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Sharks vs. Avalanche: Shoe's on the other foot

One more of these before tonight's games get underway. Since I'm posting this late, I'll leave the poll open for the cheaters who change their mind after Game 1's result is in.

Time was when the big bad Avalanche could bet on San Jose being a tough but surmountable obstacle on their way to playoff hardware. Then the balance shifted. Patrick Roy retired, the Avs went through a coaching carousel, and the Sharks' long, steady ascent got serious. The Sharks laid waste to the Avs in the final playoffs before the lockout. Now with the Avs mildly rebounding but still quite thin, the Sharks have a great chance to do it again.

Wednesday, April 14 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
Friday, April 16 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
Sunday, April 18 at Colorado, 9:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
Tuesday, April 20 at Colorado, 10:00 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
*Thursday, April 22 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. CBC, VERSUS (JIP)
*Saturday, April 24 at Colorado, TBD CBC
*Monday, April 26 at San Jose, TBD CBC

*"JIP" stands for, "You're being jipped," as in the game will be joined in progress.

Sjfin_medium Que-rightc_medium

(1) San Jose Sharks (51-20-11) vs. (8) Colorado Avalanche (43-30-9)

SBN Sites (guess which is which?): Fear the Fin | Mile High Hockey

Previews: Around SBN, check these links for some pretty in-depth previews from the Avs' side, from the Sharks' side, and from the stat wonk's side.

Time was when I empathized with Sharks fans, when I saw a late-'70s Islanders battle to get over the top in their plight. I even tried consoling them with a friendly letter after last year's first-round exit. But then they made the Faustian deal for Dany Heatley. That was a dealbreaker for me.

Actually, I still empathize with their very cool fans; I just cannot abide another toe for the sake of Heatley's Lindrosian thirst for giftwrapped success. I hope some day they win the Cup ... the day after Dan(n)y leaves the organization after demanding a trade.

* * *

I don't have much to say on this series other than the conventional wisdom (at least it's conventional to me): Evgeni Nabakov, despite his nice numbers this year, is not exceptionally good; Craig Anderson, including his nice numbers this year, is. But their teams are the opposite. San Jose is far better (though maybe not by as much as we generally think), while the Avs' luck has faded in recent weeks and I wonder if Anderson -- their key -- is fatigued.

I do know this: Assuming their teams play to form (a big assumption), Anderson has to make a lot of saves for the Avs to win; Nabokov just needs to make enough.

It's been fun to watch the Avs' "luck" this season -- or more precisely, the improbable wins during their first quarter's hot start -- because it has driven number crunchers and Oilers bloggers mad. "THIS SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING!" they seem to shout through the subtext of sober numeric analysis. Of course it shouldn't! That's what makes sports great.

So that little fan interplay has been a great social study for the question, "Why do you watch the game?" Do you watch it to gamble and bet, to feel like you totally saw it coming, to see predictable results come true according to a model? Or do you watch it because results do not always follow what the odds say they should? I know my answer. Single days in a human life are the most compelling too-small-sample size of them all. The point of watching, for me, is not who should win the Cup -- but who gets the magical run to actually pull it off.

* * *

Head Says: Sharks in five. Heart Says: I hope Heatley never wins another playoff game, but Sharks fans at least deserve a long run to remove some of the "choke" talk.