I just checked Round 2 ticket prices. *gurgles*
Game 1 is on Thursday. This is pretty nice as it could have been as much as a week layoff. But I kind of worry as the Sharks haven't played all that well after 3-4 day breaks this season. At the same time, it's good because it gives Heatley a chance to rest his peg leg and Joe to either 1) heal up or 2) stop sucking. It's kind of hard to tell with him.
Clowe, Heatley and... Jay Leach (yeah, I don't know) were at the Giants game yesterday. Heatley threw out the first pitch to Zito and BOUNCED it ahahahaha. It's even more hilarious when Clowe pointed out that the 12-year-old girl standing next to him threw a strike.
I am very uncomfortable with all of the attention being paid to Pavelski's line. It's definitely well-deserved, but I worry about them for Round 2. They're already dealing with a bit of clutching and grabbing and it's only get worse, especially with the refs not calling it in the playoffs.
The flip side of that is that Patty, Joe and Heatley are taking uhh... heat. This is partly due to injuries (that we never hear about, even after the playoffs end) but the fundamental problem is that Joe doesn't play a style of game that's all that effective in the playoffs. He's negated by the other team working hard defensively and just plain taking hooking/holding/interference penalties. This is not a matter of him playing harder to overcome it. He's got to play different and abruptly changing your style of play in the playoffs is not the time to do it. That's why I always thought Clowe was a really key player for the Sharks. His style of play is immune to the playoffs.
In the next round, he'll have more of an opportunity to get something done simply because whoever we face next is going to treat Pavelski & co. as our first line and focus on shutting them down. This means Joe will have a little more space to work with. Also, all these people marveling at Pavelski as if... oh, all the Sharks needed to succeed in the playoffs is a performance and leadership like that. Who was the captain when the Sharks went to the WCF their one and only time? Patty. He scored a freaking hat trick against the Avs, back when they were just a good team, and not a feel-good surprise team. Who carried the Sharks past the first round series against the Predators twice? Patty. I know journalists have to have something to write about, but are their memories really so short?
I hope Heatley will be kept with Couture and Torrey Mitchell with Joe and Patty. I'm sure someone could probably analyze and explain the chemistry between Heatley and Couture but all I know is that it exists and maybe we can keep squeezing out some tertiary (secondary?) scoring from them. Torrey's speed really helps out Joe's line and makes them a little... well, not uncomfortable, but gives them an energizing change.
Which leads to the more macro observation of the team and why they feel so different this year. We dumped a lot of the dead weight in the off-season. I always just throw the name Ehrhoff out, but it's not just him, he's just the first name I say because his past playoff performances have stood out so much (in a bad way). :P And this is kind of painful, because I really love all of these guys: Ehrhoff, Goc, Michalek, Cheechoo, Grier.
Grier I excuse because he was injured--a lot of our boys were last year. But it wasn't really known if he could come back healthy, so. Cheech, between injuries and losing his confidence, just couldn't contribute. :( :( :( Grier and Cheech have the playoff mentalities, they just couldn't be depended on to perform.
Ehrhoff, Goc and Michalek all had this problem where they were afraid of making mistakes, or had to be poked to start playing hard or something like that. I think a lot of the problems started because they were a bunch of scared babies together and didn't have a strong, nurturing environment to grow up in (I wonder if Gorges sometimes has nightmares about Nabby). I know a lot of teams around the league have a bunch of young guys, but a lot of them sucked for a long time, picked up high draft picks, and grew up together a bit before entering the playoffs. Patrick Kane going into his first playoffs is a lot different from a late first rounder or a second rounder going into his first playoffs.
Anyway, the whole thing with guys being comfortable with each other... Ehrhoff and Goc were good buddies, and in the same way that seeing your teammate play his heart out can inspire you, seeing your friend lay back can also influence you to lay back as well. They've both had really good seasons this year. They're both actually... shooting the puck and trying to score goals and stuff! :P And not being the timid little indecisive things they've been in the past. Part of that is just the change of going to a new team, but it's also losing that safety net of not really having to be accountable.
Phew. Okay, individual player comments now:
Joe Thornton: Not a good series for him. The Avs were really good at getting sticks in passing lanes and a lot of his game involves passing. Might shine if we get a less-stifling opponent next round, i.e. not Phoenix.
Patrick Marleau: Showed some speed, had some close chances. Has been a playoff performer in the past and I expect him to perform in the second round, regardless of how well he's covered.
Dany Heatley: Has a peg leg. But had scored only 1 goal in the last 9 regular season games before the peg leg. Not sure if he has some kind of shoulder injury or is just going through a slump. Missed a ton of open net chances, hit some posts, crossbars in the series. Is still playing a role if he keeps getting chances good enough to force the other team to expend defensive effort.
Joe Pavelski: Amazing. Has been amazing since the Olympics. Most impressive is how quickly he's able to react to scoring opportunities and just bury them. Surprising is how well he's able to battle for pucks given his size. No doubt, future captain.
Ryane Clowe: IMO still the key player for the Sharks because of his size and strength and will. Has been a playoff performer since he was a rookie and hasn't stopped since.
Devin Setoguchi: Has been hitting, battling, and scored that unbelievably huge OT winner in Game 2.
Scott Nichol: Energizer bunny.
Manny Malhotra: Fast, energetic, actually attempts to score (as opposed to past Sharks' checking lines that would shoot the puck out of obligation). Will be a scoring threat in the next round.
Logan Couture: What a Game 5. This is the way babies should be raised. Pairing him with Heatley would make every line a scoring threat.
Jamie McGrinn: Oh man, so feisty. It's still really strange to me, like Samwise getting in somebody's face and trash talking them. Has been playing hard and battling, too.
Dwight Helminen: I think Bret Hedican accidentally called him Darren Helminen the other night. :P Before his Game 5 goal, he had 2 fantastic scoring chances that were created mostly by him. If we end up playing Detroit, he could have some big games playing in Joe Louis.
Dan Boyle: Yes, that goal is now behind him. He scored that goal early in Game 4 which was huge, but he also played really focused the rest of the game. He's excellent at stickhandling and it really showed in that game. That focus carried through the rest of the series. I'm so glad Brian Campbell chose not to sign with us. :P
Douglas Murray: Had a fantastic series, I thought. Not only did he deliver some great hits and counter-hits, he also made some key offensive plays, the biggest of which was the "wedgebuster" in Game 4 where he took two Avs out of the play, giving the chance to Pavelski to score the OT winner. He also made some good passes resulting in assists on goals and there's of course the empty netter in Game 6, hehe.
Rob Blake: Great playoff performer. Still has that great shot, but also has that playoff nastiness. It did end up in penalties a few times, but not all that dirty stuff gets called and it does help, I think.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic: Not that great of a series for him. He committed a few turnovers. Not an egregious number of them, but not what I'm used to seeing from Mr. Vlasic. Is he injured? Tired? Still feeling the effects of his earlier injury? In any case, he makes Rob Blake play much better so he's fulfilling a role in that respect.
Jason Demers: Has been doing a pretty solid job. Might emerge as more of an offensive force as the playoffs go on, but right now Boyle and Blake got that handled.
Kent Huskins: A good partner for Demers. Veteran + youngster seems like the effective dman pairing throughout the league.
Evgeni Nabokov: Had a shitty Game 2 but was otherwise very good. Didn't outright win any games, but didn't (and shouldn't) have to.
As far as opponents go, I would prefer to play the Red Wings than the Coyotes, but it's like being between the devil and the deep blue sea. :P