Friday, April 25, 2008

Western Conference Semifinals Preview

The first round was a throwback to 2004, and a lesser extent 1995, with the Sharks prevailing in 7, like they did back in the 90's. This second round matchup is a throwback to the 90s as well, albeit a couple years later. The Sharks and Stars met twice in 3 years (1998, 2000), and, at least one of those series was a big one. Ed Belfour, Owen Nolan, Bryan Marchment, Joe Nieuwendyk, Derian Hatcher, Mike Ricci. Ah, the good ole days.

This series has plenty of storylines too, however.
* Marty Turco - Simply put, the man is bonkers. Much like his predecessor, Ed "Drunky P. Drunkerson" Belfour, Turco is a great goalie, and a great headcase. If the Sharks fans (read FANS, not players) can get him off his game like they did in the last regular season contest, the games in San Jose should be that much more fun. He'll have to outduel Vezina finalist Evgeni Nabokov

* Old guys - If you're an American hockey fan, you'll love this series. The top two American born goal scorers are featured (Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick), and despite being old, both still got it. By it I don't even mean prune juice and a bagel.

* Special teams - The Sharks PK finished right ahead of the Stars PK for the season, with .2 separating the Pacific Division rivals at the top of the league. However, the Sharks PK was abysmal in the first round, while the Stars PK was slightly better. On the other side, Dallas' PP was killer, second highest in the first round behind just the Calgary Flames, who are using their top playoff PP The Sharks man advantage was pretty lackluster in the opening round, and if the Sharks are to win, they'll have to get better.

* Almost like family - The Sharks and Stars played 8 times this year, there's no need for introductions, especially from the last game of the year, each team knows their opponents fists well. Don't expect to see the same timid "feeling out" process that is usually prevalent in the first game of a long series. Each team knows how the other plays, look to see the teams come out flying.

* Even steven - The season series between these teams was split 4-4. Technically, the Stars won the series because they went 4-2-2 against the Sharks, losing two games in extra time, 1 in OT, the other in a shootout. Expect a long series, possibly another one of them pesky Game 7 things.

Quick rundown of sorts

Offense: Draw. Both teams have strong top lines, and strong depth.
Defense: Draw. No real weaknesses on either defensive squad, Stars might get Zubov back for Game 1.
Special Teams: In the regular season, the Sharks had the #1 PK ahead of Dallas, Stars had the better PP.
Stars were middle of the road in PPO and TSH, Sharks had 5th most PPO, and 3rd least TSH. If the Stars can't get power plays, they can't score on them. Look for Dallas pest Steve Ott to try to draw a reaction. A reaction like this perhaps

Be careful what you wish for, Stevey.
Goaltending: San Jose. Marty Turco has had two great playoff series. Unfortunately, he's had a few bad ones too. If he's solid, he'll match Nabokov well. If he's not, Dallas will be at a severe disadvantage.

These teams don't like each other, and these teams fans don't care for each other much either. In Dallas, they have a tradition to scream the word "STARS" each time it is said (twice) in the Star Spangled Banner. Here's the response given by Sharks fans at EVERY SINGLE Sharks/Stars game (not a new tradition, Sharks fans been doing this for a long time).

This should be a great series between two great teams, representing both the Pacific Division, and non-traditional hockey markets that go insane for their ice hockey squad. Can't wait.



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