Sharks Gameday: Well, that ended differently than I expected.
@ 7:00 PST
26-19-6, 58 points 28-20-4, 60 points 8th in Western Conference 5th in Western Conference
Officially, I watched about two minutes of the Phoenix game before AT&T decided I'd rather listen to smooth, sultry jazz. I tried to follow along on the internet for a while, but it was a futile task. That, coupled with a 2-0 Sharks deficit by the first intermission, convinced me that my night would be better spent with a Negra Modelo and a heavy dose of Star Wars: Empire at War. I eventually bowed to the almighty wisdom of my cable service provider.
Should have probably found a way to watch this one live. Should have driven to a sports bar. Should have resurrected ATDHE from the ashes. Should have walked barefoot to the Tank in my pajamas.
This game made me remember that this team, despite all its shortcomings, is still a contender.
Phoenix would make the game three to zip in the second (on a Biznasty goal, no less) before the Sharks would come roaring back. Joe Pavelski had a goal as time expired in the middle frame, and added another early in the third. Kyle Wellwood, who has looked great since his addition to the team, scored his first goal as a Shark to tie it. And Patrick Marleau, sweet, beautiful Patrick Marleau, would score on a shorthanded breakaway to give the Sharks the much needed two points.
Oh yeah, and Al Stalock. And Devin Setoguchi had a fantastic game as well; he missed a couple of scoring opportunities throughout the tilt but had a strong effort from an energy standpoint and came up with a big block as Phoenix tried to tie it late.
There were problems, problems that are implied by the 3-0 deficit the Sharks carried for half of the game. Still, those problems, such as Niemi's struggles and the poor penalty kill, are negated by an effort that saw the Sharks score five unanswered goals in just under twenty minutes. It was an incredible ride, and one done without the services of their best player, Jamie McG...err... Logan Couture, who was out with the influenza virus.
Coach Todd McLellan spoke before the Phoenix game about urgency, the scarcity of time and the importance of each opportunity to earn two points. His team must have taken that lesson to heart, as they played as if tonight was an elimination game, eventually stealing one from a team ahead of them in the standings. In regulation, no less.
They have another opportunity to do just that in Anaheim. It shouldn't be hard for the team to get up against their biggest rival and build upon the momentum that they created last night.
Anaheim isn't going to just lay down, though, as they've been a team to exceed expectations so far throughout the year, even without their star center Ryan Getzlaf. Although he's getting closer to being healthy, he won't play against San Jose. Still, Anaheim is dangerous, and Jonas Hiller is cementing himself as one of the league's elite goaltenders.
The Sharks could make a huge statement with a win; a regulation victory would move them into a tie for second in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference. Even though most covering the Sharks have focused on the doom-and-gloom lately, it's worth pointing out that the team has earned eleven of the last twelve possible points and sit just three out of fourth place.
These little victories should be viewed as nothing more than that, as every game here on out is as vital as the one before. As was the case in tonight's game, the Sharks won't be able to rest on their laurels and coast into the playoffs. Maybe that's a good thing.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-2. Couture, Couture and Couture. Couture couture couture... Couture! Logan Couture.