With the 2005-06 Western Conference Quarterfinal between San Jose and Nashville all tied up at one, the Sharks must win three of the final five games to advance on in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One big key to the success of the team in the next week will be the effect the home town crowd plays in the games.
After splitting games with Nashville at the Gaylord Entertainment Center last weekend, the Sharks are excited to return home for games three and four, and if needed, game six of the series. With Nashville having the higher seed, they earned home ice advantage, but now with five games left and three being played at the Shark Tank, the momentum has shifted to Team Teal’s side. And with the reputation of being one of the loudest buildings in the NHL, there’s no doubt HP Pavilion will be rockin’ tonight.
“It’s pretty loud everywhere, but it’s a great crowd here,” said Vesa Toskala, who earned his first playoff victory and shutout Sunday in Nashville. “I think it’s fun to play in front of them.”
“It’s one of the noisiest buildings; I said that last year during the playoffs,” said Jonathan Cheechoo. “It’s great when you come out to a noisy building. It’s like having another guy on our side and it takes away the other team’s confidence.”
With the abundance of youth on the Sharks roster, there are a lot of players who have not experienced the Shark Tank during the playoffs. But word travels fast, as most of the rookies have an idea what to expect.
“I had a clue that it’s the best and loudest crowd you can have in the playoffs,” said Steve Bernier. “I can’t wait to play the game tonight. It’s always fun when the crowd is in the game.”
One Shark rookie in particular is no stranger to big crowds and loud buildings. Matt Carle, who won two National Championships at the University of Denver, is used to playoff type crowds, but is still looking forward to see what the San Jose fans have in store tonight.
“I’ve heard stories about how crazy it is, so it should be fun,” said the rookie blueliner. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ve played in front of some pretty intense crowds in college, like in Wisconsin and North Dakota. In Nashville it seemed like every time they crossed the red line everyone was up on their feet. It’s definitely a neat experience for a guy like me and I’m excited to see how it’ll be tonight.”
Ville Nieminen is a veteran when it comes to playoff games at the Tank. But unlike guys like Cheechoo and Toskala who have been wearing the teal jersey all along, Nieminen has been on the opposite side of the rink during the playoffs. The trade deadline acquisition has suited up for Colorado in 2000-01 and more recently, Calgary in 2003-04 and recalls very vividly the playoff atmosphere in Teal Town.
“This place is known for a great playoff atmosphere and the way we played the last three regular season games here, it was already extreme,” said Nieminen. “The fans were already in playoff mode, so it’s going to be great. We need to score the first goal to keep the crowd into it.”
Whether it’s Game 3 of the opening round, or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, you can rest assured that the HP Pavilion will be out of control.