| Even-keeled Teal
Steady play has served SJ well
by Steve Flores
O.k. guys and dolls the playoffs are upon us and
the San Jose Sharks have defied the odds of all of the world's supposed hockey
experts and have not only qualified for the playoffs but actually entered with
the #2 overall seed in the Western Conference. Before I venture into the vast
playground of NHL postseason hyperbole let me first commend the entire
organization and all the team's fans on a job well done.
Sharks have played with grit, effort and fervor all year long and deserve that
#2 overall ranking.
Before the 1st round playoff series began we all
knew that the Sharks had drawn the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks and Blues have
met three other times in the post-season so there is definitely an air of
familiarity between the two teams. The Blues qualified, as the 7th seed in the
West But don't let that lower seeding fool you into thinking that they are head
and shoulders beneath the men of teal.
The Blues finished only 13
points behind the Sharks, finished as one of the league's hottest clubs and
have quality veteran leadership throughout their roster. Anyone watching the
game 1 activities may have noticed that the gap is minimal.
Center Doug Weight was all over the ice. He was a physical force and played
with aggression and intimidation. The Sharks played stellar defense and Evgeny
Nabokov was solid between the pipes. The Blues still bolster with Tank favorite
Chris Pronger, Keith Tkachuk, Pavol Demitra and a cast of others. This team is
not full of slouches.
The Sharks played hard and gritty. At times they
looked exhausted and that's not me whining or raggin at them. Overall the
Sharks are a very young team. Jonathan Cheechoo, Tom Preissing and game one
game winning scorer Niko Dimitrakos are all in their 1st or 2d seasons. The
team does have veteran leadership and Head Coach Ron Wilson will have them as
prepared as he possibly can but don't for a moment underestimate the veteran
savvy of these Blues. Thursday night's game could have gone either way. The
Sharks are not the league's most gifted offensive juggernaut. The Sharks rely
on 100% effort and top-notch defensive efforts to win nearly every game. They
got that defensive portion in game #1. However, the offense was not there.
The NHL playoffs are different than the regular season. Team defenses
are stepped up and far fewer penalties are called. The old adage is for the
referee's to simply 'let them play'. For the most part this is true. Should the
Sharks continue their winning ways they will have to deal with far tighter
defense than in the regular season while dealing with only quality teams from
here on out.
The plus here is that no major network or hockey
publication has yet decided to really recognize the Sharks as anything other
than a team that over achieved during the regular season. Don't let this bother
you. This franchise has never gotten beyond the second round and after losing
their most high profile players (Owen Nolan and Teemu Selanne) the media of
both the U.S.A and Canada still have no proof that the Sharks are any better
than their failures of season's past.
The respect will ultimately come
from being able to reach out and pound away at the hockey demons that have thus
far prevented the team from excelling beyond the second round. Until that is
done we will have to sit and hope that this group of hard-working fella's can
stand up to all of the pressures and nay Sayers en-rout to their goal of
hoisting Lord Stanley's cup towards the rafters of the San Jose Arena.
Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org
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