Petshark: Talking Stick
by petshark on 12/10/11 at 01:00 PM ET
It wouldn’t be ridiculous to say that the stars were aligned so the Sharks would win Thursday. Statistically, Dallas was expected to lose. But the Sharks haven’t really been following statistical rules lately, have they? So better to say they are following some metaphysical pattern that we can’t quantify. Maybe Cancer got shot up by a meteor shower and all its children are still picking up the pieces.
Most Sharks had good reason to be a little cranky, impatient, even pissed off with themselves. Were they angry at each other? Of course not, hockey players don’t get angry with teammates. In any case, one would hope they’d had enough of losing and were ready to win.
All I needed from the Sharks Thursday was to not lose to another team they should beat. Their recent outings had lowered the bar for what I required from a Sharks game. I won’t put the Panthers in the class of “teams Sharks should beat handily” just yet. But there were the Habs too. Sure, the Sharks beat them. That was fun but it could have been less suspenseful. Minnesota? Yeah, they’re doing pretty well but there’s no reason to think the Sharks can’t beat them. Every time.
The Sharks did better than just win as they should. They won most of the game pretty convincingly. They won in goals, shots, faceoffs, takeaways (were almost even in giveaways) and blocked shots. Their power play failed- most notably the nearly 2 minutes of 5 on 3- and they were out hit.
There was that terrifying lull in the first, after those insanely quick 2 goals. If the Stars had it in them at all they should have struck then. Oh, right, they did. They followed it up with that intrusion into the Sharks’ (usually) best period, the second, by scoring again. Impertinent.
I don’t want to minimize the resilience that the Sharks showed by coming back from that embarrassing state of being tied with the Stars and their backup goalies. It wasn’t so long ago that the Sharks could be relied on to not fight back when they fell behind. They shed that rep last season, with a bunch of nice comebacks. So now it doesn’t seem so improbable that they can get back on track when things go sideways. That’s big picture progress. That’s also why I tend to minimize it: I’m spoiled, I expect it now.
These games that they score in so fast, they seem to be problematic. It’s like the energy surge required to do that temporarily blows out the pilot light. That is absurd. People don’t have pilot lights, a game lasts a fixed period of time. That time is marked right up there on the scoreboard, everyone knows when the game starts and how long the players have to play. As a player you schedule accordingly. You don’t try to rush through your tasks like dirty dishes hoping that if you get your goals finished you can leave early.
Who doesn’t work in stops and starts? Whose energy output is a flatline, mental or physical (without being dead)? Even the game has built-in stops and starts. They play in shifts, whistles are blown, goalies stop the puck. It is not a steady hum but a lurching gallop of a tempo.
With the equilibrium of a Zen master, one could be ever-ready to go, every shift, every minute. There aren’t a lot of Zen masters in the world, you can’t expect all or even most guys on your team to be that. You can only expect all of them to be trying, so that the guy who is in the right place mentally or physically can make the most of it. I think Clowe mentioned this last season, describing how, even when a player doesn’t feel 100%, he has to muster 80%. If they do that, no psychological glitch, metaphysical slump, or equipment failure should bring them down as a group.
Equipment? I’m dying to know how the issue of Boyle’s sticks just came up now. Obviously the new (pre-Thursday) length was not an improvement. If it was unintentional… inconceivable. Don’t these guys pack their own parachutes? He’s been afflicted with a near inability to pass, receive or do anything much at all with a puck. What did he think, he was getting old? Why not, that’s what everyone else was saying.
Boyle didn’t get a lot of attention in that last game, good or bad. He did have a hand in that Winchester goal, a steady and accurate hand. Maybe he was being careful, what with the “new” old stick length. Or maybe he was fighting the new new length all season. Whatever, let the confidence recovery begin. I believe he’s still in there, I hope he does too. The team could really use a little of the old Boyle back.
Tonight, they face the Blues, a team that’s been clawing its way back up from a bad start and a coaching change. A lot of teams have recently made coaching changes in the hopes of fixing what’s broke. Not many have shown marked improvement. The Blues are the team that has shown marked improvement. They had a phenomenal November: lost only 4 out of 13. The months before, pre-change, they won only 5 of 12. So far in December they are even with 2 losses, followed by 2 wins. They should be taken seriously.
I’d like to see the Sharks prove that they don’t need any drastic change to beat the Blues or any adversary, seen or unseen. McLellan made some significant changes to the lines, but that’s just moving pieces, not replacing them. Even though players were listed on new lines, their minutes didn’t really reflect it. Marleau had more even strength minutes than some players on the 2nd and 1st lines, as did McGinn. Probably most of these changes won’t stick for long, but the point was made: any one of these players should be able to perform no matter who he plays with. You don’t do your best when you think about it too much, but playing with someone new forces you to think a little instead of not at all.
The fans started the season worried about the talent on the lower lines. Those lines have been fine, better than fine. [pause for “McGinn does good” parade, worthy of a Blingee attack- no, I won’t do that to you] Now the Sharks need to raise that bar back up where it belongs and show us a few dominating wins.
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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 email@example.com