All right, let's get this over with...
As I was noting while live-blogging last Thursday's game with the Stars, the game was evenly and well-played by both teams. That was the honest truth... until halfway through the third period.
For whatever reason, the Sharks simply stopped playing. When they weren't standing around, they were making clumsy mistakes with the puck. Dallas took full advantage of this. What had been a solid effort was wasted by not playing the last ten minutes like they played the first fifty. Ridiculous.
Now on to the Saturday night fright. Look, the Red Wings are the best team in the NHL. Period. Their roster is loaded with savvy veterans still at the top of their game. Henrik Zetterberg is an absolute stud. Pavel Datsyuk is a points machine. Nicklas Lidstrom is textbook perfect on how to play defense. And there's a lot more worthy of note. To beat this team you have to play at your absolute best. Absolutely nothing else will do. Nothing.
So what do the Sharks do?
Play like it's 1991.
Detroit is great, but not perfect. They can be beaten. But when you're too busy splitting your time between psyching yourself out at the sight of a red sweater and playing like a junior squad trying to find out if the rumor about there being free beer in the penalty box is true, you're not exactly at your best. You are setting yourself up quite nicely to be utterly humiliated. The Red Wings were not surprisingly more than happy to oblige.
Where is the leadership on this team? Let's take a look at the four teams they've lost during this skid:
- Anaheim. Chris Pronger may wear the C, but is there any question Scott Niedermayer is the team's heart and soul who leads by example?
- Phoenix. Shane Doan plays full-out every single shift, making things happen and making life miserable for the other team.
- Dallas. Brenden Morrow. Tough, ornery, skilled. Another leader by example.
- Detroit. Mr. Lidstrom, if you please.
And what do the Sharks have to offer in this category?
Patrick Marleau of the perpetually perplexed pucker.
Isn't it time management realized that the truism about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is 100% correct? Look at how the Sharks have played at home this year against the best teams in the Western Conference, namely Detroit, Anaheim, and Dallas. 0-7-1. And only the shootout game was close.
This is the same team that folds its tent and goes away quietly in the playoffs the moment someone stands up to them. They've done this three years in a row. This year they're doing it in the regular season. Hardly a harbinger of good things come post-season, what say?
The Sharks need a leader who leads by example on the ice. Jeremy Roenick does his best, but he's in the twilight of his career. San Jose needs a captain with guts who can play at a high level. Joe Thornton is too easy-going for this role, and Mike Grier has the guts and work ethic but not the top tier skills needed.
Frankly, there is no one currently on the roster who can fill this position. The Sharks need to make a major personnel move to fix this problem. Find a team where Marleau doesn't have to do anything other than play pretty and which is willing to offer in exchange someone who's genuine NHL captain material. Until this happens, it's going to be more of the same. The Sharks will make the playoffs on sheer talent alone, and then not make any trouble for anyone as they exit. And if things remain as they are and this outcome is all we have to look forward to, please let us know now so we can start making our vacation plans for the latter part of April.