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Feeling nervous?
Game 7 will answer many questions
5/11/11 - By Steve Flores -

Is everyone nervous enough? C'mon you can admit it! The possibility that the San Jose Sharks could become the 4th team in NHL history to blow a three games to none lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is definitely on your mind.

Don't feel bad - the Sharks playoff history of, well, whatever you want to call it - underachievement, not living up to expectations or just plain choking, have made their fans very sensitive and wary once the post-season begins.

The opening round troubles with a banged up Los Angeles Kings team did nothing to dispel those thoughts of playoff no-success yet to their credit the Sharks found a way past their So cal rivals.

Whew!

But now the Sharks are facing the team that they have been built to resemble, led by the coach that they plundered from that same franchise. And although, a season ago the Sharks 4-1 series win in this same round seemed to have exorcized the Red Wing demon - here they are once again making a stand and showing Sharks fan's and the world alike that the Wings have all the guts that perhaps the Sharks do not!?

Hmmmm.

To the Sharks credit they played a pretty solid game 5 for 40 minutes. The final 20 however, to say the least left a lot to be desired. It is said that a game-clinching win is the hardest thing to accomplish. The Sharks seem to be so aware of this adage that it seems to be sticking to them like fly paper. The Wings are a class organization. They win championships and they have world-class coaches, players etc etc etc.

We all know the factoids. These Sharks however seemed to be a different team throughout the second half of the season. They showed fortitude of a kind never before seen on ice in the Bay Area - at least never from the home team. They found a new level of team play -more specifically team defense and Goaltender Antti Niemi caught a groove that saw him play pretty darn good hockey in the second half of the season.

Yet, somehow once the playoff season begins the Sharks are a team stigmatized by ghosts of post season's past. The team seems to find ways to let games slip through their gloves and somehow teams like the Wings seem to find a mental edge stronger than that of the Sharks.

Much has been written and said regarding Patrick Marleau's figurative absence in this series. Most of us have noticed his weakness on pucks, his inability to score and a general ineffectiveness in his game. He is a game breaker that the Sharks need. He is the best player on the team at creating his own shot.

Defenses are stronger in the current game. Men lay down their bodies to block shots and thus it is more difficult to score. The days of the 1980's Edmonton Oilers' 10 goal contests are over. Marleau is unique in that his skating, speed and stick handling skills are unique and exceptional. His inability to use them in this series does standout. Perhaps he is injured or perhaps his head is not in the game. Only he knows for sure. The Sharks will not win or lose because of one player. But, with that said, one player can win a game for you with one great play!

Marleau is the player with the most natural and exceptional tools on this roster. If he manages to actually get into the game (mentally and physically) he could be the difference maker.

The Sharks have a chance tonight to do a nice spring clean of closet ghosts. They can turn a page and move on to a new set of monsters from the Pacific Northwest. Do they have that which the Wings have already proven they possess? The Sharks brass has chosen to emulate the Wings in many ways. The ultimate in emulation is the ability to win the Stanley Cup Finals. Do the Sharks have what it takes to do that? We will soon find out.

Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com

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