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.