There’s no way around it: The opening games from the Conference Finals were as opposite as Sean Avery and Steve Yzerman. There was a hotly contested 1-goal game that came down to the end of the 3rd period in the West. There was a 6-0 blowout that wasn’t even that close in the East. A road team won. A home team won. One game had Daryl Reaugh and the other had Pierre McGuire. Like I said—polar opposites.
But as different as the games may have been, they still had one important quality in common: It only counts as ONE win. The victors still need 3 more and the losers are only one game behind. No matter how close it was—or ugly it was—a loss is a loss. No more, no less.
Predictably Unfortunately, there are still a few people freaking out in both Montreal and San Jose after their Game 1 losses. Sure, it would have been better to actually WIN Game 1, but we’re hardly at the point where people need to start jumping off bridges.
In Montreal, fans should be used to this by now. Each of their first round series have gone the full 7 games, and each has featured a blowout at some point during the series. Remember how Jaroslav Halak was hammered so hard in the Washington series that Carey Price got the start in Game 4? Remember when the Slovakian Savior gave up 5 goals before being pulled in the 1st game against Pittsburgh? Halak has been amazing this post-season, but it’s not like this is the first time he’s had a serious lapse.
What made Habs fans think this round would be any different? They weren’t an overwhelming favorite in the series. They probably weren’t going to win 4 straight—and bottom line they simply lost a game on the road. Technically, they only need to win one on the road and they still have 3 more chances. If anything, the guys in the locker room can look each other in the eye and take comfort in the fact that they’ve been here before. Obviously Game 1 didn’t go the way they would have drawn it up in Philadelphia, but they still have to lose 3 more games before they start booking their tee times. They’re not exactly on the brink. Yet.
The same could be said for the Sharks after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. Does losing suck? Sure. Would it have been better to win the game against the Hawks? Of course. But it’s not the end of the world.
Let’s take a step back for a second. The Sharks lost to the 2nd best team in the West in a game where they had 45 shots on goal. They lost to a team that has now won 6 straight on the road—and have shown that they are more comfortable on the road than at home during these playoffs. If their goaltender doesn’t give up a bad goal in the 2nd period from about 70 feet, those two teams would STILL be playing and it would still be 1-1 entering the 17th overtime (and the Shark Tank would still be booing Brian Campbell). Whenever the #1 and #2 stars of the game are both goaltenders, you know that it was a tight game that could have gone either way. They lost a close game against an evenly matched team in the playoffs. It happens.
The Sharks split the first 2 games at home in both the Colorado and the Detroit series—and both of those seemed to go just fine. As much as columnists might not want to admit this, the Sharks have been here this post-season and handled it just fine, thankyouverymuch. If the team reacts after a loss, then they are cracking under the pressure. If they don’t react, then they aren’t taking it seriously enough. Maybe some writers need to relax and realize that this isn’t the “same ol’ Sharks.”
The fact of the matter is, the Blackhawks are a very good team. Just like the Sharks. Anyone who thinks the Sharks wilted under the pressure of the Conference Finals either didn’t watch the game or reached for the old standby Sharks article that they recycle every year. It was a great game between two teams. If we as fans can see 7 games like that, then we all win!
Come Tuesday night, we’ll have a clearer idea of the direction of each series. If the Sharks lose another game at home, then the fans will be justifiably concerned. If the Habs lose 6-0 again, then Montreal’s media will make sure that everyone knows that the world is about to end.
But if the Sharks and Habs both win… well, then all of the dooms-dayers are going to have to find some new headlines to write.