April 5, 2010RATTO ARCHIVESHARKS PAGE SHARKS VIDEO
If you ask Todd McLellan, hell give you one of those God almighty, are you stupid or what? looks. He wont mind. Hes got plenty of them to go around.That said, you know he either has already received or will be given the question, SO, who would you like to meet in the first round? And you know hell duck it. Of course he will. Hes supposed to. It says so in the manual.But we know more than him; just ask us. The Sharks want one thing and one thing only for Nashville to keep winning. That way, their first round choices are either Chicago, Phoenix, Los Angeles or Anaheim, and we have two good reasons why.The first is provided in this chart: San Jose to Los AngelesLos Angeles to San Francisco: 340 miles. San Jose to AnaheimAnaheim to San Francisco: 366 miles. San Jose to Glendale, Az.Glendale, Az. to San Francisco: 709 miles. San Jose to ChicagoChicago to San Jose: 2164 miles. San Jose to NashvilleNashville to San Jose: 2267 miles.Only an idiot would want a 4 -hour flight instead of a one-hour flight. Easier on the legs, the back, the appetite, everything. Also, the Kings and Ducks would be easier for the Sharks to get up a healthy hate-on, because their fans will be able to. Phoenix is more amorphous, and Nashville even more so, because the Sharks have historically had their way with both the Doggies and Kitties.Plus, the Blackhawks are the Blackhawks, or at least they were before they were scattered to the nine vectors. Patrick Sharp went down with a knee (could be back Friday against Detroit), there is no secondary scoring to speak of, and the core players are being overplayed (justifiably) by a desperate coach Joel Quenneville. They may not even survive the weekend.But history is for saps. The core question that needs to be asked is the matchup one, and most specifically, which goaltender is most likely to stand on his head against the Sharks?The answer here, and it isnt all that close, is Pekka Rinne of Nashville.San Jose is bigger than Nashville, though not quite as quick. San Jose has more offensive firepower, though not quite as many elite defensemen. San Jose has been mean-spirited and cruel since January 15 26-4-1-4, with a goal differential of plus-42, both league-bests, while Nashville has been playoff-quality but not Cup-quality 19-12-3-2 and a differential of plus-9.Those advantages may prove to be more than the Predators can handle, as they were the two times they have met in the postseason.Then again, Rinne can be the great equalizer, because he has been all year.He is second in the league in goals against average and save percentage. He is the classic big goalie whom most teams crave and most opposition shooters hate, fundamentally sound post to post, at ice level and at the crossbar, and not prone to needless wandering.He is, in short, nasty on filthy with a side of soul-eroding.Compare him to the other possibilities:ANAHEIM: Jonas Hiller has played three times since the All-Star Break, and his replacement, the redoubtable for Senator and Flyer Ray Emery, has been good but not game-stealing in the nine games he has played, not including the one hell start against San Jose Wednesday night. Hiller is the one you all overreacted to as the next great goalie in 2009. Emery is the one who has played for a Stanley Cup. Neither is to be feared, nor even adjusted to.CHICAGO: Corey Crawford has played 23 consecutive games, and he wasnt supposed to be the answer to Antti Niemi anyway. He is an average to slightly-above-average goalie, but not a show-stopper to overcome his teams other shortcomings.PHOENIX: Ilya Bryzgalov has decent but not overwhelming statistics he is sixth in minutes and fourth in shots faced, but ninth in save percentage among goalies who have played at least half their games, and is not appreciably better than anyone else in top eight in the Western Conference. There is no real backup to speak of (Jason LaBarbera has played three times since the break). Plus, hes been uninspiring against San Jose (0-3, .892 save percentage) this year, after being one of the best goalies theyve faced in the previous three.LOS ANGELES: Jonathan Quick is supposed to be The Next Big Thing, and maybe he will be. He was better against the Sharks early, shutting them out right after Christmas and then losing 1-0 on New Years Day, but he was much less dominant in a 3-2 win March 24, and was routed Monday night. He also plays behind another offensively challenged team, and that was even before Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams went down. He may be good again, but he's pushing far more uphill than Rinne.So there you have it. San Jose should not lose to any of the bottom five, let alone Calgary or Dallas, but if they had to choose a team to avoid, it is Nashville. And if McLellan has a problem with that, he can come see me at his leisure.What'syour take? Email Rayand let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag. Follow Ray on Twitter @RattoCSN.