Well, maybe we can add the Phoenix Coyotes to the list of teams the San Jose Sharks don’t want to see again this season. The Coyotes behind 38 tough saves by Mike Smith and two goals from Radim Vrbata beat the San Jose Sharks for the third time this season the Jobbing dot com arena, this time by a 2-0 count. The Coyotes with the win, in addition to moving into 7th place in the Western Conference Standings, shoved the Sharks down to 9th place and outside of the playoff picture. The Coyotes won the season series from the Sharks 4-2, winning all three games in Glendale. The Sharks in their last six periods in the Phoenix suburb did not score a single goal. The Coyotes won four of the last five games versus the Sharks after team teal won the season opener at the Tank back on October 8th, a game by now long since forgotten.
Smith was easily the best player on the ice tonight as he held the Sharks off the scoreboard despite an opening period barrage that saw the Sharks just miss out on a few good scoring opportunities. Smith became the first goalie ever to post three shutouts in one season against the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks despite the loss are for now still one point out of the top spot in the Pacific Division with four games remaining against two teams, the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks will likely need to win at least three of these four games to make the post season regardless of where they would seed. Anything less than a 3-1 mark over the next four games, and the Sharks likely will be cleaning out their lockers on April 8th. The Sharks went 3-9-0 combined versus Phoenix and Anaheim this season.
Recapping Whatever There is to Recap:
Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before Too (or Part 2)- I would be cheating you the reader if I just went ahead and cut and pasted this part of the article from last night’s Anaheim game, and changed all references from the “Anaheim Ducks” to the “Phoenix Coyotes”. The Sharks honestly had more that their lion’s share of chances against the Coyotes in the opening period. Both Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe did their best to dent the goal early against Smith but had no luck. Later Dominic Moore, Torrey Mitchell and Dan Boyle would lead an attack that had a chance to be successful. Moore however was not able to bury the puck despite two point blank chances on the Coyotes goal after Mitchell’s initial blast. Just seconds later Boyle’s blast from the right point was also turned away as well.
Moments later the TJ Galiardi and Clowe would have good looks on net that Smith shut down. Still later the Sharks had a three on two breakaway led by Joe Thornton with Patrick Marleau. Joe Pavelski was trailing the play took the drop feed from Marleau and drilled a slap shot that was gloved by Smith. The Sharks were fairly dominant in the period in out shooting the Coyotes 15-9, but again that would only be a blind statistic as team teal would come out of the period still scoreless. Antti Niemi, though not seeing as many challenges as did his counterpart, made nine saves to keep the game even.
Per Vrbata- About three and a half minutes into the second period Marleau would draw the game’s first penalty as he was called for boarding, giving the Coyotes their first quality opportunity of the game. Phoenix would only need 32 seconds to break the scoreless tie as Vrbata scored the first of two goals getting the rebound of Ray Whitney’s attempt to stuff the puck under Niemi, via Martin Hanzal. Niemi would have to quickly recover and seemed to settle down once he stopped a Mikkel Boedker point blank attempt just a moment later. As the period went along it was the Coyotes who became the aggressors and made the Sharks work just to stay within one goal.
Meanwhile team teal would not be able to muster any long sustained attacks on the Coyotes zone. What pucks the Sharks could get on net would easily be picked up by Smith who handled nine shots on goal. The Sharks would have some attempts that came close from Pavelski and Tommy Wingles, but nothing that would find the net. Even a power play chance made possible when Hanzal was called for high sticking would only be a mirage as the Sharks just could not find a way to get one puck by Smith. After 40 minutes of play, the Sharks despite playing better overall that they did in Anaheim just 24 hours earlier had little to show for their efforts and were down a goal to boot.
That’s Mr.Smith To You!!!- The third period was almost a replay of the first period in the respect that the Sharks were able to get more pucks on the net. However, by this time Smith was hotter than the Arizona Desert in July. Team teal managed 15 more shots on goal and to a degree outplayed the Coyotes in this period, yet the lone goal would go to the desert dogs. Vrbata would get his second goal of the game after the Sharks failed to retain the puck during a hard pressing forecheck. This allowed the Coyotes a three on one breakaway where Vrbata who was flanking Whitney to his right took the feed pass and tipped in the puck easily past Niemi, giving the Coyotes a 2-0 lead with 11:43 remaining in the game.
The rest of the period was all about the Sharks just chasing the puck and trying to engineer any kind of sustained attack. As the time went on and the game grew thin, it was quickly apparent this was not going to be team teal’s night either. Smith with the win has six shut outs on the season, and half of those are against the Sharks. For the Sharks in this two game road swing, one goal scored over six periods on 67 shots. Once again, the Sharks had no answers by game’s end, just more questions with only four games remaining to solve them.
Game Analysis- The Sharks may not have lacked effort in this game, but certainly lacked luck as once again they lost to a goalie who for whatever reason has their number in a big way as do the Coyotes (alongside the Ducks). Even if the Sharks are running into hot goalies, and with the acknowledgement that slumps happen and are indiscriminate when they do, to get one goal on 67 shots with this much on the line over a two game period just defies any logical or reasonable explanation. If you are a Stanley Cup caliber team, you have to find ways to bury some of those pucks, period! Nobody is saying bury all 67 shots, however over the course of two nights, at the bare minimum three in each game would have been sufficient each time out (because the Ducks would have been down one and pulled Hiller instead of the Sharks pulling Niemi). That’s six goals out of 67 shots, which again though not great would certainly been more than enough each night. The Sharks are just not scoring goals and you can’t win without them. Give Smith credit, he certainly deserves that for his efforts on the ice as he was easily the best player on the ice for both teams. Niemi made 31 saves tonight, so honestly he did his part of the bargain.
Time is running out for team teal and their quest to make the post season. This can still happen and the Sharks can still win the Pacific Division despite their current predicament. As Thornton said in the post game presser the Sharks need to go 4-0. I would agree with the Sharks Captain there. 4-0 should get them in and win the Pacific, even 3-1 or 3-0-1 should do it. Anything less than that, and the post season will likely elude the Sharks after two consecutive Western Conference Finals Appearances. Sharks fans have always complained about “…being the Bridesmaid and never the Bride.” If the Sharks don’t go 4-0 or 3-1 vs Dallas & LA, they’re not going to be invited to the post season ball…period! The clock hasn’t struck midnight yet on the Sharks 2011-12 campaign, but it’s getting awfully close…
GO SHARKS: FOUR GAMES LEFT!!! REGROUP, BEAT DALLAS AT THE TANK!!!
The King Shark
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