Petshark: Talking Stick
by petshark on 02/10/12 at 09:30 PM ET
Marleau, Pavelski and Niemi are the first on the ice. Marleau sprinkles pucks around one end of the rink, gives the bag to Niemi, who takes it to the other end. Pavelski and Marleau start shooting, others come out on the ice.
McGinn begins doing goalie drills with Niemi, while others do shooting and tipping drills.
I check Twitter. When I look up, Marleau and Pavelski have left. It’s an optional skate I guess.
Boyle is there, smiling.
Clowe is there too, visorless. I think he looks sheepish without it but I must be projecting, imagining he knows he should wear one. I’m sure he doesn’t think so. I hope his head is as hard as it seems. Sigh.
Desjardins is skating. I don’t know if he skated yesterday. I worry, I wonder if the team worried too and that’s why he left the game against Calgary. I’m still worrying.
I watch Wingels and Sheppard do battle drills away from the boards. Maybe they’re not called battle drills. The naming of drills is a persistent problem for me. I think the names must be a secret I am not supposed to ask about. I can’t believe they can keep things organized without naming the drills. I have stopped asking. Anyway, Sheppard and Wingels spend a lot of time trying to push each other off the puck. It looks quite exhausting, a good sign these two are up for that.
Niemi is the first goalie to leave the ice, as is usual when the Sharks play the Blackhawks.
The Sharks and the Blackhawks have the same number of wins under their seasonal belts: 29. The Sharks have 3 games in hand on the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have 4 players with 40+ points to the Sharks’ 3. Each team has 9 players with 20+ points.
The Blackhawks have lost six in a row. They will be without Hjalmarsson, whose flu has turned into an upper body injury. I think most people interpret that as “concussion.” Chicago will have to press on without him. They are probably hungry enough to do that. Six losses in a row is a lot, as Sharks fans know too well.
I’m a fan of Ray Emery. When people talk about him lately, I hear words like “model” and “hard worker” and “maturity”. I think that a few years ago those words, unless referring to a deficit, would not have come up in a conversation about Ray Emery. He was a little bit wild and fractious once, so much so that he ended up exiled to the KHL.
That was just the beginning of a long and difficult redemption process. I think fate overdid it, but such decisions are above my pay grade.
I remember when I first read about Emery’s injury. At that time I didn’t realize that he could have had a hip replacement, been fine, but not a goalie anymore. I didn’t realize that he opted for the experimental surgery. He was prepared to risk not walking again, so that he could be a goalie for a few more years.
They say that goalies are notoriously eccentric. They talk about Bryzgalov’s musings, about Thomas and his politics. I think we have to give Emery the prize for crazy. That was one hell of a gamble he took. You may not think it was worth it or that playing in the NHL at all costs is a worthy goal. But you have to give someone props for going all in when he really isn’t holding any cards: no contract, no medical assurances, one good report card from the Flyers but no recent gold stars beyond that.
Emery’s not gloating about it. By all accounts, his crazy leap of faith brought him down to earth. He came back cautiously, wanted to be able to play for longer than the allotted conditioning assignment in the AHL after the Ducks signed him. He got that contract but he only got two or three AHL games before being thrown into the NHL playoff melee. He made the best of it.
That’s a good kind of crazy. I want to be that kind of crazy. I want to be the kind of crazy that shouts “yes” while Fate shakes her head and says “no.”
I want the Sharks to be that kind of crazy, the kind of crazy that doesn’t care if Dan Boyle is out (which he isn’t expected to be tonight), doesn’t care if they’re playing with their seventh and eighth d-men, are missing a top six forward, are relying on too many green or overachieving players. I want them to be a little like the Black Knight, convinced that he can still win on one leg.
It’s crazy, I know, it’s a lot to ask. Most people don’t have that in them. Do the Sharks? By wider social norms, all professional athletes are a little “crazy.” As Seal’s song asks, “In a sky full of people only some want to fly. Isn’t that crazy?” Yes and no. A lot of people still question whether people are supposed to fly. So on the scale of normal for pro athletes, perhaps the Sharks have to be a little more crazy than the rest.
It’s been so long since the Sharks were bonafide underdogs, can they even imagine what that hunger is like? The hunger of a scrawny but cagey coyote, neglected, disrespected, called a pest… yes that does sound like the team of the same name. Can the Sharks muster that?
I don’t know. The Sharks have been so close to the top for so long. Maybe it’s easier if you start lower on the food chain, get a good run at it, so by the time anyone sees you coming you’re moving too fast to stop.
Maybe they don’t need another top six forward. Maybe they need someone who’s a little too crazy to understand what it means when someone says “that can’t be done.” Maybe they need someone who may not be the very best at what he does, but he will bang his head against the wall until the wall says “uncle.” That sounds crazy, until the wall says “uncle.”
We won’t see Emery play tonight unless things go pretty well for the Sharks. I won’t rule that out. Even though the Blackhawks are on a brutal losing streak, they are still considered a playoff team. The Sharks haven’t beaten one of those for a while.
It isn’t crazy to think the Sharks can win tonight. I don’t really want the Sharks to suffer seemingly insurmountable setbacks. Maybe that is their worst enemy, the appearance of likely success, the knowledge that they could do it if they really wanted to. Like Charlie Brown trying to kick that ball that Lucy taunts him with, he keeps trying and landing on his behind. It’s only a little crazy to think that this time, maybe, finally this time, his foot will connect, sending luck, fate, magic numbers and loss sailing over the horizon. If the Sharks could get away from all that hoodoo, they might turn the game into one of iron-fisted will.
Could they win that kind of game?
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org