Shark-Infested Blogger

March 16, 2010 3:26 AM

Sharks Extend Time Off Through Three More Games

The NHL scheduled some rare time off for the Sharks from Saturday to Thursday last week. Apparently, that was not enough for Team Teal, because they continued to coast for three more.

This is a good news, bad news situation on many levels.
First, the good:
  1. In a compacted season because of the Olympics, time off near the end of the season is a God-send, especially given the Sharks had more players participate in the tournament and in the gold medal game than anyone else. In the process of not working hard for three more games (in four days), San Jose saved even more energy.
  2. They still managed three points in those games, and did not lose any ground in the standings because their closest competitors, the Chicago Blackhawks, could not take advantage.
  3. In winning the first game, the team earned its third consecutive third-period comeback win, an NHL record, in one of the most impressive periods of play all season--Joe Pavelski alone got two goals and two assists in the final stanza.3443681450_c4126c85ba.jpg
Now the bad:
  1. San Jose played three teams that were a combined minus-50 in goal differential, two of which were in the bottom third of the league in record and one of which had not won since before the Olympics.
  2. The Sharks have given up the first goal in nine of their last ten games.
  3. The lack of consistent effort is not new. Just over a year ago at this time, embroiled in a pursuit for the President's Trophy, I highlighted the same problem, and we know the result. Bad habits tend to carry over, and the best teams in May have the best work ethic all year round.
But don't take my word for it. Here are some quotes from players, coaches, and analysts during and after the games over the weekend:
  • Todd McLellan (Saturday's post-game interview): "That's the inconsistency that's been in our game....We should be a better team. We shouldn't be giving up two-goal leads."
  • Trent Yawney (Sunday's second intermission): The Ducks' "compete level was better than ours."
  • Ross McKeon, in Sunday's post-game show, noted that the Sharks did not block out Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller as well as the Ducks blocked out Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. This was precisely the single largest failing of this team in last year's playoff series against the Ducks, showing once again they are not learning from their mistakes.
  • McLellan (Sunday's post-game interview): "I don't know where our mind-set is." A coach should never have to wonder that for a team in contention for the Stanley Cup.
  • Dan Boyle, in Sunday's post-game interview, noted the "lack of want"in the first two periods against Anaheim, said it was a problem in the playoffs last year, and said he "didn't like our effort at all."
Of course, I am sure there are Sharks fans out there who do not see it. They look as far as the record and say San Jose is the best in the West.

Never mind that they have been there before and still folded. Never mind that their heart has always been the question around the entire league, not their talent, as every opponent they have lost to since the lockout out-worked them when it counted.

There is hope: San Jose has almost four weeks to clear these problems up, and a good place to start is on the remainder of a road trip that involves five games in eight days. But I got fooled into hoping for that last year, too.

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