Sharks Gameday: Smelling Blood

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7:30 PST
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Series
Television
Versus, CSN-CA
Radio
98.5 KFOX, Sjsharks.com
Antagonists
Battle of California
Jewels From The Crown

Although many pundits had pegged the Sharks to be in this position tonight, heading home for game five with an opportunity to win their first round series against the Los Angeles Kings, not many expected them to get here the way that they have.

Twelve goals in two games, including a five goal outburst in the second period of game three, isn't exactly the type of outings one would have imagined against a Kings defensive structure that was highly lauded coming into the series. As Joe Thornton said before the series began, the Sharks were expecting a lot of 2-1 games to determine who advanced to the next round. Not the shoot-em-up run-and-gun that we saw this week in Los Angeles.

Common thinking goes as such (or, at the very least, a common statement by players goes as such)-- when you go on the road you simplify your game. Getting pucks deep, grinding on the forecheck, throwing pucks at the net. All cliches no doubt, but something that Terry Murray will most definitely be preaching to his club before the puck drops tonight.

Los Angeles played some pretty good hockey in HP Pavilion in games one and two. They were outchanced and outshot in the first period, but once they got their feet under them, they managed to play San Jose straight up-- and, in the case of game two, control the flow of the game. If Los Angeles can get back to the details that got them into the playoffs (a tight defensive game that restricts shots on net and sucks the life out of a building) they have a chance to send this back to Staples Center for game six. But if they stick with the mentality of games three and four, running and gunning up and down the ice, San Jose is going to come out on top and end this early.

As we've said all along, San Jose just has too many horses for Los Angeles to compete in this type of atmosphere. The first ten minutes are going to be big for San Jose-- get a goal (or two) early and the Kings get thrust into a position where they have to open it up. Backed by the adrenaline of an elimination game in front of their home crowd, I'd expect the Sharks to come out as they did in games one and two-- smelling blood.

Nothing quite like an elimination game, especially one on home ice. The Tank should be rocking.

Prediction: Sharks win 4-2. Goals by Couture, Demers, Heatley, and Pavelski.

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