Shark-Infested Blogger

April 23, 2010 5:32 PM

Sharks Break Through, Dominate Avs

In the first period of Thursday night's showdown with the Colorado Avalanche, the San Jose Sharks looked as though they may be experiencing a deja vu. They were dominating in shots on goal 12-2, but could not get one past Craig Anderson, who came into the series having saved almost 95 percent of the shots he saw.

But there were some notable differences. For one, Anderson almost let a soft goal in, juggling it until it slid long the goalline behind him. For another, luck seemed to finally be smiling upon the Sharks, as one shot that beat Evgeni Nabokov hit the post and bounced clear of danger.

By the second period, rookie Logan Couture had his first playoff goal in the same sequence that awoke Dany Heatley, whose shot-pass Logan deflected off his own rear and in--another lucky bounce. On a power play soon after, Anderson really showed he was human after all, falling as he tried to stop his momentum to his left; before he could scramble back in, Joe Pavelski scored his team-leading third goal of the playoffs.4402777412_e1e32d8a19.jpg

As the period drew near a close, Scott Nichol put a shot off the back boards that left Anderson out of position, allowing rookie Dwight Helminen got to and rang home off the crossbar from a tough angle. Finally, mercifully for a suddenly scrambling Anderson, the Sharks finished him off about midway through the third. Devin Setoguchi did the splits to stay onside, Ryane Clowe swept up the loose puck, and skated to the bottom of the faceoff circle on Andy's glove side before pushing the puck over to a wide open Couture for the easy finish, and Joe Sacco replaced Andy with Peter Budaj.

However, the Sharks did not quit playing just because they had earned the first convincing victory in this series by either team. the Avs tried to go all Anaheim Ducks on the Sharks, taking runs at Nabby and boarding Jamie McGinn. But instead of being dragged into the thuggery, the Sharks went all Detroit Red Wings: On a five-minute power play that followed Cody McLeod's boarding, Heatley found Patrick Marleau who scored the first goal by any member of the Sharks Big Three in this series.

In the final two minutes, the Avs showed the pride of competitors and had a couple good scoring chances against the Sharks. But each time Nabby was up to the task, and benefited from three post-shots throughout the course of the game. It was Nabby's seventh career shutout, and improved to a .932 save percentage and 1.71 GAA for the series. Outside of his one bad outing, he has never had lower than a .933 save percentage in any game, and has given up just four goals in those four games.

Perhaps most impressive was two new trends: Thanks to 20 takeaways, this was the first game in which the Sharks were in the plus for giveaway/takeaway ratio. It was also the first time the Avs missed more shots than the Sharks, so while the opposition continues to block more shots than the Sharks (18-8), this was also the first game in which a higher percentage of shots from San Jose made it to the net (54.4 percent) than from Colorado (51.9 percent).

All of this may well indicate that not only is Anderson is wearing down, but the Avs' skaters are. Now the Sharks must show the killer instinct of their namesake and finish off the Avs in Colorado Saturday, allowing themselves recovery time from the gruleing series before the next even more difficult one begins.

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