Sharks Gameday: The Casting is Complete



7:30 PM PST
30-28-6, 66 points 40-14-9, 89 points
7th in Eastern Conference
2nd in Western Conference
98.5 KFOX,
Habs Eyes on The Prize

Where were you two years ago from yesterday? It was on that night that Montreal Canadians last time visited San Jose in what turned out to be one of the more memorable games of that season. We remember that game because we remember a beauty of a goal scored by Jonathan Cheechoo after he undressed a former Shark Josh Gorges. That game kept going back and forth until the newly acquired Brian Campbell took care of the game with 80 seconds left in the game through his infamous spinorama. I was so excited about that goal and that game and our chances for the Stanley Cup with Campbell that I lost my voice (as did many other Sharks fans at the Tank) and couldn't speak for the next two days. Our future seemed so bright at the time.. Remember that game now? Expect more of the same from both teams as they square off at HP Pavillion tonight.

It took the Sharks two periods to get going against New Jersey after they returned to action after the Olympic break, but they sure got going, scoring three unanswered goals on the no. 1 defense in the NHL. Those goals should have helped the confidence of our non-Olympians who seemed to be playing half asleep up to that point, and what we are hoping to see tonight is the same team that's desperate for goals and is confident it can score.

An even more interesting storyline about tonight is that this game marks the first time this season that we'll know exactly what cast of players will be competing for the Stanley Cup this spring. What we'll watch now is the end product that Doug Wilson put together when he said last summer that he had until the trade deadline to put a new team together that will compete for the ultimate prize in all of hockey. As a result, eight new players were added to the roster, but this is it. With the trade deadline past, the casting process is over and the process of transformation is now complete.  We'll no doubt see some experimenting during this stretch (such as trying to see what Walin and Leach can do before bringing back the young guys), but if there was ever a time to get a glimpse into the approaching spring, the next 19 games is that time. The Sharks have five weeks for the final rehearsal, and after that, the show is on.

As for the Montreal Canadians who are coming to town, they are in the middle of the battle for a coveted playoffs spot, and every point matters to them, as the separation between the 6th seed in the playoffs and the 11th spot in the Eastern conference is only 6 points. In their first game after the Olympics they beat their big rival Bruins in Boston 4-1. However, their 7th seed in the East is inflated by the lack of parity in that conference when we translate it into the Western Conference terms. If the Habs were in the Western Conference, their 66 points would put them at spot no. 13, tied with Minnesota Wild for points.

Tomas Plekanec has been a good surprise for them offensively, and he's projected to finish with a career high 77 points, but outside of him and Michael Cammalleri (who's projected to finish the season with 24 goals), their offense has not been all that impressive (39 less goals than the Sharks). Scott Gomez, who once had a 30+ goals season with the Devils, has just 10 goals so far, and I didn't hear too many complaints from any of you that Ron Wilson left him at home for the Olympics. Their defense has not fared all that well either, despite solid goaltending from the Olympic hero for Team Slovakia Jaroslav Halak and a so-so goaltending from Carey Price - the Canadians allowed 20 more goals than the Sharks this season.

With Nabokov still trying to find his groove following the Canadian avalanche, and new Sharks defensive pairings that we'll likely see tomorrow, it should be another entertaining night at the Tank.

Prediction: Sharks win 5-4, with goals by Heatley (2), Walin, Pavelski and Malhotra. I keep my voice this time around.