Sunday, April 30, 2006

Shark Bait.

In the end, the San Jose Sharks just seemed to want the wins more. The Sharks came back from a game one loss to the Nashville Predators, to take four straight wins from Nashville to advance to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and send the Cats on to next year country.

Patrick Marleau continued his dominant pace with the play as the Sharks captain once again picked up points on the way to the 2-1 victory and a 4-1 wrap to the series. Marleau scored on the power play to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead, his seventh post season goal this year. With a power play that consists of Jonathon CheeChoo, Marleau and Joe Thornton, penalty killers have their hands full and Sharks fans must be thinking that this run could go rather deep into the playoff quest for Stanley.

Steve Bernier picked up the other marker to pace the Sharks to the 2-0 lead, a score that held until the third period when Paul Kariya finally tallied a power play goal of his own to close the gap to 2-1. To their credit the Predators battled their way through the third much like they have in many of the other games in this series, taking the play into the San Jose end of the rink only to have Sharks goaltender Vesa Tokala smother out any hope of a comeback.

For the Predators losing Tomas Vokoun proved to be a huge disappointment heading into the playoffs, but they can take some consolation from the fact that their back up goaltender Chris Mason more than held his own and gave a glimpse of solid goaltending to come in future years for the Cats from Nashville. None the less, it has to be a disappointment for the Predators, they had played solid hockey for most of the year and looked to have finally made the jump to favourite from just competitor. The loss in the first round will definitely be considered a step back from the progress they have made over the last few years.

The Sharks now can take advantage of a few days off to rest up, heal some injuries and wait to see who will be their next opponent. Whatever team ends up swimming with the Sharks had best pay attention to the game film from the last four games; the Sharks are becoming quite an impressive unit. Goals come from many possible options, you might shut down Thornton on one night, but Marleau will be there to make your life miserable. Jonathon Cheechoo continues to be a presence on the ice as well and as has been proven on countless power play chances in the last four games, the Sharks perhaps have the most potent power play in the league at the moment. Take penalties at your peril should be on the whiteboard of any team that faces them in the next round.

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