Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Must Win Situation

The NHL playoff series many have dubbed "The Homer Series," due to all wins occurring on home ice, is back in San Jose, and with the series on the line this afternoon, the Sharks must win to force a Game Seven in Los Angeles.

Despite the Kings being ahead in the series 3-2, their Game Five victory was quite possibly the first time one could suggest they outplayed the Sharks.  The Sharks need to eliminate their bad mistakes (e.g. some terrible giveaways that lead to goals) and figure out Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick (the reason the Kings have made it this far) so they can win the next two games.  The path to victory is not unattainable.  If there is one team that can beat the Kings, it is the Sharks.

Here is why the fans should care this year, more than any time in the past.  The winner of this series will be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup.  I do not state this simply because the Los Angeles Kings won last year.  The reason is both the Sharks and the Kings have strong defensive strategies, coupled with dangerous special team outputs (i.e. are particularly successful on both power plays and penalty kills).

It it interesting to watch, year after year, how much attention is given to the Eastern Conference, in particular the bold predictions how a team out of the East will be the most successful in the playoffs.  Currently, there are two teams left in the East: the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team with flashy young players, and the Boston Bruins, a rugged team with plenty of talent who won the Stanley Cup only two years ago.

The problem with the East is the focus on offense.  Undoubtedly, the goal output from that conference is high, and it is common for players to score multiple points per game.  It is easy to see why some would pick an Eastern team to win.  They can score.

Now, try to match up an Eastern Conference team with a Western Conference team and see how well they play.  For example, on one of the more rare occurrences during the regular season when the Sharks match up against a team from the East, the Sharks normally win.  The problem the East has is their inability to score against a team with an actual defense.  This is where teams like the Penguins and the Bruins will fall short.

(I have to say, though, it is nice seeing ex-Shark Douglas Murray playing so well.)

With all this attention brought to the Eastern Conference, what about the Western Conference?  Two additional dynamite teams, the Presidents' Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings are still fighting to win as well.

Despite being an unstoppable force for the past two decades, winning four Stanley Cups, the Red Wings are now considered to be making a Cinderella run so far this post-season, knocking out the second seeded Anaheim Ducks, and are currently at an advantage over the first seeded Blackhawks, putting them on the brink of elimination. 

If the Sharks can manage to beat the Kings, they're up against one of two teams in the Western Conference Finals: a beatable Red Wings team (just look up the Sharks's recent history against the Red Wings), or an under-performing Blackhawks team that has yet to face the revamped Sharks team.

The Sharks team has said it themselves by stating the reason their "at home success" is so high is because of the fans.  Let us all get behind our team today, tomorrow, and for as long as you can!  We must win!

We need to get in that advantageous third round position.  GO SHARKS!

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