It Was Just One Game: Why The San Jose Sharks Are Done Choking

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IMay 7, 2010

DETROIT - MAY 4:  Douglas Murray #3 and Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the San Jose Sharks defend against Todd Bertuzzi #44 of the Detroit Red Wings in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on May 4, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

"Scooooree!!!! Oh my goodness! The Aves have won in overtime! I think the San Jose Sharks just threw it into their own net! They did! Dan Boyle threw it off the stick of Ryan O'Reilly by Evgeni Nabokov! And the Colorado Avalanche has won in overtime! They take a two games to one series lead over the Sharks!"

That was the call from the Colorado Avalanche radio voice Marc Moser as he called one of the most unbelievably lucky overtime goals in the history of hockey.

Well, lucky for the team he was broadcasting for anyway.

But for the Sharks, it was just another reason for the their fans and the team to fold.

After all, they were the No. 1 seed and President's Trophy winners last season and they lost in the first round.

While they didn't win the President’s Trophy this season, they still managed a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, so naturally the expectations were just as high.

And when they fell behind 2-1 in the first round against Colorado, it would have been only natural for the team to self destruct, give up, and once again choke away what was another tremendous regular season.

After all, this is the Sharks right? The team that squandered away a 2-0 series lead in the Western Semi's in 2006, squandered away what should have been a 3-1 series lead in the 2007 Western Semi's, fell behind three games to none in the 2008 Western Semi's (despite being the higher seed), and last year collapsed after being the best team in hockey during the regular season.

OK, I'll admit that was a bit of a run-on sentence but it felt necessary to include all that misery in one long sentence because that misery is done with.

If it was still alive and kicking, the Sharks wouldn't be where they stand today, with a three games to one series lead over the New York Yankees of hockey.

Now way shape or form, are the choking Sharks of years past still a part of this franchise.

Those teams never put together three straight wins against the Detroit Red Wings, the last of which being a two-goal third period comeback and an OT winner.

Nope, this team is different.

And any fan suggesting the Sharks will/could/might/ choke this series away after just one loss does not know how to look at the big picture.

Sure, the Sharks blew a chance to sweep by losing 7-1 in Game four.

But look at what happened from an objective standpoint, and the game wasn't as lopsided as one might assume.

In that "hurricane" of a first period brought on by the Red Wings, they were still out-shot by San Jose 11-9, and their fifth goal came virtue of Boyle, Douglas Murray and Evgeni Nabokov teaming up to put the puck in their own net.

San Jose had their chances in the opening frame but the bounces didn't go their way. Detroit on the other hand buried every single one of their opportunities and benefited from an own goal.

However, when you put that first period aside, the score is just 2-1 Red Wings in the final two periods. They even out-shot the Sharks 28-18 in the final 40 minutes but managed just two goals past underrated Sharks backup netminder Thomas Greiss.

Am I trying to defend my hometown team and claim they actually deserved at least a closer score on Thursday? No, not at all.

But tell me, what are the chances someone on the Red Wings scores another natural hat trick in the span of less than four minutes in Game five?

Probably just as likely as someone being struck by lightning twice in their lifetime.

Now look at the flip-side: what are the chances that the bounces go San Jose's way back home in the friendly confines of the "Shark Tank?"

I'd say pretty good.

After all, so far during the postseason they are 4-1 in their extremely loud home arena (officially known as the HP Pavilion at San Jose).

Once again, their head coach will be able to make the last change, and their centers will have some added flexibility in the faceoff circle.

But more important than that, is the notion that the Sharks are a different team this year.

The word "overcome" has been used throughout these playoffs in connection with this team and rightfully so because they have embodied it throughout these playoffs.

Most recently, their ability to overcome won them a road playoff game after being down two goals heading into the third period.

One game, and one loss, no matter the score, won't change that.

This team has refused to let the worst of unfortunate bounces affect their play in the shifts, periods, and games that followed.

And because of that, fans and experts alike should look for the Sharks to bounce back and close out the series on home ice in Saturday's Game five.


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