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Game Thirty-Four Recap: Phoenix Coyotes 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (SO)

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Although the outcome was most disappointing, last night's game was as good an example as any of why you should never, ever, ever turn away from a hockey game regardless of how it's going.

Both teams looked like they were skating in mud during the first two periods.  Sloppy play behind the blueline led to a ton of shots by both teams.  Both Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov were on top of their games, which was a good thing as otherwise the score would have resembled something more akin to a Rhinos game than an NHL contest.  With the occasional exception of a shooting frenzy, it was actually quite dull.

And then came the third period.

First Nabokov let in a trickling softie.  Shortly thereafter, Bryzgalov returned the favor.  This was swiftly followed by all hell breaking loose in the form of a five-on-five scrap that was as close as you're going to get in today's NHL to a bench-clearing brawl.  A few minutes afterwards, Jeremy Roenick did the hitherto thought impossible by a Sharks player, namely scoring on a power play.  And then Phoenix tied it in the last minute -- short-handed, no less -- and then no one scored in overtime and do I really need to tell you what happened next?

A prominent theme throughout this game was how Phoenix's basic approach ever since acquiring Bryzgalov is to play hellbent for leather on every shift, constantly pressing the attack in the belief should things go awry they now have a goalie capable of saving their bacon, or in this case dog bones.  Would that for a change the Sharks would adopt the same approach instead of the following on most every shift:

  • Get the puck is in the offensive zone.
  • Make sure the puck is nice and cold by sort-of jiggling it around in front of them.
  • Meanwhile, everyone else finds a spot on the ice they're particularly fond of and stands perfectly still waiting to see what the guy with the puck (usually Joe Thornton... yeah I'm as surprised as you) will do.
  • He'll then try to disprove the theorem that insanity is best defined as repeatedly doing the same things and expecting different results each time by making the same pass to the same player in the same position that was the case a half-minute ago.
  • Said player takes his turn cooling off the puck and passes it back to Thornton.
  • Eventually, one of the following options is chosen:
    1. Bobble the puck so it bounces out of the zone;
    2. In the spirit of the season of giving, give the puck to someone on the other team via a pass that's not only blind but deaf and dumb as well;
    3. Slide the puck through the crease... where whichever Sharks is on the far side will wave at it with the blade of his stick as it passes him by.
And they wonder why the denizens of El Tanque del Tiburón are getting cranky.

In every other meeting between the Sharks and Coyotes this year, the Sharks completely dominated them.  Last night they didn't.  Why?  Frankly, the Coyotes gave every impression of wanting it more.  It's not that San Jose wasn't competing.  But when it came time for that extra edge, that extra effort, Phoenix reached inside and went for it.  The Sharks didn't.  And in hockey, when it's skill versus guts more often than not guts win.