Sharks Gameday: One At A Time
CHI leads 3-0
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I'm probably not the best person to be writing gameday today. After the Sharks dropped the first two games at home I had a hard time finding any positives in the situation, and despite TCY's excellent post on keeping the faith, had to stay away from the comments-- it was a whole lot of fist-pumping optimism, a whole lot of smiles.
I guess I just couldn't relate.
Then game three happened. Heartbreaking on so many levels. The Sharks played well, as they have for large segments of this series, but were unfortunately unable to capitalize on their chances. Whether that has to do with Chicago's defensive presence in front of the crease, Antti Niemi's general brilliance between the pipes, or a little bit of both, it was frustrating to see Dustin Byfuglien (of all freaking people) put the game on ice in overtime after San Jose had thrown everything they could at the Blackhawks.
It's readily apparent this series has been closer than the 3-0 lead indicates, and I guess on some level the Sharks were due-- it's eerily similar to Detroit beforehand, where a couple big goals and defensive breakdowns ended up tilting the scoreboard one team's way, and maybe in the eyes of the Hockey Gods the bounces had to even out or something. I don't really know. Expecting any sort of in-depth analysis from me today is fruitless.
All I'm really aware of is how proud I am of this team for a relatively solid season. If they manage to dig deep and deliver a win tonight, I fully expect to be headed to the United Center for a game six, and that's a great opportunity for the franchise to put their stamp on something special. You get to that point and now you're looking at a home and home, with both matches definitely winnable.
We'll hear this so many times over the course of the next week, but it really is just one game at a time. If we can assume that the Sharks have a 50-50 shot at winning tonight, all they need is the coin to come up heads at noon, grab a plane, and get back to flipping once again. Each game is an independent event with this approach, so pay no attention to the fact that four in a row is what will be required. It starts tonight, and that is the only thing that should worry our pretty little heads.
The effort has been there for the most part-- of course there are going to be nitpickings and complaints, hell even after wins there are more than enough to go around, but this team has legitimately put their careers on the line out there. Marleau rebounded from a so-so game two (despite notching a pair of goals) and did a lot of great things yesterday with the puck, moving his feet and driving hard to the net. Joe Thornton has played like a bull with his balls roped. Dan Boyle is a guy you never have to worry about, Nabokov looked pretty damn good in game three, and the role players all played their roles.
They haven't folded like a house of cheap cards.
It's just a matter of capitalizing. And even though a lot of things are going to have to break right for San Jose (and, concurrently, break against Chicago), there's always that glimmer of hope waiting down past the echoes of this dark tunnel. Tonight gets us one small step closer to swimming in the bliss that has evaded us during the last three games.
Godspeed San Jose. Burn down the United Center tonight. We're not quite ready to head to the golf course just yet.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-1. Goals by McGinn, Boyle, Pavelski, and Setoguchi. Niemi finally cracks, and The Tank gets ready to rock.