Personally, I'm getting tired of many of my fellows in the sports media.
Is the only opinion they can muster on the San Jose Sharks the played out and overused storyline of chokers?
Through a 4-2 series victory over an upstart Colorado Avalanche team and a quick five game burying of the vaunted Detroit Red Wings, the Sharks have already, in coach Todd McLellan’s words, “overcome adversity.”
Yet, seemingly every story I read in the last several days discusses how Joe Thornton is frustrated, Chicago is a far superior team, Dave Bolland is doing an excellent job against Thornton, and of course, the Sharks are collapsing again.
It begs just one question: Where do these dolts come up with this stuff? Ok, so two questions: Are they watching different games?
The AP recap of Game Two featured this gem: “San Jose’s frustration was evident when Thornton slashed Dave Bolland while lining up for a faceoff, leading to a Chicago power play.”
“They’re just getting frustrated and they can’t take it,” Bolland said.
Of course Bolland would say that, its called gamesmanship. Has no one read what either Mclellan, or Joe said about the play?
Here’s Sharks coach Todd McLellan , who doesn’t shy away from frank talk about his top players.
“I thought Joe played a pretty solid game. He was skating. He was big. He was strong.”
“We're going to have a tough time getting him away from Bolland, and that line has done a very good job,” he added.
On the whole, the Sharks played a 25-minute game; they generated speed through the neutral zone, and got great chances intermittently throughout the game.
Chicago, however, played 60 minutes.
And speaking of chokers—Patrick Marleau, who had just three points against the Avalanche—has seven points in his last six games.
Chicago netminder Antti Niemi was great, and Chicago did what they do best: they weathered every short storm the Sharks brought, then took advantage of poor defensive play.
San Jose needs to make adjustments to significant technical defaults to win. Their game plan was to slow Chicago down, but they somehow ended up slowing themselves down as well.
They need to move the puck quicker from side to side at their own blue line to execute those quick passes to their forwards, generating speed through the neutral zone, and into their offensive zone.
If they can’t get quick passes up to their forwards, the Shark D-men need to move side to side, then bust their rear ends to the red line and dump it deep.
This will allow Shark forwards to circle the neutral zone, generating speed and getting in on the talented Chicago defense.
Duncan Keith can start a breakout in a flash if San Jose’s forecheck gets there too late.
But back to Thornton for a moment.
My criticism of Thornton in Game Two is of his defensive play; he was minus-two and is a total of minus-ten now for the series.
That is unacceptable.
On offense he was banging bodies and getting chances, but I don’t think Bolland was actually anything special defensively.
Asked if Thornton’s “slash” on Bolland was a sign of frustration, McLellan said, “When I talked to him, he was going forward on the draw. We've seen that before where he [Bolland] times it and tries to shoot it. It's a tactic that Joe has. Ended up being a little quick and ended up being on the hands.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a Sharks fan through and through since the moment I started playing hockey. I am not a homer by any stretch though; I am first to criticize the team if they break my heart.
To address Bolland directly—he was a thorn and an agitator; that’s what he did best.
First, he wallowed on the ice when Thornton knocked him down, holding Thornton's stick with his glove.
Then he shakes his hand for an hour after a love tap from Jumbo, embellishing enough to draw a penalty (coming out on the next shift of course.)
Then he engages Ryane Clowe at the end of the game before having his teammates skate in to rescue him before he skates off. Bolland played like a more cowardly, Chicago style version of Sean Avery.
Want more proof? Just watch him against the Red Wings and Johan Franzen .