To the analyst who looks beyond the surface, it is obvious they once again simply ran into a superior team.
The Vancouver Canucks were the best team in the league during the regular season when looking at the records. They had the top scoring offence, they allowed the fewest goals of any team and they had the best power play and penalty kill in the league.
Sure, they were not the most mentally tough team in the league. Like the Sharks, they were just 2-4 when the opposition faces elimination—no way to win a title.
But while Vancouver took it easier than they should have in the first couple rounds, their talent carried them over weaker teams as they developed a killer instinct. They completely allowed a vastly inferior Chicago Blackhawks opponent back into their first round series. They allowed the scrappy but overmatched Nashville Predators squad to hang in the series for six games.
In contrast, the Sharks made things hard for themselves against teams that could take something out of them.
The Sharks failed to close out the Los Angeles Kings in San Jose during the first round after being up 3-1 in the series. Then they failed three times in a row to close out the Detroit Red Wings, including a game in which they were up 3-1 in the third period.
The extra two games played against Detroit wore down the Sharks for the beginning of their series against Vancouver, and they could not keep up with the rested Canucks until the series returned to San Jose.
Because of that, the fluke goal that might have just put them down in the series ended it.
Hence, San Jose started the conference finals series with Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe playing through significant injuries, and Jason Demers was unavailable.
It was a pattern they carried over from the regular season.
General Manager Doug Wilson admitted the team’s poor start had given them too little margin for error. This forced players to fight through injuries even during the regular season, rather than take time off to heal.
If the Sharks are going to have different final results in 2012, they need to play just as hard with a chance to end a series as they do in the middle of it.