Sitting here basking in the warmth of Evgeni Nabokov's sixth post season shutout I am feeling pretty confident about the Sharks chances.
I even caught myself debating who the better match up in the second round.What a difference a game can make.
After Wednesday night's debacle of a Game 1 I had bad dreams of the Sharks going down in a spectacular Dallas Maverickian way. In the first game the Sharks played tight and their defense seemingly forgot how to play the game of hockey, highlighted by the uncharacteristic play by Brian Campbell. Squeezing their sticks a little tight is an understatement. Calgary, who is very comfortable playing in the Shark Tank, jumped on them and stole the first game.
Those things happen in the playoffs.
I thought the other shoe had dropped. After such an amazing run to finish the season I felt like they had peaked to early. I think a lot of Sharks fans though that way. This was a must win game. This team has lived with expectations the last few seasons, but never like this. This is being called the best Sharks team. Ever.
Cup or bust.
When you have those expectations you aren't supposed to lose the first game at your sold out home arena. Especially as a 2 seed playing a 7 seed.
I thought the series would be won in 5 with a dominating performance by San Jose. I figured the rest that players got, as well as the additional ice time provided for players like Ryane Clowe to work themselves back and Johnathan Cheechoo to rest up, would make this team even better. Instantly. As in Game 1. When the puck dropped.
Imagine my surprise when the horn sounded to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Calgary and former Sharks Miikka Kiprusoff and Owen Nolan.
I shouldn't have been surprised. These are the San Jose Sharks. The same team that couldn't score for what seemed like the first 58 games of the season. This is a team that had problems getting the puck out of their own zone which was exploited by a strong fore check.
Game 1 forced all the nagging questions about the team to the front of my mind. The tough losses were there. Anemic power play. All those little warts that a certain NHL record points streak had made me forget as I was planning how I would celebrate when the Sharks raised the cup came back.
And then Game 2 happened. Evgeni Nabokov and the save of the series happened. Torrey Mitchell's coming of age happened.
Now I'm feeling like the cock of the walk. Here's why.
San Jose had the best road record in the NHL this season. This series has now become a best of 5 with Calgary having a home ice advantage. San Jose was 27-10-4 on the road, which makes winning 2 out of 3 in Calgary a pretty safe bet.
Evgeni Nabokov is the best goalie in the NHL. Watch the highlights. Watch the save Nabby makes on Nolan. A mixture of athletic ability, uncanny net minding savvy, and the luck the great ones get and just another clip to add to his formidable highlight reel. Oh, yeah, he just notched his 6th postseason shutout.
The depth the Sharks developed is already making an impact as San Jose is running more quality lines out game in and game out. Calgary just can't match up with the Sharks ability to throw out 4 quality lines and are going to wear out over the course of the series, and the young guys on the Sharks are just going to get more comfortable and more dangerous.
Over the first two games the Sharks have out shot the Flames 82-44. Kipurosoff is a formidable goaltender but if Calgary continues to allow San Jose to pepper him the series is a forgone conclusion...Sharks win the series.
Yep, feeling pretty good tonight. What a difference a game makes.