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A Comeback or don't come back
Sharks need to do some winning
5/20/10 - By Ken Smyth

Last week I was in western NY on business, and outside of support from some long-suffering Buffalo Sabres fans, the casual chatter was about an all-Original Six Stanley Cup final. Philadelphia dampened that hope a bit by dumping Boston in a game seven and then shutting out Montreal twice but there are a lot of new Blackhawk fans hopping on board the bandwagon.

Why should there be much love for the Sharks? The Detroit series is last week's news. Losing the first two at home lets all those "Sharks choke again" articles be resurrected from their hard drive tombs. Meanwhile, they go on the road Friday faced with a Blackhawk team that out-skated them decisively last time out and holds a two-zero edge in the series. Are the Hawks a better team? They sure looked it last Tuesday.

The next question here is does the better team win the series? Maybe half the time. Check out the Eastern Conference where Washington, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and New Jersey are all playing golf right now. It's not the better team that wins, it's the one that first finds a way to win four games. (Just ask Dan Boyle) The Sharks need solve the Blackhawks in game three or this series is going to be over fast.

The Hawks weakness was supposed to be in goal, but it's been Evgeni Nabokov who's given up softies. On the other end, Antti Niemi is good when he needs to be and the Sharks haven't been able to sustain offensive pressure for multiple shifts like they did against Colorado and Detroit.

Chicago's top blueline pairing is Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith; Olympic gold team Canada's top pair. The Red Wings top defensemen were a 40-year old Nik Lidstrom and 36-year old Brian Rafalski. After Seabrook and Keith there's Brian (hiss, boo) Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson. All of these guys are quick enough to violate the "play the man not the puck" rule from Hockey 101 and get away with it.

The Sharks didn't look like they were ready for a fast scrappy defense and put a lot of ineffective long shots on Niemi. As for that (Dustin) Byfuglien guy, he's a younger bigger Niklas Holmstrom (or for that matter, Mike Ricci). Nothing the Blackhawks are doing is unusual, except that they're good at it.

That's the challenge for the Sharks. If it hasn't sunk in the dressing room that they're on the brink of getting eliminated and embarrassed then it never will. Todd McLellan and the coaching staff have also had a few days to digest that and make the "adjustments" that coaches and chiropractors are always being doing. Good news is that like the Sharks, the Blackhawks have a weird propensity for taking a home game or two off. Philly got spanked in Montreal, too.

Oh, whether or not the Sharks are still playing, your 2010-11 season ticket deposit is due by Tuesday. Not the sweetest timing, is it?

Contact Ken at at


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