My Two Cents for March 4th:
Sharks Road Back After Bad Month- To say the Sharks had a bad month of February is like saying the sky is blue, grass is green, water is wet and a bear sleeps wherever he wants. After a dreadful month that saw team teal win only two of twelve games and net only eight points out of a possible 24, the Sharks could not be happier to see March come around. The Sharks at least got the month of March started off on the right foot with a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators Saturday night. It was nice to see the Sharks power play finally come through after going just 3 for 64 through the month of February. This was just one of the many reasons the Sharks fell off of their horse after a 7-0-0 January. The power play in Saturday night’s game versus Nashville gave the Sharks both of their goals which they would need. The Sharks are by no means out of the woods and the top seed in the Western Conference seems already well out of reach thanks to the spectacularly hot play of the Chicago Blackhawks. However, the Sharks if they can right their ship and put together a decent March and April, they should be able to find themselves in the post season mix.
I no longer will consider the Sharks a Cup contender unless they prove to be otherwise. However, about a year ago at this very time nobody considered the Los Angeles Kings to be much of a Cup contender either. I seriously doubt if any of their fans thought that either. What we all learned in last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs is if you get in and you get hot at the right time plus avoid the injury bug, anything can happen. The 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings are living and breathing proof that all a team needs to do is qualify and get hot. If you do that and have no injuries, you can win the required 16 post season games. Yes, this could be the Sharks possibly. Honestly though, a lot will have to happen that goes in the Sharks favor as team teal did no favors for themselves in the month of February.
What Sharks Need To Do Going Forward- For the Sharks to have a complete turn around from what happened in February, first the leadership on the team needs to step up and draw a line in the sand (or in this case on the ice). The prime players down to the 25th man on the bench need to start playing even harder for one another but also simplify their game and make smart and headstrong decisions on the ice. No more crosschecking or jumping over the boards even if in defense of one of your own. Only though this has only happened twice, allow no more short handed goals. These are not only game changers, a short handed goal is basically conceding a goal to the opposition. These happen when there is either a miscommunication on the ice or the team on the power play simply fails to maintain control of the puck when they absolutely need to be focused on that very thing. If you watch the teams who have the best power plays, they may only convert up to 1/3 of them total. However in the situations where a team does not score, they still build up enough momentum to maintain control of the puck and create scoring chances which can still ultimately lead to a goal. The Sharks during their power play slump seldom maintained sustainable control of the puck after the power play was over and never really created any real momentum for themselves. This would result in the opposing team scoring shortly after the Sharks power play had ended. This would also result in an opponent taking more on ice liberties since they knew team teal’s power play was in the midst of a horrible and seemingly unshakable slump.
If the Sharks can start making some hey and average a goal on at least 20-25% of their power play opportunities, this will increase their odds at picking up more wins which they will certainly need as the truncated season is practically already half over. As far as the penalty kill goes, it has never worked better. It is not perfect, but nobody’s really is. Coach Larry Robinson has done a phenomenal job with a unit that a year ago was one of the Sharks biggest liabilities. The key for the Sharks here is to just keep up on what Coach Robinson has taught and continues to teach them. As far as the lines go, the Sharks have enough talented players who can be interchanged on either the first or second lines. If the Sharks put Ryane Clowe, Martin Havlat and Tommy Wingles or Matt Irwin on the third line, they would be just as potent as any third line in the NHL. There are more than enough scorers on the Sharks bench where they can be successful. The fourth line with Adam Burish, James Sheppard and Braun (Demers or Irwin) has started to show that they can hold onto the puck and create decent scoring chances.
Overcoming Road Woes- The Sharks this season won their first two games at Calgary and Edmonton. Since then the road has not been too kind to the Sharks who have been just 1-5-1 on the road since. The Sharks in the past years up until last year were one of the better road teams in the NHL. The last couple of seasons have seen that drop off fairly significantly. The Sharks are going to need to find a formula that works for games played in hostile environments. In the Western Conference there is no shortage of this. It may be cliche to say they need to adopt an “Us Against The World” mentality, however that is pretty much what they will be needing to do at this point. It is tough to play on the road in the NHL. However, the Sharks need to remember they have done this as a team more than enough times already. They need to adopt the attitude that though it may be okay to have some fun away from home, you need to be very business like come game day. You’re not going to the opposing city to check out the views or make friends, you are going there to get a job done. If the Sharks can focus on just going to each city with a mission and adopt that team wide while at the same time bonding as a team, this will increase their chances of sustainable success over the next couple of months. So what if some else’s barn is too loud, if you don’t like it do something that will silence it. Take the game to your opponent, but do it in such a way that it is clean and you don’t find yourself in the penalty box multiple times. To do that latter would accomplish nothing. Of the 15 games the Sharks will play in March, nine of those games are on the road. This means all of this will be relevant if the Sharks plan on any kind of sustainable and meaningful post season run.
The next two months for the Sharks will not be easy in the least and will test each individual on the team. The Sharks have to be tired of getting pushed around at this point and they also have to know that if they don’t do anything to change this course that they have been on the season will only end up being wasted. This would be a bad look for the Sharks as an organization too. 25 men and the coaching staff each will hold a key as to how the Sharks fair over the next two months. Everything team teal does from this point forward will have a great impact on what post season chances they truly have. If they don’t improve nothing will come of it. If they kick a chair over and say “To heck with this @#@#@, let’s just go out and win this %$#$%# thing” and take on that personality, just remember that’s what happened with the Kings last year. Once they qualified for the post season and the rest is history, all because they chose to kick over that chair. If the Sharks can do that they will clearly make history. There is nothing to hold team teal back. When you consider all that has happened which led up to the shortened 2012-13 season, the Sharks need to realize they are not the favorite and therefore have nothing to lose by just simply going for it (if they want it).
Blackhawks May Be Odds On Favorite for Cup- The Chicago Blackhawks have been on a record setting pace which honestly can only be described as truly amazing. With their win over the Detroit Red Wings Sunday afternoon they stretched their record to 19-0-3 for a total of 41 points. The Blackhawks could have the top seed in the west locked down by the end of March or early April if they keep this pace up, even if and when they suffer a regulation loss. Right now the only teams I can really see challenging the Blackhawks in the west are Anaheim or the Los Angeles Kings. With the Kings, I feel that the Blackhawks have more than enough to really push back any challenge the Kings would offer. If they draw the Sharks, unless team teal is on a franchise record hot streak of their own, the Blackhawks likely beat them in about five games. The Blackhawks are that good. As far as Anaheim goes, they have quietly played the best hockey that few outside of the far west have really noticed. Right now my Western Conference final if I had to bet on it would be the Ducks versus the Blackhawks with Chicago winning in six or seven games. Detroit is good and has good players on their roster as is always the case, however Chicago showed something Sunday that only a champion or potential champion have. They are able to gut and grind with the best teams and in all situations.
If Chicago gets back to the finals, it’s hard for me to imagine any team out of the Eastern Conference taking the Cup from them. Don’t like “Chelsea Dagger”? If the Blackhawks stay hot and consistent into the post season, you’ll be hearing that goal song a lot. I feel it will be Boston who comes out of the east, however as good as they are I cannot see them beating the Blackhawks either. I would look to Chicago to take the Bruins in six games if it comes to that.
Goings On in Worcester- The Sharks AHL affiliate this past weekend dropped two of the three games in their weekend road trip. The Sharks started things off by dropping a 3-1 decision to Providence Bruins. Alex Stalock, who is one short of tying Thomas Griess for most wins in Worcester Sharks history missed his chance at win number 75 as the Bruins scored all three of their goals in the final period. Marek Viedensky scored a short handed goal in the 2nd period to put the Sharks ahead going to the final period. Stalock made 22 saves. On Saturday, Worcester had better luck in a shootout win over the Portland (Maine) Pirates 2-1. Harri Sateri made 37 saves for the Sharks while Sebastian Stalberg gave the Sharks a one goal lead they would carry into the final period. Viedensky scored the only goal in the shootout period. In the third game of the weekend trip the Sharks came up totally dry as they were shutout by the Springfield Falcons 2-0. Sateri started in goal for the Sharks as Stalock was a healthy last minute scratch. Sateri made 17 saves on the day. Former Anaheim Ducks back-up goalie Curtis McElhinney made 30 saves and posted his eighth AHL shutout this season. The AHL Sharks currently sit in a third place tie in the Atlantic Division, and overall are 10th in the Eastern Conference Standings three points out of the final playoff spot.
San Jose State Spartans Hockey Season Comes to End in Regionals- The San Jose State Spartans Men’s Hockey Club lost in it’s opening game of the 2013 ACHA West Regional Playoffs. The Spartans were upset by San Diego State 3-2 in a game played February 26th in Salt Lake City. The Spartans finished their season with a 23-8-2 mark while outscoring their opponents 199-102. Despite falling short of their goal this season, the Spartans have a lot to be proud of as they are introducing collegiate hockey to many people in the west who are otherwise never exposed to it. Spartans Head Coach Matt Adams deserves a lot of credit for putting together a team that competed well throughout the season. With most of the team graduating, he will have a recruiting challenge in assembling a team that can match what this seasons team has done.
Meet Kerry Banuelos- Kerry Banuelos is a blogger for the website Curveballs And Cocktails (curveballsandcocktails.com). She blogs about the San Jose Sharks. Her blogs are generally short, sweet and to the point. She does good game recaps and discusses her thoughts on the state of the team and her expectations. Two of her blogs are on line, the first one addressing her hope to see the Sharks pursue their first title just as other Bay Area sports team such as the Giants, A’s and 49ers. The second blog is a recap of the Sharks recent game in St Louis where they ended their seven game winless streak. Here is a link to both blogs:
My Appearance on the Yates & Ames On The Ice Show- Last Sunday I had the pleasure of doing a radio interview on the Yates & Ames On The Ice program. I was interviewed about the state of the San Jose Sharks franchise and what direction I felt they were heading. I told the host I felt the team was in a spot where they needed to do some very serious sole searching to find who they really are and what kind of team they want to be. Also discussed were my thoughts on Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan, General Manager Doug Wilson and others on the team. The program is on the Fans vs. Fans Radio Network which operates over the internet as opposed to over the airwaves. If you want to listen to the interview I have the link here for it. The interview starts at about the 25 minute mark of the program and runs for about another 25 minutes. If you want to catch the “Yates & Ames On The Ice Show”, it airs Sundays from 4-6pm PT. I thank them for having me as a guest.
Next My Two Cents- March 22nd
…Just My Two Cents…
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