I will not get into specifics of last night, everyone knows what happened between the Sharks and Flames.
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Calgary came out and played their game I was expecting from Mike Keenan and the Flames. And the result I was afraid of happening did. The Flames looked calm, looked confident, looked loose, and honestly looked tough to beat.
I was quite upset with the game, and while it was nice that the Sharks finally decided to play the way the they should have in the last two minutes, it was frustrating because it took 58 minutes and down by two goals for the Sharks to wake up.
Sure the Sharks outshot the Flames 37-20, but as we know from the season series, outshooting an opponent doesn't really mean a whole lot when you still lose. Most of the shots on goal were weak shots from the outer perimeter.
The Sharks looked like spectators many times on the ice, and on three of the times the Sharks forgot they were in game 1 of the 08 playoffs, Calgary scored.
Tonight I expect Calgary to play the same fireburning brand of hockey. I expect more hits, harder hits, and more speed from Calgary. If the Sharks come out like last night, they will be headed to the Saddledome 0 games to 2, with a potential ful-scale riot about to heat up.
Of course, that is the worst could happen.
What I expect to happen tonight are a few things.
First, I expect Ron Wilson to change things up a bit. From what I read earlier, Carle and Setoguchi are in tonight. I cannot believe that both Mclaren and Semenov started over Matt Carle last night. Mclaren was out of position many times and took bad penalties. Semenov turned over the puck more times than I could count.
I would prefer if Ron Wilson does not switch up the lines in the middle of the game too much. The line shuffling did not work earlier in the season, and the same lines worked during the win streak. I am no rocket scientist, but it seems to me that keeping the lines together would be the right decision. The roster up front is completely healthy so it is tough scratching some players that have been doing well, and its tough making up the lineup when everyone is playing well and is healthy.
The Sharks need to remember that the one key element that led to their success the last half of the season was speed and skating. Last night, everyone seemed to be moving slow, standing around, and watching the play unfold. The Sharks need to skate, dictate the game with their speed, and cause plays to unfold.
Speed leads to being open, which leads to smart, crisp passes, which lead to breakaways, entering the offensive zone, gaining space, and creating scoring chances. The powerplay did look very dangerous last night, and it was because the Sharks were constantly moving and getting open.
My coach always told me that if your feet aren't moving, you're doing something wrong.
The Sharks looked a little scared at first last night. The playoff jitters are gone now, it is time to settle down and play their game the rest of the way. I want the Sharks to score on the first shift like they have done many times and set the tone right of the bat.
The Sharks need to come out confident, loose, and have fun. Sure there seems to be pressure with predictions and the past playoffs. But what do the Sharks have to lose? This is the playoffs, have fun with it because that is what it is about. Who cares what "experts" are predicting. Of course, they predict the Sharks, the Sharks are good. Smart people always pick good teams with their predictions.
Just have fun.
As much as I dislike Calgary right now, and because of the 04 playoffs, as a Sharks fan you cannot help but remember the Sharks of the late 90's. The style of play is exactly the same, with just better offensive weapons. The Sharks used to always come out flying back then, hitting everything they could see in the first 5-10 minutes, and then would settle in, crash the net, and score garbage goals. That is what Calgary is right now.
Calgary will come up banging the bodies hard, flying around, crashing the net, and getting chances right away. Then they will settle down as the game goes on.
Look at their three goals, the first one was a lucky, but very nice tip for the lead. The other two goals were results from working hard and crashing the net. That is their gameplan, and the Sharks better be expecting the same exact thing as last night.
Expect the hits, expect the flurry in the beginning, and take it right back to them.
Also, if you look at the Sharks best scoring chances, and the two goals, you will see they were the results of working hard and crashing the net. The Sharks need to crash the net more, and crash the net hard. Someone needs to constantly be skating thru the crease, near Kipper, and getting right in his grill. It will throw him off his game, just the same way it will throw Nabokov off of his.
Both goalies were coached by the same great Warren Strelow, so I am sure that their strengths and weaknesses are similar.
So my keys to victory for the Sharks are speed, hitting, crashing the net, working hard, playing smart, and having fun.
The Sharks above all need to make sure they have fun, because if they don't there could many by next week not having any fun, at all.
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