When a team faces elimination, you expect them to play with the “Oh no, I forgot that I put a pizza in the oven an hour ago!” urgency. There’s the expectation that their legs and arms will move faster than normal, sometimes to the point of clumsiness.
Instead, in the second round, it felt like quite a few of those teams were instead mashing on the snooze button.
The Stars went down 3-0 in the first period and never recovered. The Islanders were guilty of sleepwalking through their final game of the year. The Capitals deserve credit for pushing the Penguins into overtime, yet they still made some significant mistakes in falling behind 3-0.
The Predators fell into the same trap and couldn’t wade through the metaphorical quicksand against the Sharks on Thursday.
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SHARKS 5, PREDATORS 0 (San Jose advances after winning the series 4-3)
-- Picking between the Sharks and Blues is not easy, but I’m going with my gut in picking the Sharks. The Blues are riding some pretty wild percentages in leaning heavily on Brian Elliott and some timely scoring, and while the Sharks experienced some of their own (especially their very productive power play), I think that San Jose’s just a little too polished. The Blues have looked pretty wonky in their zone and haven’t always transitioned as smoothly as you’d expect from a contender.
Now, this could have a lot to do with the Blues facing two challenging Central Division opponents, so we’ll see. Playoff picks are tough, folks.
-- With three points in Game 7, Logan Couture stands alone in postseason scoring with 17 points in 12 games. In my mind, Brent Burns might be an even more important piece for the Sharks in that he seems nearly unstoppable, and it shows in his production: 15 points of his own, tied with Jamie Benn for second in points through two rounds.
The highest-ranked Blues are Vladimir Tarasenko and Robby Fabbri who are both at 13 points. Colin Wilson led the Predators with 13 of his own; it will be interesting to see if Wilson can take another step forward. He doesn’t have the greatest regular season numbers, but there have been flashes of brilliance here and there.
-- If you’re going to fashion goat horns for anyone, don’t blame Game 7 on Pekka Rinne.
Maybe he’d want a goal or two back, but the Sharks dominated the contest when things were still in reach. If anything, this is probably on Shea Weber and Roman Josi, both going -3 in the game with each star blueliner guilty of some serious flubs. This wasn’t as much “wrong place, wrong time” as it was Weber and Josi suffering through rough games.
-- The Predators took out Rinne after the 5-0 goal. Carter Hutton only faced one SOG in 16:06 TOI, giving you a good idea of how over that game was by then. (Pretty pathetic that Nashville only managed 20 SOG even with what you would expect to see some comeback urgency.)
Speaking of Hutton, the Predators need to make a stand during the summer.
Rinne bounced back for the most part, at least if you lower your expectations from "franchise/elite goalie" to "starter." Even so, the Predators need a backup who can be the 1B if needed, especially if Rinne struggles in 2016-17 like he did much of this past season.
Just because Nashville is committed to its $7 million goalie doesn't mean they can't get a better Plan B. They'd be foolish not to.
-- The Sharks' elder statesmen have been looking pretty good.
Joe Thornton now has 11 points in 12 playoff games after generating exactly a point-per-game in 82 regular season contests. Jumbo Joe is currently on a four-game point streak (1G, 5A).
Patrick Marleau's numbers aren't as impressive, although he's ramped things up after a so-so regular season (albeit with 25 goals).
With a goal and an assist in Game 7, Marleau has a solid nine points in 12 playoff contests. Imagine he's not quite as eager to leave San Jose now?