The San Jose Sharks were game and brought game as they extended their Western Conference Stanley Cup playoff game opposite the Chicago Blackhawks into an extra stanza Friday. Unfortunately their best game was not enough as they bowed to the 'Hawks in the extra period of game three by the score of 3-2.
Game, set, and match to Chicago.
Contest four may be a foregone conclusion, what with a scenario that has played out similarly for this Sharks squad during the season and even past campaigns.
Yeoman-like efforts exuded, but matched against a slightly more athletic team with better puck handling skills.
Whether the current edition of the Blackhawks or the sledgehammer that has been the Detroit Red Wings, there is no arguing that the Sharks have been the second best team.
Does the hump of not reaching a Finals contribute to their performance? That hump is about to gain elevation to a new status, that of peak.
In order to surmount that peak, the Sharks must accomplish a change in their mindset and strategies.
Sharks like Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley must be more instinctive. Both stars are finding pucks poke-checked from their control, often in situations that demand good stickhandling to complete the set-up or to squeeze off a shot toward the net.
Goalie Evgeni Nabokov played well in game three, but he remains on the ice sprawled too often. He also tends to glove the puck and hold on, forcing faceoffs in his own end.
"Nabby" must be more aggressive in protecting his domain and that starts with moving out of the crease to improve his sight lines.
Game four is Sunday in Chicago and provides a real incentive to the Blackhawks in an effort to put a wrap on the series so that the squad can relax at home and wait for the Flyers/Canadiens winner.
The Sharks will be able to relax at home too, but their next opponent will be of the 18 holes variety.
With a change in attitude and strategies, next season could offer San Jose the chance to challenge the five-hole instead this late in May.
Is the hill insurmountable?