Friday, April 13, 2007

4/11 WCQF (Round 1)GAME 1: sharks 5, NASHVILLE 4 2OT

A full day later, and it's still a big win. Overshadowed by the loss of Jonathan Cheechoo for who knows how long (playoff diagnosis: Cheech has the flu), the Sharks pulled one out in Nashville on Wednesday in their first playoff overtime, and therefore, the longest game in Nashville Predator history. Big hits, incredible saves, beautiful goals, and a giant, walking blue ice tiger thing, it must be playoff time.

Joe Thornton has been said to be a perennial playoff "choker", and he lived up to his billing in Game 1, as he only recorded 2 assists (horrible, I know). Patrick Marleau recorded a pair of assists, as well, and Mike Grier also had 2 points, tallying a goal and an assist. Evgeni Nabokov was huge in net for the Teal, making 39 saves for the win.

Even before the game started, you could tell the 17,113 that filled the Nashville Arena were ready for some playoff hockey, as they provided the loudest ovation for the pre-game injury report that I've ever heard. Despite their noise level (those stupid blue clapper things didn't help quiet the building at all), the Sharks found little difficulty in taking the lead kinda early, as Matt Carle [1] bounced a shot in off the skate of Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter (Thornton, Craig Rivet), and gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead that stood til the 1st intermission.

The Predators came out hard early in the 2nd, getting goals from Alexander Radulov and J. P. Dumont 81 seconds apart to give Nashville the lead just 4 minutes into the middle frame. Grier tied the game at 2 just a minute and a half later [1], taking a great one-time pass from Patrick Rissmiller, who had drawn attention towards him behind the net (Rissmiller, Brown). Playoff games aren't without controversy, and this one was no different. At 9:00 of the 2nd, Scott Hartnell came in for a check on Cheechoo, and Cheech, who wasn't in possession of the puck, had his head down, and was turning to go to the bench. Hartnell continued his hit, and connected with Cheechoo, knocking knees as he passed. At this time, the exact diagnosis of Cheechoo's injury is unknown, but he is listed as "Highly Doubtful" for this evening's game. Hartnell was assessed a 5 minute major for kneeing, and was booted from the game with the subsequent game misconduct. The Sharks received a 5 minute power play, an opportunity that didn't go to waste. Craig Rivet [1] blasted a shot from the point that found it's way past Tomas Vokoun, that returned the lead to the hands of the Fin (powerplay) (Marleau). Milan Michalek [1] made it 4-2 when he took a Thornton pass from behind the net and potted it past Vokoun (Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic).

The game remained 4-2 until Radulov deked the life out of Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren, and ripped a wrister past Nabokov. The game looked to be almost won when, with 50 seconds left, Dumont tipped a Shea Weber blast that tied the game at 4. The contest remained tied through the first extra period, despite great scoring chances, including a breakaway from Predator Jordin Tootoo. In the second OT, Marleau had his own breakaway, but that was broken up by the defensive play by Dan Hamhuis, and a save by Vokoun. But at 8:14 of Double Overtime, the game was finally decided on a nice little play set up by Grier to drop a pass to Marleau at the blue line, who then dished it ahead to Rissmiller [1], who popped it over the shoulder of Vokoun (Grier, Marleau).

The fans here provided a great atmosphere for Game 1, and Game 2, which gets underway in just over 7 hours, should be no different. It was nice to be present, even in a foreign building, for a playoff game in which my team was victorious, but as everyone knows, it's a best of 7 series in hockey, not 1, which means there's just a bit of hockey left to be played (bit = way too much for my comfort). If Wednesday night's contest was any indication, this series is real close, way too close to call definitively either way until it comes to an end sometime next week or beyond.

Speaking of Game 2, it's tonight (5:00 pm Pacific). Same two teams, same place, same time. Now, if it's the same result, I'll be two things, both happy and dead. Happy because the Sharks were once again victorious, and dead because my heart won't be able to handle another 2 OT game. Regulation would be fine by me.

GO SHARKS (At least I didn't get a clapper to the head)

Out front of the former Gaylord Entertainment Center, now Nashville Arena.

See, no more GEC. The Nashville Arena getting a chance to Live It in the playoffs.

The Pred head, spotlighted in a yellow only a Predator fan can love. (Mmm mmm, gotta love that mustard).


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