Deadly strike

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:57 AM ET

 SAN JOSE -- Swimming with the Sharks isn't easy at the best of times.

 It's even worse when they sense blood.

  Of the many reasons the San Jose Sharks have reached the Western Conference final for the first time in franchise history, their ability to strike quickly is as big as any.

 In their 11 post-season games, the Sharks have scored first eight times and won seven of those games.

 If that's not enough, they've outscored the opposition by an impressive 7-3 margin in the opening period.

 You don't have to hear the Jaws theme to know these Sharks enjoy moving in quickly for the kill.

 "I think it's coming with a young team -- we want to come out like that," said defenceman Scott Hannan.

 "We were challenged at the beginning of the year from our coaching staff and our management.

 "We wanted to come out with a lot of energy -- that's the drive of our team, to be in your face.

 "Our forwards do a great job of forechecking, getting in the defencemen's face, so they can't move the puck and make quick transition plays. That's been the core of our game this year."

 It's certainly something the Flames must be aware of, especially since opening periods have been a weakness throughout the season.

 Even in the playoffs, the first frame has been tough sledding for Calgary, which has only scored two first-period goals (both of which came in Game 2 of the Vancouver series) and allowed four.

 Playing from behind is difficult in the regular season. Trying to come back against a Sharks team that's been among the league leaders in defensive play all season will be even harder.

 "The guys have been awesome right from the start," said San Jose netminder Evgeni Nabokov, the benefactor of his team's quick starts.

 "That kind of makes you a little bit more confident -- that you know everybody's ready to go and you have to be ready also.

 "It's lots to do with our speed and with our emotion in the first period. That's why we've been so good, especially at home."


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