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Sharks now control home ice
5/18/16 - By Ken Smyth -

Coming back to San Jose with the series tied, the St. Louis Blues are trying to earn a split on the road just as the Sharks were a few days ago. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock tossed his team under the zamboni after Tuesday's loss, but his lamentations of why-can't-we-play-at-home-like we-do-on-the-road sound appropriate for the Sharks as well. Also, don't snicker at Htich too much. Spending all those years in 210 watching his Stars teams snag a loose pass and send the forwards back up ice made me appreciate his system, boring as it looked to play. Those doughnuts power a good hockey mind.

Back in the Sharks early days, I looked at their games against the Blues as a measuring point. If the expansion Sharks were ever going to succeed they needed to get to that good basic NHL level that those 1990's Blues teams represented.

Even though they never made it past two rounds of playoffs, they would always make the post-season. But always making the playoffs but never winning much is just plain cruel for fans. You're pissed because the Sharks never made it past two rounds in 25 years of trying? Go for almost 50 years and see how you like it?

This post isn't supposed to be a paleontology dissertation so I'll save the discussion about Scotty Bowman, Red Berenson and the fifteen Plager brothers for later. This Blues team carries all the emblems of their better offerings: good young budding-superstar-talent up front, strong defense, hot goaltending, and a coach who will wear thin on the room after a while. They're as close as they've ever been and that makes their fans nervous: how will it happen to us THIS time?

The media loves the Sharks because they won the last game, they understand that staying with that simple logic they'll be with the champion in the end. Unusually, the Sharks seem to be getting better as the playoffs roll along but there are still seven wins to go. For the Sharks to carry this series, the answer is to keep doing what they did so well in game two: hold the puck and continue to pressure the Ken Hitchcock transition game from defense to offense around center ice.For us Sharks fans, let's show up no matter what weird time the game starts and make some serious noise in the tank.

Losers and Winners-

Easy to see who the few winners are this playoff season: the four teams left playing, Peter Reimer's agent when getting him that new contract, and Ducks ex-coach Bruce Boudreau who gets fired into an insane raise in Minnesota. But among the losers are a fairly large group of guys who principle talent is intensity.

I'm talking about Dustin Brown, Brooks Orpik, Mike Ribiero, Milan Lucic, and a long list of players with good basic hockey ability but earn their roster spots because they're not afraid to nail an opposing player and dare the refs to call it. This playoff season, the refs ARE calling penalties. These guys are so used to playing on instinct (like any NHL'er) that it's impossible for them to change their conduct. Nothing personal, but they're are boneheads. They make big hits that the home fans love, but can't learn that how you played in 2009 is not the way it works today.

In the old NHL, if an enforcer wasn't smart enough to pick out when to attack the coach would nailed him the bench. But today's four-line hockey means that everybody who dresses plays serious minutes and it's hard to hide aguy without double-shifting someone else. A coach who plugs a hothead prone to cheap shots into the lineup over a young player now stands a strong chance of regretting it when a stupid penalty lets the opposition score on a power play.

Ken Hitchcock can bench Steve Ott, but he's still got Troy Brouwer as a regular. In retrospect, Doug Wilson did well in dumping Raffi Torres' contract on Toronto, Raffi would have probably cost the Sharks a few goals by now the way these series have played out.

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