For the third time in franchise history, the Sharks will play the Calgary Flames in the postseason. The last meeting was in the 2004 Western Conference Finals, with the Flames winning four of six games.
The Sharks and Flames each have seven players left from that 2004 series. San Jose’s holdovers include Evgeni Nabokov, Jonathan Cheechoo, Kyle McLaren, Patrick Marleau
, Curtis Brown, Marcel Goc and Christian Ehrhoff.
The Flames players include Jarome Iginla, Craig Conroy, Robyn Regehr, Stephane Yelle, Marcus Nilson, Rhett Warrener and Miikka Kiprusoff.
Even though the series took place four years ago, memories still linger.
“I think in the back of our minds, they beat us and we want to avenge that loss,” McLaren said.
Still, it’s not exactly a rematch of 2004.
“I don’t think so,” Marleau said. “Everything is new. It’s a different team. Different circumstances.”
Of course, both teams have different rosters now. “They have a lot of different players and so do we,” McLaren said.
As for the Sharks, their roster has changed for the better. “We have a lot more skill now and we’re bigger than before,” Marleau said.
This series will be very physical. San Jose will have an aggressive presence with people like Douglas Murray
, Ryane Clowe
and Mike Grier. Calgary will counter with Dion Phaneuf, Eric Godard and 50-goal scorer Iginla will use his body as well.
“It’s a great matchup,” McLaren said. “Both teams are physical and like to play it rough.”
“They have a great sniper and we have a great playmaker,” Wilson said about Iginla and Thornton. “It should be fun.”
Thornton led the NHL in assists (67) and Iginla was second in goals (50). San Jose’s top scorers were Thornton (96), Milan Michalek (55), Patrick Marleau
(48) and Joe Pavelski
(40). One can’t also forget Brian Campbell. He ended with 62 points, but 43 were with Buffalo.
Calgary’s top scorers were Iginla (98), Kristian Huselius (66), Daymond Langkow (65) and Alex Tanguay (58).
“Their forwards are hard working and they come at you in waves,” McLaren said. “Iginla is the driving engine. They get offensive production from two lines and are very tough to play against.”
On the blue line, both clubs have potential Norris Memorial Trophy winners in Campbell and Phaneuf. However, there’s more to each club’s defensive units than those two. San Jose has Murray, the steady Marc-Edouard Vlasic
and veteran Craig Rivet. Calgary can counter with Regehr, Cory Sarich, Adrian Aucoin and Jim Vandermeer
, who was acquired from Philadelphia in late February.
“They all work hard and are big and strong,” Marleau said of the Flames. “We’ll try to use our speed and size to our advantage.”
In goal, two former teammates (Nabokov and Kiprusoff) will repeat their postseason confrontation of 2004.
“’Nabby’ always gives us a chance to win, making the key saves,” Marleau said. “He’s been on top of his game.”
If both goaltenders are hot, the goals could be hard to find.
“When you get a scoring chance, you’ve got to bear down,” Thornton said.
And both netminders will see the traditional playoff job of forwards looking to create screens in front.
“I think it will be really physical,” Nabokov said. “They’ll probably crowd the net and create as much traffic as possible.”
As always, the attention will be on Thornton and Iginla. But, don’t be surprised if someone without their star power will make a big contribution in the series.
“In the playoffs, it’s often the secondary player who makes the difference in the series,” Wilson said. “Their focus will be on Joe and ours will be on Iginla. The really fast guys can kill you in the playoffs.”ABOUT THE NUMBERS
San Jose allowed just 193 goals on the season while Calgary surrendered 227. On the opposite side, the Sharks scored 222 goals and Calgary 229.
San Jose’s team goals-against average was 2.24, good for third in the League. Calgary’s ranked 15th at 2.70. The Sharks had the National Hockey League’s No. 1 penalty kill (85.8), while the Flames were 20th at 81.4.
On the power play, the Sharks finished eighth in the League (18.8) and Calgary was 19th (16.8).
San Jose’s 11-game winning streak was the best in the NHL this season and Calgary won six straight in December.POSTSEASON SERIES HISTORY
Each club has won a playoff series against each other. Besides Calgary’s victory in 2004, the Sharks topped the Flames in seven games in 1995 thanks to a double overtime Game Seven goal by Ray Whitney.NICE ENDING
Wilson wasn’t bothered by what he saw from Sunday’s season finale in Dallas. The teams combined for 36 penalties totaling 160 minutes. San Jose broke club records for most penalties (20) and penalty minutes (95) in an away game that stood for 15 years.
“I’m kind of glad the way the game went yesterday,” Wilson said about a game that included fights involving Thornton and Milan Michalek. “Milan, in his own teammate’s eyes, and in his own, finally figured it out. “LET THE SECOND SEASON BEGIN
To a man, the Sharks are excited about the pending postseason getting under way.
“I’d hate to be on vacation like 14 other teams are,” Thornton said.
BACK TO BACK
The Sharks aren’t worried about playing a back-to-back games to open the playoffs. Calgary will be at HP Pavilion on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
“It shouldn’t bother us,” Nabokov said. “It’s the same situation for both teams.”WHAT REGULAR SEASON?
Calgary took three of four during the regular season, but that’s the same result Nashville had last season against San Jose. The No. 5 seed Sharks eliminated the No. 4 seed Predators in five games.
“The regular season means squat,” Wilson said.
THE FIRST TIME
Wilson and Calgary’s Mike Keenan will be facing off for the first time in a playoff series.PREGAME STREET RALLY
The San Jose Sharks will kick off their first home playoff game of the season against the Calgary Flames (Game One) with a pregame street rally on April 9.
The rally will be open to the public from 4:45 – 6:45 p.m. and will take place next to HP Pavilion on Autumn Street between Santa Clara and St. John Streets.
Activities for the playoff rally will include music and a live DJ from Sound in Motion, BMX Stunt Team performances, face painting and balloon art from Dizzy Entertainment, poster making and other fun and games for the kids.
Food will be provided at the rally by the Aramark Playoff Territory Grill. The first 1,000 fans can also enjoy a tasty (and free!) ice cream dessert served out of the Sharks Ice Cream Truck.
In addition, the Sharks Foundation will have a benefit beer booth with proceeds from the sales going to the Sharks Foundation. Corporate partners of the Sharks will also have manned sponsor booths at the rallies.
Along with fun and games, there will be a SVS&E Merchandise Booth featuring the latest gear in Sharks Playoff Territory.
Pregame playoff rally entertainment will take place, weather permitting, but is subject to change and will be updated once the plans are finalized. Up-to-date information will be available at sjsharks.com.PLAYOFF TIX
At Noon, PDT on Tuesday, the Sharks will release between 400 and 500 tickets for Games One and Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. The tickets will be available at via www.ticketmaster.com or at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office.