I apologize for the lack of hockey posting the second half of the season. I think maybe my (relative) lack of enthusiasm this season is because, frankly, I’m not surprised the Sharks are in this position.
They got off to a massively positive start, and somewhere along the way, started coasting. That coast has to a good degree continued into the first round.
I was wrong, however, when I said only two teams could beat the Sharks. There’s a third, and that’s the Ducks, and they’re doing an awesome job of keeping the Sharks from executing. The Sharks have had trouble stepping it up that next notch, but if the first round team was anyone but the Ducks (i.e., Columbus or St. Louis) this team would have rolled, if you ask me. At the same time, this team was built — and is capable of — beating any team going toe to toe. It just isn’t.
So it’s not about matchups (an easier first round would be nice, but no excuse). It’s not about how well the Ducks are playing, or Hiller is playing (they are awesome, and if you step back from being a team’s fan, both sides are playing some pretty damn good hockey, but there’s no excuse that the Ducks are outplaying the Sharks given relative talent levels).
It’s all about stepping up in the playoffs and the Ducks have, and the Sharks to a degree haven’t. And when I say “to a degree”, I’m specifically calling out four or five players in the top 3 forward lines, and most specifially, three of the top six forwards. And one in particular.
I went into the playoffs feeling that anything less than Western Conference finals was a failure for the Sharks. Here we are, merely wondering if the Sharks can get to game 6. I consider game 7 a miracle, and requires heros.
Making it to game six itself requires heroes. Washington found one in Matt Bradley (way to go, Matt!); who’s the hero in San Jose? I’ll give credit to Cheechoo, he’s been pushing, gutty and simply can’t do it alone.
My view — it’s over. The only question is tonight or game six.Â I can’t see this team making it out of this round, I can’t really see this team getting to game 7. I just don’t see the people who need to step up doing so.
What makes a star in the game is how they play the game for six months a year. To become a superstar, you have to prove it in the playoffs.
So far, the Sharks have a number of stars, and the ones that could become superstars in the game — aren’t. Or can’t. Or maybe they can, but haven’t before not. Tonight would be a good time to start. I’m not holding my breath.
Now, assuming the Sharks don’t get out of the first round, then what?
Changes. Forward changes. Top six changes. We’ll have to consider something I think we all thought unthinkable going into the season. No, not putting Marleau on the altar, he stays.
But if we don’t make it out of this round, I can think of two players that have proven to me that the best they’ll ever be are stars, and I think the Sharks have to think long and hard about rearranging the roster and move those players and allow some of the players that seem to be emerging to take on the roles that allow them to take a shot at being superstars.
Because, have you noticed it? As the season’s rolled along, he’s gone from being “Little Joe” to just “Joe”?
I’ll be there tonight, rooting them on. I hope to be proven wrong, but I expect it’s our last hockey game of the season.