An Ode to the AHL

To preface this blog, I guess I should start with this – as many of you know, I will be heading off to Worcester Massachusetts to cover the AHL All-Star Classic in January. Thanks to an incredible friend of mine who for whatever reason has a lot of faith in me and has provided me with her utmost support, I will be going to the All-Star Game as a journalist (as well as a fan). It is an opportunity that I never ever thought I would be given the chance to have…I am so grateful.

You see, over the past three months I have been taking more and more interest in the AHL. Specifically the Sharks AHL Affiliate the Worcester Sharks…and in thinking back, I guess it all stemmed from September 23nd – the Teal and White Game.

Many NHL teams have a preseason scrimmage with their prospects as a means of entertainment and introducing the young talent to the fans…the Sharks do this by mixing both prospects and veterans and then dividing the group in two. (As opposed to Philadelphia where the Phantoms and Flyers just duke it out)

While many fans may not be familiar with their teams’ prospects, or pay them the attention they deserve, I personally started to take notice of the depth we had. We had seen the veterans before, we knew their style, their personalities, and what they bring to the game…I was curious to see what these other guys could do.

From the Teal and White Game through the preseason, I became familiar with the new names and their individual styles. I grew more and more impressed as I watched them become comfortable playing for the big club…so when the preseason ended and many of them were gradually sent back to Worcester, it’s fair to say I was sad to see them go.

…So I began to follow their successes in Worcester. Given the injury from which Torrey Mitchell is still recovering, the Sharks roster has had room for one more. Todd McLellan has taken the opportunity to plug Worcester players in on a trial basis and see how they perform and how they gel. From the very start of the season, we’ve seen at least one Worcester player on the bench during any given game. For me, it has only helped to strengthen my respect for Worcester as I have been hugely impressed with our AHL team.

Throughout the season, we have had the privilege of getting to know some of our rookies. Five of them have made appearances during the regular season so far and it has become evident that the depth in the Sharks roster is impressive enough to have any professional hockey team shaking in their skates. All five of these guys possess something special and something unique that they have brought to the Sharks’ bench.

Lukas Kaspar (43) – the first Worcester Shark to be recalled to San Jose for the regular season. He played his first game on October 9th in the Sharks home opener against Anaheim and while he didn’t register a point in the game he did catch a 2 minute high-sticking penalty. It wasn’t until two games later, in Los Angeles, that Lukas would make his presence known on the Sharks roster. With a picture perfect crossbar “ping”, he scored the game winning goal as well as the only goal that night.

Brad Staubitz (59) – recalled for the October 17th game at Anaheim, Brad showed both the Sharks and the Ducks what he is all about when he registered a five minute fighting major in his first NHL shift. McLellan knew his scrappiness is what they needed against the Ducks and Brad did not disappoint. He doesn’t hesitate to defend his teammates and has stood up to both Dion Phaneuf and Jordin Tootoo during his second stint with San Jose. Brad Staubitz has been a big part of establishing the Sharks as a physically dominant team this season.

Jamie McGinn (64) – was recalled for the October 28th game against Pittsburgh, but did not register any points. It wasn’t until the next game; October 30th at Detroit that Jamie found his groove. Scoring the second goal for San Jose, Jamie’s goal put the Sharks ahead 2-1. Jamie also tallied an assist on the game winning goal of the night. His speed and ability to find the net makes Jamie a great asset to the Sharks offensively. I don’t care who you are, it’s got to feel good to score your first NHL goal against the defending Cup Champions.

Riley Armstrong (40) – While he was only called up to the big club for two games so far, Riley’s November 29th season debut was a proud moment for him being as he was called upon to fill in for Jonathan Cheechoo. During his next game with the Sharks, December 2nd against Toronto, Riley registered a 2 minute hooking penalty…but that didn’t stop San Jose fans from embracing him. Above one of the sections in the upper bowl, a hand made sign devoted to Riley encouraged everyone to take notice of the fresh, eager talent on the ice. San Jose cannot wait to have him back again.

Tom Cavanaugh (47) – called up for the December 4th game against Columbus. He tallied his only NHL point of this season on Jeremy Roenick’s goal against the Edmonton Oilers on December 6th. The Sharks went on to lose in OT but Cavanaugh’s point production thus far does not do him justice…when you watch him play you see how devoted he is to getting a win. He does the dirty work. You see him fighting for the puck in the corners and behind the net. You see him out on the forecheck. He creates space for his teammates which is one of the reasons he is so valuable to San Jose.

Let’s not forget…
Thomas Greiss (1) – Greiss has not played in goal for us yet this season…because he hasn’t had to. While he was called up on November 8th (along with Brad Staubitz) because Nabokov was injured, his duty was to serve as back-up to the back-up. Brian Boucher stepped in as number one, and Greiss took the number two spot. It’s got to be a reassuring feeling for San Jose to know that they have so much depth in net.

One could definitely say that the guys mentioned above have had a lot to do with where the Sharks are sitting in the point standings. Not that they have scored crazy amounts of goals, or tallied numerous assists, but that their confidence and courage to do whatever their coach asks of them keeps their teammates’ spirits high. Confidence in their coach and confidence in one another is what creates chemistry…and chemistry creates wins.

Now, while it may not make the top of your list of things to do for the New Year, I would strongly urge you to get to know your Affiliate teams…

Many fans don’t take the time to realize what an impact our “farm” teams have on the big clubs, but when injury plagues a team, it’s up to the rookies and prospects to step up their game and keep our teams in it…but by far the most amazing thing about following the AHL has been watching these guys grow. Watching their skills and talents evolve, watching their hunger and intensity deepen.

To watch a young player on NHL ice for the first time is to see the love of the game in it’s purest form.

The way hockey was intended.


What It Feels Like to Fall in Love

January 5th, 2008…the day my life changed. I wish I could say that my story is beautiful and poetic, however I can’t…but I can say, that day was a pivotal point for me. Within a day and a moment my life switched paths.

Let me set the scene for you…

Here is a young(ish) girl. An uprooted New Yorker living in California. A girl with no real passion for anything in particular. No hunger, no joie de vivre (though not for lack of trying to find one). She walked through life – aimlessly it seemed – knowing that there was something more out there for her…a place that she would fit into (where everybody knows her name?), and a passion that was just as eager to find her as she was to find it…but what was it?

She went to school…tried her hand at a couple different majors…Fashion Merchandising Management, Marketing and even toyed with the idea of becoming a Geologist. But something was missing. She thought maybe she could go to trade school to become a mechanic, after all – she had a huge love for all things automotive…but really, did she actually want to be a mechanic? Heck no!

Everyone told her to stick to what was safe…and Business was safe. Did it feel right? Absolutely not. She knew there was something out there…one thing that would just grab a hold of her and not let go. One thing that would make her happy, genuinely happy, for the rest of her life…and almost like how the hair on the back of your neck stands up before lightning strikes, she could sense that it was about to find her and hit her like a ton of bricks.

Fast forward to Christmas time 2007…my mother-in-law decided to purchase a 3-game Shark Pak for her husband for Christmas. I had known that he was a huge Sharks fan but didn’t really know any more about it other than that…heck (I’m embarrassed to say), up until earlier that year I didn’t even know that the Bay Area had an NHL team. Don’t forget, I’m an “ignorant New Yorker” (do any other states even exist?). Needless to say, my husband and I were asked to accompany my in-laws to one of the games. January 5th, 2008 against Columbus.

I wish I could say that the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming game resulted in a week-long cheesy smile plastered on my gorgeous face, put I can’t…I was going along with it because it was something to do, and I had a mild curiosity for what a pro-hockey game actually felt like. Now, before I go any further you must realize – I had no interest in sports for 24 years of my life. None, zilch, nada. Not for a lack of effort though, I mean I’ve been to my fair share of Yankees and Mets games, I even used to play basketball when I was younger and of course lets not forget, followed my high school football team to the Long Island Championships…but really, I hated it. All of it. I was a daddy’s girl and my daddy didn’t like sports. (Not his fault at all, he’s way awesome in other aspects) My daddy liked to teach me about cars, trucks and anything mechanical really…and I absorbed it like a sponge. I was the anti-sports girl who would much rather go tear down a Chevy small block than watch a single play of the Superbowl. Sports and I, we just didn’t see eye to eye.

The day of the game came up faster than I had anticipated and I remember it was a cold, dark, rainy night…
A night I would have preferred spent at home, watching Deadliest Catch re-runs and cozying up next to the dead Christmas Tree…but alas, I found myself walking down the dark, wet streets of San Jose, on my way to HP Pavilion.

I had no idea what to expect. I had nothing to gauge this on, and I definitely skeptical that I was actually going to enjoy it…

I remember rounding the corner and seeing the Tank in front of me…my heart almost skipped a beat. It was gorgeous. The closer we got, the more I felt something stirring inside me. Then we walked up the cement steps and through the doors of what looked like a crystal palace…and that aroma hit me…the smell of cold icy air, hot dogs, beer and churros…and I swear, I’ve never smelled a more comforting aroma in all my life. There was also something else I noticed…something I couldn’t quite put my finger on but now understand…there is something like a buzz, a current of energy that reverberates throughout the Tank on Game Night…its something that I’m sure every arena has, but this was my first time to feel it.

It was amazing to see all the people donning jerseys and t-shirts and feather boas, and teal wigs and face paint, all these people who had two things in common…one, they were all completely and totally devoted to this Sharks team, and two, they all wore the biggest smiles I had ever seen in my life.

As we climbed up to our “nosebleed” seats, I remember thinking “wow, you can actually see pretty dang good from here!”

Then the puck dropped…and my eyes never came off the ice. It was like I was in a trance (a trance which was further compounded by seeing Steve Bernier on the Jumbo-tron after he scored)…and speaking of scoring, I definitely wasn’t prepared for the celebration that erupted when we scored for the first time that night…it was a feeling that, believe it or not, I still get at every single game and it never gets old…its like an electric current just runs through the Tank. Almost like you could literally power the entire city of San Jose with our energy alone. As something I had never experienced before, this completely blew me away. I kept glancing over at my husband and giving him the look of “Why the hell have we never done this before??”
I have recently come to the conclusion that any man who denies his girlfriend/wife the chance to attend a live hockey game is guilty of a form of domestic abuse…yes, take him to the Police and file a report ladies…

It seemed as though with every minute that passed in the Shark Tank that night, something was changing in me. I felt like an Autobot (a cute one) transforming into something badass…but I didn’t know what. All I did know was that I was feeling a couple things that I had not felt in quite some time…and never to this extent.

Joy…complete unadulterated joy in its purest form. I knew I had stumbled something huge. Something that sparked a fire inside of me like I’ve never felt before. While I watched the players fly down the ice with such ferocity and determination I felt like everything else in the world just faded away…all of my worries, all of my stress…I have never felt more right in all of my life…watching the puck pass crisply from stick to stick as the players cycled around the net, I was just in awe…fully immersed in absolute amazement and wonder.

The other thing I recognized making an appearance was an overwhelming sense of pride…unless you’re a sports fan, player (or parent I’m sure) you have yet to truly experience the true meaning of pride. Actually, it wasn’t until recently I realized that pride is a lot like a seed. You plant a little piece of it initially…and with some time and some TLC it begins to grow…and grow…and grow…and grow to the point where it doesn’t even all fit inside the arena on game night. Instead it overflows out into the city and surrounding towns…soon it begins to touch anyone who comes in contact with it.
I strongly believe that there is no pride felt that compares to that of a hockey fan’s…
Why is that you ask? It’s simple…there is absolutely no sport as glorious, graceful and amazing as hockey.

Simply thinking about how in one night, three hours actually, one single hockey game transformed the old lack-luster, sports-hating, no direction finding Joanne into the one putting pen to paper right now…it just amazes me.

Ever since that day I my life has never been the same…and its not just as simple as saying I became a sports fan. Any hockey lover will attest to the fact that its more than just a sport. Falling in love with hockey has proven that it doesn’t only take over your life, but it takes over your heart. Our players are more than just athletes, our arenas are more than just ice rinks, and our fellow fans are more than just friends.

Every time I stop to think about the past ten months, it completely blows me away. I think of how lucky I am to have opened my heart to the greatest sport on earth…and all the joys that have come along with it. I have felt the pride of being a hockey fan, and the thrill of reliving that pride every time I write about the game….but the best part of all (by far) is the people I have met and connections I have made since falling into this community. I cannot even begin to express my thanks to all of the friends I have made. You all have truly shown me that the core values of this sport don’t only exist in it’s players…I have never seen so much compassion, intelligence, heart, character and of course pride…you have all played a huge part in helping me find what it is I have been looking for…

Today I was walking through a store and a little notebook caught my eye…and the quote on that notebook really kind of covers it all…

“What you are comes to you.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Indeed it does…


What's This About Soup and Who is This Campbell You Speak Of?

No. Really. I don’t know who this “Brian Campbell” character is, but what I do know is that the Sharks defensive line is not currently accepting applications.

I kid of course…how could any Sharks fan forget Brian “Soupy” Campbell? We had quite the intense little fling and faster than we could say “Mmm Mmm Good…” he was gone. Ah, such is life.

I think to compare Brian Campbell and Dan Boyle, you need to see it from a Sharks fan’s perspective…and that’s what I am, so that’s what you’re going to get.

This is a tale that has been pushed to the back of many Sharks fans minds, along side the Round Two disappointment and kissing Ron Wilson goodbye…I’m sure many would agree, these three things combined with the acquisition of Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich and Rob Blake have proven to be the catalysts we needed to propel us into success for the 08-09 season.

However, let’s not forget what great contributions these collectively were to our game. The Campbell versus Boyle debate is something that we as Sharks fans still hear and are asked about on a very regular basis…so I guess now is as good a time as any to air it all out, put it on record and have ourselves a nice big helping of cold, leftover soup.

Reaching back into the dark corners of my memory, I blast through the flashbacks. The flashbacks of the trade deadline and the flashbacks of the end of last season, and all of the emotions come flooding back. The Emotional Roller Coaster of Playoff Hockey…and how sweet it really, really was…

Once upon a time…

The Sharks left for a road trip after a disappointing Valentine’s Day loss at home against Edmonton, and little did we know on that miserable, miserable Valentine’s Day that the team that would return two weeks later would be a welcome change to the one that left. The biggest change of all had much to do with Brian Campbell…now, while February 26th brought us (me specifically…yes I’m selfish about this) the heartache of losing Steve Bernier, it also brought the optimistic wonder of a brand new player…a highly touted defenseman named Brian Campbell. A defenseman that we undoubtedly were in need of. Our blue line needed help and supposedly this was the man who was going to do the fixing.

Not only did Campbell rekindle the fire in our blue line, but he created great chemistry with the rest of the team and it seemed as though new life was breathed into this team who’s recent record was nothing to shake a hockey stick at…the team began to gel so well that Campbell’s presence on the team resulted in a 20+ game streak without a regulation loss. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here…let’s go back and take a look at the climactic game that saw Brian Campbell skate straight into the hearts of San Jose’s fans…the Sharks homecoming game after their road trip…the first chance that we Sharks fans got to watch the new kid on the block live and in person.

It would be an understatement to say that the game, and the new addition to the team absolutely blew us away…we didn’t really have an offensive defenseman, and to watch one of Campbell’s caliber and skill playing for our team was truly a trip of epic proportions. The culmination of the night was Campbell’s infamous spin-o-rama goal on Carey Price…it just didn’t get any better.

The only thing that has ever even compared to the Tank that night was perhaps Game 7 versus Calgary or Game 5 versus Dallas…but really, when you hear all of HP Pavilion chanting “Sign him!” its hard not to chant along…especially when it seems like all of your problems have been fixed…and your team has been saved…

20+ games later…the honeymoon is over.
Our beloved “Soupy” takes a penalty in the fourth overtime in game 6 against Dallas…an elimination game.

I don’t think any player in the history of televised hockey has been cursed up and down as much as he was at that moment. Maybe we needed someone to point a finger at, but really at this point it became apparent that Campbell just didn’t want to be here anymore. His play started to deteriorate and so did the “magic” that came with his acquisition. The “sign him!” chants were no more…we knew better. He had no intention of signing here, he was simply on a good-weather vacation to California.

When Campbell left, pretty much everyone who wasn’t a Sharks fan saw it as a loss…we read it in articles, saw it on tv and heard it from friends. But once again we knew better, something bigger was in the cards…and with the trust we have in Doug Wilson, we knew he wouldn’t let us down…this is his team as much as it is ours, and he clearly wants to win.

On Independence Day, Wilson came through with a trade so amazing, I still can’t believe it. With Dan Boyle all but being run out of Tampa Bay, he was left hanging out to dry – and no better time for the Sharks to strengthen our blue line and pick him up…along with his number one man, Brad Lukowich. Two amazing d-men in return for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart (prospect) and two draft picks.

When the general public learned of the trade, the excitement just started flowing from everyone…and soon it was “Campbell who?”

Everyone, not even just fans of the Sharks, were talking about what a fantastic team we were going to have for this new season, and how Boyle was going to work wonders for our team. I really had no idea…I didn’t follow Tampa Bay, I am still new to the game, I really didn’t have a clue as to what we were getting with these guys. Needless to say, I was and still am, blown away.

With four goals, seven assists and a plus-minus of 7 so far for the season, Dan Boyle is proving to be an integral part of our early success…but it’s more than just the numbers. Since he established himself on the team, the blue line has been unstoppable…not to mention the transformation our entire team has made. An incredible amount of shots are coming from the blue line and succeeding…defensemen like Christian Ehrhoff and Marc-Eduard Vlasic have also stepped up their game accordingly and are completely different players from their last season counterparts.

To say that Dan Boyle has made an impression on San Jose is an immense understatement…he’s made an impression on the entire league…an impression that will last far beyond 20 games. Between his speed, puck handling and finesse, Dan Boyle is an immensely valuable player to this hockey league…he is the definition of a true defenseman. We know that he wants to be with us, you could hear it in his voice and see it in his smile from the day he got here. Since coming to San Jose he has been able to shine and be appreciated for the energy, charisma, character and heart he brings to the game. The personalities and experience of Boyle, Lukowich and Blake have brought a new life to San Jose…and the proof is in the Gatorade…the numbers speak for themselves, and the chemistry on the Sharks bench is undeniable.

The truth here is, you can’t really compare Campbell to Boyle…one was born to wear a Sharks jersey and the other wasn’t.
Plain and simple.


A Tale of Two Cities, and Two Places Called "Home"

Many of you who already know me, know at least these two things…

One – That I am a diehard Sharks fan…and,

Two – That I am not from California.

Now while these are two things I embrace about myself (possibly more than anything else) I have to say, the further I find myself sinking into full-on hockey fanhood, I’m recognizing a feeling I haven’t felt before…(in regard to hockey anyway)

Guilt…yes guilt. This could be my Italian Catholic upbringing talking, but allow me to explain…

Twenty-four years of my life, I went about doing my thing…day to day without ever thinking about a puck, a faceoff, a blue line, a blocker or heck, even a hockey player (save that year in high school when I was crushing something fierce on one of the guys on our hockey team…and I attended a couple of games at The Rinx)
I mean, I had grown up on Eastern Long Island (way out there) so I definitely knew who the Rangers were…and I definitely knew that the Islanders sucked…but it was all simply because I heard it all from other people. No one in my family has probably even mentioned the word “hockey” or “goalie” in their lives (until recently because I force-feed them now) but I was ok with it, because I didn’t know or understand what I was missing.

I was aware of the rivalry. The infamous battle of NY versus Long Island. I witnessed it amongst fellow students growing up, amongst family friends and on tv…but I wasn’t a part of it, and frankly didn’t care.

Twenty-four years of not caring ended on January 5th, 2008…and it was then that I realized, all at once, what I had been missing for all of those twenty-four years. But the saddest (or greatest) part of it all, is that I realized it 3,000 miles too late.

This is where the guilt rears its ugly head.

I soon became so engrossed and taken with the Sharks that I started to doubt that my life could ever be without hockey again! How did I carry on for twenty-four years without it?! The bug bit me, and I liked it. I liked it very much.

Then something happened during the playoffs last season…I watched a Rangers game.

And I liked it.

I soon started following the Rangers and researching the team and even (to many Long Islanders’ disapproval) rooting for them.
Even everyone’s favorite chirping machine, Sean Avery started growing on me…(I know, I know)

They say there’s nothing stronger than New York pride, and you better believe I finally started to understand what that meant.
I then started looking at the Islanders…which is where the real feelings of guilt come in.

Here is this team who, quite frankly to the majority of hockey fans, sucks…but I started looking deeper into their talent, and not only did I really begin to respect this team, but it hit me, this is my hometown team. Is this who I should have been rooting for all these years? And when I watch an Isles game on tv it really tugs at my heart strings to see the Coliseum so empty…should I be sitting there, cheering for these guys? In a way, I felt like a traitor.

But then I thought about it…and I still think about it…most people just find it funny that I got into hockey in California of all places, but obviously something bigger has brought me to the Bay Area. (no, I don’t mean an A320) I couldn’t tell you what that is…because I still don’t know. Would I have ever even given hockey a second thought if I had never left NY? Maybe not. I do know, I probably would never have had the chance to experience all that I have and meet the people I have met and done the things that I have done if I had stayed on Long Island, content with my hockey-less life.

So, was I born to be a Sharks fan? It sure feels that way. When I look onto the ice as my guys skate out for the first time each night, in some silly way it feels like family…and when I look around at all the 17,500 familiar faces in the immense crowd surrounding the ice, I feel like I am home.


The Worcester Chonicles (aka Homer"itis")

As someone who loves to write about this game as well as my team, I will be the first one to admit that it’s something that’s a lot easier to do when you have things to complain about. When our teams are doing well (more specifically topping the league in points, ahem) and keeping smiles on our happy faces, we’re conveniently silent, whereas when our boys go about stinking up the place, the rants never seem to end…

This is one case where I’m making an exception.

Cue full blown homerism.

I know I’m not the only Sharks fan to feel this way but, we’re pretty lucky here in San Jose. No, its not the weather, or the Cali beaches, or the meticulously manicured city that makes me say that. Its more than that…it’s something we all know and you can feel the pride in the air any time you venture near the Tank.
What is it that makes us lucky, you ask? Well, allow me to enlighten you.

Home sweet home…the Shark Tank is completely amazing. Ask anyone who’s ever been here and they’ll tell you…from the beautiful concourse, to the seating, and even the Blue Jackets (no I don’t mean Columbus) game time never fails to disappoint. The food could be a little better, but hey, who can complain when you’re watching a live hockey game?

My Comrades…my partners in crime…the fellow fans…and I don’t just mean the other 17,495 people who sit next to me when the puck drops…_I mean our whole community_. I am sure everyone who’s been to HP or knows a Shark fan could attest to the fact that we are quite the little group. We take as much pride in each other as we do in our team, and are as quick to defend one another as we are our boys…and that’s just how it is. Don’t mess.

The boys…Team Teal themselves. What can I say that hasn’t been said by every one of their fans, friends, supporters, announcers, staff members, journalists and even each other? It comes down to the fact that every last one of these men represent the core values of the sport…
Character, heart, resiliency, creativity, work ethic, commitment, hunger.

Its part of their make up. Its what fuels the pride and dedication of their fans…all of these things are what make us lucky to be called “Sharks fans”.

Recently however, I experienced something that many Sharks fans have not had the opportunity to experience. Something that is definitely an extension of everything said above…and it’s something that I feel needs some significant recognition…so I’m gonna give it…

I took a trip back East this past Halloween to take in the “spirit o’ the witch trials” in Salem, Massechussetts…in planning this trip I thought it might be fun to go to Worcester to catch a game, you know – when in Rome. Now, in case some of you don’t know, Worcester is the home of the Sharks AHL Affiliate, the Worcester Sharks.

Needless to say I had no idea what to expect…this would be the first hockey game outside of San Jose that I’ve ever attended…and I was going it alone. That’s right, all by my onesie…but regardless…_I was beyond excited._

I got my ticket. One solitary ticket…_sigh._ But hey, atleast I got to sit center ice, first row behind the Sharks bench right?

When game day came, I went and rented my car…(it was a cute little black Altima that flew up 90 like nobody’s business…) and was on my way…a little nervous to say the least, and I had a one hour trip to get the full on butterflies…

I was told by someone “in the know” that everybody’s friendly in Worcester. I guess I just didn’t think much of it.

Once I stepped inside the DCU Center, it seemed as though everyone I encountered did all they could to make sure I was happy, and when they found out I came out from San Jose they were beside themselves. Everyone was so accomodating and so incredible it made me feel like I was part of the community. There was an instance where they were afraid they were making a bad impression on me but in fact nothing could be further from the truth…

When it was time for the puck to drop I was ready (but unprepared) for just how much these players would blow me away. Now, some of you may be familiar with a couple of their names if you’ve been following the Sharks for the past two weeks…but regardless of what you know, I’m going to assume you don’t…and I want you to introduce you to a few guys who you may very well see more of in the upcoming months.

Meet the Worcester Sharks…the lesser known guys who possess the same core values as anyone else in the Sharks organization. Given the veteran roster our NHL team has, you may not see a lot of these boys but please don’t sell their incredible talent short…

Tom Cavanaugh

This Center made his NHL debut on April 4th against the Kings at the end of last season and on his first shift on the ice, recorded his first point as an assist on Joe Thornton’s goal…needless to say, he found a home in fans’ hearts pretty quickly.

At the game I attended on 11/1 against the Manchester Monarchs, Cavanaugh tallied an assist on the first goal of the night and got the second goal for Worcester.

Its no doubt that his 55 points (19 G, 36 A) from last season is the reason he sees so much ice time…and now with NHL experience under his belt, he’s even more of a force on Worcester’s roster. When you watch him play you definitely get that he’s the “big man on campus”.

Lukas Kaspar

Made his NHL debut in the Sharks home opener against the Anaheim Ducks…went on to notch his first NHL goal against the Kings – which would wind up being the only goal of the night as well as the game winner. Lukas put up the third goal of the game against Manchester and got his first goal of the Worcester season…

Anyone who’s seen him play can attest to the fact that Kaspar’s got a lot of natural talent…and the crowd certainly went wild after he scored and he’s one of those guys who doesn’t try to hide their excitement. It is a pleasure to watch him succeed.

Jamie McGinn

Made his NHL debut at home in San Jose against Pittsburgh but went on to notch his first NHL goal against the Red Wings on October 30th. He came up huge again on Election Day versus the Minnesota Wild when he tallied the second goal of the night.

In my eyes, Jamie is a perfect fit in San Jose. His style of play is so professional, he looks like he’s been in the NHL for much longer than three games, and no I’m not just saying that because he’s scored two goals so far…there’s just something there. He also gels so well with the team and matches the intensity of his fellow linemates that I can’t help but jump to my feet any time he skates onto the ice for a shift. He’s got that hunger – McGinn wants the McWin.

Derek Joslin

This gritty defenseman hasn’t seen any NHL action yet this season but I know that will soon come to an end. I didn’t get the chance to catch him during training camp but from what I saw throughout our preseason, Joslin will only add depth to our blue line if that’s where McLellan chooses to keep him. Much like McGinn, Joslin has a natural knack for gelling with the team…

At the November 1st game versus Manchester, he didn’t register any points but he did catch a tripping penalty which his teammates easily killed. When you watch him on the ice, especially at Worcester, you get a real sense of his strong leadership skills. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time and is a constant support to his linemates.

Thomas Greiss

What can I say about Greiss? Is it his Zoolander-esque looks that do it? Or maybe just his German charm? No…while those things are quite true (and irrelevant) what really stands out when you watch Greiss in goal is how much he has learned from Nabby. During warm ups at Saturday’s game, it felt as if I was back here in San Jose while watching Greiss executing drills. While he still has a little ways to go, the lil’ Nabby protege left me amazed with some of the saves he made that night.

Until we acquired Brian Boucher last season, Greiss was the main back-up boy. Until that fateful road trip game against the Isles last February when Nabby was injured by a slapshot to the mask, (I believe it was Mike Comrie…this Long Islander is not amused, MIKE.) Greiss really hadn’t had the opportunity to show his stuff…and even though they wound up losing the contest it was experience for Greiss…experience from which as far as I can tell, he has grown immensely.

I can’t even begin to express how much recognition this team deserves…but alas, being “sold short” is the name of the AHL game it seems…and proving yourself game in and game out is as much of a necessity as lacing up your skates.

However I would strongly recommend that if you live or ever visit the Boston area, take the trip to Worcester. You won’t be disappointed. In fact I can guarantee that you’ll have an absolute blast…I know I did…and heck, I was all alone.

There are more Sharks that you have yet to be introduced to, in fact I had a much longer list initially…but I figure you can probably only handle one tasty helping of AHL homerism at a time…so I’ll curb it for now and leave you, my reader, with this…something that happened tonight. Something that solidified what being a hockey fan and a lover of the game is really all about…

Tonight I attended the Sharks game versus St. Louis, but what was different about this game was that I decided to invite my best friend Kevin to come along. He is a diehard football fan who has never given hockey a second thought let alone been to a game…he knows what a significant role hockey plays in my life and has expressed interest in having me try to “win him over” by taking him to a game…a way to plead my case if you will. I expected it to be fun, I knew he would have a great time…but I didn’t expect him to love every minute of it like he did. He was completely blown away…and watching his amazement reminded me of January 5th…11 months ago now…when that slack-jawed newbie was me. Not having a clue as to what was going on but being completely taken by the game. It was then that I realized that I didn’t have to plead my case…this sport speaks for itself…and it speaks volumes in a single shift.

When I asked him if he had a good time, and his response was a speechless ear to ear grin, I knew I had my answer.


A Little Ditty About Shorties, Newbies and Breaking Things.

I will not gloat…I refuse to do so. While a win is very satisfying (very very satisfying) its usually only a goal or two away from a loss…(unless you’re the Flyers, in which case its more like 5 or 6 goals away from a loss) and its always a good idea to remember – for every “up” there is a equally as dramatic “down” that is just waiting in the wings…

That being said…I think its important to realize here that the Penguins battled their little diving hearts out (sorry I had to) for the Stanley Cup itself only a short 5 months ago…what I want to know is, what happened during those 5 months? Did the team hang out at Chuck E. Cheese instead of going to the gym? Did they follow Hannah Montana on tour instead of attending Training Camp? I do not have the answers to these questions…but I do know, the team that played tonight against the Sharks at HP Pavilion probably would have lost a battle for a Dixie Cup.

Now, like I said, I’m not gloating…in fact its quite the opposite – I’m sitting here wondering what the Pens were doing/thinking all night. I was really looking forward to a hard fought, rough and tumble game…instead this is what we got:

Shelley and Goddard doing the waltz… Well, thats what it looked like anyway. I think Jody was even disappointed with the lack of “fight” that Goddard put up. Maybe that Jody Shelley Halloween video opener really scared him…I don’t know.

Pavs picking up a Shorty…and no I’m not talking a “ghetto booty girl”…but really, is there anything better…anything, than scoring shorthanded? If you’re asking me (and I think you are) then I’m going to answer that “No!”. There is nothing better than scoring shorthanded (ask Jeff Carter or Patty Marleau)…especially when its your team’s fifth of the season so far. And don’t forget – but if you already did, I’m going to say it again – Joe Pavelski is going to have a stellar season. Mark. My. Words. I was really waiting for Milan Michalek to score the big one tonight as he had sooo many chances…but try as he might he just couldn’t do it…let it be said though, Milan was the one who initiated the breakaway on the shorthanded goal. Pavs simply put it away after the rebound…hey – gotta give props where props be needed. Speaking of props…

A Baby Shark Making His NHL Debut…well I hate to say “baby” Shark, but regardless, Jamie McGinn was recalled from Worcester and played his very first NHL game tonight and in my opinion, held his own with the best of them. He stayed on the puck, kept the puck in the offensive zone and wasn’t afraid to get in the corners. There were a few times I thought for sure he was primed for an assist as he did well passing and setting up the puck. But depending upon how long McLellan keeps him around, I definitely see much more coming from McGinn…I for one, cheered every time he stepped onto the ice. Stay tuned for more on that next week.

Sharks Break a Record…ok, so when I said I wouldn’t gloat I meant it…save this one little tidbit…a record was broken tonight…and given the team that it was broken against, I feel quite proud right about now. Tonight we broke a franchise record of least amount of shots on goal allowed in a single game. Final SOG tally – Sharks 34, Pens 11. And now while I know that SOG is sometimes a misleading statistic, the fact that the Pens only got 11 shots off speaks volumes about both teams on the ice tonight…the Sharks defense system is up and running again…quite the well-oiled machine I might add…and the Pens offensive line (arguably one of the best in the league) is seriously missing something. Yeah, I know all about “players being hurt” but you’ve got to work through it. It can’t be an excuse. Not for the Pens…the Lightning maybe, but not the Pens…but hey, at least the Lightning won right?

Also, the Sharks are 13-0-1 at home since Valentines day this past year and 5-0-0 at home, this season so far…an impressive statistic that I believe says a lot about the atmosphere at the Tank.

So the gloating wasn’t that bad, was it? There were tons of other things I could be writing here as well…like how JennaTee is a BAMF to the 33rd degree (yes, I threw that in there for our beloved and grouchy little back up boy) and how I met yet another amazing Connector tonight and how I’ve never heard a crowd boo like the boo’s I heard when Sid cried his little eyes out all the way to the sin bin…

But no, I’m not, nor will I ever gloat…not my style.

Anyway, stay tuned for next week’s AHL REPORT blog, as I will be traveling all the way to see our AHL Affiliate team the Worcester Sharks play the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday the 1st. It will be a blast and I can’t wait (although I’m sure you all can) to introduce you to the boys…

I’m sorry, did this blog come off gloat-esque?


What Happens When The East Coast Boys Come Out West

This is going to be a tough one to write about. I had been waiting the entire off season for this game. As of Thursday morning we weren’t even going to be in town for this game which honestly broke my heart. I was supposed to be at Yosemite…enjoying a relaxing weekend of watching my back for bears and dodging annoying tourists. But my luck turned as we found out that the family friends we were supposed to be staying with had an emergency and we were off the hook.

But in the end, it worked out (for us anyway) because we got to go to the game. We got tickets in the lower bowl…and I was so psyched to get my butt to the tank. Like I said before, I had been waiting the entire off season for this game. You may ask, Why Teal? Why this game? Let me enlighten you…

You see, we all have those teams that we secretly love. I don’t care who you are, what team you support – you’ve got a crush on another team. We all do. Trust me.

For those of you who do not know, for me that team is the Flyers. Through the playoffs and into the off season I learned a lot about the team and with the help of a few of the Flyers faithful here on Connect I’ve come to realize that they’ve got a lot to offer. I appreciate the talent they possess, as well as the work ethic and character of the guys themselves and they’ve got two amazing goaltenders who the fans absolutely adore…

Needless to say I knew it would be a great game to go to…but I noticed something I didn’t expect.

I didn’t expect there to be such a presence of Flyers fans…especially not 3,000 miles away from their team’s home city. But despite the fact that most Sharks fans got their cages rattled every time the Flyers scored (and their fans chirped accordingly) I loved it. It was all in good fun and I could only imagine how good it feels to be a fan of the visiting team when your boys score…pretty good for the ego, eh? Besides, the cheers from the fans in orange sounded like elevator music compared to the explosion in the tank when the Sharks found the net…but like I’ve heard many times before, the Tank is a tough place for other teams to play in…hmmm, I wonder why…

It was pretty amazing to see Biron and Niittymaki up close and personal, as well as the rest of the boys. I do have to say, Upshall and Richards are MUCH better in person than in pictures…I’m just sayin.

After the Sharks game in Anaheim on Friday night, I was a little apprehensive about how Saturday night’s game would play out. If these “new” Sharks were anything like ye olde Sharks, it didn’t bode well for them. Also, this was our first game against an Eastern Conference team…it certainly would prove to be interesting if nothing else.

I guess I just wasn’t prepared for exactly how interesting it would be.
When the puck dropped it was like the Flyers were shot out of a cannon. Their speed was incredible and their physical play was unexpected to say the least. They brought so much intensity to San Jose…it was nice to see. Given their current record, you could definitely tell they wanted it. You could see the hunger in every guy wearing a Flyers jersey…fans included.

If you didn’t know that the Flyers hadn’t won a game yet, you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell from last night’s performance. They played like a team that had their stuff together. All of their lines really seemed to gel, Danny Briere was on his game again, their forecheck was large and in charge, their penalty kill (unfortunately for us) was great and their goaltending was, well…if you don’t know by now then you better just see your way out of this blog.

The energy and intensity could also be seen in the penalties that were taken and the gloves that were dropped. I loved seeing how scrappy both teams were with each other. Being as we generally don’t get to see their beautiful faces that often, it was good to see our boys pound them the first chance we got.

As for my boys in teal, what can I say? Our D scored 2 out of 5 goals last night…which is an incredible feat in my opinion. After Braydon Coburn’s goal early in the second, Ehrhoff came up huge with a amazing goal…our first of the night…Ehrhoff has come a long way from last season (thank goodness) and believe me when I say, it is a welcome change for this team. Then Jeff Carter got a shortie on our power play which surprised even Nabby I’m sure. We were down by a two goal deficit…then at the end of the second, a screen was set up and Cheechoo put one up on the scoreboard for us with an amazing tip-in during a power play. Pavelski evened things up in the third and then Setoguchi proved he is really stepping up his game and playing hard with the big boys. He came through for us in the third with a goal so beautiful it should be framed and placed in the Thomas Kincade Archives in Monterey.

And do I really need to say anything about Dan Boyle? We were in need of offensive defensemen and he certainly does the job. Not only is he a great addition to our Defense but he and Rob Blake have also improved our entire defensive line, and combined with McLellan pushing for more shots from the blue line – our D is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

I do think that defense was a little more concerned with scoring than blocking shots last night. They let too many shots get to Nabby…shots that may have been few and far between but they were powerful…and four of them saw the back of our net.

The one thing I keep hearing over and over again is how the Sharks out shot the Flyers 45-17. While to our credit, the Sharks absolutely fantastic taking shots at the net, everyone seems fixated on discrediting the Flyers on their low SOGs…to that let me just say this – at one point in the 2nd period, I looked up at our shots on goal…the Flyers only had nine…but out of those nine, three found the back of the net, so really, what does that say about this team??

I think everyone (Sharks fans included) were impressed with how the Flyers played here last night. I don’t think we expected that much speed and intensity..and I know we definitely didn’t expect Niittymaki to be so stellar.

While my Sharks were absolutely outstanding on Saturday night, at times I certainly felt that this game easily could have gone the other way. The Flyers played like a winning team…and I think in their hearts they did think that they were that winning team. You Flyers fans have a lot to be proud of with these guys. They have a lot of success waiting for them this season…just as my Sharks do. I think this season is going to show us some unlikely heroes…and I can’t wait to meet them.

This is the reason I was so distracted during the game…

When we got home last night I asked my husband if it was ok that I loved Marty Biron more than him and he said yes. So I’m good…


Its Like I've Waited My Whole Life...For This One Night...

So this is my “home opener” blog…hopefully it won’t be a homer blog.
I wanted to write this a while ago but decided to wait…I wanted to wait because there still were a few teams (and fans) who hadn’t experienced their home opener yet…and quite frankly I like hearing about everyone else’s experiences more than anything.

But here it is…my first home opener.

We were lucky. We were one of three teams who hosted their home opener on Thursday October 9th…the first day of regular season hockey on North American soil. So in a way, the 17,496 of us helped ring in the new season, not only for the Sharks but for the entire league.

So what better a way to celebrate the night than a pre-game street rally? A little beer for charity, free ice cream and some great hockey…who could ask for anything more?? Really!

Playstation had consoles and TV’s set up, Best Buy was handing out Geek Squad t-shirts, Dave and Busters was giving out free t-shirts and power cards, TOGO’s was passing around vouchers for free sandwiches, Barracuda had a “Puck the Ducks” table set up (best idea yet)

and there was a dunk tank in which an unlucky volunteer donning a Ducks Jersey sat beside a sign reading “Dunk the Anaheim Ducks”.

All in all it was a huge party. We left with more free stuff than we’ll ever find use for but it was truly a great time.

The Home Opener was also a mystery puck night. For those of you who may not know, this is when you purchase a wrapped puck for $20 (which goes to the Sharks Foundation) and then you unwrap it and reveal which player’s autograph you got. We usually always participate…mainly because I really want to buy one of those huge puck display cases and show them off.
(If you want to know who’s puck I got, just ask… wink.png )

Then we were finally free to roam…we were back home.
On the concourse I felt like a little idiot…I had a ridiculously lame spring in my step…the same “spring” that you get when you first fall in love or when you win a million dollars (not like I have ANY experience with the latter…) but when I looked around, I realized – everyone had that same giddy, happy-go-lucky gleam in their eyes. Coulda been the beer, but either way, we just couldn’t wait.

This was it, this is our very first game in ink…the first one in the official books. This game would set the tempo for the beginning of our new season…we just had to get it right. Nothing could spoil our spirits…we just knew we weren’t going home disappointed.

When the Tank was full, and the lights were dimmed, the crowd went wild…just wild. The volume and energy rivaled a playoff atmosphere…I don’t even think the players could have expected that in their wildest dreams they could be that well loved…but especially in the wake of last season’s dramatic successes and tragic losses, it seems that the connection between this team and their loyal fans has tightened and become much closer than before…if that’s even possible.

Then the banner was lowered – Pacific Division Champs … which no doubt brought a tear to the eye of many of the Sharks’ faithful. We may only have three banners in our rafters now, but they are three hard fought, blood-sweat-and-tears stained banners, banners that will only multiply in our seasons to come…

We got introduced to our “new” 2008-2009 San Jose Sharks and then the puck dropped…

And as far as the game went…
What I wanna know is, who told Parros to keep it clean? Maybe his momma was sick of nursing his absurd wounds and gave him a serious talkin’ to. Either way, it seemed he did not want to drop the gloves that night…at all. Who knows – his face was probably still sore from his last rendevous at San Jose. The game really started off pretty slow and I wish I could say it was enthralling and spectacular but it was neither…something was being held back…BIG TIME. It was like we were skating through three feet of water the entire first period…no exciting fights, or hits, or breakaways…(I think I even dozed off at one point?)

But things were to change after the first intermission.

It seems that the way we played this first game has dictated the way we have played all others since…we come out swinging in the second and third. It seems to be working. Nabby is wonderfully consistent and our D is D-lightful…its hard to really analyze the play when our coaching staff is still trying out line combinations…all one can really attest to is that the Sharks look great.

With every breakaway, every shot, every goal, every power play…the fans just got more and more into it…to the point where Parros taking a penalty brought the entire Tank to its feet and the cheers were deafening. Being a new fan and experiencing a lot of “firsts” I realized what’s so special about the season opener…its a new beginning. A symbol of change, reinvention, learning from your old mistakes…and for the Sharks its picking up where we left off…but stronger, smarter and better than before.

On October 9th, I felt something as strong as I felt it on January 5th…the magic of a hockey game. It’s like falling in love all over again. January 5th was my first ever game…the day that changed my world forever. Every day since then I’ve learned more and more about the game, and with every new thing I learn there’s one more reason for me to love it.

I look forward to seeing how the next few weeks unfold for our boys in the NHL…all of them. I personally am looking forward to the Sharks-Flyers game on Saturday…its one of the most highly anticipated games for me this season…

Good luck to all!

Yeah this pretty much turned out to be a homer blog…


Don't Act Like I Never Told Ya...

“Work it, make it, do it

Makes us harder, better, faster, stronger…”

The Sharks new video opener features Kanye West’s “Stronger” and when I think about it, the song seems pretty appropriate for the beginning of the new season.

As I stated in my last blog about what I observed at our preseason games, the Sharks seem to have changed for the better. In fact, looking much stronger than their last season identities…and I think the same thing goes for many other teams this season…coming back harder, better, faster and stronger.

Being as we haven’t had the privilege (for the most part) to catch a glimpse of other teams’ preseason games, I simply assumed that all the offseason changes we heard so much about across the NHL were minor and nothing to shake a hockey stick at. So while I was curious about various teams, it’s hard to make any kind of assessment when you can’t see them play. Needless to say, the games we did attend at HP gave me the opportunity to see the Ducks, Canucks and Coyotes first hand. Two out of three did impress…but we all know, preseason is just preseason – a cheap stand-in (or the dorky, ugly older brother) to the real thing. Enough said, there’s no need to whine about the preseason anymore, (I don’t have to name names here…) its just about done…if it were as useless as some think, it wouldn’t exist…if nothing else it brings us fans back together to pump us up for the new season…speaking of which

I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning on Friday night…I kept waking up, checking the time, and doing the math to see how many hours were left til the puck dropped in Prague. I just couldn’t wait for it…and I know I wasn’t the only one. I mean, we’ve been passing the time just begging the season to hurry up and get here…and now here it is…for those of us who have season tickets or partial season tickets, our family and friends will start hating us again as we will be “unavailable so don’t even bother asking” to do anything until June.

There’s no looking back now…this is it, we’ve kicked off an eight month party.

Game on.

Now, I’m gonna just make a few cheap observations here…I am aware that it’s early and things will change, but they don’t mean much – just calling it like I see it.

After watching both games yesterday, I can honestly say, a couple things surprised me. (disclaimer: I’m not exactly happy to admit some of it, trust me)

First off – Prague…

The Rangers…now I know they’ve gone through a lot in the off-season, they’ve got themselves a pretty young team now, but their play seemed a little weak to me. While they played well, I just expected them to play stronger. They just need a little time to gel. Now, I will say, Naslund blew me away. He was stellar. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for him with the Rangers – what a great addition to the team. Drury, settling into his new role as captain didn’t really make a huge presence on the ice on Saturday, but come Sunday’s game, his eight shots on goal gave me something to smile about…maybe because he’s on my fantasy team?

Stamkos…all the hype…is he living up to it? So far so good! I expect big things from this kid. Its hard to live up to the hype when everyone has made you out to be a huge deal…but he seems to have the skills to back it up. He’s also got a great team behind him. I was completely impressed with Tampa Bay on Saturday. Not only was Stamkos a pleasure to watch, but Lecavalier and St. Louis were dynamic. Not that they weren’t last season, but now that they’ve got the support of a great new team (Stamkos, Malone, Smith, Kolzig), they don’t have to carry it all on their shoulders. The blue line has gotten a shot in the arm (that was a little dramatic of me actually) with help from Matt Carle who I must say, made me proud. He may never have played like that with the Sharks but that was due, in part, to our coaching. It seems Barry Melrose is letting him develop his own style and Matt is running with it – he was the talk of the town during and after Saturday’s game. Mike Smith was also unbelievable in my opinion. He all but stood on his head to protect the net. He threw his 6’4" frame around like nothing and made some incredible saves. This team is a force this season…I seriously wouldn’t underestimate these guys. I know that they’ve got lots of work ahead but I guess it’s safe to say that they’ve made quite the impression on me.

On to Stockholm…

Talk about excitement…this match up did not disappoint! As much as I hate to say it, Sid and Geno still have lots of steam left…sorry guys. Not really sure what I feel about Fleury at this point as he didn’t impress me as much as I thought he would. Our little Penguins are still on the upswing so it seems. With Gonchar out for a few months it must have been somewhat reassuring to see guys like Scuderi stepping it up. They’ve got a lot to do in Gonchar’s absence but I’m sure they will find their legs soon enough on the blue line. I expected a little more from Kris Letang but who knows, it will be very interesting to see how Pittsburgh’s defense improves over the next few weeks. Then when the young talent like Tyler Kennedy comes out in place of someone like Petr Sykora and delivers like he did, the Eastern Conference should be very scared. There’s still an entire season to assess but from they way they started things off, its going to be an entertaining and season for you Pens fans out there. You’ve got a lot to be proud of. (Its gonna take a lot more convincing for me to join that group…sorry)

Ottawa on the other hand, is on their way to earning me as a fan. Heatley, Alfie and Spezza came up huge…while I definitely think they need to get some of the others guys to the net, the three musketeers certainly came through for Sunday’s game. It was also great to see another line coming through on Vermette’s goal. They matched the Pens intensity on Saturday and gave them a run for their money through to OT. It would be really great to see these guys have a amazing season and I think they will.

Looking forward to Thursday
Our “opening day” here in North America…the Sharks and the Ducks, the Leafs and the Wings, the Bruins and the Avs, and the Flames and the Canucks…banners will be raised, fans will scream, free stuff given away, autographed pucks will be bought, beer will be spilled, faces will be painted and smack will be talked! This is what it’s all about. This is what we have been waiting for.

I will leave you with this – (in honor of my girl Juice…)

The two Eastern teams that will be playing on Thursday – you better bring it hard because you’re coming to the WILD WEST baby…and we do things differently out here.


Preseason Playground

Yes, that’s right…it’s yet another lowly preseason blog…go ahead, roll your eyes. You can actually just close this window if you’d like (or just your eyes…whatever)…we all know how many people think so highly of preseason action. To many it means nothing…just a means to waste time before the real season begins, but to the select few of us devoted fans…fans who have been waiting with bated breath just to see their renovated teams in action for the first time, it absolutely hits the spot.

The preseason is the time to really see how the offseason changes have affected our teams. Its the time to witness the chemistry on the ice, the new players’ talents, and make our own predictions…tonight was my first preseason game as a hockey fan…and it did not disappoint.

First of all, before I get into game analysis, I will say – the Tank was buzzin’ last night. It was so fun to see everyone get reacquainted with their old “home away from home”…you could tell how happy we all were just to be there…and smell that “hockey” smell (spilled beer, pretzels, roasted nuts and vomit I’m pretty sure)…There were tons of folks there nice and early, just ecstatic to be walking the concourse again. The feel of the game itself was almost (very mildly) a playoff feel…the energy of the crowd coupled with the impressive and energetic new roster created lots of noise at the Tank. (I’m sure the fact that we were playing a division rival didn’t hurt either)

One of my favorite things before the game – the warm-ups – was completely amazing. We were able to settle in directly behind Nabby’s net and caught a great glimpse of Greiss too. The drills were drastically different from last season. Much more formal, more choreographed and deliberate…not that the drills were lax last season, it was just nice to see the change…something that clues me in to how McLellan will be impacting our team.

Thornton, Marleau, Grier, Clowe, Murray and Blake were some of the big guys who we didn’t see last night. I am assuming that they might show up for the Canucks game tonight but who knows. Honestly – very honestly – I didn’t miss them…the guys who did play really showed their true colors. If preseason games don’t mean much, they sure as heck didn’t get the memo. The dynamic on the ice was fierce! I was totally blown away by our new talent as well as the rejuvenated talent from last season (mark my words – Pavelski will have a rockstar season…) One word came to mind while watching the ice – synergy.
They were grinding it hard out there, gave Perros a run for his money, and kept the puck in the Ducks zone.

Campbell who? Oh, yeah that guy that plays for the ‘Hawks right? Yeah, don’t know him. All I do know is that our blue line rocked my socks last night…Rookie hopeful Jason Demers (60) left me speechless as he hustled the blue line from the get-go. He was rewarded with a lot of ice time and did a fantastic job with takeaways and puck control. This kid very well should find a way onto this team IMHO…he was an integral part of keeping Anaheim out of our zone.

Speaking of takeaways, it was very, very nice to see the improvement in Christian Ehrhoff. He blew me away. While last season his puck control was crappy at best, he was crisp, clean and smart last night. When Ehrhoff does well, he absolutely kills it. Yet when he trips up, he usually costs us the game…I could definitely tell (knock on wood) the latter version has gone far far away…hopefully never to return again.

In keeping with the HUGE performance of our blue line last night, Dan Boyle was warmly welcomed to San Jose. He left us all in awe by his effortless speed and ability to keep the puck. It was only a matter of time until he found the net, and the Tank just erupted. He loved every minute of it…I don’t know the last time I saw a player smile like that after scoring a goal. This guy could literally skate circles around Campbell…thank you Doug Wilson.

While there was definitely a little clumsiness on the ice, (i.e. crashing our own goal tender) all of our new guys really impressed me with their eager spirit and willingness to drop the gloves. It was great, no one got pushed around out there…

Speaking of dropping the gloves…Jody Shelley.
Ah, Jody…I’ve loved this guy since the day we got him (one of my very favorites actually) – back in January last season. Only thing was, Wilson played him as an enforcer…and that was it. Now while he is great at that, (just ask Perros…wait, maybe you shouldn’t, I think he still might be at his mama’s house recovering) the guy can skate and has no qualms about taking the puck to the net. Last night we saw him hustling hard and skating with the puck way more than we ever did last season, and I really hope this is a sign of things to come for him. I believe he is going to have a great season with us.

Our “top line”…Michalek, Pavelski and Cheechoo…couldn’t wait for them to impress me. Where Michalek kind of “fell off” during the post season, he has picked up with intensity and grit…his signature breakaways were heart-stoppers last night! And the real shocker was to see how physical he became during the few scuffles that broke out (nothing compared to that Penalty game in Dallas at the end of last season, where both teams spent more time in the box than on the ice).

Pavelski – as I previously stated – will not disappoint this season. He was on fire last night and I believe, will only get better. We are lucky to have him on our side, I’ll just say that. He is a force to be reckoned with and he scores impossible goals…thank you Joe, for our first goal of the night last night.

Cheechoo seemed to be there, everywhere, but didn’t really make any headlines. Which doesn’t bother me, we’re all pretty confident in his abilities and skill, but I think more than anything he was there as a leader on the ice last night, much like JR…they weren’t really playmakers so much as they were support for the guys who were making the plays. I think it put the spotlight on the younger players to show us what they are capable of and they definitely pulled through.

The goal tending was of course, stellar. When we played in Anaheim on Wednesday, Greiss was in net against Giguere. Not the fairest of match-ups but I’m proud of Greiss none the less. I think you could count the amount of NHL games he’s started in on one hand but still, I commend him for a great job. Now putting Hiller up against Nabby was quite a different story. Hiller started in what, about a quarter of the games last season? I remember him being quite good actually…but last night he seemed a bit off his game. I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here only because I know what Anaheim’s goal tending is capable of. Regardless, Nabby gave all of us fans what we wanted when he made a huge save on Corey Perry. The crowd went wild far beyond even a goal celebration! But really – did we expect anything less???

All in all, to say I was impressed is an understatement. The improvements made during the offseason seem to be working so far…it was great to see McLellan behind the bench. I feel that we are in great hands…and that’s nice. Tonight will be an interesting game against Vancouver. I am anxiously hoping I will get to see Bernier play, as we haven’t see him since he left us for Buffalo on our road trip last February.

So for all of you who think there is nothing to write home about when it comes to the preseason, I guess I proved you wrong. This is my longest blog yet…so come on, stop rolling your eyes now…oh wait, you’re not rolling your eyes are you…you’ve slipped into a comatose state by my rambling on and on…and, you’re drooling…