Game Twenty-Three Recap: Los Angeles Kings 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (SO)

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Okay.  Rather than go through yet another "went on cruise control against a weaker team and paid for it" or "I can't believe they lost another shootout" philippic, I'd like to flash back a few years ago to something Drew Remenda said.  It was near the end of a game early in the season.  The Sharks, who were picked as a contender, were on their way to another loss (sound familiar?).  As best I recall, in response to Randy Hahn asking him his opinion on what was wrong with the team Remenda said, "Here's my take on things.  Patrick Marleau is absolutely one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet."  He then rattled off several other players, stating each was a nice guy.  He then said, "But you can't win hockey games by being a nice guy."

One of the players Remenda mentioned as being a nice guy was Mike Rathje.  During his time in San Jose, Rathje was one of the very few Sharks played looked upon with disfavor by the home crowd which was in a state of perpetual frustration that a player his size wasn't a physical presence.  Which was true; he was a positional defenseman.  That duly noted, I remember a game when the Red Wings were in town back when Sergei Federov was with them and at the height of his career.  Every time he went on the ice, Rathje went on the ice.  And while he never laid a major check on him the whole game, he held him without a point while driving him to distraction by simply always being in the way of him making any kind of play.  If he was against the boards, Rathje kept him penned up.  If he was in open ice, Rathje was always there in front of him preventing him from getting anywhere near the net.  It was a great game.  That said, you can't have every player on your team play every player on their team like that, and that's something the Sharks constantly attempt to do.

You keep hearing about the Sharks' size.  Well, that's nice.  Works well under certain circumstances.  But you can't always rely on your size and nothing but your size and hope to win.  Sooner or later, you have to force the issue by using your size as a weapon above and beyond simply being in the way.  Too often that isn't happening.

San Jose's preferred style of play is dazzling the other team with flash and fancy passes.  Far too often there is no Plan B for an offensive rush in case Plan A, the aforementioned flash and all that, doesn't work.  The Sharks get the puck into the offensive zone, assume their preferred positions, and stop to play tic-tac-toe with the puck.  If it's not there, which increasingly it isn't as the other team knows exactly what the Sharks want to do and where they'll place themselves in order to attempt it, then that's that for that and it's but a matter of time before everyone is heading the other way.  I'd like to see the Sharks attempt to keep their opponents honest by simply bull-rushing the net en masse once in a while.  Or do something -- anything -- so it's not the exact same small handful of plays being run every time they're on the attack.  That, and stop being so blasted nice and deferential to each other by passing up a shot with everyone prepping to fight for the rebound in favor of... a pass.

Something else I'd like to see is line cohesion.  Yes, there is validity to mixing it up and getting everyone comfortable playing with everyone else.  But it's not winning any games.  Pick four lines and stick with them for five or more games as opposed to the current five or less minutes.  It's certainly not going to make things any worse than they are right now.

Just stop being nice and predictable.  Maybe then the Sharks will start being the team they are more than capable of being.  Because right now, they team they are won't even make the playoffs, let alone do anything other than make a quiet, quick exit.