Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

The Sharks: Losing Mind Games

Winning breeds winning. The Sharks defense is "winning," their offense isn't.  It's easier to get your brain into a defensive or reactive mode when you lack confidence.  Being aggressive or creative requires confidence, or such a lack of it that you feel fear, like a cornered animal.   You don't want to be cornered.  The execution of a cornered animal is about as precise as a cannon with one broken wheel.  Fear, while it might make you go faster or be stronger, won't help with precision or missed passes.  You know the ones I mean, those passes that leave the stick about two seconds before the brain registers "Wait, he's not on my team..."

Ray Emery playing well is never depressing for me.  I was in the Emery Comeback Camp from the time I heard he was hoping to return from that hip surgery.  I couldn't believe he'd make it back, but I was impressed that he wanted to do it. So part of me is always rooting for Emery.  After the game, he was asked about the Sharks:

That's a great power play, those guys they put out there are a great group, so if we keep them off the board, it's a bonus.

Such a nice thing to say, even if it's not true.

The perfect symbol of failed offense is the Sharks' power play, so utterly without success that the natural thing for it to do is get worse and start giving up short handed goals.  Like it's trapped in losing's gravitational pull, it will keep getting worse as long as it fails to improve.  Nothing is static-- is it always growing or shrinking, getting stronger or weaker.  Equilibrium does not exist.  The appearance of such is merely an illusion, like this:

This reinforces my theory about magnetized pucks.  It could be done.

So confidence is a problem.  Why?  Is it because the Sharks won all those games before they knew what hit them, and were unprepared for adversity?  With each win, did they tumble deeper into a rabbit hole of good press and better bounces?  Why hasn't that happened to the Blackhawks?  Is it the vitamin D?  Do the Blackhawks take better vitamins?  How better? Are they vegan vitamins?  Do the Blackhawks get their vitamin D from magic mushrooms? Magic mushrooms found deep in the rainforest, picked by mute children?

Why hasn't not losing messed with the Blackhawks?

As an observer, I don't think losing to the Blackhawks was a bigger problem than losing to anyone else.  I'm glad the Sharks won't play them again soon.

Friday was so unrelentingly awful for Sharks hockey.  First, the Worcester Sharks lost to the Manchester Monarchs, a team just below them in all kinds of stats and standings.  They didn't just lose, they lost 7-2.  It was supposed to be a happy day, with Taylor Doherty back in the lineup.  Then, just under an hour after the Sharks lost to Chicago 2-1, the Bulls lost 4-0 in Idaho.  They were down 4-0 before the Sharks finished losing, but it all piles up so it's hard to keep track of the timing.  Awful awfulness.

To top it off, I can't even feel justifiably freaked out about the Sharks losing.  They've still won as many as they've lost.  And so many one goal games, all these good reasons to not panic.  It isn't fair.  At least allow me the satisfaction of a good and proper freak out.

Even though it was a close game on the score sheet, the Sharks didn't feel better about losing:

"You never do. It's a win or loss league," said Logan Couture. "That's the way this thing goes." -Mercury News

I would go a step further and say it's time for the Sharks to think beyond winning and losing.  They need to start shooting for more robust wins, something more resounding than a one goal game.  If the Sharks had won last night's game 1-0 they would still be in the same spot: mostly solid defense with a woeful shortage of scoring.  Sometimes to hit the target you need to aim high.  That seems counter intuitive if the team is lacking confidence, but just thinking about not losing doesn't appear to be working here.

Brent Burns was a hot topic of conversation after last night's game.  What was he thinking on that Saad goal?  Was he thinking he shouldn't get in Niemi's eyes?  Were his legs tired, as Hedican suggested in the post game?  Maybe he didn't want to screen the shot.  I don't think Niemi was really ready for him to do that.  Staying out of the goalie's line of sight is one thing, leaving the shooter completely alone is another.

It was an odd choice.  I know Nabokov would get agitated when his defensemen screened a shot or, worse, redirected it with a failed block.  Niemi isn't known for that.  I have a vivid memory of Vlasic specifically saying  that Nemo doesn't yell at them.  In any case, Burns never went through the Nabokov school of defensemen training.  It was just a piss-poor decision.

Burns showed some indecisiveness on the first goal too.  So he failed to prevent both Chicago goals, but blaming Burns for last night is like arguing that if Niemi would  stop more shots, the Sharks would win.  Both arguments are unsound.  The Sharks need to score.  Blaming anyone for allowing one or two goals isn't going to solve the problem.

Jamie McGinn said something interesting at the end of an Avalanche mailbag this week.  He was asked if he has any pre-game superstitions:

 I think I have a lot of superstitions that I don't even know about. They kind of just become a part of my routine every day.
-Colorado Avalanche mailbag

Try as we might to understand what makes us tick, the odds are good that we still have no idea what is working on our brain at any given moment.  Denial is the easy one to identify, when we know something's bugging us but we can't cope with how much it bugs us so we say it isn't bugging us and let it wreak unchecked havoc on our subconscious.  That's just denial.  There are all kinds of other things, habits, memories, mental irritants that drain our energy and dull our focus.  Clearing those out isn't as easy as skating hard at practice or doing endless drills.  Practice drills can help you get in good habits, but if you have ingrained bad habits that only show up at game time, practice won't help.

The only way to fix it is to get back in the game, which is exactly what all the Sharks teams will do today.   Worcester Sharks host the Portland Pirates at 4:00 PST.  SF Bulls play at Idaho, 6:10 PST.  And the Sharks, our dear muddled San Jose Sharks, they face Dallas at 5:00 PST.

How should the Sharks feel?  Depressed?  Angry?  Whether it's because they don't do anger well or because anger doesn't help, I would give up on anger.  Maybe try playing happy.  This is supposed to be fun, right?  Get back on the horse.  Forget about roping, don't worry about whether everyone is doing it or not.  Just put a foot in the stirrup, swing your leg over and stay on the horse.  Keep it simple.

Filed in: | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: antti+niemi, brent+burns, chicago+blackhawks, confidence, defense, jamie+mcginn, logan+couture, power+play, ray+emery

Comments

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This team doesn’t know how to play a full 60 minutes. You get good effort and focus for the first period and things just get progressively worse from there.
The lack of effort and focus is embarrassing. They just don’t seem to care enough to give it everything they have night after night.
If they don’t care, why should we?

Posted by grndlprm on 02/23/13 at 01:06 PM ET

petshark's avatar

I’m not willing to put it on effort, especially since they do show effort and focus at points in game.  They just keep getting tripped up.  Doubt makes you hesitate, hesitation lets in bad decisions, and things come unraveled from there.  I just don’t get what their triggers are, or why they can’t unpush their own buttons.  They’re supposed to be so much better at this stuff than I am.  They’re pro successful people.

Posted by petshark from Nor Cal, and on Twitter @petshark47 on 02/23/13 at 02:04 PM ET

Avatar

This franchise will not be ultimately successful until there is a major culture change. Wilson must go, Thornton and Marleau also must be moved. There needs to be a new tougher philosphy developed around the concept of sacrifice, dedication and intensity. From ownership on down this franchise is SOFT!

Posted by timbits on 02/23/13 at 02:15 PM ET

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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