The Sharks are not a team that is ready for the playoffs. I have taken a lot of heat over at Bleacher Report for articles detailing the Sharks’ lack of fire, focus, and consistency. Sharks fans seem blissfully content to point out that their team has the best record in the league, and all too quick to assume that problems in post-seasons past are not going to continue.
But I see the pattern recurring. Last season, the Sharks jumped out to a three-goal lead over Calgary and relaxed. The Flames responded by taking it to the Sharks physically, taking liberties with Patrick Marleau and getting away with one clearly illegal hit that actually created a Calgary power play when the Sharks responded.
The result: a goal on that power play, and the Flames roared back to a 4-3 win. Instead of taking a commanding lead in the series, the Sharks were in for a seven-game dogfight that left them too battered to come back from the hole they dug for themselves in the second round. In fact, it probably is why they got into that hole in the first place.
In the second period Thursday night, the Sharks did the same thing. It was the first time they blew a three-goal lead in the regular season in 13 years.
San Jose’s first score was just over half-way into the first, when Joe Pavelski redirected a cross-ice feed from Ryane Clowe past Niklas Backstrom. Under four minutes later, it was Clowe’s turn to score a goal, putting in a rebound of a Rob Blake shot. Milan Michalek got the secondary assist on both.
Pavelski added another goal at the nine-minute mark of the second period, putting home a rebound of a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot; Michalek got the secondary assist again. And the Sharks carried the play until late in the period; then the wheels came off.
With just over two minutes left in the second, Brent Burns passed the puck from point-to-point, where Marc-Andre Bergeron one-timed a rocket that was later shown to be tipped in by Mikko Koivu. Just 86 seconds later, Pierre-Marc Bouchard slapped home a feed from Kim Johnsson, and suddenly it was 3-2.
The Sharks bounced back in the third, but at the 12:23 mark, goalie Brian Boucher lost focus. Marek Zidlicky backhanded a puck in from centre ice that bounced twice and went through Boucher’s five-hole. He was lax in his efforts to stop it, taking the save for granted—he was up on one leg instead of using sound fundamentals and being in the butterfly, in which case the five-hole is closed.
The Sharks were unable to get that one back, and with just seconds after killing off a penalty in overtime, the Wild completed the comeback. Martin Skoula got the puck up to Brent Burns, whose sharp angle shot was turned away by Boucher, but the rebound was left for Koivu to put home with less than 15 seconds left in the extra session.
My three stars
- Mikko Koivu got the first and last goal, and was +1 with a blocked shot and two takeaways.
- Joe Pavelski had two goals and won 12 of 20 faceoffs.
- Brent Burns was +1 with two assists, including creating the game-winning chance.