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  • Don't doubt these guys: Sharks will beat Blues

    By Mark Purdy

    Mercury News


    In seven months, we have come full circle in terms of the Sharks. The Tank of Expectations is no longer half empty. It is half full of unforeseen optimism.

    In October, it would have been a delight to just think of the Sharks squeezing into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    In April, it will be a disappointment if our beloved Los Tiburones don't reach the second round.

    That's what can happen when you stun skeptics by producing the best season in franchise history. Wednesday, Sharks Coach Ron Wilson was conversing with a clutch of writers when someone asked what a fair expectation would be of his team in the series against the St. Louis Blues that begins tonight.

    ``Whose expectations?'' joked Wilson, rising to the bait. ``Yours? The way you guys were writing before the season, we had no chance. Now, the expectations are probably we lose in four straight and we're playing golf next week. So if you'd just keep writing that, it would help us.''

    Sorry. Can't cooperate.

    The Sharks should beat the Blues in five games. If St. Louis goalie Chris Osgood is especially sharp, as could happen, then make it the Sharks in six.

    Meanwhile, along the way, nobody will continue to believe the Sharks really are as good as their regular-season record.

    The Sharks have been called the Stealth team of the NHL. That's not quite right. People can recognize a Stealth fighter when one flies by. The Sharks are totally Invisible Fish.

    A week ago, ESPN's ``NHL Tonight'' show concocted a hilarious ``Name That Shark'' feature, just to prove how anonymous the team still is. Mug shots of various Sharks were flashed on the screen, while analysts Barry Melrose and Ray Ferraro were challenged to identify the players.

    How did Melrose and Ferraro do? Awful. Neither man recognized Nils Ekman. The same for Alex Korolyuk. Melrose guessed that about three different players were Evgeni Nabokov. No surprise there.

    Playing out on the West Coast, with a roster devoid of superstars, you can't expect the Sharks to be household faces, even in the hockey world. But if they lose in this first round, the perception will be that the 104-point season was a fluke. It wasn't. But the only way the Sharks can prove it is by playing the same way they have since November.

    Nabokov must be solid. And the skaters must be smart and crisp in their decisions. If you're looking for two candidates to rise up and become less anonymous along the way, you might go with Curtis Brown and Alyn McCauley.

    Brown, acquired at the trade deadline, was part of the Buffalo Sabres' run to the Cup finals in 1999 and has 25 points in 52 playoff games.

    McCauley was Toronto's second-leading scorer in the Maple Leafs' trip to the Eastern Conference finals two years ago. If the Blues focus on shutting down Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo, Brown and McCauley could both benefit. So could Korolyuk or Ekman or any number of other players.

    That is the Blues' dilemma. St. Louis finished strong, winning 10 of its last 16 games in a desperate push to reach the postseason. But how much energy is left?

    It was interesting to see what happened Sunday, after the Blues had locked in their playoff spot the previous day. Seven players, including Chris Pronger, Doug Weight and Keith Tkachuk, didn't suit up for the season's final game.

    Except for one, Alexander Khavanov, who has a fractured foot, they were all healthy scratches. At best, that means the other six players were simply exhausted and desperately needed a rest. At worst, it means they were dinged up and needed to start healing for the playoffs. Either way, the Sharks should take advantage and start banging early, and often.

    There will be no lack of respect for the Blues. The Sharks know they can't win the series without going through Pronger, who will be the best player on the ice -- and the most booed when he's in San Jose. He plays around 30 minutes a game as the Blues' top defenseman. The Sharks must make certain they are 30 arduous minutes.

    How? The Sharks' style this season calls for them to carry the puck into the offensive zone instead of dumping it in and chasing. But don't be shocked if there are some dump-ins tonight when Pronger is on the ice.

    When a puck is dumped, a defenseman chases it into a corner and leaves himself vulnerable to a check by an onrushing forward. In the 2000 first-round series between the Blues and Sharks, when top-seeded St. Louis went down in seven games, Tony Granato slammed into Pronger on just such a play. It set the tone, and clearly got into Pronger's head. He's an older player now and less prone to losing his temper. But his body will still feel those checks.

    Coaching should also be a huge advantage for the Sharks.

    Wilson has been around this dog-and-pony show a long time. He has been to the Cup finals once, with Washington, and has coached 32 playoff games. The Blues' Mike Kitchen has coached zero. Until six weeks ago, he had not been a head coach at any level. He stepped up from an assistant's job when the Blues fired Joel Quenneville.

    No disrespect to Kitchen here. It's not his fault that no one had given him a head-coaching job until now. And as the Blues' late push shows, Kitchen obviously knows what he is doing. But at some point during the series, if a crucial adjustment needs to be made . . . well, you have to think Wilson will be ahead of the curve in anticipating it, because of his experience.

    That is, unless he wants to be playing golf next week. Don't count on it. Sharks in five.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Contact Mark Purdy at [email protected] or (408) 920-5092. Fax (408) 920-5244.


    source


    Mr. G

  • #2
    Strange that a guy would interpret resting your regulars on the regular season's final day as indicating something good for the Sharks.

    Typical bad analysis from the media.

    And Kitchen gives the Blues one big advantage in this playoff season - he's not Quenneville.

    Go Blues!

    Comment


    • #3
      Our friend in San Jose fails to realize Khavanov not playing 12-15-minutes a game is a plus for the Blues and not a minus..giveaways in the nuetral zone to this team can kill you..Khavanov won't be around to do that..

      If the Blues can consistently create scoring chacnes they can win the series..because Osgood and the top four D-men can expected to be solid..but not spectacular...

      If we can't generate scoring chances consistently then yes we could lose in five games...this group can't be expected to win four games in this series by scores of either 1-0 or 2-1...

      Comment


      • #4
        I hate the fact that I get optimistic about the Blues. They always let me down. Maybe this time, I'll pretend like I just don't care.
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        Comment


        • #5
          I think it's hilarious that everyone on the San Jose bandwagon thinks that they are "under the radar" or "underestimated". I blame the media for the public's opinion because of pieces of shit like this article.

          THE SHARKS ARE THE NUMBER TWO SEED. YOU DON'T JUST GET THAT SEEDING BY PUSSYFOOTING AROUND.

          Wouldn't that technically make the Blues the underdog, being the number seven seed?

          Nice spin, San Jose....

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          • #6
            Originally posted by steveInebriated@Apr 8 2004, 09:23 AM
            I think it's hilarious that everyone on the San Jose bandwagon thinks that they are "under the radar" or "underestimated". I blame the media for the public's opinion because of pieces of shit like this article.
            Agree 100%.

            These guys just need something to write, so they spew out complete nonsense.

            One of the reasons I stopped buying newspapers a long time ago.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by steveInebriated@Apr 8 2004, 10:23 AM
              I think it's hilarious that everyone on the San Jose bandwagon thinks that they are "under the radar" or "underestimated". I blame the media for the public's opinion because of pieces of shit like this article.

              THE SHARKS ARE THE NUMBER TWO SEED. YOU DON'T JUST GET THAT SEEDING BY PUSSYFOOTING AROUND.

              Wouldn't that technically make the Blues the underdog, being the number seven seed?

              Nice spin, San Jose....
              some sad Blues fans have said they can win because San Jose is "under the radar and was lucky to get the 2 seed." No one here, people I talk to.
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              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Cubs4ever+Apr 8 2004, 09:28 AM-->
                QUOTE (Cubs4ever @ Apr 8 2004, 09:28 AM)
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