Tuesday, April 17, 2007

4-16-07: Sharks 3, Predators 1

It’s a good thing I already have reasons to be up until all hours on a regular basis, otherwise I might be regretting having decided to follow a Western Conference matchup. By the time these games are over not only is it late, but I’m freakin’ hockey brain-dead from 8 consecutive hours of playoff melodrama. I’m rather hoping that some of the series I care less about get swept in the quickest possible way, just so I can turn off the TV. What’s that you say? I don’t have to watch hockey just because I can? That’s crazy talk.

1. Hypothesis: it’s very difficult for any given pair of hockey teams to sustain a truly violent animosity for more than two consecutive games. Probably not impossible, but difficult. After the previous two games in this series, everyone and their grandmother was predicting that tonight’s match would be sheer liquid hatred for 60 minutes, and it wasn’t even close. Oh, there was a little bit of casual nastiness and a good number of penalties, but mostly both teams just looked tired, as though it was almost too difficult to pick up the energy to play the freakin’ game, much less the energy to dish out some gratuitous beatings.

2. As I understand it, the Preds were not really predicted to do well in this game, given their overall poor history in playoffs-on-the-road and the reputation of the ‘Shark Tank’ (no, I don’t know what it’s really called) for being a difficult road building. By the standards of the Pacific/Central Divisions, anyway. But man, they sucked. Partly, I think, it shows the downside of trying to win a series by out-thugging the opposition, which is apparently the preferred way to try to beat San Jose. But there’s a point at which a willingness to take penalties to be scary just turns into a willingness to take penalties instead of, well, playing hockey. Nashville played a very sluggish, lazy, brain-dead game, ended up giving the Sharks basically one continuous power-play through the entire 2nd period. They did manage 20 shots-on-goal (to the Sharks 41), but it seemed like 6. Maybe 8, to be generous.

3. That said, given how badly Nashville played, the score should probably have been more uneven than it was in the end. I’d always heard that the Sharks had a very pretty power-play, but they couldn’t seem to get it going tonight, which is a bit of a shame because they had so much time to work on it. Vokoun was having a hot night though, so not entirely their fault. It’s kind of disorienting to watch Rivet being a key part of someone’s PP, since he’d never been that for the Habs this season- I always get the weird vibe that he’s somehow ‘acting like Souray’. But multi-cheers for him on maintaining his point-per-playoff-game streak.

4. Problems with picking up a new team for the playoffs:

a. Insufficient knowledge of the full roster. When it comes to the Sharks, I know they’re big names, obviously, and a fair amount about their D just from all the trade talk, but I’m totally clueless about their 3rd/4th line types- who they are, how they play, what their reputations are, nothing. Which is sort of sad, really, because sometimes I think you can learn more about a team from it’s depth than from its premiere pieces.

b. Goalie-shock. Maybe goaltending is a universal language, but every goalie seems to have his own syntax and accent. It takes time to learn to read them. Over the course of the season I learned to read the Habs goalies and a good number of those in the Northeast Division, to understand something of their variant styles, what was ‘normal’ vs. ‘off’ for them, but I don’t have that with Lolita, so he always looks a little off to me. He must, obviously, be good enough to have gotten them this far, but I just cringe at the way he jumps out into the play, can’t get used to it.

It’s very interesting to see the way the different series are shaping up. Having seen games now from all of them, it’s sort of astounding the way they’re not only different from the regular season but different from each other, and I wonder very much how those differences will affect the later rounds. My instinct is that, unless Calgary and Minnesota start showing considerably more life than they have thus far, Detroit and Anaheim are going to come out of their series having expended comparatively little energy and taken comparatively little damage, whereas whoever wins of Dallas/Vancouver and San Jose/Nashville is going to be going to the semifinals at significantly depleted strength. Similarly, whoever in the East gets to play whatever tattered leftovers remain of the Sens/Pens might find themselves very fortunate indeed.


Anonymous said...

Nabokov is a former Calder trophy winner, and has backstopped the Sharks to the WCF before. If his style looks odd, it's because it is odd. He's one of the few stand up goalies in the league nowadays. There was an article a few months ago in THN about Nabokov's style, they described it as a "hybrid" between stand up and butterfly...and the only other goalies that are known to use it are Brodeur and Kiprusoff. Incedently all of 3 of them were tutored by the late Warren Strelow.

James said...

You said, "Insufficient knowledge of the full roster. [...]I’m totally clueless about their 3rd/4th line types- who they are, how they play, what their reputations are, nothing. I'd like to try and help with this. I'll give you a breakdown of their roster, as best as a sharks fan can.

Line 1: Scoring chances galore. Almost everyshift the come away with a scoring chance. Seems like our best defensive line too because they never seem to be anywhere else, but in the offensive zone.
LW- MILAN MICHALEK:A very quick skater that has learned to you use his big body more this season to fend of the opposition and crash/sit him self in front of the net. Very nice hands, excellent back checker. His speed is his most valuable asset to the line; opens up the ice a bit more for Joe and Cheech to do their thing.
C- JOE THORNTON: The Playmaker. A perimeter grinder, who usually sets up on the right half boards or behind the net looking to pass for a onetimer in the slot.
RW- JONATHAN CHEECHOO: The Sniper. Horrible skater, but tremendous balance. You'll never see him still. He's constantly moving in and out of the slot, or anywhere else to get open for a pass from Joe.
Line 2: Fun to watch when they step on as they're always going from D to O and vice versa. Chances at both ends as they're Prone to getting burned on transition D because they love to shoot on the rush.
LW- MARK BELL: He's a grinder and a screener. Likes to give the big hit and take the costly penalties. Not much else to his game thus far.
C- CAPTAIN PATRICK MARLEAU: The opportunist. One of the fastest in the league with a killer wrister. Most of the time he looks like he not doing much out there at all, then out of no where he scores or gets the primary assist. Loves to drop pass to the trailer on the rush, especially with Guerin. His speed opens up a shooting lane for trailers, Guerin, and the D.
RW- BILL GUERIN: Sniper, guy will shoot from anywhere. Takes most of the shots on this line. Usually right behind Marleau on the rush waiting for a drop pass.
Line 3: The defensive unit. Look to them to slow down the top line of opposition of that night. They apply constant pressure on the opponent.
LW- PATRICK RISLMILLER: A decent defensive forward. You never take any real notice of him. But that's a good thing.
C- CURTIS BROWN: Grinder. Solid defensively. PK/Faceoff specialist. More often then not he's in position to block a shot or intercept a pass.
RW- MIKE GRIER: MR. Versatility; the quint essential team player. Man does anything and everything for the team. Steps in where ever coach needs him and will always produce. Grinder, solid defensively, PK specialist.
Line 4: A puck posession line. Grind and Cycle, then hit whatever is in sight.
LW- RYAN CLOWE: The Newfy. An agitator with a scoring touch. Grinder/Screener. Strong with his stick and strong on his skates. Likes the Big hit. He's taken it upon himself to be the bodygaurd of the team.
C- MARCEL GOC- Solid faceoff man with decent defensive/offensive skills. Digs pucks off the boards and sets up his wingers for the onetimer if he has the opportunity.
RW- STEVE BERNIER: Big Bear loves contact. Strong on his skates and loves to drive to the net. Looks for the Big hit on the forecheck.
D1 Pairing: They shut it down. They make everything for you difficult. Rarely out of position, rarely go for the big hit for fear of getting of of position it seems. They're sticks are always moving, either tying up another stick or poke checking.
L- MARC EDUARD VLASIC: Pickles is a man of poise. Nothing gets to him. Rarely out of position and pressures skaters away from the net.
R- SCOTT HANNAN: Our Defensive specialist. Shadows the top forward of the opposition. Rarely ever lets anyone get behind him and pressures the puck to the perimeter. Always ties up the stick in front if he's there. Horrible outlet passer and takes ages for him to make a decision with the puck on O.
D2 Pairing- The bombers. Big hits and big shots. Both love to pinch and as a result get caught on a lot of odd man rushes the other way.
L- CHRISTIAN ERHOFF: Decent defensive play, an exceptional skater with a cannon of a shot, but very inaccurate with it. His partner rubbed off on him and lines up people from time to time.
R- KYLE MCCLAREN: Looks to lay the biggest hit of the game. Plays opposition to the board so that he can hit them. Loves body contact.
D3 Pairing- The powerplay boys. Usually paired with Joes line because Rivet is our only right handed defensemen so he out their for the onetimer.
L- MATT CARLE: Tremendous potential, especially offensively. Sees the ice so well and loves to come backdoor. His defense needs work, but Rivet stabilizes him in the defensive end.
R- CRAIG RIVET: You've seen him plenty enough. Anyway... Looks to be sound defensively when he's in the defensive zone. Pucks seem to bounce off this guy, he's always in a shooting lane. There's a chippiness about him in the defensive zone. The reason why he's seems so good in the offensive zone because Joe keeps feeding him these great onetimer opportunites. As the only right handed shot on the team he almost always gets sent out with Joe. It's not hard to score when you have Joe feeding you some nice chances. And Rivet is capitalizing on those chance more so than any of our other defensemens. He's quickly becoming our best Dman with his solid play in the defensive zone and his right handed shot.
JOE PAVELSKI C: Little Joe has a nack for the net and because of that creates openings for his mates to score. Loves his wrap arounds. Not a great wrister, but it's accurate. Skates like Cheechoo, in that he always falling or looks like he's going to fall when trying to get by defenders. Not very good defensively.
MARK SMITH C: Our energy man. Also very versitile, but after a groin injury in February, his roster spot was lost. His gritty and in your face, and he's all over the place. He's a momentum changer with the home crowd.
DOUGLAS MURRAY D: A half decent defender with horrid skating ability. Onlything that kepts him on the roster is nack for makeing the big hits. People will fall hard if they don't keep their head up when he's on the ice. He's like a tank, slow as hell, but his boom is deafening.
ROB DAVISON D: A scrapper. A half decent defender. Likes to be physical and does play better when there's body contact.

Goalies: Both have very different styles and both are very good.
VESA TOSKALA: Butterfly goalie. Very athletic. He's consistent and gives the team a chance to win every game. Prone to let out big rebounds though.
EVGYNI NABOKOV: Stand up goalie. Very technical in his approach. He controls his rebounds well, but is known for letting in soft goals. Takes him a while to get into a game more often than not, but when he's finally on, it's hard to beat him.

Jordi said...

Nabokov can give stellar games, it's beautiful when he does. Really. He makes great saves that you'll be hard pressed to find a regular goalie do (and by regular, maybe Aebischer on a sad day)

kazmojo said...

Great breakdown on the Sharks roster, James. I live in SJ, and never see anything as intelligent as this in the local paper. Of course, I'm always paying attention to the Habs.

And to feed my Habs obsession, I'd love to see Bernier in the tricolore. I knew he was a big power forward type... but the dude can skate too! Last night he beat a dman along the right board, as if he were Daniel Briere or something. Ok, I exaggerate, but his size, speed and right-handed shot would fit nicely with the Habs.

The Sharks seem to have a wealth of prospects. I wonder if he'd be expendable?

E said...

just to be clear, i didn't mean to bash nabokov in any way, just to comment that it can be tricky to judge unfamiliar goalies on the basis of a few games. i'll try to be more respectful in future, although i'll probably continue to call him lolita because i find it entertaining to do so. although jordi, if you're using aebi on an off-night as your standard of 'regular goalie' you might be doing a disservice to the league overall...

james: wow, that is a very comprehensive, very helpful, and curiously affectionate rundown. i rather wish someone had done that for me with the habs, back in the beginning, it would have saved quite a bit of time. of course, i would have immediately gotten 3 other habs fans arguing with every single description, so possibly it would have been counterproductive. like i said, i'd heard quite a bit about your D, not just because of the rivet trade but because there were so many souray rumors circulating for so long, but it's really useful to have a thoughtful breakdown of the forward lines. do they juggle much, or have the trios been fairly stable throughout the season?

kaz- yeah, we really could use some bigger bodies up front, especially if bonk ends up leaving- not like he's the most physical guy to begin with, but i'm going to be very nervous if we go into next season relying on latendresse exclusively for some substantive physical presence. all the briere hype is making me a little worried, not that i'd necessarily be unhappy to get him, but honestly i don't see our primary need as being another small, stylish, hyper-expensive type, even a v. talented one. at this point i'd gladly forsake overall skill level for someone with a love of forechecking.

James said...

My break down was very light and I tried to emphasis the brighter spots in their game.

E: I'm loving your blog. I was turn on to me in the sharks official site forum just a few days ago and I've been on here since looking through the many topics.

As for the sharks Defense/Dmen is definitely their weakest position. There's 3 of our starting defensemen that's under 25, and one of them just turned 20 last month. If you saw this pre lockout then you'd think the sharks are crazy. But each of those 3( Erhoff, Carle, & Vlasic) are well suited for the game today because each can skate. The sharks do have a number one defensemen in the traditional sense. Hannan is at best a #2 with Rivet right behind him. Mclaren is no better than a #3, but regularly plays like a #4/5. The sharks d is filled with 3 & 4 defensemen. They rely heavily on the forwards backchecking and their pressure on the puck. The sharks backcheck is the key to their system.

Oh and Bernier is yourman if you want a guy with a passion for forchecking, which brings me to Kaz...

Kaz: Bernier is a beast. That's why we call him Big Bear. He has great hands and is very strong on his skates, but he is a raw talent and is still very much a work in progress.

Now you'll really take notice of him on the forecheck. One reason he's such a constant on the forecheck is because he likes finishing his checks with force, and there's no better opportunity to do that then on the forecheck. But he's always forchecking for another reason, because he's a horrible backchecker. He's quick, but he's not fast, and in open ice he's prone to take the hook. On the rush, he has this one move that he does on the right side of the boards where he'll sort of drop down to a knee and make a power cut to the net. But usually he'll be the one to chase after the puck largely because he can retrieve it and hold possesion of the puck until he gets support. He is a monster along the boards and it's very difficult to take the puck away from him.

There's so many more things I'd like to share about each of the players, but this isn't my blog, so i'll leave it to E. I'll try not to comment roster breakdown stuff unless I'm specifically asked or if something is posed to be commented on in another of E's blog topics.

Here's a link to a video that shows that power cut that Bernier likes to do. It's pretty sweet, the clip is in the middle of the cut. Check it out if you have some time.

James said...

Oh... and the Tank's actual name is the HP Pavilion.

aquietgirl said...

It's funny, I think of Nabokov as Lolita too.

Lolita, lolita, fire of my loins!

Doogie said...

Oh... and the Tank's actual name is the HP Pavilion.

I call it the Laptop, because that was the model of my first laptop about six years ago.