Sharks Gameday: The Genesis
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After a week of waiting to hit the ice again, game one of the Western Conference Finals is set to get underway today.
The first game of a series is always a funny one, at least in terms of generating some original content to talk about before the puck drops. This is made a whole lot more difficult considering today's tilt is set to be played at noon, and therefore, we're running into a situation where nearly half of our readers won't be reading this until the first period is underway.
Assorted thoughts here, series preview there, a look at special teams in this teal piece of text. Breakdown of what those in the MSM are saying can be found here. Other than that it's go time, and no amount of idle chit chat can calm these hands until Douglas Murray blows up the first Blackhawk who crosses the blueline at 19:17 of the first period today.
Randy and Drew usually do a "Keys to the Game" segment on the CSN broadcast, but since it's national coverage from here on out, I've got some assorted bullet points for tonight:
- Move your feet, manage the puck. This is such a basic hockey principle, but against Chicago it's a definite requirement. San Jose paid attention to these principles during their five game ousting of Detroit, and it's even more imperative they continue to do so tonight.
- Get on the board early. A noon start time in San Jose means that the building might take some time to get fully engaged-- it's the Western Conference Finals, and I have complete confidence that all 17,562 will be screaming for murder at the end of it all, but generally people aren't as bloodthirsty when the sun is nearing it's apex in the sky. Getting on the board first will do a lot to get the crowd fully engaged as well as shake off some of the rust that may have accrued during the past eight days.
- Pound the net. One area where the Sharks have a clear advantage in this series will be between the pipes. Expose that part of Chicago's game.
- Be cognisant of ice conditions. HP Pavilion hasn't been known for it's ice quality in the past, and today will probably be a questionable surface considering the turnaround time for the events staff will be extremely quick-- the arena held a Chayanne concert last night that ended around midnight, and with twelve hours to bring everything up to speed before today's game, impurities will likely be prevalent. The Hawks are a dangerous transition team that can flourish when given an opportunity, so neutral zone passes must be made with care, and defenseman need to be conservative when joining the play in the case a puck bounces on someone. However, for the first time in a long time, this may actually play into San Jose's favor. Which brings us to...
- Do what you love, and love what you do. The Sharks have done an amazing job this postseason of forechecking hard and winning loose puck battles in the offensive zone. This is the way to beat Chicago and disrupt their transition game, especially with the ice surface a question going into today. If San Jose continues to stick to these ideals and eat up shifts on the low cycle, they will be in good hands. Get the puck in deep, don't get too cute, and watch the results fall into place.
- Preserve your home ice advantage. This goes without saying, but The Tank has been a great place for the Sharks this postseason. Everyone, from Randy Hahn to your local convenience store owner, knows that getting that first series win under your belt is extremely important. It puts the pressure on the loser to win game two, because while a 2-0 series hole isn't the black mark of death, it sure as hell makes your margin of error razor thin.
- Score more pucks than the other guys. Da-durrrr.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Goals by Heatley (x2) and Boyle. Brian Campbell gets booed, and everyone realizes that it's pretty dumb.