Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sharks wash up on the beach

The promising season of the San Jose Sharks came to an inglorious end on Monday night, as the Sharks failed to capitalize on at least three golden scoring chances, leaving the Detroit Red Wings to claim their best of seven series 4 games to 2 and to now advance to the Western Division final.

Monday night was indicative as to the style of play that the Sharks chose to utilize in the final games of this series, which saw the Red Wings storm back to win the last three games in a row and send the sharks off to their summer plans.

San Jose failed to take the body with any regularity, with little fore checking the game seemed to spend a fair amount of time back in the San Jose end, which ultimately led to the two Red Wing goals by Mikael Samuelsson, a shut out for the Dominator and a secured victory.

The Sharks never seemed to recover from the shocking collapse of game four, where they not only blew a lead but allowed the Wings to dictate the style of the play for the remainder of the series.

Detroit played a disciplined game, creative on the attack and deadly on defence as they shut down the Sharks at almost every attempt. When the Sharks managed to break through the Red Wing lines, Domenic Hasek was there to shut them down, so far this playoff season Hasek has been steady and sure in the Wings net, though he did give the Sharks a hard to believe opportunity on Monday, which was squandered as Niklas Lidstrom bailed out his goaltenders terrible giveaway with a remarkable defensive play to knock the puck away from the gaping entry of an open net.

It would be the point where possibly even the most steadfast of Shark fans would realize that they were not going to win the game, let alone the series. Later on in a rare flurry of action in the Detroit end of the rink a puck was fished out to the front of another open Red Wing net only to have it blasted to the side and away from danger.

When you can’t snare the open net goals, you’re probably not going to win many games. For San Jose that became the picture for the poster for this years playoff experience. San Jose normally one of the more productive of power play teams, couldn’t buy a goal on Monday to save their souls.

The big names acquired over the last few years to lead them on their march to Stanley didn’t find their groove in this series, Thornton, Marleau, Grier all seemed to struggle with their play. Nabokov would make a few questionable decisions himself in game six, though to be fair he wasn’t receiving a lot of assistance from his defence or his forwards as the night progressed.

The Wings looked every bit the dominant team in this series, which should not be a surprise considering their status in the regular season and their ease at rattling off the wins when required. The second round win finally sends the Wings back to a conference final for the first time in five years.

They move on to the Anaheim Ducks now, the final step before a chance to challenge for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Brian Burke’s Ducks were almost the team to beat last year, an extra year of seasoning has brought together a team that can probably cover any form of hockey you can throw at them.

Vancouver learned that the Ducks weren’t afraid to go to the net, frequently creating havoc in front of Roberto Luongo. Expect the Red Wings to find much of that same treatment, rattling Domenik Hasek in the past has always managed to gain results, it’s surprising that the Sharks never made the effort to get him off his game.

The Western final should be a highly entertaining affair; things get things under way on Friday night from the Joe Louis Arena. The Sharks can watch all the action from the comfort of beach side, no ice, no stress, no hockey!

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