Can you believe it's only been eight days since the playoffs started? It feels like it's been eight weeks. The trap, the 5-times-comeback, Boyle's "goals", Pavelski's heroics and the Avs luck. All that is now a blur.
It almost feels the same way it felt eight days ago. Despite watching 82 games of Sharks hockey, we had no idea if this team was going to go far in playoffs. Now that we're here, we still don't know. Four games into it, both teams have equal chances to advance. The momentum seems slightly tilted in the Sharks favor following Game 4, with overtime win and the Avs scoring just one goal on their own in two games. But the momentum can tilt quickly in playoffs. So can hockey luck.
We do know a few things. Sharks are not throwing the towel when going down five times in one game. They are not giving up after allowing several fluke goals. They are not losing the physical battle, while playing overall disciplined game. Nabokov can rebound and play some of the best hockey he's played all season now, when it matters the most. The coach can rely on secondary scoring, even if the average age of the second line is 25. These are some of the positives that we can keep in our minds until the fateful 7:30pm arrives again.
I expect the next couple of games to not be any different than the last two. The Sharks will continue to pester Anderson with shots from all angles. The Avs will respond with dangerous counter attacking game and Anderson be damned, good goaltending. The refs will continue to blow or not blow when they please. And the hockey luck, or whatever you want to call it, will continue to play a huge role in determining who gets to keep playing hockey, and who gets to clean out their locker rooms early next week.
However, what we've seen in the last four games - does it even matter?
I always preferred the North American playoff system for that reason.
It doesn't matter that the Sharks came out flat and unprepared for the neutral zone trap in Game 1. It doesn't matter that Rob Blake scored on Nabokov to finish that game off. The fact that the Sharks needed Pavelski's goal to tie Game 2 for the 5th time in a row that night and then wait for Setoguchi to take care of business - no longer relevant. 51 save by Anderson in Game 3 and the biggest mistake Boyle ever made in playoffs? Forgotten. Another soul testing performance by Anderson and another quiet night from Marleau? Yet again - none of that matters.
That coworker of yours who never talks hockey and all of a sudden starts a day with "different year, the same story.." You can now laugh at him. The hockey bloggers and their same old recycled jokes about the Sharks out of the water - screw them. That Sports Illustrated article about the Sharks I read today titled "That Sinking Feeling" - I just burned it in my backyard.
Because none of what happened in the last eight days matters. The series is tied at 2-2. The four games the teams have played was but a warm up for the real battle for survival that begins tonight. When that puck drops on the clean sheet of ice, both teams have 50-50 chance of advancing.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Marleau scores a hat trick.