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Sharks Gameday: Don't Blow It Now!

You know, all that good mojo that came out of the way the Sharks won Game 4 (effort, clutch scoring, good defense) will go the way of the dodo if they play like the first few minutes of that game: scattered, unfocused, and stupid. A few days ago, I advocated a sort of goon hockey, but it wasn't necessarily the way the Sharks tried it. I mean, I suggested that Jody Shelley actually try to fight with someone if/when the Flames started pushing around the Sharks key players. Instead, you literally had three guys on the ice trying to hit Jarome Iginla at the blueline (and missing), resulting in a whole buttload of missed coverage and a sloppy first goal against.

Let's not do that again tonight, ok?

Still, I consider last game an example of how effort, skill, and smarts can come together with a little bit of luck for a good result. If I was in the locker room, this is what I'd emphasize going into tonight's game:

-Once again, we've seen how Miikka Kiprusoff can be beat by doing a good job of screening him. Drive the net, please!

-Similarly, the Sharks have scored a few goals just by firing shots from unexpected angles. I haven't been the only one to notice that Kipper's positioning is just a little bit off so far in this series (making some of his saves seem more spectacular than they really should be); if they catch him off guard, they'll have success -- if not in the form of a goal, at least a juicy rebound and the ensuing chaos it'll create.

-Sticking up for your teammates is good, but you gotta be smart about it. I don't even think Jody Shelley needs to dress, but I'd put a leash on Ryane Clowe when it comes to retaliatory fighting -- he's been too good to lose for five minutes. Jeremy Roenick said that he wanted an expanded role, and while he's not the bodyguard type, he is a hell of a physical player and has the right type of personality to respond physically if need be. BUT (and that's a big but) it has to be done in a smart, controlled manner. There's a happy medium between Game 4's "Chase Iginla" debacle and Game 3's "Watch Shelley scowl and yap" stupidity.

-Scratch Kyle McLaren. I'm assuming the seven D configuration was done in case Christian Ehrhoff's leg fell off after five minutes. With 21 minutes of ice time, it looks like he's good to go, which means McLaren can deliver pizzas to Doug Wilson in the press box (don't be surprised if it comes with a note that says, "Please don't buy me out.")

-Dress Patrick Rissmiller and Curtis Brown. The line combos were all over the map in Game 4, but this is what I would try, at least to start:


And mix 'n match as necessary.

-Remember, Jonathan Cheechoo's a streaky scorer. Tell him to fire the puck as much as possible using the aforementioned off-angle strategy. It's not always going to be a perfect pass from Thornton, but Cheechoo's hard shot can still be an asset in a different way.

-Stop Dion Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla. That's a stupid thing to say, but somehow every time Phaneuf shoots from the point, it somehow goes off Iginla (his leg, ass, or stick) into the net. Since Ehrhoff's back, the Sharks' shotblocking ability goes way up (never thought we'd say that, huh?), and hopefully that will make a big difference in Phaneuf actually being able to get his shot through.

For those of you watching at home tonight, I suggest tuning into Ottawa's Team 1200 online during the first intermission. I will be doing a live call-in from HP Pavilion in the guise of a Responsible Sports Journalist From, and no, I won't be drunk.