Amazing what few Sharks wins can do to to a fanbase. Just a couple of weeks ago the Shark Tank was booing the team as it conceded a goal, or could not convert a power play. The last home game witnessed perhaps the loudest cheering noise at the HP Pavilion since the Sharks killed off that historical 5-on-1 penalty against Edmonton four years ago. Not just that, it's impossible to turn on any radio station int South Bay without them talking about the Sharks. The cars drive around with flags. The newspapers all of a sudden cover hockey. Tim Kawakami is sounding apologetic after writing anti-Sharks articles this time of the year in the years past. It's impossible to walk through a cubicle farm in a typical Silicon Valley office and not hear Sharks talk. I even saw one woman on VTA today heading to work wearing Thornton jersey.
Are we shocked that the Sharks are up 3-0 over Detroit and that tomorrow is the elimination game? The general consensus is that yes, we did not expect the events to turn out this way. We all thought that the Sharks can beat Detroit, but no one imagined that they'll win three in a row to open the series. Only RudyKelly from BoC predicted the Sharks will beat the Wings 4-1, and in his email to us, he wrote that he's not sure why we are getting so worked up over the Wings - they're not that good.
One thing I am not surprised about is how good the Sharks have been playing. On the morning of the game against Edmonton Oilers when the Sharks were playing their worst hockey of the season (just five weeks ago!), I looked at how the Sharks did after long losing streaks since the lockout. This is what I wrote at the time:
One pattern that emerged from all these losing streaks is that as they ended, the Sharks came together as a team and in almost every instance played their best hockey of the season. ...
Every losing streak eventually ends. This is still the team that only lost 18 games in regulation out of 71 this season (let that number sink in for a second). If history is of any indication, once the Sharks jump through the hurdle of that first win, they'll come out as a better team than they were before - more unified, more focused, more hungry and more determined. Is there a better time to overcome all these demons and get the team back on track than now?
I'll admit, I was wrong by one game, because the Sharks hit the rock bottom that night in their embarrassing loss to the Oilers 1-5. But as that stretch ended in the next game against the Wild, the Sharks were indeed reborn. Since then, they won 11 times in 15 games, including the current streak of 6 in a row in playoffs. The Sharks lost just once in regulation in a regular season, once in OT and twice in playoffs to the Avalanche, both times on fluke goals. This team is playing its best hockey at the right time of the year.
If you are curious how Detroit's media is reacting to the series, George Malik has a comprehensive summary here.
When things are going the way they are going for the Sharks this spring, it's much easier to follow what else is happening around the league. Here are few random thought on what else is going on in hockey world.
- Tonight's game 3 in Vancouver between the Canucks and the Blackhawks can be a turning point in that series. In the opening game of the series, the Blackhawks looked overwhelmed by the Canucks offense, and went down 1-5. In the second game, Vancouver was leading the game 2-1 going into the 3rd period, but allowed Chicago to tie the game with a shorthanded goal by Patrick Sharp and then take the lead with 90 seconds remaining on the goal by Versteeg. After strong performance in Game 1, former Shark Christian Ehrhoff had game stats in Game 2 that we're familiar seeing this time of the year - 0 points and a -3 rating. Will Vancouver recover in front of their home fans, or is Chicago going to make a statement tonight? So far their play has been least consistent of all teams still playing in both conferences.
- While it looked like Jaroslav Halak was ready to continue sting the Penguins the same way he stung the Capitals, especially after his performance in Game 2, the big stars of the current Stanley Cup champion came through in Game 3 and Penguins are now leading that series 2-1. A game winning goal was scored at the beginning of the 3rd period by Evgeni Malkin, assisted by Sergei Gonchar and Sindey Crosby. After winning Conn Smythe trophy last season, Malkin's recent play came under a lot of scrutiny in the East. He has "only" 10 points in 9 games.
- Boston Bruins is taking on Philadephia Flyers away from home tonight, and thus far, it's been all Bruins. With the return of Marc Savard, they are looking like a better team, but this may all change should the Flyers win tonight in Wachovia Center. By the way, isn’t it time for that arena to get renamed?
- Elsewhere in the news this morning, it's been reported in various media outlets that Olli Jokinen is set to sign a contract with KHL's Dynamo Minsk. I'm not sure he realizes the magnitude of shock he'll experience when he moves to Minsk, Belorus from New York, but at least he'll be relatively close to Finland, and likely making a lot more money if he stayed in the NHL. He won't have to deal with the media pressure of Calgary or New York either. What a downfall of a once promising player. Remember those sweet times two years ago when many Sharks fans were suggesting Marleau for Jokinen trade?
- Several reports out of Detroit stated that Nicklas Lidstrom may retire at the end of the season. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked seeing how he just turned 40, but he's still no. 1 defeneseman on one of the best defenses in the league. He said he'll address the media on the topic when the season is over. He still has a year remaining on his contract. Lidstrom won everything there is to win in hockey, and in some instances, more than once. If he decides it's time to call it a career, the league will not be the same without him.
- 2010 IIHF World Championship of hockey is kicking off in Germany on Friday, with USA taking on Germany in an opener that is taking place on Veltins-arena where soccer club Schalke 04 normally plays. The game is sold out to a world-record number of hockey audience of 76,152. Most rosters look nothing like those who played at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Not sure how good are Team USA chances, seeing how Jack Johnson has been named a captain. Canada's full roster is here, and among notables includes Correy Perry, Steven Stamkos and Steve Ott. No typos here, yes, Steve Ott. Russia is looking to win third world championship in a row, and partially redeem itself for the embarrassment of the Winter Olympic Games. All eyes of the country are on them and on Coach Bykov, who's job will be in jeopardy should Russia fail. The notable players on their roster include Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Semin, Denis Grebeshkov and Alex Frolov, and no Alexei Semenov.