Game Five is upon us and the stage has been set, as the Sharks return having evened the series and making it a best of three. Every game so far has been won by one goal, and the last three stretching into OT. These two teams have played a grand total 256:37 without either side being up by two. And although there have been some dominant stretches of play by the Sharks, Game Four proved to be more of a test as the Avs seemed to even out play, winning more individual battles and faceoffs.
The Avalanche come into Game Five loose, young, and hungry as they have been all series. They know they are playing with house money and it shows in their play and effort. And while it's true that the pressure of the past may weigh on the Sharks, here's three quick reasons why I think we take Game Five.
Coming into the postseason many pundits and experts thought that maybe the Olympic experience would benefit the Sharks greatly, as the top line represented Team Canada. I didn't think it would make a shred of difference, and it turns out I was wrong but it wasn't the top line that benefited. Joe Pavelski from Team USA has been a maniac thus far in the playoffs, and has been one of the best Sharks in this series.
His clutch goal in Game 2 tied it up for overtime, where his linemate Devin Setoguchi scored the game-winner. And make no mistake about it Tuesday night, Pavelski saved the Sharks season as soon as he let that OT wrister fly. Going down 3-1 and headed back to San Jose, I'm sure we all know how that would have ended. Instead we regain home-ice advantage and come back home.
He is quickly becoming a force in the playoffs and plays all situations and scenarios with the heart, effort, and skill you can be proud of.
Longtime Shark tormentor Milan Hejduk did not travel with the team to San Jose, Porter looks to be a game-time decision, and Peter Mueller for the Avs remains out for Game 5. I am sure Sharks fans will not miss Hejduk on the ice tonight. This guy is a clutch playoff contributor and loves to hurt the Sharks. This Avalanche team, who has been ground down and dominated in some stretches, might hang their heads from a tough predicament.
But I doubt it. This young, inexperienced team simply does not know any better through lack of experience despite the veterans on the team. And that will play a huge role in their play tonight as I expect them to come out fast. If you are Joe Sacco you don't need to remind your young team that Game 5 is pivotal, but also don't forget to have fun. This team plays hard, skates hard, and plays their heart out. You have to admire that about them, but not having Milan out there will hurt.
Anderson has been nothing short of brilliant and is leading all playoff goalies with 165 saves and is sporting a sparkling .948 save percentage.
On the Sharks side, Dany Heatley looks to improve on his Game Four performance citing that his injury is better, but he's still not 100%.
I usually hate the "We are due for a break" line in sports, but this series has been bizarre to say the least. Where to begin? Do you start looking at captain Rob Blake's goal off of his skate? Or the Blake clearing attempt that bounced off of Vlasic's chest and earhole and past Nabokov? And of course we would be remiss without Dan Boyle's now famous shot heard 'round the world.
Three of the nine Colorado goals have been scored by Sharks.
The Sharks have outshot the Avalanche 174-103 over the first four games of this series, including 148-73 in the last three games and yet just have a 2-2 tie coming back home to San Jose. Three straight overtimes, bad bounces or lucky breaks, good teams make their own breaks, and this is the game where we put those past quirks to rest.