It's Time To Step It Up
The Sharks are too talented of a team to play the way they did in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. After laying a huge egg against the Ducks, losing 1-0, the Sharks headed back home to play the Blues. Hoping for a better effort, the Sharks came out fairly flat, but did carry a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period. Unfortunately, they gave up 3 goals (one empty netter) in the final period (deja-vu?) and lost 4-2.
It isn't like this team to play two games and not pull out at least one point, and this kind of play cannot continue. The western conference, and the Pacific Division even more so, is too competitive to only win one game out of three.
The worst part of these losses is that they did not occur because the Sharks' opponents were superior teams. They came because the Sharks played sloppy hockey and took periods off. And yet, they only lost by one goal in each game (technically they lost by two to the Blues, but who cares about an empty netter). Which is good news moving forward, because if the Sharks can start playing Sharks hockey, they should win future games quite handily.
Against the Ducks, it might have been expected that San Jose would come out flat, considering they had a week off between games. But that excuse becomes less convincing when you consider that the Ducks also had similar time off between games AND they had to travel back from Europe where the played the Premier Games. Niemi and Havlat did not play (and wouldn't play in the next game either) and Greiss once again got the start. He had a solid game, only allowing one goal to Max Macenauer (who?). The Sharks actually outshot the Ducks in this game, which totally surprised me, considering the type of hockey they played for most of the game.
Then the Sharks travelled back to San Jose to take on the St. Louis Blues the following night. They did not come out of the game like I had hoped they would, but a good second period gave them a 2-1 lead heading in to the third. In the final period, a trend from last year reared its ugly head, seeing the Sharks give up 3 goals in those last 20 minutes. Brent Burns scored his first goal as a Shark with a wrist shot from the point that took a few lucky bounces and found its way in. The Blues goalie of the night was Brian Elliot, which i thought gave the Sharks a good chance, even on an off-night. But Elliot showed up big when he needed to, making some great saves, and helping the Blues pull out a 4-2 win.
Tonight the Sharks take on the Ducks again, this time in San Jose. Niemi should get the start tonight, giving Greiss his first game off of the season. If the Sharks don't come out flying, i for one will be sorely disappointed in this team. They need to stop turning the puck over, start making better passes, and continue to take advantage on the powerplay. If they play Sharks hockey, they win. If not, well, don't expect much.
My thoughts go out to Jason Blake: on Friday night, a scary moment occured when Burns accidentily stepped in the arm of Blake during a scrum for the puck. The skate blade severed a tendon in Blake's arm and he is expected to be out 3 months. Terrible news for a player who has been through so much. I hope he is able to come from this injury and continue to play hockey (even if it is for the Ducks).