4/20 WCQF Game 5: sharks 3, NASHVILLE 2
Nashville Predators, we hardly knew ye. Second year in a row, second 5 game series in a row won by the Boys in Teal. In another series that saw the Predators come to the table without all their eating utensils (Steve Sullivan is the spoon that kept the Preds from eating their soup), the Sharks took advantage of the depleted Nashville squad, and dispensed of them in 5 games.
Replicating their feat from a year ago, the Sharks scored the first goal, then came back to tie and win it late in the game. Ryane Clowe  got the Sharks on the board first when he jammed home a Steve Bernier rebound that snuck just under Tomas Vokoun (Bernier, Marcel Goc). The rest of the period worked in the Sharks' favor, as they continued to outwork the Predators, rightly reflected by a 14-8 margin in shots on the board.
Despite looking good in the 1st, the Sharks let the fact that they were just 40 minutes from advancing to the second round get to them, as the Predators woke up and scored a pair of goals, giving them a lead just 4:26 into the middle period. All seemed to be going well for the Preds until 14:58 of the frame, when, Scott Nichol, having had enough of Christian Ehrhoff knocking him down, decided to spear him right in the Christian Ehrhoffs with the blade of his stick, earning himself 5 minutes for spearing, and an automatic game misconduct. The subsequent 5 minute powerplay led to the Sharks second powerplay goal of the series, a great pass from Billy Guerin across the crease to Captain Patrick Marleau (2), who promptly pushed it into the open net, past goaltender Tomas Vokoun (Guerin, Craig Rivet). The score remained tied at 2 after 40 minutes of play.
The 3rd was tight, each team only getting a couple scoring chances, but there was only one that really mattered. With just over 4 minutes left, Scott Hannan dumped a pass deep behind the net to Joe Thornton. Thornton took the puck, and backhanded a pass in front of the net to a waiting Marleau, who put it past Vokoun to give the Sharks a lead, and start the countdown to Round 2 at 4 minutes and 21 seconds. A Rivet double-minor with just 25 seconds left put the Sharks down a man, but they were able to weather the storm and dump the puck with about 10 seconds left, to win the game and the series. Evgeni Nabokov made 22 saves for his 4th victory of the playoffs
Despite the 4-1 series score, the games were pretty close, and very entertaining. Both the Sharks and the Predators were fast and physical, but the overall size of the San Jose roster seemed to grind down the smaller Predators, with each game coming down to the waining minutes. Vokoun was a stud for the Preds, and without him, the series would have been much less entertaining. In the off season, the Predators got better and attempted to adapt to playing a team like the Sharks, so it is unfortunate that their demise came to the team that they retooled to beat.
I have wrapped up my time in Nashville, but not without meeting some great hockey fans in the process. David and his son, who sit in 114, Michael, who graciously sold Brian (a Sharks fan from Ohio who I met earlier in the Odyssey) and I seats to Game 5, Steve the usher from Section 103/104, and all the Preds fans who were gracious in defeat, coming up to me after Games 1 and 5, shaking my hand, and complimenting the Sharks. Thank you for showing courtesy, it's never out of style, even at a hockey game. I'd also like to thank the guy who wears a Blue Predators jersey # 43 "Loco", cause without you, I might have thought no one in Nashville gets angry. Your clip to my back after Game 1, definitely not representative of your fellow fans. Shame on you. And to the Sharks fans I met as well, the group of Sharks fans from Indianapolis, thanks for makin the trip for the team (and thanks again for the puck, Justin).
Nashville is no more, but, celebrations mean little yet. Next up is the other powerhouse (and only other playoff team) from the Central Division, the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings come in as the #1 seed in the West, having discarded the Calgary Flames in 6 games. The season series went the way of the Teal, with the Sharks sweeping in San Jose, and splitting games in Detroit. Game 1 is Thursday night from Motown. The Odyssey will be there, Game 1 @ The Joe, 4:30 pm. 4 down, 12 to go.
GO SHARKS (Beat the Wings)
The sem-nice sign welcoming Predator fans to the Nashville Arena.
The Predator head.
The thank you message to the screaming 17,113 who filled the building for what, unfortunately for them, was their final game of the 2006/2007 NHL season.