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To say the Sharks game Tuesday Night at Columbus versus the Blue Jackets was arguably their worst effort of this season would only be a gross understatement. The Sharks fell behind 4-0 to the last place team in the Western Conference in the first period and never recovered as the Blue Jackets (yes, the Blue Jackets) cruised to an easy 6-3 win over a apparently free fall ready team teal. Jeff Carter had a hat trick which included two power play goals in the first period as the Blue Jackets jumped all over team teal both early and often. Antti Niemi had maybe his worst game as a professional giving up three goals on 11 shots and was pulled out of the game by Coach Todd McLellan with 4:42 left in the first period. Thomas Greiss came in out of the bullpen and did what he could do to hold the fort for team teal. Realistically that’s all Greiss could do.
The Sharks still technically lead the Pacific Division having 69 points in 58 games. With Phoenix’s overtime win over the LA Kings, the Coyotes have tied the Sharks with 69 points through 60 games. The Anaheim Ducks, who at one point trailed the Sharks by 18 points in the Pacific Division standings, now are just nine points behind. There really is no way around it, if something does not change for team teal and soon this team may be close to a complete free fall. Right now, all bets may be off as far as the post season is concerned. The Sharks have three games left on this road trip where they have dropped five of six, and seven of nine overall. The Sharks are going to have to dig deeper just to win another game on this less than stellar road trip.
Saying Goodbye to Columbus:
Season’s Worst First- The first period for the Sharks was the single worst period of hockey they have played this season and maybe for a few seasons. The Sharks did have some good scoring chances early as Ryane Clowe and Michal Handzus had solid shots on goal that Columbus goalie Steve Mason was able to save. The Sharks and Blue Jackets played fairly even for the first four and a half minutes, after that it was all Blue Jackets all night. RJ Umberger scored the game’s first goal as he stuffed the puck under Niemi who seemed confused as to the rubber biscuit’s whereabouts after he blocked Grant Clitsome’s shot. The Blue Jackets led 1-0 with 15:05 left in the first, or 55:05 left in the Sharks worst nightmare of a game.
A few moments later Joe Pavelski would get a two minute strange unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for snowing the goalie. Though it may have been one of the worst penalty calls the Sharks have seen in awhile, it still proved very costly as the Blue Jackets made quick work of the power play opportunity as J Carter scored the first of his three goals just 28 seconds in to the man advantage. Rick Nash later in the period would tally his 20th goal of the season, and Carter would get his second power play goal of the evening with just 30 seconds left in the first period. The Sharks were down 4-0 and could only sole search for answers that would not soon be found on this evening. Maybe the lone highlight for the Sharks was Tommy Wingles sticking up for himself in taking on Umberger in a fight towards the end of the period.
A Temporary Ray of Hope – Five minutes into the second period the Sharks would tally two goals of their own within a 26 second span to cut the Blue Jackets lead in half. Joe Thornton tipped in a slap shot from Collin White, and Logan Couture just seconds later drilled a slap shot past Mason to draw the Sharks to within 4-2. The Sharks would carry the momentum for a little while. The Sharks at one point of the second period out shot Columbus 8-0 and had a few chances to pull to within one goal of the Blue Jackets, however nothing more would materialize. The game changer for the period would occur when Clowe was called for a double minor penalty that gave the Blue Jackets a four minute power play. Clowe was singled out by the officials who certainly had no good will towards team teal this evening. Clowe was called for cross checking and unsportsmanlike conduct for slamming the door in the penalty box (Clowe apparently also had a choice word of the officials too).
The Sharks would do a decent job in killing off the penalty however would fall 38 seconds short of a complete penalty kill when David Savard will drill a wrister that beat Greiss as Umberger screened out the Sharks relief net minder (never mind that he was in the crease, but no goalie interference was called). With Columbus back up by three goals they were able to settle back and just play “rope-a-dope” with the Sharks for the remainder of period as they held team teal to four shots in goal in the final nine minutes. The Blue Jackets had three power play goals to turn a hat trick in that category as well.
Teal Cannon Fodder- Any aspirations the Sharks had about getting back into the contest were nixed somewhat quickly as Carter completed his personal hat trick just 1:26 into the final period. Couture would score on a power play goal to notch his second tally of the game with 11:25 remaining in the final period. Just seconds later Jamie McGinn would be denied a goal as a shot that hit the crossbar was ruled not to have hit the inside of the goal or cross the goal line. The rest of the contest for team teal was just an exercise in frustration and futility that quite frankly could not end soon enough. The same could probably be said for the plane flight leaving Columbus for Toronto.
Game Analysis- The Sharks did have one bright spot in this otherwise abysmal game. Couture scored two goals and played strong shifts throughout. Do not blame this one on Couture, he did his part and then some. As far as the goalies go, it probably would not have mattered if the Sharks started Niemi or Greiss. For his efforts, Greiss deserves combat pay for this one as he truly took one for the team. Niemi is entitled to a bad game as any goalie would be. As bad as this game was, it would not have mattered of the Sharks had started either Niemi or “Slappy” in goal, team teal’s overall performance was that bad.
To expand any further on this debacle would be about as constructive as a Jerry Springer “final thought”. There is not to much more that can be said here. The Sharks are at the crossroads of their season right here and right now. There are only two ways they can go from here, up or down. If the Sharks are to go up, much needs to happen and fairly quickly. The Sharks must play through this slide and get back on track starting Thursday night in Toronto. If the Sharks don’t get this straightened out soon, it could mean several things right down to sweeping changes within the organization after April 7th. The Sharks need to step up things and in a hurry. In the NHL, “9″ is the loneliest number, as in the 9th seed. If the Sharks are not careful or smart here, they will almost certainly be one of those teams on the outside looking in come playoff time. At this moment all post season bets are off for team teal. That’s all I’ve got for this one…
GO SHARKS!!! REGROUP AND LETS GET AFTER THE LEAFS!!!
The King Shark
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