Even though the All-Star break takes place 50 games in, we fans tend to join the players and coaches who use it as the definitive break in the schedule to reflect on the first half of the season. Over the break everyone has a chance to pause, relax, take a deep breath, and prepare for the home stretch and race to the playoffs.
Despite the Sharks’ decent record thus far, the first half of the season was so perplexing and exasperating at times that I decided to skip the reflection, skip the All-Star game itself, and just wait to see how our troops in teal came out the gate afterwards. Well they came out the gate alright, but they came out stumbling, bumbling and greeted to a deafening chorus of home-town boos as they found themselves down 3-0 to Phoenix.
Pick your favorite moment for what happened next: Was it Pavelski’s two goals to initiate the comeback? Alex Stalock’s impenetrable debut? Kyle Wellwood’s sweet first goal as a Shark? Or was it Marleau’s game winning shortie on a breakaway to lay the dying Yotes to rest? For me, watching Marlaeu sink the puck home on that breakaway (in Marleau-of-yesteryear fashion) seemed the vital breath of fresh air the Sharks needed to let go and put it all behind them.
What followed has been exciting and revitalizing hockey. Ben Eager and Wellwood have been nice additions, adding some energy and grit to the lineup that we have been sorely lacking at times (most times), and Niemi keeps looking better and better. Rebounding from getting yanked against Phoenix, he stopped a barrage of shots to preserve a Sharks’ lead in Anaheim where both teams looked defensively challenged, and then proceeded to do a fine brick wall impersonation against Boston earlier today. Nobody reading this is forgetting how he looked last spring any time soon, right?
I’d like to see the Sharks get into a rhythm of increasingly tough and physical play, but it’s nice to see the Sharks remember how to score more than two goals in a game and even nicer seeing a solid goalie to bail out a defense that is still our weakest link. All this is build-up to a game I make sure to circle on the calendar every time they have the fortune of meeting: the Sharkies vs. Mr. Ovechkin & Co.
So…..anyone willing to donate a plane ticket to DC?