When the media talked to Cory Schneider Tuesday he praised Antti Niemi, saying the Sharks goaltender was putting up “Vezina-caliber numbers.” It’s high praise, and at this point it’s not unwarranted. Out of all goalies who have played over 15 games he’s now ranked third in both goals against average (1.83) and save percentage (.934). He gave up two goals to the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday, but those blemishes mean nothing in comparison to his 36 saves, most of which were without a doubt Vezina-caliber.
The Sharks got some rare secondary scoring on Tuesday; in fact, it was all the regulation scoring the Sharks would get. The first was a nice slapshot from Scott Gomez after picking up a rebound and skating it out to the high slot. The second was a breakaway from Adam Burish in the second period. They represented the first goals of the season for both players and a nice change of pace.
The Canucks pushed back, scoring on their 21st shot of the game and tying it at two before the close of the second period. A real hockey game broke out in the final five minutes of the third after a stalemate for the first fifteen minutes of the frame. It was sparked by a fantastic penalty kill that saw Brad Stuart lose a tooth after taking an uncalled high stick, Douglas Murray lose his stick and Niemi make a couple ridiculous saves. When James Sheppard broke out of the box at the end of the penalty he took the puck out of the zone and not only allowed a change but almost retook the lead all by himself.
— The overtime period was one of the most nerve-racking five minutes of San Jose’s season, mainly because of an awful goaltender interference call on Scott Gomez 1:34 into the extra frame (he was crosschecked into Schneider, so the penalty should have gone the other way). Again, had it not been for Niemi, the Sharks never would have made it to the shootout.
— Michal Handzus may be 50% career in shootouts, but he’s still only human. When he missed his leadoff attempt it certainly seemed like San Jose was in hot water. After letting up the first shootout goal Niemi was solid, stopping every shot he faced while giving Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski a chance to win it for the Sharks.
— After getting his front tooth knocked out, Stuart stayed on the ice and blocked a shot about 30 seconds later. In fact, he stayed on the ice until the penalty was over and the puck was cleared.
— The Sharks have won three of their last four games, but does that signify a return to prominence? Let’s ask the experts.
Ratto v. Remenda, Part Deux
Most Sharks fans probably remember the 2011-12 season, when Sharks color commentator Drew Remenda and CSN Senior Insider Ray Ratto got into it over the latter’s appeal for the Sharks to “just win the game.” In case you missed it, here it is:
It was a heated battle, but it’s one that’s seemingly blown over since. Remenda has been on KNBR with Tom Tolbert and Ratto several times since, and the bad blood has definitely disappeared if their on-air conversations are any indication.
This game may have reignited the battle. The postgame show opened up with Sharks analyst Bret Hedican saying he was “really disappointed” with the Sharks’ effort. He criticized their puck management and said the Sharks stole two points from the Canucks.
Then Ratto chipped in, calling the game “a ski mask job” and saying the Sharks “got two when they should have gotten one.”
Brodie Brazil immediately cut back to Randy Hahn and Remenda (bless your heart for that, Brodie), and Remenda was flustered to say the least. He interrupted Hahn by stuttering before he let off on this tirade:
“I really don’t want to do this again! I really don’t! But guys, I’m not sure what game your watching there. There’s no ski mask job, Bret! There’s no ski mask job, Ray! This team came out tonight and busted their hump! This is against a faster team, but they played hard. In the overtime, I agree with Brodie. They did control the overtime. Controlling that penalty is part of controlling the overtime! They did an outstanding job later on in the third period, they were able to push back when the Vancouver Canucks pushed. I thought the Sharks played a hell of a game tonight, I thought they showed a lot of character.”
(Update: Kevin Kurz has video of the argument on his blog about Tuesday’s game.)
They cut off after the rant to interview Pavelski, so Ratto and Hedican never got a chance to respond to him directly. This Sharks season has been full of ups and downs, so as long as the unapologetically-biased Remenda is calling games and the unapologetically-critical Ratto is on the postgame crew, there will probably be more announcer vs. insider face-offs in the future.