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Let the second season begin
SJ needs to be aggressors vs Anaheim
4/15/09 - By Mike Lee -

The NHL’s second season is here. For the Sharks, this is arguably the most important post season in franchise history. Outside of a Stanley Cup Championship, anything else will classify the 2008-09 season as a failure. Those were the expectations that this franchise hoisted upon its own shoulders when they fired Ron Wilson last summer.

Winning a Presidents Trophy only adds to the expectations, but this isn’t a team that currently exudes confidence. The Sharks were 5-4-1 over their last ten games of the regular season, losing their last two games to Phoenix and Los Angeles , both teams that failed to even qualify for the playoffs.

San Jose won four of six games against Anaheim this season, but throw all of that out the window. The playoffs are an entirely different animal, and both the Sharks and Ducks know it. The last two games of the series were post-season tune ups, but what they actually turned out to be was a preview of what will undoubtedly be one of the most physical series in the NHL this year.

Now, “physical” and “Sharks” haven’t always been synonymous, but the Sharks are focused on what they believe will be a knock down, drag out series. If the Sharks intend on taking care of business, they will need to be the pushers, not the pushee.

Dallas figured out last season that the Sharks could be thrown off their game with a physical attack that focused on beating up the skill players on San Jose ’s 1st and 2nd lines. Doug Wilson tried to address that situation by adding more grit to his lineup.

Rob Blake won’t fall victim to any shenanigans by the Ducks. Dan Boyle has also been there, and also provides the scoring dynamic that San Jose lacked last season. The addition of Claude Lemieux to the lineup is simply a side show.

Don’t look for Lemieux to make much of an impact in this series. His 4th line minutes won’t add up to anything of significance, and Jamie McGinn has been added to the playoff roster as insurance.

The player that will be most intriguing in this series is Travis Moen. The Sharks forward brings the sand paper that San Jose most desperately needs, especially during a playoff series against a team known to be chippy.

Oh, and that team also happened to give up on Moen on March 4th, when they dealt him to San Jose , along with defenseman Kent Huskins. Hopefully the Ducks decision to kick Moen out of the nest, serves as motivation for the left wing. Revenge is an interesting motivator, and Moen would probably like nothing more than to show up his former employer by bouncing them from the playoffs.

If Huskins sees any action in the post season, it will be a plus for the Sharks. Having another seasoned defenseman who knows how to win can only help San Jose . He’s yet to play a second for the Sharks, so the chemistry question is an interesting one. The fact that Huskins has been out for three months also means he’ll need to shake out the cob webs.

The Sharks haven’t been immune to injuries, especially late in the season, so shaking out the cob webs is the order of the day for several regulars. Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau, Rob Blake, Jeremy Roenick and Lemieux are just a sampling of the players that recently returned to the lineup. Those players will need to find their game in a hurry.

That applies to Marleau more than anyone on the list. The Sharks captain’s 38-goal regular season seemed to be a carry over from his big playoff performance last spring, but like the Sharks big regular season, will be meaningless if the Sharks falter in the playoffs.

This series will come down to how effective the Sharks can be on the power play. Expect the Ducks to take their fare share of penalties, even if Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle did some 11th hour lobbying for some “fairness” in the number of calls his team sees. That means the Sharks need to cash in on those opportunities. San Jose ’s man-advantage was white hot at the beginning of the season, because it was unpredictable.

Being unpredictable is something San Jose ’s power play will have to excel at. Having guys like Joe Thornton roaming in front of the net would be a good start. Getting guys to stick their nose into places that typically result in pain is another way for the power play to be effective.

Finally, the Sharks need to get off to fast starts against Anaheim , both at home and on the road. Falling behind at HP Pavilion eliminates one of the biggest intangibles in this series for San Jose , the fans. Sharks crowds are loud. Sharks playoff crowds are really loud, and that provides energy for the home team. Allow the Ducks to jump out to a quick lead, and Tank crowd can be muzzled.

Do the same thing in Anaheim , and you take away some added fuel away from the Ducks.

In any case, the second season is here. Let’s hope it’s an extended one in San Jose .


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