There were a few negative comments about the San Jose Sharks after their Game One loss to Colorado. The Sharks certainly have a reputation for playoff failure, a reputation exacerbated by the exceedingly high expectations put on their shoulders by pundits, who have been predicting Stanley Cups for years (although there’s been a major drop-off in that sort of talk the last two seasons).
The Sharks are now knotted up in a 2-2 series after winning by a single goal last night, but that apparent parity with the underdog Avalanche doesn’t come close to telling the whole story.
Since the first game, the Avalanche haven’t kept the Sharks to fewer than 45 shots. Games Two and Three were particularly interesting; both teams escaped with a single one-goal win, but the Sharks outshot Colorado 103-39. Among playoff teams, nobody is firing the puck at the net as often as the Sharks, who are averaging 43.5 shots per game. In contrast, among playoff teams only the Senators are averaging fewer shots on net than Colorado’s 25.8 per game.
To date, goaltending’s been the difference. Nabokov hasn’t been bad, but Craig Anderson has been stellar. On Hockey Night In Canada last night, analyst Kelly Hrudey compared his aggressive style to that of Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson. As it stands, Anderson has been every bit as good as Roloson was against Detroit in 2006, and it’s incredibly difficult to make much headway when the opposition goaltender is putting in a performance like that.
Regardless, there may be a temptation to suggest that San Jose is underachieving. They aren’t; they’ve been dominant, and have had the misfortune to run into a brick wall in net. If Colorado manages the upset, it will be because of Anderson’s incredible performance.