The Presidents’ Trophy-Winning San Jose Sharks: The team you know and love.
Characteristics: explosive start to the game, fast skating, bone-crushing hits on either side of the ice, puck control, effortless breakout, constant onslaught
Why they win: They play angry but smart, imposing their will on opponents with their size and speed.
The Roll-Over-And-Die Sharks
Characteristics: losing faceoffs, multiple turnovers, allow forwards to control puck in their zone, always one-step behind, sluggish skating
Why they lose: always in a defensive mindset, reacting instead of creating, allowing too many shots on goal, lacking desire, failing to capitalize on the power play.
San Jose fans have been rooting for a split-personality contender this season.
In one game, they’re cheering for the powerhouse that racked up an NHL-best 117 points to earn the top seed in the Western Conference.
The next, they’re watching a sloppy, lazy bunch that forgets how to win.
After failing to score a single goal against the Ducks in Thursday’s 4-0 loss, to drop into a 1-3 hole in the series, the inconsistency that has haunted the Sharks all season long is finally catching up to them.
Now, facing elimination in the first round of the playoffs, San Jose fans are losing heart, as their Stanley Cup contenders seem poised to crumble to a team that barely squeaked into the postseason.
The good version of the team showed up in Game Three, a hard-fought 4-3 victory in which the Sharks played their best hockey of the series by far, out-skating, out-shooting, and out-checking the suddenly perplexed Ducks.
Fans begin to regain some hope as they finally witnessed their Presidents’ Trophy winners team back in action, relentlessly attacking the net and backing up goaltender Evgeni Nabokov with some solid defense.
Then Game Four rolled around, and what a reversal it was.
San Jose reverted to the timid, formulaic tactics that lost them the first two games in the series. Turnovers in their own zone, getting outskated on either end and failing to mount any semblance of an effective attack on goal were the predominant themes of the game for the Sharks.
They were unrecognizable from the team that took the ice during Game Three. Indeed, they looked like they had lost Game Four before they even took the ice.
There are two sides to this Sharks team. It will be interesting to see which one shows up tonight.