Regardless of how you feel about games 1-4 and whether or not either team dictated or dominated various portions of play, game 5 was different. It was a reminder that this is a 1 vs 8 match-up. I was a little saddened to see that some of the Avalanche players almost had the look of "well, we tried our best." Of course, many Sharks had the same look after game 3... how quickly the memories fade.
The best part of being a #8 seed is that any success is gravy. The Sharks have been the #8 seed three times, and as we all remember they did manage to steal a series. But even when they ended up with disappointment and defeat, the series were very exciting and I was always proud of those teams. (Though Johan Garpenlov's crossbar continues to haunt my dreams.)
The continual ref-bashing from the MHH contingent is totally understandable. I used to have a special black spot in my heart to harbor my hatred of Kerry "Nice Hair" Fraser and all of the atrocities that I was convinced he was conspiring to commit against the Sharks (this of course was easier when there was only one ref). There have been multiple points in every single game of this series where the officiating has left me completely befuddled. I generally cringe every time a Shark does something that looks to me like it could be penalized, and apparently I've been doing a lot more cringing than I need to.
That said, the Avs, and especially Anderson, have played out of their minds so far. As a Sharks fan since year 1, my gut conviction is that the Sharks would have wrapped this series up by now if not for some crazy bounces. But when I really stop to think about those bounces... and then some of the other bounces... I realize that this series could easily be over by now with the Avalanche moving on.
This series has been amazing for its competitiveness. The first four games have all come down to quirky plays either way. After the handshake, we Sharks fans will either remember this series with fondness as the one where the Sharks broke free of the choke label, or with insane bitterness as the year that sent the team into rebuilding mode. But Colorado fans have nothing to be bitter about.
Right now it may seem like an unlucky playoff draw against the dirtiest team in the NHL -- who also happen to have the refs completely in their pocket -- but hopefully that will fade. This series has been a tribute to everything this young Avs team has accomplished, everything they have overcome. Despite the Sharks "commanding" 3-2 series lead (please... don't call it a "chokehold") I'm still incredibly nervous about the potential for two more games decided by freaky bounces.
I guess we'll know either way in a few days.... Enjoy the ride!
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