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No miracles for San Jose in Game 4
5/23/10 - By Mike Lee -

If you’re here looking for a game recap, you’re not going to get one today. For Game 4, I’ve decided to mail it in. I didn’t even watch Game 4. I heard the Sharks lost, which really came as no surprise. After the disaster that was Game 3 on Friday night, there really wasn’t much to look forward to. Overcoming a 3-0 deficit just wasn’t something this lineup had in them, so why should I bother.

In actuality, I had another commitment, which kept me from parking my self in front of a television for 3 hours. It was really kind of a god-send, because I didn’t have to live through the anguish of watching the Sharks jump out to a 2-0 lead, only to see it vaporize into this air.

I did checkout highlights when I got home on Sunday night, and immediately grasped onto a couple of things. First, the Sharks just didn’t get the big goaltending that they needed in the Blackhawks series. You can’t hang the entire series on Evgeni Nabokov’s head, but you can put him up their on the list of reasons why the Sharks couldn’t get it done.

When you look at each of the Sharks playoff series losses over the past few years, there is always one constant. The opponent always had stellar goaltending. San Jose just never seems to be the team that can sustain any consistency between the pipes. Three-quarters of the league never even heard of Antti Niemi before the start of the season, yet he was the guy everyone was talking about in this series.

Nabokov just never seems to lock in on the quality of play necessary to win a championship when the stakes are the highest. It’s not as if the Blackhawks were throwing tons of rubber his way. They just put timely rubber past him.

The second glaring observation that I took away from this series is the sub-par play San Jose turned in on defense. They often looked lost out there against a team that didn’t even get many goals from their top scoring tandem of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It was the second and third line guys that were putting pucks past the Nabokov.

Joe Thornton was on the ice for all four Chicago goals on Sunday. Douglas Murray’s skating ability was exposed in too many key situations, including the three times Chicago scored on Friday night. Kent Huskins struggled mightily against those second and third line guys that seemed to play like first liners. Niklas Wallin was simply been a certifiable disaster for San Jose .

Add Wallin to the list of trade-deadline acquisitions that didn’t turn out to be the missing piece to the puzzle, and that will cost the Sharks this summer at the NHL Entry Draft. Wallin joins the likes of Bill Guerin, Brian Campbell, Travis Moen, Bill Lindsay, John MacLean, who all turned out to be rental players that cost the Sharks draft picks.

On the offensive side of things, Chicago seemed to get scoring from everywhere, but the Sharks didn’t. Joe Pavelski, the hero in the Sharks opening round matchup against Colorado seemed to disappear in the Conference Finals. Devin Setoguchi was nowhere to be seen, with the exception of his play in the 3rd period on Sunday when his shot hit Thornton in the stick, before bouncing off the crossbar and off Niemi before being blindly smothered by the Blackhawks netminder by simply falling backwards onto the puck.

Granted, Niemi seemed to sell his soul a bit on that play, in exchange for the save, but it was just another moment in Sharks playoff history that didn’t turn out in their favor.

It was all too reminiscent of last year’s playoff series against Anaheim , when all the Sharks mid-level skaters just took the week off. Without anyone to step it up, the series was over before you could say Jonas Hiller. Hiller returned to earth this season and had a subpar regular season, but a year ago, he was the hot netminder that sent the Sharks packing.

The last glaring omission from the Sharks 2010 playoff run, was a Dustin Byfuglien type player to match, well, Dustin Byfuglien. Check out Byfuglien’s career numbers, and what you’ll see is a mediocre forward. He’s a guy that will get you 30 points in the regular season, but those guys are a dime a dozen.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Byfuglien never has a playoffs like he’s having this season. He’s just getting hot at that one point in his career when it maters most. Like goaltending, it’s the one thing the Sharks just never seem to have. That one guy that plays out of his mind for 6 weeks.

So ad another “what could have been” to the annals of Sharks hockey. Oh, and don’t forget to send in your season ticket money. Invoices are due on Tuesday, for those you who are planning ahead for next year’s spring of discontent.


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1 2 3 T
SJ 1 1 0 2
CHI 0 2 2 4
1st period - 1, SJ, Couture 4 (Setoguchi, Murray), 11:08.
2nd period - 2, SJ, Marleau 8 (Vlasic, Pavelski), 7:35, (sh). 3, CHI, Seabrook 3 (Hjalmarsson, Versteeg), 13:15. 4, CHI, Bolland 5 (Eager, Keith), 18:38.
3rd period - 5, CHI, Byfuglien 8 (Kane, Toews), 14:05, (pp). 6, CHI, Verteeg 4 (unassisted), 19:18, (en).
1st period - Hendry, CHI (holding the stick), 5:02.
2nd period - Setoguchi, SJ (tripping), 6:45; HEatley, SJ (hooking), 11:55; Toews, CHI (cross checking), 12:48.
3rd period - Boyle, SJ (delay of game - puck over glass), 4:27; Clowe, SJ (holding), 9:09; HEatley, SJ (slashing), 12:12.
Shots Saves
SJ - Nabokov 26 23
SJ - empty net 1 0
CHI - Niemi 18 16
Shots On Goal
1 2 3 T
SJ 7 8 3 18
CHI 8 10 9 27
Power Play Conversion
SJ 0 of 2
CHI 1 of 5
3 Stars of the Game
Dustin Byfuglien
Dave Bolland
Antti Niemi
Referees: O'Halloran, Peel. Linesmen: Miller, Sharrers.
Holiday Gifts at BustedTees

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