Petshark: Talking Stick
by petshark on 02/04/12 at 04:04 AM ET
Today we learned that Owen Nolan is making an announcement about his career on Tuesday. The Sharks will give him a forum at HP for the press conference but Brodie Brazil has already said it will be a retirement announcement. Thank goodness Brazil cleared that up. No one could have guessed that. Then Darren Dreger congratulated Nolan on Twitter using a tweet and not even an @ message or a DM. I’ll go ahead and save the congrats until Nolan has a chance to speak for himself. But I’m not a news hound.
Niemi is feeling better, so Sexsmith has been sent back to Worcester. Not sure what they’ll do with Nitty now. He didn’t play today, although he was sent there to, you know, play. Whatev. It’s one loss not on his record.
Last night I wrote down several impressions of the Sharks game against Dallas. I decided that, since they were not playing today, I would finish it in the morning. I woke up and was completely sick of hockey. This has never happened before. Well, it may have happened a decade ago, I don’t remember. It took me so much by surprise that I didn’t know what it meant. But the Sharks won! And without any fighting! What is WRONG with me?
It must be like eating too much chocolate. Even if you like chocolate, even if you only eat really good top quality chocolates, if you stuff your mouth full and keep poking them in there, you will eventually get sick of it.
Then I looked over my notes from last night and realized that the mental collapse started some time before today… I may have been in the throes of it for some time. I considered the other things I could think about and other things I could be doing and concluded that flogging myself through a five paragraph essay on last night’s game seemed preferable to those other things. Even a gypsy soul needs a little structure in her life. So here goes.
The Sharks played a well-built game against the Stars. Even the lack of push back from Dallas did not topple San Jose’s plan. When the Sharks keep their focus steady and their energy up, they can always beat a struggling team, and will certainly fare better against strong teams. Fans will feel secure and confident, as their team should. A confident team tries new things, spreads the work around, confidence makes everyone more capable. The lower lines get more ice time, the middle liners get some time on special teams. The same three or four guys don’t get worked to death doing everything all the time. Even young Vlasic, reputedly immune to fatigue, gets a little break so he can stay fresh and sharp.
The Sharks won in just about every way against the Stars. They lost on the hitting clock but that tends to happen when the other team doesn’t have the puck much at all. A lot was made of the Sharks’ 77% faceoff win percentage. First it was the best since the lockout, then the second best, finally it was demoted to fourth or fifth best. Whatever, it was really good. Even McCarthy, who got tossed more than once, won 63% of the time. I know there’s a connection between those two, but 63% is a lot better than he was doing before. It is true that against a struggling team, these numbers are less telling. But until recently the Sharks didn’t go full throttle until they had to. They didn’t push hard enough to really wipe a weak team off the ice. Some of the traditional league runts like the Oilers and the Sens have grown up a little, are not so anemic as they were before. Still, the Sharks should have taken them apart and reminded them how far they still have to go. They didn’t, but now they have plowed relentlessly through ailing teams, twice in a row. It is a start, a very good start.
It’s like a chicken and egg problem, evaluating what TOI for lower liners tells us about how the team feels. When the team struggles, they fall back on the top players, close ranks. They don’t take chances, even if overworking your best guys is a chance in itself. When they feel good about how the team is playing, the coaches loosen the reins a little. The thing is, trust breeds confidence, confidence improves performance, and improved performance earns trust. So perhaps there’s a nest missing from the chicken and egg equation- it’s a three factor problem. Since the loss to the Canucks before the All Star break, John McCarthy has been getting more time and Jamie McGinn has seen more time on the power play. Andrew Desjardins’ time on the penalty kill has been steadily creeping up again since he returned from injury. Whatever the sequence of events that produced these numbers, they are signs of good health (and I don’t mean injury-wise) for the team. It also means the top line players are getting less time, are fresher when they do play. For your numbers to look good is to feel good.
When the team looks good, this fan feels good. I let my superstitious habits slide. No dogs on my couch. No wearing teal or having to do my nails. No fear of thinking “when the Sharks win this one…” I do none of the rituals I often do when I’m worried that any little disturbance in the force might take the legs out from under the Sharks. Yes, they had their Dads here. Maybe that’s the biggest karmic boost there is. But I think the Sharks have been playing a little more without a net. That lets fans relax a little too, enjoy their beer more. I didn’t have to worry about the winning thing. They got that. I could just watch and see who gets points and ice time and does impressive things. I might tweet a question at Dan Rusanowsky and Jamie Baker to say McCarthy is doing great, right? Right. A blow out might bore the fans if it happens too early, they might start doing the wave or even leave early, but this does not mean they are unhappy.
After staring at the TOI numbers since January 12 (ten games is a standard unit of measurement, right?) I decided to focus exclusively on the minutes for the fourth line players, even if they bounced around a bit from line to line. It seems like the best formula is for that fourth line to get over 9 minutes, all of them together, like they are really a line and not mix and match/disposable parts:
•v Wpg 1/12/12: Desjardins (8:57, 1:23 pk), Winchester(6:33), Murray (6:07), Sharks win by 2.
Team Grade: Meh.
•v CBJ 1/14: Desjardins(3:06, 0:36pk-injured in game), A Murray(8:30, 0:28pp), Winchester(4:17), Sharks win by 1.
Team Grade: C-. They can do much better.
•v Chicago 1/15: Winchester and A Murray under 8.5 mins, Sharks lose by 1.
Team Grade: B. Better.
•v Calgary 1/17: A Murray, Winchester & McLaren all 6:30 or less, Sharks win in shootout.
Team Grade: B-. They can do better.
•v Sens 1/19: Winchester under 10mins, McLaren under 5, Desjardins under 10 ev, Sharks lose by 3.
Team Grade: D minus
•v Canucks 1/21: A Murray and McCarthy under 10 mins, Winchester just over, Sharks lose by 1.
Team Grade: B+. Better/Good
•v Oilers 1/23: A Murray & Winchester under 7, McCarthy 7:47, Sharks lose in a shootout.
Team Grade: C+. They can do better.
•v Calgary 1/24: Vandermeer & Winchester around 8:30, McCarthy jumps to 13+, Sharks win by 1.
Team Grade: B. Better but they can do better still.
•v CBJ 1/31: Vandermeer 11:20, McCarthy 13:26, Winchester 13:57, Sharks win 6-0. (Hard to draw any conclusions from these TOI numbers since there were so many penalties)
Team Grade: V is for valium. Take one. But much better.
•v Stars 2/2: Winchester and Vandermeer around 9:30, McCarthy at 10:30, Sharks win 5-2.
Team Grade: A-. Much better, this is more like it. The minus is for shooting at your own goalie.
Now, if that were a play, I would say that the Sens game was a climactic moment, hence the bolding. We would now be somewhere between the “falling action” and the part they call the dénouement, resolution, or catastrophe. Which of those three it is depends on whether we are a watching a comedy, a history or a tragedy. I’m willing to accept the party line that a one goal game isn’t necessarily a bad game, unless it’s against the Blue Jackets, the Stars, or a team in a similar situation. Against those, a one goal game is not a good game, win or lose. It is better to lose by one than to lose by three but it’s not peak performance. I could jump to conclusions and say the difference is **!!!John McCarthy!!!!** but I understand there are lot of variables here. I’m just glad he’s in the mix.
All right, so that’s more than five paragraphs. Me and numbers just don’t get along. I don’t know why Todd McLellan said the Coyotes game was going to be a tough one. The Coyotes might be stronger than Dallas or Columbus, but they aren’t Chicago (Lol, Chicago, lol, 8-4! Bwahahaha) or Vancouver or the rejuvenated and now surging Red Wings. Sure, the Yotes may give San Jose a tougher game than their last two but I do hope the Sharks approach them with as much confidence as they did CBJ and the Stars.
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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