When it comes to special teams, the focus is usually on the power play because a club has to score to be victorious. However there is a reason for the slogan ‘defense wins championships.’ In hockey, clubs can control a lot at even-strength, but when they are shorthanded, the offense has a distinct advantage.
|San Jose Sharks center Jeremy Roenick, center, celebrates with teammates Joe Pavelski (8), and Patrick Marleau (12) after he scored a goal against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, March 21, 2008. San Jose won 2-1. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar) |
The Sharks penalty kill unit looks very different from last season. Gone are Curtis Brown and Patrick Rissmiller. Torrey Mitchell
is out of the lineup with two broken bones in his lower left leg.
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan explained that penalty killers on opening night were not who fans were used to seeing the past couple of years. But the new troops were successful against a dangerous Ducks team.
Among the players that took extended shorthanded shifts were Milan Michalek, Joe Pavelski
, Tomas Plihal and Patrick Marleau
“I found myself out there a few times,” said Marleau.
Team Teal’s penalty kill was perfect on Thursday night; shutting down the Ducks on both their power play opportunities.
“A lot of it is reading the play and knowing what they are trying to accomplish,” said Marleau. “You look around a lot.”
“Sometimes the best penalty killers are offensive players,” said McLellan. “They anticipate where the puck will go. They are warm bodies from playing a lot. Often it’s the ability to read the play and having the intensity to disrupt it.”
|San Jose Sharks' Mike Grier, right, smiles alongside teammate Joe Pavelski after scoring during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blue,s Saturday, March 1, 2008, in St. Louis. Pavelski scored San Jose's other goal in the game giving the Sharks a 2-0 victory. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) |
The one constant from last year is Mike Grier, a penalty killing specialist who McLellan has tabbed as an Alternate Captain. Grier is being asked to help lead the entire club and also take a vested ownership in the shorthanded situations.
“We’re still a work in progress to get this thing down to where it’s supposed to be,” said Grier. “Anaheim has a pretty good power play and we started well against them.”
Grier reinforces the thoughts of his teammates on a successful kill.
“It’s reacting to the other team and not relaxing,” said Grier. “I take a lot of pride in it. I want the whole group to take pride. You can win games with the penalty kill. It’s part of the team’s success.”
Todd McLellan was asked what he would do with the game puck from his first NHL coaching victory.
“My kids will probably be shooting it in the garage tonight,” joked McLellan.
In reality, the Sharks equipment staff will have something made to hold the puck and highlight the victory.
The Sporting News’ Best Sports Cities rankings are out and San Jose comes in No. 21 in the 15th annual list.
“When you think San Jose, you think the Sharks, who were so strong last season, but with Palo Alto right there and Santa Clara so close, it’s a hotbed of college sports, too. It’s just a really lively scene for sports fans,” said Sporting News Chief of Correspondents Bob Hille, who has coordinated the rankings since their expansion 12 years ago.
This year’s list features 400 cities and towns in the United States and Canada, ranked based on a variety of factors, including each city’s number of teams and their regular-season won-lost records, playoff berths, bowl appearances and tournament bids; championships; power ratings; competition; fan fervor; attendance; stadium/arena quality; ticket prices/availability; franchise ownership; and marquee appeal of athletes.
“When the teams in your city are doing well, you feel good about where you live, not just as a sports fan but as a citizen,” said Hille. “That’s what we try to tap into with this list, especially at the top of it. We want to celebrate what’s unique about so many great sports cities in the U.S. and Canada.”
San Jose was the highest ranking city in Northern California.NEXT GAME
The Sharks will host Los Angeles Saturday night in a 7 p.m. contest that will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com. Ticket purchases can be made via the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.