Game notes: Sharks vs. Kings, Game 4

Game notes: Sharks vs. Kings, Game 4

April 21, 2011

Kevin Kurz

Sharks lead best-of-seven series, 2-1
Starting Goalies

Todd McLellan wouldnt commit to a starting goaltender for Game 4 on Wednesday, but you have to believe he will go back to Antti Niemi. If he does, it will be a big moment for the man who helped lead the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup last season (note: McLellan confirmed Niemi will start Game 4 after Thursday's morning skate). Niemi hasnt played his best hockey in the series by a long shot, and his .853 save percentage is tied for dead last among playoff goaltenders. If he falters once more, McLellan may have no choice but to insert Antero Niittymaki, who was steady in registering the victory in Game 3.

Of course, Jonathan Quick will be trying to respond himself from allowing six goals in Game 3. Quick has a 2.73 goals against average and .922 save percentage through three games.

Previous Games

The Sharks and Kings played a fairly even Game 1, with Joe Pavelskis overtime goal the difference in a 3-2 San Jose win. The Kings dominated Game 2 en route to a 4-0 victory, and looked to be well on their way to taking the lead in the series in Game 3 before the Sharks remarkable comeback in which they became just the fourth team in NHL history to erase a four-goal deficit in a playoff game.
Roster Watch

There arent expected to be any changes to the roster of either team for Game 3. Ian White responded well from missing Game 2 with two assists in almost 19 minutes of action. Jarret Stoll, who was suspended for Game 2 after hitting White into the boards from behind, had one assist for Los Angeles in Game 3.
Whos hot?

Ryane Clowe was the only Shark to score twice in Game 3, and his five points (2g, 3a) lead all scorers in the series. Drew Doughty (2g, 2a) is the Kings leading scorer, with all of his points coming during a remarkable Game 2 for the defenseman.

The Sharks Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski and the Kings Kyle Clifford are the only other players in the series with more than one goal.


Its hard to predict just how the Kings will react from their epic Game 3 collapse. Despite what they are saying to the media, its impossible to believe that their confidence isnt at least somewhat shaken.

Still, an early goal or two by the Kings would help them twofold. First, it would inject them with some much needed confidence. Secondly, it would further encumber Niemis self-assurance after a poor Game 3.

Conversely, if the Sharks are able to take control early, they could cruise to an easy win against a mentally-scarred club. If that happens, this series is as good as over.

Sound Off

Who would you start in net tonight if you were Todd McLellan?

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.


Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid


SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.