The San Jose Sharks, who have made the Western Conference Finals the past two seasons have made one thing very crystal clear this season. A return engagement to the Western Conference Finals and their first ever trip to the Stanley Cup Finals this season are at best highly, make that extremely unlikely. The St Louis Blues Saturday Night came into the Shark Tank and handed team teal their hats again as Jaroslav Halak made 18 routine saves as the Blues defense completely dominated the offensively challenged Sharks in a 3-1 victory over team teal. The Blues played 60 solid minutes as once again they overpowed the Sharks who simply had no answers…again. Two of three of the Blues goals came on the power play while the Sharks with the man advantage seldom could get into the Blues defensive zone. The Sharks continue to slump and if something soon isn’t righted, “the slump” will become “the fade”.
To make matters even worse, for the second straight game night the Sharks failed to capitalize on the news that Pacific Division leader Phoenix had lost again. The Coyotes dropped a 5-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the desert earlier. The Sharks did get Douglas Murray and Logan Couture back tonight, however neither player looked to be 100 percent and were basically ineffective. The Sharks did not lack healthy players, but they seemingly lack the skills to compete with a much improved St Louis Blues team who went 4-0-0 against team teal outscoring 11-3 on the season. Outside of maybe the first meeting between the two teams back on October 15th, the games were not really close. The reality here is this, even if the Sharks somehow prevail in the Pacific Division and get the 3rd seed in the west, right now it’s hard to imagine how they’ll beat anyone. They certainly would not beat the Blues, that may go four and out just like the regular season did.
Recaping A Night of Blues:
Sharks Sing The Blues (again)- The Sharks came out firing on all cylinders and provided those who were already seated by the time the national anthem had ended about two and a half minutes of hard charging hockey. For the late arrivals, you’ll just have to ask those who were there early or watched it on TV to tell you what it was like. No sooner did the Sharks come out firing on all cylinders, they would find themselves getting into early penalty trouble that would prove very costly. TJ Galiardi would find himself to be the recipient of a high sticking penalty that rewarded him with two minutes in the penalty box that the Sharks certainly didn’t need. For a few seconds, it actually looked like the Sharks may actually burn the Blues. Off of a block of a Kevin Shattenkirk shot by Patrick Marleau the puck came out to the neutral zone where Marleau took control of it and had a break away chance at a short handed goal. Marleau got to the Blues slot where he fired a shot that Halak saved. Off of Halak’s save Alex Pietrangelo got ahold of the puck and passed it over to Andy McDonald who carried it up ice before giving it to Shattenkirk in the neutral zone.
Shattenkirk then pitched the puck towards the boards behind the Sharks net. As Sharks goalie Antti Niemi went back to retrieve the puck as four teal sweaters watched, the puck ricocheted off of the boards away from Niemi. McDonald skated freely towards the puck and putted in what was probably the easiest goal anyone in the NHL has scored this season. St Louis took a 1-0 lead in what had to be one of the most embarrassing moments in Sharks franchise history. All Sharks on the ice just stared at one another not quite sure what to make of what had just happened. Hopefully Coach Todd McLellan, who missed his third straight game with a concussion did not see this. If he did, chances are he may have banged his head against the nearest wall or desk, table, etc.
The Temporary Thrill- The Sharks and Blues would exchange scoring opportunities throughout the first period, with the Blues establishing a better forecheck and keeping Niemi busy and keeping team teal chasing the puck in their defensive zone. As the game would go on, the Blues forechecking would ultimately wear down the Sharks on the evening. Niemi to his credit did his best to keep the Sharks in the game and he did make 29 saves on the evening. Midway though the first period, Niemi made an impressive stand on a scoring chance by St. Louis when he denied a slap shot by McDonald which was followed by Patrik Berglund attempt to stuff the puck from the rebound. The Sharks would catch a break with 4:30 remaining in the period when Torrey Mitchell got ahold of the rubber biscuit in the Blues defensive zone and threw it towards the net. The puck somehow managed to squeek past Halak into a small opening and dropped into the net to tie the game.
No sooner did the Sharks tie the game and the fans were buzzing at the Tank when the Blues would quickly quiet the crowd and team teal’s jubilation. The Blues just needed 20 seconds to take back the lead as TJ Oshie tipped Carlo Colaiacovo’s slap shot past Niemi to put St Louis back on top. For the remaining 44:10 of the game, the Tank would be almost quieter than the San Jose Public Library on a Sunday night. The period ended with the Blues leading 2-1. However for the Sharks, their long night had only begun.
Black & Blues- The Blues took control of the contest in the second period at set their tone for a dominant performance that would continue for the remaining 40 minutes. St Louis’ forecheck and defensive pressure was simply more than the Sharks could even begin to handle as the evening wore on. The Blues out shot team teal 12-3 in the second period with Niemi doing whatever he could to keep the game from getting out of hand. Dominic Moore was goaded into an interference penalty that was a little questionable. The Sharks would kill the Blues penalty and briefly caught some momentum. Team teal put some pressure on in the St Louis zone however Halak was having none of it as he turned away shots from Dan Boyle, Marleau and Murray. The Blues forecheck soon would take over and dominate. Eventually the Blues grip on the Sharks defense lured Justin Braun into the penalty box for cross checking. The Sharks misfortune would continue as the St. Louis made the most of the opportunity as Shattenkirk would stuff in the rebound of Pietrangelo’s wrist shot. With the Blues up 3-1, the Sharks faced a mountain to climb. However, it’s tough to climb even the smallest hills if you cannot gain any traction.
The Sharks would have a couple of power play chances in the second period. The first one came with Vladimir Sobotka drawing a two minute minor for cross checking. This man advantage witnessed the Sharks playing fetch with the Blues defense. The power play opportunity would end with Joe Thornton drawing a frustrating holding penalty 1:15 into the man advantage. The second power play came towards the end of the period when Colaiacovo would draw an interference penalty. This man advantage would carry over into the third period as the Sharks once again failed to even get a single shot on goal.
Paint it Blue - The third period saw the Sharks get a few more scoring chances than the previous period, but as it turned out it mattered not as Halak would make nine more saves and the Blues often times would continue to keep the Sharks from entering their defensive zone and sustain any type of quality forechecking. The Sharks apparently were lulled to sleep at points of the period. One sleepy team teal moment that sticks out was the bench minor for too many men on the ice. The Sharks would get one more power play chance which actually featured a shot on goal from Moore. As the game wore on from the opening bell to the final horn, the Blues had clearly separated themselves from the Sharks, and not just in the standings. For team teal, another 60 minutes of a blown opportunity which is especially was costly in the respect that they failed to capitalise on the Coyotes losing. Nothing went right or even well for the Sharks as the game ended with most of the fans in attendance already having getting an early jump on the post game traffic.
Game Analysis- To say the Sharks played a bad game here is probably not the most accurate of statements. I feel a better statement is just the plain and honest truth of this game (and the season series). The St Louis Blues are a better team than the San Jose Sharks and it’s not close. If the Sharks make the post season and draw the Blues, it will likely be a four game sweep for St Louis that will make the Blackhawks sweep of the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals two years ago look close by comparison. The Sharks would be best served if they don’t see St Louis again until sometime next fall. The Blues just owned the Sharks tonight just as they had done throughout the season. The Sharks were always a step behind and at times almost looked confused. I never really felt as if the Sharks were in this game after the first period. In the three home games since the road trip from you know where ended last Sunday, the Sharks are 1-2-0 having scored a grand total of 2 goals in these three games (180 minutes). They were almost completely listless and really well below ordinary in this game. The worst part is that there was no apparently urgency on the bench, and that’s never a good sign.
Requiem for a Heavyweight?-Even if you’ve only seen a handful of games compared to last season, you cannot help but notice the clear and obvious drop off of the Sharks this season. Unless the Sharks get some help from others and soon, it’s very conceivable the Sharks could drop to 9th or lower by the middle of this week in the overall Western Conference standings. Is there time to turn this slide around? Yes, there actually is. However, for that to happen the Sharks starting this Tuesday night against Edmonton at the Shark Tank will need to go on a similar run as to what the Phoenix Coyotes were on in February. However, I feel that may be expecting too much at this juncture. The Sharks if they make the post season unless something changes within this team will be almost certainly one round and done, even if they somehow land the third seed.
The Sharks are 5-10-1 since the All Star break. That’s five wins in 16 games, 11 points out of a possible 32 since the All Star break. This isn’t going to get it done or even come close to cutting it. At this point, I honestly feel the Sharks are not only fighting to get into the playoffs and save their season, they may be playing for the right just to even be on the team next season. This is NOT the time to throw in the towel and I certainly will not do that until the season officially ends at whatever point that it does. All of this said, if the Sharks were a stock and not a hockey team, right now it would be very hard to resist the overwhelming urge to sell…
GO SHARKS, YOU SEASON IS ON THE LINE…RIGHT NOW!!!
The King Shark
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Blades of Teal: “The Final Word on San Jose Sharks Hockey”