There it was.
The dying seconds of Game 1 of the Western Conference final. San Jose, trailing by a goal, wins a draw deep in the Chicago end. The puck ends up on the stick of
Maybe it was just one moment. One of those things that's bound to happen over the course of a seven-game series.
Or maybe we were a little hasty in proclaiming this San Jose team to be different than all the others that had come before it.
Because for all the talk about a new attitude, the squad that was beaten 2-1 Sunday afternoon by the gritty Chicago Blackhawks sure looked like the same old Sharks. The poster children for underachievement. A team that always managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Just one game? Just one loss? True on both counts. But the silence that settled early over the normally raucous Shark Tank spoke loudly of the feelings of San Jose's fans: They've seen this act before.
It's not that the Sharks were bad. In fact, they were started off strong, showing no signs of rust from their seven-day layoff. They had their legs moving early, controlling the first period and launching 12 consecutive shots to finish off the second. But they couldn't keep pace with the Hawks in the third. After Chicago got its cycle established, it was only a matter of time before they earned the game breaker.
San Jose's goaltending was solid, with
They maintained their discipline, drawing not one single penalty on the afternoon, and kept their legs moving sufficiently to draw five power plays of their own. But they scored on just one of those opportunities,
Let's take a moment here to award full marks to the Hawks. They walked into perhaps the most intimidating building in the league, removed the crowd from the equation by the beginning of the second, and snapped San Jose's five-game home winning streak by making subtle in-game adjustments to their line match-ups and their forecheck.
Their stars were the best players on the ice. Niemi? Can't say enough about him. He may not have started against the Sharks all year, but his inexperience never showed. The one goal he allowed deflected off the stick of
San Jose's top players? Hard not to notice that Thornton,
It wasn't just the big line that came up a little short. How about Pavelski? The hustle was there, but it's starting to feel like his first round scoring heroics may have inflated expectations after three straight games without a point. Chances are nice, but this team is going to need some finish.
The defense managed to keep the Hawks to the outside most of the night, but veterans
You know, maybe it was just one game. Just one afternoon when the pieces didn't quite fit.
But after dredging up the ghosts of failures past, San Jose faces two tasks when the series resumes on Tuesday: Even up the series with a win and prove they're not the same old Sharks.