Thursday, May 01, 2008
Please stow your brooms back in your closet.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we still have a series.
There are days when “Believing” isn’t enough. There are days where they other team “believes”, too. Those are the times where you must also execute. Score one for the Sharks, who have been turned on by most of the hockey crowd in Northern California. For the first time since April 18th, the Stars tasted defeat, and now must hop that plane to San Jose and attempt to close this thing out before the Sharks start rolling downhill.
Best-of-Seven Series promise us a roller coaster ride of emotions. Highs so high, and lows so low. Days where you first instinct is to find some cardboard and tin foil and begin fashioning your own hand-made Stanley Cup, and days where you look on the internet to see who will be free agents to sign this summer after your demise is completed.
The reason we enjoy this time of year so much is for these highs and lows. Somehow, the Stars have been playing so well that they haven’t endured stress in a while.
They grabbed this series by the throat and held what most consider an insurmountable lead. They still have control, and they still should be fine.
But, this morning, the Sharks wake up and they are still breathing in the 2008 playoffs. Credit that team for the way they responded after the 2nd intermission. You get the sense that the Sharks stood in their dressing room last night after 40 minutes and promised each other that they would make one more valiant stand to overwhelm the Stars to start the 3rd period. If they failed, at least they could suggest they gave it a run. But that determined effort early in the 3rd was something the Stars couldn’t match. Marty Turco made big save after big save in the first 3 minutes (I counted 5), but eventually the Sharks broke through when Joe Thornton hit Milan Michalek who banged the winning goal home.
Then for the final chunk of the 3rd period, the Sharks finally were able to grind home a lead like they are most comfortable. The Stars buzzed the zone with great prospects, but could never break through, and so the series must go on at least one more game, Friday in San Jose.
Notes and observations from Game 4:
• This game will no doubt be remembered as a game of untimely mistakes from the Stars. Clearly, Sergei Zubov needs to stop with the gift-giving on the power play, as for the 2nd straight night Patrick Marleau made the night possible for the Sharks. Think about it, in 2 games in Dallas, the Sharks beat Marty 3 times, with 2 of the 3 goals short-handers from Marleau off gaffes from the normally solid Zubov. Like a QB who just threw two costly interceptions, he has to get back on the horse and do what he does best…just no more shorthanders!
• Stu Barnes missed last night’s game because of the violent collision he endured from the Jonathan Cheechoo hit in Game 3. Barnes is very valuable to the Stars, and whether it is penalty killing, his spot on Modano’s line, or winning a crucial face off in his own zone, the Stars would love him back sooner rather than later. Toby Peterson and Nik Hagman did well last night, but the effect of Barnes’ absence was felt.
• Too many penalties, boys. Stop with the power play festival for the Sharks in the 1st period every night. The Sharks enjoyed twice the power plays of the Stars. That told quite a story, and the Modano delay of game is the one that proved most costly. Can’t put Jumbo Joe, Brian Campbell, Cheechoo, and Marleau out there for 12 minutes and get away with it.
• These playoff games are about two perspectives. The winners feel great about everything, and the losers mourn missed chances. Modano’s shorthanded strip of Christian Ehrhoff put him in all alone against Evgeni Nabokov. But Nabokov held his ground and made the save. Even bigger, was the Brad Richards big chance when the Stars were all ready ahead 1-0, as he hit the elbow after beating Nabokov to the far side. That is a shot he will see in his sleep, and it just proves that in both directions in this series, the team that lost only lost by a narrow margin. Yes, it is true, the Sharks could be up 3-1 in this series if the puck took a different bounce a time or two. Such is the tight rope that is walked in the playoffs.
• The game last night was not as amped up as Game 3. I wonder why the league insists on back to back games. I realize there are NBA considerations made when the schedule is formulated, but the quality of the hockey really drops when these guys play at this level for 3 games in 4 nights. The 3 in 4 stretch happens in the regular season all the time, but not at this level of intensity. These games are being played with every shift at 110%, and even the world class athletes are going to slow down eventually. Both teams have to play like that, so there should be no competitive advantage, but the quality of play in Game 3 far exceeded that of Game 4
. Now just imagine what one of these games would look like if we mix in a triple-overtime.
• I thought Mike Grier and Curtis Brown were very effective last night trying to shut down the Stars final flurries. As someone who has always admired Brown’s play from afar, I wonder how this was only his first game of the series. I am quite sure it will not be his last.
• Turco is so locked in right now. I have never felt better about the Stars goaltender.
• This is certainly no time to panic. The Stars have plenty of time on their side. But now, the Sharks heartbeat continues. On home ice, they are surely hoping to ambush Dallas. If they do, the momentum of this series will swing in the wrong direction. Luckily, the Stars so enjoy the home away from home ice in San Jose usually, and will not have a confidence issue in Game 5. I am reminded of the Colorado series in 2006. Where Dallas had home ice advantage, losing games 1 and 2 at home, and then Game 3 in Colorado. Down 3-0, they inexplicably rose up and won Game 4 in Denver, only to return home in Game 5 and lose again and suffer elimination. It is very difficult to a team capable of losing 3 straight to turn around and play flawless hockey for 4 straight. But, this thing is only over when one team has 4 wins. The Shark hunt continues…