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Sharks Squeak Back Into Series



The Sharks began game 3 like a team possessed. They put the Canucks on their heels from the opening faceoff and won puck battles all over the ice. Their top 6 forwards played like the players that they are. Even goalie Antti Niemi was spectacular when he needed to be. Add to that the fact that the Canucks were average at best in their own end for the first 40 minutes and that the refs followed Gary Bettman's orders (allegedly) and gave the Sharks 10 PP's. On top of all that Ehrhoff got injured late in the first putting the Canucks down to 5 D and then in the 3rd Aaron Rome was knocked out of the game on a hit from behind leaving the Canucks down to 4 D. Add it all up and it sounds like a blowout doesn't it? It sounds like one of those games where us Canucks' fans have to hide our head in shame, or perhaps avoid going out in public for a few days. The fact that the final score was 4-3 for the Sharks should have San Jose fans crapping their britches. (Maybe that should've been my headline: 'Sharks Fans Should Be Crapping Their Britches'). It had to be an absolutely perfect storm for the Sharks to win, and they still barely eked it out, with a little help from the refs on a phantom Bieksa hooking penalty.

I have been very impressed with Vancouver's resilience in the playoffs thus far. Their goal is to win hockey games and play whistle-to-whistle. They know they will not go 16-0, although for my blood pressure's sake I wish they would. This team has been great at not getting too high or too low. That's all about leadership. Some of the credit has to go to Mike Gillis. Just think how the Canucks would be doing right now if Malhotra was healthy. They would be heavy favorites to drink from the silver chalice. (Hey, I kinda like the sound of that.)

Once again the Luongo haters have come out in full force. I don't know what it is about Vancouver fans. For 40 years they have bitched about goaltending. Luongo is the best goalie the Canucks have ever had. Goalies, like the rest of the team, aren't perfect. The good news is that if the rest of the team plays to their capabilities Luongo doesn't have to be perfect. I think he made numerous great saves in game 3. I would have to watch the game over again sober to count them all but I'd say over 10. If I was to criticize him for one goal it would be the 4-1 goal that I thought was the backbreaker. As it turned out the real backbreaker was the final buzzer. For those of you bitching about his salary, it's completely irrelevant. He's not going to make a glove save on the great breakaway shot by Marleau just because he's making $10 mill this year. The fact is that nobody works harder and nobody wants to win more than Roberto. I think he wants it so bad that he can't relax and have fun sometimes. Even at that level, you play better when you are relaxed and enjoying playing. In any sport.

I was a little disappointed that Vigneault changed his lineup in game 3. After winning relatively easily in the first 2 games, I wouldn't have changed a thing. I think it shows confidence in your team if you stick with the same lineup no matter who SJ is going to add to their lineup or how they may approach the next game. The only time I would change my lineup after winning 2 consecutive games convincingly is if I have injuries. That's it.

So now it's the Canucks turn to bounce back. The games just get bigger and bigger. It's either 2-2 or 3-1 heading back to Vancouver. I'd bet that Alberts and Ballard are in for Ehrhoff and Rome and that, for San Jose, Couture doesn't play. I expect the Canucks to play with the same discipline as in game 3. I don't think they lost their composure at all. I expect them to play a full 60 minutes like they did in the first 2 games and Ryan Kesler will be more of a force if he's not killing penalties the whole game. If they play to their potential then they will win even if Luongo lets in another stinker. The Canucks are clearly the superior team and I don't think the Sharks will be able to stop them. I think Sundays game (noon, I guess I'll have to set my alarm) will be the last game played in San Jose this year.


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