The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks treated the sell-out crowd at HP Pavilion to what many are touting as not only the game of the year, but one of the best regular season games in NHL history Thursday night. The game pitted the Western Conference leading Canucks against the No. 3 Sharks, and in terms of drama it certainly lived up to the hype.
The Sharks rebounded from three separate deficits, showing incredible resiliency and heart. Much was made of the fact that the Sharks were able to overcome such adversity against the runaway leaders in the NHL playoff standings, and many have argued that this never-say-die attitude is a sign of the type of maturation that may finally lead the Sharks to their first Stanley Cup.
Down 2-0 at the first intermission—having played one of their worst all-around periods in months—the Sharks rebounded to statistically dominate the remainder of regulation and the overtime: out-scoring Vancouver 4-2, out-shooting them 42-16, and nearly knocking a hole through goaltender Corey Schneider, who may have warranted consideration for first star of the game even if the Sharks had won.
The Sharks out-shot Vancouver 9-0 in the overtime period and had a bevy of absolutely golden opportunities that somehow stayed out of the back of the net. Nonetheless, they did not deserve to win.
Take nothing away from what the Sharks did, finding a way to repeatedly respond to mounting adversity against an absolutely devastating opponent, but they made so many mistakes that it was a miracle they even had a chance to win at all. Taking a somewhat humbling shoot-out loss may have been the best thing the Sharks could have hoped for.
Had they found a way to win in overtime, it would only have served to reinforce the notion that the Sharks could live with regular mistakes and still pick up two points. They needed to miss out on at least one point to remind themselves that sloppy, lackadaisical, and just plain poor execution has consequences.
The Canucks were markedly more polished than the Sharks, and the outcome reflected it. The loss raised the Canucks head-to-head record to 3-0-1 against the Sharks this season, spurring speculation about how the Sharks would fare in a potential playoff match-up with the Canucks.
What did this game mean for the Sharks?
Of course in the post season, things could go quite differently. Without the shootout, one would have to figure the powerful onslaught by the Sharks in overtime would eventually have yielded the first goal. Then again, another mistake like the many they made throughout the game could spell instant doom in sudden death.
There are basically two ways to look at it. Execution was seriously lacking for the Sharks through long stretches of the game, and rightfully cost them a point in the standings. Vancouver took advantage of these mistakes and despite scoring four goals, the Sharks struggled mightily trying to beat Schneider in net.
On the other hand, the Sharks showed great heart and incredible resolve in drawing even in regulation. That type of heart will certainly bode well come playoff time.
Furthermore, had the Sharks not made so many mistakes, and had Schneider not turned in a spell-binding performance, the Sharks may have been able to come away with an easy victory. The Sharks can certainly take solace in that.
Taking the loss will force the Sharks to sharpen their focus and correct the mistakes that led to the loss. That could make them a punishing force a month from now.
Keep the Faith!