Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Bobbled pucks, fading off, and other signs of shellfish poisoning

People get hurt in all kinds of situations but it’s more likely when people are confused and scrambling.  Last night, the Ducks’ Jason Blake was the unlucky party:

“It was a weird, freak play – the battle in the faceoff and I didn’t really know he fell right away. He was kind of behind me” Burns, continued: ” ...the puck was there and I was trying to kick the puck up and I think he was trying to get the puck. It was just a battle and I didn’t even know he was on the ground.” -David Pollak’s Twitter feed

All seem to agree that it was a freak accident, but one of the things that tends to happen when things are going badly is someone gets hurt.

“I didn’t think our team was particularly sharp. I thought we bobbled a lot of pucks and it showed up on the power play.  We’ve got some work to do and it’s good that we play right away tomorrow.” -Todd McLellan, Working the Corners

Greiss was pretty sharp.  He seemed to be on a slightly different wavelength than the rest of the team.  With the team in such a scramble after the first period, Greiss got to face a lot of shots, which always helps a goalie find his groove.  I think he did, I think he looked pretty darn confident for a goalie with an excellent view of his team imploding.

A couple years ago I watched the Sharks play a game so badly that I thought they had to be suffering from shellfish poisoning.  Looking up the symptoms, it sounded good: fatigue, loss of motor control, blurred vision.  How else do you account for all those failed passes, such inability to handle the puck, the Keystone Cops routine that only lacked Sharks running into each other?

Of course it doesn’t require shellfish poisoning.  It just means that they were rattled.  I don’t think the Coyotes were really a good warm-up.  The Ducks are cagier.  For all intents and purposes, this was the Sharks first game of the season.

And it was not good.  Sometimes, in the face of failure and chaos, the best strategy is to hold your ground, stick to the plan.  No one did that, including McLellan.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been happy to see McGinn on the second line, as a sign that McLellan thought he was playing well.  But when he started on the third line with Wingels on the second, and by the third period Wingels was on a line with Handzus and Winchester (who started on the 4th) and I couldn’t figure out what had become of the other lines not the top line…

Not good.  I know that coaches try to mix things up when the team needs a boost but there is a difference between a boost and a sledgehammer.  There are not a lot of guys on the lower lines who are ready for musical chairs, who have the eons of veteran experience to do that.  I thought that was heavy handed and bound to accomplish little.

“We didn’t have the legs like we did against Phoenix. Tonight we were kind of fading off and turning our backs to the puck. Kind of like ‘hope’ plays, hoping the puck will get to you instead of knowing you actually have to work.

“That’s a good lesson for us. We’re playing them Monday and it’s a chance for us to improve.” -Working the Corners

That sounds like fatigue, but the team really didn’t have any reason to be tired after six days off.  Well, once the game got going they did, since they couldn’t get their changes as necessary.  Somewhere between that strong first period and the start of the second, they faded.

The team did do some things right.  They only took three penalties, and two of those were reasonable.  Boyle’s interference penalty was a calculated risk, and Mitchell’s trip was more unlucky than reckless. Avoiding penalties was on the to do list, they did that.

Despite the topsy-turvy second period, the Sharks did end up outshooting the Ducks through the course of the game.  That isn’t much comfort for fans who have watched Sharks win again and again on the shot clock without scoring.  But add a little handicap for Hiller playing well and maybe the Sharks didn’t look as bad as they…well… looked.

The Sharks seemed able to keep the Ducks’ top lines in check.  I have to applaud that, but the Sharks’ top lines are not the problem, the question mark has never been there. Ever since Setoguchi and Heatley were traded and Pavelski moved up, there’s been a hole in the third line.  It’s still there, apparently.  Yes, it was the fourth lines that won and lost the game last night, but it’s all symptomatic of instability on the Sharks’ lower lines.

The test of a team isn’t how they perform in a good game, it’s how they do in a bad game.  Considering what a mess they were last night, they actually did pretty well. Some say Greiss held them in it all by his lonesome but I don’t think that’s the case.  I believe he did get a little help, the kind of help you get from a fallen soldier on the battlefield who still manages to cover your back even though he can’t stand or see straight himself.  There was no reason for the team to be in such a beleaguered state but they were.  They were cut off from each other, miles away from being able to coordinate an attack.

It happens.  We all go a little goofy sometimes, lose our focus and then it gets away so we can’t get it back.  There’s no excuse, but there’s no avoiding it either.  The challenge then falls to the coach to make the best of a bad circumstance.  I don’t think he did any better than the rest of the team.

Simplistic as it sounds, I don’t think McLellan’s efforts to get them going by switching the lower lines up so much helped anything.  Hardly anyone was playing well, there was no obvious tweak to make.  It might sound like a “hope” strategy to just keep the lines in place, but sometimes hoping is better than gambling.

Even if Clowe was already thinking about Monday, the team does have a chance to try this again tonight.  Here’s hop.. err… anticipating better things.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: anaheim+ducks, ryane+clowe, thomas+greiss, todd+mclellan

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net