Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Out of gas

First, some news:  Desjardins only got fined for boarding Sami Lepisto, no suspension.  Thank goodness, don’t need the lower lines destabilized right now.  Also, Terry Murray got fired.  His place is being filled by John Stevens.  Finally, Nitty is off IR and going to Worcester for conditioning.  He can stay there for a maximum of 14 days and could conceivably play in 6 games, if he plays 3 in 3 days.  Uh huh.

“Out of gas.”  That’s the title of one of my favorite episodes of Firefly.  It’s also one of the things folks said about the Sharks third period and OT in Chicago.  What did the team think?  The coach?  Hard to tell.  Their quotes are as opaque as ever.  So I decided to look up some better quotes.  Here’s one from the above-mentioned episode of Firefly:

Mal: Ship like this, be with you ‘til the day you die.
Zoë Washburne: ‘Cause it’s a deathtrap.

They’re both right, it’s the classic problem of one thing seen from two different perspectives.

After the Chicago game, I posted on a message board that the Sharks looked like they ran out of gas.  I noticed as the players took the ice for that last fateful shift how they all stopped at once, literally coasted to a stop at one point.  I thought “uh oh…”  Still, seeing this made me happier about the game in Chicago than the loss in St Louis.  Someone responded that this is unacceptable, to run out of gas in the 3rd, that this dooms the team to ultimate failure.

On some days, I would agree.  As Lemaire said last season, if a team is gassed in the 3rd they’re probably out of shape.  Maybe.  I don’t think it was just physical fatigue.  The team has been struggling with focus and mental discipline.  Because of that, keeping their minds in line for even 40 minutes may be more exhausting than it should be.  Like the body, the mind can be out of shape and I think some of theirs are.  This can be corrected, and last night was a good step in the right direction.

The concept is well depicted in the movie Gattaca, where Vincent explains that he wins the ocean swimming contest because he “never saved anything for the swim back.”  He isn’t talking about a physical state.  He has to take the mental leap to disregard survival and keep swimming away from shore.  Obviously, since he survives, he did have the physical strength to get back to shore, but he had to turn off the early warning system in his head to reach his true limits.

For NHL hockey that’s a mentality more appropriate for playoffs, but it works anytime.  While looking up the precise wording of that quote, I found some other good ones:

You are the authority on what is not possible, aren’t you Irene? They’ve got you looking for any flaw, that after a while that’s all you see.”

Our perspective, our opinion of how the Sharks are playing is entirely subjective.  Joe Thornton is taking heat for not playing well.  Yet he is still the team’s points leader.  Jamie McGinn is the new star, though Couture (like Jumbo, presumably slumping) has more points and plays against tougher competition.  Yes, for McGinn to be where he is in terms of points, PIMs (yeah, I prefer low, call me crazy), +/- is wonderful, he definitely gets the most improved award. He’s a light in the darkness, but not the MVP.

He had everything except desire.

Another goody from Gattaca.  Isn’t this the one we fear as fans, the most intractable problem of all?  Why is Marleau in such a dreadful middling rank on the team now, rock bottom by the standards we place on him, and by the standards implied by his pay grade?  He just doesn’t have the passion, will, drive, whatever?  None of us could possibly speak to that.  Could be that even people close to him cannot answer.  We can see that he is being bounced around a lot from line to line.  To what purpose?  Is McLellan looking for a comfy spot for him, or is he being sent in as a fix it guy, never to be really appreciated because when things start to look up he moves on?  Those questions McLellan could answer, but he won’t because hockey teams don’t go blabbing that stuff on camera.

I was never more certain of how far away I was from my goal than when I was standing right beside it.

NHL on the Fly chose to show a few saves by Emery that looked eerily like McGinn’s goal: scrambles around the lower left corner of the net.  I didn’t notice it so much during the game, but clipped together like that it was hard to ignore.  To the naked eye, the saves looked just like the goals.  So were they close to a lot more goals or was McGinn’s goal never meant to be?  It went in, didn’t it?

Hockey is a game of inches.  You can scorn close as no cigar or you can be happy about a lot of shots on goal.  Watching Braun shoot from the blue line again and again through the season, I thought “wow, he is predictable.”  He’s also right: keep shooting and eventually it will go in.

Speaking of shots, I was surprised to see who the NHL charts show as the Sharks’ leaders in shots: Pavelski (84) Boyle (84) and Marleau (82).  That means Boyle is tied for 6th in the league among defensemen.  Not bad for someone having an absolutely abysmal season.  It’s all a matter of perspective.

While watching the game, I was also recording Pillars of the Earth, and watching that during game breaks (sorry, advertisers).  It’s the story of a cathedral being built.  The cathedral roof fell in several times.  Near the end, the last builder notices that his roof is flawed.  The walls can bear the weight, but still the stone roof leaks.  He realizes that vertical support is not enough when you are building higher than has been done before, the walls need horizontal support.  Unlike his predecessors, he discovers the flaw in time, he is not distracted by the small victory of seeing his walls stand.  Still, those walls were a big accomplishment.

During the first period of that game in Chicago, the Sharks had one penalty kill that made me think “oh wow, no way they can lose tonight.”  They spent so much time driving the Blackhawks all the way out of the D zone, through the neutral zone, back around behind Emery. It was everything you could want from a penalty kill.  If defense is the support system for offense, a penalty kill like that has to give us hope.  That wall held firm, three times.

Sure, the roof’s still dribbling dust, it could still collapse and kill the Earle, expose someone’s cheating wife, bring the village to the verge of collapse.  So what, the Sharks need to get their flying buttresses in place?  No, the flying buttresses, the extra support, are in place.  The lower liners are doing their job and more.  The team has the potential to go higher than they have before.  We even have the relic in its case, a goalie in the crease.  He may or may not actually perform miracles but faith has been rewarded before, it may be again.

No, what’s missing is the roof.  The guys on top, they are missing, as David Pollak enumerates in painful detail.  Well, at least their support is in place.  Let’s hope they can get the top lines together before the support system is worn completely away.

Filed in: | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: andrew+desjardins, dan+boyle, firefly, jamie+mcginn, joe+thornton, patrick+marleau, pillars+of+the+earth


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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