Leading 3-0, high-flying Sharks too much for Avs to overcome
Posted: Tuesday April 27, 2004 6:00PM; Updated: Tuesday April 27, 2004 6:01PM
No. 2San Jose vs. No. 4Colorado
STORY OF THE SERIES
At long last, this appears to be San Jose's coming-out party. After a season in which they quietly put together the second-best record in the West -- and were perhaps the most underrated defensive team in the NHL -- the Sharks still were lightly regarded in the playoffs. The Avalanche came into Round 2 with a lot more panache, but the Sharks have outplayed the Avs all over the ice thus far, especially in the first two games. San Jose's excellent speed and impressive depth have been too much for Colorado to overcome. If the Sharks complete a sweep -- and that won't be easy given the rich playoff pedigree, as well as the sheer skill of the Avalanche's top players -- they finally may draw the attention they deserve.
SURPRISE OF THE SERIES
The lack of production by Peter Forsberg in what could be his last postseason. Forsberg was dominant in Round 1 (eight points), and we've come to expect the former Conn Smythe winner to control playoff series. But the Sharks' defense, notably defenseman Scott Hannan, has held him to just a single point (and that was a second assist) at even strength. Hannan's strength and willfulness was a known commodity, and he was excellent in shutting down the Blues' Keith Tkachuk in the first round. But nobody expected Peter the Great to be so completely neutralized.
THE AVS WILL WIN IF ...
They can build off a decent performance in Game 3; they were tighter defensively and had a few more offensive chances than they had been getting. Colorado needs Forsberg and Joe Sakic to get their speed skates on, and it can't afford to be without Rob Blake, who left Game 3 with an upper-body injury, for long. The Avs need Blake back if they're going to start mustering any offense.
THE SHARKS WILL WIN IF ...
They don't let up and relax. San Jose needs to continue its superb puck pursuit, continue to hound Colorado's key offensive players and needs to keep getting reliable goaltending from its reliable goalie, Evgeni Nabokov. The Sharks want to close this out in four or five games. If the series goes longer than that, Colorado will believe it has a chance to come back.
The Sharks are the better, deeper team with the better goalie. You'd have to pick them even if the series were tied. With Colorado in a 3-0 hole, San Jose will win this series in five games.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.