Saturday, May 14, 2011

As the Sharks advance to the Western Conference Finals...

It is now set. The Sharks have advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they will play the Vancouver Canucks. In a rare sense of events, the Sharks will actually be playing a higher seeded team (as the Canucks' first place seed in the regular season and Presidents' Trophy victory is higher than the Sharks' second place finish). As such, the Canucks will gain home ice advantage, and the first two games of the series will be played in Vancouver.

What does this mean for the Sharks? As far as the playoffs have gone so far, we much evaluate the performance of both teams:

In round one,
The Sharks faced the Kings and beat them in six games. One of the victories included an epic comeback from a deficit of four goals to win in overtime. Although the Kings were without their star player Anze Kopitar (due to a fractured ankle), their goaltender Jonathan Quick was a very potent force, keeping the Kings within striking distance despite the significantly greater number of shots released by the Sharks.

The Canucks faced the Blackhawks and beat them in seven games. To start the series, the Canucks clinched the first three games, but allowed the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks to come back and force a Game 7. When the final game went to overtime, the Canucks barely managed to win with a goal by forward Alexandre Burrows. To note, the Blackhawks did not have nearly the firepower they had last year, missing such impact players as Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi, and Ben Eager.

In round two,
The Sharks faced the Red Wings and beat them in seven games. During the series, Red Wings clearly showed themselves to be a reckoning force with their amazing talent, although the Sharks' youth perhaps allowed them to push through and win. While the Sharks won the first two games of the series, the Red Wings orchestrated a comeback to force a Game 7. With the San Jose crowd loud and supportive of their home team during the seventh game of the series, the Sharks narrowly won to advance.

The Canucks faced the Predators and beat them in six games. Although the PRedators have had a very impressive run during the regular reason and during the playoffs with the likes of Shea Weber, Mike Fisher, and their goaltender Pekka Rinne, the heavily offensive Canucks managed to win. Despite being the favorites to win, the Canucks did show a bit of weakness, as their defenses were not what they used to be.

So now, we have the Sharks and the Canucks: the Sharks being a relatively well balanced team with phenomenal puck control, and the Canucks being a much more offensive based team.

How will the two match up?
It is heavily argued that despite posting a 1-2-1 record agains the Canucks in the regular season, the Sharks have become a much better team, and with a victory over the Red Wings, that enough is proof the Canucks may need to fear the Sharks come Sunday. Additionally, the path the Sharks took to the Conference finals may have been more difficult. The Kings out-performed the Blackhawks in regular season play, and the Red Wings...well, are the same dominant Red Wings that have won the Stanley Cup four times since 1997. I also know plenty of Vancouver natives who are very nervous about their home team playing the Sharks.

If the Sharks manage to beat the Canucks, they will face the winner from the East, and will have home ice advantage.

As fans, let's push our Sharks to victory! This is our year!



An additional note: Since was out for the entirety of last Thursday (when the Sharks faced the Red Wings in Game 7), I never got to post the following, so I will do so now, for those who are interested.

One game, two outcomes.

The Sharks can either go in there, do their best, emulate the skills from practice, and put up a tough front in a losing effort, or they can unleash their fury by entering the game with a dominant force, owning the game, and putting away the pesky Red Wings once and for all!

As Sharks fans, we all know what our team is capable of. We have seen it all so far in the post season: our perfect overtime win record, our ability to overcome large deficits, Benn Ferriero’s overtime goal in Game 1 versus the Red Wings on his birthday, Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi’s clutch goals, Douglas Murray’s thundering hits, Joe Thornton’s great playmaking and vision in the zone, Scott Nichol’s hard hitting work ethic, Dan Boyle’s amazing puck control, Jason Demers’ toughness, Joe Pavelski’s drive, Ian White’s puck skills, Logan Couture’s battles and scoring, and Antti Niemi’s amazing saves. We have seen this!

This is a team that is ready to win. The last three games do not matter; they’re worthless. What matters is tonight. Already, I can hear the San Jose crowd cheering, echoing support across the HP Pavilion, heard by everyone throughout downtown San Jose. Tonight, we strike. Tonight, we win!

The support is here, the momentum is here, and it is time to, once and for all, utilize everything that has been held back: the hunger, the drive, and the dominance.

I am tired of hearing from both Sharks “fans” and Red Wings fans alike how the Sharks have lost their touch. They’re all pathetic. It is time to cast aside the rage and fury held back. They must be unleashed tonight, in quite possibly the most important post-season game in San Jose!

We have done this before against the Red Wings, and we will do it again.

This is our game! This is our night! Time to win!


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