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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

BoC Gameday—What Scares Me About Your Team

Anaheim Ducks (t-1st in west) at San Jose Sharks (t-1st in west)
Winner of tonight’s game is on top of the west!

Ah, the beauty of a new NHL season afoot, and what better way to kick it off than with a good ol’ Battle of California (competitive version)? Yeah, I know there were some "counting" games already played in Europe, and Ducks/Sharks is the only game on tonight's schedule without some version of national coverage, but I can’t care. Because tonight is Ducks-Sharks, one of my favorite matchups since the lockout. It's a measuring-stick game, a pride game, and an awesome way to start the NHL season (assuming the Sharks have paid their electricity bill this year).

To open this set of Gamedays and this NHL season, Mike Chen and I devised a little cross-state exercise. You know Mike, of course, from Battle of California, though I heard he has some side gig too. Anyways, instead of rehashing our own previews again, we instead decided to write about the opposition this time with three answers to: "What Scares Me About Your Team", a nice outsider's perspective to start the new year.

What Scares Sleek about this year's Sharks:

1. Joe Thornton plus offensive defensemen means trouble

The last three seasons, the highest scoring San Jose blueliners have been Craig Rivet 07/08 (74 gp, 35 pts), Matt Carle 06/07 (77 gp, 42 pts), and Tom Preissing 05/06 (74 gp, 43 pts). In each case, it's a career scoring high—none of them have demonstrated tremendous scoring ability away from Jumbo Joe. The lack of a true offensive talent on the blueline has been the Sharks' Achilles Heel, their missing ingredient in a sense. Finally at the end of last year the Sharks inserted an actual offensive defenseman – Brian Campbell – and the results were stellar. In 20 gp, Campbell recorded 19 points, and while that 78-point-season pace might not have been sustainable for a full year, it still showed the potential of using a creative talent behind San Jose’s glut of forwards.

Bring in Dan Boyle, and to a lesser extent Rob Blake. Boyle is a guy who’s already registered a 63-point season and two 53-point years, so he’s shown the ability to play well with top talent in Tampa. I haven’t watched a ton of Lightning games, so I can’t say for sure, but if Jumbo Joe is able to bring out a career year out of the Sharks’ new blueline threat, San Jose threatens to be a Pacific monster this year.

2. Red Wing motivational tactics

I’ve been reading some of new coach Todd McLellan’s motivational quotes over at the Seagate Broadcaster’s Blog, and his overall message has me worried. Not so much the “I don’t just want a hockey player, I want an ingredient” bit; other than some cannibalistic overtones that message is pretty routine. But how about this McLellan gem? “At this point in the season, the words ‘Stanley Cup’ aren’t part of the vocabulary.” First off, McLellan, I don’t think that’s very fair to Marcel Goc, who doesn’t have a very wide vocabulary to begin with. You’re going to take away two of his possibly twenty cohesive words?

But all kidding aside, I think McLellan seems to be doing the right things as a new coach for what’s been a tremendously successful team. He’s making the players better understand their roles for the team’s success, and is making sure that the short-term details that contribute to winning don’t get lost in the long-term goal. Of course, media quotes and on-ice performance can often be two different things, so I’ll reserve judgment, but I have to imagine the Sharks will be well-prepared for opening night.

3. Jonathan Goddamn Cheechoo

Yes, I know that Cheechoo is coming off his worst offensive campaign since his rookie year, and his preseason performance still has some Sharks fans worried, but that doesn’t make things less scary on my end. Cheechoo is the very definition of streaky – even in his good seasons he got hot and cold very fast. I wrote a post in the latter part of the 06-07 season that pointed that out: “4 goals in 2 games against the Ducks, which was preceded by a seven game goalless streak, that followed a 5 goals in 7 game stretch, that followed a 1 goal in 9 games slump, and well, you get the picture.” Also revealed in that post was the trend that Cheechoo scored at a much higher rate against the Ducks and Kings than against any other opponent.

The Sharks figure to have a very good team this season even if Cheechoo has another off year. However, if he gets anywhere near his pre-injury form, the Sharks will be awfully tough to keep up with in the standings this season. I guess my main hope is that Coach McLellan finds Cheechoo to be a very tasty ingredient and eats him, but that probably violates the CBA.
And now, heeeere's Mike Chen!

What Scares Mike Chen about this year's Ducks

1. The Complete Mighty Ducks

Picture this. You sit down and you really want to have a kick-ass marathon of the Mighty Ducks movie trilogy. You've got your shiny Mighty Ducks DVD and your old VHS copy of D3: The Mighty Ducks, but you don't own the second movie and you can't afford the gas to drive to Best Buy and pick it up. But halfway through your viewing of D3, a buddy calls and says that D2 is on the Disney channel RIGHT NOW so turn the channel immediately. That convoluted movie-viewing experience is kinda like what happened to the Ducks last season without Scott "My Captain C, Damn It!" Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne to start the season.

You take those guys out of the mix, add in some bad broadcast-on-cable-TV replacements like Todd Bertuzzi and Doug Weight and it's just a chemistry experiment gone awry. And while Scotty N played well upon his return, you could sense that something wasn't quite right with last season's Ducks, even from all the way up in the Bay Area. So now Brian Burke's guys have no off-ice distractions, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are a year older, and the Norris Twins get a full 82 games together. Yeah, that's not good.

2. Brendan Morrison

Oh, stop laughing. I'm not talking Brendan Morrison by himself, I'm looking at what Brendan Morrison could possibly do for the rest of the team. Morrison's a playmaker. Teemu Selanne's a goal scorer. Goal scorers need playmakers to make them even better (see: Cheechoo, Jonathan). If Morrison clicks with Selanne in an Andy McDonald-minus-the-freakish-neck-muscles kind of way, that gives the Ducks two pretty strong forward lines. We know Perry and Getzlaf will get their points but what about secondary scoring?

Last season, I don't think I was the only person who laughed when Burke signed on Todd Bertuzzi's diminished scoring abilities. We know that Selanne still has it but if Teemu's got a partner that can actually dish him the puck, he becomes that much more of a threat. Teams with one scoring line don't usually accomplish much (hello Vancouver), but when you start spreading that around, that's when the proverbial shiznit hits the fan.

3. Pronger/Niedermayer

You could say that this point is an extension of the first one, but that one was really more about off-ice distractions and general roster discombobulation. This is about having two Norris-quality defensemen who can handle 30+ minutes a night, play special teams, send out a great outlet pass, and shut down the opposition's top scorer. With all due respect to the Detroit blueline, there's simply no team that can match what Anaheim can do -- that is, have one Norris-candidate on the ice at all times.

Put it this way -- the old adage of line matching doesn't work if you have either a healthy Pronger or Niedermayer on the ice. You can't try to avoid the shutdown defenseman because they're both capable of it. Hell, stick me out there with my limited beer-league skills and I'd still probably be a +30 for the year (Burkie, I'm a free agent and I'll sign for the league minimum). This combination scared me when Pronger first came to Anaheim and it still scares me today. And it's just not fair.
So that's our takes, looking trepidly at some of the new aspects of the opposing team. How about you, readers? What in particular this year scares you about facing either of these teams? Feel free to leave your own answers (even if you aren't a Ducks or Sharks fan) in the comments.

Prediction: Ducks 3, Sharks 1. Goals by Perry, Pahlsson, and Morrison. Just like in the Ducks opener of the 06-07 season, though, Rob Blake actually scores Corey Perry's goal. Adds Mike Chen, "By the way, Sleek's watching the game on Tivo so everyone text him 'Pronger broke his leg' intermittently."

Update 10:01: Mike sneaks in a prediction too: Sharks 4, Ducks 2. Goals by Marleau, Boyle, Roenick, and an empty netter by Grier. And soft crying in the rafters from Jeff Friesen.

p.s. I posted a PuckToon today that mixes metaphors about strange cap-motivated roster moves made throughout the Pacific Division. Enjoy!

[9:30 am edit -- even more Sleek guest appearances on the ol' internet! In addition to posting on James O'Brien's new blog, I was also a guest on the LCS Hockey Radio Show last night. I haven't even heard the whole thing, but feel free to give it a listen as we push through some technical difficulties, I hurriedly mis-describe Patrick O'Sullivan as "a poor man's Brian Rolston", and I pull a correct Caspian Sea trivia answer out of my ass.]

Go Ducks.


Anonymous said...

what scares me about the sharks?

not all that much...maybe cheekie cheecoo...cuz he just decides to be a hockey player when he plays us...but the rest of the heartless wussies...not so much...

anaheim needs to throw there weight around...perry needs to piss off a shark or too..and well be fine...

i guess ill be nice and also say nabokov can get hot and thats scary..

but those clown uniforms they wear kinda take any scary away

dallas is scary becuase they play similar to us

Lola said...

Sleek, love all the 'toons. Look forward to them everytime.

Niekon said...

I wish I could be viewing the first game at home this evening but I've got to pick up my tickets to BlizzCon this evening and then head up to The Lost Bar for some meet-ups. Will try to get the site to put the game on the tele though...

And what scares me about the Sharks this season? Wilson is not behind the bench to muck things up...

Earl Sleek said...

what scares me about the sharks?not all that much...

Actually, I asked my Red Wings buddy this question, just to see what he'd say, and he gave a similar "Uh, nothing?" response. Further promoting the notion that it's useless to talk to a Wings fan about anything hockey-related.

Sleek, love all the 'toons. Look forward to them everytime.

Thanks, Lola! I'll keep drawin' them!

Sleek's watching the game on Tivo so everyone text him 'Pronger broke his leg' intermittently.

Anyone who texts me this message tonight, btw, expect a quick response: "Broke whose leg?"

Anonymous said...

HAHA...good comeback on that one sleek...so glad hockey is back...need a good chuckle after this econmic mess were in


p.s. you got the same seats this year at the honda center?

Earl Sleek said...

Also, Sean Pronger, a.k.a. the Journeyman, has put another waiver-related post up on Pronger's blog.

Check it out! Journeyman is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads on the webs!

p.s. you got the same seats this year at the honda center?

Yeah, but only for three games this year (that's my usual amount). I am going to Ducks/Sharks later this month (the 17th, I believe), so there will be some drinking that night for sure!

Anonymous said...

Note of general interest (for lack of a better place to post it):

NHL Center Ice has a free preview for a week or two, at least on Time Warner Cable. I know alot of you get the package, but for those who can't or won't fork over the $159 it's fun to hear the local announcers, and the commercials can be a hoot. Except when they show the same one over and over and over and over and..

RudyKelly said...

Pronger's got nothing on Preissing.

I did a Q&A with Gross Misconduct on the Kings. It's mostly the same stuff I've covered here this summer but you can read it if you care.


brokeyard said...

At what point in the radio interview do you come on?

Earl Sleek said...

I'm actually on very early, but I depart maybe halfway through. All I really remember is that one of my last lines of the night is a Hannibal Smith shout-out:

"I love it when a plan comes together!"

Mr. Plank said...

"It comes from a Nintendo game."

Love it haha.

Three things terrify me about the Ducks:

1) Pronger/Niedermayer- Mike says it best. That's a deadly combination.

2) Giggy- From what I can tell he was kind of thrown under the bus last postseason, but I think he has a good chance (read: he's my inside pick) to win the Vezina. With Niedermayer playing a full year, expect him to be lights out.

3) Brian Burke- The man's a maniac.

Go Sharks.

Earl Sleek said...

"It comes from a Nintendo game."

Yeah, there actually is a more indepth story about the name Earl Sleek (the origin of which was referenced in the LCS audio).

The video game was Nintendo 64's Forsaken, which really wasn't that stellar a game, and was hardly played by anybody. Still, one of my friends in college had it, and he roomed with Dave Dolby -- the son of Dolby surround sound. Dave Dolby had the first DVD player I ever saw, and his dorm room was loaded with speakers of every variety. So I'd come over, and we'd crank up the volume to crazy volumes just to pick our characters in the game.


I'd feel that name rumble through every bone in my body. Later on it became the chosen name of my fantasy hockey teams, and then after that I started blog-commenting with that name, and the rest is history.

Please don't sue, N64. I'm promoting, I swear!

Anonymous said...

How do we have a Ducks gameday post without a prediction of a Sammy Pahlsson goal? Never thought the day would come.

Sarah said...

What scares me about the Ducks is their uncanny ability to get away with everything. And I don't mean that in the they-cheat-and-don't-get-caught-way that so many other people do. (I don't think they "cheat" anymore than any team)

I mean they get themselves into (or find themselves in) binds and always seem to get out of them. Its like they are covered in Teflon.

The Sharks get in a bind and they seem to panic and crap themselves.

Earl Sleek said...

How do we have a Ducks gameday post without a prediction of a Sammy Pahlsson goal?

I cleverly hid it eight words behind the underlined word "Prediction".


Kevin Y said...

Fuck. Never mind :)

Earl Sleek said...

No worries, Ksy (or if you've got a preferred referential name, I'm all ears).

And oh yeah, scratch 1 and 2. All that's scary is Jonathan Goddamn Cheechoo.

RudyKelly said...

Holy shit is Jonathan Cheechoo a giant douche bag.

Ang said...

On behalf of all Sharks fans, I would like to say, WE ROCK!

Anonymous said...

Sharks are back!!!!! What a season opener. Looks like Cheeeechooooo is ON!What a game, what a game!

jamestobrien said...

Fucking Texas Time Warner Cable, as if they didn't already develop a hatred ... no free preview for me. I'll still buy the damn thing, but TWC: you made me real sore.

Anyway, that's an interesting story about the origin of Earl. Is Forsaken the game that had the commercial where the guy (or robot?) kept saying "The future is Forsaken - the future is forsaken."?

Never played it but that commercial was apparently burnt into my brain.

Kevin Y said...

Now I've got a reason to want to want to kill the Sharks this weekend for the home-and-home. Blake has played one game away from the Kings, and he already has two assists.

Can't wait for Sunday. Anybody else think Blake should bring a couple bodyguards to Staples Center?

Mike Chen said...

Did the Sharks get Doc Brown's Delorean and bring back 1998 Rob Blake? Sweet jumpin' jebus!

And Sleek, you jinxed the Ducks the instant you brought up Cheechoo. Don't worry buddy, I thought of you the instant Cheech hit his first tally.

Earl Sleek said...

Now I've got a reason to want to want to kill the Sharks this weekend for the home-and-home. Blake has played one game away from the Kings, and he already has two assists.

Yeah, and I thought of another reason why I'm going to kill Cheechoo if he has an awesome year this season; I wasted a 2nd-round pick on the guy last year in Mirtle's fantasy league. Jerk!

Is Forsaken the game that had the commercial where the guy (or robot?) kept saying "The future is Forsaken - the future is forsaken."?

It's probably gotta be. If anyone else wants to steal an internet name from that game, I believe Clark Culver, Trucker, and Lokesanna are still available.

And Sleek, you jinxed the Ducks the instant you brought up Cheechoo. Don't worry buddy, I thought of you the instant Cheech hit his first tally.

Hey, all I can do is write the best preview I can *grumble grumble*.

Earl Sleek said...

This YouTube video isn't very good quality, but it does show some of the gameplay of Forsaken 64, plus the menu selection of the Earl Sleek character.

It was a pretty well-made game, considering the era.

Mike in OC said...

I am starting to think that MAYBE Sarah does not like the Ducks…..

Sarah said...

I am starting to think that MAYBE Sarah does not like the Ducks…..

What gave you that idea? =)

Sarah said...

Oh, and if Blake keeps that up, I take back all the bad things I said about him. Totally didn't see that coming from him at all.

Mike in OC said...

It's all good Sarah, we still love ya.

if Blake keeps that up

I wouldn't bet the farm. I read someplace that Blake and Roenik are both still trying to catch thier breath from last nights season opener.

Ok, I made that up, but they are not 25 anymore and I hate both of them more than deregulation.

Earl Sleek said...

If any Ducks fans are looking for any good news today, I guess it's this: In the VAN/CGY game last night, Todd Bertuzzi was a -3 last night.

It took him only one game to get locked into a three-way tie for worst in the league. :)

Mike in OC said...

Good. Looks like we're getting our moneys worth then.