Sharks should worry about defense, not Nabokov

Blake.jpgLast night, Joe Yerdon wrote about Evgeni Nabokov’s struggles of
late,
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.

I’d
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.

Last
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.”

And
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
apart.

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
best.

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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    Milbury, Jones: Tkachuk walked the walk; Kings’ response was embarrassing

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    The Los Angeles Kings got revenge on Matthew Tkachuk and the Calgary Flames on the scoreboard on Wednesday. But was that 4-1 win enough?

    Mike Milbury and Keith Jones provided a lengthy “overtime” segment on NBCSN that brought about some really fascinating takes on the situation between Tkachuk and the Flames versus Drew Doughty and the Los Angeles Kings.

    Watch the full video above, as it’s worth your time.

    A few interesting lines if you’re (tsk tsk) skipping it:

    Milbury: Believes that Doughty didn’t “do enough,” noting that star players sometimes have to stick up for themselves. On the other hand, Tkachuk showed that he can “walk the walk.”

    He also gave the Kings a “C-, D+ if not worse” for their overall response. “Fight your own battles,” Milbury said of Doughty.

    Jones disagreed to some extent, believing that Kings teammates won’t look at Doughty differently. But Jake Muzzin? He believes that Muzzin’s frequent defensive partner (at least over the years, maybe not this season) backing down from a fight was an embarrassment.

    Spicy stuff.

    For what it’s worth, Drew Doughty has one career fight (against Joe Thornton [!] in 2011-2) while Jake Muzzin’s lone bout came against Andrew Desjardins in 2012-13, according to Hockey Fights. Does that mean they shouldn’t have dropped the gloves on Wednesday? Milbury and Jones seem to believe that they should have answered the bell.

    For more, check out a collection of the early violent moments and Tkachuk’s attempted shot at Doughty. The Kings win is summarized in greater detail here.

    Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues

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    Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.

    OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.

    It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.

    Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.

    In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.

    Seriously, that fight with Deryk Engelland:

    That goal included a bit of luck, but hey …

    Iginla was named the first star of the contest, and cameras captured his big smile in enjoying a special night. For all the nastiness of that game, it was refreshing to see such a heartwarming moment.

    For more on the violence, check out this post on the early stuff and this one on Tkachuk’s missed missile launch on Drew Doughty.

    Kings and Canucks will square off in first NHL exhibition games in China

    graphic via NHL
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    It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.

    The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?

    “It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”

    The press conference inspired some jokes tonight.

    Some of the best bits came in roping in … Kobe Bryant and David Beckham?

    Alrighty then.

    Click here for more details.

     

    Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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    Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

    Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

    Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

    We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.