Saturday, April 12, 2008

4/9-10/08 WCQF #1 (cgy 3-2) and #2 (SJ 2-0)

Playoff time in hockey is a busy time of year, as much stuff gets decided. Unfortunately, that's the case outside of hockey too. But you don't care about that, this is the hockey odyssey, not the life odyssey. ANYWAYS...

Two games are in the books in the third chapter of Sharks v Flames, the playoff edition, and I think I'm happy with the way they went.

Game 1 brought the Calgary Flames just as expected, rough, gritty, and defensively (goaltending wise) magnificent. Stephane Yelle had a pair of goals for Calgary, Ryane Clowe had a pair for the Sharks. Dion Phaneuf had the other marker for Calgary, who got great goaltending out of Miikka Kiprusoff, who made 37 saves for the win. Evgeni Nabokov made 20 saves in the loss.

Playing back to back proved to be a good thing for the Sharks yet again, who really seemed to be able to put Game 1 behind them. Despite being outshot 10-8 in the 1st, they seemed to control much of the play, getting some good scoring chances. The Teal finally broke through the wall that is Kiprusoff on a pretty soft goal by Joe Pavelski, who just kinda threw it at the net and found its way past an oversliding Kipper. Torrey Mitchell banged in a loose puck later in the period on a power play to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead, and ended up winning by the same score. Kiprusoff was stellar again, this time making 41 saves, but in the losing effort. Nabokov made 21 saves in the shutout win, including a couple point blank glove saves that could be some of the best of the entire playoffs.

I say that I think I'm happy with the result of the first two, because these games just further confirmed what I and most people believed.

* The Sharks are the better team. - By better, I simply mean more skilled, as the better team in this matchup will be decided in three more wins.
* If the Sharks have the drive and will to win the series, they will. - The way the Flames play, it tests your will, determination, and just plain desire to win. If you have it, and can exert it for the entire 60 minute contest, you'll probably take the victory.
* Calgary is tough. - Not only tough in the matchup sense, as they aren't an easy opponent for anyone to face, their strong physical style all over the ice makes then a tough group of customers, pretty much what you'd expect of a Keenan/Sutter squad.
* Warren Strelow is a goaltending god. - The man taught plenty of great goalies, and two of the NHL's best in Kiprusoff and Nabokov. It is a real treat to see these two pupils of such a great coach go at it. I hope the rest of the series has some more supreme netminding.
* NHL officiating blows. - The name of the game for the men in stripes in the regular season was just how damn inconsistent they were, and it hasn't changed a bit.
Game 1 was called like a playoff game, five infractions called the entire contest. The dirty play was still there, but thanks to the double standard that exists in this fine game, stuff that happens in the playoffs needs to be done double to get called.
Game 2, however, was called like it was a regular season game, 18 infractions in all.
Personally, I'd rather see playoff games like Game 2, where a penalty is called a penalty. I understand the double standard, that things mean more in the playoffs and handing out 2 minute PPs like candy could decide a game, but I always respond to that excuse with a big "DUH". Penalties aren't supposed to be a good or acceptable thing, they're supposed to be punishment for breaking the rules. You don't want them to decide a game, DON'T TAKE THEM.
* The Tank is a loud building. - Now, before anyone gets angry and says their building is louder, I wouldn't know, but San Jose is pretty loud. I've seen playoff games in 3 other arenas besides San Jose (Colorado, Detroit, and Nashville), and I can say that the Tank is easily the loudest. The standing o for Nabokov after his glove save on Nolan was probably the loudest I've ever heard that place, and I've been there too much.

With the first 2 finished, the series shifts north of the border to the Saddledome for Games 3 and 4. The raucous Flames fans will probably be a factor, just as the Sharks fans had a part in the first two. The last change should also help Flames coach Mike Keenan, who will make sure Joe Thornton sees a complete dosage of the Flames checking line. Just as it was the goal of Calgary to get a split in SJ, you'd have to think it's the goal of the Teal to do that in the C of Red, and at worst come back to the Tank tied at 2. Whatever happens, it is almost certain to be exciting, and if it isn't, then you're lying.



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