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San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks Skating In The Right Direction

San Jose Sharks

Antero Nittymaki  of the San Jose Sharks enters the ice for their game against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion on November 9, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks have quietly climbed to 6th in the Western Conference and are within 4 points of the lead. Due to unusual but fortunate circumstances I was at The Tank for 3 of the 5 games during this home stand (Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings). Some observations from the upper deck:

  • Niclas Wallin - Seem to be playing a more physical and aggressive game than I remember from last year. Also seems to be skating faster.
  • Dany Heatley - Speaking of playing more physical, seems like ‘Heater’ is getting into the mix a lot more, the most I’ve seen since he joined the Sharks.
  • Jason Demers - Looks very comfortable on defense as well as handling the puck - is starting to make some big plays and his mistakes are fewer and less gratuitous.
  • Logan Couture - Ridiculously good so far this year.

On the other end of the spectrum:

  • Devin Setoguchi - Still doesn’t seem to be on top of the puck as he was before the injury last season. Not sure if there’s a correlation.
  • Kent Huskins - Not that I’m some expert but he it seems like he’s not a very solid defenseman. The other night against the Kings he seemed to move AWAY from the King’s player to take away a possible angle instead of separating him from the puck. The result was a Los Angeles goal. Are we sure he’s one of our 6 best defensemen?!

Special recognition: Antero Niittymaki.

When the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 (wow - has Brett Favre been around THAT long!?) Brett Favre said one of the key things that got the Packers over ‘the hump’ was the career ending injury to Sterling Sharpe. It’s not that Favre wished Sharpe any ill will but that Sharpe had such an ego and demanded so much that it distracted the team. Once Sharpe retired the team was free to come together and win the hardware two years later.

Watching the interaction between the players and Niittymaki is quite the refreshing change. When the games end and the players skate off the ice there’s a lot of ‘playful banter’ between Niittymaki and the team. I’m sorry but you RARELY if ever saw any of that with Nabokov. And after the Tampa Bay game (Niittymaki’s former team), once the 3-Stars were announced and the Lightining players were all in the locker room - Niittymaki skated over to the Lightning bench and shook hands and said ‘hello’ (I think) with the Tampa Bay equipment guys. I think we have ourselves a good ‘character’ player in Niittymaki.

I just hope all this is enough to get the Sharks over that ‘hump’.

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