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Sharks take a bite out of Calgary

Jim Adams
Special to The Union

Editor’s note: Jim Adams, an unabashed western Nevada County hockey fan, headed north of the border to land smack dab in the middle of Flames fanaticism in Calgary. Today, Adams offers The Union readers his take on the San Jose Sharks’ 4-2 win over the Calgary Flames in Sunday’s Game 4 of the NHL’s Western Conference finals, forcing Monday’s Game 5 back in San Jose.

CALGARY – The Shark is an interesting fish. It often stalks its prey, sizing up its patterns and every move. Then with lightning fast speed, it attacks. It attacks often in a ferocious manner and its adversary seldom knows what happened. Its suddenness, skill during the attack, and intimidating nature makes it one of the most feared fish in the sea.

The San Jose Sharks did everything to emulate its namesake Sunday. In a contest that had something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue; this team took it to the City of Calgary by dousing the Flames 4-2. To a man, they will proclaim, “Mission Accomplished.” This series then tied at two a piece.

However, the manner in which they executed their most recent attack was indeed calculated, sudden, decisive, and thorough. It left the crowd of 20,000-plus in Calgary’s Penngrove Saddledome spellbound, wounded, speechless, and wondering.

Their plan involved a school of ferocious and determined San Jose Sharks and a gameplan that, although not secret, provided for a level of success that few expected.

Part I was surviving the stormy first period seas as stirred up by the Flames. Calgary came hard, fast, and determined. However, they were rebuked at every turn. It was a 0-0 score after one and you had to wonder if the Sharks had Calgary exactly where they wanted them.

Indeed, they exploded for three goals within a 7:30 span of the second period. It was an attack that no one saw coming and that produced the result that lead them to victory. It allowed for a margin with which they would intelligently and efficiently coast home to victory.

There was also something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Something old, was an 18 year NHL pro from Montreal named Vincent Damphousse. He has been hot ever since the playoffs began. His efforts have, in no small part, led them through the first two rounds. In Sunday’s contest, he pounced on a pass from Patrick Marleau and buried it for the Sharks third goal. It was all the margin they would need.

Something new, was Jonathan Cheechoo. A native of Moose Factory, Ontario, he has stormed from the Indian Reservation to score some big goals in his first post-season. With what seemed like half the tribe in town, Cheechoo scored the Sharks second goal as he skated from behind the net to stuff it into the short side.

Something borrowed was the Flames game plan from Game 2. This time it was the Sharks turn to produce. Their four-goal, second period buried the Flames and rescued a team that last week was on the brink of elimination from the playoffs. In the post game news conference, Calgary Coach Darryl Sutter would admit that the Sharks replicated the Flames effort in Game 2.

Something blue was Mannville, Alberta native Mike Rathje. This is the same Rathje whose left eye was left black and blue from a scuffle late in Game 3 with Calgary bad-boy Chris Simon.On a defensive mix-up in the Calgary end, the puck was centered directly into the slot to an open Rathje. He fired it home a scant 2:40 into the second period to begin the attack. He would proclaim, “I just shot it. I didn’t even think about it.”

In between, the product that only the NHL can offer came at us full-tilt. This is not a game for the faint of heart. If you suffered from a nervous condition, this was not the contest to attend. If stress was a concern in your life, another hobby would probably be best.

However, this electric atmosphere of Canadian NHL playoff hockey is difficult to match. Once bitten by the bug, you are left to navigate through the hits, shots, saves, and scrums to hopefully follow your team for one more week. By the end of the contest, you indeed feel as though you have endured the wildest 60-minute ride of your life.

The Stanley Cup Finals is promised to no one.

In fact, it is a tough, fierce, difficult and demanding road. Many will say this is the toughest championship to win in all of sports. And for this night, in the City of Calgary it was a fierce Shark attack combined with an excellent and well executed game plan that was completed by something old, new, borrowed and blue, that brought Team Teal, the Pride of Northern California, home a 4-2 winner.

No matter what the next four days bring, there is always a special feeling knowing that you went into someone else’s building, faced their best, and emerged victorious. The Sea of Calgary Red has been parted for now.

Although I am tempted to return for Game 6, the boys of Teal will have to continue their trip into uncharted waters alone … unless of course they make it to the Finals.

And that’s another story for another day!


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