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Petshark: Talking Stick

The storm front: pregame thoughts for San Jose @ St. Louis, Game 2

Northern California got some rain and fireworks for Game 1 in St. Louis.  I think we even had tornadoes.  Apparently it’s St. Louis’ turn today, so both teams get to hear and feel the thunder.  To survive this one, the Sharks will need to do more than prove they are hard to drown.  That surprised the Blues once, it won’t work again.

Nothing ever turns out quite the way you expect, even when it’s the predicted outcome.  David Pollak wrote:

The boss gave me the green light before the series started to book flights for Game 5 because I found a fairly decent air fare. Now the only way that ticket goes to waste is if the Sharks sweep. -Working the Corners

There are two predictions that I find odd: predicted sweeps and predicted seven-game series.  The one claims there will be total dominance and the other claims there will be next to none.  So to me, predicting a seven-game series and still choosing a winner is like not choosing at all.  (For reasons I may get into later, I’m in a babbling mood right now, so this may go all over the place.  Apologies.  )

No one predicted that the Sharks would be swept, and I still maintain that if they can figure out a way to beat the Blues once or twice (since a lot of people seem to like the Blues in six), there’s no reason to think they can’t do it four times.

They say a goaltender needs to steal a game in the playoffs for you, preferably more than one.  Was Game 1 Niemi’s game?  You can’t expect him to hold up under that kind of pressure for many more games.  Well, maybe you can if you support him well, clearing the rebounds and limiting the opponent’s shot options.  Also, Niemi is probably one of those goalies who thrives on a lot of shots.

Still, I hope the Sharks don’t ask him to do that again today.  They do need to push back.  Can they?

The Blues’ strength, the Sharks coach said, “is their forecheck and their ability to get the puck in behind the d-men. We handled it. We didn’t handle it perfectly. That’s an area I think we can improve on. For us to have success moving forward, I think we’re going to have to do that.” -Mercury News

Now that the Sharks know they can frustrate the Blues, even if they couldn’t launch their own attack very well… can they move forward and go be frustrated in the Blues’ zone?  The series is likely to involve a lot of frustration if the Sharks can even half-way emulate the Blues’ defensive tenacity.

San Jose was lucky to survive a first overtime period where they were absolutely bitch-slapped for twenty minutes…

Some are taking that period as a harbinger of what’s to come in this series, and assume that the Blues will come a-roarin’ back to break our hearts. -Fear the Fin

Of course we can expect the Blues to come back with a vengeance, but if the Sharks know what’s good for them they will bring a little something extra too.  It might be hard to remember you didn’t do so well in a game you won, but if ever there were teachable failures to find in a win, that first OT period has to be among them.  Little mistakes can be forgotten, but 20 minutes of desperation?  That had to leave a mark.

I have this crazy and no doubt biased notion that the Sharks are a more adaptable team than the Blues, that the Blues’ success has come from sticking to their plan meticulously.  The Sharks have been so far from sticking to a plan this season that it is hard to be sure they have one.  Does the Sharks’ experience allow them to execute drastic changes on the fly?  It should, in theory.

I remember a Flyers game in Chicago, I think it was last season.  A rinkside reporter asked Laviolette if he’d seen what he thought he’d seen: the Flyers using the trap.  Laviolette admitted that it did sort of look like that, didn’t it, but he would not admit it was intentional.  He was grinning like the Cheshire Cat while he denied it.  That he, of all coaches, he of the scandalous stand-off counter to the Lightning’s trap (yes, this happened after he did that the first time), that he would do that… well, it was funny.  It was also damned effective.  The Blackhawks were in fits.

There’s a time and a place for everything, and if you have a very adaptable team, you can do that.  I don’t think Lavy has that team now and I’m not sure the Sharks have the ability to morph at will.  But changes on the fly, not only in lines but in attack plan, are important when facing a diligent team like St. Louis.  McLellan doesn’t sound like he plans to turn the team inside out:

Instead, McLellan refers to the changes as “minute things that you probably wouldn’t even recognize with the naked eye. Situations that are happening with repetition in the game—whether it’s board work, play below the goal line or goalie touches. There are some patterns.” -Mercury News

According to tweets, we shouldn’t expect any significant lineup changes either. 
The Sharks didn’t crack the Blues puzzle Thursday.  Did they learn enough to make progress tonight?  Hitchcock didn’t sound like he thought the Blues had an awful game at all:

“We got a lot of in-zone time, but they blocked a lot of shots,” Hitchcock said. “We’re going to have to find a way to do things a bit different. It just seemed like we had the puck in their zone a lot but not a lot of quality opportunities.” -Mercury News

Wow but does that sound familiar.  Here’s something else familiar for Sharks fans:

Kent Huskins is a good stabilizing presence with playoff experience but I’ve said it over and over. He’s not the partner for Alex Pietrangelo. His lack of foot speed and the inability to escape pressure gets him in trouble. -True Hockey

M-hm.  That won’t happen again. Husky is out tonight, along with Stewart and Reaves. In their place we should expect Colaiacovo, Crombeen and D’Agostini.

Apparently there are still tickets available for games 3 and 4 in San Jose.  Really, Sharks fans?  Was that win so bad?  Or is it just that the tickets went on sale so much later than the last couple of years?  I’ll go with the second option, because it gives me hope.  So does this:

Brodie Brazil ‏ @brodiebrazilCSN: “TJ Oshie on game 1: “I think we set the pace, and then they upped it a little bit” #stlblues #sjsharks”

Keep it up, Sharks, do it again.  Turn it up, up and into an upset, guys.

Go Sharks!

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: antti+niemi, kent+huskins, playoff, predictions, st+louis+blues


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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net

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