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Hindsight 20/20: Blues Will Prevail Over Sharks

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  • Hindsight 20/20: Blues Will Prevail Over Sharks

    Take it to the Bank:
    Blues Will Prevail Over Sharks
    By George Csolak

    (04/08/04)

    On paper, the Blues should be an easily digested opponent for the San Jose Sharks in what figures to be, on paper, a long postseason run.

    Trouble is, this is the Stanley Cup playoffs. Paper is meaningless.

    Five years ago we predicted - along with the rest of the hockey world - that the Blues would be grilling Shark steaks. After all, our heroes had captured the President's Cup in the regular season.

    Days later, the Blues were sent home thanks to the long shot by Owen Nolan from the next zip code that eluded fragile Blues goalie Roman Turek. Stunning.

    Ask Detroit what it felt like last year when Anaheim swept them in the first round. Or ask the Philadelphia Flyers what it's been like to be upset in the first or second round every year.

    This year, expect the unexpected again. Somewhere, somehow, a low-seeded team will be overlooked by a supposedly superior opponent. Some say the Blues are in such a position to upend the Shark, the same way the Shark upended them five years ago.

    I'm on that bandwagon.

    I'm a bit uneasy, though, about some of the Blues' comments after they clinched the seventh seed last weekend following a convincing 4-1 victory over Nashville. The Blues talked openly about how glad they were to be playing San Jose instead of Detroit, the team Nashville drew as a first-round opponent in these Western Conference playoffs.

    Word of the Blues' glee filtered quickly back to San Jose. Hearing the news, the Sharks players remained composed and took it in stride. There were no words of outrage or anger, no vows of revenge.

    "We've been overlooked all year, so why stop now?" defenseman Kyle McLaren said.

    Added Brad Stuart, "That doesn't surprise me. We've been underdogs. Nobody expected us to do much. As long as we're confident, that's all that matters."

    Don't let the calm fool you. Rest assured the Sharks have the Blues' comments tacked onto a cork bulletin board placed strategically near a hallway the players are sure to see as they make their way to and from the ice. And no doubt a clubhouse assistant posted the Blues' words on a chalkboard.

    Seriously, the Blues do match up well against the Sharks. The teams split the regular season series, which does a lot for a team's psyche going in.

    There are several reasons why the Blues will win this series in seven games:

    Momentum - The Blues played very well down the stretch, winning 10 of their last 16 games and going 10-4-2. Everyone knows the team with the hot hand coming in has an edge. The Sharks have been hot all year and are due for a cooldown, just as the Blues were five years ago.

    Defense - In the last three games that mattered, they held the Oilers, Red Wings and Predators to under 20 shots. If teams can't shoot, they can't score.

    Video - The videotape of the 1-0 win over Edmonton has probably been shown to the players ad nauseum this week. In that game, the Blues played a flawless game. Just proving they could assemble 60 minutes of intense, fundamentally sound hockey and then having it beat into their skulls in a theatre setting with popcorn, soda, Goobers and Raisinets would figure to be the proper preparation tonic for this series.

    Owen Nolan is gone - The power forward now resides in Toronto, where he's recuperating from a serious knee injury that is expected to keep him from playing in the "Battle of Ontario" opening round playoff series with Ottawa. Nolan was always a guy everyone loved to hate because he's so hard to play against and that long goal against the Blues will live on forever.

    Marc Bergevin is gone - The merry prankster had no one laughing in 2000 when he used his glove to fire a puck into his own net while trying to clear it from harm's way. Bergevin currently resides in Vancouver, where he's completing his 67th season, while keeping the Canucks loose with his mischief.

    The Chris Pronger factor - San Jose fans hate the towering Blues defenseman. The chorus of obscenities will rain upon Pronger during road games all week long, distracting the Sharks. "Can't wait for the first shift…all those boos," said Pronger with a wry smile. Look for Pronger to feed on the hatred and have his best playoff ever.

    Turek's gone - Enough said.

    Ozzy factor - Unlike last season when he was acquired from the Islanders at the trade deadline, goalie Chris Osgood has had plenty of time to get acclimated to his teammates. He's also looking the erase the memory of the gaffe he committed 10 years ago while with Detroit in Game 7 against the Sharks that led directly to the Red Wings losing the series. Osgood longs to wipe away all the doubt about his ability as a strong playoff goaltender.

    Walt and Pav's Great Adventure - Long criticized for their lack of production in the playoffs, Keith Tkachuk and Pavol Demitra will become energized and provide the Blues "A" production from so-called "A" players.

    Weight's World - Last year Doug Weight was dominant, finally living up to the hype that surrounded his arrival in St. Louis a few years ago. Once again surrounded by legitimate, proven linemates, Weight will flourish again.

    Jammin' Jamal Jammer - Missing in action for 65 games, Mayers was downright unconscious down the stretch. He figures to take it to an even higher level in the playoffs.

    Goaltending experience - Osgood has more playoff experience than any other goalie in the Western Conference. Evgeni Nabokov was stellar this season and played well before injuring his back in the first round of the playoff series with the Blues four years ago, but he'll prove vulnerable in the shadow of the Oz man this year.

    Pressure - The Sharks were the second-best team in the conference this year and came from nowhere. The Blues arrive with little expectations of advancing. This scenario allows the Blues to play with a higher comfort level, while the Sharks will be impatient and tentative because the world will be expecting them to reach the conference finals.

    Ron Wilson - The Sharks' coach was the coach of the Washington Capitals when they lost to Osgood and the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals in 1998. Wilson reminded reporters of that moment this week while hailing Osgood, so it's on his mind. Expect those memories to haunt Wilson throughout the series.

    Dallas Drake - Hockey's most prolific physical pounder - and my choice as this year's Blues MVP - will wreak havoc on the Sharks, causing Blues fans in Section 303 of Savvis to keep track of the victims via a specially designed tote board titled "Drake's Wake."

    So, hockey fans, as you gather your dollars and place your bets, be sure to first print out this story and take it with you. And be sure to show it to the teller window dude, letting him know that it says here on this piece of paper that the Blues will upset the Sharks. After all, if it's on paper, you can take it to the bank.

    # # #

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  • #2
    This column didn't look as stupid 4 days ago.
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    ..."I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered." George Best

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    • #3
      It's still bugging me how San Jose players continue to think that they are underdogs... They are the 2nd best team in the West. They are underdogs in the WCF if they play Detroit, but that's about it.

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      • #4
        Anyone who predicts playoff success for the Blues needs to buy a rag to wipe the egg off his face.
        And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

        -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

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        • #5
          Originally posted by steveInebriated@Apr 12 2004, 08:41 AM
          Jammin' Jamal Jammer - Missing in action for 65 games, Mayers was downright unconscious down the stretch. He figures to take it to an even higher level in the playoffs.
          From what I've seen, he's apparently been unconscious so far in the playoffs, as well.

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          • #6
            Csolak is delusional.
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            • #7
              Blues will wake up at home, win both and eventually win the series.

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              • #8
                BlueNoteBacker is delusional too.
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                • #9
                  The only "upset" I can see is that Csolak actually does this for a living...

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                  • #10
                    that's some good stuff....if only life was played out on paper...

                    I learned the hard way as a Blues fan it wasn't....

                    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
                    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
                    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 007@Apr 12 2004, 10:21 AM
                      that's some good stuff....if only life was played out on paper...

                      I learned the hard way as a Blues fan it wasn't....
                      Too bad history keeps repeating itself...

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                      • #12
                        The series is far from over. These things are marathons. If we can hold serve at home and win ONE in the Shark tank, we advance. Thursday was very winnable. Saturday was ugly, but we did it to ourselves. I'm not giving up.

                        Moe
                        The Dude abides.

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                        • #13
                          Moe,

                          What evidence do you have that the Blues can right the ship?

                          Historically, they're cooked at this point.
                          And, frankly, it has never occured to me that "winning" a debate is important, or that I should be hurt when someone like Airshark or kah, among others (for whom winning a pseudo debate or declaring intellectual superiority over invisible others is obviously very important) ridicule me.

                          -The Artist formerly known as King in KC

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ElviswasaBluesFan@Apr 12 2004, 09:51 AM
                            Csolak is delusional.
                            He should be in Blues PR vs with the media.
                            Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Moe_Szyslak@Apr 12 2004, 11:35 AM
                              The series is far from over. These things are marathons. If we can hold serve at home and win ONE in the Shark tank, we advance. Thursday was very winnable. Saturday was ugly, but we did it to ourselves. I'm not giving up.

                              Moe
                              If Frogs had Wings....

                              Perhaps in another year I'd be more optimistic but not this one.


                              Sharks in 5 at the most.
                              Go Cards ...12 in 13.


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