Focus on defense paying dividends for Sharks


Focus on defense paying dividends for Sharks


In hockey, a goalies statistics can be misleading.

More times than not, a netminders goals-against average and save percentage are a reflection of the way the team is playing defense. Bad numbers usually mean the team is giving up too many scoring chances and odd-man rushes, while good numbers typically reveal a sound effort on both ends of the ice.

Saturdays 2-0 Sharks victory in Boston is a fine example, as Antti Niemi was credited with his third shutout of the season, making a solid 26 saves. But San Joses defense and forwards did a great job clogging up the Bruins passing lanes, taking care of the area directly in front of the net, and clearing rebounds to make it much easier for its goalie.

REWIND: Niemi skunks Bruins, Sharks 2-0 on road trip

Its a facet of their game the Sharks have been steadily improving upon as they bring a 7-0-1 streak into Tuesday nights matchup with the Washington Capitals.

Just ask the goalie with the sparkling 2.21 goals-against average and .927 save percentage since Dec. 1.

I think were getting tighter at our own net. Were ready for rebounds, too, and wherever the puck is, were there first, Niemi said. Our position is pretty good. Our D is close to the net, and ready.

Coach Todd McLellan has also seen an improvement in the team defense, specifically in front of the net, which was an area of concern for much of the first half of the season.

PREVIEW: Sharks skate into Washington to face Ovechkin

The net play, and the ability to control sticks and bodies in and around the net area, gives us a chance to spend less time in our zone and get going on offense a little bit more, he said. They look like a more confident group than they did two months ago.

During that eight-game stretch in which the Sharks havent lost in regulation, the team has allowed just 2.0 goals per game. In the six-game losing streak that preceded it, San Jose allowed 19 goals, or 3.16 per game.

Dan Boyle, who continues to lead the league in ice time with almost 27 minutes a game, said that the improved mark in the goals-against department has simply been a consequence of better execution.

We havent changed anything as far as Xs and Os are concerned. Were just doing a better job at it, Boyle said.

It starts with defense. Thats how you win hockey games and championships. Were tightening up there. Offensively its been kind of a struggle this year, but if we have to win games 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1a win is a win.

McLellan will likely look at Saturdays video as a tool. With the Western Conference standings as tight as they are, it's a reminder to his team how it needs to play defense for every game the rest of the season.

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At the same time, hes hoping the message will reach them without him underscoring the obvious.

Im hoping that I dont have to go in there any say that, yet thats our job as coaches," he said. "If they say to themselves, we can play like this and play against anybody and it allows us to win some games, that will be more powerful."

But ...

"They will be reminded and shown video-wise. Well continue to work on it.

Indians shut out Cubs, take Game 1 of World Series


Indians shut out Cubs, take Game 1 of World Series


CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber got the Cleveland Indians off to a great start and Roberto Perez finished off the Chicago Cubs in their first World Series game since 1945.

Kluber pitched neatly into the seventh inning, Perez hit two home runs and the Indians beat the Cubs 6-0 in the opener Tuesday night. AL Championship Series MVP Andrew Miller escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh and got out of trouble in the eighth, preserving a 3-0 lead.

In a matchup between the teams with baseball's longest championship droughts, the Indians scored twice in the first inning off October ace Jon Lester and were on their way.

Perez drove in four runs - he became the first No. 9 batter to homer twice in a Series game, and the first Indians player to accomplish the feat. He hit a three-run drive to put it away.

Francisco Lindor added three hits, helping Cleveland manager Terry Francona to improve to 9-0 in the Series. Francona's success includes sweeps by his Boston teams in 2004 and `07.

The Game 1 winner has taken the title in the last six Series and 17 of 19.

Trevor Bauer, trying to come back from a sliced pinkie, starts Game 2 for the Indians on Wednesday night against Jake Arrieta. With rain in the forecast, the start time was moved up an hour to 7:08 p.m.

Kluber struck out eight in the first three innings. He combined with Miller and Cody Allen to fan 15.

With the Indians hoping for their first title since 1948 and the Cubs seeking their first since 1908, Lester stumbled in the opening inning. Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs, Jose Ramirez had a run-scoring swinging bunt single and Brandon Guyer was hit by a pitch.

Livingston: After final year of contract, 'we all want to get paid'

Livingston: After final year of contract, 'we all want to get paid'

OAKLAND – Stephen Curry, back-to-back MVP and reigning NBA scoring champ, will be a free agent in July and so will Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.

Another charter member of the Warriors’ championship core, Shaun Livingston, also will be on the market.

“There’s always going to be speculation and it’s easy to start looking ahead,” Livingston told on Tuesday. “But that never does the player any good.”

Iguodala and Livingston love being Warriors, but it’s likely at least one of them may be sacrificed next summer for Patrick McCaw, who cracked the rotation as a rookie and in many ways is a composite of the two veterans.

Iguodala doesn’t hide from the fact that thoughts of the future will creep into his mind, and neither does Livingston, who is in the final year of a three-year deal worth $16.6 million.

“It’s human nature; we all want to get paid,” Livingston said. “We all want to perform well, to get numbers.

"But basketball sometimes in this league can get tricky,” he added. “You start worrying about that stuff, and you end up hurting yourself in the long run. But if you stay with it, stay on course, you may not have the same numbers but the team wins and you get paid more.”