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What's missing from this San Jose Sharks team? Heart.

May 19, 2010, 4:00 PM EDT

Thornton1.jpgIf there’s one thing we can count on every postseason, it’s the
endless supply of articles that rip the San Jose Sharks to shreds for
yet another playoffs disappointment. This year, I had hopes that perhaps
we could avoid all that — as fun as it may be — and even if the
Chicago Blackhawks won the Conference finals we could sit back and say
“well, at least they gave it their best shot.”

After two games, it
appears that won’t be the case.

In Game 1, you could say that the
Sharks were just unlucky as they hit an Antti Niemi that was suddenly
on fire. They outplayed the Hawks for much of Game 1, and for at least
the first part of Game 2. While plenty of inked will be spilled writing
about yet another Joe Thornton collapse, much of the attention should be
on the play of Evgeni Nabokov; specifically, how the soft goals he
allows suck every ounce of life out of the team in front of him.

You
could say that Game 1 was an anomaly; a hard fought, close game in
which the Sharks just couldn’t score on Niemi. Yet in Game 2, the team
was grossly outplayed for much of the contest and it all started with a
deflating first goal. Coach
Todd McLellan and Joe Pavelski agree:

“(That) goal took a lot out of us for some reason,” coach Todd
McClellan admitted. “You could feel it on the bench. It took us a while
to climb back and get the energy level back up where it needed to be.”

“Didn’t have nearly enough guys out there,” revealed Joe
Pavelski
said after Chicago thumped San Jose 4-2 to take the
proverbial commanding 2-0 series lead. “When we have won so far this
season, it’s been a commitment by everybody. Everybody’s showed up, and
that’s what we need.”

There’s some detailed insight for ya.

After two games, this is not a case of Niemi stealing wins, as I’ve
seen Sharks fans boast on Twitter. Instead, this is yet another instance
of a team not being able to step up and hit that extra gear with the
opposing teams take the game to another level.

This isn’t an issue with talent, this has to do with heart. For
whatever reason, this Sharks team — like others before — is incapable
of rising to the challenge with the stakes are at their highest.

You see it nearly every season and it’s painful to watch; a team with all the talent in the world falls by the wayside as a stronger and mentally tough team takes them out. It’s not about matchups and overall talent, it’s about just how much each team wants this win. Sometimes wanting it isn’t enough, sometimes the pressure is just too much.

Sometimes, the core of your team is missing something vital for playoff success.

  1. SanJoseCupCrazy - May 19, 2010 at 5:34 PM

    This article hits the nail squarely on the head. This team is incapable of digging deep all the way through the playoffs. Nabokov is especially guilty of that.

  2. Burnsy - May 19, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    I disagree. The same things were getting said about Vancouver when they lost the Hawks. Oddly, noone said that about Nashville? Why? Because when a “good team” loses in the playoffs, people are unable to admit they just got beat by a better team, so instead the media creates these cliches about not having “heart”. Come on.. they got out played by a better team. Hands down. Same with Vancouver. How bout write an article about how simply dominant the Hawks have been thus far in the playoffs.

  3. Scott - May 19, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    Burnsy, no team in the league has consistently shown the Sharks’ skill level, year after year, and accomplished so little in the playoffs. I won’t throw around the labels “chokers” and “soft” because that does this team disservice. It’s not as simple as that. But clearly the Sharks are missing a key piece or two to get them over the hump. I commend them for picking up Malhotra and Nichol, two gritty guys who come to play every night. But the fact remains, to win the Cup, you need grit and desire at the top. Look at the Wings … they struggled for a few years until Zetterberg emerged as a skilled guy who sharply raised his game in April and May.
    Sometimes stats don’t lie. In the playoffs, Thornton is -10. Zetterberg is +11. Your best players have to set the emotional tempo, and I sincerely doubt Thornton and Marleau can do it. They’ve had plenty of chances to prove otherwise. Even when Thornton does access his inner “beast,” it’s too often in destructive ways (witness his meltdown in Game 4 against the Wings or his stupid slashing penalty on Bolland last night).
    Doug Wilson has to swallow hard and accept reality. He’s made some great moves on the periphery. McLellan is a fine coach, and Blake and Boyle have been great veteran additions. But Jumbo and Patty and Nabby drive this bus. One or two of the three need to move on. I’d personally keep Jumbo and let Patty and Nabby fly in the offseason.

  4. sam bam - May 20, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    The Hawks are just to fast fOR any team left once they get there home ice act going they will be very very tough to BEAT!

  5. Mark - May 20, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    Again, just like in the Vancouver series, all we hear is “what’s wrong with the (Canucks/Sharks)? Where is their heart? What are they doing wrong? When is the national media going to figure out that the Blackhawks are good… REALLY good! Why can’t we hear more about what the HAWKS are doing instead of what the other team isn’t doing? The Hawks are strong and this year they have ONE GOAL Chicago!

  6. Respect the Hawks - May 20, 2010 at 10:52 AM

    It has nothing to do with the Canucks or Sharks lacking heart, how about the Hawks being the superior team for once? The Hawks shut down line have made the Sedin’s #1 line and Thornton’s #1 line look very average. That shut down line has the ability to frustrate the opposition as evidenced by the dumb penalties racked up by Sedin and Thornton. In addition, Buffy’s play in front of the net has kicked up a few gears during playoff time after being nearly invisible during regular season. The media also seems to overlook that the Hawks can roll out three strong lines that can match up with any team in this league. Also, who has a stronger set of four defensemen than the Hawks? Perhaps Luongo looked good in the nets at the Olympics with Keith and Seabrook in front of him, right? No knock on Salo and the Canucks D, but the Hawks have a very strong defensive core with Campbell and Hjalmarrson (very underated kid and great shotblocker). The return of Brian Campbell also helped the Hawks kick it up a notch as well to compete with the Canucks and Sharks. Unless you watch this Hawk team day in, day out, you can’t appreciate how strong and cohesive this team is as a unit. The Sharks also have a solid set of defenders, but I’ll still take the Hawks. My last point about the Hawks is our goaltending. What would have happenned if we started Niemi a lot sooner this season before Huet’s meltdown? Yes, the Sharks have choked in the past with superior talent, but this Hawk team is a juggernaut that is picking up their level of play as the playoffs continue. The 49 year drought ends this year! Go Hawks!

  7. Stars Fan - May 20, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    Sharks always choke…what’s new?

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