Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gameday Preview Post #1 Sharks vs. Ducks

(Ed note: I had totally intended to write a comprehensive season preview for the Sharks with numbers and stats and pictures and everything. But then I was afflicted with a combination of real life craziness and laziness. My new plan is to write a season preview after the first few games. I’ll be seeing them twice in the first 3 games so I’ll have some deep insights into the team this season. Or I’ll just make shit up. Either way, it could be fun.)

I have always referred to the first day of the hockey season as “Hockey Christmas” and most people have found that very odd. But in reality, the first game of the season is very much like Christmas with its bright, shiny promises of wonderful expectations. On the first day of the season, all is right with the world and your team is in first place. Rookies promise new and interesting skills and veterans provide consistent ability and stability. Goalies are sure to win every start and the media has predicted a successful season ahead. Every thing is wrapped up in 82 different packages by brightly colored paper with festive bows. It’s a Wonderful Life.

As promising as the first game is, she can also be a cruel mistress. She can expose holes in defensemen’s skills and injure star players. She can foretell a losing season filled with disappointment. She can blackout your arena and put holes in the boards. It can be the best of games; it can be the worst of games.

And yet, we go, like children running down the stairs on Christmas morning. We start countdowns in June, read every season preview possible, and wear our Mitchell jerseys to work (or was that just me?). In a few hours Gray and I will be in our seats getting chills during the team introductions. We’ll watch the Pacific Division banner unfurled and dream of the day when a Stanley Cup banner will join it. Yes, “Hockey Christmas” is full of danger and peril and wonderment and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I love and hate that the Sharks will face the Ducks first. I love that they will get a chance to prove themselves early against division foes (the next 2 are against the Kings). I have always measured how the Sharks are doing against the Ducks. It does give other teams a chance to sneak up, but in reality it has more often come down the these two teams for the division title in the last two years and they have been consistently the better teams in the division with Dallas not far behind.

I hate this game because I hate the Ducks and they have an uncanny ability to beat the Sharks and ruin my day. I feel lower after loses to the Ducks than any other team. As much as I know the first game doesn’t matter as much in the final standings, losing early to the Ducks will leave a sour taste in my mouth. They scare me as a team for all of the reasons that Mike Chen mentioned and one more important: that intangible ability to beat the Sharks no matter what the situation.

I don’t have any statistical insights into the game given it’s the first damn game. But I will be there booing Chris Pronger, looking for George Parros to get schooled in a fight with Ryane Clowe, and cheering on the boys in teal like I do every game. But for now, this is the most important game of the season. Go Sharks!

Forecast: My forecast sucked last time and Gray made me promise not to make one for this game just in case I jinx things. That being said, all I know is that the game will go into overtime and come down to a shoot-out because I have a zillion things I need to do before flying down to LA tomorrow.

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