The sharks have finally (suddenly?) figured out gritty. three really good, gritty games in a row,
If they keep this up, they’re in the playoffs (watch out, vancouver) — but they’re playing at home, where they’ve done well all season. half their games left are road games, where, oh, no so, good. So the key’s going to be if they can translate this into some road wins. If you look at recent points-per-game and strength of schedule for the Sharks, it looks encouraging. The west is trending to 96 points to make the playoffs, and the Sharks are trending to 98 points. But that doesn’t factor in home/road records (yet) properly. Way too close to call, but they’re two road losses from being dead, no matter how they play at home.
Both goalies had awesome games, but Garon kept this from being a laugher early. Cheechoo, however, ultimately took the game over and decided it, with help from Joe Thornton.
Last night was injury city; it had the potential to be a really expensive win and loss for both teams. Craig Conroy put his stick in front of a clearing pass and it launched the puck into his face; fortunately, it hit him a bit above the eye (same problem as Doug Murray in pre-season, except Murray injured the cornea); Conroy was sewn up and playing in the second.
On the Sharks side, Scott Thornton hit the boards funny and needed help off the ice, he was skating off in that hunched-over stance — I think separated shoulder, someone else I talked to thinks ribs. Either way, not likely something easily fixed by an ice pack. We’ll see.
And to answer a couple of questions before you knew to ask: Yes, I thought Tootoo dove and embellished on parker’s elbow. Maybe not as much as Parker did, but he helped it, and that was a game where the refs WERE calling penalties on seeing the results, not the action. And yes, I think two games off for Parker is fair, and no, I’m not upset Witt didn’t get any, either. If you go back and look at the tape, whatever Witt or the preds did, it was verbal. Parker initiated, and Parker reached over the glass at them. Once he made contact — Witt responded. Parker just plain old blew a gasket.
Oh, one quick note about Cheechoo: 4th hat trick of the year, 8th multi-point game of the year. 40 goals (2nd player in team history to do this, after Nolan). Showing not only more and more confidence, but more willingness and ability to just take over a game and dominate it. This performance is not JUST that he’s skating with Thornton and those two are unbelievable in how they work together, it’s a kid that’s figured out just how good he is and really is believing in what he’s capable of. He’s not sitting back and waiting for Thornton to feed, he’s an increasingly aggressive forechecker who’s picking off passes and stuffing them down goalies and generally raising havoc.
Man, he’s fun to watch. And I keep going back to Torino and asking myself — how did he not even get a serious look, much less not make the team? There are at least three Sharks (Cheechoo, Hannan, and Preissing for the US) that would have made their Olympic teams better than what was sent. Maybe McLaren, too.
Ohwell. And since Gretzky lives out here in the west, he doesn’t even have the “I know the eastern teams best” excuse.