Sharks 2, Oilers 1
San Jose leads series 1-0
"We have to do more of what they did. They dumped the puck in, worked the corner, got lots of shots on goal … We let them gain momentum and they threw wave after wave at us."
We heard a lot about what the Sharks would bring in this series, but few, if any, pundits predicted this team was going to outhit — and outhustle — this plucky bunch of Oilers.
Here's the venerable Globe and Mail columnist Allan Q. Maki, reporting live from San Jose, Calif.:
But in last night's opening game of this Western Conference semi-final, the Sharks pounded Edmonton by a margin of 44 hits to 25.(That said, super-pest Ville Nieminen had 15 of those hits, according to the NHL's super-stats list.)
Asked if those were telling numbers, Pronger replied: "It's pretty telling, isn't it? Obviously we have to pick up our physical play … If guys didn't figure it out, they know now. We have to take a page out of their book and get the puck in deep and forecheck hard."
Based on one game's showing, the Oilers will need more than a page from the Sharks book. They could use an autographed copy.
Still, rather than the Oiler defence meting out a beating, as many thought, it was the Edmonton blueliners being pursued. Interesting.
Edmonton managed just two shots on goal in the second period — which maybe shouldn't be a surprise as this San Jose defence allowed just 26.6 shots per game during the regular season, 3rd best in the league. (The Oilers were No. 1, but have slipped to dead last in the postseason — although overtime certainly skews that stat in the playoffs).
The Oilers did a nice job ensuring Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo's 23 minutes on the ice were rather ineffective ones, but Patrick Marleau was fantastic. That one-two punch was exactly the reason general manager Doug Wilson wanted a player like Thorton so badly (well, that and common sense).
And how about young Steve Bernier? His play here makes you wonder what he was doing in the AHL most of the season. It was interesting to also see two ex-Kelowna Rockets out there on the Sharks blueline in Scott Hannan and Josh Gorges. This Sharks team plays like the Rockets used to — a style that doesn't budge an inch, ever.
I think Edmonton looked a little tired in this game, for whatever reason, and it's a real shame there's no break in the schedule due to the back-to-back opening games. Given how the Oilers played, that's probably to their detriment, as coach Craig MacTavish won't get a chance to retool on an off-day. We'll see tonight.
The more you know
Edmonton: Colby Cosh, The Battle of Alberta
San Jose: Sharkspage, The Mercury News
Ducks 3, Avalanche 0
Anaheim leads series 2-0
"They stood up to Calgary and they're going to stand up to us. We've got to get that into our game."
You're running out of time Robbie.
Yes, it was another rather dominating performance by the Ducks, with Anaheim outshooting Colorado 25-10 through the first two periods before coasting to their third easy shutout win in a row. The Avalanche made rookie netminder Ilya Bryzgalov work harder in the third period than he has so far in five playoff starts — but not nearly hard enough.
After yesterday afternoon's game, Anaheim has the top penalty-killing numbers in the league, 88.9 per cent, and a ton of credit has to go to unheralded guys like Todd Marchant, Jonathan Hedstrom and Sam Pahlsson. Marchant's been downright brutal on draws so far these playoffs (about 40 per cent), but his speed fits in very well with coach Randy Carlyle's system.
As for Colorado, well, things look grim. Their power play, even in the first round romp over Dallas, looks awful (12.8 per cent, worst among the remaining teams) and coach Joel Quenneville just doesn't have an answer for the defensive match-ups being thrown at his team. And we still haven't had a meltdown from Jose Theodore, which could be only a game away.
Still, the Avalanche aren't out of this yet, as the series' next two games are in Denver, an extremely tough place to walk into and win in due to the altitude change alone — especially playing kind of speed and possession game Anaheim does.
A Colorado win in Game 3 tomorrow, and we've got a series here. If not, it's over.
The more you know
Anaheim: Orange County Register
Colorado: Rocky Mountain News 'blog'