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NHL Playoffs, Blackhawks vs. Sharks, Game 4: Chicago breaks out the harpoon

“I’m pleased and happy to repeat the news that we have, in fact, caught and killed a large predator that supposedly injured some bathers. But, as you see, it’s a beautiful day, the beaches are open and people are having a wonderful time.”

“Back home we got a taxidermy man. He gonna have a heart attack when he see what I brung him.”

- “Jaws”

If only another team had somehow made it through to the Western Conference finals other than the Chicago Blackhawks. This was finally the year for the San Jose Sharks, it seemed, as they looked to have slain the playoff demons that have troubled them the past few years. Even Joe Thornton had stepped up and was playing a higher level than he ever had before during his time with the Sharks in the playoffs, giving hope to Sharks fans that this would be different.

Chicago Blackhawks vs. San Jose Sharks, Game 4 3:00 p.m. EDT, May 23, 2010 Live on NBC Blackhawks lead series 3-0

We’ve already seen this year that coming back from a 0-3 deficit in a playoffs series is not exactly impossible. Yet it’s happened just three times in the history of the NHL and it’s doubtful we can expect to see it twice in a year. That being said, can I doubt the San Jose Sharks are just going to roll over and give up.

No team in this position, facing elimintation just four games into a playoffs series, expected this to happen and certainly not the Sharks. They are a great team, extremely talented and deep and nearly unstoppable all season long. And despite almost certainly being eliminated, if not today then in the next four games, the Sharks can at least look themselves in the mirror and say they’ve played as near to their best that they can.

The Sharks, for most of the playoffs, have rolled on offense and put an incredible amount of shots on net in most of the games. They were able to eventually overcome inspired goaltending by Craig Anderson in the first round and then eventually dispatch Jimmy Howard and the Red Wings in the second round. Perhaps the Wings were as tired as some thought that might be after such a long and tough season, but the Sharks rolled easily against Detroit to move on the Conference finals.

Yet here, they face a team that is clearly more talented than the Sharks are and despite at least putting forth respectable effort have yet to be able to overcome the edge the Blackhawks have.

That edge, despite the play of Dave Bolland and Dustin Byfuglien, is the performance of Antti Niemi in net. The Sharks have played the Blackhawks as hard and as tough as possible in two games and walked away losers of two one-goal games. Niemi provided the big saves that the Sharks weren’t getting from Evgeni Nabokov, negating the high amount of rubber they were flinging at the net.

You have to respect the heart they finally showed in Game 3, something that had been missing this series, as they fought back from a disheartening late goal by the Hawks despite the fact the Sharks had controlled play in the third period. They buckled down, crashed the net and tied the game to send it into overtime.

Overtime, in Game 3, and one shot hammered every nail but one into the coffin that is the 2009-10 season for the San Jose Sharks.

So now, despite the fact it has already been done once this year, from here on out it’s more of a matter of pride. One game at a time, win this one and worry about the next game when it comes. Show that this is not a Sharks team that goes easily, despite being down three games to none in one hell of a frustrating series against the Blackhawks.