Sharks Gameday: Home Cookin'



7:00 PST
Versus, CSN-CA
98.5 KFOX,
Abel to Yzerman
Winging It In Motown

On Thursday night the Sharks lost 7-1 to a Detroit Red Wings team that was fighting for their playoff lives. It wasn't pretty, but by the time the second period rolled around and Evgeni Nabokov was pulled in favor of Thomas Greiss, the next chapter of this novel was already at the forefront of everyone's minds.

And so these pages lead us to game five, where the Sharks find themselves with their best opportunity to win this series.

To say this is a must-win likely does a disservice to the lead San Jose built during their first three games of play-- I expected the battle to rage on to a minimum of seven meetings, with the potential for nine (eleven? thirteen?) games falling somewhere in between freezing Mike Ricci's body for a future playoff run and having an Orange Out at HP Pavilion. In other words, well within the realm of reason despite their seemingly ludicrous nature.

But when looking at the events that would transpire after tonight should the Sharks fail to win, it's hard to say the road would be much easier. Joe Louis Arena still carries an air of mystique despite the comeback in game three, and it's disregard for hospitality was on full display two days ago. A very tough place to play, a team who is one win away from crawling back from the dead, the potential to force an elimination game? Not what the doctor ordered. At least not my doctor.

Game seven would obviously be a madhouse. The Sharks would have failed to capitalize on three opportunities to close out the series, with the Red Wings ecstatic at the thought of completing a phenomenal comeback of historical proportions. It would be a dance with the devil. A series victory still attainable obviously, but the emotional margin for error? Razor-thin. The tension in the building would be enough to make a man go gray in three hours.

Which brings us here to game five. 17,562 lunatics screaming for blood, the roar of the home crowd calling for a series clinching victory against the demons of Detroit. The Sharks will come out on fire considering the embarrassment of game four, fueled by the opportunity to advance to their first Western Conference Finals since 2004. It is statement time for the franchise, and a brilliant chance to bury the questions about mental toughness once and for all.

The first ten minutes of tonight will be monumental-- if the team responds as I expect they will, Jimmy Howard will be under siege from nearly every direction. And if a puck or two slips by him early, the roof will cave in while the Sharks continue to swarm. But if the Red Wings survive those first ten minutes by at least breaking even, it's probably safe to say we will be in for another tightly contested game that defined the first three of the series.

More on some even strength numbers later today. Can't wait for this one to finally get underway.

Prediction: Sharks win 5-3. Goals by McGinn, Marleau, Heatley (x2), and Pavelski.

Go Sharks.