Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Groundhog Day rescheduled

Back in March of 2010, the Sharks were trying to snap their worst losing streak in 13 years. They had lost five in a row and were preparing to face the Oilers. They lost that game.

“We’re not going to wake up tomorrow morning and say ‘Oh, we’re going to play better’....We need to get that belief back.” -Rob Blake, March 22, 2010 (archived article, Merc News)

They won the next four. Since then, they have repeated that losing streak once, including the loss to the Oilers and four wins after. What are the odds they can do it a third time? If I keep mentioning this pattern it’s because I cannot get over it, cannot believe it is happening again.  At least it is almost over.

I try to think positively, remember to enjoy the trip, appreciate the scenery instead of obsessing about the destination. It is difficult. Tomorrow’s game is damn distracting.

I dig back into the notes and words I have used to describe this trip I’m on.  I began by thinking I was a jinx.

Back to the horse races as a child, 4-H days at Golden Gate Fields. Watching the races, going to the paddock to look at the horses before the race. Picking winner after winner until someone told me I should bet on a race. Back to the paddock to look with a closer eye. Noticing that this one looked like Kelso and that one more like Eclipse, that the first one looked a little hot and the second sort of quiet and that another one was a nice color.

How was a kid able to place a bet?  It was only two dollars, must have been some adult’s idea. They must have placed it for me.

Watching the three run the race, one winning, another coming in second and the third one breaking his leg.

Feeling horribly guilty about that and being told it wasn’t my fault. Not believing them.

I listen to the Worcester Sharks playing the Adirondack Phantoms and Michael Leighton. News that Harry Zolnierczyk has been called back to Philly makes me think Jagr is still/again injured. That is okay. The injury is a long way from his heart and the Flyers are doing fine.

The Sharks are not doing fine. What does it mean? 13 years and then this starts. The Oil Slick hasn’t always come at the same time, on the calendar or in the State of the Sharks. If it were like Groundhog Day at least you could plan for it, schedule around it. Instead, it comes when it wants to, like Spring. Now is the worst time yet for it to strike. The Sharks thought they were in trouble before, those other times, but they hadn’t seen trouble like this.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Who’s to blame when it happens a third time?

Back, back further… back to Giants games with my grandfather. Believing it was normal for the Giants to win. They always won, that was how baseball games worked, right? The orange team wins, right? Being told that no, sometimes the Giants lose and never seeing them win again.

I like outliers. I like teams that behave contrary to expectations. This can sometimes include good teams that underperform, but it’s usually a team that overachieves.

The Phantoms just got their first shot on goal. Aha, so the Sharks are already outshooting the Phantoms. Just like the Big Club, they do that. I wonder if they would change that if they knew that it was likely to result in a loss? The Phantoms, Leighton in particular, seem to thrive when outshot:

@DownGoesSpezza: “michael leighton calls that “one game” RT @sbaickerCSN: Ilya Bryzgalov has stopped 99 of the last 101 shots”

It isn’t a fool-proof system but it works more often than you’d expect. (And he never stopped 99 in one game. Philly fans are so quick to exaggerate about goalies. It was 98.)

The Phantoms just scored on Sateri.

How did the Sharks decide to loan Stalock out and keep Sateri and Sexsmith? Stalock is junior but he was on a roll in the ECHL. Would it have held up in the AHL? Goalies are funny.  So long as Douglas Murray doesn’t come sit on your head, you are in control of your movements, you can be “in the zone” for a good long time, or not.

It’s different for skaters. Their “zone time” is harder to separate from the other skaters. To ignore the little whiffs and wobbles of others is difficult for a skater. You have to be “in the zone” with someone else.

“I would have never thought we could lose six in a row. This is such a talented team, I would have thought one guy would basically carry us on his back and get us out of it. Maybe we’re all trying to do too much. I don’t know.” -Scott Nichol, March 22, 2010

13 years. After 13 years a curse landed on the Sharks and has yet to be lifted. If they play through it, will it all be over? Will they be free to win again? But will the hole be too deep?

McLellan said no, he said it won’t be over until the 82nd game. You keep playing anyway.

Do I watch? Can I go back to that state of mind when I watched just because it is beautiful and will not be seen again? No team stays the same even through the course of a single season. Lineups change, injuries happen, players ebb and flow.

Teams change, so you should watch them now, winning or losing, playoff-bound or not. Each game is unique and will not be repeated. Loss wipes so much from memory, even the good parts. A player’s first goal, another’s 100th, a first hat trick… all these shining moments dim quickly if the end result is a loss. Even making 98 saves on 101 shots in a 5 OT playoff game. But for the AHL record, that game still faded away as a loss.

Watching the Sharks lose to the Oilers could hold some interest. I’m not sure I will do it.

How do you break a pattern like this? You have to understand it, learn something, do the thing the ghost wants done.

What ghost? What does it want? The last two times it happened, the Sharks made it to the Conference Finals. Is there a connection? How could they possibly get there from here? Is it trying to beat them? Is that what it wants? Has it timed itself so that this time, finally this time, it will crippled them beyond possibility of recovery?

What if they win? Is that all the ghost wants? For them to break the pattern?

As I sat struggling to articulate my confusion last night, a cat came in and installed himself under my desk. It was a black barn cat who has never ventured so far inside my house. I didn’t even hear him arrive, until I noticed a loud, erratic hum. Minutes passed before I looked under the desk and found him. He was purring, not like a normal cat because he’s a semi-feral barn cat. There he was, feet curled under him, purring like a tractor that can’t get started, his eyes wide.

I don’t know what it means.

I want math to explain it. I’ve been reduced to that. Beyond the madness of astrology and jinxes and omens and animal signs, there is math. I wish I could count because I’d be counting for all I’m worth.

Leighton is still winning. I’m sorry, WooSharks. I am glad about this.

As demoralized as Sharks fans are right now, it has to be worse for the Sharks players. Ryane Clowe once said if you can’t give 100%, give 80% until you can get back to 100%. What if you know you never will?

Jack Combs just scored for Worcester. Hm.  And the Phantoms get it right back. Maybe I’m not a real jinx.

Would 80% be enough for the Sharks to pull out of this? Would 150% be? Is there any way they can possibly not lose tomorrow?

Tye McGinn scored on the empty net to seal the win for the Phantoms. Poor Worcester. At least they broke their scoreless streak.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: adirondack+phantoms, groundhog+day, superstition, worcester+sharks

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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