Sharks Bite to Kill

When the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs first started, the San Jose Sharks were automatically written off due to their playoff history.

But now, there’s a different feeling in the air in San Jose.

Understanding their first round opponent were a young, inexperienced club in the Colorado Avalanche; Craig Anderson provided quite the scare. Fortunately for the Sharks, Anderson and the Avs ran out of gas helping the Sharks head into the Western Conference semi-finals.

When it was finally determined that their opponents for the semi’s would be none other than the defending Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings, the stage was set for history to rear it’s ugly head and repeat itself.

But, Joe Pavelski and company had other ideas.

Throughout most of the first round, as well as all three games played thus far, “The Big Pavelski” has provded the Sharks with an offensive game taking opponents by surprise. Known for his responsible two-way game, Pavelski provide quite a punch as a second line skater. He ended the regular season with 51 points in only 67 games played.  Of his 51 points, 25 of them were earned by placing the biscut in the basket.

Heading into game three, most of the hockey community world-wide felt that the series would shift in favor of the mighty Detroit Red Wings. They were heading home to hockeytown looking to get back on track. However, after opening up a three goal lead against San Jose something went wrong. Eight arms were not enough to hold onto a lead the other night in Detroit. Heck, for the Red Wings, nothing was enough. Not two nights ago, nor in any of the first three games of this semifinal series that has seen the birth of the squid killers as well as a new breed of Sharks.

An octopi’s primary defense is to hide, either not to be seen at all, or not to be detected as an octopus. From this semifinal best of seven between these two clubs, the Sharks are on the prowl and the Wings need to come out of their hiding spot if they have any intentions of keeping their playoff season alive.

But let’s be serious, Sharks bite to kill.

I’m scrambling around looking for a Chinese calendar because I wonder, is this the year of the Shark(s)?!

Tuesday night opened plenty of eyes. The Wings took a commanding 3-1 lead into the third period on home-ice.

Now, we all know that when you are in Hockeytown no lead is safe, if you are the opponent with the lead that is. But a rare event occurred that night.

Not only did the Sharks erase a two-goal deficit, they skated into overtime and won the game. All of this against the “mighty” Detroit Red Wings. Even more surprising, Joe Thornton who already scored a goal in the contest, sent a beautiful pass to the stick of Patrick Marleau who, you guessed it, buried the puck into the back of the net for the game winner.

Thornton, who has been the center of playoff attention for pulling his best impersonation of Harry Houdini during this time of year, seems to finally be providing enough in the playoffs to erase the demons. His goal at the 6:42 mark of the third period brought the Sharks within one, making it a 3-2 game.

Rookie Logan Couture tied things up for the Sharks at 13:17 of the third and that was all that was needed because Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov shut the door the rest of the way. However, before we get all giddy over the three games to none lead the Sharks currently posses over the Wings, realize this: as great as it is, Nabokov has not been stellar in this series. Far from it for that matter.

Sure, Nabby leads all playoff goaltenders in wins and goals against average; however, his .916 save percentage is something that can be polished up. History shows that statistics in the playoffs do not play a vital role (Marc-Andre Fleury posted a .908 saved percentage in claimaing the leagues top prize last season) but Nabokov’s play has been overshadowed by the offensive output his teammates have provided. He has not faced a lot of shots during these playoffs and if not for the offense, things could look much different.

Giving credit where credit is due, though, this has been the best Nabokov has played in the ‘second season’ since the lockout. He just needs to find his regular season game and the nibble he is currently providing will become a deadly bite.

Pavelski did get himself on the score sheet yet again Tuesday night as well. His apple on Devin Setoguchi’s goal late in the first period cut Detroit’s lead in half and gave the Sharks life heading into the second stanza. You might not think so, but that assist on that goal was important.

And then there was the clincher.

Marleau netting the game winner was as vital as it gets. It was only his second goal of these playoffs, but likely the most important. The coffin is one nail away from being sealed with the Red Wings resting inside of it.

In order for the Sharks to continue advancing, the top line will need to be more productive and on par with the second line for San Jose. Marleau, Thornton and Dany Heatley are the catalyst to the Sharks success. They can not rely on the second-tier players to carry the entire load. Hockey is a team sport, and in order to be successful, the entire team needs to contribute.

The quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup will continue for this year’s San Jose Sharks club as they look to close out the Wings tonight via a sweep. Now, understand a sweep is not likely as Detroit will not simply lay down. This Wings club, like any other over the years, has plenty of fight left within.

Expect the series to shift back to San Jose however, doubt that it will again shift back to Detroit. Game 4 is tonight, with the makings to be wild.

Did anyone find that calendar?

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