Happy BoC Gameday, everyone. The long-awaited day of meaningful confrontation has arrived, and I'm still damn excited.
Here's an image I made in Nov. 2006. Amazingly, everyone's still around.
It’s fitting, perhaps, that the way that Anaheim and San Jose are starting their postseason is the way they started the regular season – Ducks at Sharks, opening night with a clean slate. Accordingly, Mike Chen and I decided to do a reprise of our season-opening post – what scares me about your team. Both teams have come a long way since opening night, and to help note that progress, I’ll include a glimpse of what our original answers were back on Oct. 9:
What scares Sleek about this year’s Sharks:Now it’s time to do it all again, after the jump:
1. Joe Thornton plus offensive defensemen means trouble
2. Red Wing motivational tactics
3. Jonathan Goddamn Cheechoo
What scares Chen about this year’s Ducks:
1. The Complete Mighty Ducks
2. Brendan Morrison
3. Pronger / Niedermayer
What scares Sleek NOW about the San Jose Sharks:
1. The scoring depth behind the top line
Yes, there’s plenty to fear about the trio of Joe Thornton – Patrick Marleau – Devin Setoguchi (a combined 94 goals and 128 assists), but the next trio of scoring forwards – Joe Pavelski, Milan Michalek, and Ryane Clowe – are all sitting between 50 and 60 points for the season as well. The Ducks seemingly can match up with the Sharks’ top performers with their trio of Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry – Bobby Ryan (a combined 88 goals and 132 assists), but beyond that they are largely relying on the scoring punch of Teemu Selanne and Andrew Ebbett, both of whom can be streaky. If the Sharks’ secondary scoring outpaces the Ducks’, then this series may not deliver much drama.
2. Jonathan Goddamn Cheechoo
Look – I don’t care if Cheechoo’s been dropped to San Jose’s third line, and I don’t care that he only scored 12 goals this season, and I don’t care that I already included him on my season-opening list. As long as the Sharks have J. "G.D." Cheechoo in their lineup, he’ll scare the crap out of me. Consider Cheechoo’s regular season goal-scoring stats – 20 goals in 34 games against Anaheim (0.59/gm); 145 goals in 406 games against everybody else (0.36/gm). Against the Ducks he’s a 19.2% shooter; against the rest of the league he shoots at a 13.1% clip. I'm not sure there's a word yet invented to describe somebody who is racist against water fowl, but by the end of this series there might be.
3. The Omen
Travis "the Omen" Moen – I don’t imagine when Bob Murray traded away the soon-to-be-UFA checker to the Sharks that the Ducks would meet up with him again in the first round, but here we are. The Omen isn’t a huge regular season threat, but he has been a beast in the postseason – his 7 goals in 82 games this season matches the 7 goals he had in 21 postseason games in 2007, and his 2 GWG in those 82 games matches the 2 GWG he had in 5 games of the Cup Finals. It's one thing when playoff warriors of the past depart for other pastures -- it's quite another when they show up on the other team's roster. Ducks fans know what the Omen brings -- he'll play an honest game and stand up for his (new) teammates -- and I don't suspect that anybody on Anaheim will be outworking him for his shifts.
What scares Chen NOW about the Anaheim Ducks:
1. Teemu Selanne
The running joke among Sharks fans was that when the Finnish Flash was acquired, the best thing about the deal was that the Sharks didn't have to play him anymore. Unfortunately, Teemu found that scoring for the Sharks was much more difficult than scoring against the Sharks. Still, that seems to be one of his favorite past times, and with all of the focus being on Ryan "Spray-On Hair" Getzlaf, Corey "What High Stick?" Perry, and Bobby "Sidney Who?" Crosby, Selanne could fly in under the radar, even if he doesn't use an illegal stick. Fate tends to conspire against the Sharks, and having Selanne exact his revenge for his time with Darryl Sutter and Owen Nolan seems entirely possible. In fact, I get the feeling that when Selanne plays the Sharks, he has crazy flashbacks of Darryl Sutter yelling at him for being a pussy and Owen Nolan just being a dick to him, and it revs him up more than a hot sauna with his best friends.
Two Norris winners still in the prime of their careers, each capable of shutting down the opposition and playing 30 minutes a night? That ain't a good thing. Captain Elbows only has one playoff series that I can recall where he actually kept his cool (against the Sharks, of course, when he was with Edmonton), and it'll take a whole lot of Grier / Roenick / Moen bashing into Pronger's face to try and goad him into a dumb penalty. Niedermayer, on the other hand, only seems to have one enemy and that's Father Time (and the Just For Men he needs on his beard). One of the big problems is that Randy Carlyle has seemingly figured out Todd McLellan's attack plan, and if you watched the last two games between these teams, the Sharks had a difficult time trying to get through the neutral zone.
Of course, McLellan's plan is probably lulling Carlye into a false sense of confidence by tricking him into thinking that Carlyle has figured out McLellan's plan, but McLellan has a different plan -- a secret plan he's planned all along. Got that?
3. The officiating
Look, I'm not going to lie and say that the Sharks are boy scouts. They have their share of chippy play and hidden hooking / holding. I don't think anyone can really refute the pugilistic histrionics of previous Duck teams, and while Randy Carlyle says they've gotten a bad rap this season, my big fear is that this is all part of Carlyle's master plan. (See how I'm going conspiracy with this post?) Get the sympathy vote from the refs during the playoffs by paying off Don Cherry and lobbying in the press, then when the refs start looking the other way, use chainsaws instead of sticks to dismember the Sharks -- of course, Corey Perry's specific target is Evgeni Nabokov. And when an armless Milan Michalek is writhing on the ice at the feet of a maniacally cackling Rob Niedermayer, roaring chainsaw in hand, ref 1 will turn to ref 2 and say, "Nah, I didn't see anything. We should give the Ducks the benefit of the doubt."
However, one thing that I am looking forward to is the back and forth here on the BoC posts. As much as we "hate" each other, 99% of the comments are usually done with a good sense of humor, unlike Red Wing commenters who have a persecution complex bigger than OJ Simpson.
I'm not sure what the comments will be like tonight -- I'm going to be unavailable until sometime in the 3rd period and Mike will be attending the game. Still, feel free to stop by and let us know what scares you about the intrastate opponent.
Sleek's prediction: Pronger gets booed. Go Ducks.
Chen's prediction: Perry gets booed more than Pronger. Go Sharks.