I suppose it's time for my "serious" analysis of the Sharks' chances in this series, right? But creating new over/under joke bets is so much easier than giving things serious thought!
Part of me is glad that the Sharks have to play the Ducks, and it's not just because of the entertainment of the whole BoC thing (though we can see the comments have become pretty damn lively over the past few days). If the Sharks are going to prove themselves worthy of the Cup, they might as well get one of the big challenges out of the way and battle their cross-state rivals. It's one of those things that makes the first round a put-up-or-shut-up moment; if they can't shake off whatever weird malaise that has been hindering them over the past few weeks for this series, then they really don't deserve to win anything.
Between the jacked-up fans at HP Pavilion (and if you haven't been to a Sharks home game against Anaheim, there's extra juice in the air) and the animosity with Corey Perry and company, you'd think that there would be no snooze button in this series.
If the Sharks play to their potential, don't get any serious injuries, and don't get any crazy bounces against them, they should be able to beat anyone. Their forwards are skilled enough, they've got enough depth, their defense is mobile yet disciplined (sans the bad Rob Blake holding penalties), and Evgeni Nabokov's steady enough in net.
That's the rub, though, isn't it? Just like Jerry Seinfeld always found stupid reasons to break up with women (she had man-hands!), the Sharks always find stupid ways to lose in the post-season. They're not tough enough, they're not skilled enough, Patrick Marleau brain-farted in the last minute. And so on and so on.
From a tactical point of view, I've been an advocate of splitting up Marleau (with Setoguchi) and Thornton (with Cheechoo), and facing Pronger and Niedermayer on the ice for 50 minutes a game, I'd push for that even more. If Todd McLellan did that, he'd have three scoring lines, and one of them should eventually be able to take advantage of a time when neither of Pronger or Niedermayer are on the ice.
Word has it that Torrey Mitchell's been skating, though no one will acknowledge a comeback time (he told the Mercury News that he was shooting for late first round). If he makes a surprise appearance and it appears his speed is still in place, I'd suggest these lines:
Even though Mitchell's hands and timing wouldn't be in game shape, his only real goal on that line would be to use his speed to back check or provide options on the rush. Marleau and Setoguchi provide enough skill, and that pure-speed line would be something to watch when it comes to transition.
That's all speculation though until Mitchell actually comes back. When he's not there, I'd still experiment except making the third line Grier/Marleau/Setoguchi as Marleau and Grier have developed a nice chemistry by working together on the penalty kill.
That's about it when it comes to the tactical stuff, at least until we get the first game over with and see what adjustments have to be made. I hate to be lame with analysis but there's really not to much to this one, folks. The Sharks have all of the right components, the right experience, the right depth. They've got a dynamite system that, when executed properly, consistently generates scoring chances. They're committed to backchecking, are strong on both special teams, and have a great goalie, yada yada yada. It doesn't mean shit if you don't play balls out.
In other words, you better fucking win because you're good enough to. Right now, the Sharks are like that student that is super book smart and has no work ethic, and that's why he kicked ass in high school and failed in college. Now he's back and claims to have finally "got it" and really will work hard this time.
Have the Sharks cried wolf again? I really fucking hope not. And that's my pre-series analysis.
Yes, Sharks fans are bitter.