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I feel good, not great

Everyone breath a sigh of relief? I had a few people call me overconfident when I made my "good/bad/don't panic" post, but I was looking at the bigger picture here -- and really, if the Sharks couldn't rebound with a strong effort in Game 2, then they had way bigger problems than losing a single game in the first round.

Still, while the series is far from over, there seemed to be little of what was so wrong in Game 1. There were moments of pure scrambling, but the penalty kill looked confident and Evgeni Nabokov was simply {insert hyperbole here}. While the Sharks weren't great in the opening minutes, they were head and shoulders above the mindless pylons that appeared in the beginning of Game 1, and when Nabby needed to be big during those opening moments, he was. The fact that Nabby stole a sure goal from Owen Nolan, well, maybe karma is finally, finally tipping in the Sharks favor.And then the Sharks went back to their game, which was using their speed to create problems for the opposition.

While Nabby was my #1 start of the game, #2 had to be Patrick Marleau. With the Flames sending Robyn Reghyr and Cory Sarich out to shut down Joe Thornton, I don't think their second unit prepared for Marleau's speed. Not only was it a key factor in the Joe Pavelski goal, there was that one sequence in the third period when Marleau flew down the ice on the forecheck, chasing the Flames' defenseman all the way behind Miikka Kiprusoff until the dude just ran out of space on the half boards. I hope for all you Marleau haters, these past two games showed that the captain really is back.

As for Joe Thornton, well, it looks like Calgary's got his number. And by got his number, I mean they've realized that the only way to take out Joe is to crowd him and remove all his passing lanes. He seems to be reverting back to the "stay on the boards and look for a pass" technique that plagued him earlier in the season. The best way to get out of this is if he starts shooting himself. If he can start generating scoring chances by shooting, it'll cause the Calgary D to back off and worry about rebound control, which will in turn open up Joe's passing lanes.

And a big shout out to the shut-down line of Mike Grier, Torrey Mitchell, and Patrick Rissmiller. I thought they looked a little lost in the first game, but they were tenacious and fast in this one. More importantly, the group played much smarter than the last game, and that can only bode well from here on it.

The defense still has issues, and Kyle McLaren's arthritic knee isn't looking good at all out there. Matt Carle, though, played with way more poise and gumption than I think any of us expected; hell, if he had played like that all season long, he wouldn't have spent so many nights delivering pizza to Doug Wilson in the owner's suite. Maybe he's got a chip on his shoulder or maybe he's learned what his mistakes are; whatever it is, for one night he showed more of what we've been looking for all season long. There's no word on whether Christian Ehrhoff will return for Sunday night, but if he can take McLaren's spot and Carle plays like he did tonight, things will be much better on the blueline.

There are still things to fix, of course. The power play is guilty of overpassing and the team still needs to do a better job of screening Kipper. By and large, though, this game had to be about effort and smarts -- the things we've worried about all season -- and for one night, the Sharks showed us some of what they're capable of.

We know the Sharks are strong on the road. We can see the signs of this team coming together from all the different aspects on the ice, and that's going to be a gradual build for any team playing playoff hockey. For now, though, at least they're heading in the right direction.