The San Jose Sharks may have gone 18-0-2 before closing the season with two meaningless losses, but the Calgary Flames aren’t intimidated.
|Jarome Iginla, Craig Conroy and the Flames won three out of four meetings this year over Evgeni Nabokov and the Sharks.
WATCH: Highlights of Sharks-Flames
Yes, those wins were of the nail-biting affair – two in OT and another one-goal decision – but they were victories nonetheless. Plus, the Flames scored regularly on the Sharks, something few teams could do this season.
San Jose allowed just 193 goals for the season, one of just five teams to stay below the 200-goal threshold, but it allowed 12 in its three losses to Calgary. So it should make for an interesting first-round series, to say the least.
Finally, Calgary plays a rugged, hard-hat style that can muck it up and take away time and space from the equally physical Sharks.
As it is, goalie Evgeni Nabokov is having a season for the ages. He had a League-best 46 wins in 77 appearances and has played to a 2.14 goals-against average.
Offensively, the team has a variety of weapons, highlighted by center Joe Thornton, perhaps the best passer in the game. On trade-deadline day, the club added puck-moving defenseman Brian Campbell, and his passing skills have fit right into San Jose’s scheme.
San Jose will win if -- It continues to do what it has done for the past 20 or so games. A team does not run off an 18-0-2 string without playing near-flawless hockey. San Jose needs to visualize the things that made it so good in that run – crisp puck movement, good discipline, hard work, timely scoring and just plain luck – and carry those ideals into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Calgary will win if -- It gets game-breaking performances from its stars. Iginla, the captain, is the type of power forward who can steal a series for you. He has three goals against the Sharks this season. On the blue line, Dion Phaneuf brings the intimidation element always necessary in the postseason. Like Scott Stevens, he can change the course of a series with a hit. Finally, Kiprusoff. Yes, he was not sharp for long stretches this season, but he won. And he has been good in the playoffs before.