Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Working holiday for the Sharks

Friday the Sharks had a long practice, were on the ice for about 90 minutes.  They seemed to be working on the power play in particular.  Nitty and Greiss shared one net, Nemo had the other.

Someone yelled “*#$%@&!” but I was looking the wrong way to know who it was. I think maybe it was Greiss because there was a puck in his net, but it didn’t exactly sound like him. Then again, I don’t hear him yelling anything a lot out there so I couldn’t be sure. I don’t think the children heard it.

Seeing Boyle looking well and playing well made me glad, a reassuring feeling like when you have a paycheck in your pocket or a full tank of gas. Everything felt okay.

Well that was a strange thing to be thinking, what with the Sharks having lost those two games, those two terribly important games to end the home stand. It should feel like being on the losing side at the Alamo, not reassuring at all. But it didn’t, it didn’t feel like the last stand before the end of the world as we know it.

Douglas Murray has seemed so much more cheerful since being back in the lineup.  I could be projecting. Even if he has been dropped to the third pairing, it is good and right to have him back.  It is as it should be.

As for the importance of the home stand, I can’t get too excited about that. The Sharks play just as well on the road, right? Sometimes better even. So why were we worried about this last home stand? Balderdash and phooey.

The practice began with the three goalies on the ice about 10:40, the team was still out there for scrimmages at 12:16. The audience enjoyed that, they cheered for goals.  Spectators were numerous enough to fill all the benches in the bleachers, top to bottom.

My thoughts drifted to an unrelated thought: “there is just no way the Flyers will beat the Rangers, ever. They are too young, too old, too green and over matched in so many ways.”

Which helped me understand what is so frustrating about the Sharks’ season so far. The Sharks are not all that old, or all that young. They don’t have a bunch of rookies trying to do more than should be expected of them. They didn’t beggar themselves for a goalie from the top of the free-agent pool this summer.  (Which, as it turns out, might not be something anyone really needs.)  No, the Sharks don’t have any of the gaping holes or weak links that other team has. The Sharks should be kicking ass.

What is really going on here in SJ?  Remember what it was like to have a fourth liner who was legit helpful on the penalty kill?  I miss Nichol again.  It isn’t like the Sharks are unique as a team that uses the same guys for everything, pp, pk, and 5 on 5 heavy lifting.  That’s the way it seems to be on a lot of teams.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing.  It is a highly inefficient use of energy.

Speaking of inefficient allocation of assets, why is Handzus showing up on the power play?  I don’t mean he shouldn’t be or he is bad at that.  He is reliable to excellent in any role he’s thrown into.  But if he’s supposed to be killing penalties, shouldn’t he be resting during the power play?

The guys left the ice through a gauntlet of autograph seekers.  “Boyle! Boyle!” I heard a kid shouting.  I didn’t see Boyle anywhere.  Instead, I saw Clowe.  I think it took him 45 seconds to take one step from the rink door.  He progressed down the line very slowly.  Murray joined him, but moved a lot faster.  Vlasic couldn’t make it through without signing everything along the way either.

They were out there practicing for real for almost 90 minutes.  That’s not unusual after a day off.

Jumbo left the ice to a rising chorus of voices, peaking in that high pitch that only children can make: “Over here! Over here!  I’m next!  Over here!”  I think I heard one kid calling “Vlasic!”  I guess no one told that one that Vlasic was gone.  Mitchell came off, started the rounds, that one voice still piping up “Vlasic! Vlasic!”  God I hope Vlasic signed something for that one.

Oh well.  Too many goalies, not enough penalty killers, an obsession with the number three.  None of this is catastrophic or insurmountable.  The only calamity would be if Vlasic missed that kid in the autograph line.  That would be humongous bad.

Then they were shouting McGinn’s name too, and Nitty came off “right here!  Heeeeeeeeere!  Nitty!  Here!”  And now “Murray!  Murray!” and they meant Andrew.  Ferriero and Winchester came off and it was clear no one was making it out of there without signing their way through.

A couple of months ago, the children didn’t know all their names, to recite on YouTube or not.  Maybe they’re being coached now, but they seem to know everyone.  That is awesome.

~~~~

Saturday, New Year’s Eve, the Sharks had another long practice, more work on special teams.  David Pollak gives a brief (very brief) description of that here.

They were back at it again New Year’s Day, but practice didn’t go so long.  They were flying to Vancouver today. Writing that fills me gloom and lowered expectations.  Maybe the Canucks are really that good.  Maybe the Sharks just can’t win as much as I thought they could.  NHL hockey is really hard.  Not everyone can beat those sneaky Canucks. The Kings did it.  I wholeheartedly approve of that.  Way to stand up for the Golden State, LA!  Even if Bettman doesn’t know we exist, that doesn’t mean we can’t leave a mark on anyone who passes through.

But the Sharks?  Do I really expect them to go to Vancouver and, well, not lose again?  It’s not that I won’t like them anymore, they’re still my team and everything but maybe it’s too much to ask that they win most of the time.

So that’s how I feel when I contemplate seeing the Sharks play the Canucks again.  I suppose it is worth mentioning that the game will be the featured game on the new NBC Sports Network at 5pm. 

I didn’t notice exactly what the skaters were doing today.  I was distracted by goalie activity at one end while the skaters were at the other.  Nitty and Nemo were practicing stopping bad angle shots and deflections, which meant one of them had deflection duty while the other worked on the stopping.

Nitty was a little more effusive in his goal celebrations than Nemo was, but they both seemed pretty into the game.  I couldn’t take my eyes off them because it is rare I get to see goalie competition taken to quite that level.  Also, guys in goalie gear playing forward just looks funny.

Everyone was out there this holiday weekend, working away.  Everyone I expected, that is.  Have not seen hide nor hair of Sheppard on the ice in a long while.  That bodes ill, since he was skating and is not anymore.  White is still absent, but who is surprised by that?  You don’t leave a game when your team is losing unless you are injured good and proper.  Vandermeer has been skating regularly so he may be back sooner than later.

They ended the morning with that drill at center ice, where they put the nets on opposite sides of the face-off circle and play 3 on 3.  Each goalie took a turn in the ring, and the skaters may have been cheating a little.  I don’t mean neglecting their defensive duties either.  I saw Nemo cover a shot, but a bearded defenseman who will remain nameless grabbed another puck and put it in.  It must have been accidental, right?  With pucks littered all over like that, who can tell one from another?  I wonder if goalies have nightmares about things like that?

This made me wonder how long it has been since more than one puck appeared on the ice in an NHL game?  I bet it has been a very long time.

The Sharks seemed in good spirits, even if some of their fans are feeling like roadkill.  I’m sure the Sharks aren’t fully cognizant of that, the squashed flat roasting on pavement in the sun hopelessness that some fans might be experiencing.  I’m sure they’d feel badly if they did know.  But the team being in good spirits is a good thing.  They have to go play tomorrow, not move rocks.  To feel good is to play good, or something like that.

Go Sharks!

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: antero+niittymaki, antti+niemi, autographs, colin+white, dan+boyle, douglas+murray, jim+vandermeer

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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