Dallas Stars at San Jose Sharks, Saturday 1 PM PST
Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks, Sunday 5 PM PST
If you're looking for reasons for optimism with the Sharks, just take a look at the micro-view of the schedule:
Minnesota: 5-4 overtime win, including clutch scoring despite some overall sloppy play.
St. Louis: 3-1 loss, including an empty net goal and some pretty solid defensive play.
Los Angeles: 2-1 shootout win, including a long 5-on-3 penalty kill.
Anaheim: 1-0 win with strong defensive play and great goaltending (but anemic offense).
Phoenix: 4-3 loss that includes one awful period and two pretty good periods (and a notable effort by Joe Thornton).
Nashville: 3-2 shootout win against a hot goalie, a great shot-blocking team, and a bizarre bouncing-off-six-dudes fluke goal against.
Take out the first period against Phoenix and a good chunk of the Minnesota game and you've got a team that's playing pretty good team defense despite missing many of the team's best defensive forwards. Will the offense wake up? Against Nashville, the score could have easily been 5-2 if not for Pekke Rinne, and the team got back to more of the skate-and-shoot style that brought them so much success in the first half of the season.
That being said, they're not quite there yet. So this weekend presents two different challenges and/or opportunities to really carry all of that positive momentum into consistent, solid play.
First, you've got a Dallas team that's on life support. Stars fans can blame injuries (normally not an excuse, but I think they get a pass this year) or just keep praying to the hockey gods that they'll somehow pull this of; realistically, though, the Stars are like the proverbial action movie character hanging on the ledge. The Sharks can be the jerky villain that stomps on their fingers until they can't hold on anymore. (Or the Stars can use the Force to fly out of the pit, pull a lightsaber into their hands, and chop Darth Maul in half. The question then becomes which team/player represents Darth Maul and which team/player represents the dying Jedi Master from whom they've grabbed the lightsaber from.)
By the way, this reminds me of an old pre-game video the Sharks made where Sharkie threw a mock Ed Belfour off a roof and pulled up a fake NHL record book that had the Stars listed as Cup champs with an asterisk next to their entry. Oh Sharkie, where is that wit and wisdom now?
Sunday, you've got a Colorado Avalanche team that's too busy watching their championship DVDs to remember that a season is going on. And with all due respect for head coach/ex-Shark Tony Granato, now's not the time to play the sympathy card, despite the fact that no one wants Joe Sakic's career to end with a freak snowblower accident. The trick here? Don't have a period-long brain fart against an out-of-the-playoffs team like the Sharks did against Phoenix. The Avs will probably be upset after their 8-1 ass-pounding at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers; now, will they come back with fury or will they curl up into a little ball and cry like Snarf from Thundercats?
Snarf (Colorado): You gotta snap out of it. You gotta call the Thundercats!
Lion-O (Sharks): Shut up you fuck!
As for me, I'll be attending both games and trying to shake off the curse that came with my new Dan Boyle jersey. It's 0-1, though my friend's new Milan Michalek jersey was successful in its debut at the Nashville game. His solution for avoiding jersey curses? Sleeping with the new jersey like a security blanket for two weeks. The sad thing is that he probably wasn't kidding, and his wife and new baby probably approve.
Saturday's prediction: Sharks 4, Stars 0. Goals by Cheechoo (3 -- oh yeah, I predicted a hat trick) and Boyle.
Sunday's prediction: Sharks 5, Avalanche 1. Goals by Marleau (2), Thornton (2), and Setoguchi. Two games, two pizzas!