Doug wanted at least three points on the recent back-to-back, and he got four. However, it’s a time of giving, and I could argue that all four points were gifts from the hockey gods. As I said on the recent podcast, if Ivan Vishnevskiy hadn’t fumbed the puck into our own net, Dallas would have tied that game; I’m sure of it. And last night, Nabby withstood a hailstorm of biblical proportions, making 45 saves, giving the Sharks the win despite being on the short end of just about every statistical category, even faceoffs.
Watching the post-game interview with Dan Boyle with the sound off, you would have guessed that they lost. Other than the power play, which was pretty damn good, there weren’t a lot of high spots. One high spot was Patrick Marleau, who again made the Hawks defense look incredibly foolish, generating chances for himself out of very little. This guy HAS to be on the Canadian Olympic team. In fact, it was a veritable showcase of Olympic talent last night- Marleau, Heatley, Thornton, Boyle, Pavelski, Kane, Toews, Keith, and Seabrook all have good shots at making their respective teams, and that’s just North America. Nabby, Hossa, Hjallmersson, and Murray are the European reps.
Clearly this was a marquee matchup, and the Sharks came out on top. A win’s a win, right? I suppose. It’s difficult to believe that the Sharks would win another game if they played Chicago ten more times like that, so it rings a bit hollow with me. As I’m writing this, Doug just texted me with “Last night was a perfect example of why the Hawks will not win a Cup with Huet.” But I disagree. Huet had two consecutive shutouts before last night, and gave up only two goals on 33 shots the night before that. I do admit that Huet wouldn’t be my first choice to backstop a Stanley Cup contender, but given the Hawks are best in shots allowed, and second best in shots taken, they can continue to shield Huet if they keep playing like this.
Actually, there were times last night where I thought to myself that this Hawks team was not unlike the Sharks last year. Gaudy shot totals, though many were of the unscreened long range variety. Top of the league in December (they still are in my mind, because they have two games in hand). Could Chicago meet the same fate at the Sharks did last year, because they “peaked too early”? Who knows? All I know is there’s no way I’m missing the final matchup of the season between these two teams on 1/28.
EJ Hradek from ESPN.com joins the Dudes once again for his takes on the Sharks. EJ muses about the Sharks needing another defenseman, what losing Dan Boyle might have meant to the team, and whether the Sharks will/should sign Nabby and Marleau. All that and more, including listener emails.
If everything wasn’t bad enough, Taylor Pyatt had to play the Grinch. As the clock ran out, he hammered Dan Boyle against the boards and it sure didn’t look good. Boyle stayed down on the ice and needed help off the ice, clearly favoring one leg.
Here’s video of my reaction.
This is the crossroads of the Sharks season right here and now, folks. If Dan Boyle has a boo-boo and is out for two weeks, I can climb off the roof – but (gulp) if he is going to miss major time with a knee injury (which it looked like that’s what it was, his knee) we can kiss Lord Stanley good-bye. Why? Because Dan Boyle is the MVP of this team, the secret sauce on their Big Mac, the booty on their collective J-Lo. Boyle is irreplaceable by a call-up from Worcester and by almost anyone in the league.
As we wait by the chimney with care to see if Santa is going to give us our MVP back or screw us with a major injury to Danny Boy, here’s an interesting stat that is sure to cheer you up. Since November 1st, the Sharks have lost four games that they were leading going into the 3rd period.
2-1 @ Detroit
3-2 SO loss vs. Dallas
3-2 SO loss vs. St. Louis
3-2 SO loss vs. Dallas
The current measuring stick has to be the Calgary Flames and the Chicago Blackhawks. Calgary lost their first game after leading into period three since November 1st just this week when they dropped in Minnesota. Any guessing how many 3rd period leads the Blackhawks have lost kids?
Depressing. I better turn this post around or else you’ll think you’re at a screening of Precious.
Let’s hope for the best, that Boyle’s “lower body” injury isn’t major and that he’ll be quarterbacking our team again sooner rather than later. But, the Sharks still have issues and are officially in a slump, dropping five games in a row and are now tied with LA for first place in the Pacific Division. Here comes the sunny side, are you ready? If this was going to happen, and for most good teams it does, it needs to happen now. Last January, Detroit lost five games in a row, hit the skids and came back even stronger. It’s not like bad things don’t happen to good teams – but the Sharks recent play, their record against the cream of the West (Flames, Hawks, Kings, and Wings) is 1-4-2, and this potential season-busting injury makes me want to cry in a corner.
Tonight, with the Hawks in town, both teams will either be pining for missing players, or welcoming them back into the fold. The biggest story is the return of Marian Hossa, who hasn’t played a game yet this year after having shoulder surgery. That top line of Kane Toews and Hossa will be something to watch. Can the Sharks new third line, or a defensive minded second line (Marleau, Pavs and Malhotra) keep that line in check? In addition to the missing Blake, Seto, and Shelley, another guy the Sharks might be without is Dan Boyle, who Pollak said is “still possible” to play. That would be a huge loss for the Sharks and their #3 ranked power play. Mitchell is back here, but not supposed to start until the weekend (ibid). Is that the only time ibid has ever been used in a hockey blog post? I’m trying to break new ground here.
Despite thinking that team is chock full of offensive weapons, the fact is Chicago’s defense is the more impressive. They’ve allowed only 2.14 goals per game, good for first in the league. Sharks are third at 2.36. Their offense certainly isn’t bad, 6th, while the Sharks are 4th. #1 in offense? Atlanta. Yeah, go figure. They have nine guys with 10 points or more.
Anyway, the point is the Chicago Blackhawks are as close statistically to the Sharks as any other team in the league. They are even 1-2 in faceoff percentage. Two divergences- PK (Sharks 1st, Chicago 9th), and shots. San Jose is middle of the pack in both shots for and against, while the Hawks are near the top in shots, and #1 in shots allowed.
Also like the Sharks is their interesting free agent situation. There were big rumors last week that the Triumvirate of Toews, Kane, and Duncan Keith had renewal contracts in the works, but this week is quiet. If they make it happen, could that be a template for Doug Wilson in trying to sign Pavs, Seto, and Marleau/Nabby? I’m using the slash because I still think only one of those two can be kept.
I suppose this would be the time where I would use terms like “measuring stick” and “statement game” and all that. I’ll just take the win.
Two notes: The podcast will be recorded and uploaded after the game tonight. Didn’t seem right to talk about the Sharks before they faced off against the second best team in the West. Also, if you’re looking for a ego killer, try this trivia contest. I got only 51, and there were several more I should have gotten.
The Sharks are on another run, 8-0-2 in their last ten games. The Dudes break down the late-game winner by Dan Boyle versus Nashville, the 1-point escape against Detroit, and the hurt the Sharks put on the defending Cup Champions. With more players coming back from injury, Mike and Doug try and figure out how the lines will sort themselves out, and if the Sharks might even make a move for a defenseman.
W-O-W. That’s how Jamie Baker described the keep-in Dan Boyle performed at the blueline before he passed to Thornton, who then dumped it into the slot for Pavelski, and Heatley cleaned up the garbage for the Sharks’ fourth goal. This is after Dan Boyle made Ruslan Fedotenko and Martin Skoula look like a couple of beer leaguers, faking and deking right and left before burying a low wrist shot far side that chased Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh net. Second in the league in points by a defenseman, Boyle has played the first month of the season with a broken thumb, and we witnessed last night what can happen when Danny is 100%. Holy crap. Is this guy fun to watch or what?
But Jamie’s exclamation about the clinic Boyle put on really applies to the whole 5-0 Sharks trouncing of the defending Stanley Cup champions. Actually, it wasn’t completely unlike the win the Sharks handed to the Pens last year at this time, though that one had a much more modest score (2-1). Sidney Crosby is still a handful, and he got a few dynamite chances, but we saw none of the breakdowns the Sharks commited against Columbus a few weeks ago in leaving Rick Nash alone in the slot, or the head scratcher against Washington in leaving Ovechkin alone on a 2-on-1. The Sharks quietly dominated play much of the game, and answered the bell with physicality when Pittsburgh got tired of being humiliated. I think Jody Shelley’s fight against Eric Godard was the best one I’ve seen him fight in two years.
The Sharks are again on top of the NHL in points (although Colorado is tied with us with a game in hand), and many of the kinks have worked themselves out. Pavelski, despite missing 15 games, was an integral part of everything last night. Malhotra chipped in on the power play. Scott Nichol continued his domination in faceoffs, got an assist, and had several scoring opportunities. We witnessed last night how good the Sharks can be. All this without Devin Setoguchi, Rob Blake, or Torrey Mitchell in the lineup. Of course the next question out most Sharks fans’ mouths will be “but can they do it in April?”
I’m getting tired of that question. I’m savoring this win.