For two periods, we saw what had been expected going into this series: two quality teams having at it and giving it everything they had. San Jose held a slight advantage, which was appropriate as they are at least talent-wise the better team. However, this advantage wasn’t gained by talent alone. It came about by talent working. Which of course has been the idea all along in this game. You receive only that which is earned, not implied.
And then the third period started.
Once Dallas had evened the score, and yes it should have been 2-1 at that point save for a failed Lasik operation on Don Van Massenhoven but these things happen and you have to play through them, the Stars kept working while the Sharks immediately turtled. It became the same act we’ve seen for the past three post-season, rapidly going on four: an unwillingness to work, an inability to make plays. That the game went into overtime is a testimony solely to Evgeni Nabokov saving the Sharks’ bacon time and again until finally he could no longer save his teammates from themselves.
Last night was a gut check. The Sharks didn’t have any. When your superduperstar transforms before your very eyes from hockey’s equivalent of the Holy Trinity to the trinity individually known as Larry Curly and Moe, when your forwards develop sudden amnesia on how to play in their own zone and as a bonus the other team’s, when your defensemen become convinced the NHL is a no-checking league, when you believe the puck is made out of toxic rubber and must be disposed of as quickly as possible with as little force as possible lest it corrode your stick, you lose. When you do all of the above against a team more than willing to accept your largesse in handing them every possible opportunity to beat you, you lose. Furthermore, you lose like a bunch of gutless pretty boys who dazzle when allowed to do so but collapse like a sandcastle in a hurricane when actively opposed. Which is precisely what happened last night and in every other game this series.
Displays like this game mark the fourth straight year we’ve seen this act in the postseason by this team. Every year during the offseason we’ve heard the same speech about how all is well, wait until the kids develop, we’re smarter, we’re better, we’re tougher than last year. No. You’re not. You’re not smarter and/or better and/or tougher than last year, because if you were smarter and/or better and/or tougher than last year you wouldn’t be going gently into that anything but good night. You are the same team you’ve been for the past four years. And it’s not that you’re not good enough to win. You simply can’t be bothered to do what it takes to win. When next season rolls around, if there is yet another offseason of the aforementioned speech combined with window dressing moves toward (quote) improvement (end quote) in lieu of a genuine strengthening of this team’s core, the Sharks would be well advised to eschew any kind of banner raising or unveiling ceremony for this season’s Pacific Division championship. If not, they face the prospect of more than a few fans climbing into the rafters of HP Pavilion to hang a companion banner reading "so what."
Assuming they have any fans left.