Saturday, April 11, 2009

Deja vu all over again?

The San Jose Sharks made history when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings four games to three in the franchise's first ever playoff appearance. If things play out wrong, the Sharks could very easily be on the other end of a similar situation.

With a win by St. Louis and Anaheim and a loss by Columbus, the Blue Jackets will end up with the eighth seed in the West in their first ever playoff appearance.

The Sharks have lost two of their last three games. The lone win was a shootout win over Colorado. None of the games has shown any of the fire and passion of the Sharks teams who were on a tear for the first 3/4 of the season. Coasting into the playoffs would be putting it mildly. Miscommunication between the guys due to a lot of players returning from the IR can account for some of the bad decisions lately, but not until game #82 against Los Angeles did I see something that could be more disturbing than the losses.

It's no big shock that the Kings came out to play. Although they are not playoff bound, there are a lot of guys playing for a job next season. Also, a chance to upset the best team in the West is a big motivator. That's the reason that the Avalanche and Coyotes played so hard against the Sharks recently. What was disturbing is the play of the Sharks. They came out strong, fighting through the tough LA forecheck and getting chances and drawing penalties. After their first goal, however, they seemed to back off. They were still able to generate shots and chances in the offensive zone, but their play in the defensive zone was passive at best.

Weak clearing attempts, low percentage passes leading to turnovers, and that silly drop pass at the offensive blue line that they have been trying lately all ended up in chances for the Kings. It looked like that the Sharks were not playing to win, but playing not to lose. I think I know why. The early part of the season is to blame.

When things were firing on all cylinders for the Sharks earlier this year, they could make bad plays and still win games. They could take games off defensively and Nabokov and the offense would bail them out. They now seem to think that they can still sleepwalk through a game and come out with a win. Unfortunately, December and January are a far cry from playoff hockey. At this time of year you simply need all 18 skaters on the same page. You need to play as a team as opposed to a group of individuals.

Unless the Sharks can find a way to get the chemistry back that they had earlier in the season, begin to play as a team, whoever they face be it Columbus, Anaheim, or St. Louis it could very well be an early exit again for the Sharks.

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