I got the cards from you too, newfashiongirl! Thank you! :)
Eeeeeee... I'm so happy for Cheech breaking 50! I will upload his post-game interview soonish. In the meantime I do have some spam. :)
Jonathan Cheechoo is two goals away from a milestone that carries great weight in the NHL and is reached by few . . .
By David Pollak
One season, 50 goals.
It's the NHL's gold standard of individual excellence. Putting the puck in the net that 50th time turns a very good season into something more.
``Even when there were more guys doing it, we always looked at it as, if you got 50 goals you were having a great year,'' said Wayne Gretzky, who crossed that barrier an NHL-record nine times. ``There was something different about 53 goals than, say, 48.''
With 48, Jonathan Cheechoo is on the doorstep. Two goals over the season's final six games would make him the first Shark -- and only the seventh player since 2000 -- to hit hockey's magic milestone. The countdown continues today against Dallas.
Cheechoo, 25, wants to keep things in perspective. There's this other matter of the Sharks' struggle to get into the postseason.
``If it happens, that's great,'' he says of reaching 50, ``because there aren't a lot of guys who have scored 50. But if it doesn't happen, that's fine too. I'd be more happy to be in the playoffs and not get 50 than have 50 and be out.''
But Cheechoo recognizes the significance of the number he's approaching. He knows that his childhood hero, Pavel Bure, surpassed it with Vancouver. He's aware that his father's favorite player, the Islanders' Mike Bossy, did, too.
But Cheechoo would rather not dwell on it. That could skew his priorities.
``If you do that,'' he said, ``it starts to get into your head and you start to think about that more than other things.''
There's no doubt that the Nov. 30 trade for linemate Joe Thornton -- the NHL's assist king -- helped turn Cheechoo into one of the NHL's premier snipers. But while Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson describes Thornton's play as ``magnificent'' since coming from Boston, Wilson also suggests that view undervalues Cheechoo's skills.
``Getting Joe,'' the G.M. said, ``and not having somebody like Cheech wouldn't make a lot of sense.''
Changes benefit scorers
Five NHL players could hit 50 this season. Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers already has 53, and Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk has 51. Washington rookie Alexander Ovechkin, along with Cheechoo, has 48, and Ottawa's Dany Heatley has 47.
In the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, only one player did it. In the season before the lockout, nobody did. Then came this season's rules changes to bolster offense.
``I don't know what everybody thought this year, whether there'd be 30 50-goal scorers or what,'' Sharks Coach Ron Wilson said. ``I still think it's a huge achievement.''
He'll get no argument from ESPN analyst Barry Melrose.
``We might have three or four 50-goal scorers,'' said Melrose, a former NHL player and coach. ``But three or four guys doing that out of 700, that's pretty impressive.''
Like most sports, hockey goes through cycles, and the number of 50-goal scorers helps define them.
For 28 seasons, 50 was an unattainable target. Montreal legend Maurice ``Rocket'' Richard was the first to hit it, in 1945 -- when the season lasted 50 games. No one else reached 50 until 1961, and it was another decade before two players reached that mark in the same season.
Bobby Hull scored 50 or more five times; Gordie Howe never did.
Later, it became more common. From 1976 to 1996, the game opened up and offense thrived. Gretzky finished with 92 goals in 1981. Mario Lemieux hit 85 in 1989; two years later, Brett Hull notched 86. Fourteen players scored 50 or more in 1993.
Coaches turned to the trap defense as the great equalizer. Goalies became more athletic and their equipment ballooned in size. The number of 50-goal scorers dropped dramatically.
One 50-goal season doesn't guarantee another. Forty-two of the 82 players who reached that milestone before this season never did it a second time. Still, one of those 42 said, being labeled a one-year wonder doesn't diminish the accomplishment.
``I scored my 50th in Montreal and I'll never forget that day,'' said Wayne Babych, 48, who had 54 goals with the St. Louis Blues in 1980-81. That was twice as many as any other time in his nine-year NHL career, in part because of an injury the next season.
Barring injury, Cheechoo -- whose 28 goals in 2003-04 were his previous high in four seasons with the Sharks -- shouldn't be a one-year wonder, said Gretzky, now the coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
``He's going to be around 50 every year. He's too good a player not to be close to that,'' Gretzky said, citing Cheechoo's work ethic, Thornton's presence and Sharks coaches who ``push their guys to be as good or better than they can possibly be every day.''
Scoring 50 alters outside expectations. Just ask Phil Esposito, who exceeded that number five times with Boston in the 1970s. ``I remember the year I scored 76,'' he said. ``I got 66 the next year and there was a headline -- `Espo slumps.' Give me a break.''
It can change a coach's perspective, too. But if Cheechoo does hit 50, Wilson said he wouldn't pencil him in for that same number next season.
``What if you come back and score 38? You're a miserable failure and you score 38 goals? I don't know,'' the coach said. ``I wouldn't be doing that because it'd be unfair.''
Scoring at right time
Both Wilsons say the timing of Cheechoo's goals -- and how he scores them -- is more important than their number.
``When you get into scoring goals,'' Doug Wilson said, ``it's the number of game-winning goals, the important goals in a game. I look at it deeper than the big number, and that's the thing that has always impressed me about Jonathan.
``He pays the price to go in the areas to get the goals that are not easy. And when games are on the line, he continues to do that. That carries a lot of weight with me and I'm sure with his teammates,'' said the G.M., who signed Cheechoo to a five-year, $15 million contract extension in February.
Nine of Cheechoo's goals have won games, tying him for the league lead; 19 have been power-play goals, tying him with teammate Patrick Marleau for sixth best in the NHL.
Some of Cheechoo's skills are easy to identify -- his ability to find seams in the defense where Thornton can pass him the puck, his quick release that catches goalies off guard.
Yet both Wilsons cite less tangible factors in explaining Cheechoo's success -- his off-season work to improve fitness and skating, his desire.
``It's his character, wanting to be a great player and not being satisfied,'' Doug Wilson said.
In the past month, more than a dozen publications -- including the New York Times -- have devoted space to how that character developed.
How Cheechoo grew up in Moose Factory, Ontario -- a village of 2,000 on an island about 600 miles north of Toronto. How he left home at 14 to advance his hockey prospects, playing in remote outposts such as Timmins and Kapuskasing.
How he became the first member of the Moose Cree First Nation to sign an NHL contract. How he welcomes being a role model. How he plans to start a hockey school in Moose Factory.
Ron Wilson said Cheechoo's drive to score helps explain this season's 10 multi-goal games, including a franchise-record four hat tricks. ``He's not like some guys who score and say, `Ah, I got my goal. . . . I did my thing, I'm cool.' ''
Cheechoo said that's because he tries not to look at shifts differently.
``I always want the puck,'' he said. ``I like to shoot. It's fun. I'm always going to play the same way. I'm not going to change because then you get into bad habits.''
Which is fine with his coach.
``I just hope we get to keep enjoying the year Cheech has.''
And after last night, Cheech leads the league with 10 GWGs. He was also #2 star on nhl.com last night, tying him with Eric Staal and Alexander Ovechkin for nhl.com three star to-date standings. :D
Sitting At 51 Can Jagr Be Caught?
April 11, 2006
It was a night of accomplishments in Phoenix Monday night when the Sharks defeated the Coyotes by the score of 3-2. Jonathan Cheechoo reached the 50 goal plateau with his second period tally, becoming just the 84th NHL player to accomplish that feat.
But Cheechoo wouldn’t settle for just 50. 44 seconds later, the Moose Factory native notched yet another goal. The goal ended up being the game winning goal, giving Cheechoo his 10th game winner of the season and his League leading 19th game winner since the beginning of the 2003-04 season.
“It was a nice feeling,” said Cheechoo of his 50th goal. “Not a lot of guys have reached it so it’s pretty special. I just have to thank my teammates because they’ve helped out a lot this year. It’s partly because of them that I reached 50.”
The scoring sequence came after two penalties were called on Phoenix. First Jamie Rivers was called for hooking, and then 33 seconds later Joel Perrault was sent to the box for delay of game after sending a puck over the glass.
There was question of whether the Coyotes committed the second penalty leading up to Cheechoo’s big moment. The officials took extra time in calling the delay of game penalty, allowing Team Teal to catch their breath a bit and enabling them to come back with some extra hop in their step.
“We knew we had to take advantage because we thought they may even out the calls once in a while, so it was good timing,” said Cheechoo. “Anytime you can get a little rest it helps and it energizes you a bit. It probably helped us when play resumed.”
After Cheechoo’s goal was recorded, the Glendale Arena was silenced, much different then it would have been last night in San Jose.
“I wish we would have been able to have it happen at home last night and let our crowd get into it, but the fact that he’s done it is an incredible achievement,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson. “Obviously it’s great for Cheech, but the key is that it won the game. It’s been great fun to watch.”
Another guy who had a little hand in Cheechoo reaching the 50 goal milestone is a guy named Joe Thornton. Since his arrival on Dec. 2, Thornton has assisted on 34 of Cheechoo’s 44 goals. And no one was happier than Joe to see his linemate get his 50th.
“He dove into the net for it,” said Cheechoo of Thornton getting the puck for his personal collection. “That was pretty cool of him. We’ve seemed to connect since he’s gotten here. It was nice for him to get the assist on it too.”
“It was a tough night, but we’re happy we got the two points and we’re happy for Cheech that he scored his 50th,” said Thornton.
Back home at Moose Factory, you can be assured that the whole Cree Nation is celebrating the pride of their town’s accomplishment.
“Everyone has been watching up there,” added Cheechoo. “They all have dishes. There’s one guy up there that used to buy just Flyer’s games, but now he’s switched to just San Jose games.”
Now that 50 has been reached, Cheechoo may have his eyes on yet another prize; the NHL scoring title. With his two goals tonight, Cheechoo tied Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk for second in the League in goals, putting him just three behind Jaromir Jagr. But the right winger assures that there has never been any pressure to score goals and that there’s only one goal he’s working towards, and that’s winning.
“I never really put any pressure on myself to get it, I just want to help the team win,” he said. “If I get goals, that’s a bonus. Every win now is huge. We’re battling for the last three or four playoff spots, so it’s something that we just have to come ready to play everyday. You can’t take any night off.”
For Coach Wilson, Cheechoo’s rise to becoming an elite goal scorer caught him off guard a little bit.
“When I came to San Jose, I never would have thought that Cheech would be a 50 goal scorer,” said Wilson. “I thought I’d be looking at a great third line grinder with some upside who could score a bit. We saw that last year, but I never anticipated 50 goals, that’s for sure. He’s the fourth guy that I’ve coached to get 50 goals. Peter Bondra, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne have all done it for me before, and what all four of those guys have in common is they want to score so bad. They go to the net hard and they live to see the red light go on.”
Not to be lost in the 50 goal hype is the feat that Patrick Marleau accomplished tonight along side Cheechoo. On Cheechoo’s second goal, the teammates both collected their 85th point of the season, surpassing Owen Nolan for the single season franchise record in points.
“Me and Cheech got it at the same time, so that was great,” said Marleau. “It feels good, but it made it that much better that it was the game-winning goal that we both got it on.”
The tone that Marleau carried in the locker room, however, spoke volumes about the Captain, as he shrugged off questions about his own feat and focused more on Cheechoo’s accomplishment and the team’s win.
“It’s been unbelievable to watch,” said Marleau. “Just to see those two (Cheechoo and Thornton) working out there, along with Ek, it’s been great. Whenever we need a big lift, those guys go over the boards and they’ve been doing it game in and game out.”
With four games left in the 2005-06 season, only time will tell how many goals Cheechoo will amass. But at the rate he’s going, if my name were Jagr, I’d be looking in my rear view mirror a bit.
Patty and Cheech both hitting 85 on the same goal to break Owen's record makes me so weepy. I wuv my captain.
The Sharks are not out of the woods yet, although a win against the Canucks would clinch it. It would be wonderful if the Canucks could somehow knock Colorado out of the playoffs. Blurgh.
[Edit: one more article!
Cheechoo scores, Thornton feeds, and Sharks look good
Ross McKeon, Chronicle Staff Writer
Vancouver , British Columbia -- Fittingly, seconds after Jonathan Cheechoo's 50th goal came to rest in the back of the net Monday night in Phoenix, there was Joe Thornton swooping in to retrieve the keepsake puck.
It figures he'd assist in snagging the centerpiece for Cheechoo's trophy case.
"He dove into the net for it," Cheechoo said. "That's pretty cool."
Pretty cool and universally appropriate considering Thornton has assisted on 34 of the 44 goals Cheechoo has scored since the Nov. 30 trade brought the ex-Bruins captain to San Jose in exchange for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. The combination has been effective right from the start.
"We've just seemed to connect," Cheechoo said.
It's not only with his linemate that Thornton has had great influence. The Sharks have turned an 8-12-4 start without Thornton to a 33-14-7 run since then. San Jose has earned 73 of a possible 108 points in that time to put itself on the verge of the Stanley Cup playoffs. A win tonight against the Canucks would clinch an invitation.
Anywhere from a fourth- through eighth-place finish is possible, meaning San Jose's first-round playoff opponent could be Anaheim, Calgary, Dallas, Detroit or Nashville. The Sharks still have a remote chance to host a first-round series.
"Our goal is to run the table here," coach Ron Wilson said. "The toughest game is always the next one you're going to play."
The next two -- tonight's and Thursday's in San Jose -- are both against what figures to be a desperate Vancouver team, fresh off Monday night's 4-2 loss at home to Anaheim. Winners of five straight with their last three games at home after tonight, the Sharks have swept both ends of all three sets of back-to-back games since March 25.
"We've got young legs, we're enthusiastic," said Thornton, the league's runaway leader with 87 assists. "We don't mind playing back-to-back games. We feel comfortable."
"My job is to keep everybody focused, in the moment and not get too carried away," Wilson added. "With the news that came out of Nashville, that provides even a little more to try to play a team like that. For all you know, the way it's going, we could play Anaheim in the playoffs, which would be pretty interesting."
The Predators learned Monday they will be without goalie Tomas Vokoun for the rest of the season. Vokoun was diagnosed with pelvic thrombophlebitis, a rare blood disorder that leads to clotting. Untested backup Chris Mason assumes the No. 1 role for a team that has been struggling the second half of the season.
San Jose's two earlier meetings with Vancouver resulted in losses nine nights apart in November as part of the Sharks' 10-game losing streak that prompted the Thornton trade. Cheechoo didn't have a point -- let alone a goal -- in either the 3-1 loss in San Jose on Nov. 16 or the 3-2 setback in Vancouver on Nov. 24.
And no one could have envisioned what has happened since then.
"I never would have thought when I first came to the Sharks a couple years ago that Cheech was going to be a 50-goal scorer," Wilson said. "I thought we were looking at a great third-line grinder with some upside for scoring."
During his four seasons behind the bench in Anaheim, Wilson had two 50-goal scorers: Paul Kariya, 50 in 1995-96 and Teemu Selanne, 51 in '96-'97. During five seasons as coach in Washington, Wilson had one: Peter Bondra, 52 in '97-'98.
"Each one of them wants to score so bad, they go to the net hard and they live to see the red light go on," Wilson said of the quartet. "That's what's common amongst them all."
Cheechoo said the puck will wind up with his dad, who is holding and proudly displaying all of the 25-year-old's personal souvenirs.
"I never put any pressure on myself to get it," Cheechoo said of eclipsing 50 goals. "I just want to help the team win. If I score goals, that's a bonus."
I'm amused at the idea of someone Joe's size diving into the net. And *squeaks* Puck going to his dad. :)]