After the miserable start to the season, the Sharks (and fans) were
looking ahead to another dismal year of sub-.500 hockey. Then
something happened. They started to improve. Not that it showed
immediately in the W/L column. There were two more losses to be
endured before the 98-99 Sharks would win a game. It showed on the
ice in the manner of their play.
Against each of Phoenix and Colorado, they played an impressive 40
minutes of hockey. The problem was, of course, that there are 60
minutes in a hockey game. Those last 20 minutes came back to kill
This has been on on-going problem for San Jose. Either they show up
late or go home early. The game against the Lightning would change
all that. Against TB, they would shove in as many goals as they had
in the previous three games. Next, they would shut down and out the
Stars. At home ice.
Complacency, however, another hallmark trademark of Sharks play,
took over for the first 40 minutes of each of the games against the
Ducks and the Blues. They did not, however, lose. The Sharks are
now unbeaten in four after not winning in eight.
This bit of horn-tooting notwithstanding, the radio announcers
crowing about the `comeback kids' in the last two games was
pathetic. Comeback kids? They only had to comeback because they
played so awful in the first two periods. A decent 60-minute game
in the style played against Dallas or the first five or last 15
minutes against the Blues would leave a solid trail of W's and
shattered, shaken teams in their wake.
With the incredibly fast Friesen, the newly energized Captain Nolan,
the suddenly solidly defensive Ricci, and the fourth line of Sutter
(three goals so far this year, after only two in each of the last two
seasons), Stern (not a dumb penalty to be seen, but no fights,
either), and Matteau, the Sharks seem to be putting together the type
of team which had such great success the latter half of last season.
Gritty, determined and tough, the team that played in each of the
last four games is the team that could see the playoffs this year.
Once Gary Suter comes in for a few games, we'll see a Sharks team
more powerful than since the glory years against the Wings.
The two weeks started out against the Coyotes. The game was going
well with the Fish ahead of the Dogs 2-1. That was the last time it
was a happy crowd. The Coyote yelps (a joke about the Phoneix fans'
yowls during the games) over the PA system soon turned to Fish
flops as the Sharks gave up not one, not two, but count `em, three
goals in the third including one from goalie Shields that would not
be soon forgotten. He wouldn't see action again `til the
back-to-back Anaheim and St Louis games.
Next to face the Sharks were the Avs. The only team even in the
Sharks league as far as bad goes. Colorado drew early blood as
Corbet put in his first of the year. From there it looked like all
Sharks as Lowrey and Zyuzin scored. Zyuzin has looked very
inconsistent this season, which is a surprise considering how he
faired toward the end of last season. It was his first of the year.
San Jose looked powerful. Looked. Not were. Sakic, Sakic and Yelle
combined to sink the Fish ship in another 4-2 loss in a game they
had led. This left them the sole holders of last place in the NHL
and the only team without a win.
Then the Lightning hoped to strike in the Tank. Never happen. Jeff
Friesen picked up three assists, Ron Sutter equaled last year's
goal output and San Jose finally put a W up as they crushed TB 6-1.
Rathje, Sturm, Marleau and Craven all tallied in the frenzy that
saw Steponmytoe go to the box for fighting. Steponmytoe? fighting?
Next up was the much anticipated rematch from only 12 days before of
Dallas. This time, they started Belfour. Turek played most of last
season, probably because the Sharks fans hate Belfour as much as
Dallas fans hate Marchment. OK, the stage is set. The NHL's first
place team against the NHL's last place team. The first game, a
disallowed goal enabled Dullass to eek out a 2 - 1 win. This time
Belfour would be pulled after allowing three goals on six shots (to
the deafening sound of BELLLL-FOURRRRR, BELLLL- FOURRRR), the
Sharks would shoot an NHL low for a winning game of nine shots and
four of those would find the back of the net. What, you ask? SHARKS
WIN, SHARKS WIN!!!
The Sharks go into Anaheim not having lost against the Ducks in
seven meetings. One team has always dominated this series. The Fish
let two goals get past Shields as he faced 47 shots (most by any
Sutter- coached Shark and most of his career) and Teemu Selanne
earned the dubious title of best Shark killer as he surpassed the
Great One for most points against the Fish (51). True, the Sharks
came back to steal a point in a 2-2 tie. But it wasn't pretty.
If that wasn't enough, the Sharks faced the Blues who have only lost
five times in 28 games against the San Jose club. Blues fans were
stunned as the Sharks came out like they had against Dallas. For
five minutes and one disallowed goal. Then they whined and moped
for 50 minutes till they realized they were behind 2- 0. Like the
Ducks game, they came back in the last 15 minutes to score two
goals and steal a point. While the Blues may have been sad to lose
the W, they were much sadder to lose Fuhr for a couple of months to
a groin injury suffered stopping the disallowed goal.