It is gut check time for the surging San Jose Sharks. Due to a recent point-scoring streak, they are currently in first place in the Pacific Division.
Their division-rival and defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks come to the Shark tank Friday night for a showdown that has playoff positioning implications. The Sharks currently enjoy a three-point lead over the Ducks, but certainly would like to get that all important home-ice advantage for the playoff run.
It is no secret to even the casual fan that the Ducks are good, very good. The possess all the elements of a champion: good goaltending, good coaching, good goal scorers, and outstanding defense. The poise with which they play is palpable, they never appear nervous or worried and as a result never appear to be pressing.
The Sharks need to adopt that attitude if they want to be a serious contender for the Cup. The Sharks have the goaltending, coaching, and improved defense and poise. Friday is the night to put it all together with a sixty minute sustained effort.
The Sharks can do just that by doing what they have been doing over the course of the winning streak. They need to come out flying, score the first goal, and get the Friday night crowd into the game early. Any season ticket holder will attest that Friday night games have the loudest and rowdiest crowd. It just might have something to do with...oh, I don't know...maybe people don't have to work on Saturday and a few extra Sierra Nevada Pale Ales seem like a good idea.
In addition to a fast start, the Sharks need to always be in the game. Falling behind by three goals is just not going to keep the crowd jacked up. I recognize that this is not as easy as it sounds—but the Sharks have the core elements in place, and now they need to put the effort in.
It reminds me of the NY Yankees-Boston Rex Sox rivalry of the past several years. Boston would have a good season and then buckle under to the Yankees in the playoffs. Then all of that changed and the Red Sox came back from three games down to beat the Yankees four straight.
It did not seem like the Red Sox made that many changes to the lineup but rather they BELIEVED that could win and never, I mean never gave up. The Sharks need to do the same Friday night. I, for one, am hoping that they do.