|13-7-4, 30 points
||18-6-4, 40 points
|7th in Eastern Conference
||1st in Western Conference
So, Plank and I got our game day wires crossed, and the story got posted a little late. So sue me/us/whatever. Our lawyer will rip you apart.
However, as opposed to just mailing it in, I've got some things that I was going to use for a piece on Sunday that I'll throw into the mix here.
First off, you can't ignore the media generated significance of a game against two non-division, non-conference, non-rival teams. Even though these two squads have relatively no past when it comes to on ice activity, the Heatley-gate saga manufactured enough drama to make this seem like a game with the importance of a seventh tilt in a playoff series.
Granted, there will more than likely be some bad blood coming from the Senators squad, who will want to show that they don't need Heatley to succeed. So far, they've done a good job of that... posting 30 points on the year and holding down the seventh playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.
Problem is, most of that success is independent of the pieces that the Senators acquired in exchange for Heatley. Although Milan Michalek has gotten hot of late and leads the Senators with 13 goals (Czech him out!), Jonathan Cheecoo has struggled, posting only 4 points in 24 games with his new team. Regardless, it will be nice to see Cheech back at HP Pavilion, but this time I won't necessarily be rooting for him. Hell, he can score a goal once the Sharks are up six. Least we can do for the guy.
The Senators are also trying to get past an injury to Pascal Leclaire, their starting goaltender, who took a puck to the face while sitting on the bench during an off night. Ouch. Brian Elliot has filled in admirably in relief, putting up better numbers than Leclaire through 10 games.
The Senators won't be the only ones with something to prove, though. Dany Heatley is going to want to come up big tonight, I can just feel it. After being held goaless for three straight, I'm thinking he's going to put some in the back of the net.
It goes without saying that I think our odds of winning this quasi-rivalry game are quite good.
Moving past tonight's match-up, (and regarding McGinn's recent trip back to Worcester) I want to highlight a quote made by Mike Ricci at this past summer's State of the Sharks concerning the team's toughness, grit, and commitment in the playoffs. The quote is as follows:
"Our kids in Worcester have played like champions and they will fight guys for jobs. The probably weren’t ready, but now they probably are ready to battle our guys for positions. They will find it on the opening day of camp when someone is ready to take their job. The first time I went to Worcester, I told them they had a great attitude. Our coaches were just trying to get enough healthy guys in the lineup and there was (little) competition and I think that hurt us." - Mike Ricci
It certainly seams that the Sharks organization took that philosophy to heart, injecting the team with different combinations of young blood as the season has progressed. Jason Demers, Derek Joslin, Joe Callahan, Logan Couture, Jamie McGinn, Benn Ferriero, Frazier McLaren, Ryan Vesce, and Stephen Zalewski (pretty sick how I remembered the forwards almost alphabetically, accidentally) have all gotten their shot at the NHL level. This has created some competition on the lower lines, but I thing McLellan and Wilson might be missing the point of the strategy.
It's great that these guys are competing for spots on the NHL team. What would be better, is if the competition extended up to where it really matters. McGinn has played admirably all year, and is a real spark on the third line. He should have been challenging Clowe for his spot on the second while Clowe was struggling, regardless of any of the BS arguments concerning chemistry, pay, etc. He's played well enough to earn that spot.
I understand that there are cap reasons involved with the bringing up and sending down of a player. I get it. However, if McGinn isn't back up by tonight's game, I think the problem is deeper than that. You can only light a fire under someone's ass so many times before it's ineffective, and Jamie is a guy who (in my opinion) needed no extra motivation. He's playing out of his mind.
If Jamie is back tonight this all may be moot, but I think it's still applicable going forward. The competition has to extend throughout the team to the top players, or else you aren't getting the most out of your squad.
Prediction: Sharks win 7-1. Goals by McGinn x3, Heatley x3, and Marleau, who assists on all 7 (yes, even his own) goals. Cheechoo rips a one timer from between the circles top shelf on the power play.