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Screw You, Superstitions! (Mike's Sharks Rant)

It's well documented that I'm a big believer in sports mojo, so having the Sharks battle the Calgary Flames in the first round wasn't exactly ideal for me. Anything that involves former coach Darryl Sutter exacting revenge on the team that fired him worries me; throw in Owen Nolan, Miikka Kiprusoff, Mark Smith, and Wayne Primeau and it's a virtual reunion for ex-Sharks old and new, and that usually means a boatload of stupid shit happens to the team in teal.

But after my customary freak out, I flipped the tables a little bit. You know what? Calgary's done their own little bit of stupidity to bring on their own bad mojo. I mean, hiring Mike Keenan of all people for a win-now-or-else ultimatum didn't exactly light the world on, er, fire. In fact, I'd say that it's backfired on them, as Kiprusoff has bounced between being the Vezina-worthy guy we've seen over the past few years and Kipru-soft that showed up in San Jose before being put out of his misery. And Keenan, ever the anti-player's coach, has managed to take one of his key offensive components (Kristian Huselius) and get into his head, so much so that he's peaking at his shadow to see if the specter of Iron Mike is following him. Consistency? What consistency? This Calgary Flames team couldn't put together back-to-back wins for weeks.

This particular red-black-and-yellow team is definitely different from the 2004 team that still gives me nightmares; that team was built on defense, toughness, and miracle goaltending. The stats show that Calgary's defense isn't the monster it used to be, and its penalty kill has fallen into the bottom third of the league. The miracle goaltending? When your save percentage hovers just barely over .900, this isn't the Kipper of 2004.

Still, the ex-Sharks connection scares me. Fate scares me, because fate always always always seems to bite the Sharks in the ass. My deepest, darkest fear is that Kipper will stone Patrick Marleau on a Game 7 triple-overtime breakaway, only for it to bounce to Owen Nolan where he takes an innocent wrist shot that deflects off Douglas Murray's ass into the net. Then Brian Campbell signs elsewhere.

I had a little revelation, though, as I sorted through my paranoia, and you know what? This Sharks team is all about exorcising demons. It's about Evgeni Nabokov showing the world that not only was he the smarter choice over Vesa Toskala, he's as good if not better than his former teammate Kiprusoff. It's about Patrick Marleau showing the world that he's the speedy dude with soft hands and a wicked shot, not the pussy-footing douche bag of last year's second round and the first 40 or so games of this season. It's about Joe Thornton killing the myth that he's not a playoff performer once and for all (with a Chris Pronger-esque stomp, of course), and it's about this god damn team showing that the third time with the Thornton/Marleau two-headed monster is the charm, that they have heart and brains and skill, and this is the year that they finally put it together -- with a little help from Brian Campbell, of course.

So damn it, bring on the ghosts of Sharks past, bring on the horrors of the 2004 conference finals and fears of Owen Nolan exacting revenge on his former team. Demons? Nightmares? The only way to the Stanley Cup is by flipping the bird at those things; it starts by staring down the face of those past failures, then firing off a swift kick to the nuts, mojo be damned. Bring on the second round.