The past two games have revealed a lot about the nature of this series. The box scores and statistics don't really tell the whole story; although they give a decent summary. These are just a few observations I have had so far. Please let me know if you guys disagree or have anything else to add. I like hearing other people's opinions. I'll start with the bad and end with the good (so you can leave happy!):
The Bad (The Duds):
Starting it off with some conspiracy (gotta get it out of the way), but I haven't really been able to figure out the reffing situation this series. The reffing was much better in game 2, but in game 1 they blew so many calls (including the hit from behind on White) I was in utter disbelief. It also seems that our centers have been getting kicked out of the faceoff circle on an alarming basis. Thornton won 11 faceoffs on saturday but I could have sworn that he got kicked out of just as many. Almost feels like faceoff bias against the Sharks in games 1 and 2. The charging call against Murray at the very end of the game was also questionable but they then no one cared.
2) Penalty Killing and Penalty Taking:
Penalty killing is obvious so I won't even talk about it. But our penalty taking in game 2 was awful. Many of the penalties we took were in the offensive zone and were clustered very close together time-wise. Right after one penalty was over, we took another one. Because of this, our lines could not develop any momentum.
3) Niclas Wallin:
Wallin was a big skating liability in game 1. He took two bad minor penalties and failed the hold the puck in the zone during our longest sustained offensive zone time of the game. He has had trouble handling the puck at the point this series. His game 2 was better. The one penalty he did take prevented an easy goal so I can't knock him for that. He is on this roster for his experience. He had better start showing that he has experience in more than taking penalties and fumbling passes.
4) Thornton and Marleau:
No points for the duo in what is already looking like our typical top-line type of play during the playoffs. These two are going to have to find a way for the Sharks to go deep in the playoffs. We will only go as far as these two will take us. However, I think this problem might be due to the final problem of this section
I'll be blunt: Todd McLellan is getting out coached. He has never been known to utilize the advantage of last change that you get with home ice. No Jarret Stoll should have been huge. McLellan should have been able to capitalize on several great match-ups but still chose to roll his lines normally. Thornton and Marleau have seen a ton of Doughty and Mitchell this series. McLellan had a lot to capitalize on going against the Kings with no Kopitar or Stoll but could not adjust his gameplan.
The Neutral (Eh)
1) Ryane Clowe:
Clowe's 3 assist game 1 was cancelled out by his undisciplined game 2 where he took two ill-advised penalties in the first period that helped put us out of the game very early
2) Dany Heatley:
Heatley can't really seem to find his grove. He hasn't been noticeably bad, but he's not doing what he's supposed to be doing. His goal in game 1 was a result of what is known as being in the right place at the right time, but that's what he needs to do. Heatley needs to continue to go to the front of the net and pick up those dirty goals. I think he could benefit from some time with Thornton. The chemistry he had with Couture in the middle of the season seems to have disappeared IMO.
The Good (The Studs)
1) Logan Couture:
Why is he on this list? In Game 1, Couture made a huge mistake on the penalty kill by not putting the puck on the net on a fast break. The puck wired around the glass and ended up as a 2 on 1 for the Kings that they cashed in on. How did our stellar rookie respond? By getting that goal back minutes later. Couture hung in tough and didn't let that mistake get him down. He has always stepped up when we needed him this season and game 1 was no different
2) Antti Niemi:
If it weren't for Niemi, the Sharks would be down 0-2 in the series right now. He has some stellar saves in game 1 that saved the game including one where he robbed Clifford on a 2-1 break with what has easily been the save of the playoffs so far. His big game experience last year is showing in the first 2 games. You can't blame our 4-0 loss on him.
3) Devin Setoguchi:
Don't let his 0 points in 2 games fool you. Seto has 12 shots in that span and has created many good scoring opportunities with his aggressiveness and speed. Setoguchi has been a bright spot on our top line and has played hard and well even though it hasn't shown on the scoreboard.
Not a prolific point scorer but was probably our best player on the ice last night. He has been sound in the defensive zone and his back-checking has been superb. He is doing for us what Willie Mitchell is doing for the Kings.
5) Joe Pavelski:
Was there any question about this one? Pavelski suffered from having less than 6 minutes of even strength ice time in the first 2 periods of Game 2, but came up huge in Game 1. Whenever no one else will step it up, The Big Pavelski will. He has continued his playoff magic this year and will continue to be looked for to come up big for us.
So as you can see, there are still plenty of good things that we have seen this series so far that we can't forget about because of this 4-0 loss. All the experts predicted the Sharks would win this series but no one thought we would win it in 4 games. Losing games happens in the playoffs sometimes. After Game 1 people loved the Sharks more than a fat kid loves cake, and after Game 2 people loved the Sharks about as much as a fat kid loves treadmills (not very much). The loss was bad, don't get me wrong; but, there still are still a lot of good things to work off of. The Sharks six game losing streak made them stronger. This embarrassing loss and the potential return of Ian White in Game 3 could do the same. How the Sharks respond in Game 3 will be important. Look for Setoguchi to finally get rewarded on the scoresheet and for Ryan Clowe to tighten up his game from a discipline standpoint. Don't sleep on Thornton or Marleau, how they play will determine how far we go. And watch out for the Big Pavelski to keep doing his thing.
So, who are your Studs and Duds?
As always, Go Sharks
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