Sharks should worry about defense, not Nabokov

Blake.jpgLast night, Joe Yerdon wrote about Evgeni Nabokov’s struggles of
that has corresponded with the Sharks’ frustrating play since the
Olympic break. His March numbers were certainly pedestrian and not up to
the standard we’re used to seeing him play at, but I contend that
Evgeni Nabokov is the least of the San Jose Sharks’ worries.

be more concerned about the defense than anything else.

The San
Jose Sharks recently overcame a six-game losing streak with four
straight wins, and looked as though they had corrected the woes that had
plagued them. They were once again hungry for the puck, took advantage
of their opportunities and Evgeni Nabokov played well overall.

night against the Dallas Stars, their issues reappeared and now the
team is faced with the same the same questioned that plagued them just
nine days ago.

The defense was discombobulated, and were turned
around time and again by the Dallas Stars forwards. More alarmingly,
they were consistently beaten to the puck and to the net and allowed too
many plays to get behind them. Dan Boyle acknowledges that things just
weren’t clicking very well:

“We were giving up tons of
two-on-ones, three-on-twos,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “Defensively, we
were not on the same page — who’s got who, what’s going on, not knowing
what we were doing. At game 77, you’ve got to know what’s going on.”

Boyle is right. Forget about the lack of effort or hunger for the
Sharks; this is a team whose defense and goaltending is supposed its
strength and just when as the playoffs approach it’s starting to fall

So Sharks fans can certainly be concerned about Evgeni
Nabokov — there’s no doubt he’s not playing at the same level he was
just a few months ago. But to my eye, none of the five goals allowed
last night could be faulted to the goaltender and it’s the defense that
is most concerning at a time when teams are hoping to be playing their

The Sharks aren’t just any team, either, that can say
they’ll turn it on for the playoffs and everyone will be fine with it.
The Sharks have taken the “play great in the regular season and fold in
the first round” meme and perfected it.

They’ve yet to show
anything late in the season to prove anything different.

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    Canucks spoil Ducks’ home opener via shootout

    Adam Cracknell, Ryan Miller

    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ryan Miller and the Vancouver Canucks have already found a groove just three games into the regular season. The Anaheim Ducks are still looking for a way to get their offense going.

    Radim Vrbata and Alex Burrows scored in the shootout, and the Canucks spoiled Anaheim’s home opener with a 2-1 victory Monday night.

    Miller made 28 saves and Adam Cracknell scored in regulation for Vancouver, which beat the Ducks for just the third time in their last 12 meetings.

    Vancouver improved to 2-0 on the road in the young season, with Miller yielding just one goal in each game. That’s encouraging to the veteran, who played in only four games after Feb. 22 last season while dealing with a knee injury.

    “I’m just trying to go out there and battle and compete,” said Miller, who stopped a third-period redirection by Carl Hagelin with his mask. “That was my mindset coming off an injury. That’s what it really comes down to, getting back the focus early on. I didn’t play hockey for a while. The technical stuff I worked on this summer and I pay attention to in practice.”

    Even with twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin combining for just one shot, the Canucks won the new season’s first meeting between the Pacific Division’s top two teams last year. Anaheim won its third straight division title, while Vancouver finished a surprising second before losing in the opening round of the playoffs.

    Sami Vatanen scored and Frederik Andersen stopped 24 shots for the Ducks, who have scored just one goal while going winless in the first two games of a season that begins with Stanley Cup aspirations.

    Anaheim was shut out in San Jose on Saturday in its opener before returning to Honda Center for its first real game on home ice since Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when Chicago advanced to win the Stanley Cup.

    Kevin Bieksa played nearly 24 1/2 minutes in his second game with the Ducks. Anaheim acquired the veteran defenseman from Vancouver last summer after he played 10 years with the Canucks, who drafted him in 2001. Bieksa was reunited with Ryan Kesler, the longtime Vancouver forward who moved to Anaheim before last season.

    “We fought back a lot better than we did in San Jose,” Bieksa said. “So we need to keep building on this in the rest of this homestand here. If we do that, we’re going to be all right.”

    After the Ducks failed to score on a power play during their first official taste of 3-on-3 overtime hockey, Vrbata and Burrows got stuttering, halting shots past Andersen, who stopped Burrows’ shot before watching it trickle under him.

    “I’ve done that move a few times against a few goalies, but I don’t think I’ve ever done it against Freddie,” Burrows said. “So I tried it, and I’m lucky it went in tonight. It hit his stick and trickled in.”

    Jakob Silfverberg scored in the shootout for the Ducks, who lost their home opener for just the second time in six seasons. Anaheim’s talented offensive players aren’t clicking so far, but nobody is panicking yet.

    “I think we’re doing things the right way now,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard. We got some good chances. The season is long, so we’re going the right way.”

    Both teams opened at a furious pace, with end-to-end chances throughout. After a scoreless first period, Vatanen got the Ducks’ first goal of the season when his long, low shot went through Mike Santorelli‘s screen.

    Cracknell evened it later in the period with a sharp-angled shot that somehow deflected off Andersen’s shoulder or stick and landed behind the goalie. The journeyman got his first regular-season NHL goal since April 4, 2013, and just the seventh of his 85-game NHL career.

    “Pretty fortunate goal on their part,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    NOTES: A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center to call for the suspension of Ducks D Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada related to a 2013 grizzly bear hunt. … Cracknell hadn’t scored a goal in his last 49 regular-season games, although he got a postseason goal in 2014 for St. Louis.