Sharks Gameday: Tempered Enthusiasm
|45-25-4, 94 points||45-19-10, 98 points |
|3rd in Western Conference ||1st in Western Conference |
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The San Jose Sharks have made great strides during these last two games-- it has been night and day from where they stood last weekend, and the way things have gone, there is only the greatest hope that things continue to hold course.
However, I carry tempered enthusiasm with me tonight. The elation of the first win against Minnesota has passed, and although defeats of the Dallas Stars never truly leave you, there is a realization here that both of these teams are non-playoff opponents. Vancouver and Colorado* pose entirely different tests for San Jose.
*With Colorado obviously being the weaker link of the two, and my preferred first round opponent if granted the privilege of selecting from the current pool of eight.
These are big game. 120 minutes of consistent execution is nice, but doing that for a third and fourth straight game against Western Conference playoff teams is a much different story.
As mentioned before, I think starting Thomas Greiss tonight would be the route I pursue. Vancouver is far less likely to face San Jose in the first round when compared to Colorado, and this allows you to give Greiss some time against an elite opponent as well. Nabokov has to sit for at least one game and tonight seems like the logical choice to me. Therefore, it will not happen.
Lots of talk around town of Rob Blake's exploits in front of the net the last two games, and rightfully so. The old man looks like a kid out there again, and it's probably a good thing to look for on the powerplay considering no one outside of Pavelski seems to find themselves there with any consistency. You lose a big shot (that has lost a bit of it's heat-seeking missile comparisons since this time last year), but gain another one provided Manny, Marleau, or Pavelski pop up to fill the gap. I like that set up with Boyle on the ice (big fan of lefty-righty one-timer dynamic at the point on the PP), and both dudes have bombs. Malhotra has such a heavy shot that produces rebounds at a consistent rate, and Marleau/Pavelski are familiar with playing on the blueline with the man advantage. Not a bad idea provided it gets Blake engaged and doesn't end up in a situation where he is trying to turn into Jason Demers out here.
Speaking of which, Demers will be finding his way up for the stretch run according to WTC. Dude's a killer when he's out on the power play, and although I find it hard to overlook some of his egregious turnovers in the defensive zone (especially for a team who has just managed to start turning that aspect of their game around) if we're looking at him replacing someone in the top six, I say eff it.
If Nichol is still injured, scratch Staubitz, roll seven defenseman, rotate double shifting Patty/Thornton/Couture with McGinn/Ortmeyer, and give Demers easy situations at evens and loads of ice time when a man up. If McLellan is going to play Orts four freaking minutes a night, you can probably do the same thing when Nichol comes back if you scratch both Staubitz and Ortmeyer.
I'll have more on this Monday, but I'll be damned if it isn't the best idea in the world and if you think otherwise then you're just pissed you didn't come up with it first.
Prediction: Sharks win 4-3. Tight game all the way through with Gooch getting the winner in OT.