ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 21: Members of the St. Louis Blues celebrate their game-tying goal against Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks during Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 21, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Blues beat the Sharks 3-1 to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
With 8 minutes and 43 seconds left on the clock the Sharks appeared to be headed to a game six at HP Pavilion.
45 seconds later, after Niemi's lone mistake of the night and a deflection off the stick of David Perron found twine, the Sharks were headed to an early first round exit.
Sum of all fears right now.
Let's hit the bullets:
- A first round loss in five games (the Sharks shortest playoff run in history as a matter of fact) is not good enough for the players, organization, or fans. Having said that, as we said from the outset of this series, the Blues were a better team up and down the lineup. Everything the Sharks do well the Blues do just a little better. Therefore, as much as this loss stings the nostrils, it was something I think many of us could see coming. In the postseason, teams lose to better teams. The Blues are the better team than the Sharks. This makes the loss understandable.
- Having said that, the fact that the Sharks had to sneak into the postseason during the final two weeks, and end up with the 7th seed, is what sets this apart as something that is acceptable. Sure all season long we tallied up how San Jose was a better team than what their record indicated, and how either statistical variance, luck, or whatever you want to call it played a role in their struggles, but at the end of the day the 7th seed was something that proved to be the backbreaker. The Sharks put themselves in a position where they had to play the best team in the Western Conference in the first round by virtue of their regular season performance.
- I think that should be the key takeaway out of this abbreviated playoff run.
- Joe Thornton is an amazing hockey player, an amazing Captain, and an amazing leader. I'm glad that the bullshit narrative of him being a playoff no-show is even being questioned in the media because he was flat out phenomenal this series and has been for the last three postseasons.
- The penalty kill has to be addressed this offseason, both in terms of personnel and strategy. Ranking in the bottom third for the last two seasons is unacceptable. As The Neutral has covered in his excellent scoring chance posts, this series was extremely tight at even strength. The difference was special teams, and with the Sharks losing both games three and four due to this differential, it's clear that is the biggest issue that needs to be addressed.
- We say this every year and every year it is forgotten and ignored. So what the hell, we'll walk down this road again. The players care about this loss more than you will ever understand. Any idea to the contrary is a sterling reminder of your lack of basic cognitive ability.
- One thing that is going to get lost in the sea of defeat, but I think is extremely relevant, is how an early first round loss effects the team's financial outlook. As we've seen from Forbes annual roundup of NHL teams, the Sharks operate in the middle part of the League. Playoff revenues are a big factor for all NHL teams, and while I can't say with any certainty how this actually effects the Sharks ability to spend to the cap, you have to assume it will play a factor. The fact that San Jose only got two home games this postseason could play a role in their offseason moves from a financial standpoint, not just a competitive one. I have no idea if it will but it is something to keep an eye out for.
- This offseason is going to be, how do you say it, interesting.
- Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues organization on the series victory, and a shout out to our friends across the way at St. Louis Gametime. A lot of good folks involved over there, and despite the sting of an early defeat, you have to tip their cap to them and wish them luck the rest of the way. We've had nothing but great interactions with them and I'm glad that both sides were able to handle themselves with dignity and class.
Thanks again for another great season Fear The Fin. I can't say enough about the writers on our staff, from Matt to The Neutral Snark SD to Jon to Ann. Furthermore, special thanks to the moderators (who are probably going to be extremely busy in the next
24 hours 24 days)-- idunno, Elvis, and Nael are the unsung heroes around here and deserve just as much praise as anyone on the writing staff.
It's a long road ahead this offseason.
But until next time...