As part of the two headed FTF wrap up monster, Plank also shared his thoughts on tonight's game... his wrap can be found here.
For all those fans who abandoned the Sharks after the first two games, shame on you.
For all those fans who thought that this Sharks team was another playoff failure, you can keep thinking the sky is falling.
Me, I've been with the Sharks from the start. I know what they're capable of. And this game showed me that this team is different from the others who have failed in the past. This team showed me tonight that they won't be another disappointment.
The players. Unlike in games one and two, when I was impressed with the play of only a select few Sharks, I was in awe of the team game which was played tonight in Anaheim. Multiple players stepped up to show that they wouldn't accept a first round exit, and I'm sure that spirit will carry over to game four on Thursday. Here are the players who I thought had the biggest impact on tonight's outcome.
Dan Boyle: Boyle, who had been criticized all week (even though he was the best player on the ice for San Jose in the first two games), came up huge in Anaheim and had his best career game as a Shark. Not only did Boyle score two goals for the San Jose during the game, but he assisted on Marleau's game winning goal in the third. This is exactly what we wanted from Boyle when he was acquired in the offseason, and although we can't expect this from him every night, he showed why having playoff experience is crucial.
Torrey Mitchell: As he did for much of the 2007-2008 season, Mitchell provided the spark that the Sharks were lacking. If anyone could tell that this was his first NHL game this season, please, by all means, speak up. Mitchell's 13 shifts were pure, unbridled energy. He brought it all night. I expect, nay... I DEMAND, more ice time for Torrey in game four.
Rob Blake: McLellan stressed the importance of the quality of shots, rather than the quantity. Blake took this to heart. Although he unloaded multiple times tonight (his five shots, which included a goal, led the team), the biggest shot was the one he didn't take. On the power play in the third period, Blake passed up an open shot opportunity and instead fed the puck to Marleau who was parked in front of the net. The Sharks would take the lead on this play, and never give it back.
Douglas Murray: Murray sent a message to the Ducks tonight. That message is as follows: Even if Shelley or Lemieux isn't on the ice, we still play tough; you can't push us around. Although Murray sat out for five minutes in the first, he still was second (both teams) in hits. His physical presence set the tempo all night.
After a win, there's a lot to be happy about. The power play finally clicked. The Sharks have a truckload of fight left in them. They won a must win tilt on enemy ice. Etcetera. However, there were still some issues with the Sharks play that left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
First, the Sharks looked as if they were happy defending a one goal lead all night. I know, this has been a hard fought series in which one goal could be the difference. However, I would have liked to see the Sharks look to extend the lead, rather than try to protect it. This game could have tilted in the Ducks favor... I'm hoping the Sharks try to rub it in a little more in game four.
Second, the puck work was extremely shoddy at times. Setoguchi played well, but the turnover in his zone led directly to a Ducks goal. It's the same story for Pavelski. Thornton (although he did notch an assist tonight), looked to make the spectacular pass too often. While I'm never one to criticize our star, Joe did lead the team in giveaways (2). Instead of maintaining pressure in the offensive zone, he too often looked to make a near impossible pass. As much as I love a great Thornton pass that leads to a spectacular goal, I'd settle for a good pass to keep the offense moving.
Third, Nabokov. Granted, his save percentage did creep up to 90% tonight. However, he's got to make the save on Wisniewski. Maybe I'm expecting too much from him, but I'm hoping he starts to take over games like he did last year while helping his team to the playoffs. He played well in the third, but that's not enough. When the Sharks have a lead, regardless of the period, he has to be there to protect it.
The last point really isn't a bad thing, but I'm still worried about Marleau. As Plank and I enjoyed our ritualistic post game chat, we pondered Marleau's injury status. Could he still be hurt? Who knows. What we see, however, is a player who is near invisible for two periods and then turns it up in the third. Is he conserving energy? Is he playing with an injury? Only time will tell, and we won't know for sure until the playoffs are over. I like what I see from him in the last 20 minutes, I just wish it was there for the first 40. We need you Patty.
All in all, there are things to be happy about tonight. I, for one, will go to bed with a smile on my face. However, this win shouldn't go to the Sharks' collective head. If they want to win Thursday, they're going to have to continue the battle. Tonight, we saw that speed, physicality, and hustle can help a team defeat the Anaheim Ducks. If the Sharks continue to play as they did tonight, I don't see an early playoff exit in their future.
(P.S. My signed Setoguchi jersey has been deemed unlucky and was not worn tonight. Instead, I donned my black Fear the Fin tee. It won't be washed until it sees a loss.)