Sunday, November 30, 2008

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Bedevil Lowell, 2-1

The Worcester Sharks finished off their three-in-three weekend with a 2-1 victory over the Lowell Devils Sunday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of a crowd of 2,587 fans.

After a scoreless first period, Worcester would grab the first goal of the game at 6:44 of the second period on the power play. With the WorSharks swarming the net, Mike Moore would fire a blast from the far point that Lowell goaltender Dave Caruso handled fairly easily, with the rebound bouncing off to Caruso’s right. As Caruso went to push the puck away with his stick, Tom Cavanagh just got enough of Caruso’s stick that the puck floated into the slot, where Jamie McGinn fired it into then empty net for the 1-0 lead. Lukas Kaspar grabbed the second assist.

Lowell would tie the game just 1:07 into the third on the power play when Chad Wiseman deflected a Nicklas Bergfors blast from the left point. The hooking call made on Moore in the waining moments of the second period was of the questionable variety.

The WorSharks would get the game winner at 2:58 of the third period when Ryan Vesce and P.J. Fenton broke into the Devils zone. Vesce would fire a rocket toward the Lowell goal that Caruso kicked right on to the stick of Derek Joslin, who was streaking through the shot. Joslin one-timed it back on net and beat Caruso clean to the 2-1 advantage.

Worcester would have to kill three penalties during the remainder of the period, and thanks to another questionable holding call on Wiseman--a call where none of the ten skaters on the ice knew who the penalty was on--at 18:23 of the third, Worcester was able to hold off the Devils for the 2-1 final.

Prior to the game Assistant Coach David Cunniff spoke to season ticket holders about some of the system changes San Jose and Worcester are going through now that Todd McLellan is San Jose's head coach. Cunniff also spoke highly of the things veterans Kyle McLaren and Claude Lemieux have brought to the ice and locker room.

Worcester's scratches were unchanged from the Sound Tigers game. McLaren is expected to play Wednesday against Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Mike Morris still has an undisclosed injury, and Matt Jones is still recovering from a broken jaw.

Referee Terry Koharski had several head scratching calls in the game, which was a total change from Saturday's game against Bridgeport where referee Shaun Davis called what many say was a perfectly officiated game.

I have never seen a linesman have more issues dropping the puck, and waive more players out of face offs, than linesman Chris Aughe had in the last two games.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Joslin (gwg)
2. Dakers (24 saves)
3. Caruso (22 saves)
My ballot was for Joslin, McGinn (g), and Wiseman (g).

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (Unofficial)
Even Strength
Zalewski 3-1/1-3/3-0 = 7-4
Fox 1-1/0-0/0-1 = 2-1
Larose 3-2/2-1/3-1 = 8-4
Desjardins 0-2/3-0/1-3 = 4-5
Vesce 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Lemieux 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

Power play
Larose 2-0/0-0/0-0 = 2-0
Zalewski 3-1/0-0/0-0 = 3-1
Fox 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Lemieux 2-0/0-0/0-0 = 2-0
Kaspar 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

Penalty KIll
Desjardins 0-0/0-0/0-2 = 0-2
Vesce 0-0/0-0/0-2 = 0-2
Zalewski 0-0/1-1/1-2 = 2-3
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
Cavanagh 0-0/1-0/0-0 = 1-0

LOW 0 0 1 - 1
WOR 0 1 1 - 2

1st Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - C. Larose Wor (slashing) 1:03, R. Pelley Low (tripping) 3:27, M. Spiller Low (tripping) 16:20

2nd Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, J. McGinn (7) (M. Moore, L. Kaspar) 6:44 PP
Penalties - T. Eckford Low (cross-checking) 6:15, P. Letourneau-Leblond Low (fighting) 8:42, B. Staubitz Wor (fighting) 8:42, R. Pelley Low (cross-checking) 11:31, P. Traverse Wor (interference) 17:02, M. Moore Wor (hooking) 19:53

3rd Period
Scoring - 2. Lowell, C. Wiseman (5) (N. Bergfors, J. DiSalvatore) 1:07 PP, 3. Worcester, D. Joslin (4) (R. Vesce, P. Fenton) 2:58
Penalties - L. Kaspar Wor (interference) 3:21, C. Larose Wor (slashing) 6:05, M. Moore Wor (roughing) 14:57, C. Wiseman Low (holding) 18:23

LOW Shots: 9 6 10 TOTAL: 25
WOR Shots: 7 7 10 TOTAL: 24

Power Play Conversion
Lowell Devils 1-6. Worcester Sharks 1-5.

Lowell Devils
Caruso 1-5-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:12 SV: 22 GA: 2 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Dakers 5-0-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 24 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 2587. Referee: Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen: Chris Aughe (74), Bob Bernard (4)

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Silence Sound Tigers, 4-1

The Worcester Sharks, behind the strength of four unanswered goal, defeated the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4-1 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,718.

The first period would be scoreless, but it may have been one of the best periods played so far at the DCU Center as both teams had several high quality scoring chances. WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss and Sound Tigers netminder Peter Mannino were both up to the task.

Mannino, who gave up three goals on eight shots in just 13 minutes of relief action for the Islanders in his NHL debut Friday afternoon, returned to the form he showed in a 2-0 blanking of the WorSharks a month ago. Greiss, coming off a shaky night in Providence, was equal to the task.

Bridgeport would get on the board first, when three WorSharks were caught behind the goal line battling 18 year NHL veteran Mike Sillinger, playing in the AHL on an injury rehab assignment from the New York Islanders. Ben Walter would streak in and grab the lose puck behind the net, feeding Blake Comeau all alone in the slot. Greiss didn't stand a chance, and the Sound Tigers would have the 1-0 lead at 17:18 of the second period.

Worcester would answer just 70 seconds later when Ryan Vesce picked up a rebound of a Patrick Traverse shot in the corner to the left of Mannino. Vesce would wheel the zone on his backhand, switching over to his forehand in the slot just inside the blue line, and fire a high wrister that beat Mannino clean to knot the game 1-1.

The WorSharks would take the lead for good at 13:37 of the third period when Vesce deflected a Traverse blast into the top corner and over the glove of Mannino for the 2-1 lead. Andrew Desjardins had the second assist on both Worcester tallies.

Claude Lemieux would add the insurance marker for Worcester when he trailed a two on one break in, and wristed a Tom Cavanagh feed past Mannino for his first AHL marker in 23 years. Lemieux celebrated like it was his first goal ever, and his line mates took the puck for him.

With Derek Joslin in the box for one of those automatic delay of game penalties for accidentally shooting the puck into the crowd during a clearing attempt, the Sound Tigers would pull Mannino to skate six on four, but Cavanagh would ice the game with the empty netter for the 4-1 final.

Worcester scratches were Kyle McLaren, Mike Morris, and Matt Jones. McLaren skated in warm-ups, and is expected to be ready to play soon. The WorSharks are being very quiet about Morris' injury. Matt Jones' broken jaw is healing, but no date for his return has been disclosed.

The game was delayed a few minutes while a pane of plexiglass was replaced behind Mannino. There were some highlights shown on the video screen while the fans waited, and when the highlights were over the soundman began to play Walking On Broken Glass by Annie Lennox, that drew laughter from fans and players alike.

Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike the automatic delay of game penalty for shooting the puck into the crowd?

Former WorSharks Mike Iggulden and Dennis Packard are on the Bridgeport roster. Neither registered a point or shot on goal. Iggulden finished the game -2, and Packard was -1.

Riley Armstrong made his NHL debut last night during San Jose's 3-2 win in Phoenix. Armstrong, in the NHL on emergency recall, had 5:28 of ice time, including 22 seconds on the power play. Riley had one shot on goal, a 10' wrist shot. Former WorShark Joe Pavelski had two goals, and was the games #1 star.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Vesce (2g,a,+3)
2. Lemieux (1g,8SOG)
3. Greiss (24 saves)
Honorable mentions need to go to Mannino (39 saves) and Cavanagh (g,a).

Even strength lines


Power play lines


Penalty kill lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (Unofficial)
Even strength
Zalewski 2-0/2-2/1-2 = 5-4
Larose 5-4/0-1/4-1 = 9-6
Fox 0-0/1-0/1-1 = 2-1
Desjardins 2-2/2-0/2-1 = 6-3
Vesce 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Kaspar 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

Power play
Larose 0-1/0-0/0-1 = 0-2
Zalewski 2-0/0-0/0-0 = 2-0
Lemieux 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
Desjardins 0-0/1-0/0-0 = 1-0

Penalty Kill
Cavanagh 0-0/0-1/1-1 = 1-2
Desjardins 0-0/1-0/1-0 = 2-0
Zalewski 0-0/0-0/0-2 = 0-2
Vesce 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1

BRI 0 1 0 - 1
WOR 0 1 3 - 4

1st Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - J. Callahan Bri (holding) 4:15, B. Westgarth Wor (holding) 10:02, M. Moore Wor (slashing) 14:44

2nd Period
Scoring - 1. Bridgeport, B. Comeau (4) (B. Walter) 17:18, 2. Worcester, R. Vesce (3) (P. Traverse, A. Desjardins) 18:28
Penalties - P. Fenton Wor (hooking) 2:28, B. Skinner Bri (interference) 6:20, M. Moore Wor (hooking) 10:29, D. Joslin Wor (cross-checking) 12:38

3rd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, R. Vesce (4) (P. Traverse, A. Desjardins) 13:37, 4. Worcester, C. Lemieux (1) (C. Larose, T. Cavanagh) 17:20, 5. Worcester, T. Cavanagh (9) (R. Vesce) 19:12 SH EN
Penalties - M. Sillinger Bri (tripping) 4:39, D. Joslin Wor (delay of game) 19:00

BRI Shots: 7 12 6 TOTAL: 25
WOR Shots: 15 11 17 TOTAL: 43

Power Play Conversion
Bridgeport Sound Tigers 0-6. Worcester Sharks 0-3.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Mannino 6-2-2 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:46 SV: 39 GA: 3 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 6-6-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 24 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 3718. Referee: Shaun Davis (31). Linesmen: Chris Aughe (74), Brian MacDonald (72)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks fall to Providence, 5-3

The Worcester Sharks, after erasing a two goal deficit to take the lead, couldn't hold on in the third period in a 5-3 loss to the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 5,558.

Worcester fans that made the southerly trek down Route 146 figured it would be a long night when, while already shorthanded, defenseman Brett Westgarth was accidentally bumped off the play by referee Jeff Smith while giving chase to Vladimir Sobotka, who then skated in alone on WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss. Sobotka would misfire, but the puck bounced to Martins Karsums standing at the far post for the easy 1-0 lead.

Providence would make it 2-0 after a Jeff Penner blast rang solidly off the post, with the WorSharks being unable to control the rebound. The puck circled back to Penner, who beat Greiss with a clean 15' wrister.

Just a handful of seconds into the second stanza, Riley Armstrong saved what would have been an easy goal by Karsums by cross checking him away from the yawning net. It was one of those "great penalties" you hear about, and it kept the WorSharks in the game.

Worcester would take full advantage, starting when Jamie McGinn backhanded a nice feed from Patrick Traverse over Rask to get Worcester within one 2-1.

Claude Lemieux, playing in his first AHL game since 1986, assisted on Worcester next goal when a series of nice passes between he and Cory Larose would allow Tom Cavanagh an open angle to beat Rask to knot the game 2-2.

Worcester would grab the lead when Steven Zalewski fed Ryan Vesce, who was all alone, and beat Rask's glove to the top corner to light the lamp.

Unfortunately Worcester came out slow in the third period, and Providence took advantage by tying the game 3-3 when Karsums found Martin St. Pierre just inside the WorSharks blueline. St. Pierre took his time and beat Greiss over the blocker from 35'.

Matt Lashoff would put the Baby-Bs ahead for good when his blast from the point was deflected in front of the net for the 4-3 lead, and Jeremy Reich would ice the victory with an empty net goal for the 5-3 final.

Worcester's scratches were Kyle McLaren, Mike Morris, and Matt Jones.

After the game Riley Armstrong was recalled to San Jose to take the place of Jonathan Cheechoo, who was injured in the second period of San Jose's 6-2 win over Dallas. There is currently no word on the extent of Cheechoo's injury.

The third period wasn't a good one for Bruins' opponents yesterday. Providence scored three against Worcester, and Boston scored five against the New York Islanders in an afternoon matinee. The eight combined goals by one affiliation in a period appears to be a season high.

Claude Lemieux may own the longest two game scoring streak in AHL history. In Lemieux's last AHL game, on March 24, 1986, he had a goal and two assists for the Sherbrooke Canadiens. He was recalled to the NHL after that game, and did not return to the AHL until last night, over 21 years later.

For those paying attention, Lemieux finished the game with an assist, was +2 with four shots, and a two minute minor for hooking.

In the "you get no respect" department...with just under two minutes left in the contest Armstrong and Sobotka were jawing at each other between the benches after all ten players on the ice had gotten together to discuss matters as hockey players do on occasion. Referee Jeff Smith whistled them both for matching penalties. For roughing? Unsportsmanlike conduct? No, for delay of game.

The three stars of the game were
1. Lashoff (gwg,a)
2. Karsums (g,a)
3. Cavanagh (g)
No arguments there.

Worcester began the game with these lines:


WOR 0 3 0 - 3
PRO 2 0 3 - 5

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Providence, M. Karsums (8) (V. Sobotka, M. Lashoff) 5:16 PP, 2. Providence, J. Penner (3) (B. Bitz, P. Schaefer) 12:02
Penalties - P. Traverse Wor (hooking) 4:27, B. Westgarth Wor (fighting) 8:14, J. Reich Pro (fighting) 8:14, C. Lemieux Wor (hooking) 17:05

2nd Period
Scoring - 3. Worcester, J. McGinn (6) (P. Traverse, A. Desjardins) 6:40, 4. Worcester, T. Cavanagh (8) (C. Larose, C. Lemieux) 12:05, 5. Worcester, R. Vesce (2) (S. Zalewski) 14:16
Penalties - R. Armstrong Wor (cross-checking) 0:24, M. St. Pierre Pro (hooking) 4:28, B. Bitz Pro (hooking) 14:53

3rd Period
Scoring - 6. Providence, M. St. Pierre (6) (V. Sobotka, J. Boychuk) 2:52, 7. Providence, M. Lashoff (4) (A. McQuaid, M. Karsums) 16:45, 8. Providence, J. Reich (5) 19:15 EN
Penalties - R. Armstrong Wor (delay of game) 18:03, V. Sobotka Pro (delay of game) 18:03

WOR Shots: 14 15 9 TOTAL: 38
PRO Shots: 12 8 11 TOTAL: 31

Power Play Conversion
Worcester Sharks 0-2. Providence Bruins 1-3.

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 5-6-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:40 SV: 26 GA: 4 [L]

Providence Bruins
Rask 7-5-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 35 GA: 3 [W]

Attendance : 5558. Referee: Jeff Smith (49). Linesmen: Mark Messier (12), Todd Whittemore (19)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

San Jose outlasts Blackhawks 3-2 (OT) after very physical contest, Khabibulin and Johnson injured for Chicago, Sharks home point streak at 13 games

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov photo of return
San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks hockey photo Brad Lukowich Martin Havlat
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin injured

More notes from the San Jose Sharks 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks will be posted soon. A photo gallery from the game is available here. Video highlights from the game are available here.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Gobble Pirates, 4-3

The Worcester Sharks used a three point night from Lukas Kaspar to extend their winning streak to five games after a 4-3 victory over the Portland Pirates Wednesday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine in front of an announced crowd of 3,343.

The WorSharks would get on the board first at 7:21 of the first when a loose puck would pop out of a scrum in front of Portland goaltender Jhonas Enroth and on to the stick of Riley Armstrong at the far post. Armstrong flipped the puck into the open net for the 1-0 lead.

That lead would carry into the first intermission, but not for much longer. Just 23 seconds into the second stanza Portland center Felix Schutz would beat Worcester netminder Taylor Dakers with a 20 foot wrister from between the circles after a three on two rush to knot the game 1-1.

Portland would continue to carry the play for the first half of the second period, but it was Worcester that would score next when Kaspar picked up a drop pass from Brad Staubitz and fired a laser that deflected off a skate in front and through the five hole of Enroth for the 2-1 lead.

Rookie Mike Moore would extend the lead to 3-1 just as a WorSharks power play had ended when he blasted a slapshot from the blue line and just under the crossbar for his second of the season.

Portland defender Mike Kostka would make it 3-2 at 6:32 of the third period on an end to end rush, beating Dakers five hole. Enroth would record the lone assist on the goal, his first point in North America.

Steven Zalewski would bring the lead back to two when he took a Kaspar feed and streaked into the Portland zone, beating Enroth with a hard wrister at 13:46.

Kostka would again drag the Pirates within one with a power play goal at 17:06, but the Pirates could get no closer as Dakers made several nice saves to secure the victory.

Portland started the game with 17 skaters, one under the limit. The Pirates ended the game with just 16 after Jimmy Bonneau injured his hand fighting Brett Westgarth a few moments after Moore's goal.

Worcester's scratches were Kyle McLaren, Mike Morris, and Matt Jones. Recently signed Claude Lemieux isn't eligible to play until Friday.

After out shooting their opponents in the teams first 16 games and going 8-8, Worcester has been outshot in their last two and are 2-0.

Worcester has finally climbed out of the bottom ten for penalty killing, edging up to 19th of 29 teams with an 82.2% killing rate. The Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs) lead the league at 90%, and at the other end of the spectrum is the Rochester Americans (Panthers) at just 75.2%. Worcester's power play is in the exact middle of the pack at 16.8%.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Kaspar (1g,2a,+3)
2. Zalewski (1g,1a,+3)
3. Kostka (2g)
Portland is one of those buildings that always seems to get it right, so no arguments there.

WOR 1 2 1 - 4
POR 0 1 2 - 3

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, R. Armstrong (9) (J. McGinn, D. Joslin) 7:21
Penalties - T. Bouck Por (hooking) 0:52, B. Westgarth Wor (holding) 3:45, B. Buckley Wor (holding) 9:32

2nd Period
Scoring - 2. Portland, F. Schutz (6) (C. Murphy, D. Whitmore) 0:23, 3. Worcester, L. Kaspar (4) (S. Zalewski, B. Staubitz) 12:46, 4. Worcester, M. Moore (2) (L. Kaspar, J. Demers) 15:58
Penalties - R. Vesce Wor (hooking) 4:42, B. Staubitz Wor (interference) 10:09, C. Butler Por (tripping) 13:54, B. Westgarth Wor (fighting) 16:06, J. Bonneau Por (fighting) 16:06

3rd Period
Scoring - 5. Portland, M. Kostka (1) (J. Enroth) 6:32, 6. Worcester, S. Zalewski (4) (R. Vesce, L. Kaspar) 13:46, 7. Portland, M. Kostka (2) (T. Bouck, F. Schutz) 17:01 PP
Penalties - A. Slattengren Por (high-sticking) 10:23, R. Armstrong Wor (roughing) 15:12

WOR Shots: 9 12 9 TOTAL: 30
POR Shots: 7 12 15 TOTAL: 34

Power Play Conversion
Worcester Sharks 0-3. Portland Pirates 1-5.

Worcester Sharks
Dakers 4-0-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 31 GA: 3 [W]

Portland Pirates
Enroth 6-2-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:00 SV: 26 GA: 4 [L]

Attendance : 3343. Referee: Terry Koharski (10). Linesmen: Joe Andrews (32), Scott Whittemore (96)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks morning skate photos, Hawks-Sharks an NHL rivalry of the future?

San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks hockey photo
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin signs autographs for junior hockey team from Oregon

The big news of the day is the return of Evgeni Nabokov in goal for the San Jose Sharks. Injured on the last save of a 5-4 overtime shootout win against St Louis, last year's Vezina finalist watched as backup goaltender Brian Boucher lead the Sharks on a blistering 5-1-1 tear. Nabokov returns to face a Blackhawks lineup that pushed the Sharks to the brink in an entertaining 6-5 win on the road last week in Chicago.

Nabokov admitted being anxious to return to the lineup, and he told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun he noticed a difference between this team and last year's team while watching from the press box. "It seems like it doesn't matter what happens on the ice, we're able to come back or put a team down if we have to." Nabokov said.

The 6-foot tall, 205-pound goaltender from Kazakhstan is the engine that drives this powerful Sharks lineup. More than a single display of skill or talent, it is the confidence and the competitivness from Nabokov that inspires and helps motivate the rest of the team. The nebulous "lower body injury" limited Evgeni to 12 starts, while he registered an impressive 10-2-0 record and a fairly unimpressive 2.71GAA and .891SV% in that span. More important to consider is San Jose's past history finishing seasons. In the final 20 game stretch run over the past 4 years, the Sharks have amassed a 49-22-8-1 record and a .612 winning percentage. The Nabokov futures market is trending up.

At the morning skate the Sharks worked on accepting passes with speed in the neutral zone, creating shooting lanes with movement for point shots, and cycling down low to create scoring chances. The Blackhawks, under the aggressive direction of head coach Joel Quenneville, took several laps skating around the rink. Chicago also worked on creating breakaways, having the defense transition the puck up ice with long passes through the neutral zone, and hard passes around the box in the offensive zone.

The Blackhawks-Sharks game tonight brings up several interesting matchups: two of the best Russian goaltenders of all-time Evgeni Nabokov (.940SV% and 1.34GAA for Russia at the 2006 Winter Olympics, backstopped Russia to a 2008 World Championship gold medal) vs Nikolai Khabibulin (Gold for Team Russia in the 1992 Olympics, Bronze in the 1992 Olympics, Gold for the 1992 World Junior Championships), Brian Campbell vs replacement/upgrade Dan Boyle, a young potent Chicago Blackhawks offense with Kane-Sharp-Versteeg-Toews and the always dangerous Martin Havlat vs the top offensive line of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi and the top offense in the NHL... both lineups are going to be good, and they are going to be good for a long time. This season could set the stage for one of the NHL's best rivalries of the future. The difference? San Jose has a quartet of defenseman who can skate, score, and set up teammates for goals. Very few NHL teams have been able to contain them, fewer still have been able to shut them down.

More pre-game notes:

David Pollak of the SJ Mercury News notes on his blog that Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell had dinner with childhood friend Joe Thornton last night as Chicago arrived in the Bay Area Tuesday night. A trade deadline acquisition last season by general manager Doug Wilson, Campbell deflected any questions about returning to HP Pavilion as a member of the visiting Chicago Blackhawks. Len Ziehm analyzes the move to replace Denis Savard with Joel Quenneville only 4 games into the season for the Chicago Sun Times. Chicago is 3-0 on a traditionally difficult West Coast road trip, they are averaging 4.4 goals a game over their last 5, and a hot Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to start his fourth straight game tonight at HP Pavilion. Ziehm notes the increase speed and energy in Blackhawks practices, but also says that Quenneville has not changed too much too soon on the youngest lineup in the NHL.

In the Chicago Times, Chris Kuc notes that Nikolai Khabibulin is building his case as the #1 goaltender for the Blackhawks. Kuc says that Khabibulin is 7-1-4 overall, and he has helped Chicago earned at least one point in his last 11 starts. Kuc also profiles Chicago's answer to Jeremey Roenick, veteran right wing Craig Adams. Tarik El-Bashir reports that intense Nylander-to-Chicago trade rumors have not impacted the play of Nylander, who has had to deal with trade rumors in the past. Nylander also said he has yet to be approached by the Washington Capitals about waiving his no trade clause. Steve Rosenbloom wants to believe the trade denials by Chicago, and Khabibulin appears to be playing his way out of trade rumors with his recent performance. In addition to landing monster free agent offensive defenseman Brian Campbell in the offseason, the Blackhawks also signed free agent goaltender Cristobal Huet to a four-year $22.5-million contract. Having over $12 million locked up in the goaltenders position has created cap issues, and will result in a constant stream of trade rumors until a move is made.

The Sharks and the Blackhawks both signed autographs as they left the ice for a youth team from Oregon. They were in town to participate in the Silver Stick youth hockey tournament this weekend at Sharks Ice in San Jose. Last week Versus arranged for a blogger interview of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. Toews discussed being one of the NHL's youngest captains along with Sidney Crosby and Vincent LeCavalier, he discussed the resurgence in hockey in Chicago and the upcoming Winter Classic game with Detroit January 1st at Wrigley Field, and he talked about what it was like to have a coaching change only 4 games into the season. "Everyone was shocked because we know it was very early in the season" Toews said. "He is slowly moulding us into his style of team -- a few changes here and there, but it has not been too drastic or too crazy where it gets overwhelming -- I think he has done a great job so far."

[Update] How Blackhawks, Bruins turned it around - Lyle Richardson for

The Blackhawks also recovered from a slow start, climbing to fourth overall in the Western Conference with a 7-1-2 record in their last ten games. Their respective improvement has had a positive impact thus far at the gate for both clubs, particularly the Blackhawks, who after 11 home games this season are the league leaders in attendance. For the first time in years, the roar is back in Chicago...

Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon has been questioned for some of his additions, particularly expensive goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet and injury-prone winger Martin Havlat. He did, however, sign free agent defenseman Brian Campbell, acquired wingers Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and Ben Eager via trades and struck gold in the 2006 and 2007 entry drafts, selecting young stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane respectively.

[Update2] The latest DOH podcast is online. This is the best podcast covering the San Jose Sharks. If you have any question whether or not this was produced in Silicon Valley, visit the about page.

[Update3] Sarah Spain of asked members of the Chicago Blackhawks how they chose their jersey numbers in this video interview. "I was young and I always wore 7, I really liked Ray Bourque growing up but he was 77 and we weren't allowed to wear 77 in minor hockey" Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. Ray Bourque is probably the reason this blog is online. Patrick Sharp had to choose #10 over his customary #9 because that number is retired for Bobby Hull in Chicago. Kris Versteeg said he would never pick #32, but Sharp has his #10. Thanks to Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski for the link.

[Update4] From Amber, Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show interviewed AHL Springfield Falcons defenseman and Edmonton Oilers prospect Tim Sestito yesterday. Their discussion also covered the ECHL Stockton Thunder. The 15 minute clip is available for download here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hockey Notes - 11/25

- This is a classic youtube video of HC Kladno "golman" Miroslav Kopriva charging out of the crease to stuff a penalty shot by Sparta left wing Petr Ton in the Czech Extraliga. After stacking his pads above the faceoff circles to make the save, he throws off his helmet, pulls his own undershirt over his head, and slams his goalie stick back and forth on the ice.

There are goaltenders who make a save with flair and style, and then there is Miroslav Kopriva. Blue collar Kladno is struggling to be a .500 team this year as they are well down in the standings, but they may be worth an internet stream look to see the Sean Avery of goaltenders perform live.

Boston University hockey photo 1951 life magazine google Yale Joel

- Earlier this month Google opened up an online collection of Life Magazine images from the 1750's to today. According to a press release, as many as 97% of the photos have never before been seen by the public. Google software engineer Paco Galanes noted in a post on the official google blog that today 20% of the Life Images collection is online, but when it is complete it may encompass as many as 10 million photos.

Included in the archive are many, many excellent examples of classic hockey photography. There will be more research into the contributing photographers on this blog, but for now the images offer a look back at an earlier era. Popular search terms for photos include: nhl, ice hockey, hockey, Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks.

In a previous visit to the Library of Congress, hockey photos from early 20th century hockey photographers were available for viewing. Not very many have been scanned and made available online, but there are several Chicago Daily News images of the Chicago Blackhawks from the 20-30's available in the American Memories collection.

- 2008 NHL Allstar Game voting update 11/25: A trio of Detroit Red Wings lead all forwards in the Western Conference, Marian Hossa (176,848), Pavel Datsyuk (171,678), and Henrik Zetterberg (168,078). Sharks center Joe Thornton is currently 7th with 84,067 votes. Patrick Marleau (59,461) and Devin Setoguchi (16,792) are not in the top 10. Dan Boyle is in 3rd place among defenseman (92,279), and Rob Blake is in 9th (69,428). Both trail Nicklas Lidstrom who is nearly 50,000 votes of the next highest defenseman. Evgeni Nabokov (81,592) trails Roberto Luongo and Chris Osgood for goaltenders.

The Montreal Canadians 6-pack still lead every starting position in the Eastern Conference. Alexei Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Alex Tanguay, Andrei Markov, Mike Komisarek, and Carey Price all have comfortable leads in ASG voting. Cast your Allstar ballots here.

- Worcester Telegram and Gazette beat reporter Bill Ballou broke the news this weekend that 43-year-old former Conn Smythe winning right wing Claude Lemieux was going to attempt a return with the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester. Lemieux won Stanley Cups in 1986, 1995, 1996, and 2000 with Montreal, New Jersey and Colorado. In 1,197 games played for five different NHL teams, Lemieux amassed 379 goals, 785 points and 1,756 penalty minutes.

The legendary agitator played a few games earlier this season with San Jose's affiliate in the Asian Hockey League, the China Sharks. In a conversation with the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek, San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson said this was a decision for the AHL Worcester Sharks and general manager Wayne Thomas. Duhatschek paraphrased Wilson in effect saying the Sharks were providing him a place to play to determine if a comeback could be possible, but that it was not a move made for the parent San Jose Sharks club. Doug Wilson was also described as knowing Claude Lemieus for years. In 2005 Claude Lemieux became the president of the ECHL Phoenix Roadrunners franchise. The Sharks moved their ECHL affiliation from the Fresno Falcons to Phoenix the next season.

The Sharks have relied on veteran experience to balance its young and talented roster. Jeremy Roenick was pulled out of retirement, Sandis Ozolinsh and Brian Boucher also provided spot contributions when needed last season. Mark Emmons noted in the San Jose Mercury News that Claude Lemieux signed a PTO with Worcester, a professional tryout contract, that allowed for a maximum of 25 games. Emmons notes that the PTO can be renewed once.

- posted an excellent profile of bruising Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray yesterday: Murray: An Intimidating Presence. The 6-foot-3, 240 pound Cornell grad's propensity for monstear pancake hits was covered thoroughly, but also mentioned was how Murray has refined his game to provide the Sharks with smart fundamental defensive play in their own zone. He uses his size to his advantage moving players out of the crease or winning battles in the corner, but he also makes simple plays to clear the zone and positions himself between attackers and the net. Last year along with Christian Ehrhoff he was the most improved defenseman on the team. San Jose general manager Doug Wilson quickly signed him to a contract through 2012-13.

Murray's reputation now precedes him before every contest. "Shane O’Brien (a teammate in Tampa Bay) told me he was one of the more effective hitters out here," said Brad Lukowich. "In Tampa Bay we weren’t really a physical defense. We had a lot of skill"...

"With his gear on, I think he's 260 pounds," laughed Ryane Clowe. "In the AHL, he hit (Jiri) Hudler so hard, I thought they would have to scrape him out of the rafters."

Murray got into Alexander Ovechkin's head on Saturday night. For stretches of the third period, Ovechkin was focused on Murray trying to line him up for a big check. It was reminiscent of the 1-on-1 battles between Murray and Jarome Iginla in the first round WCQF playoff series with the Calgary Flames. Opposing players are starting to take down his number.

- The St Louis Blues traded their fourth leading scorer, right wing Lee Stempniak, to the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday for underperforming former first rounders Alexander Steen (2002) and Carlo Colaiacovo (2001). Stempniak had a rough start to the season, registering a single assist in his first 6 games. In his last 8 games he has been scoring at well over a point a game pace, registering 3 goals and 12 points. According to Jeremy Rutherford in the St Louis Post Dispatch, Blues President John Davidson said of the trade "We looked at our club and we're trying to improve it a step at a time here. Lee was good for us, without question, but we're in a position to add what we think will be upside for us".

- David Shoalts in Toronto's Globe and Mail notes that a deal to bring in Brian Burke as general manager is almost done. Shoalts speculates that a term sheet offered to Burke detailed a 6-year deal with an annual salary of $3-million or more. TSN hockey analyst Bob McKenzie is on Burke Watch, calling for the former Ducks general manager to be hired by Toronto by early next week at the "absolute" latest. Damien Cox in the Toronto Star calls it a done deal, with the only detail still under negotiation being whether he reports to a senior executive or to the entire MLSE board. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun notes that Burke will probably bring his former assistant in Vancouver Dave Nonis with him to Toronto. Burke and current Leafs head coach Ron Wilson were teammates at Providence college under Lou Lamoriello.

- Problems between the pipes, Vesa Toskala and Curtis Joseph have been one of the leagues worst goaltending tandems - James Mirtle for the Toronto Globe and Mail.

- There has been plenty of quality reading in the blogoshere over the last week. Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski pointed to an avalanche of quality content from the Sports Business Journal. The subsciption based magazine opened up access to articles on Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold talking about the economic downturn, an internal feud between NHLPA head Paul Kelly and ombudsman Eric Lindros, another forward reaching move by the Washington Capitals to produce their own 32-minute television show, and a Tripp Mickle feature on the 1-year anniversary of Commissioner Gary Bettman's XM radio show.

Longtime Philadelphia Flyers beat writer Tim Panaccio spoke with Matt of the 700 Level about leaving the Phidelphia Inquirer to write for the web, how the move has not changed how he reports on the NHL, how he balanced writing for Comcast and writing for, and problems new Philadelphia Inquirer sports editor Jim Cohen had with hockey (calling it an "irrelevant sport"). On San Jose based Mike Chen profiled franchise players Marian Gaborik and David Legwand, noting the different type of frustration facing each player's organization. On the's Sporting Blog, Eric McErlain interviews me about the hot start by the San Jose Sharks. No mention of Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, but a few thoughts on several of the other players driving the San Jose Sharks this season. There are too many to mention in one sitting this year.

Charles Krug 27 liter primat bottle

- Morton's Steakhouse in San Jose is auctioning off a team autographed 27-liter primat bottle of Charles Krug wine as part of a silent auction to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The rare bottle can hold the equivalent of 36 standard bottles of wine, over 180 glasses, and it is signed by the entire San Jose Sharks 2008-09 team. The auction also includes a dinner-for-8 from Morton's at your home.

The bottle was designed by Peter Mondavi Jr's old engineering professor from Stanford University, and it is valued at over $2000. It contains 27 liters of a Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. The current bid for charity is $4500.

For more information visit, or to place a bid call 408-947-7000.

[Update] The Worcester Sharks clarified a reporting error regarding Claude Lemieux this afternoon in a press release. Lemieux needs to clear the 72-hour AHL waiver process before he can join the team (a waiver process ending Friday, Nov. 28th).

The full press release:

Worcester Sharks sign Claude Lemieux to an AHL Contract

WORCESTER - Worcester Sharks General Manager Wayne Thomas announced today that the club has signed right wing Claude Lemieux to an American Hockey League contract.

“Claude called and inquired about resuming his hockey career and we have given him an opportunity to pursue it with Worcester,” said Thomas. “He is here to help this team win games.” Lemieux will now need to pass through the 72-hour AHL waiver process, which would conclude on Fri., Nov. 28.

Lemieux, a 20-year NHL veteran with Montreal, New Jersey, Colorado, Phoenix and Dallas, is a four-time Stanley Cup Champion. He is one of only eight players in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams (Montreal, New Jersey, Colorado).

“I would like to thank Wayne Thomas and the Worcester Sharks for the opportunity to show I can still play this game at a high level,” said Lemieux. “I look forward to meeting my new teammates and helping Worcester on the ice.”

The six-foot, 215-pound right wing has posted 785 points (379 goals, 406 assists) and 1756 penalty minutes in 1197 NHL games. In 233 Stanley Cup playoff games, he added 158 points (80 goals, 78 assists) and 529 penalty minutes. His 80 Stanley Cup playoff goals rank him ninth all-time in NHL history.

Claude will wear #32 with the Worcester Sharks.

The Sharks continue their four game road trip in search of their 5th straight win when they travel to Portland for a Wednesday evening game (7:00 p.m.) Worcester will then play at Providence for a Friday night tilt at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center at 7:05 p.m. The Sharks return home to play Bridgeport on Saturday (7:05 p.m.) and Lowell on Sunday (4:05 p.m.).

Be sure not to miss any of the action of the 2008-09 Worcester Sharks season and buy your tickets today! Fans can also purchase tickets to the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications. Purchases can be made by visiting the box office, contacting the Worcester Sharks office at 508.929.0500, or by crashing the net at

All games can be heard live on 580AM and 94.9FM WTAG, as well as online through AHL Live, by following the link on the Sharks website at

[Update2] Nabokov itching to get back into net for Sharks - ESPN.

"It's always frustrating," Nabokov said. "Not to be able to go on the ice and play and even work out for a bit. But it's easier when the boys are winning. Now I'm anxious to get back in there." But the press-box view allowed Nabokov to soak in his team's performance. After yet another playoff disappointment last spring, Nabokov, like us, sees a different team.

"The biggest thing is how confident the team is," he said. "It seems like it doesn't matter what happens on the ice; we're able to come back or put a team down if we have to. I think the Chicago game was a great example -- when we were down 5-4 and came back and won. And the other night against Washington, we were up 4-2 and were able to score three more goals to not even give them a chance to come back. That's a good sign. I think that confidence is what separates us from last year a bit."

More from the AP here.

[Update3] A photo from this blog of Claude Lemieux being checked by defenseman Mike Rathje in 2003. Lemieux registered 8 goals and 12 assists in 68 games played for the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars in his last NHL season in 2002-03. Overlooked in a lot of online comments is the return of sophmore center Torrey Mitchell in early to mid December after suffering a leg injury in training camp. Mitchell was one of the best defensive players last season, a catalyst on many nights when the Sharks came out flat, and a player who rivals Patrick Marleau for sheer speed. Lemieux would have to knock two players out of the lineup in order to be a Shark, not one. It is more likely his time in Worcester is an audition for other NHL clubs that could use him.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Max Giese: Sharks Prospects Update - The Daniels Twins

The San Jose Sharks drafted twin brothers Justin and Drew Daniels at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Justin was the Sharks' first selection of the draft, 62nd overall, and has been averaging close to an assist a game while playing for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL this season. His brother Drew was the Sharks last selection of the draft, 194th overall, and has been providing a consistent physical game for the Musketeers. Both brothers are set to play for the Northeastern Huskies next season and promising prospects within the Sharks developmental system. I was able to catch both of them this past weekend for myself and filed these scouting reports for McKeen's Hockey.

Justin Daniels (SJS), C, Sioux City Musketeers
Finesse play-maker with an intriguing skill-set, but one that needs to add strength to be able to handle the higher levels of play .. swift skater that boasts good speed with the puck and long strides .. has soft hands and rangy puck handling skills that stimulate his ability to be slippery in congested areas and escape out of them in possession .. his outstanding vision and patience are what stands out most from his game, as he’s a terrific play-maker that is averaging nearly an assist a game .. one-dimensional at this time in the way he always looks to pass and he must begin to take the puck to the net himself and shoot more .. defensively comes deep into his own zone to support in coverage and his marking skills are adequate on the back-check, although he must increase his level of focus and begin to sustain proper defensive positioning .. not scared or timid about the physical game, however he routinely gets pushed around and knocked off of his feet because of his slight build .. receiving decent ice-time and is a fixture on the power-play .. adding more strength is the key to future success.

Drew Daniels (SJS), RW, Sioux City Musketeers
Was drafted four rounds later than his twin brother, is not as skilled or as fast as Justin yet .. adequate skater out of the gates and his stride has decent strength behind it, doesn’t possess a dynamic gear .. hands are good enough to allow him to maintain control of the puck in traffic, shots have velocity and bite, he is more of a grinder than a skill forward .. receives time on the penalty-kill and he does a good job winning puck battles along the wall, aids in breaking the puck out of his own end .. gritty and physical, Drew's game should begin to blossom once he adds requisite strength.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Capitals shellshocked after 7-2 drubbing by San Jose, Sharks home point streak reaches 12 games

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski Washington Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson
Washington Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson left wing Alexander Ovechkin photo
San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Lukowich Washington Capitals captain center Chris Clark photo

There is a set of train tracks bordering the North side of HP Pavilion. Win or lose, 15 minutes after the final horn a train filled to the brim with Sharks fans heads up the San Francisco peninsula. This season the Shark train has been a celebratory one. Fans have yet to depart San Jose after a loss in regulation in 12 straight home games at HP Pavilion. That would continue with a 7-2 thrashing of the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin on Saturday night.

The Shark train inside HP Pavilion also continued to roll. The top offense in the NHL exploded for 7 goals despite being held without a shot in the first 9 minutes of play. San Jose has been consistent in its inconsistency. Prior to the game you do not know what you will see from the San Jose Sharks. You do not know if you will see a goaltender's duel, an offensive shootout, a physical game trying to wear down an opponent and capitalize on a late mistake, or trying to overcome late mistakes of their own. The major consistent element of the Sharks season to date has been their ability to find ways to win. They have more wins (17), more points (35), and more goals (80) than any other team in the NHL, and they have the most balanced offensive attack in the team's 17-year franchise history.

The Capitals limped into San Jose with scoring leader Alexander Semin and dynamic offensive-defenseman Mike Green out with injuries. Catalyst Sergei Fedorov returned from an ankle injury, but it was aggravated during the first period and he did not come out for the second. On the third game of a California west coast swing, the Capitals had the odds stacked against them. The Capitals were winless in their last 10 games at HP Pavilion (now 11), winless in San Jose since 1993 (2-0 at the Cow Palace), and Alexander Ovechkin had yet to register a point against his favorite childhood team.

Washington started each period with a perfect gameplan, controlling the play and creating scoring chances. The Capitals held the Sharks without a shot on goal for 9 minutes in the first period, and dominated the faceoff circle winning 16 of 20 draws. Alexander Ovechkin was as advertised, explosive on the puck and looking to ring up a big hit without it. In the second period a turnover by Boucher created an early scoring opportunity for center Brooks Laich. The Capitals pressed hard in the Sharks zone for the first 1:20 of the period, but they could not put a puck past Boucher. Ovechkin was shown on the Sharks television broadcast yelling at his teammates on the bench to motivate them. The Sharks only had 1 shot in the first 6 minutes of the second period, but almost 9 minutes in they did not have a shot on goal from closer than 46 feet. Michael Nylander took an ill advised holding penalty, and Joe Thornton deflected a puck for a goal that seemed to deflate the energy from Washington. Head coach Bruce Boudreau said that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

More of the same in the third, Washington started the period with hard skating and executing simple plays. They could not sustain it for 20 minutes. The Capitals started on the penalty kill, but David Steckel unloaded a hard shot short-handed that hit the post. Devin Setoguchi was called for a 2 minute hooking penalty at 1:35, and the Capitals put on a power play passing clinic leading to a goal by Tomas Fleischmann. Washington connected with 14 straight passes up high and down low, before a laser from Ovechkin on the point found Fleischmann on the right doorstep. After careless back-to-back penalties by defenseman Tom Poti and John Erskine, the Sharks scored 22 seconds later on a 5-on-3 with Clowe hammering home the rebound of a Rob Blake point shot. The Sharks would keep pressing until they finished with a decisive 7-2 win, extending their point streak at home to 12 games.

More game notes:

The Sharks battled rust after a 4 day layoff, but they continued to skate hard and eventually it paid off. San Jose scored 3 goals on only 5 shots in the first period. Patrick Marleau scored on a slick feed from Dan Boyle, while Ryane Clowe flicked a puck that bounced off traffic. Capitals defenseman Shaone Morrisonn deflected it into his own goal. Devin Setoguchi scored his 12th of the season at 15:45 on assists by Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Tom Poti scored early in the second period for Washington, but it was quickly answered on the power play by Joe Thornton. Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored in the second period on a booming slapshot that beat Brent Johnson up high. Jonathan Cheechoo forced an errant pass up the boards from behind the net, and then Cheechoo and Marleau combined to force a turnover. The puck was passed up to Rob Blake on the point, and before he received the pass Cheechoo and Marleau were already moving to the front of the net. After Vlasic's goal, Johnson reacted as if he could not see the shot.

A scoring change was made after the game on Ryane Clowe's third period goal, giving an assist to Milan Michalek and Rob Blake. Dan Boyle's assist was removed, and for the second time a Sharks franchise record 8 assists by defenseman was removed post-game by the scorers table. Shortly before Mike Greir's third period goal during a tv timeout, center Jeremy Roenick reached through a photo hole and ate a bar of a young boy's Kit-Kat bar. He winked at the kid, then won a faceoff and later assisted on Grier's 3rd goal of the season. Brian Boucher made 19 saves on 21 shots, bumping his record up to 7-1-1. Evgeni Nabokov returned to the lineup to back up Boucher, and he is expected to start Wednesday against Chicago.

Interesting note from the Washington broadcast, Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau and Todd McLellan were linemates with the AHL Springfield Indians from 1987-89. Boudreau scored 70 goals and 180 points during that time, McLellan 25 goals and 70 points. Boudreau lead the AHL in scoring in 1988 and finished winning the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award for sportsmanship and perseverance. McLellan told the Caps broadcasters he learned a lot about offense from Boudreau. When Boudreau was asked if he learned anything from McLellan, he said "no, he was a rookie". Boudreau won the Jack Adams award as the best coach in the NHL last season. McLellan has to be odds on favorite for that award this season. Former San Francisco Giants first baseman J.T. Snow was a guest on the Sharks television broadcast. Snow attended a Sharks practice on Friday, donning goalie pads to take shots from Jeremy Roenick, and learning how to fight with Jody Shelley. On learning to fight with Shelley, "I primed him for his fight with Brashear".

The Sharks now have a 1-0 record in their new Seagate BlackArmor third jersey introduced on Friday. Devin Setoguchi plugged Seagate in the post-game television wrap-up, and then turned to reporters with a smile before answering questions about fighting night in and night out to remain on the top line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. Setoguchi said there was a long line of players who wanted that spot on the top line. Setoguchi is tied with Patrick Marleau for the scoring lead with 24 points, but the sophmore right wing leads the team with 12 goals. The Sharks fans were keeping themselves entertained in the third period on Saturday night. After two failed attempts, the lower and upper bowls created their own waves. For the first time at HP Pavilion, a loud chant of "We're number 1" was also heard from the crowd.

David Steckel tried to check 240-pound defenseman Douglas Murray against the boards in the first period and got a lesson in force equals mass times acceleration. Donald Brashear applied the proper amount of each shortly afterward, checking Murray to the ice behind his own net. Later in the period, Brashear and Jody Shelley dropped the gloves for their first heavyweight matchup against each other in the NHL. Brashear celebrated after the fight, and Shelley voiced his displeasure by banging his stick off the glass in the penalty box twice. In the second period Alexander Ovechkin pulled up on a puck dumped into the corner. He decided to dump the puck to his right and bailed out on his left with a hard charging Douglas Murray coming in from behind. A running feud emerged between Ovechkin and Murray in the third period. Ovechkin hammered the large Cornell grad with a check against the end boards, but he missed on several other opportunities and at times seemed to focus soley on Murray in the offensive zone.

Two notes about X's and O's. Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau noted after the game that his team needs to simplify its efforts when several key contributors are out of the lineup. He said the Caps need to make short passes, not long passes that can create turnovers against a good trapping team in the neutral zone. On the third period power play goal by Tomas Fleischmann, the Caps were following orders. The players set up two outlets, resulting in two successive passes to open up more room on the power play. Almost a one-timer pass. On the same play, the Capitals did it again allowing more time for the defenseman on the point to get into position. Noticeable from the Sharks was their "dump-in with a purpose" philosophy. Again and again, players were moving towards a corner in the offensive zone before a teammate dumped the puck in there. Todd McLellan has placed an emphasis on puck retrival. The endless San Jose comparisons to Detroit have become weary, but radio analyst Jamie Baker offered a nugget a few games ago. He noted that Sharks defenseman fire a shot/pass to a forward in the high slot, a classic Red Wings play. It creates mismatches and 2-on-1's, and sets the table for the large San Jose forwards to jump on rebound opportunities.

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

[Update] Sharks rout Capitals 7-2 - SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] Caps Take a Pounding In Visit to Shark Tank - Washington Post.

The San Jose Sharks are the best team in the NHL and they're almost unbeatable in front of the raucous crowds that routinely pack HP Pavilion. Saturday night, the Sharks showed the Washington Capitals all that makes them so dominant.

Patrick Marleau became the sixth opposing player to score on his team's first shot, and San Jose, wearing its all black alternate uniforms for the first time, steamrolled the Capitals, 7-2, before a sell-out crowd of 17,496.

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan against Washington

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

"I thought the first half of the game we were sluggish, we didn't skate well. We definitely were not the better team in the first 30 minutes, but we found a way to get our legs and finally get moving and we were fortunate to be up when we were. As a coaching staff, we were a little bit concerned but we tried to skate and get the guys feeling good but it is never the same when you have that many days off. But it is a lesson to be learned. This could very well be a playoff series where you are waiting for a team to come in. You can't start that way. You have to find a way to be productive early."

"It is tough, there are only so many things you can do. You can't skate forever. Chicago is a good skating team. We will give them a rest and then go back and practice for a couple of days. Chicago is a good skating team so we better have our legs early."

"The reward at the end of the night, not for the coach but for the players themselves, is the fact that they had a 7-2 win. I really believe that most of the players found a way to contribute tonight offensively as well as defensively. I am sure if you asked them they were not real pleased with how they felt to start this game. As a coach you are always looking for perfection and you would like to polish that bit of the game up. The three goal lead allowed us to find our legs. I don't know what would have happened if we were down 1 or 2, we would have been in a lot of trouble. Scoring first and playing with a lead allowed us to work our way into the game. At the end of the night it was there."

"There is a penalty there for that (Joe Thornton spraying ice on goaltender Brent Johnson). I haven't seen it called before. It is in the rulebook and the referees chose to call it. I believe it was an unsportsmanlike penalty for spraying snow on the goaltender. As coaches, we want our players to go to the net and stop net front, the call could have gone either way and they chose to call it."

"I believe (balanced scoring) is essential for any team to win a championship. I have been there first hand to see it where you fourth line and third line can contribute offensively. It is a must, and it is something we are going to continue to strive for as the year goes on."

"Jody (Shelley) does what Jody does, and he does it very well. There is not a day goes by where we do not appreciate having Jody Shelley in the locker room, on the airplane, on the ice. He is very good at what he does. We all know him in the policeman's role but he also 5-on-5 in many situations and he has been involved in some of the scoring lately which is also nice."

"You would like to think that the leadership will not let (complacency) happen. As coaches we have to keep holding the players accountable. Again we are not naive enough to think it is going to be this way all the way through. We are going to have some adversity, and adversity will not be a bad thing for our hockey club."

"Nabby on Wednesday."

Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudrea

Post-game comments by Washington Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau:

"I don't know if the wheels fell off after the first goal, despite being down 3-0 after one I thought we played pretty well in the first period. They got three goals on five shots. I thought all the shots were extremely well placed. It sounds stupid, but I thought we made three or four mistakes, and they're the kind of team that you make mistakes, they'll capitalize right away. They are that good. We have been getting away with two or three mistakes, and it hasn't hurt us. Tonight it hurt us."

"We did what we wanted to do. I don't think we gave them a shot for the first 9 minutes. For a team that averages 38 shots on goal a game I thought that was pretty good. After that, when you are behind against a team like this what do you do. Do you play to win, or play to not make it any worse. We wanted to play to continue to try to get some goals. We scored a goal, then they scored a goal right away on a power play. The fourth goal (by Joe Thornton) was the one that sunk us, I thought."

"It is really deflating (to have one of your own players fumble the puck into his own net). He struggled. He gave the puck away just before that. He gave it away a couple of times before that. The biggest thing when you are down a couple of guys, you need your best players to be your best players. I don't think our best players were our best players tonight."

"For no apparent reason. It has been a downfall of ours. We try to simplify our game, have short passes and not long passes that can create those easy turnovers when you have a good trapping team in the neutral zone. We can't go out there and make them make the passes. They are professional NHL players, they have to be able to make that play."

"The Sharks are real good right now. They are very opportunistic. They are a team you can't make a mistake against. If you make a mistake, it is where it is. Look at how many goals they have scored in recent games. In Calgary six, six in Chicago, four in Nashville, seven tonight. All three lines can score, and their fourth line got a couple tonight as well. They are good."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals preview by and AOL Fanhouse's Eric McErlain

Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin

A preview of tonight's San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals game from Eric McErlain of,,, and AOL Fanhouse.

[Q] Alexander Ovechkin is the NHL's reigning "Rocket" Richard Trophy winner, Art Ross Trophy winner, Hart Memorial Trophy winner, and Lester B. Pearson Award winner after scoring 65 goals and 112 points in 82 games for the Capitals last season. How would you gauge Ovechkin's playoff performance in the first round against Philadelphia last season? What kind of expectations were placed on him, and did he deliver?

[EM] In playoff hockey, the standard of excellence is generally judged to be one point per game, and Ovechkin managed 4 goals and 5 assists in the seven games series. This was despite the fact that Kimmo Timonen played the series of his career against Ovechkin and generally kept him in check early in the series.

For me, the lasting impression of Ovechkin from that series will always be him stripping the puck off the stick of Lasse Kukkonen and scoring the winning goal in Game One of the series. Only superstars score goals like that one, and that's exactly what Ovechkin is.

[Q] Ovechkin appears to be as enthusiastic and as colorful off the ice as he is with the puck on it. What impact has Ovechkin had on the non-hockey media in Washington? What are a couple of examples of Ovechkin showing up on a media outlet where you might not expect a hockey player?

[EM] The man is on billboards all over the city promoting the Hair Cuttery, an East Coast hair salon. You can't miss Ovechkin, the ads are in the Metro, on the sides of buses and in the bus shelters.

[Q] The Capitals emerged from a slugfest in Anaheim on Wednesday with a 6-4 win, and looked a little weary late in the game against Los Angeles in a 5-2 loss. How do you think the travel will effect Washington against the largest lineup in the NHL on Saturday? Next week the Caps have 4 games in 6 days, how do you think the amount of travel West Coast teams have to do regularly would effect teams in the Eastern Conference over an 82 game season?

[EM] Don't ask me, ask the owner.

Everyone knows the Caps are not a physical team, and Anaheim certainly gave them a beating on Wednesday that left a heck of a hangover against the Kings. Something tells me GM George McPhee will address this prior to the trade deadline.

As to how West Coast travel schedules would affect East Coast teams, I can only guess. I think players adjust to what they have to deal with, though if I were in the league, I think I'd opt to play in the East. Something tells me that all that travel has to take a couple of years off your career.

[Q] What is the situation in goal for the Capitals? Prior to Brent Johnson's minor hip injury he reeled off 4 straight starts, 3 against tough Carolina and New York Rangers teams. Will Johnson be given a shot at a #1 role if he does well, or will there be a rotation throughout the season?

[EM] This has become something of a running joke in the postgame press conferences. Bruce Boudreau always gets asked if Johnson has done enough to prove he deserves to be the #1 goalie and he always finds a way to dodge the question.

The fact is that Theodore's play has been erratic at best, and that's left an opening for Johnson, who quite conveniently is in the last year of his contract with the Caps. Boudreau is going to stay with the rotation until one goalie or another decisively proves that he isn't up to the job.

[Q] What has been the impact of longtime Capital Olaf Kolzig's depature from Washington to Tampa Bay? How would you describe the style of Johnson or Theodore in net compared to Kolzig? Isn't there a law against a goalie having the #60?

[EM] Kolzig will always be loved in Washington, and plenty of fans are still steamed at the way he was shown the door last season. Then again, Kolzig deserves more than a bit of the blame with the way he acted starting with a midseason interview with Mike Wise of the Washington Post where he seemed to make it clear that he wasn't exactly comfortable with the way Boudreau was handling him. In short, he didn't cover himself in glory on the way out the door.

Kolzig is huge, and relied plenty on his size to cover lots of the net, and wasn't afraid to do what he had to do in order to intimidate anyone who crowded his crease. In later years, he seemed to lose some lateral speed from post to post and developed a problem with rebound control.

As for Johnson, he relies more on his quickness and a good glove hand. And while Kolzig had that rebound conrol problem, Johnson has brought welcome relief in that area.

[Q] Can you summarize Washington's defensive and offensive styles in one brief sentence each?

[EM] Defensively: Tenacity of the forecheck (ask Vancouver) combined with sound fundamentals. Offensively: Attack and keep attacking.

[Q] What is the injury status of Alexander Semin? What has lead to his breakout season this year?

[EM] Semin won't play tonight in San Jose. Reports are that he's got some kind of shoulder injury/upper back strain according to Caps beat writer Tarik el-Bashir.

As to why he's playing so well, it certainly seems like a switch has been flipped inside the kid. His talent has always been undeniable, it's been his desire and commitment to the game that have been questioned, something that often manifested itself in defensive breakdowns and taking stupid penalties at exactly the wrong time.

But this year, he's not only turned up the heat offensively, he's playing a better rounded and more defensively sound game. His work in his own zone has radically improved, and he's logging minutes on the penalty kill as well. The safest thing to say is that he's finally matched his talent with commitment and tenacity.

Interview with Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis about technology and the NHL

Washington Capitals owner, WNBA Washington Mystics owner, Washington Wizards co-owner, AOL vice chairman emeritus, creator, Nanking and Kicking It film producer, and Ted's Take blogger Ted Leonsis answered several questions about technology and the National Hockey League on Friday.

Leonsis discussed how the Washington Capitals have been on the forefront integrating technology into their day-to-day business operations, how the official team website has become the primary doorway to reach the Caps fan base, how the media coverage and blog coverage of the Washington Capitals have changed the way fans read about the team, one thing he would like to change about the Blogger Code of Ethics created by Eric McErlain, how the Washington Capitals have used facebook as a marketing tool to a younger audience, how technology has rapidly changed the face of modern scouting, what he thinks the lasting impact will be after financing a trip to cover the 2007 World Championships in Russia for 2 bloggers and 2 team writers, and the state of the traditional newspaper business model among other topics.

A partial transcript of his comments:

[Q] How have the Capitals utilized technology in their day-to-day operations?

[TL] The Washington Capitals, and (the San Jose Sharks), are two teams that really looked as ourselves as a business enterprise. We lifted up, put the internet underneath, and then slammed it back down so it is the powerplant the pretty much drives everything that we do. We should also note the both teams had a coach in common, Ron Wilson, who is very technology savvy.

We were very cognizant of who were our constituents and stakeholders within our value chain and infrastructure. You start at employees, and we had the business side employees, we had the players, we had the scouts, we did an audit of every single stakeholder and how could we reach them, how could we give them the tools. We did what you do when you take over a new company, we said how can we use technology to our competitive advantage. The programs ranged, from back in the day, giving every player a laptop computer and an email address. It seems now that the NHLPA has gotten more advanced, not every one of them had a computer then, not every one of them had an email address, not every one of them knew how to read messageboards, or how to get involved. That was only 8 years ago. The world has changed so dramatically, that is how fundamental it was.

We had to give all of the scouts laptops, we then had to be one of the first companies to push and develop a video architecture so we could exchange video files and DVDs. We were the first, or one of the first, to give all of the scouts video Ipods. We are constantly trying to find ways to make their jobs faster, better, more efficient, more enjoyable. [Q] What was it like for the scouts before that?

[TL] They would have to go on the road, type up a report and mail it in. Now they type in a report and it is sent instantly to everybody. They can even shoot video and exchange it. We can edit video files and share it with everybody so they have instant contact. We have a data file, kind of a library of all the scouts recommendations throughout the years, and how they did when they came into the pros. Was their analysis when this kid was 16, 17, 18 did it still hold true when he was 20, 21, and 22. We have reams and reams of that kinds of data.

[Q] Do you think it is possible, as some have said about the Islanders, to go all in on video scouting or do you need to have eyes on the players?

[TL] I think it is a combination of both. I don't think you can do one without the other.

Some other things we have done, we were the first time to hire a capologist. And we have all of the data compiled of everyone's contract around the league, and when it ages, where a team is at the cap, and we have it on the right people's fingertips. We feel that if we have that information, and it is accurate and real-time, and it is accessible to the people who need to see it, that that gives us an advantage.

We were also the first team in the league to do our own podcast. Mike (Vogel) and the team, we lead there. We were the first team in the league to use Facebook, and we use Facebook as a way to activate fan clubs. I am on Facebook as an owner. When we do our, we look to see where we are on ticket sales, then if it is a Tuesday night or if we know a next Wednesday game before a holiday is not sold out, we will do a college rush night. We will be able to say the first 500 students, the first 700 students, whatever the number is, and we blast it out on Facebook. We will sell 500, 1000, 1500 tickets just using Facebook.

[Q] What do you think teams might adopt in the future, a couple of years down the line, that they are not using now?

[TL] I think you are going to see a lot more work in outreach, more marketing, more use of databases. I think you will also see more third party, city-based networks being developed with teams being big partners. It is not outrageous for me to think that one day advertisers will be able to buy a network of websites that includes the Washington Post, the Washington Times, NBC in DC, the Washington Caps, the Washington Wizards, the building. People you would not think of collaborating may engage in "coopitition". There will be a lot there.

I also think a lot of the things we are doing with merchandise and sales, last minute gifts, you will see that perfected. We will start to get into the database of the ticketing engine, where if you have last minute tickets available for a game that people thought was sold out, there will be a mobile alert. People will be opting in.

I also think you will see the league start to program more for the web. I predicted 5 years ago that most newspaper companies would become primarily web publishers. Print properties would exist to promote the website. We have already seen U.S. News and World Report, the Christian Science Monitor, you are seeing that happening (print properties moving to the web). I can see that happening. You will see teams look at broadband and the web as the primary media for the league, with television and print being supportive of the primary programming that we do.

The Caps are one of the top selling teams in the league with regards to merchandise, we have great fans. We have great stars, but our audience is now global. I was the first owner to use email, the first to be on messageboards, the first to create a blogosphere.

[Q] The Capitals website is the doorway to its fans. It has been one of the top websites in the league for many years with a mix of content and functionality. What has worked best on the site?

[TL] We try. We think the website is a living dynamic expression of what the team and the franchise is all about. We try very hard to be innovators and leaders, and we are very open minded to suggestions from the audience. We get emails that say can you put the schedule in this kind of format, or how about a themed browser, or can you do more video. A lot of the website features were designed by the audience itself.

You asked me in your email about what we would have done differently about the bloggers manifesto we did with Eric (McErlain). In hindsight, what we should have done was make it a wiki where bloggers and media and press people could be adding to it, and making it a living breathing body of work.

[Q] Was it difficult, I think at one point several teams had an American Eagle template, was it difficult to migrate the Capitals website to the template?

[TL] It was work, for the staff. It was a big, big change. I was one of the advocates for it. I grew up at AOL, I saw the power of scale. I also saw how teams were being marginalized trying to negotiate their own technology licensing deals, and their own partnerships deals. By going to a singular platform, you might lose a little bit of flexibility. There might be a difficult one time changeover. But scale and size matter. 30 teams in the league collaborating economically would be able to negotiate much better deals than individual teams on a singular basis.

[Q] That is what I believe, but on the other side of the spectrum you have the New York Rangers and MSG. I can kind of see where they are coming from, putting so much effort and so much time into their website, and they developed a huge audience and following for it, what do you think of their lawsuit and them being forced to adopt an template when maybe they did not want to adopt it?

[TL] Well, I think it was 29-1 in terms of the league and majority rules. There are actions going back and forth between the team and the league. You would have to get the league's quote on it. The initial vote on centralizing it was 29-1.

[Q] What are your thoughts on the redesign of and the introduction of the NHL Gamecenter this year?

[TL] I think it is a very, very good rev of 2.0. We still need to get more widgetized, more social media, more distribution if you will. I would like to see every one of our bloggers for every team seen as sort of an affiliate for They should have their choice of grabbing highlight modules or whatever, and being able to embed it driving traffic back and forth. I would also like to see us be able to sell advertising across a wide network, not just the NHL and the teams, but bloggers and other media as well. That is what I mean by forming these virtual third party networks. I would like to see there be more real-time games, and more archived games. Celebrate that so people can watch our games in whatever format they want.

[Q] Do you think the NHL Network Online, they created their own show and have 7 or 8 channels online, it created a platform so they can have subscription model content, and free audio and video channels. Do you think it is a game changer for the NHL if they utilize it right?

[TL] I think it is fabulous. The NHL has the most wired, most educated, most web savvy audience in all of sports. We as a league need to play to our strengths. We need to be able to lead and innovate, and that is the demand from our fans.

[Q] A lot of time and money went into Youtube, resulting in a quick and seamless embed for publishers. Is it going to take a little time for the embedded videos to get up to that level?

[TL] I am sure it will, there will be technical hurdles. Have you seen my new company I just started a company I am the majority owner called Snag Films. It is a good metaphor. We have about 1000 films. You can watch the films for free, it is an ad-based model. If you like the film, you can snag it and embed it in your blog, or on your Myspace and Facebook page. It is like we are opening a virtual movie theater. Now you are showing the film to your friends. In 11 weeks, we now have 15,000 affiliates that reach 90 million people. That is a great example of the power of a syndicated web model.

[Q] How much work do you have to put into the technology side of it?

[TL] It costs about $100 a film to digitize. We use Clearspring, that is the widget syndication company. They sell the ads. It is very, very fast. Very efficient. It scales faster than anyone can imagine because it was frictionless. It was solving a lot of problems. Films were not getting distribution. People wanted to see these films, but they were in and out of theaters. They would see for a week or two weeks on a television network, or you had to buy the DVD. So here it is now you can watch it for free. You can find it very easily, and if you like it you can share it with your friends.

People have seen the success stories, they have seen it go more mainstream. They are pushing more innovation. There are new business models too. We would have paid millions, or tens of millions of dollars to build a network of 90 million page views. We were able to do it without a marketing budget. Without a marketing executive, by using this new technology. Word of that kind network gets out quickly, then people go "widgets are good", syndicating networks are strong. Now we need to monetize it, ok well advertisers. Advertisers will follow the audience, that is a big audience really, really fast and the advertising is pouring in.

[Q] You also used the widgets to promote the coverage of the World Championships in Russia, that blew me away?

[TL] We were the first there too, I forgot about that... The more coverage the better, and the costs continue to go down. All of this content that becomes available becomes very vital for the organization. It is also going to end up creating business for us.

[Q] I asked you about newspapers and magazines moving online (US News and World Report, Christian Science Monitor, PC Magazine)...

[TL] My son, when he was 16 years old did NHLdraftnet (original URL at NHL Draftnet is the precursor to what AOL Sports has become. A network of blogs, you had all 30 teams represented by bloggers and people who were posting on messageboards. They were all blogging and writing about the draft. Then he and his buddies went to the draft and files stories from there. Newspapers weren't. NHL Draftnet became the #1 website for that draft, it had more traffic and page views than The Hockey News during that months period. That was another thing we helped with, it has now become an accepted platform of a bloggers network.

As you know I just invested in a company called SB Nation. (James Mirtle is the NHL editor for SB Nation, Athletics Nation creator Tyler Bleszinski helped found SB Nation, Fear the Fin is the SB Nation Sharks blog).

[Q] What would you do right now over the next 6 months if you were the editor or owner of the Mercury News?

[TL] You have to look at it this way. The newspaper business and the price of the stock is a reflection of the analysts saying that this will go to zero. Every analyst is basically just picking a day when the newspapers will cease operation. If a newspaper company shut down its newspaper, and went all web, it would lose 80% of its revenue and its stock price would go up. Because then you can say well there is a future, and if it grows 20-30% year over year, here is what it will look like. They know what it will look like today, its going to zero.

Now facing up to that is hard. The league had to face up to its path to oblivion which is why we had to lock out the players. We were on a path to going out of business. It is a very, very difficult thing. The whole country is going through a gut check right now. Our league went through a gut check during the lockout. We proved that you can do something dramatic and end up with a growing, vibrant business. Every newspaper company in the world was writing that the NHL was irrelevant and we were going out of business. Now the tables have turned. It is the newspaper companies that are on their way to oblivion and the NHL is growing.

[Q] Last question, a couple of years ago when I talked with you, you talked about the media coverage of the Capitals. What do you think of the Washington Post's coverage now with Dan Steinberg and Tarik El-Bashir?

[TL] We are fortunate that both Tarik and Dan are incredibly talented. They are young, they are web savvy. Their blogs are now actually more important to us than the actual paper itself. They blog 2, 3, 4 times a day. They have much more traffic online than they do in the paper itself. What I am most happy about is that they are part of a much expanded blogosphere. At one point there were like 2 outlets covering us. Now we probably have 100. Many of the bloggers like Japers Rink, On Frozen Blog, Offwing Opinion, they have huge reach and an unbelievably loyal following. They are very talented writers. Peerless Prognosticator is another I am reading a lot right now.

What I said would happen happened. We have to embrace the blogosphere. It is like oxygen, get used to it. It will be the best thing for us. There is no gatekeeper to the coverage. Some of the bloggers write bad things about us all the time, some of them are mad, some of them curse. Alright, that is what makes the internet. Our team is doing well, the business is very strong, the brand is being built. The more the merrier. It is a big tent, come on in.

[Q] Thanks very much for your time. I am very excited to see both teams tomorrow.

[TL] It will be very good. I just did a blog post about how the fans, everyone wanted us to go on the road more, play less in division games. We are getting what we asked for. We arrived late Monday, Tuesday we relaxes, we had a game Wednesday in Anaheim, a game Thursday (in Los Angeles), we have a game Saturday (in San Jose), we have a game Monday, a game Wednesday, a game Friday. 15 games in 30 days, and our West Coast swing is brutal.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer questions about technology and the NHL. Ted Leonsis also discussed media coverage of the NHL and the Washington Capitals, blogs and new media in an interview with Sharkspage in 2005. The Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin face off against the San Jose Sharks and Patrick Marleau tonight at 7:30PM.

In 2005 Leonsis invited blogger Eric McErlain to watch a Capitals game from the owners box and discuss blog coverage of his team. It opened the doors for a lot of blogs to cover the NHL. McErlain wrote about the experience on here and here.

[Update] Ovechkin brings scoring magic to San Jose - Contra Costa Times.

[Update2] Banged-Up Washington Capitals Take Day Off Before Facing San Jose Sharks, Ailing Caps Meet NHL's Best in San Jose - Tarik El-Bashir for the Washington Post.

Boudreau said his players are eager to measure themselves against the league's top team and put Thursday's disappointing showing -- they recorded a season-low 21 shots on goal against the Kings -- behind them. But it remains to be seen how accurate the measurement will be, given the uncertain status of injured stars Mike Green, Sergei Fedorov and Alexander Semin. The trio has accounted for 24 of the Capitals' 64 goals, a whopping 37.5 percent.

"You try not to think about it, but those are three pretty good players," Boudreau said. "There's very few teams in the league that can withstand losing three top-notch players and still be as good consistently. That being said, we're trying to put it behind us. And we don't think about it. If they're not there, they're not there."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Denver's Rob Frankel upsets Bobby Pacquiao in a thrilling 10-round main event fight at HP Pavilion

Rob Frankel upsets Bobby Pacquiao lightweight main event boxing
Rob Frankel upsets Bobby Pacquiao HP Pavilion fight night at the tank boxing
Chika Nakumura Tiffany Junot womens lightweight boxing

Bobby Pacquiao delivered a solid main event for 3,453 boxing fans at HP Pavilion, but he could not overcome a withering onslaught of body punches from 28-year-old Denver Lightweight Rob Frankel en route to a 10-round unanimous decision loss. From the first round it was evident that the 27-year old Pacquiao is a very technical boxer, changing levels and backing in and out to provide an elusive target for Frankel. The safe bet would have called for Pacquiao to pick apart Frankel until a late round knockout or unanimous decision. Frankel, who came out in a Denver Broncos t-shirt, had other ideas.

After a short feeling out process, and an abundance of dirty boxing from Pacquiao, the second and third rounds exploded in toe-to-toe flurries that may have been two of the better rounds of boxing at HP Pavilion in the last 5 years. Frankel started the second by pressuring early but Pacquiao would spin out of danger and mockingly grin at the NABA Lightweight Champion. The complexion of the fight changed when Rob Frankel connected with a shot to the body that echoed throughout the arena. The light clicked on in his head, and he went to work wailing on the body of Pacquiao. Bobby Pacquiao cornered Frankle in round 3, and each boxer traded heavy shots in close. Frankle started catching Pacquiao with straight rights to the head as he backed out, and he continued his furious work to the body which would pay off.

The power and confidence of Frankle continued to grow with each round, for Pacquiao it would be frustration and the sapping power of Frankle's right hand which would continue to grow. Bobby Pacquiao slowed down considerably by the sixth round, and the clutching and grabbing started to ratchet up. Pacquiao was warned twice for low blows or shots during a clinch, and warned again for a kidney shot to the back at the end of the round. He was frustrated enough to restart after a break before being given the instruction from the referee, bumping into him unintentionally in the process. According to Isaiah Guzman in the Mercury News, Pacquiao opened a large cut over the right eye of Frankel in the sixth round.

In the 7th round it was clear that Rob Frankel was no longer concentrating on Pacquiao's offense. Instead he was trying to solve the veteran boxer, line up a straight right hand, and put him out of the fight. A brief second wind for Pacquiao in the 8th round. He upped his work rate and gave a glimpse of hope for the Filipino fans in attendance at HP Pavilion, and Team Pacquiao members ringside including his business manager who was relaying the fight over the phone to brother Manny. The hope was shortlived, as Bobby Pacquiao did not have the legs to press the action in the 9th and 10th rounds despite being behind on the scorecards. The final nail in the coffin was a 1-point deduction for Pacquiao after his third low blow of the fight.

Robert Frankel earned a unanimous 10 round decision, 98-91 on all three cards, to bump his career record to 26-9-1 (4K0s). With his second straight loss, Pacquiao drops to 29-15-3 (14KOs). A photo gallery from Thursday's Fight Night at the Tank is available here.

Results from the American Metal & Iron Fight Night at the Tank boxing Thursday night in San Jose:

NOVEMBER 20, 2008

Robert Frankel (26-9-1, 4 KO's) def. Bobby Pacquiao (29-15-3, 14 KO's) - Unanimous Decision

Chika Nakumura (8-0, 3 KO's) def. Tiffany Junot (4-2, 3 KO's) - Unanimous Decision

Robert Florentino (3-3, 3 KO's) def. Jason "JP" Peterson (2-2, 1 KO) - TKO Rd. 3

Karim Mayfield (7-0-1, 5 KO's) def. Trenton Titsworth (2-6-1, 2 KO's) - Unanimous decision

Eric Garcia (3-0-1, 0 KO's) def. Geoffery Spruiell (7-7, 2 KO's) - Unanimous Decision

Yohan Banks (2-1-1, 1 KO's) def. Bernard Gray (2-3, 0 KO's) - KO Rd.2

Melissa McMorrow (2-0, 0 KO's) def. Gloria Salas (0-1, 0 KO's) - Unanimous Decision

Attendance: 3,453

[Update] Bobby Pacquiao falls in Thursday's Fight Night at the Tank -

[Update2] Bobby Pacquiao beaten at Fight Night - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update3] Frankel Punishes Pacquiao - Mario Ortega Jr. for

Career spoiler Robert Frankel took Bobby Pacquiao to the woodshed on Thursday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, completely dismantling the Filipino over ten rounds. Frankel’s win capped a seven-bout edition of the Fight Night at the Tank in front of the 3,453 in attendance.

[Update4] Bobby Pacquiao loses to NABA champ Robert Frankel -

Thursday, November 20, 2008

ECHL Pacific Division Notes, video of Stockton Goes Pink III weekend raising money for breast cancer awareness

Notes and links from the finest division in the ECHL will be posted soon. The video above was posted online by the Stockton Record's Kirk Barron.


Fresno Falcons (1st place, 8-5-0). The Fresno Falcons dropped an I-99 rivalry game with the Bakersfield Condors 2-1 at home on Saturday. According to the Fresno Bee, a respectable crowd of 4,104 watched the Falcons outshoot Bakersfield 26-24, but turn up empty on 8 power play opportunities. Fresno will face the expansion Ontario Reign club in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. Fresno's move from the Save Mart Center on campus back to their original home at Selland Arena for the 2008-09 season should benefit from a $15 million renovation in 2006 which included a new video replay scoreboard and an updated refrigeration system for the ice surface. Right wing Matt Stefanishion, who finished third in the ECHL last season with 243 PIMS, leads the Falcons in scoring with 10 goals and 3 assists in 12 games played. Stefanishion is only second on the Falcons this season with 38 PIMS. Center Oren Eizenman, who lead Fresno last season as a rookie with 66 points and an impressive performance at the ECHL Allstar Game in Stockton, has 2 goals and 8 assists in 7 games played. Eizenman started 2008-09 with the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. 6-foot-0, 225-pound power forward Igor Gongalsky, also an allstar as a rookie last season, is struggling with 3 goals and 0 assists in 13 games played. Fresno has a busy weekend with games scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ontario Reign (2nd place, 7-5-1). The expansion Ontario Reign franchise became the fourth ECHL team in California after the recent departures of the San Diego Gulls and the Long Beach Ice Dogs. An affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, a short drive away along highway 10, the Reign play at the 11,000-seat Citizens Business Bank Arena which opened on October 18, 2008. The Los Angeles Lakers christened the new AEG-owned arena with a 105–94 exhibition win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on October 24th. The Ontario Reign christened the ice rink the next night in front of a sellout 8,832-strong crowd with a 4-1 win over the National Conference champion Las Vegas Wranglers. Former Team USA 2007 bronze medal winning goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, a third round draft selection by the Los Angeles Kings in 2006, leads the Reign with a 6-3-1 record and a 2.28GAA and .937SV% in 10 games played. Ontario has only scored a National Conference worst 35 goals this season, lead by center Jon Francisco with 13 points and right wing Geoff Walker with 12, but they have been stingy defensively allowing only 36 goals against. A recent home game against the Stockton Thunder was military appreciation night sponsored by the USO of Ontario, with a pre-game military fly-over, a performance by country music singer Amy Scruggs, and reduced ticket prices for all members of the military. Other than LA Times blog coverage of the arena opening, a similar arena preview article by Ben Weber in the OC Register, it is unclear which Southern California newspaper will be covering the Ontario Reign beat. Scratch that, it looks like that would be J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News. More on this team will be posted in the coming weeks when I can make a visit to see Ontario play on home ice.

Bakersfield Condors (3rd place, 6-7-1). The longtime independent Bakersfield Condors, now an ECHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, benefited from that arrangement with the salary cap demotion of forward Bobby Ryan and defenseman Brett Festerling earlier today. After a wild 6-4 loss to Washington on Wednesday night, and before you could inquire whether or not they would be forced to play against against the Sharks ECHL affiate Phoenix Roadrunners on Friday, both players were already recalled back to Anaheim this morning. Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield is one of the best in the league, with clear glass instead of plexiglass/stanchions that make for incredible sightlines from the stands. is also one of the most innovative websites in the ECHL, with blogs, a Spanish language section, interactive multimedia content, and promotions to match. This Satuday the Oakland Raiderettes will be on hand to sign autographs and take pictures. Sharkspage favorite, goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji, was added to the active roster on Tuesday. Fukufuji became the first Japanese-born player to suit up as an NHL goaltender Jan. 13, 2007 for the Los Angeles Kings. Also on the list of asian players who have made an impact by playing in the NHL, Japanese-Canadian Devin Setoguchi. The second year Setoguchi leads the Sharks with 11 goals. Bemidji State alumni Matt Pope leads the Bakersfield Condors with 9 goals and 5 assists in 11 games played. According to the Bakersfield Californian, the Condors have won 3 straight games and 4 of their last 5 after a pair of Dave Bonk goals and 28 saves by goaltender Dave McKee powered Bakersfield past the Phoenix RoadRunners 5-3 on Wednesday night. McKee is the only goaltender assigned to the club by Anaheim, but the Condors have three goalies on the roster including Ryan Nie and Yutaka Fukufuji.

Stockon Thunder (4th place, 5-7-2). The Stockton Thunder ice the best offense in the Pacific Division, but they are tied with Phoenix for a National Conference worst 50 goals allowed. Center Cory Urquhart, a Montreal Canadiens second round selection in 2003, leads the Thunder in scoring with 15 points after scoring 9 points in 5 games to start the season. Mike Lalonde, the Thunder's leading goal scorer in 2005-06 (29) and 2006-07 (23), is 9 points away from surpassing Nathan Martz for the Thunder franchise scoring lead according to the Raw Feed. Lalonde scored his 4th goal of the season in a 3-2 loss to the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday. Stockon faces the Steelheads at home in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. The Thunder earned a 3-2 shootout win over the Victoria Salmon Kings on a fifth round shootout goal by center Jeff Kyrzakos in the first of two Thunder Goes Pink III games to help raise awareness for breast cancer. 9,737 fans packed Stockton Arena for the second Pink Game on Saturday November 8th, but they witnessed the home Thunder squad's 5-game winning streak in pink snapped by the Salmon Kings in a 3-1 loss. The Stockton Thunder are the 3-time ECHL attendance champions, with an average of 6,648 fans per game last season.

Las Vegas Wranglers (5th place, 5-6-2). The Calgary Flames ECHL affiliate in Las Vegas currently sits in last place in the Pacific, but in the tightest division in the league they remain only 5 points behind first place Fresno. The perennial National Conference powerhouse reached the Kelly Cup Finals and the Conference Semifinals in the last two seasons, registering 46+ wins and 106+ points or more in three straight years. The Wranglers announced two roster moves earlier today. Forward Chris Korchinski was traded to the Elmira Jackals for defenseman Chris St. Croix. Defenseman Gerard Miller was also traded to the Reading Royals for future considerations. 6-foot-3 former University of Alaska-Anchorage goaltender John DeCaro has been leading the Wranglers in net, registering a 3-1-0 record in 5 games played with a 1.80GAA and a 0.926SV%. Former goaltender Marc Magliarditi, owner of the best goalie mask ever photographed on Sharkspage, holds the Las Vegas Wranglers franchise record with 1,432 total saves during the 2003-04 ECHL season.

Fight Night at the Tank features lightweight Bobby Pacquiao, San Francisco light middleweight Karim Mayfield, and Salinas' Eric Garcia tonight

Karim Mayfield Francisco Santana Best Damn Sports Show boxing

The Fight Night at the Tank 2008 boxing season finale takes place tonight with an underrated card featuring WBO AP Lightweight Champion Bobby Pacquiao (29-14-3, 14KOs) facing NABA lightweight champion Robert Frankel (29-5-1, 4KOs) in the main event. Bobby Pacquiao is trying to build on an 8th round KO of Decho Bankluaygym in an August 2nd bout in the Philippines. He is also trying to build on the diehard Filipino fan base cultivated by his brother, WBC lightweight championn Manny Pacquiao, during several heavily attended training sessions held in the Bay Area.

On the undercard, San Francisco Light Middleweight Karim Mayfield (6-0-1, 5 KOs) is coming off a spectacular 6-round decision over a game Francisco Santana during the last Best Damn Sports Show televised boxing event at HP Pavilion in March. The former 2006 Golden Gloves amateur champion, Mayfield will face Omaha native Trenton Titsworth (2-5-1, 2KOs). Jason "JP" Peterson (2-1, 1KO), a Frisco Boxing founder and Hells Angels member, was part of a entertaining June 6th Fight Night in San Jose. Peterson earned his first loss on a recent ESPN fight night at the Playboy Mansion. Welterweight Eric Garcia (2-0-1), part of the strong Garcia Boxing team, will face Colorado Springs Welterweight Geoffery Spruiell (7-6, 2 KOs).

Former Ring Magazine/ESPN boxing analyst and current Showtime boxing analyst Al Bernstein will be a guest speaker prior to the event Thursday night. Tickets are available via or by phone at (408) 998-TIXS, (415) 421-TIXS or (510) 625-TIXS.

The fight card for tonight:

NOVEMBER 20, 2008

(10 Rd Lightweight Bout)
BOBBY PACQUIAO, General Santos City, Philippines, 29-14-3, 14 KO’s
ROBERT FRANKEL, Denver, CO, 25-9-1, 4 KO’s

(6 Rd Light Middleweight Bout)
KARIM MAYFIELD, San Francisco, CA, 6-0-1, 5 KO’s
TRENTON TITSWORTH, Omaha, NB, 2-5-1, 2KO’s

(6 Rd Lightweight Bout)
CHIKA NAKAMURA, New York, NY, 7-0, 3KOs
TIFFANY JUNOT, New Orleans, LA, 4-1, 3 KO’s

(4 Rd Super Middleweight Bout)
JASON PETERSON, San Francisco, CA, 2-1, 1 KO
ROBERTO FLORENTINO, Indianapolis, IN, 2-3, 2KO’s

(4 Rd Welterweight Bout)
ERIC GARCIA, Salinas, CA, 2-0-1, 0 KOs
GEOFFERY SPRUIELL, Colorado Springs, CO, 7-6, 2 KO’s

(4 Rd Heavyweight Bout)
YOHAN BANKS,San Mateo, CA, 1-1-1, 0 KO’s
BERNARD GRAY, San Francisco, CA, 2-2, 0 KO’s

(4 Rd Light Flyweight Bout)
MELISSA MCMORROW, San Jose, CA, 1-0, 0 KO’s
GLORIA SALAS, Los Angeles, CA, Pro Debut

[Update] Bobby Pacquiao Headlines in San Jose Tonight - Mario Ortega Jr. for

Reigning WBO Asia Pacific Lightweight Champion Bobby Pacquiao headlines tonight’s edition of Fight Night at the Tank at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Pacquiao will take on busy spoiler Robert Frankel in a lightweight ten-rounder to headline the seven-fight card. All fourteen fighters weighed in on Wednesday at the arena’s The Grill restaurant in what turned out to be a hectic event in and of itself...

In what has to be considered one of the best looking fights ever put together, Pacquiao stablemate Chaka Nakamura (7-0, 3 KOs) will take on Tiffany Junot (4-1, 3 KOs) of New Orleans, Louisiana in a six-round lightweight bout. The statuesque Nakamura stripped down to an exotic bathing suit, much to the delight of the photographers on hand, and weighed in at 137 pounds. Junot, an equaling alluring beauty herself, scaled 136 ¼ pounds in front of the crowding photographers. According to insider accounts, these two women are no slouches in the ring either. If their fight lives up to the anticipation their weigh-in created it should be a crowd pleaser.

[Update2] Pacquiao brother takes another shot at boxing glory -

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Photos of San Jose Sharks new Seagate BlackArmor third jerseys leaked online prior to Friday's unveiling

San Jose Sharks Seagate BlackArmor RBK Edge third jersey leaked
San Jose Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff NHL hockey photo

Photos of the the new San Jose Sharks Seagate BlackArmor third jersey were leaked to Icethetics today along with alternate jerseys for the Ottawa Senators and the Los Angeles Kings. The blog has been able to scoop information on 18 of 24 new NHL third jerseys so far this season. The Sharks new BlackArmor jersey has teal and white stripes on the sleeves, the full bodied version of the new Sharks logo introduced last season, and a San Jose Earthquakes inspired SJ with fin logo on the shoulders.

The previous black third jerseys were very popular in San Jose, and with the addition of the new RBK Edge jersey system and the new logo a number of fans have a strong incentive to update their gear. Chris of Icethetics says the new BlackArmor jersey makes a good use of the full body Shark logo on the front, while noting the lack of vertical piping under the arms or striping along the base. One regular reader already noted the muted use of orange, seen here sparingly on the Shark crest and fin logo.

The Sharks will have an unveiling ceremony for the Seagate BlackArmor third jersey Friday November 21st at 10:00AM. The jersey will be worn for the first time at HP Pavilion Saturday night against the Washington Capitals. The Sharks will wear the black alternate jersey 14 times this season.

[Update] Third jerseys getting first-rate reviews - Dan Rosen for

[Update2] Sharks and Seagate Unveil 'BlackArmor', Announcement Marks Unique Partnership Between NHL Team and Seagate -

The branding of the “BlackArmor” sweater is a unique marketing partnership between the Sharks and Seagate, marking the 12th season that the organizations have been partners. Seagate also serves as the presenting sponsor of the Seagate “Sharks Player of the Month” and the Seagate “Sharks Player of the Year” Awards.

The branding of the alternate sweater coincides with Seagate’s promotion of its BlackArmor product, the world’s first safe portable hard drive. The BlackArmor portable hard drive from Seagate is a storage solution that provides government-grade AES encryption certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to help protect against unauthorized access to your valuable and private information. The BlackArmor portable hard drive also puts all security keys and cryptographic operations within the device, delivering stronger protection against hacking and tampering than traditional software alternatives.

San Jose Sharks highlights after 20 games, a Sharkspage video

Twenty games in to the 2008-09 NHL season and one thing has become blindingly evident, adding a pair of allstar offensive defenseman to a potent West Coast offense is going to produce more goals. NHL teams have yet to find an answer for the Sharks offense. The addition of Dan Boyle and Rob Blake, and the breakout season by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has helped San Jose pile up an NHL-best 73 goals. That is almost 10 more than the next closest offense (Detroit, 64 goals). The Sharks have built up an 11-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks in the race for the Pacific Division. The scary thing for opponents, they are still not playing their best hockey.

No longer top heavy, the Sharks are scoring by committee with eight players registering 4 or more goals. Second year forward Devin Setoguchi leads the team with 11, but both Setoguchi (6th) and Patrick Marleau (9th) have entered the league's top 10 list for total points. With his 225-pound frame parked in front of the net, Ryane Clowe has delivered 5 of his 9 goals on the power play in addition to picking up 3 fighting majors.

The Sharks stumbled out of the gate with the man advantage, regsitering their worst power play percentage in 5 years after 5 games (3-25, 12%). The second power play unit headmanned by center Joe Pavelski created more scoring chances and was given more power play time by rookie head coach Todd McLellan, but in the last 5 games everything has clicked for the Sharks special teams. Both power play unites have combined to score 12 goals in 34 power play opportunities (35.3%), including 8 PP goals in back-to-back games against Calgary and Chicago. The Sharks penalty kill has not peaked, but it is trending up at 84.6% (12-78) and the team is only 16th in total penalty minutes (266).

The Sharks have been inconsistent in spurts defensively. It is a departure from 2007-08 where the team focused on cutting down shots against, and used a stiff defense and solid goaltending to lock down 1 and 2 goal leads. The inconsistent defensive play started with a rare home-at-home against Philadelphia, allowing Briere to tie the game late in each game before emerging with a pair of overtime and OT shootout wins. After dominating the Stanley Cup Finalist Pittsburgh Penguins (holding them to a record low 11 shots on goal) and Detroit Red Wings, the Sharks let up against St Louis and made the 5-4 shootout win more difficult on themselves. The Sharks looked shaky and inconsistent at times en route to a 6-5 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday. Boucher had his worst start of the season, misplaying a puck behind his own net that directly lead to Kris Versteeg's short-handed goal in the first period, and remaining out of position after a save allowing Versteeg to bank the puck off his goalie stick from behind the net for his second goal.

According to Sharkspage contributer Max Giese, who was in the stands in Chicago, Boucher was fighting the puck and not seeing the play clearly in front of him. The Sharks responded in the same way they have responded all year, by pressing the action offensively. Dan Boyle scored his second goal of the game on the power play, and Devin Setoguchi notched his team leading 11th goal to win the game late in the third period. Adam Gretz notes on AOL's Fanhouse that Brian Boucher has been an anchor in the net for San Jose in 6 consecutive starts while Evgeni Nabokov has been injured. Against Nashville, a scary injury to Predators captain Jason Arnott quieted the arena as he was carried off on a stretcher. San Jose scored 4 unanswered goals on Dan Ellis in the first two periods, and then whethered a storm of fights as Scott Nichol, Jordin Tootoo and Greg de Vries dropped the gloves with Joe Thornton, Brad Staubitz and Jody Shelley respectively.

The defense has turned over 50% from last season, with the addition of Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich. It will take time for them to adjust to Todd McLellan's system. It will also take time for the forwards to adjust from former head coach Ron Wilson to McLellan. Instead of collapsing the points down low on every play to provide support for the defense, the forwards are often releasing up ice with speed and creating breakaways and 2-on-1's taking advantage of their team speed a la Detroit. It remains to be seen what adjustments will be made going forward in the season, McLellan has described it as a process that will not always be pretty. The Sharks to this point have responded to every problem by skating hard and scoring goals. Sometime in mid-December they will get one of their best checking forwards and penalty killers back from a leg injury, second year center Torrey Mitchell. A player who rivals Patrick Marleau for sheer speed. That is not a good omen for the rest of the NHL.

The song in the highlight video above is "I am the night, colour me black" by the Montreal band Priestess, suggested by a reader at the Battle of California.

[Update] Comparing this year to last: A 30-team look - James Mirtle.

For example, the Sharks are currrently on pace for 27 more points than they had last season, and the Senators are on pace for 26 fewer. The Sharks are on pace to score an incredible 75 more goals than last season, and the Senators are on pace for 67 fewer. And in goals against, the Wild and Kings are on pace to allow 51 fewer goals, while the Stars and Marty Turco are on pace to allow 90 more.

[Update2] Wednesday Roundup/Gamenight: Caps @ Ducks - Japers Rink.

[Update3] No game till Saturday, so time to revisit the good, bad and ugly in Nashville - David Pollak on his Working the Corners blog.

That said, (Scott) Nichol wasn’t nearly as charitable when talking about the Sharks in general.

"We just bottom line don't like them," he told Nashville reporters after the game. "We've played them a lot and it's left a bitter taste. They are a good team and at the top of the league, and that just makes you want it more."

[Update4] The Biggest Difference Between Todd McLellan and Ron Wilson - Ryan Garner for Hockeybuzz.

Todd McLellan stepped into the coaching job this summer and he’s produced strong results during his short time in San Jose. The team is strong up front, icing three lines that can score and control the play, and he trusts his players enough to let them wheel and deal, taking risks while playing an up-tempo style. McLellan doesn’t have a reason not to trust his players. He hasn’t spent a summer searching for answers after scoring goes in the tank, or agonized over the reasons behind a second-round collapse. Shark fans are hoping he never has to, but would he respond any differently than Wilson had?

Late last month, McLellan shared a story from his time as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings. During an overtime game last season, Pavel Datsyuk attempted a brilliant move that would have left him in the clear with a breakaway opportunity. He almost pulled it off, but the puck was tipped away and resulted in a scoring chance for the opposition. After the game, as the players were boarding the team bus, Chris Chelios called out, “Where’s Pavs?” Everyone tensed up a little, wondering what was about to come next. Chelios didn’t blast the talented forward, or rebuke him in front of the team, he simply told him, “That was an excellent chance, and the next time you have a chance to do it you do it again.”

McLellan explained that, as a coach, his advice might not always echo Chelios’s but you have the give the special players chances to err sometimes. “Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich play together, but they approach the game quite differently,” McLellan said. “If Lukowich steps into Danny’s style of play we’re in trouble. Coaches don’t treat players equally, but they have to treat them fairly.”

University of Minnesota Unanimous New No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

The latest college hockey poll from

University of Minnesota Unanimous New No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The University of Minnesota was selected as the new No. 1 on this week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll, following a tie and win against Michigan Tech this past weekend. The Golden Gophers garnered all 34 first-place votes for 510 points to top the poll for the first time since Jan. 22, 2007.

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups

Friday, November 21
No. 13 New Hampshire at No. 5 Northeastern
No. 9 Michigan at No. 7 Miami (Ohio)
No. 1 Minnesota at No. 10 Denver

Saturday, November 22
No. 9 Michigan at No. 7 Miami (Ohio)
No. 1 Minnesota at No. 10 Denver

Boston University (463) fell to the No. 2 spot and Colorado College (430) remained No. 3 after both teams suffered one loss over the weekend. Boston College (394) and Northeastern University (318) each jumped two spots to grab the No. 4 and 5 rankings, respectively.

This week's action features five top-15 match-ups, including a Western Collegiate Hockey Association weekend series between No. 1 University of Minnesota and No. 10 University of Denver.

NOTES: A total of 26 teams received votes.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #8

(First-place votes in parentheses, Rank, School, Last Week's Ranking, 2008-09 Record, Weeks in Top 15)

1 University of Minnesota, 510 (34), 2, 6-0-4, 8
2 Boston University, 463, 1, 7-2-0, 8
3 Colorado College, 430, 3, 7-2-3, 8
4 Boston College, 394, 6, 6-3-1, 8
5 Northeastern University, 318, 7, 7-2-2, 5
6 University of Notre Dame, 309, 9, 7-3-1, 8
7 Miami (Ohio) University, 276, 10, 6-3-3, 8
8 Princeton University, 250, 11, 5-1-0, 7
9 University of Michigan, 241, 8, 8-4-0, 8
10 University of Denver, 222, 4, 6-4-1, 8
11 Minnesota State University, 147, 12, 5-3-2, 6
12 U.S. Air Force Academy, 139, 13, 10-0-0, 3
13 University of New Hampshire, 138, 5, 4-4-3, 8
14 Cornell University, 118, 14, 2-0-2, 2
15 University of North Dakota, 19, NR, 4-6-0, 5

Others receiving votes: University of Massachusetts, 17; Harvard University, 16; University of Nebraska Omaha, 16; University of Maine, 13; University of Vermont, 13; Yale University, 13; University of Massachusetts Lowell, 6; Dartmouth College, 3; Ferris State University, 3; St. Cloud State University, 3; University of Wisconsin, 3.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 14th 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 AHCA and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] San Jose Sharks 2008-09 prospect report through games played on November 12th (word file). 2007 first round selection, Boston College defenseman Nick Petrecki has 2 assists and leads the team with a +3 after 8 games played. Sharks left wing prospect John McCarthy has a goal and 4 assists in 7 games played for rival Boston University. Twin brothers Drew and Justin Daniels have combined for 19 points in 21 games played for Sioux City of the USHL.

[Update2] Tyson Sexsmith miffed at goal judge after Giants win - Vancouver Province Dub Hub hockey blog.

It's not very often that Tyson Sexsmith shows much emotion. The Vancouver Giants goaltender was fired up, though, after Friday's 5-3 win over the Kelowna Rockets at the Pacific Coliseum.

Sexsmith insists that the Kelowna's first goal never went in. He says that it was stuck between his arm and his body. The referee initially waved it off, but the goal judge had signalled goal by turning on the red light. After talking with the judge, the ref changed his call to goal. At the end of the game, Sexsmith got the puck, put it on the goal line and seemed to say a few things to the goal judge.

[Update3] Travel Cost Considerations Could Affect NCAA Tournament - Inside College Hockey.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks out-power Falcons, 3-0

The Worcester Sharks, on the strength of Taylor Dakers first professional shutout, defeated the Springfield Falcons 3-0 in front of 3,008 fans at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts Sunday evening.

Less than 24 hours after a power outage at the DCU Center in Worcester postponed the front half of the scheduled home-and-home series between the two clubs, the WorSharks defense turned the power out on the Falcons, allowing just 11 shots to get through to Dakers. Dakers, in turn, made all 11 saves look easy.

Springfield's two best opportunities happened when Dakers misplayed the puck in his own end once each in the first and third periods. But in both cases the defense quickly came to his aid, and in neither case was Springfield able to take advantage. Unofficially, Sharkspage had the Falcons at zero scoring chances.

Worcester would get the eventual game winner at 17:57 of the first period when P.J. Fenton forced a turnover behind the Falcons net and fed T.J. Fox in the right face off circle for a quick one timer. The shot would beat Springfield goaltender Devan Dubynk to the glove side for the 1-0 lead.

The goal was Worcester's first on the season against Dubynk, as Dubynk had shutout Worcester 2-0 on Veteran's Day.

Despite out shooting the Falcons 26-6 over the game's first 40 minutes, the WorSharks couldn't another past Dubynk as the netminder continued to make great save after great save.

Worcester would finally get the insurance marker at 8:29 third period on the power play when Ryan Vesce wound up to take a slapshot at the point, but instead slapped a pass to Cory Larose, who was standing just outside the far post. Larose got just enough of a stick on it to deflected it past Dubnyk for the 2-0 lead.

Worcester would extend the lead to 3-0 when Mike Morris tapped in a Jamie McGinn rebound after McGinn had spun the net. From that point on all Worcester was playing for was the shutout, and they all played well enough to get it for Dakers.

Worcester's scratches were Matt Jones (jaw), Dan DaSilva (serving a one game suspension for a late game instigator minor from Friday night's 8-3 loss to Providence), and Patrick Traverse (healthy). Matt Kinch remains suspended by the team, and Kyle Jones was loaned to Phoenix prior to the start of the game.

Veteran "smarts" helps to wins games and seldom appears in the box score, and last night was no exception. With the WorSharks going on the power play in the middle of the third period, there was some confusion about the players Worcester wanted on the ice. After a few second delay, Worcester's first power play unit skated to the face off circle. Because their indecision caused the face off to be delayed, the Worcester center--who was Armstrong--is automatically waived out. Larose knew that, so he skated like he was to take the draw instead of Armstrong, and was waived out by the linesmen. Armstrong then took his place at center, and won the face off cleanly. Springfield was unable to clear the puck from the zone, and Larose ended up scoring a minute later.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Morris (1g)
2. Fox (gwg)
3. Larose (1g)
Honorable mention goes to Dakers for his shutout and Dubnyk for his stellar play in the Falcon net.

WOR 1 0 2 - 3
SPR 0 0 0 - 0

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, T. Fox (1) (P. Fenton) 17:57
Penalties - A. Desjardins Wor (hooking) 1:45

2nd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - S. Zalewski Wor (hooking) 0:30, D. Bekar Spr (holding) 2:19, C. Corazzini Spr (hooking) 3:53, T. Spurgeon Spr (delay of game) 8:50, M. Roy Spr (high-sticking) 18:50

3rd Period
Scoring - 2. Worcester, C. Larose (7) (R. Armstrong, R. Vesce) 8:29 PP, 3. Worcester, M. Morris (4) (J. McGinn, S. Zalewski) 10:44
Penalties - J. McGinn Wor (roughing) 0:59, G. Paukovich Spr (hooking) 7:26, B. Westgarth Wor (unsportsmanlike conduct) 15:45, G. Lefebvre Spr (tripping, unsportsmanlike conduct) 15:45, A. Desjardins Wor (misconduct - abuse of officials 40.4) 19:55

WOR Shots: 9 17 9 TOTAL: 35
SPR Shots: 4 2 5 TOTAL: 11

Power Play Conversion
Worcester Sharks 1-6. Springfield Falcons 0-3.

Worcester Sharks
Dakers 1-0-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 11 GA: 0 [W]

Springfield Falcons
Dubnyk 7-6-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 32 GA: 3 [L]

Attendance : 3008. Referee: Chris Ciamaga (41) Linesmen: Chris Low (88), Robert St. Lawrence (10).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Versus blogger interview with Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews

Last week Versus set up an interview with young Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews for a panel of hockey bloggers. Two bloggers from San Jose were included, myself and Mike Chen of Kukla's Korner. Two Minutes for Blogging, HLOG, and offshoot Melt Your Face Off were a couple of the other blogs on hand. A 3-part audio podcast of the interview is available here.

The San Jose Sharks face off against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center tonight at 4PM (PT). Boston travels to Toronto for a Monday night national broadcast on Versus at 4:30PM (PT), Minnesota will face Pittsburgh Tuesday night at 4PM (PT) also on Versus.

A few select answers from the Jonathan Toews interview:

[Q] Much has been made about young players like you and Sidney Crosby being team captains, are the obligations and expectations what you expected out of the NHL captains position, and how comfortable do you feel wearing a C on your jersey?

[JT] It is definitely something new. Obviously it is a huge honor, especially as a young player. You look around the league and guys like Sidney Crosby and Vincent LeCavalier accept the captain's C. It is happening when players are younger and younger. For me it is not as hard considering we have a very young team in Chicago. I think a lot of the guys on Chicago do not expect me to do anything different, what they do expect me to do is to go out there and play my game. Not change a whole lot, but to be the player who I am. Obviously I am not the only leader in our locker room. For guys like myself, it is a huge honor to be in that situation.

It was a long summer. I definitely put a lot of thought into how I was going to take on this responsibility. I think a lot of people always tell me not to put a lot of pressure on myself. It was a situation I took very seriously, and a job I wanted to do the right way. We have a young team, a lot of great leaders in the locker room and the transition has been a lot smoother than I thought it would be.

[Q] With more NHL players getting very long, very expensive contracts, how much do you pay attention to contracts being handed out and how does that effect you as a player?

[JT] I think the only thing that really crosses my mind is when people mention it to me. People say, did you hear about what this player and that player got. You try to set goals for yourself, the things you want to accomplish as a player, as far as benchmarks early on in your career. That is really far away for me, so there is not really much I can do about that at the moment. You try to develop, you try to get better, and if you do the right things and you have success eventually as far as contracts and off the ice that pays off. Really, it is not one of those things I am focus on or worried about.

[Q] You played at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota for a year, how did that help your development as a player?

[JT] For me it was awesome. Everyone asks me if it was the right thing, and a lot of people in Canada were thinking about different teams you can play on. For me, I always tell everyone it was a great experience. It really helped me open the door to play at the University of North Dakota. Everyone is different, but I learned a lot from playing there and a lot from coach Ward, and it definitley helped my education. It helped me get ready for college in a lot of ways.

[Q] Can you describe the resurgence of hockey in Chicago, what have you noticed inside and outside of the arena, and what does your team need to do to keep it going?

[JT] I think mostly there are a lot of diehard fans that have stuck around through thick and thin with this team over the years. Now you start to see a lot more casual hockey fans, with success they are coming back. Over the summer a huge part was the press and the publicity our team got with the game at Wrigley Field. Everything has come together. Last year we had a very exciting team, we just missed the playoffs by a hair. This year I think we are better in a lot of ways. We notice it in the buildings every night, we have been selling out a lot of games this year. It has been great crowds, a lot of players from other cities love to come and play here in Chicago on the road now. I think Brian Campbell was a big deal, and Cristobal Huet wanted to sign here over the summer. It is a great city, and a great hockey city. I think everything that can be done is being done to bring hockey back to the city. It is going alright. As long as we keep playing well and winning games, I don't think there is anything that can go wrong.

[Q] You mentioned the Winter Classic, do you have any predictions for the weather, the crowd, or the style of game that will be played for it?

[JT] It would be tough to predict anything. Obviously you know how Detroit is going to be. All we can do is prepare ourselves the best we can to go out there and play our game. As far as the weather and how it might impact the game, you never know.

[Q] Nikolai Khabibulin is the quintessential big game goalie, what makes him so successful on the ice?

[JT] We are so lucky right now to have two great goaltenders that are working so hard every night to make our team better. Khabi is a competitor. I think he has proved that throughout his career. It is one of the biggest reasons he won a Stanley Cup. You can tell he has that veteran calmness and mentality where nothing really rattles his confidence. He just stays calm. He is a tough goalie to beat on every shot.

[Q] How did you find out about the coaching change (Joel Quenneville was hired on October 16th to replace Denis Savard), and how was it taken in the locker room?

[JT] I didn't find out until they announced that we had a teem meeting with everyone and the assistant coaches in the locker room. You know I think it was really shocking. Everyone was shocked because we know it was very early in the season. It was tough. Everyone knows how young the guys are in our locker room. Not a lot of guys have been through a coaching change like this, especially early in the season. There were a couple of the guys in the locker room who had experience playing for Joel Quenneville, we all kind of had an idea what he was about and what he was like. Coming in, we did not try to change too much. As soon as he was hired, he just wanted us to play and not to think too much. Especially with the 5-day break, he was doing a little bit more coaching here and there, a lot of video. He is slowly moulding us into his style of team. A few changes here and there, but it has not been too drastic or too crazy where it gets overwhelming. I think he has done a great job so far. Denis Savard did a good job for this team as well. He was a big part of the success I had during my rookie season. It is bittersweet. You always have to try to be positive and optimistic about your situation.

[Update] Brian Campbell faces former mates with no regrets - Chicago Sun-Times.

"I'm not at all surprised by that. I knew I was leaving a good team," said Campbell, who signed an eight-year, $56.8 million contract with the Hawks after finishing last season in San Jose. "They don't make many mistakes, plus they have a lot of weapons."

"We peaked at the end of last year, then didn't play our best hockey in the playoffs, which was disappointing. I really liked San Jose, but this can be a good team, as well."

[Update2] Happy with move but not his play, Campbell doesn't regret leaving top-shelf Sharks - Chicago Tribune.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hockey Notes - November 15th

2008-2009 NHL Allstar Game voting fan balloting

- Earlier this week the NHL launched fan balloting for the 2008-09 NHL Allstar Game. The 57th annual event will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec as part of the Montreal Canadiens centennial celebration. The NHL has introduced real-time player voting results on here.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle is in 5th place for Western Conference defenseman with 38,413 votes, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is 2nd among Western Conference goaltenders with 36,009 votes. Niklas Lidstrom (113,630), Dion Phaneuf (99,090), Brian Rafalski (47,122) and Sheldon Souray (40,686) round out the top 5. Roberto Luongo leads all Western Conference goalies with 113,300 votes, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price leads the East with 197,324 votes. A hat trick of Detroit Red Wings lead Western Conference voting for forwards, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Marian Hossa are ranked first through third. San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is in 10th place in forward voting with 30,944 votes.

Make your selections for the 2008-09 NHL Allstar Game here. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle, and Evgeni Nabokov are the five San Jose Sharks on the NHL Allstar Ballot. To write-in a vote, you can type the name of a player and select it from a drop down list or copy and paste one of these player ID's into the box and press select.

Devin Setoguchi [id: 8471682]
Ryane Clowe [id: 8469622]
Jonathan Cheechoo [id: 8467357]
Milan Michalek [id: 8470599]
Joe Pavelski [id: 8470794]
Christian Ehrhoff [id: 8469555]
Marc-Edouard Vlasic [id: 8471709]
Brian Boucher [id: 8462052]

- One of the first grassroots campaigns for a write-in candidate this year nominated Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi. The "Gooch 09" campaign launched by the Battle of California was picked up by several hockey blogs including Yahoo's Puck Daddy, AOL Fanhouse and James Mirtle among others. The official campaign blog appears to be The second year Setoguchi is tied for 10th in the NHL with 18 points, and along with Ryane Clowe he leads the Sharks with 9 goals.

- Voting irregularities have transitioned from the U.S. election to NHL Allstar voting, but thankfully they are not ACORN related. Earlier this week there was a strong but unusual push for the Dallas Stars. Dallas has had a horrendous start to the season. The Stars have plummeted to last place in the Pacific Division with a 5-8-3 record, allowed the second most goals against in the NHL (tied with Toronto at 60), and goaltender Marty Turco is struggling mightly with the worst save percentage in the league (.865) and the 2nd worst goals against average in the league (3.70).

Given that, the surge in votes for Dallas Stars players this week was unusual. Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas (36,833) trailed only Niklas Lidstrom and Dion Phaneuf in voting for defenseman. Goaltender Marty Turco trailed only Roberto Luongo with 37,569 votes. Dallas forwards Mike Ribeiro (55,101) and Brenden Morrow (52,182) lead Henrik Zetterberg (38,135) in voting for Western Conference forwards. Apparently the NHL removed some of the votes, because Brenden Morrow has almost 16,000 less votes now than 2 days ago. Turco has 12,000 less. Robidas is no longer among the the top 10 for defenseman.

None of that should take away from the entertaining push by the Dallas Stars last year for fan Allstar Game voting. Campaign commercials by Marty Turco, Sergei Zubov, Brenden Morrow, and Mike Modano were some of the best in the league.

TSN noted irregularities in Eastern Conference voting as well: Canadiens lead all 6 positions in Allstar voting. Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, defensemen Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek, and forwards Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Alex Tanguay are leading all 6 positions in Eastern Conference Allstar voting. The vote totals are holding strong for Montreal today, but information about programs casting automated votes repeatedly for Montreal players has surfaced on several blogs. The CBC spoke with NHL spokesman Gary Meaghar on a suspicious spike in Allstar voting, "I don't want to jump to conclusions at this point. There is some indication that something has happened. I'm not at a point where I can say definitively that something has taken place." Pensblog has a screencap of the automated Montreal voting script.

- San Jose Sharks goaltender Brian Boucher was a guest this week on XM Radio's NHL Live with E.J. Hradek and Don LaGreca. Boucher has been solid off the bench since a leg injury sidelined Evgeni Nabokov on the final save of a 5-4 shootout win over St Louis on November 6th. Boucher backstopped the Sharks to a 3-1 record in the last 4 games, earning 7 out of a possible 8 points. He is playing well, patient and blocking a lot of the net down low. As mentioned earlier, his last win gives him enough starts to qualify for several goaltending statistical categories. Boucher leads the NHL with a 1.49 GAA, and trails only Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins with a .940SV% (tied with Craig Anderson).

Brian Boucher is playing behind a veteran defense and the most potent offense in the NHL, but he has not looked as sharp as he did during his stretch of 5+ consecutive shutouts during the 2003-04 NHL season. That could be a simple result of not seeing enough game action. Boucher worked his way back from a shoulder injury playing half a season with the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms before being acquired by the San Jose Sharks on February 26th, 2008. He has only played in 14 NHL regular season games over the last 3 seasons.

Boucher described how he felt in goal during the record setting 332 minute, 5 and a half game shutout streak on NHL Live:

"People talk about being in the zone. The streak was pretty unbelievable. We weren't a Stanley Cup contending team so it was farfetched we could have done something like that. It was a special time. The guys battled hard. I think they were more nervous than I was. In games 4 and 5, they really did not want to take bad penalties. Guys were blocking shots like crazy. It was a really good moment at that time of the year, December January. The dog days of the hockey season, where it seems like there is no end in sight and we pulled together and did something incredible."

"The one save that sticks out in my mind was in Minnesota. We ended up breaking the record in the third period. I think it was in the second period, (Marian) Gaborik had a great chance in the slot. I made a glove save on him. There was not a doubt in my mind that I wasn't going to stop it. I was so focused on it. I don't know if it was the greatest save in the world, but I knew he had a great chance. It would have been 5 or 7 minutes short of the record if I had let that in. To make that save was probably the biggest one of that streak".

Boucher also talked about what it is like to focus on a game when you are not seeing a lot of shots against, how well Dan Ellis performed in his 54-save performance at HP Pavilion, and what it was like to see Roberto Luongo post 3 consecutive shutouts and challenge his streak "records are meant to be broken, and if it is going to be broken it is going to be a guy like him. He is going to have a lot of records after his career is over, but it would be nice if he would let me have this one."

- San Jose Sharks General Manager and EVP Doug Wilson also was a guest on XM Radio's NHL Hour with host Garry Bettman. Wilson talked about hiring new head coach Todd McLellan, McLellan's Stanley Cup winning year with Detroit and his experience with the Minnesota Wild organization as head coach of their AHL team, the process that went in to selecting a coach, how the Sharks are still not playing their best hockey, about being the head of the NHLPA during the strike shortened 48-game season of 1994-95, the balanced scoring in San Jose, and the emergence of Devin Setoguchi.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman asked Doug Wilson what it was like to spend 14 years with an original six team in Chicago, then to be traded to an expansion San Jose franchise and never leaving.

"It was a tremendous challenge, but it was the best decision I ever made. When they approached me about coming out here, they said I would be on the ground floor of something new. I would be a pioneer. Many people should never forget the importance of that first year that we had that we played down at the Cow Palace (in San Francisco). The Kelly Kisio's, the Dean Evason's, the Rob Zettler's... the relationship they built with our fan base has continued to this day. It was really important."

"It was a great challenge. That first year team was one of the closest teams I ever played on. We lost 17 games by one goal, but I will never forget how it started here. Our fans have been so loyal right from day 1 that every year when we start to build our team we take it very seriously that we put a team on the ice they are proud of."

- The other shoe dropped in Tampa Bay on Friday. Tampa Bay Lightning EVP & General Manager Brian Lawton fired head coach Barry Melrose 16 games into the 2008-09 NHL season. After a number of off-season acquisitions, the team had stumbled out of the gate to a 5-7-4 record. "Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them." Lawton said of the firing. Assistant head coach and 18-year NHL veteran Rick Tocchet was named as a replacement interim head coach.

Barry Melrose spoke with ESPN News shortly after the firing. "There has been a lot of stuff going on here behind the scenes, I can't say I am totally surprised" Melrose said. "I am very disappointed. 16 games, we have lost 7 games, 5 have been to the New York Rangers, San Jose and Detroit. No one has beat those three teams all year long... Is 5-7-4 acceptable? No it is not".

Tampa Bay beat writer Damian Cristodero noted in the St Petersburg Times that the firing could cost the Lightning $2.25-million if he does not accept another NHL job for the length of his 3-year contract. Cristodero adds to that figure $1.3-million the team is already paying fired head coach John Tortorella. On his Lightning Strikes blog, Cristodero reported that Melrose skipped a Tuesday practice after holding a team meeting. During the meeting he challenged his team's work ethic after an uninspired performance against Washington. Melrose left the practice to assistant coaches Rick Tocchet, Wes Walz and Cap Raeder. It may have been the beginning of the end with team captain Vincent Lecavalier struggling, number 1 overall draft selection Steven Stamkos mired in a 7-game scoring slump, and goaltenders Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig barely able to hold their heads above water behind a porous defense.

After being soundly handled 3-0 at home by San Jose on October 25th, Melrose said of his team's performance "It was an embarassing effort out of our team tonight... nothing looked good." He went on to lambaste the team's offensive performance "We have scored 11 goals in 7 games. You don't have to be Albert Einstein to figure out that is not enough". It was an effort that would repeat itself too often for the Lightning management.

Tampa Bay ices the worst offense in the NHL. Jussi Jokinen and Vincent Lecavalier are the only players on the team with more than 3 goals. The offseason trade of Dan Boyle for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart and a draft pick fell flat after Carle's recent trade to Philadelphia. The offseason acquisitions of Vaclav Prospal, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi and Andrej Meszaros have not provided enough on a continuing jumble of line changes. The late additions of Lukas Krajicek and Marek Malik were almost a panick move to provide any kind of defensive help for the blueline.

Yahoo's Greg Wyshynski said in his usual understated fashion, Mistakes were made, but firing Melrose just saved Tampa's season. A lot of the blame is going to rightly fall on the head of Melrose, but the problem is equal parts on the bench with the players, with the coaching staff, and with the hair trigger in the owner's box. The Lightning are only 4 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the wheels were wobbling with Barry Melrose at the helm and they can just as easily come off with Rick Tocchet driving this uninspired lineup.

- Devin Setoguchi settles in with ravenous Sharks - Canadian Press.

Setoguchi bounced between San Jose and the team's AHL Worceters affiliate last season, but has found serious stability early in his second year as a pro. Setoguchi is playing on the top line with Thornton and Marleau.

"I got a chance of a lifetime to play with two of the best players in the NHL," he said Wednesday. "I'm just trying to make the best of it right now."

- In addition to the late breaking news of the loss of defenseman Francois Beauchemin for the season with a torn ACL, the OC Register Ducks Blog also covered Brian Burke stepping down earlier this week as general manager of the team. Anaheim beat writer Dan Wood reported that after a contract extension was offered to Burke and declined, the Ducks moved quickly to replace him with assistant Bob Murray.

The Anaheim Ducks posted a full transcript of the press conference online:

"Brian has been honest and upfront from the beginning regarding his family situation. We have discussed it at length. We have had a very open and honest discussion. At that time, we discussed the best potential transition in the event he turned our extension. I felt Brian deserved more time as he was clearly wrestling with his decision with good reason. Since that time, with encouragement and support from Brian, I spent a great deal of time with Bob Murray and identified him as the top candidate to replace Brian in the event he decided to move on. Late last week, Brian respectfully declined our contract extension and we decided to move forward on our previously discussed plan." - Anaheim Ducks CEO Michael Schulman.

"(The Anaheim Ducks) are an older team, a veteran team and have a lot of people who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. We just have to get concentrated on hockey now. If they have success, they’ll success off the ice as well on the ice. That is the biggest message I can give to them." - new GM Bob Murray.

"No, there wouldn’t have been any decision without (winning a Stanley Cup with Anaheim in 2007). I would have had to continue to do the flying and the commute. There was no way I would have the nerve to ask to go back somewhere if I hadn’t won a championship here. I think that would have taken a lot more nerve than I have. That validated me. That justified my asking. In other words, if I hadn’t delivered I think it’s a real different equation." - former GM Brian Burke

More on the move from Anaheim Ducks Director of Publications & New Media Adam Brady here (scroll to Nov. 12th).

- Don't look now but Stanford Hockey opened the ACHA season 7-1 before a pair of weekend games against USC this weekend in Redwood City. A nickname heavy recap of their season opening wins against Sac State is available here. Stanford will travel to Oakland Ice for the first leg of the "Big Freeze" on Thursday, returning to Redwood City Ice Oasis for the rubber match Friday. Santa Clara University opened the season with a rough 1-6 performance. They return to the South Bay January 17th for an 8:30PM game against Fresno State. San Jose State swept a 3-day Hockey Showcase with 7-1, 13-0, and 9-2 wins over University of Texas, Boise State, and Arizona State. The Spartans are 8-7 after the first 15 games of the season. After a month and a half on the road, SJSU will return to Sharks Ice in San Jose for a pair of games against Texas A&M Friday and Saturday January 9-10th. You can also listen to select SJSU college hockey games on 90.5 KSJS, more info here.

- A staggering statistic from Mike Heika at the excellent Dallas Morning News Stars blog:

[Q] Mike, do you have a method of projecting what the Stars' record would be at this current rate? I recall Hitchcock getting canned after 50-ish games back in 02. Is Tippett on pace to do worse than that?

[MH] Yeah, J.C., the Stars have been at this level only once since 1995-96 (when Tippett's team was 11-15-3 in 2003-04 after a four-game losing streak) In fairness, that 03-04 team finished 41-26-15.

To figure pace, you would simply divide points accumulated (13) by games played (15) and get .87 points per game. Then, multiply by 82 games and you would get: 71 points.

Tampa Bay (32-43-7) and Los Angeles (31-42-9) tied for last place in the NHL last season with 71 points. Yikes. Ken Hitchcock was fired in 2002 with a 23-17-10 record. That is eye-opening to be sure.

Dallas was a dark horse playoff pick by many at the start of the season.

[Update] California Rubber, the new hockey magazine available in most ice and roller hockey rinks in the state, updates the California hockey alumni's participating in the AHL/ECHL/College/WHL/USHL/NAHL/BCHL leagues. Subscription information is available at 612-929-2171 or

Friday, November 14, 2008

Christian Ehrhoff tied for scoring lead by defenseman, Sharks blueline combines for 9 points and 15 shots on goal in 6-1 blowout of Calgary Flames

San Jose Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff NHL hockey photo
San Jose Sharks defenseman Christian Ehrhoff tied for NHL scoring lead by defenseman

The San Jose Sharks blitzed the Calgary Flames in the first period en route to a 6-1 blowout win Thursday night at HP Pavilion. Three power play goals by Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, and an even strength tally by Milan Michalek, provided all the offense San Jose would need in the first period. "Iron" Mike Keenan was forced to pull former Sharks goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff for Curtis McElhinney after 20 minutes, but the move did little to spark a listless Flames squad who limped to the finish without any of the intensity the Sharks saw in the first round of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series last year.

San Jose put an end to a brief 2-game losing streak after Nashville and Phoenix, but they extended an 11-game point streak at home (10-0-1). It is a distinct reversal from 2007-08, where the Sharks stumbled out of the gate 4-5-2 at HP Pavilion. They finished 22-13-6 overall at home. One area where the Sharks needed to improve was on the power play. Last season the Sharks finished 70-372 (18.8%) with the man advantage, tied for 8th in the NHL. This season the Sharks have generated more offense 5-on-5, with a power play 14-87 (16.1%) that has been less effective putting points on the board. The Sharks added Rob Blake and Dan Boyle during the offseason, and along with Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Edouard Vlasic the Sharks have a quartet of offensive-defenseman who can initiate from the blueline.

It all seemed to come together on Thursday night as the Sharks finished 4-9 on the power play. The Sharks defense combined for 15 shots on goal, and Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Boyle and Rob Blake combined for 3 assists each. Ehrhoff (2G, 13A) is now tied with Filip Kuba of Ottawa (1G, 14A) and Shea Weber (7G, 8A) for the NHL scoring lead by defenseman. San Jose's power play was effective using shots and excellent movement from the point to create mismatches and 2-on-1's down low. Joe Pavelski's first power play goal came on a bomb of a shot from Rob Blake on the left point. With Ryane Clowe parked in front of Kiprusoff, the puck deflected off a mass of bodies in front and Pavelski buried the rebound. The second goal came off the rebound of another Rob Blake point shot, this time with Marleau converting a rebound from the right side of the net. The Sharks third and fourth power play goals were initiated by shots from the point, but took a more circuitous route through traffic to find the back of the net.

Seconds after writing that the Michalek-Pavelski-Clowe second power play unit was actually playing and getting ice time like a first power play unit, Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker made the same observation. He also noted that Marleau's power play goal in the first period was his first power play point of the season. Patrick Marleau does have 18 non-power play points (7G, 11A) in addition to 2 short-handed goals and 2 game winning goals this season. Baker was on fire with his analysis of the game. After the fifth San Jose goal in the second period, he said of the Calgary Flames lack of speed "I don't want to say the Flames are running on sand, that would imply they are skating slow. They are running on bare feet while the Sharks are running in brand new track shoes." The Flames did look like they were skating in bare feet, and the Sharks gave considerable ice time to the third and fourth lines in the final 20 minutes which still did not improve how Calgary looked. Sluggish. Also from Baker imagining himself as a Calgary Flame in the second "I don't want to lose by 10-12 goals", and in the third period "utter domination is the story line of this game." Jamie Baker may be one of the best analysts in the game, constantly picking up subtleties and big picture concepts on the ice and relaying them to his listeners.

The Sharks outshot the Flames 20-5 after the first period, 46-24 for the game. Calgary outhit the San Jose 32-24, and briefly in the first period it looked like some of the playoff intensity would rub off on this contest. Robyn Regehr leveled Devin Setoguchi behind the net, and Dion Phaneuf chalked up another big hit. The physical play did not phase the Sharks. In addition to the largest lineup in the NHL, San Jose also ices one of the fastest skating rosters in the league. Milan Michalek's two goals were a direct result of the team speed. His first came off a nice feed by Joe Pavelski. Michalek blew by Aucion and Phaneuf in the neutral zone, faked a shot, and lifted the puck over Kiprusoff's leg pad short side as he went down early. His second goal came on a Christian Ehrhoff rush down the left wing. Ehrhoff slid a centering pass with Pavelski and Michalek outnumbering a lone Calgary backchecking forward. Michalek tipped the puck and converted a rebound for his 5th goal of the season.

Michalek also created another scoring chance on a breakaway in the second period. While Patrick Marleau accelerates smoothly with powerful strides, Michalek is a physics exercise in wasted energy. Marleau glides on the ice, Michalek churns, both use their speed to put defenseman on their heels and force forwards to waive sticks at them in the neutral zone. The Sharks team speed generated several more breakways with Pavelski, Plihal and Marleau creating more scoring chances as the Calgary defense could not adjust.

It raises a question of how do you play the San Jose Sharks? Last year early in the preseason teams rolled out the hack-a-Shaq strategy on Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. It worked sporadically, but with the trade deadline addition of Brian Campbell the Sharks were able to skate their way out of any problems to finish with an 11-game winning streak and a 20-game point streak. The hack-a-Marleau strategy was employed by Calgary in the first round, with Dion Phaneuf and Cory Sarich taking shots at Marleau's head in game 3. This Sharkspage post on game 3 earned over 40,000 page views, the most viewed post not involving Danica Patrick or Sumo wrestling in this blog's 10-year history.

General Manager Doug Wilson added Dan Boyle and Rob Blake this offseason. Boyle is argueably a better stick handler than Campbell, and is light years ahead of Campbell with his anticipation and ability to pressure opposing teams into making mistakes. Rob Blake adds a much needed power play howitzer on the point, but it has really been the development of Christian Ehrhoff that deserves mention. Ehrhoff is hands down the Sharks best defenseman at this point in the season. He has always had the physical tools to be an elite offensive defenseman, but under Ron Wilson at times Ehrhoff appeared as if he was hesitant to make a mistake. Under Todd McLellan, mistakes are going to happen but they are not going to limit his puck moving potential. In addition to tweaking the backswing on his slapshot for a quicker release (a half cock instead of a full windup), Ehrhoff's speed is as explosive as anyone on the team. He uses that speed to transition the puck up ice as well as chasing down opposing breakaways. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a young intelligent defenseman who can glean the finer points of the offensive-defenseman game from Boyle and Blake this year, but it is Ehrhoff who is leading the blueline attack on the best offensive team in the NHL.

With the mobility and speed on the blueline, and finally the addition of killer instinct from Blake and Boyle, how do you play the San Jose Sharks? Do opposing teams try to trade scoring chances with a team that has 7 legitimate top-6 forwards and several players who can put up points on the third and fourth line? Do teams try to play the body and wear down the largest lineup in the NHL a la any Anaheim-Sharks game over the last 3 years? The answer is no, and no. Moving forward, look for more teams to tighten up in the defensive zone, and flood the neutral zone trying to mitigate the Sharks team speed. Given the number of chances the Sharks generate, eventually the power play is going to click consistently. Teams will need to cut down on penalties and rely on solid goaltending. The Detroit Red Wings are the defending Stanley Cup Champions, but many opponents are circling San Jose as well as Detroit on the calender this year as teams they want to knock off of the pedestal.

San Jose goaltender Brian Boucher stopped 23 of 24 shots to earn his 4th win of the season (4-1-1, .940SV%, 1.49GAA, 2SO). The win also gives Boucher enough starts to qualify for several goaltending statisical rankings. Boucher leads the NHL in GAA at 1.49 and is third in save percentage at .940. Evgeni Nabokov is tied New York's Henrik Lundqvist for the NHL lead in wins with 10. Miikka Kiprusoff made 16 saves on 20 shots in the first period, and backup Curtis McElhinney stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced in the final 2 periods. The Sharks have registered 40 shots or more 9 times this season, and have limited shots against to 20 or less 4 times. Evgeni Nabokov, Jonathan Cheechoo and Alexei Semenov were scratches for San Jose. Patrick Marleau's first period power play goal ties him with Owen Nolan for the franchise lead with 75. Jonathan Cheechoo is third with 59. Right wing Mike Grier left the game in the first period with a lower body injury.

[Update] Sharks defense earns record nine assists in drubbing of Flames -

[Update2] Calgary Herald reporter Scott Cruickshank notes on the Flames Insider blog that there was a gunshot outside of the Sharks practice facility on Thursday. Nothing furthur was reported by the local media. In a post-game report Cruickshank relayed several comments from a defeated Flames locker room describing San Jose as "top of the class", as a "measuring stick", and as a team always looking to shoot the puck "everything goes to the net, funnels to the net" similar to the Red Wings style. The Calgary Herald posted a photo gallery from the game by renowned Calgary photographer Robert Galbraith. Scott Cruickshank's post-game article quoted Joe Thornton on San Jose's 46-shot effort against Calgary, after the Sharks registered a team record 57-shots Tuesday against Nashville. "We're going for 60, that's what we're hoping for." Thornton said.

[Update3] One complete Tanking, Flames fall flat in first visit to San Jose since playoff loss to Sharks last season - Randy Sportak for the Calgary Sun.

If that was a game to use as a measuring stick, the Calgary Flames had best find a bigger ruler. Actually, after facing the San Jose Sharks and being thumped 6-1 last night, you'd need a depth finder to find them.

"You play a team like this and wonder where you are in terms of your own development," said Flames head coach Mike Keenan. "You got a good sense of reality when you end up quite not on the same level."

It was the first return to the Shark Tank since the disappointing Game 7 loss that snuffed their Stanley Cup hopes a few months ago. It was also the Flames' first chance at a Sharks team that's clearly the class of the NHL right now. It ended up a debacle.

[Update4] Flames’ hopes hinge on Kiprusoff - Ross McKeon for Yahoo Sports.

“They pushed us out of it in the first period,” Calgary captain Jarome Iginla said. “We all know the importance of how much more we have to bring in our game. Our game is competing and we’re not bringing enough right now. We’ll get it back.”

Thursday night’s meltdown came almost without warning. Kiprusoff was quick as a cat on a flurry of early Sharks chances. He slid on his knees to his right, anticipating a Ryane Clowe shot. He denied Devin Setoguchi twice in close, too. Maybe asking him to make three solid saves in the opening two minutes was foreboding evidence of what was to come.

[Update5] David Pollak notes on his excellent Working the Corners blog that a scoring change took away an Ehrhoff assist on Pavelski's first goal and gave it to Ryane Clowe. This gives Ehrhoff two assists on the night instead of three, tying him with Dan Boyle, Chris Pronger, Andre Markov and Daniel Giradi for 3rd overall in scoring by a defenseman. The scoring change also gave the Sharks 8 assists by defenseman on the night, tying an earlier franchise record 8-point performance by the blueline.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baja California prepares for 41st-annual 2008 SCORE International Tecate Baja 1000 offroad race November 19-23rd

Friend of the blog RK Productions posted this video clip of the 2008 SCORE San Felipe 250 earlier this year with footage from mile 4 and 214. It is a good prelude for the upcoming 41st running of the Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 offroad race which will be held November 19th to the 23rd. Southern California native Johhny Campbell will race for a record 11th overall motorcycle title, and NASCAR/IRL/ChampCar veteran Robby Gordon will be looking to win his 4th Baja 1000 title in the #77 Monster Energy trophy truck.

In a pre-race interview with Wicked Gravity Video at the 2008 SEMA Auto Show in Las Vegas, Gordon talked about preperations and strategy while noting that his 28th starting position could pose early traffic issues. Gordon also mentioned that he participated in the 1995 Baja 1000, the last time the steep four-mile 4% downhill Rumorosa Grade was a part of the course. "I got to be honest with you, I know a lot of people talk about it, but it is not that big of a deal. We did it in 1995 and we will do it again in 2008," Gordon said.

The 631.35-mile race starts and ends on Boulevard Costero in the picturesque city of Ensenada. 375 entrants from 39 U.S. States and 20 countries are expected to compete in 28-Pro and 7-Sportsman classes for cars, trucks, motorcycles and ATVs. The Baja 1000 is considered the oldest and most difficult offroad race in the world. A complete course map is available on here. Race notes and timing information will also be updated regularly on the site along with exclusive photos and video.

Note: A new website is in production for the race this year, According to a press release BFGoodrich Tires and Volkswagen of America are sponsoring the new website which will offer real-time GPS tracking information for all drivers in the Trophy Truck 1, 8, Stock Mini and 5/1600 categories, exclusive photos and real-time streaming video.

[Update] Roeseler Among The Favorites for Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 Win, A Legend, Among Legends, Chases The Legend -

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nashville goalie Dan Ellis withstands firing range, faces franchise record 57 shots on goal emerging with 4-3 OT win, SJ suffers first loss at home

Nashville Predators goaltender Dan Ellis
San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau NHL hockey photo
San Jose Sharks right wing Devin Setoguchi

In February it was Evgeni Nabokov who turned in a sparkling 31-save performance against Columbus that signaled 2007-08 would be something special. With San Jose giving up odd man rushes and scoring chances by the handful, Nabokov pulled incredible highlight reel saves out of his goalie hat against Manny Malhotra, Jason Chimera and Rick Nash to give the Sharks a chance to win the game.

On a rare rainy Tuesday night in San Jose, it was Dan Ellis working a little magic against the Sharks as he stopped 54 of a franchise record 57 shots on goal to earn a 4-3 overtime win. The Predators were reeling. Shutout twice against Vancouver and Colorado, Nashville lost the first 3 games of a long 6-game road trip to sink to a 6-7-1 record. Dan Ellis withstood a barrage early as the Sharks outshot Nashville 43-18 after 40 minutes.

Ellis held firm as San Jose pressured with Mike Grier, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau outnumbering Nashville in front 3-to-1 and taking repeated whacks at the puck. The Predators received a break early when a quick whistle negated a Joe Thornton goal on a 4-on-3. Thornton tried to stuff a puck home short side. Patrick Marleau took a chop at a rebound in front, and Thornton reversed around behind the net and fired a backhand by Ellis. Referee Dave Jackson instantly waived off the play. One referee skated to the scorers table to explain the call, another explained the situation to Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, but no one explained the call to the 17,496-strong sellout crowd. Play resumed tied 0-0.

Patrick Marleau set up Devin Setoguchi for the first goal of the game at 16:52. Setoguchi launched a blistering slapshot from the left faceoff circle that beat Ellis cleanly for his 8th goal of the season. Marleau was skating with confidence, blowing by players in the neutral zone with speed and backchecking hard. He was easily the best player on the ice not wearing a #39 Nashville Predators jersey. The Sharks added another goal 16:53 into the second after a Joe Thornton point blank shot created a juicy rebound teed up for Rob Blake. All 4 lines were creating scoring chances for San Jose.

Led by the goaltending of Ellis, the Predators continued to battle back in the game regardless of the score, regardless of shot totals or momentum. Nashville right wing Patrick Hornqvist dumped a puck in on Brian Boucher. Preds captain Jason Arnott beat Rob Blake to the loose rebound, snapping a backhand that beat Boucher five hole. Nashville's forecheck in the third period created pressure on the Sharks defense moving the puck up ice. Another odd bounce on a dump in as the puck deflects to Vernon Fiddler in the slot. Quick shot with traffic in front beats Boucher glove side. Score tied 2-2.

San Jose's big line of Marleau, Thornton and Setoguchi answered back 27 seconds later. Thornton took a pass behind the net, and hit a driving Setoguchi in front with a slick backhand feed. Setoguchi deposits it for his team leading 9th goal of the season (tied with Ryane Clowe). The Sharks are keeping their feet moving, dumping the puck deep in the Nashville zone, and using their size and speed to dominate play along the boards and in the neutral zone. Tomas Plihal takes a 2 minute hooking call at 11:52, and 1 second after the penalty expires J.P. Dumont and Ryan Suter combine for point blank shots on Brian Boucher. The rebound on Dumont's shot deflects to Suter open in front, and the son of former Sharks defenseman Gary Suter buries it to tie the game at 3-3.

Ellis again holds firm against a furious Sharks rally as seconds tick down in regulation. In overtime, Ryane Clowe pulls up and fires a long shot from the redline between Jason Arnott and Ryan Suter. Arnott waives a stick at Patrick Marleau, and Marleau explodes to gather the rebound and snap a shot blocker side. Save of the game by Dan Ellis 3:50 into OT. After a faceoff loss by Roenick, a pair of Predators drive the net and create traffic in front of Boucher. Defenseman Ville Koistinen takes two strides to his right and hammers home the game winning goal from 30 feet out.

Dan Ellis stopped 54 of 57 shots to earn his 5th win of the season (5-7-1, .890SV%, 3.19GAA). The Sharks had 16 power play shots in the first 2 periods but finished 1-7 overall with the man advantage. Brian Boucher stopped 25 of 29 shots in a losing effort (3-1-1, .936SV%, 1.59GAA, 2SO). Boucher is scheduled to be on XM's NHL Live radio broadcast today (show airs 9-11AM PT). Nashville outhit San Jose 30-24, blocked more shots 22-14, and won the battle of the faceoff circle 33-21. Evgeni Nabokov, Jonathan Cheechoo and Dan Boyle were scratches for San Jose. Kevin Klein, Martin Erat and Joel Ward were scratches for Nashville.

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

[Update] OT loss ends Sharks' home winning streak at nine - David Pollak for the SJ Mercury News.

[Update2] Preds survive 57-shot barrage, win in OT - John Glennon for the Nashville Tennessean.

It was hard enough to believe the Predators had survived their encounter with San Jose on Tuesday, let alone comprehend the fact they were raising their sticks in victory afterward. The Sharks had done everything but bury the Predators under the ice for most of the game — certainly for the first two periods, when they outshot Nashville by a 43-17 margin.

But thanks to a spectacular effort by Predators’ goalie Dan Ellis, as well as a couple of one-goal rallies in the third period, Nashville came away with a 4-3 overtime victory that in many ways defied description. The Predators won on a night they tied a decade-old franchise record for shots allowed (57), in a building where they’d tasted victory just once in 12 previous trips, and against a team that had gone 9-0 at HP Pavilion to start the season.

[Update3] Head to Head: Pick your poison, in a battle of d-men who is tops Dan Boyle or Brian Campbell? -

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Max Giese: Interview with San Jose Sharks left wing prospect Lukas Kaspar

San Jose Sharks left wing prospect Lukas Kaspar NHL
San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars hockey photo

Lukas Kaspar, the Sharks first-round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, began the season in San Jose after making the team out of training-camp thanks to an impressive pre-season. Kaspar was effective offensively while being defensively responsible. He played in the Sharks' first 6 games of the season where he scored his first NHL career goal (also a game winner), in a 1-0 shutout win at Los Angeles on October 12th. During time spent in San-Jose, Kaspar played mostly on the fourth-line while averaging 7 minutes of ice-time. The Sharks later opted to send Kaspar down to the AHL to play for the Worcester Sharks while recalling rugged right wing Brad Staubitz and left wing Jamie McGinn. Kaspar has accumulated 117 points in 227 games during 3 seasons in the AHL.

A 23 year-old native of Most, Czech Republic, Kaspar is a skill forward with size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds). For a player of his size, Kaspar is also a fluid skater with soft hands around the net. He has goal scoring tools in a heavy shot and a quick release, but he often elects to create through the passing game rather than finishing a play himself. Kaspar is a creative offensive player that has noticeable improved his defensive play since joining the Sharks organization. He projects as a solid two-way player in the NHL, and currently is one of the Sharks top offensive prospects at the AHL level.

Sharkspage was able to catch up with Lukas Kaspar and find out how he is doing since being sent down to Worcester. Kaspar is a charismatic young-man with a good sense of humor, and was kind enough to answer a few questions from Max Giese about starting the season with the San Jose Sharks, how having fellow Czechs Milan Michalek and Tomas Plihal helped while he was in the NHL, his linemates in Worcester, what it was like to be drafted, and how he has worked to improve the defensive side of his game.

[MG] You had a very strong pre-season and scored your first NHL goal this year while playing in the Sharks’ first six games of the season. How did you enjoy your time in San Jose and does that time in San Jose make you that much hungrier to get back to the NHL?

[LK] I loved it there in San Jose and it was a dream come true playing in the NHL for the Sharks. The time there makes me want to work my ass off to get back there.

[MG] You made your NHL debut last-season and played in three games for the Sharks. What are the differences between what Ron Wilson and Todd McLellan asked of you to do on the ice?

[LK] Nothing really. It was all about just making and sticking with the team under both coaches.

[MG] Does having fellow Czech born players like Milan Michalek and Tomas Plihal in the Sharks organization help make you feel more comfortable on and off the ice in San Jose?

[LK] Yes it helps a lot. It’s nice to have someone to talk to about things and to hang out with.

[MG] Who was your roommate on the road with the San Jose Sharks?

[LK] Milan Michalek was my roommate and he was great.

[MG] I heard he has quite the sense of humor?

[LK] All Czechs do (laughs).

[MG] What were your emotions like after being notified that you were being put on waivers and being sent back to Worcester?

[LK] I was disappointed obviously and who wouldn’t be? Playing in the NHL is my dream, but there isn’t anything I can do about it at this time.

[MG] When San Jose assigned you to Worcester, what were some of the areas of your game they wanted you to continue to work on and what do you believe you need to do to stick in the NHL?

[LK] I talked to the coaches and they just said to play hard every shift. They said it wasn’t that I played myself out of San Jose, but they wanted to try new players and add new ingredients to the team.

[MG] How do you feel you have performed recently in Worcester after being reassigned? How does the team look this year?

[LK] I have played well and have been on an assortment of different line combinations. I have enjoyed playing with guys like Steven Zalewski, Mike Morris, and Riley Armstrong. We have a good team and I am trying to help them win some games.

[MG] Do you ever feel any added pressure on yourself because you were a first-round draft pick?

[LK] No I don’t think so. You get drafted high and then get signed which is nice, but after that you aren’t any different than the rest of the guys and you have to work just as hard.

[MG] Going back to the 2004 NHL Entry draft, can you describe your emotions when the Sharks traded up to draft you with their first pick of the draft 22nd overall?

[LK] Very excited and happy. Playing in the NHL has always been my dream. At the time though I didn’t really know much about the NHL. I collected hockey cards and was able to see the Stanley Cup finals, but that was it. The Sharks were always a favorite of mine because of their cool logo.

[MG] Before the draft did you suspect the Sharks were targeting you with their pick?

[LK] No not at all. I remember sitting there with my family and the Sharks made a trade with New Jersey to move up to 22nd overall and I said to myself and to my family that they are not taking me. I was surprised and shocked when they picked me. I went to the NHL combine in Toronto and was interviewed by 22 teams, but the Sharks weren’t one of them and I never talked to them before the draft. Some teams spoke with me in the Czech Republic during the season, but the Sharks never did. I also didn’t know much about California.

[MG] Coming out of the draft you were known as a pure goal scorer, does that fairly describe your game?

[LK] I don’t think I ever was a pure goal scorer. It wasn’t as if I was just sitting there waiting for the puck and then would shoot it in the net. I have always tried to make plays and pass the puck first. I come from the same town as guys like Jiri Sleger and Martin Rucinski. I had the same coach from third grade to the eight grade and he always taught us not to be selfish and that a pass was always better than taking the shot. Then I came over to North America and all they do is get on me to shoot more now.

[MG] Now your game seems to be about solid two-way play and you even kill penalties. What was behind that transition of style of play?

[LK] Soon as I was drafted the Sharks told me I had to work on my defensive game. It was something that I always knew I had to work on and always believed that I had the ability to do so, but now I can honestly say that I have made huge progress and can say that I am a two-way player.

[MG] What do you believe you need to work on to get back to the NHL and stick?

[LK] It’s tough to say and all I can do is play my hardest. Right now I am trying to put up more points during my time down in Worcester.

[MG] Have you set any goals for yourself this season?

[LK] No doubt I want to get back to and play in the NHL this-season. That would be a dream come true to go back to San Jose. The NHL is definitely my goal, but I also want to help Worcester win some games while I’m here.

[Update] Prospect Insider: San Jose Sharks 2008-2009 top 12 prospects - Shane Malloy for TSN.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks blanked by Falcons, 2-0

The Worcester Sharks out hit, outshot, and out played the Springfield Falcons during a Veteran’s Day matinee Tuesday at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, but didn’t outscore their Mass Pike rivals in a 2-0 loss in front of 3,248 disappointed fans.

Falcons goaltender Devan Dubnyk was the story of the game, turning aside all 46 WorSharks shots. How one-sided was the game? Until Gilbert Brule connected on an empty net goal at 19:40 of the third period, the WorSharks had as many shots in each individual period as Springfield had for the entire game. The Falcons would finish with 16 for the contest.

The game’s first goal was the game winner, and it came while the two teams skated four on four a little more than a minute after WorSharks forward Andrew Desjardins and Dubnyk were both whistled for roughing. With the puck dumped into the Worcester zone, Springfield center Tyler Spurgeon beat WorSharks defenseman Jason Demers to the puck, and fired a pass into the slot and right on the stick of Derek Bekar. Bekar, with Patrick Traverse draped all over him, flipped the puck past WorSharks netminder Gerald Coleman for the 1-0 lead.

From that point on it, was all Dubnyk.

Worcester will get a couple more chances to solve Dubnyk this weeekend when the two teams meet up again for a home-and-home series starting Saturday back in Worcester.

With the injury to Evgeny Nabokov Thursday night in a shootout victory over the Dallas Stars, San Jose recalled Thomas Greiss. Worcester, in turn, signed netminder Gerald Coleman to a PTO to back up Kyle Jones. Coleman was playing for San Jose’s ECHL affiliate in Phoenix. Jones won his pro debut in Hartford, but the next night gave up 5 goals in the first two periods in a 5-4 loss to Binghamton. Coleman replaced Jones for the third period in that game.

Springfield defenseman Jake Taylor appeared to injure his right knee and a huge collision in front of the Springfield net early in the first period. It appeared that he was hit by fellow defenseman Taylor Chorney as a large pile of players slid into the net. After being helped to the bench, Taylor did not return to action.

Riley Armstrong also had to be helped to the bench after being tripped by Carl Corazzini and crashing into the boards early in the second period. Armstrong returned to skate in his normal lines soon after.

Penalty killing has been an issue with Worcester all season. Despite killing all seven of Springfield’s power play chances, Worcester is still near the bottom of the AHL. They are currently tied for 24th—out of 29--with Lowell and Manchester at .797 (55 of 64). Worcester is better at home, 36 of 42 for .857, than on the road where they are tied for the worst in the league, 19 for 27 for .704.

With the loss Worcester is now 1-1 in Veteran’s Day matinees. They defeated Springfield 2-1 in a shootout last season. The WorSharks are 2-1 overall, with a 6-3 Saturday night victory over Providence in their first season.

Scratches for Worcester were P.J Fenton, Matt Jones, Dan DaSilva, Taylor Dakers, and Matt Kinch. DaSilva skated in pre-game warm-ups.

1. Dubnyk (46 saves)
2. Bekar (gwg)
3. Armstrong (8 SOG)
This was my ballot, and I’m sticking with it.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even Strength
Zalewski 5-0/3-2/1-0 = 9-2
Larose 3-3/1-0/0-3 = 4-6
Desjardins 1-2/1-1/3-0 = 5-3
Cavanagh 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Vesce 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Fox 1-1/1-0/1-0 = 3-1

Power Play
Zalewski 2-3/3-0/0-0 = 5-3
Larose 0-4/1-0/1-0 = 2-4
Desjardins 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1

Penalty Kill
Zalewski 1-0/3-0/2-2 = 6-2
Vesce 0-1/0-0/1-0 = 1-1
Armstrong 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Cavanagh 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1
Desjardins 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

SPR 1 0 1 - 2
WOR 0 0 0 - 0

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Springfield, D. Bekar (3) (T. Spurgeon, R. Bina) 11:29
Penalties - T. Peckham Spr (fighting) 3:44, F. McLaren Wor (fighting) 3:44, C. McDonald Spr (high-sticking) 4:19, J. Demers Wor (interference) 6:44, D. Dubnyk Spr (roughing) 10:23, A. Desjardins Wor (roughing) 10:23, J. McGinn Wor (boarding) 12:14, R. O'Marra Spr (hooking) 14:50

2nd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - C. Corazzini Spr (tripping) 1:15, T. Sestito Spr (hooking) 2:59, G. Lefebvre Spr (interference) 11:26, F. McLaren Wor (interference) 14:15

3rd Period
Scoring - 2. Springfield, G. Brule (5) (T. Peckham) 19:40 EN
Penalties - T. Peckham Spr (tripping) 3:29, M. Moore Wor (holding) 14:08, R. Potulny Spr (roughing) 14:57, R. Armstrong Wor (roughing) 14:57, M. Roy Spr (tripping) 15:59

SPR Shots: 4 5 7 TOTAL: 16
WOR Shots: 15 15 16 TOTAL: 46

Power Play Conversion
Springfield Falcons 0-4. Worcester Sharks 0-7.

Springfield Falcons
Dubnyk 6-5-1 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 46 GA: 0 [W]

Worcester Sharks
Coleman 0-1-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:07 SV: 14 GA: 1 [L]

Attendance : 3248. Referee I: Mark Lemelin. Linesmen: Bob Bernard (4), Mark Messier (12)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Costly gaffe by Dallas goaltender Marty Turco results in Patrick Marleau game winning goal with 29 seconds left, Sharks down Stars 2-1

San Jose Sharks Dallas Stars hockey photo
Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco
Dallas Stars goaltender Marty Turco

More on the Sharks last second 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars will be posted soon. A photo gallery from the game is available here. Video highlights from the NHL Network Online are available here.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Interview with Phoenix Coyotes blogger Paul Becker on the most underrated youth movement in the NHL

Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov
Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Sean Burke Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Phoenix Coyotes are sitting on the most underground, underhyped youth movement in the National Hockey League. In addition to a pair of blossoming sophmores in 20-year old Peter Mueller and 21-year old Martin Hanzal, the Coyotes also boast the four horsemen of the 2008-09 rookie youth movement in Hobey Baker winner and former Michigan Wolverine Kevin Porter, Danish left wing slash speed demon Mikkel Boedker, former Los Gatos native Viktor Tikhonov (yes he speaks English Darren Pang), and 2008 WJC gold medal Team Canada veteran Kyle Turris.

Phoenix Coyotes blogger Paul Becker was kind enough to answer a few questions about the youth movement in Phoenix, the offseason trade for Olli Jokinen, how the fans will treat Keith Ballard tonight in his first return to Arena, and break down Phoenix's offensive system and Wayne Gretzky's coaching style among other topics.

[Q] Phoenix defenseman Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard were traded this offseason for longtime Florida Panthers captain Olli Jokinen. Eleven games into the 2008-09 season for Phoenix, how do you see this trade working out a this point for the Coyotes? What do you think Jokinen's leadership will mean for the team moving forward? Is he the type of franchise player you think should never be moved?

[PB] The trade for Jokinen has worked well for both teams. There have been slight chemistry issues on the ice for Jokinen's style of play, but he is tied with (Shane) Doan for points scored with 12, and woke up a game before last. I would like to see him skate and play a more physical game like he did as a Panther, but there is definitely promise. I was surprised to see him traded to Phoenix, and management would be well served to keep him here. He has fit in nicely off the ice, and has been enjoying his time here.

[Q] Jokinen leads the NHL in games played without a playoff appearance at 734. The Phoenix Coyotes have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2001–02, when they piled up a 40-27-9-6 regular season record and lost to the San Jose Sharks in the WCQF 4-1. The White Out in Phoenix carried over from Winnipeg during that playoff series, the Phoenix-to-SJ trash talk online raised up a couple notches (there were not many blogs online at the time), Evgeni Nabokov and Sean Burke played solid in goal. Claude Lemieux, not solid. Can Jokinen help Phoenix make the playoffs for the first time in 5 years in a difficult Western Conference? What needs to go right for the Coyotes this season for them to qualify?

[PB] Jokinen could definitely help, but secondary scoring needs to happen, and happen soon. Doan has 7 goals, Jokinen is second on the team with 4, Mueller has scored 3 and rookie (Mikkel ) Boedker also has 3 goals. The other veterans need to find a way to the net. Hovering around .500, even though moderately decent, will not qualify them for much. Goaltending with Bryzgalov needs to be rock solid every night (so far he has been streaky, but he hasn't gotten much help either), and the young kids need to pitch in. I am concerned with Gretzky's line tinkering. I know what he's trying to do, but he needs to stick with one line combination for a little longer and then evaluate.

[Q] With the absence of Ballard and Boynton, the Coyotes have looked to Ed Jovanovski and Derek Morris to contribute more from the blueline. Jovo went 9 games without a point, and has registered 1 overall point (1G) in 11 games played while averaging over 23 minutes of ice time. Morris also went 9 games without a point, and also has only registered 1 overall point in 11 games played while averaging almost 20 minutes a game. Where is the blueline scoring going to come from? Jovo is third on the team with 30 shots on goal, but are they resulting in rebound opportunities. How would you rate this defense's ability to transition the puck up ice, and will Zbynek Michalek be looked at to contribute in more of an offensive role than in the past?

[PB] Right now, the defense has not contributed much offensively, and that is a concern. Michalek is contributing all that he can, but guys like Jovanovski and Morris have been ice cold. Jovanovski is a minus-7, and while that statistic is overused, it is still important. I think the transition game took a hit with the trade of Ballard, but the addition of Kurt Sauer helps in keeping the puck away from Bryzgalov. As you have most likely seen with Danny Boyle, the transition game is generated from the defense and Boyle is the expert at it. The Coyotes right now, to me at least, are average at best.

[Q] How do you think Phoenix Coyotes fans will welcome the return of defenseman Keith Ballard tonight? What did he mean to the franchise, and is there a play or a game you remember that represents what he brought to Phoenix for 3 seasons?

[PB] Coyotes fans should cheer the kid back - it wasn't his fault he was moved. I'm sure they will treat him well. From Don Maloney's point-of-view, he didn't like losing him, but to get Jokinen, they needed to do package him with Boynton (who they tried to move the summer prior). With Ballard, I remember his rookie season the most. From his checking to his fearlessness (willing to fight anyone, including Vincent Lecavalier when the Lightning last played here), that is certainly what I miss the most. One of the games I remembered last season was a battle he had in front of his net with a Buffalo Sabres player that was just phenomenal. I think these guys knew each other from college hockey so they went at it. When interviewed, the Sabres player was asked about an errant high stick Ballard gave him. He replied, "Oh, that's no big deal, I'm sure I gave him an elbow to the end so it kind of evens out."

[Q] If you had to describe the Phoenix Coyotes offense or system in 1 or 2 brief sentences, how would you describe it? How would you describe Wayne Gretzky's approach to coaching this lineup?

[PB] It's (or should be) an aggressive forechecking scheme that relies on the speed of their forwards. When they stop skating and start playing as a five-man unit, it truly falls apart. Gretzky's approach has been very patient with the younger players, but with elevated expectations on the veterans. Again, he is trying everything possible, but my concern is that he may be outcoaching himself by changing the lines so often.

[Q] The youth movements in Chicago and Los Angeles get all the press and they have somewhat overshadowed an impressive group of young players in Phoenix and Columbus. One reporter mentioned the "waves" of talent in Phoenix. You might say Mueller-Hanzal-Yandle are the first wave, Turris second wave, Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov for the third wave. How is the youth movement in Phoenix progressing, and which players or lines are best geared for success over a marathon 82 game NHL season? Tikhonov, a former Los Gatos native whose father was an assistant coach in San Jose, had an eye opening sequence during a preseason game at HP Pavilion. He stuffed two attempted dump-ins at the point from 2 different Sharks players, then gathered the loose puck and sprinted up the right wing before pulling up and hitting a linemate for a scoring chance in front. The question many have, can the young players deliver consistently?

[PB] I see Mueller and Hanzal doing just fine. Hanzal is one of the best young forwards that can play the defensive side of the puck at a very high level. Boedker is the one that has surprised me the most. He's playing very, very well at this stage of his development. I'm looking for Tikhonov to get more re-adjusted, and I think he will. He's pressing for his first goal and when that comes, I think he will relax more. Defensively, Tikhonov is used on the penalty kill quite often and his puck handling skills are very good as well. Yandle has been scratched twice so far for Ken Klee. Even though he is better this year, his play has been inconsistent so I am wondering about him. After the rough game the Coyotes had with Montreal and Sauer's high hit on Kosistyn (the resulting aftermath as we watched the "code" become enforced), Turris has not been the same as a player. I'm not sure if that incident spooked him, but he wasn't in the lineup against Vancouver. He may be still a little green, but there is some great potential with him. Gretzky may be protecting him a little bit as not to demolish his development - he may see a little bit of himself in Turris...

[Q] Last year after a Phoenix game in San Jose I wrote that the renewed confidence seemed to radiate from the goaltending crease out. Phoenix was able to pick up a big game #1 goaltender off the waiver wire in Ilya Bryzgalov without having to compensate Pacific Division rival Anaheim. In a post-game article, I described him as a "giant isosceles triangle" blocking a considerable amount of the net down low. After almost a full season in Phoenix, what is your assessment of Ilya Bryzgalov in goal? Can a talented goaltender like Bryzgalov make up for some holes on the blueline? Has he been as big a quote machine in the press as he was in Anaheim?

[PB] Bryzgalov has been a different goaltender since being named to the All-Star ballot. He had terrible game against the Senators earlier in the season, that raised some question marks for everyone. However, they didn't lose faith in him and Gretzky really put the onus on him to play better. He has been streaky - winning two, losing three, winning one, losing one, but a lot of that is not all his responsibility - his team needs to score more. He is the number one goalie and the success of this franchise will go through him. I place more of the emphasis to his teammates to do the little things, blocking shots, being responsible defensively, scoring goals, and so on so that Bryzgalov has more of a chance to make that save count for something. He'll definitely keep the Coyotes in games than out of them, that's for sure.

My favorite quote so far comes from earlier in the season when Rick Nash had *two* breakaway chances. When the reporters asked (annoyingly) how did he make those saves, his reply, "I tried to challenge him. I just closed my eyes … I don't know what to say, a breakaway, a game situation. I challenged him maybe. He sees the net, I can't see the net. I can only see the player. Maybe there was no room to shoot, I don't know. He miss the net, and that's good for us."

[Q] On your blog you mention being a hockey fan for about 20 years, originally following the Tampa Bay Lightning before moving to Phoenix. What kind of response has your blog received from the press, fans, or the Phoenix Coyotes (or even other blogs)? If there were 2 or 3 suggestions you could recommend to improve the climate for hockey in Phoenix, what would they be? And is the new arena and the Phoenix Coyotes youth movement a good enough reason to make a road trip out to see a game from Los Angeles (along with an Antelope Canyon pit stop)?

[PB] That is one question I truly don't know. I don't know if the press reads it. However, I know some of the fans do. I remember being the only Coyotes' voice, but there are three others now blogging about the Coyotes with some frequency (one more than the other two). I received a couple of e-mails from within the Coyotes about other issues, and they have stated they enjoy what they see which is good. But I haven't been inquiring as to what the press or the Coyotes' franchise feel about it. The other blogs and people that I've met virtually (like you, Mike Chen, Greg Wyshynski, Eric McErlain, James Mirtle) are incredibly supportive. Hip Shot Blog, the other prolific Coyotes' blog is also very supportive and our writing styles compliment each other, I think. The other blogs that have been around awihle (more so on the U.S. side than the Canadian side) also have been very good to deal with. Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck has been great and Paul Kukla has been very kind as well.

Suggestions to improve this market is to continue to put a winning product on the ice. Only winning will bring the people out. They are trying to keep ticket prices low, they are advertising everywhere (every local commercial break on my cable system is bought by the Coyotes), and they keep developing their youth hockey programs (each televised game has the kids introducing the broadcast). They are focusing on the younger market because if those kids stay here, then they will be your next generation of hockey fans. It's tough, but they need to keep doing these things to keep the Coyotes relevant. I would somehow ask the fans that go to the Saturday night games why they don't attend the weeknight games as much. Our weekend games are packed, but the weeknights barely crack 14,000 (and I'm being generous here). Traffic, like all large cities, is terrible here and the perception that Glendale is so "far away" from the middle to East Valley, makes it difficult to get the fans out. I would like them to consider developing some mass transit ideas from the east to west valley to help alleviate the congestion - it's the only thing that they haven't tried...

The new arena is excellent and the youth movement is good enough for anyone from So. Cal to make the trip out here.

[Q] I forgot to ask you about Enver Lisin, Alexei Kaigorodov, or Alexander Nikulin. The situation with Enver Lisin and Blake Wheeler are two unfortunate ones, but I think Phoenix has tried to take a few chances on players with undisputed talent. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't.

[PB] Enver Lisin just didn't work out for us for whatever reason, and I'm not sure what to make of the Blake Wheeler issue. He would have had a spot here and the Coyotes would have found other players to round out their team. Wheeler is playing well in Boston with his hat trick the other night, so he might have been concerned about being able to make the team here? I don't know. Maloney offered him as much as he is allowed, but Wheeler went to the Bruins instead. I think he just wanted to play elsewhere. You are right - sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer questions. The Phoenix Coyotes face off against the San Jose Sharks at Arena tomorrow night at 5PM. Paul Becker previews the game on One Fan's Perspective here. Tonight the Sharks host the Dallas Stars in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Semifinal playoff series.

[Update] Q & A with former Panther Olli Jokinen - South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

[Q] What is it like in Arizona?

[OJ] "Everything's different – on and off the ice. …I'm enjoying my life over here and picking up my golf game. It's been unbelievable here -- just a great group of guys. It starts with the management. It's been amazing. It's a lot more fun to put a smile on your face and come to work at the rink every day. I wasn't able to do that the last couple of years in Florida. It was just too much."

[Update2] Olli Versus Florida, NEXT! - George Richards On Frozen Pond blog.

[Update3] Phoenix Coyotes V.P. of News Content Dave Vest asks rookie Kyle Turris about recently being a healthy scratch on his Desert Dog Blog:

I spoke to rookie Kyle Turris about being scratched from tonight’s game. He said he was disappointed but that he understood Head Coach Wayne Gretzky’s decision and accepts it.

“He told me to relax, take a step back and watch the game and learn from it,” Turris said after I asked him how Gretzky broke the news to him. “I’m a bit nervous (on the ice) right now and I don’t want to screw up, but he said just to relax and have fun, play my game and things will come.”

Gretzky said Turris would play on Thursday night when they Coyotes play at Vancouver. I asked Turris what he thinks he needs to do better once he gets back on the ice.

“I’ve got to get back to playing my game and just have fun out there,” Turris said “Right now, I’m hesitating, I’m forcing things and I’m not skating like I usually do because I am too worried about making a mistake or being in the wrong position instead of just letting it happen and letting it flow.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Evgeni Nabokov injured on final save of the shootout, extent of injury not yet released

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov final shootout save
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov injures leg

Evgeni Nabokov was injured on the final save of the fourth round OT shootout in San Jose's Thursday night win against St Louis. Blues rookie center Patrick Berglund came down the middle of the ice and tried to snap a shot past Nabokov low to the left side. Berglund shot the puck wide off the outside of the post, but Nabokov extended his left leg and landed akwardly on the ice.

As his teammates came off the bench to congratulate him, Nabokov remained face down on the ice in pain. Head Athletic Trainer Ray Tufts came out to check on him. Nabokov was not able to put much pressure on the leg as he was helped into the locker room. An NHL official speculated that landing on an over-extended leg may result in a sprain or a hyper-extension, but an official announcement on the extent of the injury has not been made yet by the San Jose Sharks. Nabokov stopped 25 of 29 shots on Thursday night to pick up his NHL leading 10th win.

Video of the 4-round shootout is available here.

[Update] Sharks bitten on game’s final play - Ross McKeon for Yahoo Sports.

[Update2] Backup goaltender Brian Boucher has stopped all 43 shots he has faced this season, earning shutouts on the road against Los Angeles (Oct 12th) and Tampa Bay (Oct 25th). Boucher shut out the St Louis Blues 2-0 in his first start as a San Jose Shark during the 2007-08 season, finishing with a 3-1-1 record, 1.76GAA, and .932SV% in limited duty. Boucher set two modern-day NHL records in 2003-04 with a 5-game consecutive shutout streak and a scoreless sequence of 332:01 minutes.

[Update3] David Pollak's Working the Corner blog posts the first Nabokov update, but under the NHL's new injury disclosure policy the update does not detail how significant a hit the Sharks are going to take. Nabokov is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. Pollak also notes that goaltender Thomas Greiss has been called up from the AHL Worcester Sharks along with RW Brad Staubitz for the Dallas Stars game on Saturday, and that rookie left wing Jamie McGinn will be sent back down to Worcester.

Winning ugly still counts for 2 points, Ryane Clowe scores twice in third and adds a shootout goal to pull out a 5-4 win over the St Louis Blues

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
St Louis Blues goaltender Ben Bishop Maine
San Jose Sharks left wing Jamie McGinn

More notes from the San Jose Sharks 5-4 OT shootout win over the St Louis Blues will be posted soon. A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube video highlights from the game are available here.

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Stumble Against Pirates, Lose 5-3

The Worcester Sharks had their two game winning streak snapped Wednesday night after a 5-3 loss to the Portland Pirates at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Portland would get on the board first, on their first shot on goal, at the 9:23 mark of the opening period. With the Pirates controlling the puck along the perimeter but being unable to get any sort of shot of, the WorSharks began to break down defensively. The puck eventually ended up on the stick of Mark Mancari standing all alone in front of WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss. Mancari fanned on the first attempt, but was able to recover and stuff the puck under Greiss for the tally.

It would take Worcester just 15 seconds to tie the game back up. Cory Larose would gain the blue line and hold the puck, hitting a streaking Tom Cavanagh with a tape to tape pass. Cavanagh would fly by the flatfooted Portland defense and would beat Portland netminder Jhonas Enroth to the high glove to light the lamp.

Portland would regain the lead skating five on three after two very questionable calls from referee Ian Croft. Portland couldn't have drawn it up any better, with several quick passes resulting in Nathan Gerbe firing an uncontested shot on goal, beating Greiss to the far post for the 2-1 lead entering the first intermission.

The Pirates would make it 3-1 during the second period with another power play goal, this one from Mancari. Another defensive breakdown would see him all along in front, and while Mancari misfired a little Greiss couldn't get enough of it to make the save.

Worcester wold cut the deficit down to one with just 75 seconds left in the second period after catching a lucky break. Mike Morris would fire a shot on goal from just inside the blueline that Enroth saved easily, but stumbled as the rebound went back into the slot. Steven Zalewski swept into the zone grabbing the lose puck, and beat Enroth to the far post to make it 3-2.

The WorSharks would knot the game at 3-3 when Morris, standing all alone at the far post, knocked in a bouncing puck that seemed to go through the legs of several players after Worcester captain Ryan Vesce nearly fanned on a pass attempt from the point.

Portland would retake the lead for good after Gerbe stole a blind pass from Tom Cavanagh and beat Greiss after a great deke to make it 4-3. Gerbe completed his hat trick while Worcester was skating with an extra attacker for the 5-3 final.

Upon further review...during Saturday's game against Manchester there was a disputed goal by Denny Johnston that, after consulting with both linesmen and the goal judge, referee Jamie Koharski allowed. This writer agreed with the call, and folks sitting on the press box side were near unanimous that the goal was good. Prior to Wednesday night's game Worcester Telegram and Gazette writer Bill Ballou showed me several still photos taken by T&G photographer Paul Kapteyn that make a great case for the puck not having gone in. You can read more about that goal in Ballou's weekly AHL column.

Worcester had two breakaways stopped on great saves by Jhonas Enroth. Tom Cavanagh took a great two zone feed from Derek Joslin, but was stoned by a great glove save. The second was on Kyle McLaren--yes, I said Kyle McLaren--after McLaren picked up a lose puck just outside the Pirates zone and skated in unmolested.

Worcester's scratches were Dan DaSilva (concussion--may be cleared to play this weekend), Matt Jones (jaw), Matt Kinch (healthy), Brett Westgarth (healthy).

WorSharks head coach Roy Sommer pulled Thomas Greiss after calling timeout with 1:57 to go in the third while skating with a man advantage. Worcester would have several great chances, but couldn't get one into the net.

Rich Lundin, President of the Worcester Sharks Booster Club, gets a nod for predicting the attendance for the game. He missed by four, as the actual number of tickets sold was 2202 with his guess being 2206. This writer guessed 2412, missing by 210.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Mancari (2g,a)
2. Gerbe (hat trick, assist)
3. Morris (1g,1a)
The votes were submitted before Gerbe's hat trick goal. Honorable mention should go to Tim Kennedy (3a) and Steven Zalewski (1g,1a)

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even Strength
Desjardins 4-1/2-3/1-1 = 7-5
Zalewski 4-2/1-2/2-0 = 7-4
Larose 2-1/3-3/0-0 = 5-4
Fox 1-0/2-0/0-0 = 3-0
Vesce 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0

Power Play
Zalewski 8-0/3-0/0-0 = 11-0
Larose 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
Desjardins 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1
Cavanagh 0-1/0-0/0-0 = 0-1

Penalty Kill
Zalewski 0-0/0-1/1-4 = 1-5
Fenton 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Vesce 0-0/1-0/1-0 = 2-0
Cavanagh 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0

POR 2 1 2 - 5
WOR 1 1 1 - 3

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Portland, M. Mancari (6) (M. Darche, T. Kennedy) 9:23, 2. Worcester, T. Cavanagh (4) (C. Larose, R. Vesce) 9:38, 3. Portland, N. Gerbe (8) (T. Kennedy, M. Gragnani) 18:09 PP
Penalties - M. Weber Por (tripping, roughing) 2:25, B. Staubitz Wor (roughing) 2:25, T. Kennedy Por (tripping) 4:49, B. Staubitz Wor (interference) 11:12, P. Fenton Wor (hooking) 17:21, R. Vesce Wor (cross-checking) 17:53

2nd Period
Scoring - 4. Portland, M. Mancari (7) (N. Gerbe, T. Kennedy) 7:41 PP, 5. Worcester, S. Zalewski (1) (M. Morris, L. Kaspar) 18:45
Penalties - C. Butler Por (tripping) 0:58, K. McLaren Wor (interference) 3:44, B. Buckley Wor (slashing) 7:03, K. McLaren Wor (interference) 12:58

3rd Period
Scoring - 6. Worcester, M. Morris (3) (R. Vesce, S. Zalewski) 4:29 PP, 7. Portland, N. Gerbe (9) 8:53, 8. Portland, N. Gerbe (10) (M. Mancari) 19:46 EN
Penalties - M. Darche Por (roughing) 3:52, A. Desjardins Wor (tripping) 4:51, F. Schutz Por (hooking) 16:30

POR Shots: 7 11 7 TOTAL: 25
WOR Shots: 6 9 15 TOTAL: 30

Power Play Conversion
Portland Pirates 2-7. Worcester Sharks 1-5.

Portland Pirates
Enroth 4-1-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:57 SV: 27 GA: 3 [W]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 4-5-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 58:12 SV: 20 GA: 4 [L]

Attendance : 2202. Referee: Ian Croft (87). Linesmen: Jack Millea (23), Bob Bernard (4)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Max Giese: November Prospects Rankings

Among those rising on this month's list are forwards Jamie McGinn and Mike Morris. McGinn, the Sharks second round draft pick in 2006, built on a strong training-camp with a furious start in Worcester by scoring 4 goals in 6 games. He earned the NHL audition is he is currently on through performance and so far has done nothing but raise his stock within the organization by scoring 2 goals and 3 points in his first 4 career NHL games.

Mike Morris, the Sharks first round selection in 2002, appears to have fully bounced back from the injuries that have plagued his career previously and is averaging nearly a point a game in the AHL. Another riser is Nick Bonino from Boston University, who is dominating Hockey East with 11 points in only 6 games. In goal, Timo Pielmeier has been excellent in the QMJHL and is cementing his status as a prime prospect within the Sharks organization.

Not all prospects have performed up to their potential so far in 2008-2009, and that includes Logan Couture. The 9th-overall selection of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, is averaging below a point a game pace with the Ottawa 67s of the OHL. This is Couture's fourth season in the OHL, and his poor offensive production stings after a disappointing training camp with the Sharks.


1. Nick Petrecki, D, Boston College (NCAA)

2. Thomas Greiss, G, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
3. Jamie McGinn, LW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
4. Derek Joslin, D, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
5. Timo Pielmeier, G, Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
6. Mike Morris, RW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
7. Steven Zalewski, C, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
8. Nick Bonino, LW, Boston University (NCAA)
9. Mike Moore, D, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
10. Tyson Sexsmith, G, Vancouver Giants (WHL)
11. Logan Couture, C, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
12. Lukas Kaspar, LW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
13. Harri Sateri, G, Tappara Tampere (FIN)
14. Alex Stalock, G, Minnesota Duluth (NCAA)
15. Justin Daniels, C, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
16. Justin Braun, D, University Massachusetts (NCAA)
17. Samuel Groulx, D, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
18. Matt Jones, RW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
19. Frazer McLaren, LW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
20. Brad Staubitz, RW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
21. Jason Demers, D, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
22. Riley Armstrong, RW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
23. Tommy Wingels, C, Miami Ohio (NCAA)
24. Drew Daniels, RW, Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
25. Julien Demers, D, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
26. Taylor Dakers, G, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
27. Tony Lucia, C, Minnesota Gophers (NCAA)
28. T.J. Fox, C, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
29. John McCarthy, LW, Boston University (NCAA)
30. Patrick Zackrisson, LW, Linkoping HC (SEL)
31. Will Colbert, D, St. Francis Xavier (CIS)
32. Carter Lee, RW, Lake Superior State (NCAA)
33. Ashton Rome, RW, Worcester Sharks (AHL)
34. Christian Jensen, D, RPI (NCAA)

[Update] A Scout's Life: Video review - Rory Boylen for

[Update2] The NHL's five stealth MVPs - Michael Farber for Sports Illustrated.

No. 2: Tim Burke, San Jose Sharks director of scouting

Burke is every bit as perspicacious as the more celebrated David Conte, who pulls rabbits out of the hat for the New Jersey Devils. Burke continually unearths talent whether the Sharks are drafting high -- Patrick Marleau, No. 2 in 1997 --or low -- goalie Evgeni Nabokov, 219th in 1994. (Burke was in Russia to scout another player, saw an ad for the goalie, and drafted Nabokov in the ninth round, sight unseen.)

In 2001, the Sharks actually ran the table: all six players they drafted -- Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff, Dimitri Patzold, Tomas Plihal, Ryane Clowe and Tom Cavanagh -- have played in the NHL. In 2005, general manager Doug Wilson raised some eyebrows when he traded up from the 12th pick to the 8th in order to draft Devin Setoguchi, a Burke recommendation who has blossomed into a top-line winger with Marleau and Joe Thornton this season. If you were going to start a franchise, Burke would be among the first people you would hire.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

With 3-1 win over Minnesota Wild, Sharks hold top record in NHL, top offense in NHL, remain unbeaten at home in 7 games

With the Sharks 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night San Jose now holds the top record in the National Hockey League at 11-2-0, one point ahead of Eastern Conference leading New York Rangers (10-4-1). Utilizing balanced scoring to lead the league in offense (tied with Vancouver at 45 goals), the Sharks have 6 forwards who have scored 3 or more goals (Devin Setoguchi 7, Patrick Marleau 6, Ryane Clowe 6, Joe Pavelski 5, Jonathan Cheechoo 4, Milan Michalek 3) and 4 defenseman with 5 or more points (Christian Ehrhoff 10, Dan Boyle 9, Marc-Edouard Vlasic 7, Rob Blake 5).

The Minnesota Wild opened the scoring 4:49 into the first period on Tuesday night. Rookie center Krystofer Kolanos, called up from the AHL Houston Aeros due to an injury to Owen Nolan, converted a rebound after a Kim Johnsson point shot deflected off the mask of Evgeni Nabokov. It was all the offense Minnesota could generate for the game. A nice feed by center Tomas Plihal lead to the Sharks first goal of the game. Plihal carried the puck behind the net and found Ryane Clowe driving the slot in front. Clowe's hard shot deflected off the skate of Mike Grier beating Nicklas Backstrom to even the score at 1-1.

Minnesota held the Sharks scoreless in the second, but turnovers and defensive breakdowns by San Jose kept the Wild alive when they were not pressing the action. Right Wing Cal Clutterbuck crumpled Dan Boyle with a hard check in the corner, a hit that left Boyle slow to get off the ice. "My thought early in the game was the play was poor, we had to address it between the second and third period but we buckled down and played the way we should have" head coach Todd McLellan said. "It was a sloppy effort on our behalf for 40 minutes."

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has not been shy to use captain Patrick Marleau in a number of different game situations. Subbing him in for faceoffs, special teams, double shifting him as a center on the fourth line. McLellan's confidence in Marleau has played a part in Marleau's confidence in himself this season. On a fourth line with rookie Jamie McGinn and veteran Jeremy Roenick, Marleau broke the puck out of his own zone early in the third period. Patrick Marleau slid the puck to McGinn, who fired a shot from the right point. The Wild outnumbered the Sharks down low 3-to-2, but it was Jeremy Roenick beating players to the puck to flick two quick shots on net. The rebound deflected to Jamie McGinn in the slot, and McGinn buried his second goal of the season at 3:11.

The Sharks pressure did not wane, as they outshot Minnesota 22-5 in the third period 49-24 for the game. Left wing Ryane Clowe scored his 6th goal of the season at 5:25, assists by Mike Grier and Brad Lukowich. Grier hit Clowe with a long cross ice pass through the neutral zone, and Clowe pulled up and snapped two shots. The first was blocked by a defenseman, the second beat Nicklas Backstrom cleanly to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead. Clowe capped off a Gordie Howe hat trick with a fight against defenseman Erik Reitz behind the Minnesota net. After landing several punches to the visored Reitz, Clowe finally pulled off his helmet to finish with a few haymakers. "I think I realized after 2 or 3 punches I should probably take his helmet off" Clowe said after the game.

Evgeni Nabokov finished with 23 saves on 24 shots, earning his 9th win of the season. The Sharks finished 0-6 on the power play.

[Update] An AHL reunion of sorts for McLellan - SJ Mercury News.

An AHL reunion for Sharks' McLellan. The Minnesota Wild has six players who were on the American Hockey League Houston Aeros team that Sharks Coach Todd McLellan guided to the Calder Cup title in 2003.

McLellan had nice things to say about them — "When you win with a group, you're attached to them forever. You just have to look in their eyes and that contact's made" — and they had nice things to say about him.

[Update2] San Jose Sharks 3, Wild 1 - Michael Russo.

Wild coach Jacques Lemaire: "I know they had a lot of shots on net and they had a lot of good chances, but overall, I thought the guys played really hard and we wanted to stay in the game, which we did. What changed the dynamic of the goal was the second goal [by Jamie McGinn]... After that, it seemed like the guys felt there was very little chance to come back."

Moral victory? "I want [the young guys] to look at it exactly like this, they played hard. One thing I know is they can check. Now it's a matter of playing with the puck. We'll get there. We kept hitting. We got hit. I thought it was a very exciting game"...

Ryane Clowe was the best player on the ice for San Jose. He was physical, scored a goal, had an assist, and yes, a fight with Erik Reitz. He said he'd rather have a "Gordie Howe hat trick" any day over a real hat trick. That's a hockey player’s hockey player right there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Examining San Jose Sharks goals scored in front of the net, shot charts, and player ratings over 12 games

San Jose Sharks Florida Panthers shot chart
San Jose Sharks Pittsburgh Penguins shot chart
San Jose Sharks Detroit Red Wings shot chart

A new component of the Todd McLellan offense in San Jose is getting traffic in front of opposing goaltenders. A quick survey of ESPN's excellent flash shot chart feature shows that 26 of San Jose's 42 total goals this season through 12 games have been scored on shots taken in front of the crease (in front of the net, between faceoff circles). Jonathan Cheechoo set a prime example in the first game of the season against Anaheim, scoring 2 goals on the doorstep despite being hammered to the ice on seperate plays by Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and a Rob Blake slapshot.

Todd McLellan also stressed a need to have more players from other lines set up in front of the net. Players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on the first line, Milan Michalek along with Cheechoo on the second line, and Ryane Clowe on the third line. Rookie left wing Jamie McGinn's first NHL goal against Detroit came after a second and third effort converted a loose puck in front of the net. Other changes to the Sharks offense this season have been a more active defense, including increased point shots by defenseman 5-on-5 and on the power play. The Sharks "dump in with a purpose" philosophy was noticeable in recent games against Pittsburgh and Detroit. Players were already moving towards a specific area of the ice before a teammate executed a cross-ice dump in on the other side.

Dirk Hoag, aka Forechecker on Kukla's Korner, examined the impact of Todd McLellan's new offense by charting team-by-team rebound opportunities. Without an NHL rebound statistic, Hoag defined a rebound opportunity as "any attempted shot (Shot on Goal, Goal, Missed or Blocked Shot) attempted within 3 seconds of a shot by the same team that was saved by the goaltender, without any other intervening events (like a faceoff or turnover)". In data collected through games played on November 3rd, the Sharks were 4th in the NHL generating rebound opportunities at 12.4%. Opponents made 394 total saves against San Jose shots. The Sharks were able to put 49 rebound shots on goal converting 11 of them.

26 of 42 goals scored by San Jose this season were scored in front of the net, 11 of them on rebound opportunities. There will be obstacles and dry spells throughout a marathon 82 game NHL season, but Sharks head coach Todd McLellan is building an offense that takes advantage of the largest lineup in the NHL (213.5 pound average). He is also priming the offense's ability to score garbage goals in the playoffs when gaps close and the intensity is raised.

In another post breaking down a Predators-Panthers snoozer, Dirk Hoag used numbers from Behind the Net to rank individual Nashville Predators accoring to BTN player rating (net impact of a player’s on-ice presence to the team’s Goals For/Against differential per 60 minutes), time on ice/60 minutes, points/60 minutes, goals for while on ice/60 minutes, goals against while on ice/60 minutes, and the CORSI number. According to Hoag, the Corsi number is total shots (shots on goal + blocked shots + missed shots) for and against when a given player is on the ice/60 minutes. Using Hoag's description, if Ryane Clowe is on the ice the Sharks have fired 8.4 more total shots than they have given up (per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play).

Here are the Sharks player ratings for regulars (over 5 games played) through 12 games:

Behind the Net player rating stats

Here is another simple table comparing goals scored in front of the net (between the faceoff circles in the slot) vs total goals over 12 games:

San Jose Sharks goals scored in front of the net vs total goals scored

[Update] Another interesting stat from San Francisco-based Gabriel Desjardins'; Penalties Drawn: Devin Setoguchi 8, Ryane Clowe 7, Jonathan Cheechoo 6, Joe Thornton 5. Penalties Taken: Rob Blake 8, Dan Boyle 5, Marc-Edouard Vlasic 3, Christian Ehrhoff 3, Alexei Semenov 3, Jonathan Cheechoo 3.

[Update2] Longtime Sharks fan Chuq Von Rospach on Todd McLellan's offense:

Todd McLellan's offensive strategy: "go long, I'll hit you at the Chevy". The Sharks offense is only possible because of (a) the removal of the red line, and (b) a coach who's willing to accept that turnovers will happen and that the team will take care of the problem, and (c) if not, that's why you have a stud goalie. He's taken the Red Wing "possess, stretch, attack" strategy a step further, and it almost feels to me like he's figuring out how to adapt the "west coast offense" of Bill Walsh to hockey here. Opposing teams better be fast and in damn good conditioning or they're in trouble. well, heck, even good conditioned teams are. It'll be interesting to see how teams figure out how to stop this.

What it REALLY boils down to is this: a coach not playing to win carefully, willing to tell his players "turnovers and goals will happen. We will score more doing this that we will give up, as long as you work hard to recover, and that's okay with me". Most coaches seem to coach to minimize mistakes, McLellan is coaching to maximize opposition mistakes and to recover from mistakes -- just watch how players cover for turnovers and attack the puck carrier. Very aggressive, and that's in part because there's a lot of trust that if they miss, someone else is already converging to cover (because someone is). It's a fun ballet to watch. It looks free-wheeling, but there's actually a lot of structure to it, but it's a rather complicated structure; he's trusting his players to read and react.

Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area 2008-2009 NHL Extra television schedule

Jay dela Cruz of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area passed along an October press release detailing the 2008-09 NHL Extra broadcast schedule. CSNBA will air 30 out-of-market game telecasts produced by Comcast SportsNet Chicago (Chicago Blackhawks), Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (Washington Capitals) and Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (Philadelphia Flyers) in addition to airing 70 Sharks games on CSNBA and 40 in HD.

Three Sharks games will air nationally on Versus this season (2/10 at Boston, 2/23 at Dallas, 4/7 vs Colorado), and a local blackout of 9 non-televised games on Center Ice was recently lifted by CSNBA.

2008-2009 Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area NHL Extra schedule

Oct-10, Friday, CHI at NYR 4:00 PM
Oct-16, Thursday, PHI at COL 6:00 PM
Oct-23, Thursday, WAS at PHO 7:00 PM
Oct-30,Thursday, PHI vs. NYR 4:00 PM

Nov-6, Thursday, WAS vs. CAR 4:00 PM
Nov-19, Wednesday, WAS at ANA 7:00 PM
Nov-20, Thursday, WAS at LOS 7:30 PM

Dec-3, Wednesday, CHI vs. ANA 5:30 PM
Dec-4, Thursday, PHI vs. NJD 4:00 PM
Dec-10, Wednesday, WAS vs. BOS 4:00 PM
Dec-11, Thursday, PHI vs. CAR 4:00 PM
Dec-12, Friday, WAS vs. OTT 4:00 PM
Dec-26, Friday, WAS vs. BUF 4:00 PM

Jan-3, Saturday, WAS vs. NYR 4:00 PM
Jan-8, Thursday, PHI vs. MIN 4:00 PM
Jan-10, Saturday, PHI vs. TOR 4:00 PM
Jan-14, Wednesday, WAS at PIT 4:30 PM
Jan-28, Wednesday, CHI at ANA 7:00 PM

Feb-4, Wednesday, PHI vs. BOS 4:00 PM
Feb-5, Thursday, WAS vs. LOS 4:00 PM
Feb-12, Thursday, PHI vs. OTT 4:00 PM
Feb-18, Wednesday, WAS vs. MON 4:30 PM
Feb-19, Thursday, PHI vs. BUF 4:00 PM
Feb-20, Friday, WAS vs. COL 4:00 PM
Feb-27, Friday, PHI vs. MON 4:00 PM

Mar-5, Thursday, PHI vs. CAL 4:00 PM
Mar-18, Wednesday, CHI at CLB 4:00 PM
Mar-21, Saturday, WAS at CAR 4:00 PM
Mar-27, Friday, CHI vs. NJD 5:30 PM
Mar-29, Sunday, PHI vs. BOS 4:00 PM

* All times PST.

As reported earlier on this blog, WGN will air 20 Chicago Blackhawks games this season (including SJ at HP Pavilion Nov. 26th). WGN is available on basic cable for much of the Bay Area. NBC begins its flex schedule with the January 1st Winter Classic II outdoor broadcast of Chicago vs Detroit at Wrigley Field. The regular NBC "Game of the Week" schedule begins January 18th and will feature one game from a selection of up to 4 Sunday afternoon games to increase regional interest.

A permanent link to CSNBA and the NHL Extra schedule is available on the right sidebar under broadcast links.

[Update] NHL Network to air live U.S. college hockey games -

NHL Network today announced it has reached a one-year extension for broadcast rights to games from the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC Hockey).

The broadcast package provides NHL Network with 19 'Game of the Week' match-ups that will air Friday nights through the remainder of the season. The deal also includes the ECAC Hockey Semifinals and Final.

"College hockey not only provides a glimpse of future NHL stars, but the unique excitement and competition of interscholastic rivalries," said John Shannon, Executive in Charge of Programming and Production for NHL Network. "Covering Division I college hockey is an important step for the NHL Network to truly become the Home of Hockey."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Buffalo Sabres vs New Jersey Devils Monday preview on Versus

Buffalo Sabres NHL photo Jon Swenson
New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur 51-game regular season start streak will end with elbow injury

Here is a brief analysis on of the Buffalo Sabres vs New Jersey Devils game airing tonight at 4:00PM (PT):

Without Brodeur, Devils Attempt to Quiet Vanek, Sabres

By Jon Swenson
November 3, 2008

Tonight will be one of those rare nights when Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur will not be between the pipes. Thanks to a bruised elbow suffered Saturday night against the Thrashers, Brodeur will not start against the Sabres on Versus.

That’s unfortunate because Brodeur is quietly closing in on all-time career marks for wins (seven shy of Patrick Roy's 551), shutouts (five shy of Terry Sawchuk's 103) and games played (51 shy of Patrick Roy's 1029). The four-time Vezina Trophy winner and seven-time all-star could rightfully be considered the best goaltender to ever play the game. Brodeur's mix of athleticism, anticipation, superb positioning and mental focus make each opportunity to watch him a study in goaltending. On the transition from defense to offense, Brodeur operates like a third defenseman altering how teams set up their dump-ins and forecheck due to his ability to play the puck.

The Devils will need a stingy performance from backup Kevin Weekes if goal support trends remain the same against Buffalo. New Jersey has scored two goals or less in three of its five wins and no more than a pair in two of four losses.

Conversely, the Sabres have had ample offense to spread around. Left wing Thomas Vanek leads the NHL in goal scoring with 11, and the Sabres have scored three goals or more in five of six wins.

The key for tonight’s game is for Weekes to play well and get help from his teammates. Support from the forwards is a must and if the Devils contain a potent Buffalo attack, they will have an opportunity to grind out a win.

Brodeur is not the only hobbled Devil. Defenseman Andy Greene was struck by a Pavel Kubina shot Wednesday and will miss up to six weeks with a broken hand. Brian Rolston (ankle sprain), Bobby Holik (broken finger), Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and Barry Tallackson join him on the injured list.

The Sabres, meanwhile, are seeing a steady stream of players return to the lineup from IR. Center Paul Gaustad and defenseman Henrik Tallinder returned for a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Defenseman and captain Craig Rivet skated for the first time since having knee surgery while centers Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht are also skating with the team and could return shortly.

Rivet’s knee injury does raise an issue of age on the blue line for the Sabres. According to age and weight data compiled by the Globe and Mail's James Mirtle, the Sabres ice the oldest defensive corps in the NHL with an average age of 32.1.

Youth abounds up front, however, with 24-year-old Thomas Vanek, 29-year old shifty right wing Maxim Afinogenov and 29-year old Czech right wing Ales Kotalik leading the Sabres’ offense.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff cites increased ice time, better movement without the puck, and more responsibility on defense leading to the marked improvement in Vanek's game this season. After career highs of 43 goals and 41 assists in 2006-07, his production fell to 36 and 28 last season. Still, he received an offer sheet from the Edmonton Oilers that forced the Sabres to sign the fourth-year NHLer to a monster 7-year, $50-million contract.

Defense wins championships, and on this night New Jersey will have to find a way to keep the Sabres off the scoreboard without their great goaltender.

Jon Swenson has been blogging about the Sharks and the NHL on since 1998. His writing and photographs have appeared in several print and online publications.

This is my first contribution to, although a couple of photos from this blog were used on Other bloggers contributing to Versus this season will be Mike Chen of Fox Sports and Kukla's Corner, Deadspin offshoot Melt Your Face Off, HLOG, and Bryan Thiel from the Bleacher Report.'s Greg Wyshynski talks with former and AOL Sports executive editor and current Versus VP of digital media Neal Scarbrough about encorporating bloggers into NHL coverage and a potential new direction for the site: After years of criticism, Versus plans courtship of die-hard fans.

The New Jersey Devils will make 6 appearances on Versus this season, 11/3 vs Buffalo, 12/23 vs Boston, 12/30 at St. Louis, 2/9 vs NYR, 3/23 at Philadelphia, 3/30 at NYR. The Buffalo Sabres appear on Versus 8 times this season. After a 3-2 shootout win over Boston on 10/21, Buffalo will be featured 7 more times including 11/3 at New Jersey, 12/8 at Pittsburgh, 12/22 vs Pittsburgh, 2/17 at Toronto, 2/24 vs Anaheim, 3/10 at Philadelphia, and 4/6 vs Detroit.

[Update] Martin joins Devils' growing injury list; no update on Brodeur - Rich Chere for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

[Update2] Kotalik muscles way to top line, Right winger playing with Vanek and Roy - John Vogl for the Buffalo News.

“He’s a powerful man, by far, maybe our strongest all-around player when it comes to off-ice strength and on-ice strength,” coach Lindy Ruff said. Kotalik’s strength is more evident this year. How strong is he? Well, so far, he’s lifted two teammates and put them in other spots.

Kotalik had been playing so well at right wing that the coaching staff had little choice but to move Maxim Afinogenov, a lifelong right winger, to the left side. Now it’s Drew Stafford who’s been carried elsewhere. The slumping forward had been on the top line with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. But Kotalik, with eight points in the first 11 games, has risen to the No. 1 unit while dropping Stafford down to the third line.

[Update3] A Record the Injured Brodeur Will Not Break - Adrian Dater for

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Crown Monarchs, 4-1

The Worcester Sharks, with multiple point games from three different players, defeated the Manchester Monarchs 4-1 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,303.

Cory Larose got the WorSharks off on the right foot when he corralled a rebound of a Tom Cavanaugh shot. Manchester goaltender Jonathan Quick made the original save with ease, but the rebound went right to the tape on Larose's stick for the backhand tally at 4:34 of the opening period.

Worcester would extend that lead to 2-0 on the power play when Tom Cavanagh, with his back to the net and on the backhand, would deflect a Mike Morris pass just over Quick's outstretched pad.

The goal came just as Manchester killed off eight seconds of five on three play. Unfortunately for the Monarchs it was Kevin Westgarth, known more for his fisticuffs than his playing abilities, that became their fourth skater and Worcester took advantage of the situation.

The Monarchs would climb within one when rookie Denny Johnston netted his first professional goal after beating WorSharks netminder Thomas Greiss high glove and just into the upper corner. While the goal light went on, referee Jamie Koharski did not signal goal and play continued for a few seconds before he blew the whistle.

After conferring with both linesmen and the goal judge--there is no video replay in the American Hockey League--Koharski ruled the goal good. This writer, along with several season ticket holders for the WorSharks sitting in front of press row, think Koharski got the call right.

After a scoreless second stanza, Worcester would again extend their lead to two with a power play goal. After a Jason Demers rush up ice the puck would end up in front of Quick and in the middle of a huge pile of players. From his knees, and with his back to the play, Larose would make a blind backhand tape-to-tape pass to Lukas Kaspar. Kaspar, standing all by himself, fired a wrister into the yawning open net for the 3-1 lead.

Mike Morris would extend that lead to 4-1 with a nice wrap around goal. Morris skated in one on one against Manchester rookie defender Alec Martinez, and while using his body to shield the pick, picked Martinez off by wheeling the net and beating Quick to the far post. The goal was originally announced as unassisted, but a helper has since been added for T.J. Fox.

It seems no WorSharks-Monarchs contest would be complete without Kevin Westgarth being involved in a fight, and that was the case again last night. Westgarth had tried to get both Kyle and Frazer McLaren to go with him several times during the game, and at 13:02 of the third he took matters in his own hands.

After a huge hit on Monarchs defenseman Josh Kidd behind the Manchester net by Frazer McLaren, Westgarth skated directly over to McLaren and knocked him to the ice. Westgarth then dropped the gloves and began pounding away on the downed McLaren. McLaren struggled to get to his feet as the onslaught continued, and the linesmen stepped in before McLaren could get a punch off. Westgarth was rewarded with 19 penalty minutes, including an instigator minor, and a loud chorus of boos as he was escorted off the ice.

WorSharks rookie defenseman Mike Moore continues his assault on the AHL. After a booming open ice hit on Brain Fahey Friday night in Hartford that sent Fahey to the hospital with a concussion, Moore followed up with a couple huge hits Saturday when he threw a hip into Manchester's Viatcheslav Voynov and then pasted Bud Holloway along the boards in front of the penalty boxes.

And speaking of Friday night's contest, expect the AHL to be take a good look at the game video. In addition to the Moore hit, Corey Larose threw a huge open ice shoulder hit on Wolf Pack forward Bobby Sanguinetti that some say was an elbow. Vladimir Denisov was given a minor, major, misconduct and game misconduct for attacking Larose after the play, while Larose went unpenalized in the fracas. There were several other incidents, including hits thrown well after the final horn that led to two fights, that are review worthy.

With their 36-24 shot advantage the WorSharks have outshot their opponents in every game this season. The only Worcester player without a shot on goal last night was Moore. Moore did make the score sheet for getting a "plus" on Larose's opening goal. Manchester centers David Meckler and Scott Parse were the only players with a full line of zeros on the score sheet.

Putting Ryan Vesce at the point on the power play with Derek Joslin is starting to pay dividends for the WorSharks. With his speed and puck handling abilities teams are having to pay attention to him even when he doesn't have the puck, which opens up the ice for the other four players and generate good scoring opportunities.

Worcester's scratches were Dan DaSilva (concussion), Matt Jones (broken jaw), Matt Kinch (healthy), and Brad Staubitz (foot). Goaltender Taylor Dakers has returned to the team but has yet to suit up.

The three stars of the game were:
1. Cavanagh (gwg,a)
2. Larose (g,a)
3. Morris (g,a)
No arguments there.

Even strength lines


Power play lines


Penalty Kill lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Even strength
Desjardins 2-3/3-0/2-1 = 7-4
Zalewski 7-3/1-0/2-0 = 10-3
Fox 2-1/3-2/1-1 = 6-4
Larose 3-1/4-0/2-4 = 9-5
Vesce 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0
FMcLaren 0-0/1-0/1-0 = 2-0
Armstrong 0-0/1-0/0-0 = 1-0
Fenton 1-0/0-0/1-0 = 2-0
Cavanaugh was waved out of only draw

Power play
Zalewski 5-1/0-0/0-0 = 5-1
Larose 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1

Penalty Kill
Zalewski 0-0/0-0/2-1 = 2-1
Armstrong 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Desjardins 0-0/0-0/1-0 = 1-0
Cavanaugh 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1

MAN 1 0 0 - 1
WOR 2 0 2 - 4

1st Period
Scoring - 1. Worcester, C. Larose (4) (T. Cavanagh, R. Vesce) 4:34, 2. Worcester, T. Cavanagh (3) (S. Zalewski, M. Morris) 14:26 PP, 3. Manchester, D. Johnston (1) (V. Voynov, A. Martinez) 17:42
Penalties - K. Westgarth Mch (roughing) 12:13, D. Bagnall Mch (holding) 14:05, K. McLaren Wor (delay of game) 15:07

2nd Period
Scoring - No Scoring
Penalties - A. Campbell Mch (roughing) 1:14, R. Armstrong Wor (roughing) 1:14, B. Buckley Wor (hooking) 12:18

3rd Period
Scoring - 4. Worcester, L. Kaspar (1) (J. Demers, C. Larose) 6:06 PP, 5. Worcester, M. Morris (2) (T. Fox) 12:13
Penalties - D. Drewiske Mch (holding) 4:46, J. Rheault Mch (diving 64.2) 8:44, L. Kaspar Wor (interference) 8:44, K. Westgarth Mch (roughing, instigating, fighting, misconduct - instigating 47.10) 13:02, F. McLaren Wor (fighting) 13:02, S. Zalewski Wor (goaltender interference) 13:32, D. Joslin Wor (tripping) 16:05, P. Fenton Wor (interference) 17:40

MCH Shots: 8 8 8 TOTAL: 24
WOR Shots: 14 6 16 TOTAL: 36

Power Play Conversion
Manchester Monarchs 0-4. Worcester Sharks 2-5.

Manchester Monarchs
Quick 1-4-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 60:00 SV: 32 GA: 4 [L]

Worcester Sharks
Greiss 4-4-0 Start: 1st 0:00 Min: 59:56 SV: 23 GA: 1 [W]

Attendance : 3303. Referee: Jamie Koharski (84). Linesmen: Fraser McIntyre (94), Chris Aughe (74)