Michalek’s Late Score Gives Sharks 2-1 Win

October 11, 2007

(Chicago, IL) Nothing makes the road trip as much as a win. Sharks winger Milan Michalek and goaltender Evgeni Nabakov stood out in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center tonight.

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Milan Michalek is congratulated by teammates after his second power play goal

It was a tense game for the Sharks fans in attendance. Despite outshooting the Hawks by a wide margin throughout the game, it wasn’t until there were only 3 1/2 minutes left before Michalek scored the game-winner. San Jose dominated play, using its size to control the puck along the boards, winning physical battles. And yet, the Hawks led after one period. The game could have gone either way until Michaluk put it away.

I prefer laughers, but a tight game that ends in a win is big fun. Having witnessed losses in my last two Sharks road games (Game 2 in the playoffs at Nashville, and a 3-0 sleepy loss in Columbus), any win is a welcome thing.There were plenty of Sharks fans thoughout the United Center, including a college student from Indianapolis’ Butler University sitting right next to me. Very enjoyable rooting for the Sharks with Jeff, and talking hockey in breaks in the action. Lots of friendly folks wearing teal circulating in the corridors between periods, and fun chatting.

I took an interest in seeing the kind of San Jose gear being worn by other fans. Many had jerseys customized with Joe Thornton’s name and number. Surprisingly, the next most popular was #26 and Steve Bernier. I seemed to have the only Cheechoo. There were also a handful of Marleau jerseys. No familiar names from the past, like Nolan or Ricci, as I always seem to see in Columbus.

I’m no fan of the new uniforms, so it was gratifying to see so few of them. In fact, one fan wore last season’s black 3rd jersey- get this- customized with ‘Roenick’ on the back, and the #27. Roenick didn’t play for the Sharks last season, of course. She told me she’s a big fan of JR, but no fan of hte new uni’s. We both share the hope that this thing will prove unpopular, and like New Coke, will be replaced with one of the previous designs.

More brief observations:

The Blackhawks really are a poor draw. If the attendence is listed higher than 10,000 it won’t be due to actual fans in seats. It was astonishing to see so many seats open.

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Look at all those empty seats!

Roenick still holds a place in the hearts of Chicago fans. Several wore red jerseys with Roenicks name and #27. JR flipped several pucks over the glass in the direction of younger Hawks fans during the pre-game skate. He came to the glass to smile and wink at a Sharks fan with a sign reading “JR, you look good in teal!” Some fans booed when he touched the puck in the first period, but that didn’t last beyond his second shift.

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JR scans the crowd, pre-game

Chicago has a talented rookie in Jon Toews, who scored his first NHL goal on a great shot over Nabokov’s shoulder. There was a general buzz about him. The Hawks have some young talent, but they are a small team, especially compared to the Sharks. San Jose players were unmoved when hit by the guys in red, and they pushed the Hawks around when initiating the contact.

The Sharks top power play unit hasn’t learned the lessons from last season’s playoffs. Joe Thornton held the puck endlessly, looking for the perfect pass, with play often resulting in the Hawks clearing the zone and without a San Jose shot on goal. The #2 unit got out there, shot the puck on net, created traffic in front of Chicago netminder Nikolai Khabibulin, and scored twice. Ron Wilson needs to crack out the film for study.

First game for Rob Davison, as Doug Murray was a healthy scratch. Looks like these two are on the platoon for the #6 ‘d’ spot. Davison looked sharp, and it was no surprise that he found Marty Lapointe to drop the gloves with, as I’m sure Davison is working to impress so he can stay in the lineup.

First game also for Curtis Brown. He looked to be right at home on the penalty kill with Mike Grier once again.

Matt Carle made two large mistakes on one play. He took a penalty when he held Toews, who had a clear path to the net. Problem was, his hold wasn’t very effective- Toews scored anyway. Former Blackhawk and minor league coach Rick Paterson had a great saying about situations ike this. “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it with authority”. Carle would have done well to simply take Toews down, letting the penalty kill do its’ work.

That’s nitpicking, though. The Sharks won, and sit in a first place tie with Anaheim despite playing two fewer games, all without having played at home yet.

Next Midwest road trip dates:

@ Detroit, Friday, Oct 26, 7:30pm Eastern
@ Columbus, Saturday, Oct 27, 5:30pm Eastern

Ready For The Hawks!

October 9, 2007

I’m ready to see this game, and after the pasting in Colorado the other night, I suspect the Sharks will be ready to play the Blackhawks Wednesday night.

It’s been about six years since I caught a game at the United Center. That one was more interesting than you might have suspected. Hawks-Preds, when Nashville was a very new team. Neither team had much going for it.

I love the Chicago fans. They’re loud and obnoxious, which is another way of saying, ‘passionate’. Alexei Zhamnov was widely perceived as an underachiever by the faithful, and one fan in particular took great delight in bellowing each time #11 in white took a shift, “Zhamnov, get off the ice!” He was unbelievably loud- you could hear his voice echo throughout the lower sections. His eyes and veins in his temples bulged, his face turning red. He meant it, but he was going to have fun with it.

As I recall it, Zhamnov had several lackluster shifts in the first period, making the fan’s call funnier and funnier. He was so agitated when the Russian skated offside, and then shot wide of the net. Then Zhmanov scored a goal. All the fans in rows below looked back at the fan, who had been standing each shift to holler. He shrugged his shoulders and then yelled, “I still want you off the ice Zhamnov!” More laughter.

Then in the second period, Zhamnov scored his second of the night. The man was flabbergasted. He actually broke down laughing in the middle of “I still want you off… bwaahahaha!” Everybody was really having a blast.

Before the period was out, Zhamnov completed the hat trick. Nobody on this side of the arena was throwing a hat. They were looking at this fan, waiting to see if he was eating his. He was incredibly flustered. He waved his hands in a curious disgusted delight, and there were huge laughs.

It seemed to sum up the Hawks that season: A fan can’t even enjoy the misery. Somehow, the team would screw that up, too.

It’s hard to know what to expect from Chicago this time around. It’s still early in the season when hope springs eternal, but Martin Havlat is hurt already. David Koci would get fans out of their seats, but the Sharks don’t have a legitimate heavy to square up with him. That’s probably the only area where the Blackhawks seem to have an edge. Let’s hope the Sharks don’t play down to the competition, and really ring ’em up!

See you there!

Chicago Road Trip

October 7, 2007

Alright, Midwest Sharks fans! The first road trip opportunity of the year comes early, with a Wednesday, October 10 date at the United Center facing the Chicago Blackhawks.

If you are a Shark fan living in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, or even some parts of Missouri or Kentucky, it’s a reasonable drive for a game. Tickets are reasonably easy to get, too.

You’ll be able to find me in Section 102, Row 11. I’ll be wearing my 2006-07 white road “Cheechoo” jersey. If you go, be sure to look for me! We’ll have a beverage together and toast a San Jose victory! 

Decent Start

October 7, 2007

The regular season is underway, with the Sharks taking 3 of 4 possible standings points in dropping a 3-2 shootout decision in the opener at Edmonton, then coming back for a 3-1 win at Vancouver. Next up: tonight, a strong Colorado team; then Wednesday in Chicago against a Blackhawks squad that came back from a 3-1 deficit to edge the Wings in a shootout, 4-3. Have to respect teams that come back against the Wings, right?

Biggest surprise thus far are the two goals Jeremy Roenick scored against the Canucks. Maybe GM Doug Wilson knew what he was doing in signing JR after all. Doug Murray is making the most of his ice time, with a couple of assists, a +3 rating, and a fight in defence of Torrey Mitchell.

 Nice to see the Ducks struggle, too!

Game On!

October 4, 2007

At long last, the NHL regular season begins for Sharks fans. Game time is just a minute away (9pm EDST), a the Sharks visit Edmonton to open the 2007-08 campaign.

Curiosity: What will the starting line-up look like? Who failed to make the cut and is off to AHL Worcester? The Sharks seem awfully secretive about this, having not yet released a statement with the final cuts. We do know that hot rookie Devin Setoguchi will not make his NHL debut tonight, due to an ankle injury. Interestingly, the Sharks announced that this means Jeremy Roenick will play. Was there a possibility that JR wasn’t going to make the cut with a healthy Setoguchi? time will tell.

Well, let’s enjoy this from the first drop of the puck. It’s going to be a fun season!

Also: Mark your calendar for the first Sharks midwest road date. It comes next Wednesday, October 10, in Chicago.

The Jury Is In

September 20, 2007

The new Sharks jerseys really suck. It’s that simple.

New Sharks Unis - preseason game

I was holding my breath for commentary on the logo, hoping it would be integrated well into the previous jersey scheme. Alas. They scrapped everything and just started over.

The fin logo is gone from the shoulder and pants. Player numbers have been added to the front, copying the Sabres move in that direction from last season. The stripes look like they were pulled from the Blues’ uniforms. The shoulder treatment looks like a high school football jersey. In a word: Bleah.

I don’t get this. When you have the best logo in sports, why scrap it- especially for one that looks like an ECHL level, computer drawn cartoon? When you have one of the best unique designs and color schemes, why scrap those? Never trash a classic!

Now that the Sharks have gone to their third substantially different look in less than 20 years’ time, they join the ranks of the Vancouver Canucks as one of the teams with no true identity. God bless the Original Six. They tend to honor tradition. The Sharks wipe their bum with tradition, sadly.

I’m not alone in my discontent. The readers of the San Jose Mercury News picked the old jersey over the new one by 4:1 in an online poll.

I guess I’ll keep wearing my “old” Cheechoo or Clowe jerseys to games this season. Can we hope that management comes to see that, like the New York Islanders, a team can go back against a bad decision?  I think we’re going to have to.

Great Signings!

September 2, 2007

GM Doug Wilson is really keeping this team together. The latest signing keeps the captain, Patrick Marleau, in the fold for another two seasons. Link to tsn.ca article. This caps off re-signings of top scorer Joe Thornton (three seasons) and Milan Michalek (six seasons), making the forward corps an air-tight group. With arguably the best forwards in the NHL, Wilson gets an A+ from these quarters.

I like what Wilson had to say about his plan. From the Michalek article:

After a summer in which the Edmonton Oilers handed out a pair of offer sheets to restricted free agents, successfully prying forward Dustin Penner away from the Anaheim Ducks with a $21.25-million, five-year deal, general manager Doug Wilson read the marketplace and decided to get the Czech native under lock and key.

”You have to understand how this CBA works on a daily basis, you have to make decisions much earlier and much quicker than you did in the past,” Wilson said in a conference call. ”It’s also one of the reasons why we feel that the players we know the best are the ones we’ve drafted, developed and had a lot of time with.”  

Defense is still a potential weakness. Re-signing Craig Rivet (four seasons) was excellent. Having lost Scott Hannan to the Avalance, some veteran presense to go with Kyle McLaren is important. Sure, Matt Carle and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic look like potential superstars, that’s exactly what they are- loaded with potential, but truly unproven. Quick- name for me the all-time stellar 2nd-year defensemen. Beyond Paul Coffey, what did you come up with? Even the great Bobby Orr lost production in his second NHL season. The Sharks are loaded with #6-7 d-men, re-signing Rob Davison (one season) to go along with Doug Murray, Pat Traverse, and Mathieu Biron. But true #1-4s? This earns Wilson a C+.

 Even with the loss of Vesa Toskala to the Leafs, I’m still very confident with Evgeni Nabokov in net. At least the Sharks got a #1 pick out of the deal, plus parted with Mark Bell, which was addition by subtraction. Wilson’s grade: B+.

Net grade: B+. Pretty darned good!

By the way, you can tell that I refer to tsn.ca a lot. It’s an excellent source for everything hockey! Link to tsn’s NHL page.

Sharks Sign Ricci & Marchment – To Front Office Posts

August 22, 2007

In the 1999-2000 season, I bought customized jerseys of my three favorite Sharks players- Owen Nolan, Mike Ricci, and Bryan Marchment. In time, all three left San Jose for other clubs. Ricci just recently announced his retirement, which was a bit sad for me to see him leave the ice.

 So, it gave me great pleasure to learn of the announcement of Mike’s return to San Jose, along with Bryan Marchment, to front office positions. From the Sharks’ web article:

“My only personal goals are to repay the Sharks organization and the Bay Area,” said Ricci. “San Jose has a big place in my heart. When I was traded to San Jose, my buddies said I wasn’t much of a California boy, but it’s now known as a hockey town and there is so much hunting and fishing. We want to raise our kids here.”

Now Ricci will handle front office work instead of skating out through the Sharks head.

“This is an organization with great coaches a great staff,” said Ricci. “Everyone is here to win.”

Ricci’s role is not 100 percent defined, but he will definitely have a hand in forming the Sharks both on and off-the-ice by bringing his lifetime of hockey experience to the table.

TSN’s report included word on Mush:

Marchment’s duties will include working with players in San Jose and Worcester, as well as scouting Sharks prospects at the college and Canadian major junior levels.  He will also serve as an advisor to the hockey operations department.

I have little doubt that they will serve in the office in the same tenacious way both played on the ice. Time to bring those jerseys back from the back of the closet!

Mike Ricci Hangs ‘Em Up

August 14, 2007

Mike Ricci was one of my favorite Sharks players. I was thrilled when he came over from Colorado. The man was pure grit, as you could figure out just by looking at him. After 16 seasons, including seven in San Jose, Mike Ricci has decided the time has come to hang up the skates. Link to TSN report.

Those late 90’s Sharks teams were among my favorites. Sure, the current group has electrifying talent. But overachieving grit is something I really admire. Mike Ricci, Nolan, Matteau, Granato, Stern, Lowry even. Great fun to watch.

Enjoy the golf, Mike, and whatever else you choose to do! 

Link to Mike Ricci’s stats.

Remenda Returns to the Booth

August 10, 2007

While I enjoyed having Marty McSorley as the color guy for Sharks TV broadcasts (especially for calls and analysis on fights), I’m pleased to learn that Drew Remenda is returning to the post for this upcoming season. From the Contra Costa Times report:

Drew Remenda will be back as the Sharks TV analyst next season, and nobody sounded happier about it Wednesday than his broadcast partner, Randy Hahn.

“The Joe Thornton trade and bringing Drew back — those would be the two biggest no-brainers in Sharks history,” said Hahn, the Sharks play-by-play announcer.

The team and FSN Bay Area announced Wednesday that Remenda and Hahn would be reunited in the broadcast booth, where for six seasons they provided lively coverage that appealed to both hard-core and casual hockey fans.

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Remenda will also be back as host of “Shark Byte,” a 30-minute, behind-the-scenes feature program also carried on FSN Bay Area.

Still would like to know what happened to McSorley. The story has no answers:

McSorley’s time in that role ended mysteriously midway through the Sharks’ playoff series with Detroit, when the Sharks announced McSorley would not return for a Game 3 broadcast for personal reasons. No further explanation has been given.

The season isn’t that far off. Be ready for the action, on TV and for midwest road games!