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Paranoia or cognitive analysis
Are fans wrong for worrying?
4/17/09 - By Steve Flores -

To say that the San Jose Sharks initial foray into the 2009 Post-season was disappointing would be the understatement of the year. Sharks fans all across the Bay Area have been swept over with a wave of zombie-like depression after one lackluster performance. Local sports radio has been besieged with calls from local hockey fans venting and expressing their frustration and disappointment to a degree never seen prior in these parts. The fact that so many people seem to care does show that the team is growing in popularity. That is a good thing. The fact that so many are voicing their angst is a sign that the team is not playing very well and that is not a good thing.

Sharks broadcaster's and several team personnel have both made statements that amount to the loss not being that big a deal: I beg to disagree.

I normally try not to react very quickly to a single performance. Normally most of the broadcaster's and or players are of this mindset as well. As I sat here and debated whether or not I should start tapping the keyboard in regard to this abomination of a game I found good, clear reason to do so. I decided that my feelings about the Shark's play had nothing to do with a single game but rather, several games since the All-Star break.

The Sharks were 29th in goals scored since the All-Star Game.

29th!

The team has lived on its defense, goaltending and special team's since the theoretical half way point of the season. Be sure that Head Coach Todd McLellan is aware of this glaring stat and has been for quite awhile. The lack of even-strength scoring is THE Achilles Heal of this team and the players and coaches have said for months there would be time to fix it. Well guys and dolls its April - the team was shutout in game number one of the post-season and the problem is as bad as or worse than it has been since the break. Throw in the team's utter futility on the multiple power play opportunities they were awarded and that is how you get a 2-0 loss to the hated Ducks of Anaheim.

Any fan that is worried may be called paranoid or quick to judgment by any outsider that has not watched this team all season. But any true fan of this team knows that it is not and has not been a short term problem. The team's inability to score has been going on for months and there has been no sign that it is going to end. So if you want to worry I won't stop you! The EXPERTS can say all that they want. They can quote this team did this or that team did that in the past, and this is why you shouldn't worry. I say that the facts are the facts - this team flat out has a difficult time scoring five-on-five.

The most bizarre burr in the team's offensive troubles is that they actually had no problem scoring early in the season. Goals came in bunches and the team was skating like the wind.

What has happened?

Several things have happened. Opposing teams watch video and have made the necessary adjustments to the Shark's game. Trapping defenses have seen more of a resurgence this season and team defense becomes tighter as the season draws to a close and the actual playoffs begin. The Sharks are not getting to the front of the net. They never seem to be in the slot when Thornton flips a pass across the crease and their shots are all coming from the point.

The team is managing fewer and fewer shots from in close. Are these problems due to the Sharks not willing to put in the effort or is it simply that the opposing defenses are working to make sure that they Sharks are not allowed these opportunities. Whatever the reason the Sharks need to get these things done or the current holder of the President's Trophy will be out in round one and there will be hell to pay in the off season.

Anaheim played a smart positional defensive scheme against the Sharks in the opener. They are selective in who they hit and who they attack. They have method to their madness as drawn up by Head Coach Randy Carlyle. The Ducks have a league-wide reputation as a 'dirty' team. Many feel that the use of the term 'dirty' isn't fair to the Ducks. A spade is a spade.

The Ducks do play physical hockey, but they take head shots, throw elbows and push beyond the limits of the game. This reputation is something they have earned and is something the Sharks must deal with, Carlyle is a believer in the physical game but he also believes that certain opposing players also perform better if they are being hammered. Thus you will notice that the abuse in game one came at the expense of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and not Joe Thornton or the very invisible Patrick Marleau.

The Ducks have a game plan and Carlyle is on top of his adjustments.

The Sharks and McLellan have big problems to deal with and not a lot of time to do so. The fans are worried and the fear and disappointment is not simply because of one poor performance. So feel free to worry and don't let any expert tell you that you are overreacting to one bad game. Can the team right the ship? Who knows! Sunday is the biggest game of the season. On that day we will have another chance to see if the experts know more than those of that are simply paranoid. And let's hope that those experts really do know more than we do.


Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com


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