SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 14: Joe Thornton #19 and Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the San Jose Sharks looks on against the Colorado Avalanche in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 14, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Chris Stewart's Lucky Bounce Gives Avalanche Late Lead, 2-1 Victory Over Sharks

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Game 1: A Blown Opportunity For Top-Seeded Sharks

Sharks fans are, sadly for them, getting used to this. Another first round opener, another game one loss for the top-ranked hockey club from San Jose. SBN's Fear The Fin has reaction from Northern California:

And yet, the biggest blown opportunity tonight wasn't the fact that a multitude of San Jose players missed the net, were beat to loose pucks, or couldn't solve Colorado's defensive scheme.

It was dropping yet another game one at home for the third straight year.

That window of opportunity for Colorado? The one that could have been sealed tonight, locked down and slammed with enough force to send tremors throughout the entire house of hockey?

It is now rendered irrelevant.

Because the Avalanche came in right through the front door.

Game two will be played on Friday night in San Jose.


Even Colorado Fans Shocked By Chris Stewart's Last Minute Goal

Just when you thought overtime was inevitable, Colorado rookie Chris Stewart, positioned below the goal line, threw a puck at the net occupied by San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. One funny bounce later and that puck is in the net. 2-1 lead to Colorado, 1-0 series lead to Colorado.

You were shocked. Sharks fans were shocked. Even Avalanche fans, including those at SBN's Mile High Hockey, were shocked.

On a spin-o-rama shot from the corner, Ryane Clowe had his shot tipped past Craig Anderson by Joel Pavelski. It was a case of some weak defense in front of the net by Ryan Wilson. Not sure what kind of message the coaches need to send to the defensemen, but this team is not playing very strong when players are camped in front of Craig Anderson. Keep an eye on this for the rest of the series.

Following the goal, the Sharks were absolutely dominating the play. Part of the reason they were dominating, at least in this humble writer's opinion, is because the amount of missed calls by the officiating crew of Tim Peel and Dan O'Rourke. These two refs should not be allowed to ref another game in these playoffs. I am normally not one to complain about the officiating because it will eventually even out, but they were TERRIBLE!

Just when I was settle in for a potentially long overtime period, Chris Stewart made the play of the game. He fired a hard shot that was deflected into the Shark's net by none other than Rob Blake. Talk about your ultimate dose of karma. How big is Chris Stewart going to be in this series? How about the game winning goal in his first playoff game.

Game 2 is scheduled for Friday night in San Jose.


Avalanche 2, Sharks 1: Stewart's Lucky Bounce Propels Underdog Avs

For more information on this game, please visit our San Jose Sharks site, Fear The Fin, and our Colorado Avalanche site, Mile High Hockey.

San Jose, CA (Sports Network) - Chris Stewart was credited with the game- winning goal inside the final minute of regulation to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-1 win over San Jose in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Shark Tank.

Stewart's shot from behind the goal line deep in the Colorado offensive zone actually deflected in off the skate of San Jose defenseman Rob Blake. John- Michael Liles also scored for the eighth-seeded Avalanche, who returned to the postseason one year after posting the worst record in the Western Conference.

Craig Anderson recorded 25 saves in the victory.

Ryan Clowe scored the only goal for the Sharks, who entered the playoffs as the top seed in the West for the second consecutive season but again are off to a slow start. Last spring, the Sharks lost in the first round in six games to Anaheim as the No. 1 seed.

Evgeni Nabokov allowed two goals on 30 shots for San Jose.

The teams will return here for Game 2 of this best-of-seven series on Friday.


San Jose Feels Confident About Matchup With Avalanche

The San Jose Sharks have had a tendency in the past to make an early exit in the NHL Playoffs. Hence, you would think that our Sharks fans would have a little bit of apprehension when it comes to any series. Our Sharks site, Fear The Fin, had this to say about their upcoming series with the Avalanche:

Although the Sharks struggled coming out of the Olympics, Colorado has been even worse off. The Sharks blueline will always be a concern, but it is an area Colorado will have trouble taking advantage of considering the lack of a premier goal-scorer who can put the team on his back. Peter Mueller and Matt Duchene playing through various ailments (if they play at all) does little to help make up that ground.

The Avalanche are the best first round draw San Jose could have asked for. A strong series that builds momentum could go a long way towards igniting the Sharks on a torrid playoff run and allow them to accrue the confidence necessary to obtain what they are set to do.

It will be far from a walk in the park, but this time the good guys get the girl. San Jose in five.

While the optimism is always good, how the Sharks come out in Game One will be a big sign as to how the series is going to go.


San Jose Starts Quest To Avenge Last Year's Poor Performance Against Colorado

For more information on this game, please visit our San Jose Sharks site, Fear The Fin, and our Colorado Avalanche site, Mile High Hockey

SAN JOSE (Sports Network) - The San Jose Sharks will try to get off to a quick start in the postseason when they host the eighth-seeded Colorado Avalanche at HP Pavilion for Game 1 of the best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinals.

For the second season in a row, the Sharks head into the playoffs as the Western Conference's top seed. Make no mistake, though, the Sharks do not want history to repeat itself.

The reason for that is simple; last year, the Sharks entered the playoffs fresh off a 117-point season that netted them the Presidents' Trophy and high expectations. To say San Jose ended up underachieving is putting it nicely. The Sharks were eliminated in the first round by the Anaheim Ducks in six games, not the way head coach Todd McLellan wanted to begin his tenure with San Jose in his postseason debut.

Unlike last season, the Sharks do have some momentum this time around. They went 5-4-1 in their final 10 games a year ago, but wrapped up 2009-10 with a four-game winning streak and an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10.

Similar to last season, the Sharks have the tools for a deep run in what is their sixth straight appearance in the postseason. However, just one of those has gone past the semifinals, a 2004 Western Conference finals loss to Calgary.

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov finished second in the NHL with 44 wins and the Sharks boast potentially one of the top lines in the game with Joe Thornton centering wingers Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley. Thornton finished second in the league with 69 assists and eighth with 89 points, while Marleau was fourth with 44 goals. Heatley, in his first season with San Jose, wasn't far back with 39 goals.

Offense won't only come from up front for the Sharks. Defenseman Dan Boyle was fourth on the club with 58 points -- fourth highest among NHL defenders -- while Rob Blake ended with 30. Those two tied for second in scoring during San Jose's short run in last year's playoffs with four points each, one behind Thornton.

Nabokov could be under the biggest spotlight, outside of maybe Thornton. The 34-year-old is 32-31 in the postseason with a 2.23 goals-against average, but posted a 2.82 GAA and .890 save percentage in last year's first-round exit.

While, the Sharks were among the preseason favorites to win it all, nobody expected much from the Avalanche. Colorado's youth movement pushed the fast- forward button in 2009-10, as the club posted an 11-win turnaround to grab the eighth seed one season after finishing last in the Western Conference with 69 points. That gave the Avs their third playoff appearance in five seasons since the lockout.

Seven of Colorado's top nine scorers this year are under 24, giving Rocky Mountain fans some hope for long-term success. However, those seven skaters also have just 22 games of playoff experience between them. Nine of those games have been played by leading scorer Paul Stastny, with defenseman Kyle Quincey possessing the other 13.

Inexperience doesn't stop at the net, as goaltender Craig Anderson makes his playoff debut. Colorado signed Anderson to be its No. 1 goaltender this past offseason and he responded with a 38-25-7 record with seven shutouts and a 2.64 goals-against average in 71 starts.

The Avalanche will hope that their lack of playoff experience doesn't hurt them in this series, but keep in mind this will also be head coach Joe Sacco's playoff debut as well.

After being limited to 45 games a season ago, Stastny turned in a career year, setting a new personal best with 79 points off of 20 goals and a career-high 59 assists.

At 24, Stastny is the elder statesman among 22-year-old Chris Stewart and 19- year-old rookie Matt Duchene. Stewart, a 2006 first round pick, was second on the club with 64 points, including a team-high 28 goals, while 2009 third overall pick Duchene put together a Calder Trophy-worthy season with 24 goals and freshman-leading 55 points.

Duchene was slowed by a torso injury late in the season but should be okay for this series. Peter Mueller, however, will not be in the lineup tonight after suffering a concussion on April 4 versus the Sharks on a hit by San Jose's Blake. Mueller revived his young career after getting traded from Phoenix to Colorado at the deadline, posting nine goals and 20 points in 15 games after the trade as opposed to four goals and 17 points in 54 games before it.

The Avalanche will try to become the third eight seed in five seasons to knock off the top-seeded club. However, the Sharks had the better of the season series, going 2-1-1 and winning both games in San Jose. However, the Sharks were actually outscored by the Avalanche, 14-13, in this year's season series, showing just how close this matchup could end up being.

These two clubs will meet in the postseason for the fourth time, with the last coming in 2004. The Sharks won that series, 4-2, in the semifinals before losing in six games to the Flames in the conference finals.

Game 2 of this set is scheduled for Friday night at the Shark Tank.

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