Sunday night’s 2-1 win by the Sharks over the Edmonton Oilers was one of the best playoff games that fans have seen in years. It wasn’t only that the team won, it was also a testimony to the style of hockey that is going to permeate what should be a classic series.
One thing that I really like about this series is that there is a tremendous amount of local patriotism involved. We already know all about the pride that San Joseans express in the community when their team represents us so well, but that’s also the case with the Edmontonians, who are a small market club with a tremendous 5-Cup tradition.
The Oilers are a balanced team with hard-working patriots ready to carry the honor of Edmonton forward. They have a hunger to succeed. It’s not just a hungry team, it’s a hungry city, too: the fans in Edmonton really support their team, giving them a strong home-ice advantage. Key players include Ryan Smyth, who gets under the skin of his opponents and scores big goals; Ales Hemsky, who scored one of the best goals of the year against the Sharks on March 3rd; Chris Pronger, who is already the subject of Sharks fan “attention” in the series; Sergei Samsonov, who seems to put his best effort together when he faces Teal; and goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who put together a terrific effort in the losing cause in Game One.
There were many bone crunching moments to remember in the first game of this series for Sharks fans, including Jonathan Cheechoo’s nice bodycheck of Chris Pronger in the game’s first shift; Mark Smith’s important hit on Ryan Smyth right around the time that Christian Ehrhoff scored the game winner; Patrick Rissmiller’s bodycheck along the bench that sent Radek Dvorak hobbling off the ice; and Ville Nieminen’s 15….that’s FIFTEEN…hits, including one on Pronger with three seconds left in the game that got the capacity crowd roaring.
This is hockey at its finest, and it’s probably going to be a long series, so get your bellows ready and enjoy it.
I’m Dan Rusanowsky, in Seagate Technology’s “In the Crease.”