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Sharks try to kick an old habit
It's time to deliver
4/21/10 - By David Towers -

During the past few regular seasons, the San Jose Sharks have developed a consistent pattern of behavior when they were down by a few goals in hockey games. They would end up waiting until mid-way through the third period and only then would they begin playing all out hockey and more often than not, they would end up coming back and winning the game.

What would that do to someone’s ego if they found themselves constantly winning in such situations? It would rise pretty high, I'd imagine. Only needing to play 10 to 15 minutes of hockey, and you still get your two points? Sounds pretty good to me.

It became so apparent, coasting during the first 40 minutes only to really play in the final 20, that it seemed like the Sharks leaders were actually nurturing that idea and encouraging their teammates to ‘save it for the end.’ Although this attitude highlighted the Sharks’ very clear talent, it unfortunately also got them used to playing down to teams and not actively playing in and responding to what was currently happening on the ice. This, as we all know, is in fact the very recipe for success during playoff hockey, being in the moment, keeping the tempo up high and doing your best to control the turbulent & dynamic nature of the playoffs.

It feels like this attitude could be part of the reason of what has plagued the Sharks for so many years during their consistent post-season flops. Certain team leaders were likely feeding that idea as well.

Is this what we have been seeing in the Sharks these past few years in the playoffs? Have they simply lulled themselves to sleep by assuming that they can overcome any situation they are in and that until that necessary time, their best was simply not needed? It really seems like it.

More often than not, the sense of urgency was simply not seen in the team until critical points in the game. And more often than not, since it was playoff hockey, whatever urgency they did decide to show, showed up way too late.

Their regular season confidence could not be replicated in the post-season environment. The concept of a ‘momentum swing’ during a regular game falls a little by the wayside during the dynamic, anything goes playoffs, where leads and fortunes can change hands several times during one match.

This may highlight an issue that seems to plague the Sharks. This could be their own self-inflicted curse. The confident swagger they bring to a game comes from their dominance in responding to tough situations they found themselves in the past. This group of guys had no need to play 60-minute hockey. If they do in fact hold this assumption then all of the playoff urgency and understanding that 'it's now or never' feeling occurring in every playoff game will quite simply, not be felt.

Watching the last game against the Avs one got the feeling that they were not succumbing to this mood since they seemed to control the tempo of the entire game from the second period on until the final buzzer. It should be noted though that they have only showed this sense of urgency from the beginning till the end of the game for the first time this post-season. It was a Game 3 wake up call. Two games late. The Sharks still lost the last game as the outcome was clearly not what they had hoped for.

In post-game interviews, however, each and every one of the Sharks players acknowledged that they felt they were dictating all of the play on the ice for most of the game. This is exactly what Sharks fans need to take away from the last game, because if they continue to play like that, with such a high level of urgency from start to finish, then the Sharks have a good chance of getting out of round one.

Although we all know that old habits die hard, Sharks fans will hope that the alluring scent of playoff success will be too hard for Sharks players to ignore.

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