Thank goodness the Olympic break is here and we can easily forget this completely gutless performance by the Sharks against the Sabers that finished an otherwise successful road trip. Moving on to more important, but still Sharks related things.
There are many reasons to be excited for the next couple of weeks of hockey as we tune in to various NBC channels to catch the latest Winter Olympic action. Besides the excitement of watching biathlonists doing extra laps because they missed the target (actually, one of my favorite winter Olympic sports) and never ending coverage about a guy who has the longest red hair of any Americans ever lived on this planet, we'll also tune in (1) because we want to support our national hockey teams, and (2) because Sharks players will be featured in a good majority of the games. In fact, for me the Olympics don't really start until men's ice hockey starts. Seriously - when was the last time you wanted to watch Germany play? Or when was the last time you cheered for Sweden? I never did, but this Olympic games are going to be all different because of that. Here are five Sharks reasons why you should watch the Olympic men's hockey tournament.
- Evgeni Nabokov Continuing to Play the Best Hockey of His Career. I agree with Drew Remenda who said on the broadcast last night that right now Nabokov is the best goalie in the NHL. His current saving percentage of .928 is the best in his NHL career by a long shot for a single season. On paper Team Russia has the weakest defense of the Big Four (Canada, USA, Sweden being others), just like the Sharks who arguably don't have the defense that Blackhawks, or the Devils or the Red Wings have for that matter. However, that may all be irrelevant if Nabokov continues to play how he's played this season. After all, he believes he can win the Olympics all by himself. Solid outing by Nabby in such a high pressure tournament will do wonders to his confidence during the-months-that-shall-not-be-named. Ro-si-ya! Ro-si-ya!
Regular Play by Thomas Greiss. One thing we've learned this season is that Greiss is likely the future of the Sharks in goal due to his age and his potential. So far he's had a solid season for a backup. How will he fare when he has to face the best of what men's hockey has to offer? Playing behind Christian Ehrhoff and Dennis Seidenberg is not the same as playing behind Dany Boyle and Rob Blake, but I still think we'll be pleased with how he performs.
Douglas Murray and Joe Pavelski Coming Out Party. Not that either of them are unknown in the hockey world, but regularly playing past 10:30pm on the East coast does not help those two get the media attention they deserve. How many people outside of San Jose noticed how Douglas Murray shut down Alex Ovechkin last December? When he shuts down Zach Parise and Phil Kessel in Vancouver, people will finally notice him, and they will also notice Pavs and his solid special teams play on both sides of the rink.
- The Damage the HTML Line Will Cause. It's one thing to watch Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Danny Heatley square off against the top defenses of the NHL and come out on top in most games. It will be quite another thing to watch how they fare against the likes of Norway and Switzerland, heck, even against such questionable defenses where Sergei Gonchar is their top man. For many of us here these games will mark the first time in our lives we'll have a hard time cheering against Canada, especially when our boys are on the ice, with Dany Boyle feeding them the puck from the back, even if he's paired up with our biggest enemy.
- Seeing All Sharks Compete Against Each Other. We knew it was coming when we heard that the NHL highest eight players will represent the Sharks at the Winter Olympics. We don't know how we'll feel seeing Douglas Murray run over Joe Pavelski, or Danny Heatley planting himself in front of Evgeni Nabokov, or Thomas Greiss stopping Patrick Marleau on a PK breakaway. But this is the kind of match ups I look forward to seeing.
Let the Games begin!