Rapture comes day late – Sharks down 3-1 in Western finals

    No doubt Vancouver is a superb club. But the Sharks continue to demonstrate a disturbing inability to play a complete 60 minute game. It's definitely not for lack of talent, or fan support.

    Canucks lead the Sharks 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
    Canucks lead the Sharks 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
    Canucks lead the Sharks 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
    Canucks lead the Sharks 3-1 in the Western Conference Finals. Photo: The Canadian Press.

    Within two minutes it was all over. In the NHL, a 5-on-3 power-play almost always results in a goal. The San Jose Sharks unfortunately learned that lesson three times in a row in the second period. With three successive two-man advantage goals (one for Kesler, two for Salo) in the second period the Canucks took a huge 3-0 lead into the third period. The Sharks never recovered, and went down 4-2 despite showing some signs of life late in the game and outshooting their opponent 35-13.

    Vancouver now heads back home with a 3-1 stranglehold lead in the Western Conference final series.

    “It’s all Vancouver”

    The rapid fire trio of goals happened so quickly in the middle frame that the crowd didn’t even get a chance to start a comeback chant. Part of the surprise may have resulted from the melt-down not occurring during the third period, where the Sharks have traditionally worn.

    The Sharks now find themselves on the verge of elimination- time to cue the sushi jokes.

    Special teams matter.

    When you play the number one team in the league, playing even-strength is difficult enough. But to show such a lack of discipline in such an important game is – as the quiet home town crowd will attest – stunning. Then again, this Sharks team has been an inconsistent enigma in the 2011 playoffs. Maybe we should just blame Prince, who played the night before in front of 15,000 fans the night before at HP Pavilion. I’m sure I’m not the only one running out of explanations for why this team can look so flat, so discombobulated so often, despite having a star-studded line-up top to bottom.

    By starting the game with McGinn, the winger that knocked out two Vancouver defensemen (Erhoff, Rome), it was clear McLellan wanted a physical showing from his team. But the game plan which consisted of frequent dump-ins (even on an ineffective power-play that went 0-for-5) yielded too little, too late. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault brought in Ballard and Tanev to fill the gap in D, and the team didn’t miss a beat, confirming the team’s much-heralded depth.

    With the advantage of last line change due to home ice McLellan wisely matched Thornton’s line against the Sedins. It worked, as it had in game three, but only for the first twenty minutes or so.

    Then, the rapture came … a day late, but just as ominous.

    Within two minutes, Vancouver scored three successive 5-on-3 power-play goals, all of them on slapshots with Canucks players screening Niemi who was rendered helpless repeatedly.

    Bodies laid on the ice – the sinners were the men in dark.

    But of course!

    Team White now head into a California sunset, board a charter, and journey back to the snow-lined mountain tops of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. For now, let’s call it heaven – that is, until Tuesday when distraught fans here will simply know it as hell.

    Been there, done that – can this team play a full sixty minutes?

    Unless San Jose mounts a miraculous comeback – a possibility not entirely out of question; recall the Canucks had a 3-0 lead against in round two before Chicago turned on the afterburners and took it to seven – this series will leave a particularly bad after taste for Northern California hockey fans. No doubt Vancouver is a superb club. The Sharks, however, continue to confound with their disturbing inability to play a complete 60 minute game. It’s definitely not for lack of talent, or fan support.


    They’ll have a chance to play with almost nothing to lose in an elimination game on the road this Tuesday. Anything’s possible. McLellan ought to do some extensive research into the Chicago Blackhawks archives in preparation.


    • The fourth line of McGinn / Mayers / Desjardins (combined 1G, 1A, +3)
    • Clowe (1G, lots of pressure down low).
    Explore. Create. Live. Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 9,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Subscribe to 
    Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest arts & travel channel in San Francisco.