Not a lot of people have trust in the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks during the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now. After a five-game exit to a No. 8 seed (albeit, a Stanley Cup winning one) in 2012, the Canucks are on high alert, especially with their goaltending controversy. The Sharks, on the other hand, have always had a choker label stapled to their backs (no room for more logos on the front of their jerseys) despite having made the conference finals twice in 2010 and 2011.
That's what made the Western Conference Quarterfinal between the two teams an intriguing series to me. So many players with negative reputations among many hockey fans, most of them undeservedly so. As it turned out, what we got was merely a very competent, exciting game that the Sharks took 3-1.
The strange thing was that the Sharks played their best period in the first, when there was no scoring. Vancouver outshot San Jose 22-13 in the last two periods, in which the Sharks outscored them 3-1. San Jose played well enough to win, but was largely just getting the better breaks than the Canucks, as a couple of the goals were scored on crazy scrambles in front of the net.
This series could end up having a life of it's own with the media speculation about Luongo and Schneider, and the world's general thinking that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will never get it done in the clutch (hey, Jeremy Roenick!) so I'm hoping it's a long one. The two teams settle in for Game 2 on Friday night.
1. Roberto Luongo's not going to be the problem again, right?
Setting the record straight: Roberto Luongo was just fine in Game 1 of this series. He made 25 saves, many of them of high quality, and really wasn't to blame on the San Jose goals. People can whine all they want, but the problem with Vancouver on Tuesday night wasn't their goaltender, it was their offense's inability to provide him with any goal support. One won't do it against a team with as many offensive stars as the Sharks.
2. But will we still blame him if the Canucks lose anyway?
You betcha! I can't imagine Roberto Luongo doing anything to please anyone anymore short of winning the Stanley Cup. I'm sure if the Canucks don't win Game 2, the fans, media, and random passersby Alain Vinegault sees on the street will be calling for Bobby Lou's head, begging for Cory Schneider.
3. Something's wrong with Ryan Kesler, isn't there?
Kesler was a minus-1 with two shots on goal, but he just didn't look right in Game 1. He looked slow and unprepared for the pace of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The forward has been hampered by injury pretty much since Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, but the Canucks desperately need him to contribute if they want to win this series. Half a Ryan Kesler doesn't appear to be good enough for Vancouver.