Not Part Of The Plan- The story of the 2012-13 San Jose Sharks has been probably one of the more baffling stories of this shortened NHL season. A team that started out with a world of confidence and a seven game winning streak has seemingly fallen off of the face of the planet. Another chapter in the Sharks tales of the strange continued Saturday afternoon at the Shark Tank as team teal blew a two goal lead in finding a way to lose to the St Louis Blues 4-3 in Overtime. The Sharks team that came out to play the third period seemingly had nowhere near the confidence level of the team that played the first two periods. The Blues Vladimir Sobotka, who has made quite the living off the Sharks over the last two years scored a hat trick with three rather routine looking goals that team teal again had no answers for. Patrik Berglund scored 1:12 into the overtime period as the Sharks hardly ever touched the puck in the abbreviated extra period.
The Sharks with the loss drop down in the Western Conference Standings, however at least gained a point for their efforts despite only really paying two thirds of the game. With each passing game, it’s clear that this team has a quickly approaching expiration date that the organization may be forced to deal with more sooner than later. The Sharks have also dropped five straight games to the Blues at the Shark Tank counting last seasons playoffs. More importantly, just as it looks the Sharks are finally seeing some daylight in getting out of their funk from February, instead of winning a game they should have been able to close out are looking more like a team that has long lost any significant mojo.
What Went Well- If your view is that of the glass being half full, the Sharks after falling behind 1-0 on Sobotka’s first period goal (scoring off a rebound of a Kevin Shattenkirk slapshot) started to push back and actually were very physical with the Blues and started to gain some momentum from it. The Sharks first break of the game came after successfully killing off a penalty to Michal Handzus. The Sharks started to storm the Blues side of the rink. Tommy Wingles tried to jam a puck past Blues goalie Jake Allen but was turned away, however Allen could not control the rebound. Logan Couture pounced on the loose puck and hammered it to the net at Allen’s left tying the game at a goal apiece. Couture’s goal was his ninth of the season. In the second period Scott Gomez would put the Sharks ahead 2-1 shortly after another successful penalty kill by team teal. Gomez tapped in the puck past Allen after he had stopped a wrist shot from James Sheppard.
Shortly after the Gomez goal, the Sharks would find themselves pinned deep in their zone for a good sequence however Niemi was able to make the necessary saves to preserve the Sharks lead. Later Matt Irwin would give the Sharks a rare power play goal with 4:17 remaining in the 2nd Period after taking a feed pass from Justin Braun. The Sharks thru two periods were perfect on three penalty kills, had a power play goal and a two goal lead and looked confident as play ended in the second period.
Third Period Collapse- As long as it took for the Sharks to build their lead and their confidence up, something happened in the third period that by games end would have negated all of the things the Sharks did well in the first two periods. Sobotka, taking a feed pass a center ice from Kris Russell and skated all the way with it to the right point before launching a line drive that hit the tip of Niemi glove and into the net. The Sharks still had a one goal lead. However, the game was about to take a serious turn in favor of the Blues. Shortly after Sobotka pulled the Blues to within a goal, Dan Boyle would be called for interference giving St Louis a power play. The Sharks penalty kill, which has been their staple all season, was smoked as Sobotka again stuck needing only 24 seconds to tie the game. Sobotka scored twice in just 80 seconds. From this point on, the Blues had a strangle hold on the contest. And in another strange turn of events, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan pulled Niemi after the Blues game tying goal and replaced him with Alex Stalock.
Even a Sharks power play late in the final regulation period did not generate much in the way of any noticeable offense. The Blues would carry their momentum into the overtime period. In the overtime, the Sharks never really saw much of the puck as the Blues completely controlled the rubber biscuit possession. Berglund’s goal was drilled past Stalock from a sharp angle that was just too quick for Niemi’s replacement. Stalock did make six saves prior to the Blues game winning goal.
Blue Aftermath- The Sharks despite getting at least a point in the standings for their efforts clearly left the building Saturday knowing the game they had just played amounted to nothing more than a wasted effort. The Sharks have only won four of their last twelve games and appear to be a team well on the decline. It has nothing to do with lack of effort, but it’s clear the team does not seem to handle adversity too well and folds more easily under pressure. One could argue the lines are a problem, and that may be so. Even with that, the Sharks somehow have to start looking in the mirror and not just as players but as an organization. When teams go thru slides like the Sharks have, at some point you have to see if what you have is something that can be able to sustain any long term success. Right now, that does not seem to be the direction teal teal is heading in.
Shark Bytes- The games’ three stars were 3) Scott Gomez, 2) Patrik Berglund, and 1) Vladimir Sobotka. Today was the first time this season Antti Niemi was pulled from a game. The Blues outshot the Sharks 35-25 in the game, including 10-5 in the third period. The Sharks with the loss drop from 6th to 7th place in the Western Conference, and in the Pacific Division trail Anaheim by 10 points. Sunday night’s game in Colorado will be the Sharks 24th of the season, making it officially the half way point for team teal.
Next Sharks Game- Sunday 5pm PDT at Colorado versus the Avs. The Avs in their last game became the first team to hand the Chicago Blackhawks their first regulation loss, 6-2 in Denver Friday night.
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