If you haven’t checked out the preview to HBO’s “24/7 Road to the Winter Classic” it’s worth a look on the NHL.com website. Last year’s Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins HBO series was terrific, taking all of us behind the scenes like we’ve never been before.
Knowing HBO they will step it up a notch this time around and the show should be even better. Former Shark Jody Shelley is prominently featured in the preview and could end up getting a lot of attention from the HBO cameras. The first actual episode airs on HBO, Wednesday, December 14. Check your listings for the time in your area!
SHARKS STARTS AND PK
The Sharks may only be a quarter of the way through their season but the month of December could turn out to be a crucial one. Beginning with the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, the Sharks play 10 of their 13 games in December on home ice.
So far at 6-4-1, the home record has been OK, but less than spectacular. It’s time to change that. Fattening up on home cooking is the key to any team’s success and when you look ahead to the daunting February schedule (10 of 14 on the road, including a nine-game road trip) it is definitely time to get cooking.
The two things that continue to jump to the front of the line when it comes to areas that require improvement in the Sharks game are the starts and the penalty killing. The PK has been an issue since Game 1 and goes back to last year when the team finished 23rd in the League. Right now they are ranked 28th.
When the Sharks score the first goal of the game this season they are 7-0. They may be the best second period team in the league but perhaps it was a good wakeup call in LA a few days ago when they were outscored 2-0 in the second. Just because you start a game poorly doesn’t guarantee that you are going to be able to make up for it a period later, no matter how talented you are.
WINTER CLASSIC WEST
Sharks fans are again Tweeting and Facebook messaging me about when the NHL Winter Classic is going to come to California and feature a team like San Jose. I’ve actually talked to Commissioner Gary Bettman about that very fact. For now, his position is that the game will stay in cold weather cities so that the possibility for snow on game day remains. Remember how amazing it was when the white stuff started coming down in Buffalo?
I’d say the best shot for a “Western Classic” would be Denver. But who knows, down the line the league may want to spice things up and move the game to a unique and intimate setting like atop a mountain in Lake Tahoe. You wouldn’t be able to accommodate as many spectators at the venue but the TV viewership could more than make up for it.
STEADY EDDIE PICKLES
When the Sharks traded Miikka Kiprusoff to Calgary for a second round draft pick back in November of 2003, it came back to haunt them later that very same season when Kipper backstopped the Flames to a Conference Final victory over the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the Sharks used that draft pick to select defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
and now the trade looks a lot better. Now in his sixth NHL season, the 24-year-old Vlasic is coming into his own and has been the team’s best overall defenseman this year.
Last season “Eddie” had a career-high 116 shots and a team-leading 147 blocks. This season, playing alongside a new defense partner in Brent Burns
, Vlasic leads all Sharks blueliners with 11 points and leads the team with a +11 rating. He may not quite be a Norris Trophy Candidate but Vlasic seems to be on the way to his best season yet.
PLEASE DON’T STOP THE MUSIC
The Sharks are traveling to St. Louis this month which reminded me of my Top Three favorite places to hear live music. Here they are:
3. Beale On Broadway
) - Amazing local Blues, Soul and R&B in a funky old building with exposed brick and hardwood floors.
) - Make sure you go on a Sunday night to see “The Toledo Show”.
1. TIE: Tootsie’s & The Stage
) - Yes they give you Country but they also give you Rock and they give you Country-Rock. Every night is Saturday night in Music City USA! It’s kind of like Vegas without gambling.
HERE’S TO YOU, MRS. HEDICAN
Finally, congratulations to Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi for her induction into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame alongside Peter Ueberroth, Rudy Galindo, Art Stewart and Dan Pastorini.