Bad stretch or are we witnessing the birth of the Antii-Nabby?
If you’re scoring at home, Antti Niemi has now let in 9 goals in the last two games with a nice 5 spot let in during last night’s shellacking at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes. His forebear, Evgeny Nabokov was plagued by ill-timed, high profile soft goals during last year’s playoffs, and then promptly labeled public enemy number one by the Shark propaganda machine. Regardless of his years of elite service, including being only the second goalie in history to ever record three straight 40 win seasons, the team put out a (mostly) tacit campaign that Nabokov was the reason the San Jose Sharks weren’t winning the Stanley Cup. They dressed up their silent, smear campaign in some bull about salary cap, a different direction and the like, and then unceremoniously, kicked him to the curb like a broken down 4th liner.
Regardless of its actual merit, the San Jose Sharks bought in whole hog on this Cheap Goalie Playoff Model (CGPM). They hired the guy that basically invented the CGPM theory in Antti Niemi, and with each successive goal let in by last year’s playoff darling, are only now are wondering if perhaps letting the backbone of the franchise walk out the door to Russia’s KHL was a good idea. On that, I keep imagining Nabby as the Russian oligarch sendup in that amazing DirectTV ad…opulence, I has it. Now plying his trade for SKA St. Petersburg, Nabokov is not exactly off to a blistering start (3-6, 88.8%, 3.10 GAA), but if you think that Nabokov isn’t kissing his micro-giraffe even more gleefully when he sees the Sharks blown out 5-2 by the lowly Carolina Hurricanes, you’re fooling yourself.
I mean, maybe there’s a reason why elite goaltenders make more than one hit wonders? Maybe having a hot playoff goalie doesn’t make a bit of difference if you don’t actually make the bloody playoffs! Whoa…alright, deep breath. I am in no way stating that the San Jose Sharks won’t make the playoffs this year, that’s just the pain talking. I do think it’s a stretch to say that without elite goaltending, they will win the Western Division and dominate the regular season as they have in the past. You don’t just get to be an elite team based upon your previous seasons, you must earn and learn that status each year, and I know that Coach Todd McLellan believes that.
Coach McLellan stated recently to Drew Remenda that every season must have a theme, and this year’s was likening the Sharks NHL season to a marathon. How does that marathon runner set his goals during different parts of the race? How does he pace himself? Motivate himself? Where does his mind go in times of distress, like at that 12 mile mark when his legs feel like fusilli?
Right now, the Sharks are just starting off that race, but Evgeny Nabokov may be lurking at that first refreshment table…and he’s replaced the Gatorade with Stolichnaya.
Na zdorovje gents!
FOURTH PERIOD: Big fan of Drew Remenda, and his work on Shark Byte as well as the Sharks telecasts seen on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Drew presents a great on camera personality, offers super knowledge, a unique perspective and has the attitude of the buddy in your circle who buys a round of shots to a cascade of cheers when everybody is drinking wine. The Saskatchewan Smasher is also as genuine as his on air persona, as evidenced by a hockey clinic I attended once run by the Pacific Hockey Association where he tried to stifle laughs as a bunch of us wannabe, middle-aged Californians tried to stop on skates. My lady also digs his bald head, which gives me more confidence should hairline mortality ever face me in the grill. Just a funny guy, is faster than he looks and has a pretty decent shot as well…ok, he’s funny.