Something has changed on this team, perhaps there are a few holdouts, but there is a new attitude in that locker room. I think that attitude is going to be the difference in this series.
It was good to see the Sharks get spanked early on. They started game 1 on an early power play, which put the Avs on the defense. Somehow that gave the Sharks a misplaced illusion of power and momentum, one that fed them tons of intimidation chutzpah, and not nearly enough respect for the Avs, I thought. Once the power play was over, the spanking began, one that would lead to a lot of badly needed humility. What an amazing thing that was to watch. The Avs were schooling us in the neutral zone, owning it like a swarm of hornets, playing twice as fast, and constantly stealing candy from a bunch of big lumbering Shark babies. I was completely astonished. I wasn't even angry with the Sharks, I just watched in stunned amazement.
That early spanking was very, very good for San Jose.
Later, the coach and players came out publicly, stating with a confidence that surprised me, that they had solved it: speed in the neutral zone, they claimed, was all that they needed. And when they played, especially starting with game four, it definitely showed, as they executed the game exactly as they had described in various pre-game interviews.
So what was different about that? I found it remarkable that they made no pretense of keeping their strategy any kind of veiled secret. It wasn't generalized at all, couched in the usual cliched platitudes. The plan was very focused, very specific, and it seemed as if the entire team was on the same page, confident that there was absolutely nothing the Avs could do about it, even if they had all sat in on the strategy meeting. That's something I've never seen before, and it will be interesting to see how all the strategy talk/execution shapes up in this series.
By the way, I can't even call this series. I have no prediction whatsoever, it's so up in the air in my mind. There's no chance in my mind for a sweep for either team, I seriously doubt that's in the cards, but I could just as easily see game 4 ending with EITHER of the two teams holding a 3-1 series lead. That's pretty scary. And exciting.