Don't Act Like I Never Told Ya...

“Work it, make it, do it

Makes us harder, better, faster, stronger…”

The Sharks new video opener features Kanye West’s “Stronger” and when I think about it, the song seems pretty appropriate for the beginning of the new season.

As I stated in my last blog about what I observed at our preseason games, the Sharks seem to have changed for the better. In fact, looking much stronger than their last season identities…and I think the same thing goes for many other teams this season…coming back harder, better, faster and stronger.

Being as we haven’t had the privilege (for the most part) to catch a glimpse of other teams’ preseason games, I simply assumed that all the offseason changes we heard so much about across the NHL were minor and nothing to shake a hockey stick at. So while I was curious about various teams, it’s hard to make any kind of assessment when you can’t see them play. Needless to say, the games we did attend at HP gave me the opportunity to see the Ducks, Canucks and Coyotes first hand. Two out of three did impress…but we all know, preseason is just preseason – a cheap stand-in (or the dorky, ugly older brother) to the real thing. Enough said, there’s no need to whine about the preseason anymore, (I don’t have to name names here…) its just about done…if it were as useless as some think, it wouldn’t exist…if nothing else it brings us fans back together to pump us up for the new season…speaking of which

I was like a kid waiting for Christmas morning on Friday night…I kept waking up, checking the time, and doing the math to see how many hours were left til the puck dropped in Prague. I just couldn’t wait for it…and I know I wasn’t the only one. I mean, we’ve been passing the time just begging the season to hurry up and get here…and now here it is…for those of us who have season tickets or partial season tickets, our family and friends will start hating us again as we will be “unavailable so don’t even bother asking” to do anything until June.

There’s no looking back now…this is it, we’ve kicked off an eight month party.

Game on.

Now, I’m gonna just make a few cheap observations here…I am aware that it’s early and things will change, but they don’t mean much – just calling it like I see it.

After watching both games yesterday, I can honestly say, a couple things surprised me. (disclaimer: I’m not exactly happy to admit some of it, trust me)

First off – Prague…

The Rangers…now I know they’ve gone through a lot in the off-season, they’ve got themselves a pretty young team now, but their play seemed a little weak to me. While they played well, I just expected them to play stronger. They just need a little time to gel. Now, I will say, Naslund blew me away. He was stellar. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for him with the Rangers – what a great addition to the team. Drury, settling into his new role as captain didn’t really make a huge presence on the ice on Saturday, but come Sunday’s game, his eight shots on goal gave me something to smile about…maybe because he’s on my fantasy team?

Stamkos…all the hype…is he living up to it? So far so good! I expect big things from this kid. Its hard to live up to the hype when everyone has made you out to be a huge deal…but he seems to have the skills to back it up. He’s also got a great team behind him. I was completely impressed with Tampa Bay on Saturday. Not only was Stamkos a pleasure to watch, but Lecavalier and St. Louis were dynamic. Not that they weren’t last season, but now that they’ve got the support of a great new team (Stamkos, Malone, Smith, Kolzig), they don’t have to carry it all on their shoulders. The blue line has gotten a shot in the arm (that was a little dramatic of me actually) with help from Matt Carle who I must say, made me proud. He may never have played like that with the Sharks but that was due, in part, to our coaching. It seems Barry Melrose is letting him develop his own style and Matt is running with it – he was the talk of the town during and after Saturday’s game. Mike Smith was also unbelievable in my opinion. He all but stood on his head to protect the net. He threw his 6’4" frame around like nothing and made some incredible saves. This team is a force this season…I seriously wouldn’t underestimate these guys. I know that they’ve got lots of work ahead but I guess it’s safe to say that they’ve made quite the impression on me.

On to Stockholm…

Talk about excitement…this match up did not disappoint! As much as I hate to say it, Sid and Geno still have lots of steam left…sorry guys. Not really sure what I feel about Fleury at this point as he didn’t impress me as much as I thought he would. Our little Penguins are still on the upswing so it seems. With Gonchar out for a few months it must have been somewhat reassuring to see guys like Scuderi stepping it up. They’ve got a lot to do in Gonchar’s absence but I’m sure they will find their legs soon enough on the blue line. I expected a little more from Kris Letang but who knows, it will be very interesting to see how Pittsburgh’s defense improves over the next few weeks. Then when the young talent like Tyler Kennedy comes out in place of someone like Petr Sykora and delivers like he did, the Eastern Conference should be very scared. There’s still an entire season to assess but from they way they started things off, its going to be an entertaining and season for you Pens fans out there. You’ve got a lot to be proud of. (Its gonna take a lot more convincing for me to join that group…sorry)

Ottawa on the other hand, is on their way to earning me as a fan. Heatley, Alfie and Spezza came up huge…while I definitely think they need to get some of the others guys to the net, the three musketeers certainly came through for Sunday’s game. It was also great to see another line coming through on Vermette’s goal. They matched the Pens intensity on Saturday and gave them a run for their money through to OT. It would be really great to see these guys have a amazing season and I think they will.

Looking forward to Thursday
Our “opening day” here in North America…the Sharks and the Ducks, the Leafs and the Wings, the Bruins and the Avs, and the Flames and the Canucks…banners will be raised, fans will scream, free stuff given away, autographed pucks will be bought, beer will be spilled, faces will be painted and smack will be talked! This is what it’s all about. This is what we have been waiting for.

I will leave you with this – (in honor of my girl Juice…)

The two Eastern teams that will be playing on Thursday – you better bring it hard because you’re coming to the WILD WEST baby…and we do things differently out here.

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