7:30 PM PST
37-21-3, 77 points
40-13-9, 89 points
2nd in Eastern Conference
1st in Western Conference
Although I'm sad that the Olympics are over, I am glad that the Sharks are back in action. That, and I don't know how much more Julia Mancuso v. Lindsay Vonn media fueled feud I could take. That, and Apollo's beard thing is creepy.
Tonights game will be a tough one for both teams. Neither gets to get back on the same page against a weak opponent. Instead, players who participated in the Olympics will have to re-gel with their teammates against one of the top four teams in the NHL.
Plank has the big picture and little picture covered perfectly when it comes to the Olympics. Looking back, it was great, and I'm glad so many Sharks were given the opportunity to play for their country. Going forward, though, I think the effects of the Olympics will be far reaching. Especially for San Jose.
I don't think the Canadian members of the Sharks will have trouble talking to Evgeni Nabokov after helping to obliterate his Russian team in the elimination round, but I do think Nabby will have a hard time putting his Olympic failures behind him. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. Nabokov has had a tendency to shift the blame off of himself, but in a recent interview with the Russian media (beautifully translated by Ivano), he's taking the criticism head on. Although that's admirable, what does it mean for the Sharks?
Nabokov was in the midst of arguably his best ever NHL season. Heading into a contract year, he was positioning himself for a big pay day. Although this failure on the world stage shouldn't matter when it comes to contract negotiations, it does put a seed of doubt into the minds of Sharks fans everywhere. Can he shake these games and continue his strong play? Can Nabokov carry his team when needed in the NHL playoffs? We'll find out.
Other areas of concern include none other than Joe Thornton. His two point, -1 Olympic performance caught some flak from the Canadian media, who dubbed him "No Show Joe". Although his important first goal against Germany turned some heads, he had a tough couple of weeks in the global spotlight. Those familiar with his style of play were less critical, but even I think he had a sub par couple of weeks. I was looking for a break out on the world stage. Instead, more of the same. We can hope, like Nabokov, the criticism fuels him to be better come playoff time.
On the other end of the ice, New Jersey has more silver medals (Jamie Langenbrunner, Zach Parise) than gold (Martin Brodeur). They are also facing a bit of a surprise in net, where Brodeur's star has fallen slightly after being pulled in the Olympics for Roberto Luongo. Brodeur, though, is still one of the game's best and will hold New Jersey in the top of the conference for the rest of the season. Oh, and if you didn't hear, they have Ilya Kovalchuck now. He's pretty good.
My mom's from New Jersey, so the Devils have always been a team I pay close attention to. That's not to say I'll be rooting for them in the least tomorrow, but the Sharks - Devils matchup is one I look forward to every year. Should be a great way to welcome back the NHL season.