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Quest begins with Avalanche
Sharks must get past Colorado first
4/13/10 - By Mike Lee

The Sharks embark on another trek down the playoff path or peril on Wednesday, with one goal in mind. Silence the naysayers. Three consecutive 2nd round exists was upstaged last season by an embarrassing opening round defeat to the Anaheim Ducks, so the Sharks have plenty of baggage to unload. The biggest lesson to be learned from last season’s debacle is that San Jose needs to apply their focus to the game in hand and not look past their opponent.

The one advantage San Jose has this season is that everyone expects them to fail. Even this year’s first round opponent has been quick with the bulletin board material.

“I think they had higher expectations than what they've achieved. And it's going to be our job this year to try to make sure that happens again," Colorado Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post.

San Jose can’t look past the up and coming Avalanche. They can’t look past game 1 for that matter. The Sharks did that last year and quickly found themselves in a 2-0 hole before they even packed for Southern California . Four games later, they were packing for summer vacation.

Here are the other keys to San Jose ’s success in round one:

Exploit the Youth

Colorado is a young team. Many of the Avalanche players will be making their playoff debuts, including Calder Trophy candidate Matt Duchene, who have no idea what it takes to win a Stanley Cup series. Every player needs to learn the ropes by experiencing a playoff defeat, but the Sharks need to apply that lesson by playing relentless hockey.

Duchene and Stewart combined for 119 points this season, but they have zero NHL playoff experience, and Duchene may not even play in game 1. Forwards T.J. Galiardi and Ryan O’Reilly have 81 games of NHL experience each and no playoff experience.

Execute

It’s simple. Outscore your opponent. San Jose was shut down by a red-hot Jonas Hiller last spring, but part of that can be attributed to the lack of execution when given the chance. San Jose had 12 power play chances against Anaheim in the first two games and they scored zero goals.

Execute on the power play and the 2nd round will be waiting. Colorado ’s 21st ranked penalty kill in the regular season is primed to be exploited by the Sharks 4th ranked power play unit. This is the opportunity the Sharks must take advantage of.

Goaltending Trending

Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson was 7th in the league in wins this season, but he struggled late in the season. Evgeni Nabokov had his own troubles following the Olympics, but Anderson just flat out bad. Colorado lost 13 of 21 games in March and April.

Anderson also gave up a league-high 186 goals this season. Granted he did play in 71 of 82 games this season, but Nabokov had just as many appearances and allowed 16 fewer goals.

Role Players Must Roll

In the six games the Sharks played in last spring against Anaheim , only two players had more than one goal in the series and one of those guys was defenseman Dan Boyle. Joe Pavelski, Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick, Marcel Goc and Travis Moen combined for 2 assists total.

GM Doug Wilson tried to exercise the Sharks playoff demons by executing the removal of all of those players except for Pavelski. In are Manny Malhotra, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer to provide a more up-tempo involvement in the overall game plan.

That also means guys like Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi need to show themselves in the Colorado series. Colorado will take the approach that every other team has taken the last 5 seasons against San Jose , which is to focus shutting down the Sharks top line, so the 2nd, 3rd and 4th line guys must play a bigger role for the Sharks to succeed.

Seize the Initiative

Let’s face it. The Sharks can’t afford a seven game series against the Avalanche. They need to take this series in five games or less if they want any chance of doing some damage in the later rounds. A seven game series against a team like Colorado would crack an already brittle confidence.

San Jose needs to jump all over Colorado and put them down early. Two win in San Jose are optimal. If they split in San Jose , the shark must take games 3 and 4 in Denver . Anything less will probably mean a 1st or 2nd round exit once again.



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