I consider my father to be the consummate authoritative fan of the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees.
Growing up, he would always tell me: “If you’re going to lose, you might as well lose big.”
Thursday night, with the infathomable chance to sweep the vaunted Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks did just that. They lost BIG! 7-1 to be exact.
Johan Franzen tallied a natural hat trick to open scoring and the Sharks trailed 5-0 by the time the horn sounded to signal the merciful end of the first period.
A goaltending change from heretofore playoff stud Evgeni Nabokov to back-up Thomas Greiss yielded little change to San Jose’s fortunes, as the Red Wings pushed the score to 6-0 before the Sharks finally scored on a Dany Heatley power play tally to avert the embarrassment of a shutout.
The Sharks became the first team since 1945 to fail to sweep the Red Wings after taking a 3-0 best-of-seven series lead. Nonetheless, there are still some inconvenient truths for Detroit to face.
The series now shifts back to San Jose’s HP Pavilion, scientifically proven to be the loudest and most inhospitable road rink in the NHL.
The Sharks are 4-1 in the post-season at home this season, with the only loss coming on a lucky deflection off Captain Rob Blake’s skate in the final minute of Game One of the Quarterfinals against the Colorado Avalanche.
I am sorry if I burst anyone’s bubble by saying this, but the Sharks were NOT going to win 15 straight playoff games to capture the Stanley Cup.
They had won six in a row and given the tremendous (and in my opinion sickening) parity in the NHL playoff field, one had to question when that streak had to come to an end.
Losing a game in this series to Detroit sets the Sharks up with the chance to rebound to start the next series on a high note, as long as they can close things out at home on Saturday.
The Sharks have not lost consecutive games yet this post season, and with their great home-ice advantage and incredible ability to “overcome” this postseason, I can only assume the Sharks will show tremendous heart in Game Five.
The nature of the loss lends further credence to the fact that the Sharks will be able to simply “shrug it off.”
Had the Sharks gone to overtime again with the chance to win another one goal game and close out the series in a sweep, but ended up losing, that would have been seriously disheartening.
A 7-1 drubbing brings to mind the song “Mama Said There’d be Days Like This,” and suggests there is little the Sharks can do other than laugh it off.
Nobody predicted this series to end in a sweep, and even when the Sharks took a 3-0 lead in thrilling fashion, you had to figure the series was still far from over.
Franzen’s natural hat trick, the leading playoff goaltender getting chased, and the top remaining seed getting absolutely demolished with a chance to advance warrant nothing more than light-hearted laughter from Team Teal supporters.
The Sharks have never lost a series when leading 3-0 (though admittedly there is only one previous example to draw on).
The Red Wings have never won a series when trailing 3-0 (in this case there are nine previous series to draw on). I will go out on a limb and say neither trend will be broken this year.
The question seems to be not IF the Sharks will advance, but WHEN?
There is certainly plenty of reason to hope and believe that will be in Game Five on Saturday.
With the other series in the Western Conference standing at 2-1 in favor of Chicago, a five-game series for the Sharks could offer them just the right combination of rest and rhythm, giving them time to prepare for the Conference Finals without running the risk of getting rusty.
The Sharks took advantage of the chance to end a series early in Game Six against Colorado, and that was on the road.
With the resolve and resiliency they have shown this year, I fully expect the Sharks to respond in earnest in Game Five. I am in no mood to shave my playoff beard any time soon.
Keep the Faith!