Last night's sigh-of-relief, tail-saving Sharks victory over Anaheim saw San Jose tear up the script of their previous playoff failures. Guys who San Jose fans have criticized as "soft in the playoffs" both out-fisted and out-finessed the Ducks. And particular outstanding mention goes to the game's hero, Sharks' defenseman Dan Boyle. Last night, he finally played more like Dan Boyle than like Susan Boyle.
The Anaheim Ducks were outcoached, outmanuevered, and perhaps overly concerned with catching a peek into Lindsay Soto's blouse. But it's a more a matter of credit to the Sharks than criticism of the Ducks, and much of this credit should go to Dan Boyle's two goals and one assist. Rob Blake, meanwhile, had one goal and THE assist. With the game tied 3-3 and fewer than six minutes left, and Anaheim still basically in control of the series, Blake eased a little soft one through traffic that Patrick Marleau turned into the playoff game-winner.
That's right, you just read "Patrick Marleau," "playoff," and "game-winner" in the same sentence.
But I'd be remiss to not also mention the goaltending of Evgeni Nabokov. It's true that Nabby's had a poor series, by his impeccable standards. And in the first two games the Sharks made Anaheim's Jonas Hiller look like the NHL's goalie of the future. But Nabokov made a few otherworldly saves last night in the third. If Nabokov had let any of those babies through, then we're down 0-3 right now and tomorrow night's game in Anaheim is being played just to fulfill broadcasting obligations to the Versus network.
So, Sharks coach Todd McLellan, your staying the course strategy worked. Did anyone see McLellan when the final minute expired off the clock? His first playoff victory as a head coach, and he does no celebrating and shows zero emotion. He acted like he'd done it many times before.
He acted like he expects to do it fifteen times again in these playoffs.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who was also trying to catch a peek into Lindsay Soto's blouse.