Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2009 San Jose Sharks Season: Game Over

Man, the Sharks just plain got beat.

I don't usually find myself agreeing with the musings of Sharks radio analyst Jamie Baker, but I'm completely with on the comments he made for post-game television last season.

To attempt to summarize his words...

"The Ducks played better than the Sharks this series and did so in each aspect of the game. They had better goaltending, a better powerplay, better penalty killing, better top line play, better second line play, better 3rd and 4th line play and better defense."

That may sound severe, but I think it's true. I watched much of the Vancouver-St. Louis series and saw the same concept at work with St. Louis being a very solid team, but one that was slightly outplayed in every aspect of the game.

In that series, the end result turned out to be a series sweep and this one resulted in a 4-2 series win, but... the result is the same, the team that played better in the series is moving on.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Historical Results for Teams Down 2-0 in a Series

As the question in the above title was asked of me last night, I found the answer at this post from James Mirtle's "From the Rink" blog (which takes the data from elsewhere, but makes it easy to read)...

From Mirtle:

"According to www.whowins.com, when the 'home' teams have had a 2-0 series lead in previous NHL series, they have a 202-21 series record (good for a .906 win percentage).

When the 'visiting' teams have had a 2-0 series lead in previous NHL series, they have a 52-16 series record (.765 win percentage)."

Now... should the Sharks (or any of the teams down two games to zero) lose game three, forget about it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

2009 NHL Playoff Goaltending

Note from self: This post was written prior to this morning's Rangers-Capitals game so if there's no mention below of any 90 save or 15 goals against performances, that's why...


Goaltenders are weird. Similar to a box of chocolates as described by Forrest Gump, you never know what you're going to get (as exhibit A, I give you former Caps goalie Jim Carey).

This being the case, fans of this season's playoff teams have to simply hope their guy gets hot (or in the case of the Hurricanes a few years ago... hope their guy gets pulled and his replacement gets hot). The question that then arises is who is most likely to get hot and carry their team to the promised land (that being the Cup Championship for those not digging the metaphor).

Let's take a look see (on a 1-3 scale with 3 being most likely to reach "hotness" status):

Western Conference

San Jose Sharks: Evgeni Nabokov - 2. Good goalie, has never proved it at crunch time.

Detroit Red Wings: Chris Osgood - 2. Has been good enough to win a Cup before.

Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo - 3. Me thinks he one of only two truly elite goalies.

Chicago Blackhawks: Nikolai Khabibulin - 2. Similar to Osgood, he's done it before.

Calgary Flames: Mikka Kiprusoff -2. Has been elite in the past, not so much the last two years.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Steve Mason - 2. I love his performance this season, but it's just one regular season.

St. Louis Blues: Chris Mason - 2. Would be tempted to give him a 1, but has played well the first two games.

Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller - 2. Parallels to Steve Mason... excellent season, but relatively new on the scene.

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas - 2. A great story and super fun to watch. Still new to the top tier, though.

Washington Capitals: Jose Theodore - 1. Yes, he previously won a Hart Trophy as league MVP, but certainly doesn't look like that guy this season (or this postseason as I wrote about the other day).

New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur - 3. Yep, he and Luongo are the only guys I see at this top level of potential greatness.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury - 2. Very solid. Should help him that he made it all the way to the Finals last season.

Philadelphia Flyers: Martin Biron - 1.5. He gets a fair amount of flak, but did get the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. That said, I stand by my writing that he should have had Bill Guerin's OT goal in game two.

Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward - 2.5. Has taken his team all the way to the Stanley Cup before.

New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist - 2.5. Great potential. Has carried his team at times.

Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price - 1.5. I keep hearing about how great he should be... haven't seen it much this season.

2009 NHL Playoffs: Day Three

Well, a couple of games in and a bit more is being worked out. Here's what was played today...


Game two seemed quite a bit less one-sided with the Flyers and Pens pretty tightly matched. Same result, though... a Pittsburgh victory which now puts them up two games to none. Two thoughts I had watching this game:

1. I wish Bill Guerin was as good for the Sharks as he seems to be with the Pens. Two goals (including the OT game winner) and an assist in a 3-2 victory is pretty solid.

2. I thought Pittsburgh would be way chagrined after going offside entering the offensive zone during their OT 5-3 given how gassed (and injured) the Flyers were. Guerin then scoring on the next play I'm sure took the sting of that chagrin... just a touch.

3. Martin Biron played a good game in net with some 45 saves, but I suspect he would have liked to have back the OT goal. Not that every goalie doesn't want to have back every OT goal, but it went right through Biron... that whole stick on the ice thing.

Philadelphia is certainly still in the series, but I think back to the Sharks-Stars series last postseason. A team can be playing well towards the end of the series, but if they start deep in the hole, sometimes it's too deep to climb back out. The Flyers being down 2-0 are getting close to that point.

New Jersey-Carolina

Oh yeah... they did play. Wasn't televised on Versus so I didn't see it, but in the matchup of what to me are the two least interesting teams in the playoffs, Carolina won in OT to tie the series at 1-1. There ya' go...

Vancouver-St. Louis

Now that Philadelphia has shown themselves to be a solid adversary (as in being close to winning against) for Pittsburgh, that series reminds me of Vancouver-St. Louis. The Blues are a pretty good team that's sound in a lot of areas of the game, but Vancouver just seems a bit more sound in each and every area.

After a 3-0 victory today, the Canucks go up two games to zero. St. Louis will probably not back down all series, but in the end they appear to be a bit short of Vancouver.

San Jose-Anaheim Game 1... 2-0 Ducks

Well, that was a game. Having attended it, I had a few impressions of the Sharks... none of them of the "it's over, we're done" variety, but all of them I felt adding up to a game one defeat.

1. I don't see any reason why to dress Jody Shelley. I discussed this in a prior post, but not even counting Torrey Mitchell (and I don't see how you can count him until the time he actually plays a game), I see five other options I'd rather have out there. Heck, make that six if you want to throw Claude Lemieux out there for the same (very low) number of shifts as Shelley receives. Now, to rebut the argument that you need Shelley to counteract the pugilistic stylings of George Parros, I say both why? and... if you need someone to lose a fight to George Parros, why not use Brad Staubitz?

2. The Sharks breakout of their defensive zone was abysmal compared to the breakout by Anaheim. Especially at the start of the game, the Ducks were using what I'll call a home-run breakout straight up the middle of the ice to great success. The Sharks on the other hand seemed to only be effective exiting their defensive zone when they just gave the puck to Dan Boyle and had him skate with it.

3. The Sharks entry into the offensive zone was probably even worse than their defensive zone breakout. Closely related to San Jose's 0 for 6 powerplay effort, they just never seemed to be able to get set up in the Ducks end of the ice. I suppose I could make a separate point about this, but if you don't set up and then convert when you have the man advantage, there's no reason for your (less disciplined) opponent to not take liberties (and have a few calls go against them).

It's odd. I was the "happiest baby on the block" when Ron Wilson was let go... and subsequently replaced with Todd McClellan, but now the three things that bothered me from game one are all coaching related. I do think, though, that the advantage this regime has over that of Wilson's is a much greater flexibility and willingness to change things up when needed.

We'll see how it all plays, and if for a few breaks here and there the Sharks could have won game one anyways, but I really hope to see some tweaks to the lineup and on-ice tactics for game two.

Long series and I still believe San Jose to be the better team, they just have to you know... play better than their opponent.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

2009 NHL Playoffs: Day One Impressions

Well, after watching pretty much all of Pittsburgh-Philadelphia and Vancouver-St. Louis... I'd say some pretty interesting stuff going on thus far.

Penguins 4 - Flyers 1: Wow, Pittsburgh looked dominant in this game. They really appeared to be a study in how good a team can and should be when they've got two of the top five players in the game. The Flyers attempted to "play their game" and get chippy in the final minute, but it actually seemed more sad than what I'll call "send a messageish". The announcers were right when making the comment that there wasn't really a point anymore to the antagonism.

Canucks 2 - Blues 1: Interesting game. The two teams played very similar games with grinding forwards, stout D, excellent goaltending, lots of driving the net and action after the whistle. After seeing them match up for 60 minutes, it appears that St. Louis will likely remain game for as long as they're alive in the series, but Vancouver just does each thing a little bit better.

Other (not watched) action...

Well, given the whole "not watched" thing for the other two games, I'll link to some interesting analysis from Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy on Yahoo! Sports (not sure if I worded that correctly, but it'll do).

The long and short of it... New Jersey is good and Jose Theodore in the Caps net... maybe not so good.

Yea, I understand that Theodore won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP back in 2002, but me thinks goalie years are kinda like dog years... meaning stellar play 7 years ago does not necessarily equate to the same performance today. Maybe they looked around and found the asking prices too steep, but I just don't know how Washington didn't go get some solid backup insurance at the trade deadline. Hello... Scott Clemmensen, anyone? Now the Caps coaching staff has to decide between rolling Jose back out there for game 2 or going with Simeon Varlamov and his 6 career NHL games played. Fun choice...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Sharkies X Factor: D (as in Depth)

Yea, I like lines... really I do. A Center, a left wing, a right wing, they're great to have. What's also great is a bunch of parts that can be plugged into line combinations. Whether the reasons for said plugging be injuries, lack of production, or those magical "hunches", it's really nice to have options.

Thus... options are what I like about this iteration of the Sharks. To whit...


1. Thornton-Marleau-Setoguchi
2. Pavelski-Clowe-Michalek
3. Moen-Goc-Cheechoo
4. Grier-Roenick-Plihal (or with someone switching betwixt lines 3 and 4)

Here's where it gets good. Need a replacement on the top two lines, easy... move Cheechoo or Roenick (probably for a shorter period of time than Cheech) or even Moen up.

Now, you ask, who would take the spot of the "replacer"? Here's the choices:

Jody Shelley - Would prefer to see him in the press box. This series should be won in part by Anaheim getting stupid, not the Sharks.
Claude Lemieux - I don't see it... and don't want it.
Alexei Semenov - Not as bad an option as I would have felt him at the start of the year.
Brad Staubitz -Sure, I'd be good with that.
Torrey Mitchell - Would love to see it, but I doubt it.
Jamie McGinn - See Staubitz, Brad comment.

The long and short of it is that I really like the Sharks top line players and depth at forward. Furthermore, given what I think is Anaheim's complete and utter inability to not take dumb aggression penalties, I think this series "should" be won on San Jose's power play. Thus... the need for the top line players to come through.

Defense (not thinking about pairings here)


Other options: Semenov, Huskins, McLaren... Yep, that Kyle McLaren.

On D, I'm most concerned above Lukowich as he hasn't seemed to be as good since coming back from mid-season injury. I'd love for Huskins to be healthy and be an option... no idea how good of an option until I see him play, though.

I think the D is plenty good enough to win.



Nabby scares me. I'm happy enough having him as I think he a top 5 or 10 goalie, but I don't see him as a "playoff rock". That said, the only people that I do see that way are named Brodeur and Luongo. Everyone else (Nabby included) will have to prove themselves this postseason.

I like Sharks.

Dream Playoff Matchups

I was thinking about the matchups as I described them in a post yesterday and... while these are good, they're not my "dream matchups".

Now, dream matchups are rare because of the confluence of events (ranging from who my personal favorites are to the standings) required, but let's imagine for a moment they did come together.

Here's what things might look like (using this season's playoff teams... not like we can wait forever on the Maple Leafs):

Western Conference

First Round

Detroit vs St. Louis - Norris Division rivalry reprisal. What's not to love?
San Jose vs Anaheim - Ok, I'll give. While it scare me as a Sharks fan, it's good story.
Vancouver vs Calgary - Sure, why not have the Northies play each other?
Chicago vs Columbus - True, they're the left over teams, but playoff newbies who are geographically close... not bad.

Second Round

Detroit vs Chicago - Original Six.
San Jose vs Vancouver - This one was tougher, but I'll take Vancouver over a repeat matchup from last season.

Third Round

San Jose vs Detroit - The two best teams. Good stuff.

Eastern Conference

First Round

Boston vs Montreal - Check, then check again after the whistle. Another Original Six.
Pittsburgh vs Washington - Crosby / Malkin vs Ovechkin can't be passed up.
New York Rangers vs New Jersey Devils - Avery... Brodeur. Greater New York area.
Philadelphia vs Carolina - What's left. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this, but the Hurricanes are boring (stupid Maple Leafs).

Second Round

Boston vs New York Rangers - The whole New York - New England thing. Again, Original Six.
Pittsburgh vs Philadelphia - Crosby vs Richards. In-state rivalry. Nice.

Third Round

Boston vs Philadelphia - Was tough to eliminate Crosby and the Pens, but I like the mayhem (one the ice and in the stands) that this series would bring.

Stanley Cup Finals

San Jose vs Boston - Thornton past vs Thornton present.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Witching Hour is Upon Us

NHL playoffs start in two days... I love this time of year. Without further adieu, here's the first round matchups:

Western Conference

(1) San Jose Sharks vs (8) Anaheim Ducks

To quote from an e-mail I recently sent... "as a Sharks fan I was cursing J.S. Giguere when he allowed that shootout goal Saturday night... taking the Ducks down from a 6 to possible 8 (which of course came to pass) seed. I do fall back, though, on something I was told be a fellow Sharks fan... 'the goal isn't to win one round... the goal is to win the Cup, and to do that you have to beat everyone'. That said, I would have preferred either Anaheim or Detroit to knock the other out in a 2-7 matchup. The way the universe does things, though, San Jose would probably have lost to St Louis as the 8 seed."

So, it should be a highly entertaining series to watch and I'm viewing it as an enormous litmus test to see just how good this Sharks team is. Whereas last season's first round win over Calgary in 7 games was cause for concern (justifiably so it turned out), me thinks a win over Anaheim in 7 would be just fine.

(2) Detroit Red Wings vs (7) Columbus Blue Jackets

An interesting series. I will be very curious to watch to see just how good this Steve Mason fellow does against the Wings.

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs (6) St. Louis Blues

Roberto Luongo vs Chris Mason... I wonder if anyone will score.

(4) Chicago Blackhawks vs (5) Calgary Flames

Not sure what to expect. Me thinks Calgary will be the better team, though.

Eastern Conference

(1) Boston Bruins vs (8) Montreal Canadiens

I think the Bruins will roll. Actually, I think first they'll beat up Montreal, then roll.

(2) Washington Capitals vs (7) New York Rangers

Intriguing, but I think Washington will be too good for the Rangers.

(3) New Jersey Devils vs (6) Carolina Hurricanes

I know there are people really interested in this series, I'm just not one of them.

(4) Pittsburgh vs (5) Philadelphia

Should be great hockey, can't wait to watch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

2009 NHL Playoffs: Last Four Spots

So... very... close. Almost every team is down to their final two games of the season and here's the race for the final four playoff spots (two left in each conference):

Eastern Conference

#7 - Montreal Canadiens - 92 points. Games Thurs at Boston & Sat vs Pittsburgh
#8 - New York Rangers - 91 points. Games Thurs vs Philadelphia & Sun at Philadelphia
#9 - Florida Panthers - 89 points. Games Thurs at Atlanta & Sat vs Washington
#10 - Buffalo Sabres - 87 points. Doesn't matter... too far back

Rangers win one and lose one for 7th
Canadiens lose both and back into the playoffs at 8th
Florida wins one... not enough

Western Conference

#7 - Anaheim Ducks - 88 points. Games Fri vs Dallas & Sat at Phoenix
#8 - St Louis Blues - 88 points. Games Fri vs Columbus & Sun at Colorado
#9 - Nashville Predators - 86 points. Games Thur at Detroit & Fri at Minnesota
#10 - Minnesota Wild - 85 points. Too far back

Anaheim wins both... 7th place
St Louis wins at least one... 8th place
Nashville... not gonna win both

Friday, April 3, 2009

No, I Don't Want It... You Go Ahead

Well... there were four "close to must win" games played by on the bubble teams tonight. At the end of the day, two wins and two losses.

Eastern Conference

Buffalo... defeats Washington 5-4 in OT. This puts the Sabres four points back of the 8th place New York Rangers, but with Buffalo having a game in hand on New York. On the negative side, there's also the Florida Panthers to deal with in 9th place two between Buffalo and New York. Not likely the Sabres will be able to find there way in, but they certainly needed these two points to remain in the conversation.

Florida... loses to Atlanta 3-1. C'mon... Atlanta? I know they've won four in a row, but the Panthers would have pulled even with idle New York at 8th in the standings.

Western Conference

Minnesota... defeats Calgary 4-0. Similar to Buffalo, Minnesota needed this win to entertain their notion of making the playoffs. With the win, they pulled to two points behind 8th place St Louis... with 9th place Nashville between them.

Nashville... loses to Chicago 2-1. Whoops... a win over the Blackhawks would have jumped the Preds into 8th place and a playoff slot (for now). Not meant to be, though.

End result of the action was 4 games that mattered... two that were won by teams that desperately needed them and two that were lost by teams that could have put themselves in good spots with a win.

I guess desperation really does help.