Wednesday, May 17, 2006

San Jose sleeps with the fishies!

It was like the good old days at the place they used to call the Coliseum. The Edmonton Oilers spurred on by a rabid bunch of crazies starved for a playoff run for 14 years, completely finished off the San Jose Sharks by a score of 2-0, taking their six game series 4 games to 2.

The Oilers now move on to the Conference final against Anaheim, with game one scheduled for Friday night. It’s interesting to note that of the four teams remaining in the 2006 playoff hunt, not one of them made the playoffs when the NHL last awarded Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Things didn’t look good for the Oilers back when games one and two had come to a conclusion, trailing the Sharks 2 games to none, it looked as if the Oilers were going to have to live off of their amazing rout of the Detroit Red Wings, but as we’ve come to learn about this Oilers squad, the series is never over until the handshakes are finished.

The Oilers battled back one game at a time, improving with each period, by the end dominating a Shark team that couldn’t figure out what they had done wrong and how the Oilers had turned around their fortunes.

Game six was a hard hitting affair as the Oilers came out of the gate flying and crashing, sometimes too much. The Oilers gave the Sharks more than enough power play opportunities in the first period to put away game six and force a game seven; however, Dwayne Roloson was more than up to the challenge of taking on the Shark attack.

Roloson made key save after key save to preserve his shut out and the Oiler victory, what shots he didn’t stop his defencemen did as the Oilers once again played without fear in their own end, diving to block shots and crashing wayward Sharks into the boards.

The essence of the Oiler attack was to keep the Sharks off balance for most of the game and for the most part they were quite successful at it. They held onto a one goal lead going into the third period and then with time running down at eight minutes to go, Shawn Horcoff put away the insurance marker, adding his point to Mike Peca’s go ahead goal of the first period.

The Sharks launched one last power play flourish with Ryan Smyth in the penalty box, but the Oilers held tough and denied them a goal let alone the chance to get back into the game and the series.

The game ended just about as opposite as things could get for a Sharks team that seemed to have no trouble in game one, but now find themselves done for the year after game six. Shocked by their four straight losses and an inability to regain that swagger they had going into the third game, a swagger they would slowly watch fade away with each successive Oiler victory.

It was a very entertaining series as the pace of the play was high octane for most of the six games played. For the Sharks it must be a terribly disappointing end to what had been an amazing run that started after the Olympic Break. There’s good things happening in San Jose again, the addition of Joe Thornton, the play of Jonathon Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau bodes well for the Sharks in the next few years. They’ll learn from the setback against Edmonton and move on from there, another chance for Stanley comes up in less than a year, expect the teal clad Sharks to be in the thick of things again.

As for Edmonton, its one day’s rest and the Oilers are back at it and probably that’s just as well, they seem to perform at their best when they are challenged by a short recovery time. The Ducks who have been cooled off and rested for a week now may find that they have to keep a high pace to their game to keep up with the suddenly surging Oilers.

It wasn’t the safest bet at the start of the playoffs, but right now perhaps outside of the Buffalo Sabres, there isn’t a team left in the playoffs that has the momentum swing going so much in their favour. Sixteen years is a long time between Stanley Cup parades, the way the Oilers are playing right now, there’s a very good chance that Jasper Avenue may be closed in a months time!

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