Sorry for the lack of posting, was off involved with Other Things and just didn’t get anything written in a timely manner. (hint: it’s all Apple’s fault).
I did want to talk about the last three games of the Sharks, though; this may surprise a few folks, but I found them to be the most encouraging sign yet that the Sharks are going to be a force in the playoffs.
(but first, a quick congratulations to Ron Wilson for 500 wins, and Jeremy Roenick for his 1300th. Awesome milestones!)
Game 1, Colorado. I get to use a phrase I haven’t used much this year: their goalie stole the game. the Sharks significantly outplayed Colorado on almost all fronts — and theodore just stoned everything. Some games, the Sharks run around with lots of energy but little precision, but here, not only should they have won, it shouldn’t have been close. I’m not into moral victories this season, but all things considered, this is a positive in my book, score notwithstanding.
then Game 2, Columbus. Sharks had a great first shift, then Columbus more or less took over the game — and Nabby stole this one. We really didn’t deserve any points, but for a team to be successful, when the team isn’t playing it’s best, you have to rely on your key players to make a win happen anyway.
And Game 3, Nashville…. The first line just walked in and took over. thornton, Michalek, Cheechoo. Where Nabokov put the team on his shoulders against Columbus, these three did here. It wasn’t even really close, although it was occasionally interesting. Nashville sure tried — but that line dominated and the rest of the team held their own.
In all of the games, the team really didn’t play their “A” game, and came out of the three games with four points, but did so in the right ways: hard, patient work, finding ways to win when everything isn’t clicking, and really playing the kind of hockey you need to play to win playoff games and series.
On top of that, some really positive signs:
Nabokov gave up a total of six goals in those three games, plus one empty-net. He’s shown, all of a sudden, an ability to stop penalty shots and shoot-outs, and the Sharks won their first shootout at home in two years.
Marleau was the top player against Columbus, and has been showing positive signs (negative: left the Nashville game after the 1st with a sore groin, but isn’t expected to miss time).
Cheechoo is now clearly playing like Cheechoo. He’s always been a 2nd half scorer, but more important, he looks confident that he’s healthy and he isn’t playing with a question mark. His hat trick against Columbus was three really gritty, grinding goals. He reminds me a lot of Phil Esposito when he’s playing well.
The Sharks grab Jody Shelley? I like it, even though it was Jody Shelley who convinced Wilson of the need to have someone like — Jody Shelley — on the roster in the first place with his attack on Brad Stuart. He brings a great attitude and work ethic, and he’s not a scary player on ice like Parker was (scary to his coach, not the other team…); his game is simple, sometimes awkward, but he can play on a line and be effective. And he brings that veteran “what it takes to win” attitude that Grier and Roenick bring, and I think it’s important you have that to help the young players mature into that kind of player. And it’s that kind of player that — bottom line — finds ways to win, which is in many ways more important than talent.
Oh, and by the way, the team is now > .500 at home. Something about going 8-3-1 at home since christmas.
The only real negative I see is that the Sharks still haven’t shown any real ability to beat Detroit or Anaheim reliably (or at all), and the playoffs for San jose go through one or both teams. Now, if they continue to build towards the playoffs like they seem to be this probably won’t be a problem, but they still have to prove it.
This is a team that took a while, but is putting the pieces together. Suddenly, I’m feeling much better about them. Even taking Marleau off the trade cart, although I still would like to see a bit more depth on defense; Semenov/Ozolinsh is an okay 7th D, a bit scary as a 6th D, and if you have to play both at the same time? but my first choice (Rob Blake; see my Jody Shelley comments) is injured, and while Brad Stuart is clearly available from LA, bringing him home is not really a smart idea now…