Sharks Liking New Jacket

Discussion in 'HFNHL Talk' started by 91, May 17, 2006.

  1. 91

    91 Registered User

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    Columbus, Ohio - On the eve of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final the Sharks are pleased to be facing a tough Columbus squad. "We know no matter who we play it is going to be a difficult series, if you get this far you deserve to be here, theres no ifs ands or buts about it" stated Peter Forsberg during a relatively light media scrum in the road dressing room at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus. All the attention is for the hometown boys, which is no surprise to the Sharks, Scott Neidermayer knows why, "They had a very successful season and they are supposed to be here, the hype around the city is amazing. It's a great hockey atmosphere, I just want to get started." The top 2 teams in the West will battle for the right to go to the Stanley Cup finals, does it get any better?

    The Blue Jackets beat out the Sharks for the Conference title by a narrow 3 points as the lead changed hands more than once throughout the final stretch of the season. The two meetings between the teams saw Columbus win both by scores of 4-3 and most recently 5-0, those 2 games determined the Conference title, "Don't tell me regular season games don't mean anything" said GM Astles, "Our 2 games against the Blue Jackets determined the Conference, now they have home ice advantage, and that could be huge in a game 7 situation."

    The Sharks spent a light practice looking at possible line combinations, but nothing will be set in stone until game time tomorrow night. All the team would say is that there best players have to be their best players for them to have any chance of winning.

    Going into game 1 of the Western Final Jose Theodore feels confident, "I've gotten off to a couple slow starts in series, but the last one versus the Wild I felt I really progressed after game 1, I just need to keep the pucks out, and the boys upfront need to put the puck in the net, that's all."

    The 2 teams will face off tomorrow at Nationwide Arena in Game 1, who knows who will win, this is a tough series to call. The prediction that we will make is that SOMEONE will win the West in 7. Who you ask? Stay tuned.


    Jose Jaws
    San Jose Tribune
     
  2. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Jackets go fishing

    CD - Columbus

    Nationwide is abuzz as the top two seeds in the West - Columbus and San Jose - will hit the ice tonight for game 1 of the Western Conference final, and it's safe to say expectations are high for an exciting series.

    Both teams boast fast, high-energy rosters, towering defences, and strong goaltending. As close as the two teams are, however - the conference lead changed several times in the final weeks of the season - they have a different approach to the game.

    The Sharks are seen by some as the ideal club for the "new" HFNHL: fast, skilled, offence-minded. Certainly the stats would bear that out: only the upstart Sabres - perhaps even more than the Sharks a model of the new league - have scored more this post-season. But the Sharks play a firewagon brand of hockey which sees them give up as many chances as they get. With scorers like Forsberg, Sykora, Demitra, Elias and Sullivan on the ice, however, they seem quite comfortable trading shot-for-shot.

    Columbus, meanwhile, follows the old-school approach of taking care of your own end first, and then creating chances as opportunities arise. It's worked well for the, as the Jackets have the league's lowest goals against thus far in the playoffs. It starts with the man in net, of course, as Martin Brodeur leads all starting goaltenders with a .919 save percentage and an even 2.0 goals against average. But just as he did in years past in New Jersey, Brodeur is getting lots of help from stingy defensive play: between back-checking forwards and shot-blocking defencemen, Brodeur has also had to face the fewest shots per game of any starter.

    At the other end of the ice, Sharks netminder Jose Theodore has also been impressive, but the extra few chances his team gives up have cost him in a higher goals againastr and lower save percentage. Fortunately, his squad has the firepower to compensate: the top two lines, and their "fourth forward" Ed Jovanovski, have between them 68 points thus far. The Jackets' top 7 scorers, including their leading blueiner Adrian Aucoin, have put up 56 points. Granted, the Sharks have played one more game, but it's safe to say that the Shark's best players have been more offensively dominant than those of the Jackets. The Sharks also boast more offensive depth, with the third and fourth lines contributing more - and more consistently - than the Jackets' depth players.

    Columbus has an advantage on special teams, with both their powerplay and penalty kill units having had more success than the Sharks' to date in the playoffs. With such a small sample, though (10 and 11 games, respectively), those positions could shift over the course of a single game. The Jackets also hold a physical edge up front, and will hope to use it to go hard to the net and create traffic.

    "The last few games, we've been slow off the mark. With an explosive team like San Jose, we can't afford that", Head Coach Mike Babcock said following his team's light practice this morning. "We need to go at them hard from the word go, keep the play in their end, and minimize the turnovers. If we let them control the play, they could bury us."

    Veteran Kirk Maltby pointed out the importance of pressuring the defence. "Jovo and Nieds (the Sharks' defence pairing of Ed Jovonovski and Scott Niedermayer) are such a huge part of their play in all zones, we have to keep the pressure on them, not give them time to make a play. Those guys are so strong in transition and on the point."

    Babcock will be counting on his aggressive wingers, including Maltby, Mark Bell, Mike Leclerc and Brendan Shanahan, to make life difficult for the Sharks' vaunted defensive duo. "Every time they go into the corner", Maltby continued, "they have to know they're going to get hit. Veteran guys like that, you're not going to scare them off, but if you're relentless, you can get them to rush their decisions. Over the course of a long series - like this one will probably be - those little battles can make a big difference."

    Mattias Norstorm, who has played on Sweden's national team with Sharks star Peter Forsberg, said they have to be prepared to choke up the lane against the rush and block shots in front of Brodeur, while still allowing the Jackets goalie to get a clear look at incoming shots. "They have so much skill, we just have to focus on keeping them to the outside, forcing them to take long shots that we can block or give Marty a clear look at."

    GM Doug Emerson, whose Washington Capitals appeared in the Eastern Conference Final in 1999, underscored the importance of experience. "(San Jose) comes into this having won the cup a couple of years ago. Their players, most of them, have been there and know what it takes. This is the first time our club has been this far, but we have a lot of players with that experience, when you look at leaders with cup rings like Shanny, Slava (Kozlov), Kirk and of course Marty. That may be the biggest difference, the last time San Jose was here they had Eddie Belfour in net (who this year is the starting netminder for Eastern Conference challengers Philadelphia). This time San Jose has Jose Théodore, who's had some good runs but hasn't been to a cup final. Marty gives us a real edge, no question."

    It may all come down to the classic case of the irresistable force versus the immovable object: will the Sharks' offence be able to overcome Columbus' stifling defence? Will Columbus' scorers be able to keep up?

    We'll find out, starting tonight at 7 PM Central.
     
  3. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

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    Sharks take Game 1

    CD - Columbus

    It's a "good news/bad news" kinda thing. The Blue Jackets started much stronger in last night's third-round opener than they had in any of their games against the Blues, putting 11 shots on Sharks netminder José Thédore and hitting everything in sight, but in the end they came up short where it counted - on the scoresheet.

    Two minutes into the game Hal Gill went to the box for highsticking, but San Jose held firm against the buzzing Blue Jackets. Shortly after successfully killing off the Jackets' powerplay, Sharks winger Tom Fitzgerald collided with Columbus' Chris Gratton mid-ice. Fitzgerald received a broken nose and had to leave the game. He is not expected to dress tonight.

    No penalty was called on the play as Gratton had been looking in the other direction when the two met at center ice, but Fitzgerald's teammates took exception to the non-call and hit the ice with something to prove. Not an overly physical team, the used their hands rather than their fists: on the very next shift, San Jose's reconstituted top line of Patrick Elias, Peter Forsberg and Pavol Demitra connected to put the Sharks up 1-0.

    Forsberg was a dominant force on the night, winning most of San Jose's faceoffs and controlling the puck down low. He orchestrated two more goals in the second period to put San Jose up for good.

    The Jackets got one back in the third on a goal by Henrik Sedin, but it was too little, too late. The playoffs' best defensive team had no answer last night to the Sharks' top line. Even Martin Brodeur was exposed, stopping just 25 of 28 shots, while at the other end Théodore was good on 25 of 26 Jackets shots.

    The Jackets' PK unit continued to click, killing off four Sharks power plays, but the Columbus powerplay went scoreless on their three chances.

    Defenceman Adrian Aucoin stepped up his game significantly, recording 5 shots and delivering a personal best 8 hits on the way to a team-high 26 minutes. Perhaps he was trying to do too much, however, as he and his defensive partner Keith Carney were on the ice - along with Mike Modano's line - for two of the Sharks' three markers.

    "It was a frustrating night", Aucoin commented to reporters afterwards. "They have such good puck movement off the transition, they're across the blueline before you can blink. We'll probably have to fine-tune things a bit to slow them down."

    Was he running around too much?

    "There's something to be said for keeping things simple, but when you have an opportunity to make a good play, you have to make it, whether it's a shot, a pass, a block or a hit. The chances were there for me, so I took them. We just have to focus on doing the things that got us here, and we'll sort these guys out. We did a lot right out there, and this is their first win against us all year, so we shouldn't make too much of this loss just yet."

    Even if the Jackets are able to contain Forsberg and solve Theodore tonight, they will still have given up the home-ice advantage that they fought so hard down the stretch to secure.

    "Well", a wry Aucoin quipped, "we'll just have to win the next two, and then that won't be a problem."

    Milo Minderbinder
    Columbus Discoverer
     

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