-organized the power play and it had great success and pushed Phoenix closer, but they didn't have that extra something to propel them forward and hold the 6th, 7th, or 8th seed. They squandered three opportunities and they just can't let that go. However, they are a young club and they learned incredibly valuable lessons during the waning moments of the season.

Paul mentions that he may not be able to continue One Fan's Perspective next season when he enters grad school, or that he might be able continue at a more reduced rate. His blog along with the official website and the Arizona Republic, is one of the best sources for Coyotes information and analysis. The NHL and the Phoenix Coyotes should reach out to him and see if they can help keep it going.

- The Sharks clinched another Pacific Division title with a 3-1 win at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Friday. OC Register columnist Randy Youngman called it a statement game, unfortunately the statement made by a long list of healthy scratches for each team was that this Battle of California rivalry will have to remain on hold until the postseason for any true resolution.

Mercury News beat writer David Pollak noted that a game-within-a-game against Anaheim was a mini battle of the fans. Several Sharks fans in attendance started a "Lets go Sharks" chant, that was answered en masse with a "Shut up, shut up, we got the cup" chant by the Anaheim crowd. Sharks fans had a rather blunt "Ducks Suck" chant going 5-6 times during their matchup at HP Pavilion March 21st. Not the most sophisticated cheer. Something like this from Islanders fans (AN-A-HEIM-____), or the Goooo San Jose chant from SJ Earthquakes fans would work much better in the postseason. Work on it Sharks fans.

This blog was unable to make it down for the game, but several other blogs were represented. Earl Sleek and Rudy of Battle of California, Sharks Hockey Analysis, We Bleed Teal, and Girl with a Puck (ANA) were in attendance. Not sure if the Anaheim Ducks Fan blog was there, but I guess the OC Register Ducks Blog was there by default. A Queen Among Kings was also there, as well as a few stragglers from Lets Go Kings. Nice turnout by the hockey blogs for this rivalry game. Thanks to Earl for passing along the info, and for the front row seats to the Sharks come-from-behind overtime win over Anaheim in their last regular season meeting of 2006-07.

Jeremy Roenick registered the 1200th point of his NHL career with an assist on Curtis Brown's 2nd period goal.

- Joe Thornton was named first star of the week by the NHL: Thornton, Ellis and Krejci named week's 'Three Stars'

Thornton tied for the lead among all scorers with eight points (seven goals, one assist) in four games as the Sharks (48-21-10, 106 points) clinched the Pacific Division title for the third time in franchise history. Thornton notched three goals and one assist in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, Mar. 25 and tallied two goals, including the overtime game-winner, in a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars, Mar. 27. He was held pointless in a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks, Mar. 28 and finished the week with two goals, including the game-winner, in a 3-1 victory over Phoenix, Mar. 30. Thornton leads the Sharks and is fifth overall in League scoring with 93 points (28-65--93) in 79 games. His 65 assists place him first in the NHL ahead of Boston's Marc Savard and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, each with 63.

- The San Jose Sharks topped TSN's NHL Power Rankings ending the week of March 31st. The Sharks edged Detroit, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, and Montreal for the top spot.

[Update] Notes on individual San Jose Shark regular season performances from the Sharks media relations department:

- Evgeni Nabokov is making an impressive case to win the Vezina Trophy. With 45 wins, he leads everyone in the League by four wins. Also, he has now moved into fourth place in League history with 45 single season wins. 48 is the record set last season by New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. Bernie Parent (Philadelphia - 73-74) and Roberto Luongo (Vancouver - 06-07) are tied for second with 47. Nabokov has gotten there with the fourth best goals against average in the League (2.14) and is tied for the third in the League in shutouts (6).

- Brian Campbell has put himself in consideration for the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the best defenseman. Campbell has 16 points (2-14=16) in 17 games since joining San Jose. He currently is third amongst defensemen in points (59) and second in assists (52 - T-12th overall). Since he joined the team, the Sharks have the third-best power play in the League (24.2%)

- Joe Thornton has established himself in the race for the Hart Memorial Trophy, which he won in 05-06, awarded to the player most valuable to his team. Thornton was just named the NHL's First Star of the Week by posting eight points (7-1=8) in four games. An interesting note, with his third period hat trick on March 25 and his two-goal explosion on March 30, Thornton scored five goals against Phoenix in a span of 38:03.

Michigan Unanimous No. 1 for Second Straight Week on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey:

Michigan Unanimous No. 1 for Second Straight Week on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The University of Michigan received all 34 first-place votes and a total of 510 points for the second straight week to remain atop the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll. The Wolverines earned a spot at the 2008 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four by defeating both Niagara University and Clarkson University in the East Regional.

NCAA Men's Frozen Four, Pepsi Center -- Denver, Colo.

Thursday, April 10
No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 5 Notre Dame
No. 2 North Dakota vs. No. 3 Boston College

Saturday, April 12
NCAA National Championship Game

The University of North Dakota (473), which also earned a birth to the Frozen Four by winning the Midwest Regional, moved up one spot to No. 2, while Northeast Regional champion Boston College (439) climbed from No. 7 to No. 3. Miami (Ohio) University (386) fell one spot to No. 4 and West Regional champion University of Notre Dame (372) jumped up seven positions to No. 5.

NOTES: The 2008 NCAA Men's Division I Ice Hockey Championship will be up for grabs at the NCAA Men's Frozen Four at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., April 10-12. No. 2 North Dakota will take on No. 4 Boston College at 6 p.m. EDT, while No. 1 Michigan will meet No. 5 University of Notre Dame at 9 p.m. … The USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll will return Monday, April 14, with the end-of-season poll.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine, Men's College Hockey Poll - #25

(first-place votes in parenthesis, Last Week's Ranking, Last Week's Ranking, 2007-08 Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1 U. of Michigan, 510 (34), 1, 33-5-4, 25
2 U. of North Dakota, 473, 3, 28-10-4, 25
3 Boston College, 439, 7, 23-11-8, 23
4 Miami (Ohio) U., 386, 2, 33-8-1, 25
5 U. of Notre Dame, 372, 12, 26-15-4, 25
6 U. of New Hampshire, 295, 4, 25-10-3, 25
7 Colorado College, 289, 6, 28-12-1, 25
8 Michigan State U., 283, 9, 25-12-5, 25
9 Clarkson U., 252, 10, 22-13-4, 25
10 U. of Denver, 244, 5, 26-14-1, 25
11 St. Cloud State U., 124, 8, 19-16-5, 13
12 Princeton U., 112, 13, 21-14-0, 5
13 U. of Minnesota, 102, 11, 19-17-9, 17
14 U. of Wisconsin, 87, NR, 16-17-7, 20
15 Minnesota State U. Mankato, 40, 14, 19-16-4, 9

Others receiving votes: U.S. Air Force Academy, 24; Boston University, 15; Niagara University, 12; Ferris State University, 9; Harvard University, 9; University of Vermont, 3.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th 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] 2008 NCAA Division I men's ice hockey bracket - ESPN.

[Update2] The Maize and Blue of University of Michigan will advance to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Frozen Four for the 23rd time in franchise history. Top ranked Michigan shutout 10th ranked Clarkson University 2-0 on Saturday, with a goal and assist by senior captain Kevin Porter, a goal by right wing Aaron Palushaj, and 27 saves on 27 shots for goaltender Billy Sauer. Sharks prospect and Clarkson center Steven Zalewiski, drafted in the 6th round 153rd overall in the 2004 NHL Entry draft, registered 5 shots on goal and a -1 against Michigan. Center Kevin Porter scored a career-high 4 goals in a 5-1 Michigan win over Niagra in first round action on Friday.

The Michigan Wolverines will face Notre Dame in the Fighting Irish's first-ever appearence in the NCAA Frozen Four. Fourth seed Notre Dame downed Michigan State 3-1 Saturday in the NCAA West Regional Finals in Colorado, and top seeded New Hampshire 7-3 on Friday. 6-foot-2 207-pound senior center Mark Van Guilder scored the game winning goal against Michigan State in the third period, and he was named as the West Regional Tournament MVP.

[Update3] According to Max Giese who was in the house, Sharks director of scouting Tim Burke, director of hockey operations Joe Will, and scouts Pat Funk and Rob Grillo attended the NCAA Midwest Regional in Madison, Wisconsin. North Dakota Fighting Sioux winger Andrew Kozek tallied the overtime game winning goal to earn a 3-2 win over the hometown Badgers on Sunday. Wisconsin outshot UND 43-31, but Sioux goalie Jean-Philippe Lamoureux provided a season-high 41 save performance. This will be the fourth straight NCAA Frozen Four tournament appearance for North Dakota, 18th overall.

The Fighting Sioux will face Boston College and 6-foot-3, 210 pound tower of power freshman defenseman Nick Petrecki (drafted by San Jose - 1st round, 28th overall, 2007). The BC Eagles advanced to the Frozen Four with a 4-3 overtime win over top ranked Miami of Ohio in the Northeast Regional Finals on Sunday, and a 5-2 win over Minnesota in the opening round. Petrecki contributed 1 goal, 8 penalty minutes, and 3 shots in 2 games played, and played a solid game in his own zone according to Sharkspage's Max Giese. Boston College drew 13,268 fans for their 2 games at the DCU Center in Worcester Mass, home of the San Jose AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks.

A full broadcast schedule for the Frozen Four semifinal games on ESPN2, and the Frozen Four final on ESPN, is available from ncaa.com here.

[Update4] A prospect update from Max Giese:

NCAA Tournament: Defenseman Nick Petrecki, 27th overall 2007, Boston College Eagles The freshman defenseman played beyond his years while emerging as the Eagles' top defenseman. Petrecki utilized his strength and powerful skating to be a force in his own end.

Transactions: Forward Matt Jones signed to a two-year entry level contract and ATO to join Worcester for the remaineder of the season. Defenseman David MacDonald signed an ATO to join the Worcester Sharks of the AHL. Left winger P.J. Fenton was signed to an ATO to join the Worcester Sharks for the remainder of the AHL season. Left Winger Jamie McGinn was reassigned from the Ottawa 67s of the OHL to the Worcester Sharks of the AHL.