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Joe Pavelski made a huge diving pass to Devin Setoguchi, who tapped it in to beat Roberto Luongo and give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 lead over the Vancouver Canucks ... a lead that they'd almost hold until the end. But then, with 13.2 seconds on the clock and an empty net going, the Canucks get extended time passing, and a Ryan Kesler re-directs a shot from the point into the net, tying the game and sending it into overtime. When overtime came, the Sharks dominated most of the period, like they did for the entirety of the game, but it ended up going into double overtime.
And then .. something happened that not everybody understood at first. The puck was trickling slowly across the ice, and Kevin Bieksa shot it from the point and it slowly beat Antti Niemi on his left side. Everybody was confused, but it was indeed a good goal. The Canucks got that goal, the game-winner, and the series winner.
It was a game that was mostly dominated by the Sharks. They outshot the Canucks 56 to 34 ... and they still didn't get the win. But they never gave up, they kept fighting, and this series, despite being 4-1, will do a lot for the Sharks and their choker label. The Vancouver Canucks advance to the Stanley Cup Finals representing the Western Conference.
For now, here are the notes I took during the game, with a full, more expanded recap with all kinds of thoughts coming shortly, followed by season recaps and more as we look to next season. Stay tuned, full recap coming in the morning. These notes are unedited.
The Canucks get scoring opportunities in the very first thirty seconds, with two shots on goal, but Antti Niemi makes the save. San Jose takes the puck away into Vancouver's zone, and they get a scoring opportunity of their own, where Roberto Luongo fell down flat, the puck somewhere under him. Both teams are looking good early on, through the first five minutes, neither unit really has the edge, maybe the Sharks get the nod in that vein. The Sharks do have a couple bad giveaways though, during potential scoring opportunities. In fact, one of those giveaways goes back the other way, and the Canucks get a goal. Alexandre Burrows gets a dish from Sedin and beats an out-of-position Niemi to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. The Sharks were very passive in the neutral zone and let the Canucks set it up. The Sharks come back and get extended time in Vancouver's zone, Kyle Wellwood controlling the puck well and setting up a couple scoring opportunities. The Sharks get it back in the Vancouver zone again and keep the pressure on, but the Canucks are playing solid defense. At 14:03, Henrik Sedin goes to the box for hooking on Ian White. Then, Ryan Kesler goes to the box for slashing and the Sharks have a 5-on-3. They play it very well, allowing minimal clears and show good passing, but Luongo makes a couple otherworldly saves and the 5-on-3 and then the man advantage is killed by, seemingly, Luongo on his own. The Sharks keep the puck in Vancouver's zone and get some more chances, the Canucks get a chance or two and Niemi makes a big save and ... the period comes to an end. The Sharks looked like
The Sharks get a couple opportunities, and then the Canucks, It's very balanced play, with the Sharks holding the edge in time on the forecheck with more shots, and eventually, Kevin Bieksa goes to the box for hi-sticking on Logan Couture, and the Sharks begin a power play. Devin Setoguchi makes a bad play and the Canucks get a clear ... then they clear it two more times upon entry into the zone. Then, Dan Boyle shoots from the point and ... beats Luongo, and just like that, the Sharks tie it up. Looks like Marleau deflects it in. Torrey Mithcell then gos to the box for tripping and the Canucks have their first power play. They get some early chances, but the Sharks get a couple clears. And eventually, the penalty is killed, though the Canucks had a ton of time in SAn Jose's zone, but Niemi and his blockers came up big. Then, the Canucks are called for a too many men on the ice penalty ,and the Sharks have a power play, but it doesn't go anywhere. They have one good opportunity, but Kyle Wellwood continues his trend of being afraid to shoot, and the penalty is killed. The play is balanced, but the Canucks hold the edge as the period comes to a close, with Vancouver putting the pressure on and Todd McLellan calling a timeout to rest his team. The period ends.
At the beginning of the period, the Sharks jump ahead 2-1 when Roberto Luongo goes out to challenge Joe Pavelski. Pavelski is trailing the puck and it looks like it's going to get to Luongo first, but Pavelski dives and tips it to the right, where Setoguchi has an open net to tap it in beautifully. The Canucks respond with many, many opportunities, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic takes a horrific high stick and has to go to the locker room, but no penalty is called. It was a follow-through, so the no-call makes sense here, but Vlasic seems hurt. The Canucks continue to press hard. Wouldn't you know it, Vlasic comes back out onto the ice without even missing a shift. The Sharks actually get some more offense, playing aggressive, though the Canucks eventually move back into the San Jose zone, and get a couple scary shots off. It goes back and forth, with Vancouver getting a few good one-timers, but the Sharks playing well. The Sharks continue to clear it well, but with 15 seconds on the clock, the Canucks get three-to-four passes and set up a good scoring chance, the Canucks get a shot from the point and redirection in front of the net by Ryan Kesler ... and it's a good goal with 13.2 seconds remaining. The period comes to an end and we've got overtime.
The Canucks turn it on right away, keeping the puck in San Jose's zone for most of the first minute, getting a couple shooting opportunities. The Sharks eventually get a shot or two, but the Canucks are generally quick to get the puck back and send it into San Jose's zone. Now it looks like San Jose has taken control of the play, getting shots, Patrick Marleau is playing well especially. Luongo is forced to make an amazing glove save at one point. The Sharks keep the puck in the zone, pass it around, and Luongo has to make a diving save. The Canucks get a couple of opportunities now, and the Sharks are on their heels. The Canucks are setting up plenty of good one-timers. Daniel Sedin gets a one-on-one with Niemi, but Niemi makes the pad save. The play is going back and forth with big chances on either side. They fight for it behind Vancouver's net, and then they fight for it behind San Jose's net. It's just back and forth, that's really all that can be said right now, no team is getting solid solo shots on goal. Ian White makes a good defensive play in front of the goal, not quite covering but getting all of his limbs in the way of the puck when it changed direction on Niemi. And then, the overtime period comes to an end, we're going to a second overtime.
No solid scoring opportunities through the first two minutes, the Sharks finally get one halfway through the third minute. The puck is spending a lot of time in the neutral zone. The Sharks get some opportunities, Logan Couture almost beats Luongo with a wrister, but Luongo barely makes the save and gets an early whistle. The Sharks get a huge opportunity, but the blocked shot goes back the other way for a breakaway, but Niemi makes a huge save. The Canucks get three shots in a row when the Sharks make three different mistakes, but Niemi stops them all. The momentum has shifted, whereas the Sharks were getting most of the chances, the Canucks start to get extended time in San Jose's zone, and then ... I'm not sure what happened. It looks like the puck was out of play, but then it comes back in and trickles into the net... or maybe it's a clean shot. Replays make it look like a clean shot. Kevin Bieksa shot it from the blueline and nobody saw it coming.
The San Jose Sharks are holding on for dear life in the Western Conference Finals against the Vancouver Canucks, but if any team still in can come back from something like this, it's this Sharks team. No, there isn't any kind of historical precedence to cite; the Sharks have been given that "choker" label by more than virtually any team in professional sports. Citing previous points in the playoffs is, well, pointless, because the Sharks have historically fizzled out.
But this team has felt different all season long, they didn't cruise to the NHL Playoffs as a number one seed who dominated everyone in the regular season. They took losses, and they fought through adversity. They had injuries, and had players like Antti Niemi step up, which led to a long winning streak and a playoff berth that they have utilized well up to this point.
Now they trail 3-1 and are heading back to the Rogers Center to face the top-seeded Canucks. Many have given up within the fanbase, but the majority still believe in this team, and with good reason. Joe Thornton is playing outstanding hockey as of late, and Patrick Marleau is playing with a fire under him that this team sorely needed. Other players like Dany Heatley aren't playing so well, but that can all change at the drop of a hat.
Going into game five, the path to victory is clear for the Sharks: stay out of the penalty box. Every one of these games have been decided by special teams on both ends. There have been some bad calls, but they've been going both ways, and the Sharks need to calm down, and play fundamentally sound hockey. If they can do that, and stay out of the penalty box, they can count on their power play unit to execute.
Of course, the usual suspects will need to have good games, but everyone knows that you can get goals off of Roberto Luongo. It's about time Niemi steals a game, so this writer's prediction is that Niemi plays well, the Sharks get a win despite being out-played in certain statistical categories, and they pick up steam going into game six with the potential of tying the series. Obviously, that's just one of the better scenarios for this game, but the Sharks would probably take that any day.
The San Jose Sharks were hoping to bring momentum out of game three at home into game four, tying the series against the Canucks and heading to Vancouver with their head held high. The first period wasn't necessarily terrible, but the Sharks failed to convert on four power play attempts in said opening frame. In fact, they failed to look like they ever had the man advantage, starting with the very first power play in which the Canucks had the puck possession for a little more than half of the two-minute penalty. That trend continued into the second period, when they failed to get anything done on a power play that Raffi Torres was called for when he charged Douglas Murray in the final seconds of the opening frame.
But it wasn't truly horrible play from the Sharks. They did hold the edge in shots and Antti Niemi was looking solid ... Joe Thornton was getting things done with the puck and the lines were canceling each other out as they should. But then the penalties starting going the other way ... and after a hooking penalty from Torrey Mitchell, the Sharks were defending a 5-on-3. The Canucks scored on that in less than ten seconds to take a 1-0 lead in the game. Shortly after, they're called for too many men on the ice, and the Canucks score on their first attempt on a second 5-on-3. Then, they're called for delay-of-game, and the Canucks score again on their first shot of the 5-on-3 penalty to go up 3-0.
When Alexandre Burrows scored five minutes into the third period to give the Canucks a 4-0 lead, the game was essentially over. The Sharks didn't believe it, though, and they came back and fought, but it was too little too late. Ryane Clowe scored late in the game and Andrew Desjardins lit the lamp before that, but 4-2 was the best they were going to do.
The 5-on-3 goals were almost instant, though it's hard to really place blame when it's ... you know, a 5-on-3. Two of the three goals appeared soft, but how much blame can you put on Niemi at that point? Probably not a lot ... what's clear is that the Sharks came out and completely laid an egg. They needed to avoid those penalties and they needed to get the scoring started early. Roberto Luongo was solid when the Sharks actually had scoring opportunities, and that didn't help matters.
Joe Thornton was also injured and left the game in the third period, which does not bode well for the Sharks going forward. However, it's not as though they're out of this ... these are the two best teams in the Western Conference, and the Sharks are (hopefully) not ready to give up yet. Play reverts back to Vancouver for game five.
The San Jose Sharks responded in the exact way they wanted to in game three against the Vancouver Canucks. They came into game three down 2-0 in a series they could ill-afford to fall behind in. After dropping the first two in Vancouver, the feeling was that game three was as close to a "must-win" without literally being so as you could get. If they couldn't win at HP Pavilion, how can they expect to eventually beat the Canucks at the Rogers Center, which they will have to do to win the series?
Game four is less of a must-win than game three, but they'd be one loss away from elimination heading back to Vancouver, so it's still crucial that the Sharks come out playing their best hockey. With their recent propensity to bad third periods, it would appear that path victory is more than a little clear for the Sharks, as they used it to win in game three ...
It's pretty simple, but much easier said than done: score plenty of points before they reach the third period. If the problem is that they continue to squander leads in the third period, they need to just ensure that it's more than a one-goal lead they take into the frame. As notes, it's definitely easier said than done, because the Canucks match up so well.
If home ice if truly what matters in this series, the Sharks absolutely have to ensure they win the remaining games at HP Pavilion, while hoping they can win one in Vancouver. There's not a ton they really need to change about their on ice play: Antti Niemi has looked fantastic in goal, a far cry from the goalie we saw in the first round against the Los Angeles Kings. Joe Thornton has been on fire, while Patrick Marleau has a fire in him that is making Jeremy Roenick eat his words. Everybody is playing well.
They just need to play well for a full sixty minutes, and that's really the extent that one can saw after these three games thus far. If they do that in game four, the Sharks will even up this series at two games apiece. The game will be on NBC and the puck drops at 12:00 p.m. pacific
Right now, the Vancouver Canucks hold a 2-1 series lead over the San Jose Sharks in three games in the Western Conference Finals. Across the bracket, we've got another seemingly even matchup going on between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. They're currently locked in a 2-2 series battle after Saturday's game four, in which the Lightning took 5-3 in dramatic fashion.
Tampa Bay rallied back from a 3-0 deficit in the first period to score three of their own in the second, and two more in the third to get the win and the series tie. Simon Gagne was the hero in 6:54 into the third and final frame, with a wrister to beat TIm Thomas. Martin St. Louis added an empty netter at the end for good measure. Tampa Bay's second period consisted of goals from Teddy Purcell twice and Sean Bergenheim.
It wasn't all bad from the Bruins, but they definitely did not respond well to pressure. They did force Dwayne Roloson to be pulled in the first period with their goals from Patrice Bergeron (two), and Michael Ryder. One of Bergeron's goals in that opening frame was a shorthanded affair, benefiting from sloppy play by the lightning. Roloson was pulled after allowing three goals on only nine shot,s the second time in three games that he's been yanked.
Kudos goes out to Mike Smith, the goalie in relief for Tampa Bay, who stopped 21-of-21 shots for his first playoff win. Play goes back to Boston for game five in this series on Monday, on Versus at 5:00 p.m. pacific. Both of these opponents look like a formidable threat to our Sharks, but they still have to get past the juggernaut that is Vancouver.
Obviously, every game will be watched and every matchup will be scrutinized, while players and coaches come up with a list of things that they did and didn't do that they can improve upon going into the next game. Joe Thornton spent the majority of games one and two neutralizing Ryan Kesler, and in game three, he was able to use knowledge gained from the first two games to put his talents to work elsewhere, as the Canucks didn't want Kesler anywhere near him. So he watched, he improved, and he had himself a great game in a postseason full of them for the Sharks Captain. However, the Sharks need to look beyond the X's and O's of the game.
In game two, the Sharks fell behind in the third period, and as the lead grew, their hustle and effort exponentially shrank. When they were down one, they did not pick up the pace and they did not try and change the gameplan. When they were down two, all was basically lost at that point and they gave up on the game. Well, that isn't entirely accurate, in that the players never wanted to lose or anything like that, but the hustle was clearly gone.
Well, in the eventual 4-3 win for the Sharks in game three, the Canucks showed something that San Jose could certainly learn from. Two goals from Patrick Marleau and a goal from Ryane Clowe in the first period certainly sucked the wind out of the Canucks, but they didn't give up there. They re-evaluated and came out in the second period, scoring a goal to get on the board. The Sharks, not to be out-done, put up another goal to take a 4-1 lead. At that point, one could have expected the Canucks to roll over and lose the game.
But they weren't having any of that "roll over" business. They kept fighting, going after every puck and forcing the Sharks to play on their heels for a good portion of the third (the portion that wasn't spend with the Sharks on a power play), a real aggressive style of play. Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis put up goals in the period to bring the Canucks within one, and they did not stop fighting until the game was over. They didn't get the win, but that kind of fire is exactly what was absent from the Sharks in game two.
San Jose can certainly learn something from the Canucks, they need to ensure that they remain in every game played for the remainder of this postseason, and they can do that by continuing to fight for a full sixty minutes of hockey. In a way, they have fought back already, after being down in the series 2-0, but better on-ice periods when the team is down is something they've had in the past (the recent past, even), and something they definitely need going forward.
The San Jose Sharks barely managed to hang on Friday night as they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in front of a sellout crowd at HP Pavilion. Although the Sharks jumped on top early and looked ready to cruise to victory, third period miscues and a tough major penalty call against Jamie McGinn left this one in doubt until the end.
The Sharks poured on the goals early as they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period. San Jose grabbed two power play goals courtesy of Patrick Marleau and Ryan Clowe. Marleau followed that up with a breakaway goal and the Sharks looked like they were in excellent shape.
The second period seemed to show that even further as Sharks goalie Antti Niemi and the power play unit put on an absolute clinic over the final 5:33 of the period. Andrew Desjardins went into the penalty box at the 14:27 mark for holding and was soon followed by Joe Thornton, who was called for holding as well at the 15:01 mark.
The Canucks had close to a minute and a half of 5-on-3 but were unable to convert. Desjardins then came out of the penalty box to make it 5-on-4 but was almost immediately called for tripping. As Dejardins exited the box he ran into Ryan Kesler and was called for tripping. The Canucks got another stretch of 5-on-3 but were still unable to score. Over the course of the four minutes of some kind of advantage, the Canucks fired off 11 shots and had all of them turned away.
Then the third period started. 1:09 into the period the Canucks finally got on the board s Alex Burrows scored an unassisted goal. Five minutes later the Sharks returned the favor to get back their comfortable three goal lead, up 4-1 a quarter of the way into the period. A few minutes later things started to get crazy.
At the 11:22 mark of the third period, Jamie McGinn was called for boarding against Aaron Rome. The play resulted in a five minute major and a game misconduct that saw McGinn ejected from the contest. While it was probably a penalty-worthy call, it seems difficult to say it was worth ejecting McGinn. Whatever the case, Vancouver took full advantage of the five minute major as they netted two goals, one by Dan Hamhuis and one by Kevin Bieksa.
At this point Sharks fans had to be getting scared. This team has blown big leads a little too frequently for anybody’s comfort during the 2011 NHL playoffs. A quick search of twitter during this stretch will show a fanbase wracked with fear. Fortunately for Sharks fans, their boys held on and escaped with the victory. The Canucks had a couple chances late, but a penalty in the final minute ended any chance of forcing overtime.
The two squads will face off on Sunday in Game Four at 12:00pm pacific on NBC. Well, you know, assuming the world hasn’t come to an end before then. To enjoy the post-game celebration (or more likely big collective exhale), head on over to Fear The Fin.
San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said it best: "You're never really, really in trouble in a series until you lose a game at home." And it's true, all things considered. Sure, they're in a 2-0 series hole and were thoroughly beaten down in game two to the tune of 7-3, but that was in Vancouver, against a Canucks team that is, on paper, on about equal footing with the Sharks. Maybe home ice is what the Sharks need at this point.
Maybe Antti Niemi has the game of his life on the back of the fans at the HP Pavilion. Maybe rookie Logan Couture can recapture his momentum with Ryane Clowe and dominate on the lower lines while the top lines remain mostly even. Perhaps Patrick Marleau can continue to play with the fire he showed on game two when he got into that fight with Kevin Bieksa, with the hometown fans on his side.
Or perhaps maybe ... just maybe ... Ben Eager takes less stupid penalties this time out. It would be nice if Eager didn't spend twenty minutes in the box this time out, something like two or zero would be preferable. You can't place the game two blame on Eager by any stretch of the imagination, but when a team is down and trying to fight back, doing what he did is more of a problem than a solution.
So, less time in the box and a better penalty kill unit should be the key for the Sharks tonight, along with having their legs under them in the third period. That's two games in a row that saw largely balanced play through two periods, only to blow up in San Jose's face in the third. After game one, it was thought that they simply were too tired, but an extended layoff going into game two would seem to dispute that notion.
Only the Sharks can really tell us why they collapsed in the third period, and only the Sharks can make right on it with a win on Friday. Are they on their way to another four-game sweep in the conference finals, or will they shake this off and head back to Vancouver with the series tied at two? We'll see. The game starts at 6:00 p.m. pacific and it's on Versus.
The title isn't entirely accurate, in that the San Jose Sharks did look like a competent team who belonged in the Western Conference Finals through two periods of play, but the Vancouver Canucks absolutely ran away with the game in the third period, with four consecutive goals, two of them on the power play. It wasn't as though the Canucks beat up on the best the Sharks had to give with those four goals, but at that point, they had given up, so the 7-3 final score is more than justified.
However, the Sharks did show some kind of emotion in the game, if they showed anything at all. Unfortunately, it wasn't always the good kind of emotion. Ben Eager spent twenty minutes in the penalty box over three periods of play, before earning a ten-minute game misconduct. That's twenty minutes of a sixty minute hockey game, if you're just now getting familiar with the way things work around here. One third of the game. Eager went to the box in each period of play, but not every time was so bad.
There were a couple questionable calls, and there's a point where you see a guy going out there and hitting hard and saying "that's a good thing to do." Those times, of course, are when a player is trying to light a fire under his team and get them back in the game, and unfortunately, it didn't truly seem like Eager was trying to get his team back into the game. What it did seem like was Eager being petulant and jaded ... which of course, is also not an anomaly in hockey these days. But Eager let it run through the majority of the game and really did not help his team at all.
Things got especially worse when he scored late in the game while driving the net. Roberto Luongo went to the back of the net, and Eager did a fist pump and raised his hands in the air for a prolonged amount of time, while the rest of the Sharks simply got ready for the next shift. Eager decided it was best of him to talk a little trash, so he drifted back to the net, stood over it, and talked through it down at Luongo. He was taunting the Canucks, who at that point held a four-goal lead over the Sharks.
It was pretty embarrassing, honestly.
None of this is to see that the Sharks have Eager to blame for the loss - no - it took a team effort to lose this time out. Are they done? Certainly not, you do not have to panic until you've started losing at home. But where is the good emotion the title speaks of?
Well, Patrick Marleau, recently notable for being called gutless by Jeremy Roenick, and now notable for a three-game goal streak, got into a good bout of fisticuffs. Marleau dropped the gloves after being pushed and chopped at multiple times by Kevin Bieksa. Marleau isn't generally one to fight, and Bieksa is a veteran of such frozen fisticuffs. So what happened?
To put it nicely, he was quite beaten. When the fight is up on HockeyFights.com, the folks will surely score it for Bieksa, but it's a good sign for Sharks fans that Marleau took off the gloves. This wasn't some act of desperation and petulance like we saw from Eager earlier on, this was a guy, with his team still in the game, not getting pushed around by a guy on the Canucks. Roenick's earlier criticisms are, for the most part, unwarranted and they were at the time he said them, too. But this kind of fire is good for Marleau.
And when it all comes down to it, it's good for the Sharks, too. You don't want your best player going out there and getting into fights every time out, but this was an isolated incident that he probably needed. Sure, he got beat, but the general consensus seems to be "good for him."
The Sharks will need more emotion in game three at home. They'll need emotion from Marleau, emotion from Joe Thornton and head coach Todd McLellan. They will need the fans to be loud and as emotional as ever. They can probably do without Ben Eager and his emotion, however.
The San Jose Sharks are in a 2-0 series hole heading back home to hopefully get something going. Unfortunately, they have zero momentum after a demoralizing 7-3 loss in game two at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. Through one period, it was an extremely matched game, and though the Canucks took the lead in period two, it was still pretty even going into the third period. But that's where things broke down.
San Jose stopped skating after pucks and started playing slowly once again. The Canucks took advantage, and got goals out of basically everybody tonight. You might think that Antti Niemi had a bad game, but he actually played well up until the team around him gave up. It was clear that the Sharks gave up after a Chris Higgins power play goal to start the third period, and it showed as Vancouver lit the lamp three more times in the period.
Ben Eager went to the penalty box for the Sharks on five separate occasions, and none of them were good penalties to take. Expect more on Eager's antics after this recap is posted, but suffice to say he didn't make up for anything by scoring late in the third, considering the way he celebrated obnoxiously and got in the face of Roberto Luongo. It will be interesting to see how much he plays in game three, if at all.
These are two teams that squandered 3-0 series leads in these playoffs and two teams that we all knew were evenly matched. This is a game that got away from the Sharks, which is surprising, but a 2-0 series lead after two home games is not surprising for the Canucks. It's not time to hit the panic button, one just has to hope that the Sharks do not continue this level of play.
Instead of recounting the thirty or forty Canucks goals in this game and the myriad of penalties for the
Sharks Ben Eager, here are the notes as I took them during the game, with a more direct recap coming later on.
San Jose starts the dump-and-chase early, but they are actually chasing this time, unlike in game one. Less than two minutes in, the Sharks get a power play when Aaron Rome went to the box for tripping Joe Pavelski. After the first minute is killed, Logan Couture takes a feed from Dany Heatley right in front of the net, and makes a beautiful move to push the puck in past Roberto Luongo. Devin Setoguchi takes a high stick that isn't called, and he is hurt, but looks as though he'll return. The Sharks almost get another goal about four minutes in and some Sharks players celebrate, but the referee waves it off as it goes off the post. That was Ben Eager that almost put it in net. Raffi Torres and Ben Eager take roughing penalties at 5:40 and we've got a 4-on-4. Not much happens, though. The Canucks put on better pressure, and after we get to even strength, Joe Pavelski goes to the box for tripping. San Jose starts it off with a good clear, and then another, but with twenty seconds remaining, the Canucks have set up extended pressure in San Jose's zone. Henrik and Daniel Sedin combined to beat Antti Niemi, simple as that. It was a great feed, and Niemi had a chance to stop it, but it was too good of a set up and the game is tied with ten minutes to go in the first. Then Raffi Torres taps one in the net right in front of it after some blown coverage by the Sharks. Daniel Sedin is called for cross checking Dany Heatley, and the Sharks attack on their power play immediately. Patrick Marleau taps the puck in the net right in front of it when Joe Thornton put it in front from the side. The referees take an otherworldly amount of time to decide that it's good, though it really only takes one glance to see it. The teams exchange extended time on the forecheck in the following minutes, but nobody has any solid chances until the final two and a half minutes, both teams exchange chances, while Niemi and Luongo are forced to make great saves. Luongo goes flat on his stomach but still happens to get his glove in front of a puck somehow. As the period comes to an end, the official misses a high stick that drew blood on Joe Thornton right in front of him.
Pretty uneventful first three minutes, the Sharks getting more time in Vancouver's zone, but neither team gets any effective scoring opportunities. The first four minutes pass, Ian White goes down with an injury. The play is very balanced, Niemi has to make a couple good saves and the Sharks don't get a shot on goal for some time. It's a slower pace this period. Vancouver's time in San Jose's zone appears to be a lot more threatening than the time San Jose is spending in Vancouver's. As I type that, the Canucks take the puck across ice and Kevin Bieksa gets a goal on Antti Niemi to put the Canucks up 3-2. The Sharks just look complacent again. Play continues at a slow pace, the Sharks get a couple more chances to their credit, but Niemi is forced to make two great saves before the final two minutes are reached. For some reason, Patrick Marleau drops the gloves against Kevin Bieksa and both go off for fighting. Then, Ben Eager comes on the ice and gets penalized for hitting Daniel Sedin, he goes for boarding. 28 seconds of the power play is killed and then the period comes to an end.
The Sharks kill the remainder of the penalty with good clears. The Canucks are challenging the Sharks, like they did in game one. They've got the lead, and they're still fighting and attacking, and the Sharks are not getting the scoring opportunities they need. Eager goes to the penalty box for the second time, this one for tripping, though it's a soft call. The power play comes through, and Chris Higgins beats Niemi, who is perfectly screened. The Canucks have a 4-2 lead and the Sharks are on their heels. The Sharks have a good opportunity but are called for too-many-men on the ice and the Canucks are on a power play. They utilize good passing and get the goal no problem, the Sharks offer no resistance at that point. Daniel Sedin sinks it in to give the Canucks a 5-2 lead. The Sharks have given up on this game, as they don't even get time in Vancouver's zone, the Canucks come back and score again, this time it's Aaron Rome. The Sedins have taken the game over. Ryane Clowe goes to the box for roughing and the Canucks get yet another power play. With only a couple seconds remaining, they set up a good pass and beat Niemi again. 7-2 Canucks. It looks like Ben Eager scores and then
Game one against the Vancouver Canucks was not the first time we've seen the San Jose Sharks have a late collapse to squander a lead. In fact, it wasn't even the first time we've seen them do it in these 2011 playoffs. It's always a worrying proposition when a team, known for choking by the media, falls apart the way the Sharks did in the third period, but if you would like it spun in a positive light (because it should be), you shouldn't start assuming all is lost by any stretch of the imagination. This is a best-of-seven series, and the Sharks are not out of things yet, and in fact are in it a lot more than most thought before the puck dropped in game one.
Predictions, of course, were all over the board in regards to San Jose's chances. The experts and bettors all were siding with the Canucks, and with good reason: they're the number one seed who dominated the regular season and have overcome all challenges thus far in the playoffs. The Sharks, however, are the number two seed and can be applied the same moniker in regards to points two and three. If game one showed us anything, it showed us that any definitive prediction one way or the other had an equal chance of being correct.
We saw two periods of strong play from the Sharks, the first of which was very balanced and precise, while the second one was domination up until a late onslaught by the Canucks that yielded no points thanks to the strong goaltending of Antti Niemi. This shows that the Sharks can hang with the so-called juggernaut of the Western Conference. The problem, of course, was the third period.
It's true that fundamentally, the Sharks fell apart in a lot of ways, playing dump-and-chase hockey with a lot more dump than chase, and generally failing to get anything together offensively. When the Canucks took a one-goal lead and the Sharks spent even more time in their defensive zone, it was very much a foregone conclusion that the game was essentially over. But was it a total meltdown, or was it more a product of something like exhaustion? This writer is inclined to believe the latter. It was a short turnover from the Red Wings series, they had to travel to Vancouver, and the Canucks were already rested, winning their semifinal series in six games over the Nashville Predators.
You can't blame everything on fatigue, but the Sharks definitely looked like they lost their legs in the third. It bodes well for them that game two isn't until Wednesday, it will give them time to rest and get their legs back. At any rate, if the Sharks fall in gametwo by way of some late-game meltdown, it will not be from exhaustion, that's for sure. Game two is on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. pacific.
Patrick Marleau gets a beautiful tip-in from a Dan Boyle soft wrister from the point to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 lead over the Vancouver Canucks heading into the third period. It was a strong second period from the Sharks that really only broke down in the final minutes, when Vancouver put the puck on Antti Niemi multiple times, but he held fast. They had the lead, and they looked good through the first forty minutes of play. The crowd was quiet, Roberto Luongo was mildly shook, and, while no lead is ever safe and overconfidence is something to be wary of, they really should have been confident heading into the third period.
Perhaps they were, perhaps they weren't, all that's clear is that they apparently forgot how to play top-level hockey when they took the ice for the final frame. All credit to the Canucks, both third period goals that would eventually lift them to the 3-2 final score were beautiful setups with fantastic passes, but the Sharks played that third period like they didn't care. That isn't to say that they definitely did not care, that's just the best way to put it metaphorically. It's stupid to insinuate that they actually didn't, but there was not a lot to like about the Sharks play in that third period.
Alex Burrows drove the net and sent Kevin Bieksa a beautiful feed that tied the game. This was followed by a Dany Heatley penalty for elbowing (which may or may not have been a good call, certainly doesn't look like there's any intent there, appeared incidental, but Heatley isn't the kind of player to ever get the benefit of the doubt) and one of the best cross-ice passes of these playoffs from Christian Ehrhoff to Henrik Sedin, who buries it to gie the Canucks the lead.
The other two goals were scored by Joe Thornton, when he got things started in the first intercepting a mis-played puck by Luongo to fire it in unassisted, and Maxim Lapierre, who scored early in the second, taking advantage of yet another mis-played puck, this one by Niemi. Speaking of Niemi, to his credit, he looked good once again, but was not helped much by his team. He stopped 35-of-38 for a .921%, while Luongo stopped 27-of-29 for a .931%.
How discouraged should the Sharks be, when it all comes down to it? They really are the only ones who can answer that kind of question, but they have a couple days to sit on it. The Canucks did not change really anything about their game going into the third period, the Sharks just stopped fighting for the puck, and stopped playing with urgency. They were already slightly on their heels early on in the game, going with the dump-and-chase, sans the chase.
Below is the full bit of notes I took during the game, just to give a bit of a play-by-play. These notes are unedited.
Sharks win the faceoff after much jockeying, and the two teams exchange time in eachothers' zone. Through four minutes, neither team is giving up any solid opportunities, there's no terrible giveaways, etc. The Canucks get in on Antti Niemi a few times, but he makes solid saves. San Jose seems like they're more content to dump the puck away for some reason. At 10:51, Douglas Murray is called for hi sticking and the Sharks are on a penalty kill. The Sharks play well within their own zone and kill the penalty without getting as many clears as you might think. No shots on goal for the Canucks on that power play. Then, Ben Eager goes to the box for interference and it's another weak call in which he was making run-of-the-mill contact and the Canucks player hit Roberto Luongo, so the Canucks are on another power play. It's very physical play thus far, the matchups from a player-to-player standpoint are all hard-fought. Near the end of the period, Luongo goes behind the net to play the puck, and sends it toward one of his players, but it's stolen by Joe Thornton, who shoots it immediately and gets it between the pads of a diving and sliding Luongo. The period ends with the Sharks being outshot 11-10, outhit 15-12, and losing in the circle 12-5. However, it was a very balanced period, the Sharks need to do a better job when entering the Vancouver zone, they're dumping pucks in from far, far back.
Balanced play for the first minute or so, but the Canucks get on the board quickly. The Sharks are sloppy in their own zone and they lose sight of Maxim Lapierre, who is in front of Niemi and taps it in before anybody sees him. Niemi made the bad choice to play the puck up the boards, and thats where the Sharks lost sight of it. Following the goal, Kent Huskins is called for hooking and the Sharks are on a penalty kill once again. The power play is uneventful though, and the Sharks get the kill without any solid chances by the Canucks. That's three power plays for Vancouver, and none for San Jose, and I say that right as a Sharks player gets cross checked in front of Luongo and the referees don't call it. The Sharks pass it back and forth in their own zone and wait for it, letting the Canucks come in. Then, Joe Pavelski is lit up in the neutral zone by Chris Higgins, and shortly after that, Mason Raymond goes to the penalty box for holding. Near the end of the power play, Dan Boyle puts a soft wrister on the net, and Patrick Marleau taps it in to put the Sharks up 2-1. With five minutes to go, the Sharks are keeping good pressure on and playing much better hockey in comparison to the first period. The Canucks get a could good opportunities with five minutes to go, then the Sharks get some of their own for about a minute, and the Canucks get a couple more opportunities. There's about a ten second battle right in front of Antti Niemi, who makes two great saves with very limited space, and then the Canucks set up another chance and Niemi has to make another great save. San Jose is really out of sorts with under two minutes to go, they need a puck stoppage and eventually they get one. The end of the period is dominated by a swarming Canucks team, but Niemi really comes up big and the period ends with San Jose having dominated at least 15 minutes of it. The Canucks still out-shoot the Sharks 25-22, but San Jose had a 13-5 margin in the faceoffs to 18-17 overall.
San Jose is aggressive early on and Luongo is forced to make a big save early on. Then, the Canucks get started with their lower lines, the only line to score at this point, and they force Niemi to make a great kick save. San Jose looks like they're going into a pseudo defense mode and don't attack the puck in Vancouver's zone for the first four minutes of play. Eventually, that level of play hurts the Sharks, and the Canucks set up a great pass to tie the game. Alex Burrows drives the net and feeds Kevin Bieksa, who buries it. Then, Dany Heatley goes to the box for elbowing Raffi Torres and the Sharks are on another penalty kill. The power play comes through and the Canucks take the lead Henrik Sedin gets the goal. The Canucks are playing like a team is supposed to with a one-goal lead: they're attacking and keeping aggressive, which the Sharks neglected to do coming into the third period. They continue to attack and the Sharks really only have one scoring chance, with about five minutes left, when Kyle Wellwood put the puck at the net. With under three minutes to go, Dan Boyle goes to the box and then Lapierre goes as well for embellishing. The Sharks go with the empty net during the 4-on-4, but they continue their style of "dump and chase" that hasn't worked all game. They lose, 3-2.
It's all come down to this, these Western Conference Finals between the number one and two seeds (a contrast to the Eastern Conference, currently up for grabs by the third and fifth seeds) and multiple-time playoff "chokers." Tonight (Sunday), the San Jose Sharks get things going in Vancouver against the Canucks at the Rogers Center. The puck drops at 5:00 p.m. pacific time and will be shown on Versus, so what kind of game can you expect to see?
Uh .... well ... it will be good?
The analysis for this kind of matchup is, truthfully, endless. So much can be said about these teams and the talent on them. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe represent strong, veteran threats for the Sharks, while Ryan Kesler's indomitable will is setting a wonderful precedent for confidence in the Canucks, and at any moment, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin could break out of their shells and play strong in the playoffs for once.
That's without even taking into account that two goalies on absolute tears of late in Antti Niemi and Roberto Luongo will be facing off. Both goalies suffered up-and-down first series, only to come back and make great save after great save in round two. Luongo has the experience and veteran's grit, while Niemi already has a Stanley Cup victory to his credit. On his way to attaining that cup, he did shut down the Canucks in the semifinals as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, so he's got that going for him as well.
There is just so much talent doing battle right now, with two talent-heavy teams. It starts with the goaltending, but it will then become a battle of top lines and depth. The Canucks are a very strong team all around, but they possess some of the best defensive depth in the league, while the Sharks are probably the most offensive-laden team when it comes to depth. Do the Canucks have deeper defense than the Sharks have offense? Players like Logan Couture, Dany Heatley and the aforementioned Clowe will have a much tougher time, whereas in past series, they were the guys who came through for the Sharks when the top lines canceled eachother out.
Now, the top lines will be absolutely instrumental. San Jose needs to win the battles up top, and they definitely can if at their best ... it all hinges on whether or not the Canucks are the best. Oddsmakers are having a hard time with this fight and so is this writer, everything is so up in the air. After game one, needless to say there will be much more to write about and discuss once we see where this is going.
The Canucks got the better of the Sharks in the regular season, taking three of four games, but that's all out the window in the playoffs. They've never faced eachother in the playoffs, so what better time than now? Let's see what happens.
Seeing as how it's the semifinals and there's only four teams left in all this, it's time to start focusing on the Eastern Conference as well, so we can identify which team the San Jose Sharks are bound to face when the inevitably stomp the Vancouver Canucks. That last sentence, of course, was a joke - it will be a very hard-fought series, but either way, let's cast a quick look over to that game.
The Tampa Bay Lightning came to Boston with upset on the mind, and they definitely delivered, taking down the Bruins 5-2 in a game that was closer than the final score would indicate. The disparity came in the first period, when the Lightning scored three times on Tim Thomas within an 85-second span. Sean Bergenheim lit the lamp with 8:45 left to go in the opening frame, and two others, Brett Clark with 8:25 to go and Teddy Purcell with 7:20 to go, would add to that.
It sucked all of the air out of the building, but the Bruins weren't to be deterred. It wasn't luck or anything of that sort that led to the Lightning goals, but it was definitely a lapse not befitting the Bruins we've seen thus far in these 2011 playoffs. They illustrated that with a Tyler Seguin goal before the period came to a close. In periods two and three, there was really no point where they hemorrhaged goals or high shot volume, they just simply couldn't make up the ground they lost in the first. The Lightning kept piling it on, with a power play goal and then an empty-netter, before the Bruins scored again with less than two minutes remaining.
While this writer doesn't think that the play from either team will stay in the same vein throughout the remainder of the series, the Lightning have to feel good about themselves, fighting as underdogs in both series so far and now with a one-game lead while doing it again. They'd love to take another in Boston before heading to Tampa.
The tables are set for the conference finals, as the second-seeded San Jose Sharks are set to take on the first-seeded Vancouver Canucks for the Western Conference crown, while the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning are facing off for the opportunity to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. Of note for San Jose is the fact that, as mentioned, they are the second seed, which means they won't have home-ice advantage in the event of a game seven, something that has been a mainstay for the Sharks in recent years. However, they've played their best under adversity this season, so perhaps being without that advantage will help them in the end.
Here's the entire schedule for both conference finals, taking into account the possibility of seven games for each series.
#1 Vancouver Canucks Western Conference Finals Versus #2 San Jose Sharks
Sunday, May 15th at Vancouver, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
Wednesday, May 18th at Vancouver, 6:00 p.m. on Versus
Friday, May 20th at San Jose, 6:00 p.m. on Versus
Sunday, May 22nd at San Jose, 12:00 p.m. on NBC
*Tuesday, May 24th at Vancouver, 6:00 p.m. on Versus
*Thursday, May 26th at San Jose, 6:00 p.m. on Versus
*Saturday, May 28th at Vancouver, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
#3 Boston Bruins Eastern Conference Finals Versus #5 Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday, May 14th at Boston, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
Tuesday, May 17th at Boston, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
Thursday, May 19th at Tampa Bay, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
Saturday, May 21st at Tampa Bay, 10:30 a.m. on NBC
*Monday, May 23rd at Boston, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
*Wednesday, May 25th at Tampa Bay, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
*Friday, May 27th at Boston, 5:00 p.m. on Versus
When the 2011 NHL Playoffs began, the Vancouver Canucks were widely favored to win the whole thing. Now they're here in the Western Conference Finals, but they didn't have the easiest of time getting here, like most figured they would. Their quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks went the distance to game seven, and going into said game seven, they didn't have any momentum going their way and in fact, most figured they were going to blow it. They gritted through it, and faced the Nashville Predators in round two. It wasn't the easiest of times in that case either, but they definitely powered through with less difficult than round one.
Now they're taking on the San Jose Sharks, a team who faced a very similar road in getting to this point, winning a mostly-comfortable series 4-2 over the Los Angeles Kings in round one, then struggling mighty against the powerhouse that is the Detroit Red Wings in round two, dropping three-straight games after a 3-0 series lead, only to win it in game seven on the back of a Patrick Marleau goal.This marks the second straight western conference final for the Sharks, though fans would sooner rather forget the 2009-2010 campaign, in which they were swept by the aforementioned Blackhawks (en route to their eventual Stanley Cup win) in four games.
Back to who indeed was favored to win - most had the Canucks as the most likely, with the Washington Capitals second most likely. Safe to say at this point that the Capitals won't be winning anything this year (perhaps a round of golf?), but what about the Sharks? They were right there rated as the third most likely to win it all, and according to Vegas, it was a pretty good chance. But the perception regarding the Canucks by Vegas and the general population was and is still very fair: they're, on paper, the strongest team left in the playoffs, and this is very likely an uphill battle for the Sharks.
An uphill battle that they feel like they can win, because at this level, there are no weak teams. The Red Wings were a team that nobody would have been surprised to see win the Stanley Cup when it's all said and done. The Kings would have been a mild surprise, but the young talent on that team is unquestionable, and the Sharks had two very hard-fought series' with which to battle-test themselves.
It was an entire season of battle-testing for San Jose, who suffered multiple lows to go with the highs, unlike past seasons in which they dominated on their way to a number one seed. They fought out of the third seed at the end of this regular season, and now they'll fight uphill once again, taking on the first-seeded Canucks. So if we see a game seven this time around, it will be played in Vancouver, not San Jose.
The Sharks will have all kinds of weapons to contend with, the least of which isn't Roberto Luongo, who is one of three finalists for this year's Vezina Trophy. They're no stranger to strong goaltending at this point, with Jonathan Quick of the Kings and Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings both turning in very respectable performances just about every time out., but Luongo at his best is clearly a cut above the both of them. Unfortunately for Vancouver, Luongo hasn't been at his best in these playoffs, but he sets up a good parallel with Sharks' goalie Antti Niemi. Both players turned in below-average starts in the first round of the playoffs, and then both were virtually unstoppable in round two.
Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin have received an otherworldly amount of flack for their performances in the postseason, and they haven't done anything this year to change that. However, the Canucks are getting closer, and the dangerous duo could easily switch on at any moment and be a force against the Sharks. For now, San Jose needs to keep their eyes on Ryan Kesler, who had five goals (two game-winners) and eleven points in the series against the Predators.
However, San Jose is not without weapons on their own, on top of the aforementioned strong goalie play from Niemi in round two. Joe Thornton is really rising to the occasion and playing some of the best hockey of his career, while Patrick Marleau may or may not capitalize on his game-winner in game seven against the Red Wings. With him, you never really know. Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe continue to be relentless in their pursuit of the puck, and nobody on the team is really playing badly by any stretch of the imagination.
These are the number one and number two seeds, the titans of the Western Conference and probably the entire NHL. The winner of this series stands a very good chance of winning the cup entirely, and one of these two teams will be able to shake off the perception of postseason choking. What has happened in the regular season has never been a good indication for success in the playoffs when it comes to these two clubs, so game one will tell us an awful lot.
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