Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Turning point?

Let's put all of the "Jeremy Roenick's 500th goal" stuff aside for just a moment; from a pure hockey perspective, last night's win against the Phoenix Coyotes had all the makings of The Big Turning point in the season. Doesn't mean that Jonathan Cheechoo or Patrick Marleau put in three-point nights, but I think there are a few things that stood out that showed that this Sharks team is finally getting on the right track.

-The power play: Having Sandis Ozolinsh out there definitely makes a difference. Ozo's still got his maverick instincts and great shot, but it's tempered by a certain level of responsibility that wasn't there during his first Sharks tenure. With Ozo on the power play, it's definitely less static, and even though that hasn't turned into a ton of conversions yet, it's starting to look a lot better than the old "Give it to Joe and stand still" tactic.

-Patrick Marleau: Despite killing countless fantasy teams across the world, Marleau's shown smarter, more dedicated play over the past few games. While Devin Setoguchi's goal was notable due to the crisp passing, a big, big difference over previous games was the fact that Marleau was battling and screening in front of Alex Auld. That shows two things -- 1) a team realization that peppering 40 shots on goal produces more goals when someone's screening the goalie and 2) Marleau's breaking out of his "I'll fail at deking past everyone" mold and willing to do more to help his team out.

-Secondary scoring: Goals from Roenick and Torrey Mitchell, a goal from the defense -- if your big guns (Marleau, Cheechoo, Milan Michalek) are shooting blanks, someone's gotta pick up the slack to win.

-Karma: If you've watched the Sharks this season, you'll know that they've hardly had any bounces go their way so far. Roenick's goal was one of those really fluky things that could only happen once a season; maybe, all of those posts, crossbars, and close calls will finally start going the Sharks way.

Monday night seems to be a reasonable to actually start Dmitri Patzold, but who knows what's going through Ron Wilson's head at this point. Having Joe Pavelski center Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo produced an interesting side effect -- during overlap periods, Joe Thornton was out there with Marleau and Cheechoo.

Still, the jury remains out on whether or not this will produce the consistency that's so desperately missing. There've been several "Is this the turning point?" games so far this season, and they've all been followed up by a clunker. Even if the Sharks put in three or four games in a row, there's still the possibility of a dropoff and a lengthy lull after that. It's not just about getting Marleau, Cheechoo, and Michalek rolling, it's about getting the whole damn team playing like a team. If they can do that instead of being just a handful of freelancers out there, then things will start to fall into place. Still, Saturday night was a good first step.

2 comments:

Earl Sleek said...

Not that I'm dubious, but I'll offer a cautionary note. Ducks fans thought they had hit their "turning point" by beating the Coyotes earlier this month too. Then the next game the Stars came in and pasted them 5-0.

They should just change the name of the Pacific Division to be the Inconsistent Division; it would actually be more accurate.

Ian said...

Turning points really can only be identified in retrospect. If the Sharks can string together a couple weeks of good hockey, call it a turning point.

With the way they've played thus far this season, I imagine they'll stink up the ice tonight.

While there's been some bad karma this season, I'm definitely in the camp that you create your own luck. Good teams overcome bad luck, and capitalize on good luck (see Wings, Detroit Red).