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Wakey, Wakey
Hopefully the Sandman is a myth
4/27/14 - By Ken Smyth -

Hello, Sharks. The playoff sandman is back, your old friend from days gone by. He's talking about golf and fishing; spending time at the beach. Take a break from getting your head elbowed by Jarrett Stoll and kick back with cold ones for a few months. No worries about Getzlaf or Perry for months. Just play easy for a few days and it all comes true.

I hope this sandman is really imaginary, but considering the familiar recent history of the team he can't be ruled out. The Sharks pushed the Kings hard the first two games and came up with wins, then took a tight game 3 in an overtime period that saw them score on their only shot. The Kings took control physically in the two losses that followed.

LA coach Darryl Sutter has seen the Sharks get crushed bodily in playoff series as a Sharks coach. He was also behind the bench for the Calgary Flames in 2004 when they bashed the Sharks out of the Western Conference Finals in six games. Three of the Calgary victories were in San Jose.

This Sharks team is deeper in talent and can be nastier that that one. But the question remains, will the Sharks commit to physically beating the Kings (or anyone) on a night-in, night-out basis? If Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau won't be scoring (or shooting), will they at least neutralize the Kings top lines containing Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter? Shooting the puck from 30 feet out on offense and dropping back to the face-off dots on defense in a 2-on-2 tells me the sandman was out there Saturday night.

Goaltending questions are interesting but misleading. Alex Stalock seems to waste a lot of motion but he gets across the crease and flails away to make some incredible saves. Antti Niemi is a great positional goaltender but sometime looks asleep. Either way, though, if the rest of the team isn't up for the game Monday it doesn't matter who faces 35 or so shots and loses.

The most over-used phrase this playoff season is "net front presence", a polite way of saying bug the opposing goalie any way you can get away with. Call it "WWRD": what would Ricci do? Mike Ricci seemed to be a general pest around the net and even if he wasn't scoring he'd be an irritant. Eric Desjardins, Mike Brown and Raffi Torres were good at it early for the Sharks in this series, but the team needs four lines with this attitude for 60 minutes.

Can the Sharks do it? They've done it before this season. Younger players like Matt Nieto, Tomas Hertl and Tommy Wingels are new to this, also hungry, and may use their earplugs when they hear the whispers. So, will the Sharks be listening to that playoff sandman? Or, to the Metallica version and finish tonight with a smirk and a handshake at Staples Center?


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