[ issues | web extra | stats | nhl archive | home | chat | mailing list | about us | search | comments ]
Free Agent List
Back to Issue
Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Detroit Red Wings
Los Angeles Kings
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
St. Louis Blues
Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Free LCS 1997-98
Reader Hockey Pool
head coach: Darryl Sutter
roster: C - Bernie Nicholls, Ron Sutter, Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Mike Ricci, Jeff Friesen, Alex Korolyuk; LW - Shawn Burr, Murray Craven, Stephane Matteau, Dave Lowry; RW - Tony Granato, Owen Nolan, Todd Ewen, John MacLean, Andrei Nazarov; D - Ken Sutton, Todd Gill, Bill Houlder, Al Iafrate, Marty McSorley, Marcus Ragnarsson, Mike Rathje, Andrei Zyuzin; G - Mike Vernon, Kelly Hrudey.
injuries: Todd Ewen, rw (knee, out for season), Al Iafrate, d (knee surgery on 12/29, back after Olympics).
Western Conference - Pacific Division Team GP W L T PTS GF GA Colorado 58 29 13 16 74 172 138 Los Angeles 55 26 20 9 61 161 146 San Jose 56 21 28 7 49 139 152 Edmonton 57 19 28 10 48 141 164 Anaheim 56 19 28 9 47 137 170 Calgary 57 16 30 11 43 149 179 Vancouver 57 16 33 8 40 153 203
1/27 Anaheim W 4-2 1/29 Chicago L 3-0 1/31 Colorado W 5-2 2/02 NY Rangers L 3-2 2/04 Edmonton W 3-0 2/05 Calgary L 4-2 2/07 Vancouver L 6-3
by Al Swanson, San Jose Correspondent
For the past three years, being a Sharks fan was safe. No edge of your seat, end of the game jitters in the one-goal games. No worries about a post-season filled with tension and tough games. You could leave your seat, get a beer (or other beverage, but beer helped blur the inevitable) and not worry about missing 'the play.' The only anxiety was in waiting for the period, the game and the season to end. There wasn't any of that uncomfortableness that comes with a race for the playoffs. Well, who the hell are these guys and what have they done with my Sharks?!!!
The Finned Ones just came off their second .500+ month. And that was mostly fought at home, where they couldn't win to save their lives earlier this season. And they are winning against division and conference teams (sometimes), another sore spot. And another no-loss streak of five games. Not to mention currently sitting in the eighth playoff spot in the West. So just what has changed?
Defense: The Sharks are currently third in shots allowed in the league. Not for most allowed, rather, for least! The Sutter D-line is strong in the trap and since they are concentrating on the most productive of the opposing players, it has been successful in limiting chances for opposing teams. The team still does play to the level of the opposition for the most part, but even against the teams at or near the Sharks level, they have been steadily improving. Against the Oilers on the 4th, no Oiler had a shot on goal until the 11th minute of the first. (And all this without Iafrate!) Zyuzin, Houlder, Rathje (yes, even the Sloth is picking it up. He was a +3 in the Oiler game) and McSorley are all strong factors in the Sharks re-emergence. McSorley currently has the best +/- on the team at +11. Zyuzin is showing his prowess as a future power defensemen and is constantly in the face of opposing players in their zone. Houlder is perhaps the best all-around d-man on the team right now, showing he can score as well as defend.
Offense: Still one of the lowest scoring teams, the Sharks have discovered an amazingly simple fact: You only need one more goal than the other team to win! So, by allowing fewer shots on goal and even fewer goals, even the Sharks low production will win games. Jeff Friesen is simply the best front man the team has and maybe the best they have ever had. He is picking up his game in every facet, even willing to take the punishment of the garbage collector. Patrick Marleau is right behind him, learning and improving with every outing. Sutter sat him for two games to watch the others play and it seemed to have an effect. His first night back at work, he opened up the scoring against the Oilers. Shawn Burr is also back in the lineup (and for at least three more years, as he just signed a contract extension) and scored his first since the injury against the Oilers as well. Sturm has put a couple in, his first since the "NHL Rookie of the Month" honors back in December. Of course, the man everyone is waiting for is Owen Nolan. God help the NHL if this boy comes back to work.
But another legend comes back to work soon. Al Iafrate plans to be on the ice following the resumption of play after Nagano. For how long? No one can say. He received a $1.85 million salary for this year, with an option on the next. For eight games, so far. Not that it's the Planet's fault. The Sharks knew his conditions prior to ever signing him. But they still - at least in their hearts - counted on his production.
So where does that leave the team with three weeks to 'learn'? 31 games left in the season and in eighth place, that's where. In those 31 games, Sutter hopes to play almost .600 hockey. Not impossible. The last two months have been above .500. But the team is as inconsistent as testimony from Monica Lewinsky. The longest no-loss streak has been seven games and they've only managed one other no-loss streak worth mentioning. They still falter against teams they need to beat. And Owen Nolan still is at home watching Baywatch reruns. So your humble corespondent sees two futures in his plastic ball: One has Iafrate for at least half the remaining games and at least a semi-conscious Nolan. The end of that future shows men in teal hugging and screaming as they beat Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. (The rest of that remains fuzzy, though) The other future is not so bright. Iafrate returns, only to be sidelined again after a few games and only Nolan's spirit skates the ice in the Tank. Visions of misery and gloom fill my eyes - much like the ending of other Shark seasons. Only one thing is clear in both visions - Just wait till NEXT year!!!
An Olympic Moment...
Marcus Ragnarsson and Marco Sturm are the only two Sharks headed for Nagano. The rest of the team is headed for Banff. Coach Sutter doesn't see the reason to let the boys sluff off a couple of weeks. After the horrible performances in Calgary and Vancouver, your humble correspondent couldn't agree more. Rags (Sweden) and Sturm (Germany) face 17-hour flights and then grueling play at Nagano. But they'll probably have it easy compared to the guys in Canada.
I'm sick of Ducks, Mom! - Anaheim in the Tank
Blackhawks kill Sharks, no retaliation - Chicago at San
It's an Avalanche! - Nope, just a snowball! - Sharks vs.
Ricki Ranger takes his Shark limit - New York at San Jose
Sharks clean up Oil slick - Sharks in Edmonton
Flames serve Shark - blackened - San Jose in Calgary
How to succeed in Hockey without really trying - San Jose on the
road in Vancouver
1998 © Copyright LCS Hockey All Rights Reserved