Sharks Gameday: A Brief Foray Into Nothingness
Canucks lead 2-0
| || |
This is an easy post to write.
Game three, 2-0 series deficit, embarrassed on Wednesday, penalties galore, lack of details, historical numbers telling us the high seed has won 92.3% of series when leading 3-1 in a series.
Ladies and gentleman, the Sharks are staring right down the barrel of a must-win. And regardless of what the scoreboard reads tonight at roughly 9:00 PM Pacific, they'll be facing another one of these fickle games again on Sunday afternoon.
Ah yes, the perils of playoff hockey. Ever present in our cerebral cortex, itching and clawing their way forwards as they drive the average Joe to insanity.
There's been a fair amount of discussion on the penalty differential this series, and while the majority of you know my stance on officiating (you play the hand you're dealt, calls even out over the course of a series, keep your head down and play through it's what the best teams do), the subject deserves to be broached again.
There's no doubt Henrik Sedin's high stick on Joe Thornton deserved a four minute minor. No doubt it could have changed the pace and flow of the game. However, to use that as a crutch to explain away the large issues plaguing this team right now seems quite shortsighted to me. For starters, the San Jose Sharks aren't the first team in the history of the NHL to be at the whim of the officials-- every single team throughout the League deals with it during their respective postseasons. It is part of the human element in sports, and until that goes away when our eventual robot overlords begin their reign over mankind and hold daily Colosseum esque sporting events (Ben Eager-- top ten pick), that's here to stay.
You're not the first, you're not the last, no one is out to get you, there is no grand conspiracy. It's life, and while it may be lemons, it's what this existence always has been and always will be.
The mark of a good team is how they respond to it, how they find a way to win despite variables that are out of their control. Move your feet and drive to the net. Because at the end of the day if a hockey team and its fanbase is focused on the officiating, that opposing team across the way is going to have a much easier time executing their gameplan throughout the tilt.
Speaking of which, HP Pavilion is having an Orange Out tonight. T-shirts will be handed out at the door... okay okay, everybody calm down. I know you're excited but screaming like you just got selected for The Price Is Right isn't going to make them get here any quicker. I know a free t-shirt is pretty swe-- oh. Yeah, I see, that makes sense now. I know, teal is the teams primary color right? That's a good point. Carry on then.
Honestly, not a big fan of the Orange Out either. It looks strange and makes me feel like I should be buying an economy sized bucket of hair gel before vacationing in South Jersey. That being said, there's nothing worse than one of these events breaking down because the majority of the attendees decide not to wear the assigned attire. Show the orange some love like Kel Mitchell and get HP Pavilion popping.
In terms of adjustments from the first two games, there's so many to count it's hard to really come up with anything that stands out as one area that needs the most improvement. Staying out of the penalty box, controlling the neutral zone, covering the backdoor pass, hiring Oompa Loompas to act as ushers for the Orange Out, getting the second and third lines going, slowing the tempo and pace of the game, getting a big performance from Niemi, effective zone clears that punish Vancouver's D from pinching to keep plays alive, thawing out a frozen clone of Mike Ricci and inserting him onto the third line, grinding the Canucks down along the boards, dumping the puck in and hammering Vancity's D on the forecheck, covering the slot when the Canucks are cycling, getting traffic in front of Luongo, keeping the puck behind the net where Luongo has looked uncomfortable, going low to high with your passes in the offensive zone, putting shots on net from off angles...these are all areas of opportunity for San Jose.
But somehow, someway, they just have to find a way to win the game. It might be a big kill in the third period, it might be the third line starting to come around, it might be a clean open ice hit in the neutral zone early that gets it all started. Or it might be something as simple as the mentality going into game seven against Detroit:
I do not believe in heart, guts, gore, a will to win. I do not believe in these adjectives because they are used to explain an outcome that is dependent upon a myriad of factors. Hockey is a game that is subject to so many breaks and bounces; hockey deserves a much wider brush than the narrow bristle it will inevitably be painted with. A game such as this deserves to be played again and again until the end of time. That is why I do not believe in heart, guts, gore, a will to win.
But I believe in them tonight. Because tonight, these are the things the players must believe controls their fate.
Despite overlooking some pretty basic facts about the sport of hockey (primarily the fact that you ultimately do not control your own fate-- the outcome of a game is a product of numerous variables that cannot be adequately understood with a third grade level of psychological simplification that "explains" an extremely complex and fickle organism such as a playoff game in absolute terms), this is a good mentality to have. Ignore everything, hell, ignore reality, and just know that if you execute your gameplan correctly you will succeed.
As we said yesterday, if both teams bring their A games for the rest of this series every game is going to be a coin flip. They're too evenly matched to expect otherwise.
But all it takes is one to get the train back on the tracks.
Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Goals by Marleau, Boyle, and Couture.