Thursday, May 19, 2011

Get Forwards and Prosper!

Is there a possible bigger NHL playoff choker in this century so far than the San Jose Sharks?

Logically, this should have been the playoffs where the Sharks got over the hump? Recent history has shown a team that has made a deep run the previous season will follow up with another deep run and most likely will snag the Cup.

Happened last season as the Chicago Blackhawks won it all a season after they made it to the semis. It happened in 2009 when the Pittsburgh Penguins returned to the Final a year after they lost and subsequently beat the Detroit Red Wings on the second go-round.
The Wings themselves proved the maxim by losing in the semis in '07 to the Anaheim Ducks and then the following season taking the Cup.
The Ducks in '06 got Roloson-ed in the semis by the Edmonton Oilers and in '07 fought (literally) back to win the Cup.

San Jose had even done what looked like all the right moves to enhance their chances. They got a "better" goalie dumping longtime Shark Evgeni Nabokov for the '10 Cup winner Antti Niemi. They have a Norris Trophy level defenceman in Dan Boyle seemingly with plenty left in the offensive tank.
They changed coaches a few seasons back and got rid of the "genius in his own mind" Ron Wilson and replaced him with someone (Todd McLellan) from a Cup winning organization (he was formerly an assistant coach with the Wings).
Joe Thornton no longer is a playoff choker as emphasized by his fantastic overtime heroics so far in the 2011 playoffs.
Newsflash, Mr. Jeremy Roenick, Patrick Marleau is not "gutless" at all. He had 5G 1A in the sweep by Chicago last season and he's stepping up so far vs. Vancouver with goals in each of the first two games.
So what is going on with the Sharks?

Their defence has been bad to horrible with the only plus player over those six semi-final games in these two seasons being Jason Demers and only barely at a +1. The two biggest culprits are
Boyle, despite 6A in 6GP, being a -4 and Douglas Murray who is a -5 after last night's -3 nightmare.

Worse are the forwards not named Thornton or Marleau as not only are they minus monsters but Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Ryan Clowe and Joe Pavelski are a collective -13 and have a less than impressive total of zero (yes, you heard that right) goals and 7 assists in those six semi-final games so far over the two seasons.

So through six games in the semis, the only forwards to score Shark goals have been Marleau with 7, Logan Couture with 2, Joe Thornton with 1 and big Ben Eager with another.

Just these past two games alone have seen six different Canuck forwards light the lamp.

Maybe there is your answer as the special teams in both the Sharks series vs. the Hawks and the Canucks have been a wash as they all had their powerplays working quite well (as witnessed by the two powerplay goals by San Jose in Game 2 countered by the three from Vancouver).
The San Jose forwards have simply been outplayed by both the Canuck and Blackhawk forwards over the past two seasons at even strength.

If the Sharks do not come back and win this series, GM Doug Wilson is going to have to seriously Jonathan Cheechoo a few of these unproductive Shark forwards out of San Jose and get some more reliable scorers. So maybe Ben Eager's hit on Daniel Sedin is not the reason the Canucks took control of the series at all. Maybe it's more about the other underperforming Shark forwards and the Maxim-um Lapierre efforts the Canucks forwards are now coming up with in rd. 3.

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