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Playoff Fodder
WCF Game 1 comments
5/10/04 - by Mike Lee

When Steve Montador bagged the winning goal in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday afternoon, Calgary was rewarded by a player that hasn't seen much ice time in the playoffs, but took advantage of the opportunity. A pretty telling statement for the team that so closely resembles the Sharks. Last Summer Sharks GM Doug Wilson unveiled his expectations of his roster, and one of them was contributions from everyone.

Call Wilson a prophet or a master motivator, but that's exactly what he received from his team this season. Problem is the playoffs are all about what have you done for me lately. If the Sharks want to continue their success, guys that haven't done a lot are going to need to step up and contribute.

If guys like Chris Simon and Krzysztof Oliwa can bag playoff goals, then Alyn McCauley and Curtis Brown certainly can as well. Granted, the Sharks played in three games in the Colorado series where three goal or less were scored cumulatively, but if they're going to step up then you may as well have Scott Parker skating a few shifts.

Where have you gone Nils Ekman?

Speaking of the stepping up, can you guess who finished the regular season as the Sharks second leading point scorer? That would be Nils Ekman, whose 55 point regular season has translated into a one assist playoffs for the Swedish forward.

Ekman has spent more time tying to draw penalties by flopping than concentrating on what made him successful in the regular season. Ekman was involved in Alexander Korolyuk's 3rd period goal in Game 1 on Sunday by screening Miikka Kiprusoff, but we've seen little of him on transition breaks. That was his bread and butter during the regular season.

In Ekman's defense, linemate Alyn McCauley has missed 7 games during the post season, but Ekman's game needs to rely less on linemates and more on his own natural abilities. He certainly has them.

Defense continues to shine

The Sharks defense was stellar in shutting down Peter Forsberg in the conference semi-finals, and looked to continue to play big against the Flames top line on Sunday. Jerome Iginla was limited to a single shot on goal and had pressure in his face all afternoon.

Scott Hannan was credited for much of San Jose's success in the last series, but Sharks head coach Ron Wilson credits the entire defensive corps.

"I think any one of our six, seven or eight defensemen that we have who are ready to play can play against Jarome Iginla, Peter Forsberg or anybody," Wilson said last Saturday. "That's been our approach all year. You might see, you know, your TSN or ESPN highlights where Scotty Hannan is in a death lock or lock of horns with Peter Forsberg and think it was like that every single shift. If you watch the games, actually you'll know that Mike Rathje is in his face, Kyle McLaren, Jason Marshall, Brad Stuart, anybody who has been playing is in anybody's face. "

San Jose contained Iginla and Martin Gelinas on Sunday, but Craig Conroy burned them for a pair of goals. It'll be interesting to see how the Sharksdefense shifts focus in lieu of the four goals they allowed in Sunday's contest.

Sustained pressure

It'll be interesting to see if the Sharks come out with the same intensity that they displayed in Game 1. That effort resulted in 52 shots on goal, but only three goals and an eventual overtime loss.

It was fabulous to see San Jose go for the throat in overtime, even though it ended in a loss. The Sharks played an ultra conservative game in overtime during the regular season, which resulted in 12 ties and 6 OTLs. It was also interesting to see the Sharks play an offensive game in the extra frame considering they were stung twice by Joe Sakic in the conference semi-finals.

Perhaps that a tactic to take the bite out of Calgary. Their 12 overtime shots on goal is nothing to complain about. It certainly made for an exciting period, but will the Sharks take the same approach if presented with the same situation later in the series?

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