Game On: San Jose Sharks
I’ve been waiting for this day for about 11 months. Tonight the San Jose Sharks start on their quest to win the Stanley Cup – but you already knew that. This is where the whole enchilada starts – everything else up until now has basically been a 6 month appetizer.
Some of the guys on NHL Home Ice predicted this series with the Anaheim Ducks to be the only series to go 7 games - with the Ducks slightly favored to win. Their reasoning – if you look back over the last few months the Ducks have been playing ‘lights out’ while the Sharks have been average at best.
I have to agree – the Sharks lost their way to the Presidents’ Trophy, so I’m really concerned that the team might not have had enough time to come back from injury to play up to the level we saw in first two months of the season. I don’t think we can go deep into the playoffs playing the standard dump-and-chase we’ve seen since the All-Star break. The Sharks need to play that fluid, attacking offense Todd McLellan was hired to install.
Many pundits have talked about what the Sharks need to be successful – the blue line once again finding its scoring ways, the top line of Marleau, Thornton and Setoguchi becoming a consistent scoring threat again, and Evgeni Nabokov being consistent and at the top of his game.
I would like to throw two other things into the mix.
Jonathan Cheechoo – if he can show even half the signs of being the scoring machine he was a few years ago, that could give the Sharks a legitimate scoring threat from the third line.
Claude Lemieux – when Claude was interviewed right after he was called up from Worcester he said he wanted to make his line the best 4th line in hockey. Imagine if, living up to his legendary status of playing better in the playoffs than during the regular season, Claude lived up to that quote and made his line the best 4th line in the playoffs.
During the last month of the season, no matter which Sharks player was interviewed, the answer to the Sharks’ woeful struggles has always been the same – “We know what we’re capable of, we’re not worried”. If the Sharks come out and play with a renewed energy not seen in a few months – a relentless, skating, shooting, checking machine rolling over the Ducks no matter who is on the ice, then we’ll be able to say the Sharks knew all along what they were doing. If they come out with anything less, given all the expectations and all the rhetoric, then I fear for our playoff lives.