Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Starting from zero: new coaches in So Cal, new trends in San Jose

Last night, the California NHL teams with new coaches faced off.  The game went to a shootout.  I think this could be good news for Sharks fans, because unless both the Kings and the Ducks have already made enormous strides with their new coaches, it looks like they are not much changed from the state of terrible that got their previous coaches fired.  I don’t know how many people expected dramatic improvement, especially from the Kings since their new coach just arrived the day before. Coaches aside, these are mostly the same teams that suddenly failed to perform for coaches they did pretty well with last season.

I am not above wanting our team’s opponents to play badly.  Hockey players may be proud enough to prefer to win a good game instead of an uneven one, but I don’t have any compunctions about being greedy for points no matter who the Sharks get them from.  What about that idea that the Sharks play better against tougher opponents?  Throw it out.  What about the fact that the Sharks played better on the road?  Toss it.  What about the Sharks playing better in the [fill in the blank] period and falling down in the others?  Forget it.  Starting from zero is the best approach after a gluttonous victory like we saw Wednesday.  That game against Tampa Bay broke with all the Sharks’ trends this season, including being the fourth home win in a row.

About that blow out…  what Sharks fan didn’t like that? Starting from zero doesn’t mean you can’t roll around in the glorious moment like a muddy puppy on brand new plush carpet.  What’s not to revel in?  That Couture did not get a hat trick?  That McLellan did some line swapping for no reason I could discern?  That McGinn’s point streak ended?  That the Sharks only scored two goals after the first period? Yeah, none of that really bothered me.  The Sharks kept shooting, kept pushing, right to the end, even after that ridiculous, gaudy five goal first period.  Tampa Bay only had four shots on goal in the third period.  Four

The Sharks killed off all five of their penalties, scored on half their power plays.  Too many penalties, you say?  Hey, the penalty kill needed work, it got it.  They won 39 face-offs to Tampa Bay’s 29, they blocked more shots and took more shots. In the “neither good nor bad” column I put the fact that they were out-hit again.  No matter how accurate the hit counters are, the Sharks might be just fine if that stat stays as-is.

Timing is everything. I sometimes feel a little badly seeing a team get obliterated, even if no one actually gets injured.  But that one came at just the right time to infuse some hope into the team and its fan base.  Tampa Bay has been struggling, I hate to see Roloson lose.  (I have a soft spot for old guys and Libras.  There are not a lot of Libra goalies playing in the NHL right now—just three, which is an increase from last season.  I’m sure you were wondering about that.)  The Sharks didn’t score on Roly as much as on Garon, so I didn’t find the 7-2 result at all disturbing.  Better still, the Sharks gave Roly a lot of shots to stop and he did get most of them.

The Sharks needed that, or at least I needed to see it.  I needed to see them push someone around—in a good, clean, winning way. David Pollak asked Ryane Clowe how things went so well in that game.  Aside from the everyone scoring part, Clowe said: “you see we’re kind of asserting ourselves in games.”  What a nice way to put it.  That “kind of” seems important. It might sound more confident to drop it, but it also gives me hope that the win didn’t go to their heads in the way that can make teams look sleepy the next time out.

The fact that the win came on the heels of two less spectacular wins made it a still stronger indication that the team may be on the upswing instead of just sputtering along in one or two game blips.  Yes, the Christmas break is coming up but I’m not going to dwell on what that could bring.  Before that break, the Sharks play the Kings with a new coach who was the Sharks’ old coach.  The Sharks now have the “old” coach, by California NHL standards.  Evidently, it’s a very small world, with not very many coaches to choose from.

I could be nervous about the fact that, of eight games played Thursday, all were won by the home team.  That required Calgary to beat Detroit, the Oilers to beat Minnesota, and the Preds to come back from a first period that ended with a hatty for Carter and a 3 goal lead for CBJ.  The Sens had to win, and the Kings too.  For all those games to be won by the home team took some doing.  That could make me nervous because patterns like that just scream to be unfollowed.  Luckily, ten games start tomorrow before the Sharks play the Kings, so there will be ample opportunity for someone else to break pattern and leave the Sharks free to win.

I’m watching the Kings celebrate their shootout win over the Ducks just now.  They look really happy.  I’m glad for them. I hope they lose tomorrow.  It is possible that Sutter will eventually make a difference with the team, but it is still too soon to expect a whole lot.  McLellan speculated as much yesterday:

“Darryl’s a tremendous coach,” McLellan said, referring indirectly to his tenure in San Jose as well as Calgary. “But you almost have to be a miracle worker to revamp everything in one practice and one pre-game skate. -Working the Corners

Some hours later, Helene Elliott observed this in action:

@helenenothelen: “so far the Darryl Sutter era is alarmingly like the Terry Murray Era.”

She tweeted that during the Ducks game, just half way through regulation.  I’m trying really hard to ignore the suspicion I had before the season started that Mike Richards could be a problem for Western Conference teams not called the LA Kings.  Lisa Dillman made much of his apparent influence on the team’s success, or lack thereof.  If Gagne follows suit, I might stop thinking so well of ex-Flyers who got traded away amid much fan wailing and rending of hair.

The Kings did have a pretty good run earlier in the season, didn’t they?  Maybe they can just flip a switch and be a gazillion times better.  They might be feeling good about winning Thursday, but the Sharks have a much bigger high to get over with a 7-2 win just two days removed.  Hm.  Could be a contest after all.

Happy holidays and Go Sharks!

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: darryl+sutter, dwayne+roloson, helene+elliott, la+kings, ryane+clowe, 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