Friday, December 19, 2008

San Jose Sharks, the Unseen Games

The San Jose Sharks are making history. It's just too bad not enough people are watching.

Why? Well, for one thing, the team is on the Left Coast, and plays too late for many people in the East. For another, and astonishing number of their record-setting 31 games have not been televised, even locally.

The last two games marked the first time they were not televised in back-to-back games. But Wednesday was the fifth game not televised (and there have been two unavailable even with NHL's Center Ice package), and there will be two more. After that, the remaining two will probably be picked up by Versus if the Sharks keep playing this well.

Up to nine games not covered for the best team in the NHL, for a team that may set a record for points, and for a team that would be in the middle of the top 10 all time even if games still ended in ties? Ridiculous.

Thus, it is hard to write about the last two nights, even having heard about five of the six periods and subsequent overtimes on the radio, even having seen highlights. Let me instead provide some observations based on the two games:

1. The Los Angeles Kings are much improved, and should still be all right with Erik Ersberg down for a couple weeks. The Sharks are 3-0 in these games, but two were decided by one goal and one of those in overtime.
2. The Sharks do look like they are still susceptible to lapses in intensity, and that's a problem they CANNOT have in the playoffs, and better correct now.
3. The team has the resilience and talent to come back from deficits established during those lapses.
4. San Jose is 9-0 when being outshot (as they were against Los Angeles) but winless when getting 48 or more shots (as they did against Columbus)...weird.
5. The injuries are starting to pile up and the Sharks' depth is depleted. There are currently three minor league forwards playing because of injuries. Apparently it will take several weeks for Jeremy Roenick to recover from surgery following a bad shoulder separation he suffered, so at least one of those players will have to contribute long-term. Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Cheechoo have officially been listed as day-to-day for quite a while, so who knows how long it will be before they return.
6. The Sharks have incredible special teams. They have given up 18 power play goals but scored seven short-handed goals. Meanwhile, they have scored 34 power play goals and allowed only four short-handed goals. That is a total of +19, and only Philadelphia (with an astounding 12 shorties, including three of the four against San Jose) is better.

With the Sharks game going into overtime Wednesday, the hill to climb to beat Detroit Thursday (4 p.m. PST) just got higher.

The Red Wings have not played since Monday, when they and the Sharks were involved in the league's only two games. So they will be at home, better rested, and have their full compliment of players. The Sharks will be at the end of a three-game road trip that spans three time zones and includes a short flight the night after a game before playing the next day.

If the Sharks manage to win this one, I will be surprised and may no longer be able to contain my excitement the rest of the way.

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