Work in Sports
A flu to a kill
Posted: Monday May 01, 2000 12:37 PM
By Austin Murphy, Sports Illustrated
DALLAS -- Funny, Owen Nolan didn't look sick in the San Jose Sharks dressing room on Sunday night. The Sharks had just been shut out for the second straight game by the Dallas Stars, and trailed two-games-to-none in their Western Conference semifinal series. Nolan, the Sharks' captain and leading scorer, the guy who'd carried his team to a stunning first round upset of the St. Louis Blues, sat out Sunday night's game with what the team called "flu-like symptoms."
"The next time you feel those symptoms coming on," I told him, "try Echinacea. My wife swears by it."
The truth, of course, is that Nolan missed Game 2 because he is suffering from either a broken or badly bruised bone in his left foot -- the result of standing in front of an Al MacInnis slap shot in Game 7 against the Blues -- or has aggravated the shoulder he hurt late in the regular season. Perhaps he has incurred some fresh, mystery injury. Of this we can be certain: 1) His wound(s) is/are excruciatingly painful. Otherwise Nolan, a true warrior, would be on the ice; 2) we won't find out what ails him until the Sharks are out of the playoffs.
Shouldn't be long now. In the first round, San Jose outlasted the Blues by turning the series into a street fight. But the Stars sent the message early in Game 1 that the rough stuff suited them just fine. The loudest first period ovations at Reunion Arena came when Kirk Muller flattened Sharks bullyboy defenseman Bryan Marchment, who is loathed around the league but particularly in Dallas. After all, Mike Modano and Joe Nieuwendyk are among the Stars who have had knees blown out by questionable Marchment hits.
While Nolan battles that pesky influenza, Modano has ratcheted up his play, scoring in both games -- his first period goal on Sunday stood up as the game-winner -- and looking, at times, as if he was flying above the ice.
The stars seem to be in alignment for the Stars. Defenseman and power-play pilot Sergei Zubov returned from the sprained knee injury that kept him out of the first round and promptly set up Modano's game-winning goal on Friday night. Goalie Ed Belfour is razor-sharp. The Sharks, meanwhile, returned to San Jose wondering not only if they will win another game this season, but if they will score another goal.
"Things'll be different in the Shark Tank," promised Nolan, who knows that the Stars were targeting him in Game 1. "Payback's a bitch."
So is trying to generate offense in front of the deepest, nastiest corps of defensemen in the NHL. As the dejected Sharks left the ice Sunday night, I recalled a line from an old Woody Allen movie. In the scene, Allen is breaking up with a girlfriend. "A relationship is like a shark," he says. "It needs to keep moving forward to survive. What we have here is a dead shark."
Sports Illustrated senior writer Austin Murphy is covering the Stanley Cup
playoffs for the magazine. He will check in periodically with postcards from the
edge of the action.