(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner, January 25, 2013)
Brad Stuart predicted this.
Yesterday, David Pollak published some quotes from Brad Stuart about his career and about the Sharks, what he saw while he was here the first time, and what he saw playing against San Jose later. One of those answers might explain this mind-boggling start from Team Teal:
Pollak: “…wasn’t last year a step backward?”
Stuart: “Sometimes that can be a bit of a wake-up call and maybe that will motivate the team as a whole to not let that happen again. It all depends on how you handle it as individuals and as a team – who takes responsibility upon themselves to be better. And everybody’s got to do that.” -Working the Corners
So there you have it. This is what the Sharks look like when they are awake.
I think there’s more to it. I recall many times last season when Joe Thornton would throw passes to no one. At first I thought this was a positioning issue, like he was too often in the same place or trying something new he wasn’t used to. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Obviously, the Sharks were having problems with their sonar:
@brodiebrazilCSN: Thornton says he’s “hearing” where Marleau is on the ice. “Sometimes as a passer you’ve got to listen”
Men are supposed to be more visual than women, so you can see how it might be a little difficult for them to adapt to a detection system that relies more on hearing than sight. Case in point: Joe Pavelski passing the puck to a Coyote instead of shooting it or waiting for a Shark to be in position. It’s a process. So far we’ve seen more good than bad.
After Marleau scored his first goal of the game, my Twitter feed erupted with news that Marleau was the first player to make it to five goals this season, and Thornton was the assists leader. That was quickly corrected to allow for Hossa having scored his fifth earlier in the evening. I wanted to dismiss that since it Hossa’s goal came in OT, but I knew that wasn’t fair. Obviously the only way to fix it would be for Marleau to score another, or for Couture to get three, or Boyle or Havlat to get four more, and so on.
Martin Havlat’s goal to tie the game was wonderful, but since I was looking for the Sharks to win as many races as possible last night, I needed another goal from Marleau too. He went out and got one. He is such an obliging fellow.
I was so happy about the sixth that I didn’t quite register it was also the go-ahead goal.
But really, what is up with Patty? He’s not the only Shark playing at a much improved level with an urgency we haven’t seen in a long time, but three games in a row with two goals each? What, does he have a quota to fill? “Two each game, no more, no less.” That would explain him not going for the empty-netter. Sure, maintaining the lead in the game before padding his own stats is important too, but it’s still derned odd.
One question popped up on Twitter that made me wonder more about this:
@TheDodgerhater: Did Marleau play anywhere during the lockout?
I suggested that, having not played, perhaps Marleau did a lot of visualization during his time away from the game. It sounds New-Agey, but what else could it be? He couldn’t rely on his most recent game experience, that would have been disastrous.
But Marleau isn’t the only player over a certain age who jumped back in with all guns blazing. If I recall correctly, reports about Martin Brodeur’s performance in exhibition and charity games during the lockout were not flattering. But the season started and poof! If I hadn’t cropped that picture the way I did, his face would be there too under GAA and Save % leader. I don’t believe Hossa played either, he was busy recovering from a grave injury, wasn’t he?
So there goes the theory that playing during the lockout would be a good indicator of how a player would perform in these first few games.
Revel in the here and now.
There are days when I look forward to the NHL standings updates. Yesterday was one of those:
But wait, the Sharks are tied with Ottawa? Dallas and Anaheim are up there with them? Right, the Sharks have only played three games, try not to get too high or too low.
But the view is so nice up here!!!
It’s just three games, or, in normal season years, six. Those are like dog years, where 1=2 instead of 7.
The Sharks had to handle a full 2 minute 5 on 3 penalty kill last night. That gave me flashbacks to… about two hours earlier when I watched the Flyers kill one of those. Each team took a high-sticking double minor from one of the younger players (Tye McGinn and TJ Galiardi). They were totally accidental but, since the subsequent minor penalties were necessarily taken by penalty-killers, they were hair-raising minutes in both cases.
The Flyers killed theirs off, the Sharks fell short by 12 seconds. There was still a lot of good to recognize there from three Sharks who got stuck with that duty: Brad Stuart, Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray. Two of those Sharks have been out of fan favor for a while: Handzus and Murray. I imagine some people watched that pk and thought some other Sharks could have killed it.
Horsepucky. I’m pretty sure the Flyers needed some help from the post to kill theirs. They were faster, they cleared the puck, chased Rangers around their own zone…
So, maybe that particular three-man unit isn’t ideal for the Sharks. Nonetheless, those three guys made me glad they are on San Jose’s team. I don’t even think….At least I hope, I hope they didn’t get hurt.
Signed this week: Mike Knuble, Scott Gomez. I’ll assume no team was ever talking to both. I’m glad Knuble found a team, Gomez made a very good impression on Sharks fans from the broadcasting booth.
In any case, both teams had nailbiting 5 on 3 penalties to kill yesterday and they both signed veterans this week. The Flyers need Knuble more right now than the Sharks need Gomaez. Must be the cold weather out there making players breakable, ‘cuz Flyers are breaking left and right. How bad is it? Days ago, there was this:
@flyers_faithful: Hey, @fakecoatesy, can you confirm that Leighton just asked the Flyers to waive him?
Hey, a guy has to look out for his health. Briere started injured. Now Hartnell broke his foot, Meszaros was wearing a sling after leaving yesterday’s game early. They have recalled Lilja from the AHL.
Just four games in.
So cheer, Sharks fans, cheer while you can. Cautionary tales are unfolding across the league, these early days are treacherous.
Joe Thornton said: “It’s a good feeling spoiling ceremonies like opening night, so we have to make sure it doesn’t happen to us tonight.” -CSN Bay Area
:O Jumbo! What a mean thing to say.