What’s missing from this San Jose Sharks team? Heart.
If there’s one thing we can count on every postseason, it’s the endless supply of articles that rip the San Jose Sharks to shreds for yet another playoffs disappointment. This year, I had hopes that perhaps we could avoid all that -- as fun as it may be -- and even if the Chicago Blackhawks won the Conference finals we could sit back and say “well, at least they gave it their best shot.”
After two games, it appears that won’t be the case.
In Game 1, you could say that the Sharks were just unlucky as they hit an Antti Niemi that was suddenly on fire. They outplayed the Hawks for much of Game 1, and for at least the first part of Game 2. While plenty of inked will be spilled writing about yet another Joe Thornton collapse, much of the attention should be on the play of Evgeni Nabokov; specifically, how the soft goals he allows suck every ounce of life out of the team in front of him.
You could say that Game 1 was an anomaly; a hard fought, close game in which the Sharks just couldn’t score on Niemi. Yet in Game 2, the team was grossly outplayed for much of the contest and it all started with a deflating first goal. Coach Todd McLellan and Joe Pavelski agree:
"(That) goal took a lot out of us for some reason,” coach Todd McClellan admitted. “You could feel it on the bench. It took us a while to climb back and get the energy level back up where it needed to be.”
“Didn’t have nearly enough guys out there,” revealed Joe Pavelski said after Chicago thumped San Jose 4-2 to take the proverbial commanding 2-0 series lead. “When we have won so far this season, it’s been a commitment by everybody. Everybody’s showed up, and that’s what we need.”
After two games, this is not a case of Niemi stealing wins, as I’ve seen Sharks fans boast on Twitter. Instead, this is yet another instance of a team not being able to step up and hit that extra gear with the opposing teams take the game to another level.
This isn’t an issue with talent, this has to do with heart. For whatever reason, this Sharks team -- like others before -- is incapable of rising to the challenge with the stakes are at their highest.
You see it nearly every season and it’s painful to watch; a team with all the talent in the world falls by the wayside as a stronger and mentally tough team takes them out. It’s not about matchups and overall talent, it’s about just how much each team wants this win. Sometimes wanting it isn’t enough, sometimes the pressure is just too much.
Sometimes, the core of your team is missing something vital for playoff success.