Shark-Infested Blogger

May 22, 2010 3:04 PM

Sharks Prove They Do Not Have What it Takes

The San Jose Sharks lost a heart-breaker against the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night just over 12 minutes into overtime, and it for all intents and purposes ended their season. Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers came back this very post-season from a 3-0 series deficit, but the Sharks are not playing the Boston Bruins.

Boston had too little playoff success to lean on, too little scoring to rely on, and too little discipline to avoid constant penalties for too many men on the ice: Akin to the Minnesota Vikings' inexcusable 12-men in the huddle that preceded Brett Favre's inexcusable interception, they found ways to team up on a choke.

Chicago is too good for that. They went to the conference finals last season, have three lines that score, and their penalties are ones that come with effort, not lapses in focus.

They are a complete team that plays a complete game. That, in fact, is why they are beating the Sharks.

San Jose has shown arguably the most discipline I have ever seen from a contending hockey team, and they consistently control the play. They are big, skilled, skaters who dominate in the faceoff circle--how does a team like that lose?

4314946621_c96b3dd582.jpgBy not getting to the net. It is a simple game: Chicago's forwards have been a visibility obstacle for Evgeni Nabokov, while the Sharks, despite their size advantage, have not screened Antti Niemi consistently. And when they do have him screened, they cannot get pucks through to him.

The Sharks talk the talk, but do not walk the walk. After each of the last two losses and after each of the losses (and even one of the wins) against Colorado, somebody delivered the message that they were letting the opposing goalie see too many of the shots.

That is why they cannot beat elite teams with elite goalies.

They beat the Colorado Avalanche because they did not have elite skaters. Without elite skaters, the Avs just cannot stop the tsunami of shots the Sharks are capable of putting up, and eventually their goalie cracked.

They beat the Detroit Red Wings because they did not have an elite goalie. All it took was one soft goal let in by Jimmy Howard and the Sharks stole a game that gave them a stranglehold on the series.

Coming into the series, we were not sure if Niemi was an elite goalie. He is--do you know how you can tell? He stops everything he sees and is in position for. The only goals the Sharks have gotten were ones no one could stop: one that ricocheted off a teammate, two on rebounds, and two from extreme angles on the far side.

With goaltending like this, Nabokov has to play at a disadvantage because while he faces fewer shots, he sees a much lower percentage of them. They have come off deflections and rebounds, through screens and opponents' legs, on breakaways and odd-man rushes, and from one-timers on the blind side.

The frustrating this is that this team could have won at least two of these three games had they just won the battle in front of the net. One goal scored here, one of theirs stopped there, and Sharks fans plan to keep their razors stowed away for another two weeks. And that is the frustrating thing: I will be shaving Sunday simply because one of the largest teams in the league lets another team closer to their net than they are willing to get.

Chicago is too good a team to lose four in a row to anyone. But at least Team Teal could give us a win or two if they did the things that so far only Chicago has been willing to able to.

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