Sharks Gameday: The (not so) Important Game (in the long run)

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7:30 PST
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36-13-4, 76 points

35-10-8, 78 points

2nd in Western Conference
1st in Western Conference

Television
CSN-CA
NHLN-US
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Second City Hockey

(Don't forget, FTF will be having a "Live" Gameday party at Stanley's Sports Bar in San Jose)

This is a big one, folks. (TWSS!)

Game day is going to be relatively short today, but don't think it's because this isn't an important (if not overly hyped) game. I still haven't touched my copy of Mass Effect 2 as I sit down to write this... that alone should let you know the (percieved) magnitude of this one.

No, there hasn't been a more hyped game this season than tonight's tilt against Chicago. That's for a reason, though. Chicago's really the only team (besides Detroit) that has exposed the Sharks 2009-2010 weaknesses: an inconsistent defense and top heavy scoring. And, oh yeah, they're second to only San Jose in points. The media/NHL is doing a great job of pushing this one in the common fan's face. The four day break for San Jose didn't help with the buildup, either. You would think Steve Jobs is dropping iPad 2.0 while surfing on a Zamboni during the second intermission.

That being said, this is just another game in an 82 game schedule. In reality, it shouldn't mean much in the long term, unless you care about ESPN Power Rankings (in which the Blackhawks are 1, and the Sharks are 2) and the like. Although the players are giving it a little bit more than the usual lip service, they speak more to the challenge of facing a good team (which is important)... but they aren't thinking further than tonight. It's not a make or break, if you know what I'm saying.

It will, however, show how much McLellan has prepared for Chicago after being dominated by the team practically the entire season. Can McLellan limit an offense which unloaded 47 shots on his team in late December? Can the Sharks, who struggled through a 7-2 embarrassment the day before Thanksgiving, put together a solid game? Will Nabokov be able to stand on his head, again? We'll find out tonight.

Rosters will change from now until the end of the season. Players will get healthy (like Dan Boyle, who's most likely out tonight), others will get injured, and trades are bound to happen. Perhaps Logan Couture and Jason Demers play well enough tonight and for the rest of the season to stick with the squad for good. No one can say for certain. That's why I can't stand the "If the season ended today" talk. Yes, San Jose and Chicago are 1-2 in the conference. That doesn't mean they'll meet again later. It doesn't mean they won't. There are no guarantees either way.

Look, I'm not saying the regular season doesn't matter. Far, far from it. I wouldn't spend hours of my time watching and writing about meaningless games if it didn't. I'm only masochistic to a point. (I did, however, watch Club Paradise starring Robin Williams and Twiggy, end to end last night. Eugene Levy and Rick Moranis... shirtless. I've never seen nipples trying harder to escape chest hair in my life. Steer clear, folks. Steer clear.) But in the grand old scheme of things, a home game against Chicago in late January isn't going to mean dick. It's a challenge that needs to be faced, but a loss isn't debilitating. And a win won't catapult the Sharks past the second round.

It would feel awesome to stomp the Blackhawks in regulation in a game. It would leave little doubt who the superior team was. It's just not all that important if they do or don't. The games will change once the months that shall not be named roll around.

I'm just enjoying these matches as they come.

Go Sharks.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-1 on a hat trick by Logan Couture, who shakes the bust label and is awarded the Calder in a ceremony after the game.

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