Sharks Gameday: "Who Controls The Past Now, Controls The Future"



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21-16-5, 47 points 22-18-4, 48 points
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Ryane Clowe's openness about the effort level of his teammates. Todd McLellan's harsh criticism of the team's first periods. A closed door meeting with General Manager Doug Wilson, where players were asked to evaluate their play this season in front of their teammates. A call to arms from the individuals directly associated with the Sharks organization.

The response? One goal in 120 minutes of play. But sometimes the scoreboard doesn't tell the full story.

"The effort was better. I think everybody can see that from the bench, locker room, coaching staff, and probably the fans as well," said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan following the 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. "This is one of those games when you're cruising along, and you're at or near first place, when you say 'you know, we probably deserve a better fate.' But when you've lost some games here in a row, these are games that you have to win and the two points got away from us."

With the loss, San Jose has dropped into tenth-place in the Western Conference. The standings are filled with parity as they have been all season-- a mere five points separates the fourth seed from the twelfth, making each and every game from here on out as important as picking up toilet paper at the local convenience store before eating a big Thai meal. The margin for error is growing increasingly thin. The window to opportunity closing at a rapid pace.

McLellan's comments about a better fate echo around the stalls in the locker room. The 2-1 loss to Nashville speaks volumes to that. San Jose's sluggish first period starts and blown third period leads weren't on display tonight. The Sharks came out and played an excellent game, falling victim to a brilliant performance from Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne and shots that just couldn't find the back of the net. It was partly due to shot selection-- Sharks shooters were content with trying to go glove side high or right into Rinne's logo, and with Rinne eating up rebounds all night, there was a lack of second chance opportunities. But on a lot of other nights those shots go in. It was a game that they could have shaken off during the last two seasons, victims of circumstance but a bold step in the right direction.

Halfway through this year however, that goodwill doesn't exist. San Jose will constantly be dealing with first period disappointments and blown leads for the rest of this season, even if an individual game doesn't feature one of those maladies. It feels cheap to reference Rage Against The Machine today, considering they are one of the most politically and socially significant bands in the history of music and are deserving of a much higher level of discussion than one dealing with sports, but the message is applicable-- San Jose's past performances this season are what control their future. There is no safety net to help them stomach losses such as the one they just experienced to Nashville.

San Jose will take another stab at two points in Anaheim tomorrow night. Although Rinne tortured the Sharks with 42 saves in HP Pavilion, there's no rest for the weary as Jonas Hiller gets the start for the Ducks. Hiller has been up to his usual tricks this season, turning a mediocre Anaheim club into a team that has hung around in the playoff race all season long. His .926 SV% on the season is nothing to sneeze at, as well as his stat line since the New Year-- Hiller has been excellent in his last three games, posting a .966 SV% to go along with a shutout on Friday.

So what can the team take away from tonight and apply against Anaheim?

"Start, effort, and commitment level," McLellan said.

Tonight was a start. But as the Sharks have learned all season long, it's about how you finish.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Goals by anyone other than McGinn, Heatley, and Demers. Corey Perry does something fishy and Jonas Hiller makes us sweat profusely for the first two periods.