Monday, April 28, 2008

Sharks Problems: Covering all Their Bases

Well, the problem the Sharks had against Calgary (again, in 3 of the 7 games) was a lack of intensity and deficit in the driving to the net department. Positive marks to them, though (I guess), for countering that (4/7 games) just well enough to take the series.

Unfortunately, that was the Flames... a gritty and ragtag crew who rolled out there no less than 2(!) solid threats to score in Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf. All-world players to be certain, but given their inability to be cloned, Iginla and Phaneuf by themselves couldn't provide enough offense to carry Calgary through.

Our much more worthy adversary this round is the Dallas Stars, a team bringing scoring punch in the persons of Mike Modano, Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro and last, but definitely not least, Brenden Morrow. Results of the series thus far could be best summed up by Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz... "we're not in San Jose anymore, and we're down 2-0."

These first two games have been interesting in their completely opposite nature from the Calgary series. Whereas that was smashmouth hockey that the Sharks fought through to victory, this (for the most part) is the fast skating end-to-end variety. Would certainly think that this style would play right into the strengths of San Jose, but... two critical weaknesses thus far: (1) that now familiar lack of driving to the net and (2) poor defensive zone coverage.

The driving to the net thing is probably best personified in these first two games in the person of Torrey Mitchell. Second period of game two he was standing 6 inches from an empty net... and didn't score! Credit Stu Barnes with an excellent backcheck to poke the puck away, but Mitchell has to slam the puck, his stick and his body into the goal when that situation arises. Granted, he didn't know Barnes was there, but so what? Driving to the net can be done by the players pushing towards the crease, but also by the players pushing themselves and the puck into the goal, as Jonathan Cheechoo did to tie the score in game one.

Now, poor defensive zone coverage on the other hand... an entirely different animal there. San Jose had one of the best penalty kill percentages in the regular season for a reason (I reckon), but that reason doesn't seem to be showing up in this series. Even when not on the power play, too many times this series Dallas has scored via the cross ice offensive zone pass to someone driving the net. Sure, the Stars deserve credit for the aforementioned net drive, but San Jose has to do a much better job of picking up that skater.

So... Sharks are down 2-0 and headed back to American Airlines Arena for games Tuesday and Wednesday. If they lose Tuesday night, it's all over but the crying, but I'd say they still have a shot at success in this series. San Jose is a talented team and as such can't be counted out. The problem they're fast pushing up against, though, is that they're playing a talented team and at 2-0 down, have little margin for error. Well, just try to correct for game 3 the two (fairly glaring) problems and go from there. There's always hope...

1 comment:

Alan said...

Two obvious issues going on with the Sharks.

1) Defensive zone coverage
2) Lack of ability to cycle in the offensive zone.

I don't know why these are issues all of a sudden, but it shows up at both ends of the ice.