Tuesday, May 6, 2008

2008 San Jose Sharks: Said and Done

Now that the Sharks season is officially over and a very solid (and more consistent than San Jose) Dallas team is moving on to face Detroit, let's take a minute to look back on what's previously been written about the Sharks here:

Post Date: Mar 4.
Summary: Sharks will need to be mentally tough.

Post Excerpt: San Jose - A very interesting team. Definite star power with Thornton and Cheechoo up front and Campbell and Rivet (well, maybe not a star, but solid) on the blueline. As a team that I've got a particular local affinity for, they've been absolutely maddening in their lack of a killer instinct. To steal a phrase from our dear President Bush, I'd like someone to "look into their eyes and see their soul," but... will have to see "it" to believe it.

Post Date: Mar 13.
Summary: Sharks will need to be mentally tough.

Post Excerpt: Resiliency. It's a tough thing for a hockey team to acquire, but when there, often separates the Stanley Cup winning teams from the skilled, but not quite over the hump, competition.

Post Date: Apr 6.
Summary: Sharks will need to be tough... mentally & physically.

Post Excerpt: This leads to the open question of how the Flames will attempt to win the series. Prediction here is that it's through pure brute force. It worked against the Sharks a few years ago as part of Calgary's run to game 7 of the Finals, but this year's Sharks team might be built of just a bit more solid stock.

Post Date: Apr 8.
Summary: I think the Sharks will be tough.

Post Excerpt: Calgary at San Jose: If the Sharks wanted an early test of their toughness, they certainly got it in a matchup against the Calgary Roughnecks/Flames. Much has been written and said about the Sharks wilting in the face of adversity in the last few playoff years and the Flames love to provide adversity... often in the form of a cross-check, slash or sucker-punch. Perhaps it's a case of drinking the local Kool-Aid, but I do think this year's Sharks team will be a year wiser, and a goodly amount tougher with the additions of Jeremy Roenick and Jody Shelley (who I really hope plays)... as well as the return from injury of Ryan Clowe (who has already been tabbed for the Joe Pavelski-Patrick Marleau line).

Post Date: Apr 9.
Summary: The Sharks weren't intent (i.e. mentally tough) enough.

Post Excerpt: Annoying one to watch in San Jose tonight. The Sharks appeared the more skilled team, but the Flames simply seemed to want the victory more. San Jose had flurries of passion (final minute as an example), but not in prolonged enough stretches to deserve the win.

Good thing to take out of this game is that it's only one game and assuming a more focused effort tomorrow night, the Sharks should be ok. Granted, it's cliche to make this point, but adversity such as this will reveal exactly who the Sharks are in this postseason.

Post Date: Apr 11.
Summary: The Sharks should win if they're as tough as Calgary.

Post Excerpt: My feeling going into the series was that it would be a tough series for the Sharks, but one they should emerge victorious out of as they have the more talented team and should be a bit tougher than past years due to both the experience of heartbreak lived through and new blood on the team this season.

After game 1 I was disappointed in the Sharks efforts and intensity, but still felt them the better team and that if they played the way they're capable of, they'd be fine. Game 2 is now in the books, and I'm of the same opinion. It's not going to be easy, but assuming that the (orange-rimmed) eye stays on the prize all game long, they should emerge out of a hard-fought series.

Post Date: Apr 13.
Summary: Maybe the Sharks aren't better than Calgary after all.

Post Excerpt: The truly disconcerting thing about this game is that up until these developments, it appeared the Sharks were the better team... and in control of their fate as simply matching the Flames effort and intensity would result in a series win. After watching this debacle, though, I'm not as convinced the Sharks are the better squad. Whether that potential "non-better team" status would be due to the aforementioned effort/intensity calculus or simply poor defensive play, I'm not sure, but I am concerned.

Post Date: Apr 18.
Summary: The Sharks should win if they're as tough as Calgary.

Post Excerpt: Going into this series, it seemed that the Sharks were a better team on paper than the Flames, but Calgary was a hard-working lunch-pail type crew that would keep coming at you... in some legal ways and others more questionable. The ramifications of this for the Sharkies being that they "should" win the series if they could at least roughly match the Flames in the effort/intensity equation.

Post Date: Apr 21.
Summary: Maybe the Sharks aren't mentally tough because of coaching.

If you run with the assumption that the Sharks are more talented than Calgary, then you should say that they simply need to work as hard as the Flames to win the series. Given that the first six games of the series have been a "good Shark, bad Shark" story, the question has to be asked of why that's the case. Why can a talented team be up one game and then down another... and thus far, not learn from, but keep repeating the cycle?

Personally, I would look at the coaching.

Post Date: Apr 24 (2 posts).
Summary: Sharks were inconsistent (i.e. mentally tough), but good enough.

Post Excerpts: You can (and I think should) quibble with the respective bad/good/bad/good/good/bad/good games that helped make this a 7 game series, but nary a quibble can be said about the offensive explosion that won this game 7 for the Sharkies.

San Jose over Calgary. Also took longer to decide than might have been expected, but the oft-mentioned inconsistency from the Sharks was a major factor extending this series to 7 games. Either way, Sharks advance.

Post Date: Apr 25.
Summary: Sharks didn't play well enough... against a good Dallas team.

Post Excerpt: Dallas played into the Sharks hands defensively. The Sharks didn't play with a sense of urgency (sound familiar?) and capitalize. The Sharks had two large defensive breakdowns and Dallas scored both times... and won.

Going forward, San Jose should be ok if they can repeat their opening series M.O. and follow up a weak game one with a more ferocious game two. If, however, they don't, the Stars are certainly a good enough team to continue current path and do enough to win. Let's hope San Jose rediscovers that needed sense of urgency.

Post Date: Apr 28.
Summary: Sharks didn't play well enough... against a good Dallas team.

Post Excerpt: 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.

Post Date: Apr 29.
Summary: Sharks didn't play well enough... against a good Dallas team.

Post Excerpt: Dallas is playing well and has combined a stingy defense with exceptional offensive zone passing, but the Sharks have done nothing to help their cause. What should be occurring in this series is you should have two excellent teams trading punches (mostly metaphorical, but maybe a few real ones) over the course of a hard fought 6 or 7 games series.

What you have instead is a Dallas team doing their part and a San Jose team that has (1) not driven to the net (for the most part), (2) done a poor job of defensive zone coverage (both clearing the puck and covering the cross ice pass) and (3 & most appallingly) wilted when faced with adversity (personified by those Star game-tying goals).

Post Date: Apr 30.
Summary: The four games in a row problem (one game in).

Post Excerpt: Some people might not have thought so at the start of the playoffs, but the Stars are a good team. Fast skating, stingy D and (surprisingly) good goaltending. A good team such as this matched up against a good team such as the Sharks (regular season success being the determinate for this) should result in a back and forth series (with the aforementioned back and forth being determined in part by good breaks and in part by good play) likely tied 2-2 after four games.

Instead, what you have is a 3-1 series after four games that is only still going due to a solid game 4 effort (which led to fortunate breaks) from San Jose. They can, and hopefully will, show up for game 5 with similar zest and determination... the difficulty will be in having that result in wins three more games in a row. Unless San Jose plays 180 minutes of hockey like they did the final 30 seconds of game 4 against Calgary (tough to do) or Dallas plays significantly worse than they have to-date (tough to see occurring), the Stars seem likely to get the breaks needed to take one out of the final three games.

Post Date: May 2.
Summary: The four games in a row problem (two games in).

Post Excerpt: A great win by San Jose and while it's still hard to understand why they were so flat in the second period, credit has to be given for the drive they showed to tie the game in the third... and then get the victory.

Post Date: May 5.
Summary: The four games in a row problem (just short of three).

Post Excerpt: Such a shame... the San Jose Sharks now eliminated from the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

All of this comes down to describing the 2008 Sharks playoff run in fairly simply, and somewhat maddening) terms... good enough to overcome inconsistency against Calgary (thanks in part to Calgary's lack of depth) and not good enough to overcome inconsistency against Dallas (thanks in part to Dallas' play).

Tomorrow's post will take a look (in many ways another look back) at one thing that could be done about said inconsistency.

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