May 9, 2011
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The charming sideshow of Devin Setoguchis Twitterectomy is done now. So is that of Jeremy Roenick, Professional Sland-Blaster.
And that leaves you with the harder reality of Game 6 in Detroit, and a Sharks team that is thisclose to losing the ability to free themselves from their reputations -- win or lose.Right now, the Sharks are watching people edge toward the back gate of the bandwagon while they decide if the Sharks are just setting the customers up for the mother of all letdowns -- the Three-Love-Okey-Doke.But theyre not there yet. Losing Games 4 and 5 opened the door to doubt and self-loathing, but it hasnt pushed the doubters and loathers through it yet.
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Losing Game 6 Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena, though, would. Gay-ron-teed, as they say in New Orleans.It would make the Sharks a team that had a chance to kill a team that could kill them and lifted their heads out of the chipper-shredder just in time to get their own heads rammed into it. It would make them the Vancouver Canucks who nearly blew their series with the Chicago Blackhawks, which is barely one step better than being the Boston Bruins, who actually did hurl away a 3-0 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers.And it would turn Thursdays seventh game back at Le Pavillon du HP into an angst-a-thon powerful enough to bring down the roof.RELATED: Sharks-Wings Rd. 2 TV scheduleresults
It would be a game nobody would be eager to anticipate. It would be a game that would scare the hell out of the customers as they faked their way through the work day, scare them as they filed into the arena, scare them as they stood in line for the 12 beers, scare them as the team was vomited out of the giant shark head, and scare them through the national anthem and the puck drop and every single minute of the game. It would be a day-long festival of waiting for the other shoe to drop.And if they lost, the summer would be a hellish laugh track. And even if they won, nobody would trust them in the next round anyway, even if the opponent were those other members of the Tracheotomy All-Stars, the Canucks. No lead would be safe, because no lead has been safe. No moment would include the phrase, Were going to get em now, because nobody would have the nerve to tempt fate so brazenly.The playoffs, in short, would become a fair piece less fun because around every line shift, disaster loomed. You cannot get that close to the third rail without feeling a little jumpy the next time you ride BART.Thats whats at stake Tuesday night. Not the series, though the Sharks would have spent all their margin for error, and would actually have to play with the Reaper standing at the bench ready to take the ice. Its the additional knowledge that nobody would have their back after this, even with a fan base that has been loyal to the point of being cult-struck.How could anyone still believe in a Game 7? Vancouver fans, who know series-interruptus far better than San Jose fans, didnt exhale through Game 7 of the Chicago series, and that was even before the Green Men were punished by the NHL for felony impishness.RELATED: Canucks-Predators Game 6 preview
So this is it, kids, your last time to enjoy a Sharks game for awhile. Not because there wont be more of them, but because if they lose this one, there wont be any more that you can relax and cheer with a free and unfettered soul. There will always be that watermelon of doubt, that no matter how good things get, lousy is just around the corner.In short, this is what the Sharks play for Tuesday. After that, its for their very hides.Ray Ratto is a columnist with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.