Sharks Split Pair in Alberta...

The San Jose Sharks have reached the All Star Break portion of the schedule. Unfortunately for team teal, they are not exactly firing on all cylinders. The Sharks have just finished a five game stretch versus Canadian based teams and have a 2-2-1 record to show for it. What is alarming is team teal’s inability to find the back of the net. In fact, in four of the five games the Sharks just managed one goal in regulation time. Things were no different for the Sharks as they traveled to Alberta for a pair of games against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

Monday Night the Oilers lead by goalie Devan Dubnyk’s 44 saves and Taylor Hall’s shootout winner in the 4th round after overtime gave Edmonton a 2-1 victory over the Sharks. Dubnyk’s effort was probably one of the best goalie efforts team teal has seen performed against them this year. Dubnyk was starting in place of Nikolai Khabibulin and made the most of the opportunity.

On a 24-hour turn around, the Sharks met up with their old Canadian rival in the Flames at Calgary. Antti Niemi in one of his better performances this season made 25 saves as team teal clawed their way to a 1-0 win at the Saddledome. Benn Ferrerio’s third period goal with 8:35 remaining resulted from a heads up play from in front of the Flames goal and gave the Sharks a much needed win to end a three game slide.

Looking Back on the Past Two Games -

Bad Medicine – The Rexall place just did not have the prescription the Sharks would need to solve their goal scoring woes. The Sharks controlled the play through the first period and out shot the Oilers 13-5. Thomas Greiss would get the call for the Sharks and he did see some action, and was able to routinely turn away the few scoring chances the Oilers had. Meanwhile Dubnyk was hard at work keeping Edmonton in the game as he along with a decent strategy of flooding the shooting lanes made it difficult for team teal. The second period witnessed more of the same with the Sharks again dominant, however again getting nothing for their efforts. Despite out shooting the Oilers 13-7, it would be Edmonton that would get the period’s only goal from Jordan Eberly who was able to get a rebound from a shot by Jeff Petry at the 6 1/2 half minute mark.

Taking A Knee – The third period would appear to be another tough go for the Sharks as Dubnyk just seemed to get stronger with each passing moment despite the zone pressure the Sharks applied. Despite ramping up the shot on goal total, team teal was simply not having any “puck luck”. A turning point would happen in the game when the Oilers Ales Hemsky collided with Brent Burns. Burns immediately fell over in a great deal of pain, and eventually had to be helped off of the ice and into the Sharks dressing room. Hemsky received a five minute major and game misconduct for the hit at the 5:37 mark of the third. With the Sharks on a 5 minute major power play, they wasted no time in getting the game tying goal. During a Sharks surge inside the Oilers defensive zone, Logan Couture was able to position himself in front of Dubnyk. Dan Boyle launched a slap shot that Couture was able to get his stick on and deflect the puck past Dubnyk to tie the game.

Team teal from that point still had 4:14 to go on the power play and would try to get a second goal to go in front. However, the Sharks in spite of their efforts would get turned away by Dubnyk and the Edmonton penalty kill units. The Sharks came close when Joe Thornton in front of the Oiler net had a deflection of a Boyle slap shot hit the post and bounce just inches away from goal. Team teal would go on to have a 17-4 advantage on shots on goal for the period. Inspite of this, the Sharks and Oilers would move onto to overtime and ultimately a shootout tied 1-1.

Teal Oil Leak – As the game moved into the shootout, the Sharks would turn to Michal Handzus, Boyle and Joe Pavelski to try and solve Dubnyk. Handzus and Boyle were turned away by the hot Oilers goalie. Meanwhile, Greiss would turn away Eberly on Edmonton’s first shot attempt. Next up for the Oilers was Sam Gagner who brought the puck up ice while being able to control it on both sides of his stick. Gagner was able to get Greiss to commit to his right, and with that Gagner when to Greiss’ left and deposited the puck into the net. Pavelski would take his turn to try and get the Sharks even. The former Wisconsin Badger would skate up towards the goal and drill a quick wrister that beat Dubnyk five-hole to tie the shootout. Greiss would extend the shootout one more frame by denying Anton Lander.

In the fourth frame Taylor Hall would break the shootout tie quickly as he was able to successfully back hand the puck past Greiss. The final Shark hope was Couture, who’s attempt really did not got any traction to speak of. Couture’s attempt was easily stopped by Dubnyk to end the shootout and the game. The Sharks would get a point in the standings for their efforts. However, team teal left Edmonton with the frustration of losing to a team that entered this contest 14th in the Western Conference Standings.

No Spark Zone - Tuesday Night the Sharks traveled 145 miles southwest to take on the other Alberta inhabitant in the Calgary Flames. The Sharks and Flames have had some interesting games in the past, and this contest would prove to be no different. This would be another classic battle of the goalies, the Sharks Niemi versus the Flames Miikka Kiprusoff. Both goalies rose to the occasion and it became apparent by the time the first period had ended that goals would be at a premium. The Sharks best chance in the first period came when a Ferriero slap shot rebounded in front of Kipprusoff who could not immediately cover the rebound. Patrick Marleau was right at the door step but just could not get the puck into the open half of the net and the game remained scoreless through one period.

The Sharks started the second period on a power play as the Flames Olli Jokinen was called for hooking just before the first period had ended. However team teal really could not get anything going and Kipprusoff was ready to deny the Sharks at the door. Team teal did build some momentum from the power play but nothing that could really be called sustained pressure. Defensively, the Sharks held Calgary to just three shots on goal with two coming on a power play (after an interference penalty to Jim Vandermeer). Neither team could really get anything going and the period itself seemed to drag on.

Niemi Comes Up Clutch – The third period saw the Flames pick up the pace early and carry the play for several minutes. Niemi would see over three times more shots on goal by Calgary in this period. Niemi was up to the challenge back from three days rest and looked sharp in turning away the Flames scoring chances. One of Niemi’s best saves came on a breakaway opportunity from Alex Tanguay who was able to take a loose puck all the way towards the Sharks net. Niemi held his ground and denied Tanguay as his attempt to shoot the puck was smothered. Calgary’s Blake Comeau had another close range chance a moment later and was turned away by Niemi’s pad save. Pavelski came close to giving the Sharks the lead as a back handed shot of his just missed the net wide after a Calgary turnover. Two minutes later, Pavelski would be denied again as his slap shot beat Kipprusoff but hit the left post and bounced off.

Big Benn Strikes- With 8 1/2 minutes left in the third, inside the Flames defensive zone the Sharks applied offensive pressure. Boyle was able to launch a slap shot that Kipprusoff saved but could not control. Couture dived towards the lose puck and knocked it in the air towards Ferriero. With the puck still in the air, Ferriero found himself in front of the Calgary goal and behind Kipprusoff. Ferriero snatched the loose puck and quicky put it down on the ice. Ferriero then quickly shot the puck into the open net and the Sharks finally had the lead. The goal was only the second Sharks goal in the last two games, however this one was just as huge if not bigger.

Niemi took matters from there and helped the Sharks defense by turning away the Flames for the rest of the evening and securing a hard earned victory, only team teal’s second in the last five games. For Niemi, this was his third shutout of the season and 16th for his career. The Flames would out shoot the Sharks 14-11 in the final period, but to no avail. With the win, the Sharks go to the All Star Break in 3rd place in the Western Conference Standings with a 27-14-6 record good for 60 points in the standings and first place in the Pacific Division.

Assessment of Alberta Games- The Sharks did well to get the split considering they scored just two goals in 125 minutes of play over two nights. The Sharks are clearly slumping offensively and are going to need to make the most of this All Star Break and get some much needed rest. The Sharks hopefully will have Ryane Clowe back for next Tuesday Nights game versus Columbus at The Tank. Brent Burns injured in the Edmonton game should be good to go come next Tuesday Night. As for the goalies, both Greiss and Niemi were strong just giving up one regulation goal over two games. Hopefully when the Sharks resume play on January 31st they will be able to rediscover their offense as this will be key going forward.

News & Notes – The Sharks have placed Antero Niittymaki on waivers. Should Niitymaki clear waivers, the likelihood is that he will be traded. What Doug Wilson has in mind here is anyone’s guess, though I’m sure he’s not too pleased with team teals lack of scoring this season.  Fraser McLaren was also waived by the Sharks after the Ottawa game last Thursday Night. McLaren cleared waivers and is back with the Worcester Sharks. John McCarthy was send back to Worcester after Tuesday Night’s game in Calgary.

Thank You 49ers!!! - I want to thank the San Francisco 49ers for a tremendous season that more than exceeded any and all expectations. Though the 49ers would fall to the New York Giants in Overtime last Sunday, it’s clear the 49ers are back. Under coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers went from 6-10 in 2010 to 13-3 in 2011 and their first playoff win in nine years, and their first NFC Championship appearance in 17 years (when they last won the Super Bowl). The 49ers have only scratched the surface, and if they play their cards right in the off season and in the future, the 49ers will return to the Super Bowl soon enough. A sixth ring may be closer than you think.



The King Shark

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