Let's summarize what happened the last two weeks:
1) My friend Margaret was real sweet to me and stuff -
That's REALLY cool.
2) The Sharks finally played their first game at home in
three weeks - that's kind of cool.
3) I got to become a regular LCS Hockey correspondent -
that's VERY cool.
4) My schoolmate Fabiola gave birth to a baby girl - that's
a special type of cool.
5) The Sharks aren't scoring enough goals - that's NOT
Scoring goals.. Putting the Sharks in perspective!
My Philadelphia associate Bob S. told me that most Flyers
fans are whining about the need for more scoring because they
only have one line (the Lindros line) scoring goals on a
consistent basis. Okay, at last look the Flyers were in a
mini-slump, but being a long suffering Sharks fan, all I can
1) At least Philly has a winning record.
2) Anyone on the Flyers second and third lines would without a
doubt be on the top line for the Sharks.
3) My 10-year-old cousin Andrew knows the Flyers still
have way MORE wins, points, goals and guys with cool
nicknames like Beezer than the Sharks do.
4) Who would you rather have as a favorite player, John
LeClair (my colleague Megan A's fave) or Joe Murphy?
5) Philly Cheesesteaks are kind of cool.
The Sharks have the third-worst scoring offense in the league (you
can now insert your "Thank goodness we're not Tampa Bay" joke
here). And with Theo Fluery now of the Avalanche, the Sharks
obviously need to look elsewhere for scoring.
But who? Mark Recchi? Alexander Mogilny? Rent another
free-agent-to-be for a few months and lose him over the summer
again? Sharks GM and resident "I'm way over my head" dude Dean
Lombardi doesn't rule out a "minor" trade to boost scoring. Tune in
to find out if Dean really thinks that means trading for a guy
who's still playing in the minors! As for Theo coming here as a
free agent in the off-season, don't bet on it. He'll get his money,
but he also wants to win.
And they cometh home, finally...
the Sharks three weeks to finally see the home confines of the
San Jose Arena again. So fans were anxious to see the first home
game against the "Let's get ready to Rumble" Vancouver Canucks.
The Sharks came out firing against Garth Snow, yet it was the
Canucks that scored first, when an innocent looking pass from
the blue line was deflected past Mike Vernon by one of two Canucks
standing beside the net. Again, no Sharks anywhere in sight.
Even my roller hockey goalie chum Dave K. and his lofty
2.00 GAA would have been toast with that kind of defensive
The Sharks pulled one back thanks to Alex
Korolyuk on the power play with a sweet move in front of Snow.
Korky's play, his zip and never-say-die attitude ignited the
team, and captain Owen Nolan nailed a Canucklehead with a
thunderous hit that brought the crowd to its feet. Despite
outshooting the Canucks 40-10, and Garth Snow's habit of
giving up big, fat, juicy rebounds, the Sharks could not
convert and settled for a 1-1 tie.
Things got worse during a home-at-home series against the Ducks.
Simply put, stop Kariya and Selanne, you stop the Ducks. And
with the Ducks having the No. 1 power-play unit in the
league, you obviously don't give up penalties to them. Simple?
(That actually describes how the Sharks staff wants Mike Rathje
to play defense, but I digress...). The Sharks went out and lost
both games as the Quack Attack scored three power-play goals, and
Selanne had seven points while Kariya had three.
Next it was on to Calgary, who had just traded away Theo Fleury
for two guys, future picks and as my colleague Arlen A. enjoys
saying, "the preverbial bag of used hockey pucks". Calgary could
have just gone through the motions, but there was still a
"hokey" hockey game to be played, and the Flames came out and
outplayed the Sharks.
Calgary would have won if:
1) Mike Vernon hadn't played in Stanley Cup form
2) D-man Billy Houlder hadn't scored both Sharks goals.
3) Theo Fleury hadn't left the building (you get the idea!)
Instead it was the Sharks hanging on to a 2-1 win.
Two nights later it was a rematch in Vancouver. The Sharks were
badly outchanced, outshot and were absolutely pathetic in
winning faceoffs, but somehow managed to hold off the Canucks
4-3. Joe Murphy, Patrick Marleau, Stephane Matteau, and the
goal machine himself, Bill Houlder, scored for the Sharks. The
Sharks squandered a two-goal lead twice in the third period to hold
on for dear life. Steve Shields got the win despite having a
less-than-solid final period.
The team came home for a late afternoon matinee against the
struggling Blackhawks. To summarize in short - the Sharks came,
they played, they lost, they were inept. The power play was
disorganized, the passing was nowhere, and the fans had plenty
of opportunities to show their displeasure. The lead over
the Calgary Flames for the last playoff spot is now
down to two points.
And now for something completely trivial
One night during the Al Sims coaching "dynasty" in San Jose
(or as my buddy Bonnie E. points out, a period of not scoring
enough goals or winning enough games), the three defensive pairings
that evening were given the immortal names of "Slow and Slower",
"Small and Smaller" and the title of the Jim Carrey-Jeff Daniels
movie. Can you name the players of those defensive pairings?
Answer at the bottom.
Bryan Marchment returned to the lineup for the first Canucks
game after a long absence due to his shoulder injury. This
meant there were nine defenseman on the roster, so one guy
had to be sent down...
And the unlucky guy was Andy Sutton. Sutton had actually played
well during his current stint with the Sharks this year. My guess
is that he may be back soon because he had the most games out of
all the rookie d-men this year, plus he plays with emotion. And
speaking of being sent down...
Shawn Heins was sent down after the second Vancouver game. He
impressed me with his hustle and grit, but at age 26, Coach
Sutter had indicated that he still needed to improve on
his basic skills. A good example of this was during the first
Canucks game, where he seemed to have problems stopping the puck
from exiting the offensive zone during the power play. Which
leads me to ask the question..
Why isn't Andrei Zyuzin playing more? Granted he's still giving
the puck up a little too much, but he's still the most skilled
offensive defenseman the Sharks have, and it's not like all the
other defenseman (Billy Houlder being the exception) aren't
giving up the puck either! The incident earlier this season when
Andrei refused to report to Kentucky might indicate he is still
in the coach's doghouse, but hey,
when the team needs scoring right away, any guy with any
is a major plus. If that's not enough to make you scratch your
head, then ponder this...
Why is Mike Rathje still playing? (no comments please!)
Ron Sutter returned to the lineup in the second game against Ducks.
Jarrod Skalde was set to return to Kentucky, but the player who
my old boss Todd E. says has "Hands of Stone", Murray Craven,
re-injured his groin, so Skalde stayed, at least until after
the second Vancouver game. Skalde always plays hard when he's up
from Kentucky, and speaking of hustle...
Kudos for Dave Lowry and Mike Ricci. In recent games, they have
taken the punishment in front of the opposition net and lived to
tell about it. All good teams have guys who cause havoc in
front of the net, whether on the power play or when driving
towards the net after a shot has been taken. If the Sharks can
continue to do this, the scoring opportunities should increase.
And while we're on the subject of punishment...
Welcome back Brantt Myhres! The Sharks missed his toughness
during the 12-game suspension handed to him by penalty tzar
Colin Campbell. His return should give the Sharks an emotional
lift. Unfortunately, the refs will probably pay more attention
to Brantt during fights. And since I mentioned the zebras...
Why do some refs have to make themselves the focal point of the
game? Mick McGough called his typical "let the game get out of
hand before I do something about it" game during the Sharks first
home game, then started to call all sorts of phantom
penalties on both sides. It was pitiful. Remember, fans come to
watch the players, not the refs.
Mike Vernon was injured during the Calgary game and was listed
day-to-day. Not wanting to put him on IR, the Sharks called up
Sean Gauthier from Kentucky and Shawn Heins was sent down to
meet the 24-man roster limit. Gauthier almost got into his first
NHL game in Vancouver when Steve Shields looked to be injured
after a collision around the net. Shields shook it off and
stayed in the game. Gauthier finally got his NHL debut doing
mop-up duty against Chicago.
Where are they now??
Hoops fans here like to point out that if you put together a
team of current ex-Golden State Warriors, they would be a
pretty good team. In that same tradition, we present to you
the "Where are they now?" segment, and let you Sharks fans
ponder the question: "What if they had played like this
with the Sharks?".
While you dive into this moment of
melancholy, we'll announce that this week's player is
former Shark fan favorite, and Pat Falloon buddy, Ray Whitney,
who after being let go by the Sharks and Oilers landed with
the Florida Panthers.
Last season, Whitney scored a career
high 31 goals with the Cats. This season, he has 17 goals and
29 assists, and his 49 points would put him in first place on
the Sharks. And unlike current Shark and ex-Panther Jeff
Norton, Ray gets to play with some guy named Pavel Bure who
can score a ton of goals.
The Morgan Stuart Award
And finally, this award is named after my goddaughter Morgan, who
exemplifies the hard work and effort that people come to
appreciate, plus she's really cool. This award goes to the Shark
who was the best player since the last issue. And since this is
my first article, this is the first time the award has...uh...been
awarded. Honorable mention goes to Bill "Goal machine" Houlder,
Mike "Cool guy" Vernon and Mike "Samson-like hair" Ricci, but this
week's winner is Alex "Korky" Korolyuk, who displayed grit,
determination, and pretty nifty puck handling skills over the last
two weeks. Throw in some goals, assists, and a lot of heart game in
and game out, and you've got your award winner. Congrats, and keep
up the good work, Korky!!
And not to leave you hanging...
Those immortal pairings that infamous night, and the answers to the
trivia question, were:
Jim Kyte and Jayson More
(slow and slower)
Greg Hawgood (5 ft 8) and Tom Pederson (5 ft 6)
(small and smaller)
Mike Rathje and Michal Sykora
(the Jim Carrey-Jeff Daniels movie)
Until next time...
Oh by the way, Happy Birthday Michele P.!!