| Now for the fun part
Three keys to success in the 2nd half
By Chris Wood
The NHL All-Star break is finally over, and
San Jose Sharks visit Edmonton tonight to face off
against the team that knocked them out of the Stanley
Cup playoffs last year. I didn't watch the All-Star game, which is a
traditional borefest. Of the 3 Sharks at the game,
Patrick Marleau scored a goal, Jonathan "Get on the"
Cheechoo train had an assist, while Joe "still trying
to earn my paycheck this year" Thornton was held
without a point.
With 34 games remaining in the 2006-2007 season, the
Sharks currently sit 5th in the Western Conference
just behind Detroit and trail Pacific Division-leading
Anaheim by a mere 4 points with two games in hand.
Barring a total collapse, the Sharks will be playoff
bound this April with a real shot at the cup. First
place in the division and the conference are both
within San Jose's grasp.
Keys for the second half of the season are blatantly
1) Continued solid play from the goaltender tandem of
Evgeni Nabakov and Vesa Toskala. While rumors have
been swirling since day one of the season that coach
Ron Wilson will eventually settle on a number one
net-minder, I see Ronny pushing the success of this
particular platoon deep into the playoffs. At 110, the
Sharks have the lowest GA in the league. When you can
top Marty Brodeur and the New Jersey devils in
between-the-pipes protection, you're onto something.
If a trade happens, expect it to be a blockbuster, but
555 says the radical rotation continues for the
2) The reemergence of RW Jonathan Cheechoo. Leading
the league with 56 goals last year raised the bar
pretty high for Cheechoo. Being on the top line with
Joe Thorton had a lot to do with that, but chemistry
is fleeting, and with the way that Wilson juggles his
lines, you don't stay in one place too long if you are
not scoring consistently. Many questioned #14's trip
to the All-Star game in Dallas, and Cheech's comments
that he intends to live up to the selection had more
to do with what he has in store for the rest of the
season as opposed to what he planned to do on the ice
down in Dallas. Cheechoo has 5 goals and 7 assists
over the last month with 10 power play points to boot.
Look for him to melt plenty of ice for the rest of the
3) Obtain a play-dominating, stay-at-home defenseman.
Kyle McClaren is great, he's my favorite Sharks blue
liner, and no one can argue that Scott Hannan has grit
(except maybe Mike Grier), and as much as I like
Vlasic and Ehrhoff, there's an argument to made that
you can't hoist Lord Stanley without the prototypical
Big D. With Ron Wilson's patented "keep it outside the
dots" zone defense, the good (albeit young) defensive
corps has had quality success in keeping the shots
long and visible for Toskala and Nabakov.
But if the
Sharks have a weak spot, it's defensive turnovers
leading to the odd-man rushes that have burned San Jose all season long. At 6-0
and 214 lbs, he's not
gargantuan, but Ken Klee has been holding Colorado
together this season in the back-end. He's got a
plus/minus of 28 playing in all 46 games for the Avs,
he's got the legs to keep up with San Jose's speed
game, and he's familiar with Wilson's defensive
strategies from their days together in DC. Just a
thought as the Feb. 27 trade deadline approaches.
Contact Chris at
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