Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

Elimination Day, April 21, 2012

This is going to be long.  It is, after all, the end of the Sharks’ 2012 playoff run. 

Hands shaking. Why? I’m not even watching the game live.  This has all happened before, it has literally happened already, I am watching on delay because I am that paranoid.  Still with the hands shaking.

Before the game, Boyle said that no one outside the room believed they could do it.  That was a dagger. 

Why is a win so important to me?  I won’t lose pay if the Sharks don’t come back to play another day.  Hell, I might get more paid work done if this is over.

I remember once thinking Elimination Day would shut me down.  It didn’t.  I woke up the next morning feeling just fine.  So why so shaky today?  I did what I was supposed to do: don’t write about the Sharks before the game, write about the Flyers, do not watch in real time, do nothing, nothing to jinx the team.  Above all, do not believe they will win.  I tried everything.

The Sharks are doing okay… except there Wingels is fighting with Stewart.

Wingels reminds me a little of Mike Richards, without the dubious history of doing dangerous things to other players.  Wingels has a similar tenacity, that tendency to get there faster than you expect, a willingness to do everything at 110%.  I’ve never seen Wingels act as a padless goalie when the real goalie wandered off (Boooooosh…), but I bet he would do it without a second thought.

I don’t know what to make of McLellan opting to use seven defensemen.  Is Winchester hurt?  Is Galiardi?  Ferriero?  Unless he planned to use Demers as a forward, what’s the point?  Doesn’t playing half the shifts you are used to throw everyone off?  Is someone playing hurt?

McLellan talked about working horses to death.  I don’t know why it is so popular to talk about ways to torment horses.  Isn’t that what players are supposed to do anyway, leave it all on the ice?  Especially in playoffs?

Niemi makes a nice, smart glove save on Alex Pietrangelo during Havlat’s second penalty of the game.  That’s good, good for confidence, right?

Yesterday, while watching the Flyers lose, I realized how much I like watching their penalty kill.  They make it look so easy, they seem as likely to score as to be scored on.  I’m sure the caliber of power play faced has something to do with it but still, I wish I could enjoy watching a Sharks penalty kill.  On a Flyers penalty kill, Havlat being in the box would be quite advantageous, a fast guy like him just waiting to make a break the other way as soon as your opponent’s fruitless two minutes are up.  You know, like a two-way plan to not only stop your opponent but to attack as well.  I know I am comparing apples to oranges.  As penalty kills go, I prefer oranges.  They don’t give me indigestion.

Burns doesn’t look so shaky today as he did in Game 4.  On Thursday, passes jumped over his stick at a ridiculous rate, nothing worked for him.  He seems steadier today.

Speaking of dead horses, Desi is stuck on the ice for much much too long, trapped there by a sequence of icing calls near the end of the second period.  He hangs in there, finally Burns is able to carry the puck out, Braun has what looks to be the cleanest chance of the game so far.  Elliott has to stretch for it.  After the next faceoff, the second line gives Elliott more grief, three chances at least, followed by another shot from Braun at the blue line.  It all collapses into a 2 on 1 the other way, the 1 being Demers.  He handles it, with some help from Boyle coming back on a Jumbo boost.

It was good to see Braun shooting again.  That dropped off for a bit, most obviously in the last game when he passed instead of shooting on a good chance.  I worried that he had lost something, trust or confidence or… something.  So it was good to see him shooting again every chance he got.

Under three minutes left in the second period.  It looks to me like the Sharks are using their skates more, kicking the puck, and it’s working pretty well.

That reminds me of what Mark Emmons wrote about one of Boyle’s skate guards coming loose in Game 4.  All season I’ve been wondering about what the drawbacks are to skate guards, and I didn’t hear anyone suggest that, that they tend to fall off and trip you.  That is a serious drawback.  I wonder why you don’t hear about it more?  It doesn’t really sound like a strategic secret a team would need to hide.

Writing this with a pen helps steady the shakes…

Oh God. 

Thornton just scored.  Well, he did it about 20 minutes ago but it still makes me catch my breath.  There are 20 seconds left in the period.  I might cry if the Blues score now, now before the period ends.  They don’t.

Hearing that Knuble scored against the Bruins this morning made me smile.  Hearing that the Bruins lost also made me happy.  Wishing someone ill is a cheaper fix than hope is.  It also doesn’t last as long.  Hope is scary, it takes work, it makes your hands shake, but it offers a better high.  Besides, the results are not any more reliable, hate is as likely to let you down as hope.

Before the third period, Shaw says the Sharks will wait for their chances, something about waiting for the Blues to expose themselves.  God I hope not, I mean that sounds a lot like sitting back which is always a bad idea.

The Sharks don’t seem to be going to the net any too soon.  Like there, when Thornton digs the puck out of the corner and can finally throw it through the crease and no one is anywhere… anywhere nearby.  Other than that, the Sharks make good use of blocked shots, getting the puck back quickly if not immediately while they’re in the Blues’ zone.

On rushes, however, the Sharks arrive too soon, rebounds slip behind them.  How maddening that has to be, trying to time that at speed. Like trying to write with shaking hands.

I’ve heard many people complain about how slow Thornton is making changes.  I have been aggravated by it also.  Now I think he wants to stay on the ice, you know, in case the prospect of him getting off the ice triggers something he might be able to take advantage of.  It’s just a thought.  That I would have.  Because I think like a sneaky person and I only want to think good things about the Sharks.

Niemi makes a snappy glove save after the Blues keep the Sharks running around in their own zone for too long.  Niemi has been good, the Sharks have been keeping his line of sight clear.

Stats like shots on goal and faceoff percentages, like the ones they flash up on the screen, those can comfort viewers, or scare us.  If we watch carefully we don’t need them any more than the players do to know if our team is chasing the puck around too much or blocking more shots than usual or if the goalie is way too busy or not at all.  I guess the numbers can cut through the fan’s emotion, help us know what we might be ignoring.  A fan might get a huge boost from one successful penalty kill, but the numbers remind us that there’s more to the game than that.

I don’t need stats to tell me that letting a rebound go right while you slide left is a formula for disaster.  Tie game.

I can’t think.  I’m in a panic.  I succumb to despair.  I would be a terrible teammate.  I am Chicken Little.  Chicken Little isn’t even a good fan.

The Blues score again.  This has all happened before, I am not seeing this happen, it is but a shadow.

The Blues fans are very happy. Out of their minds happy.

What Perron did there, the way he arrived at the perfect time for that deflection?  There’s that timing thing.  That’s doing calligraphy with your weak hand in an off-road vehicle.  Off road.

It was nice to spend so much of the game not losing.  Spending the whole game behind is such a long slow torture.

I’m sure the game is over now, there are only a few minutes left on my replay.  The Sharks are on a power play against one of the League’s most impervious defenses.

I’m glad Demers is on the ice.  I don’t know why, I just am.  It’s nice to see him on the power play, even if the power play fails.

Two minutes left. Hitchcock frowns at an icing call and uses his time out.

The Sharks lose the first last-minute faceoff, get the puck back, Thornton shoots it into Elliott.  Only a few seconds lost there, it’s like a do-over. The second try doesn’t work either, even though the Sharks win the faceoff.  Impervious.  Niemi is pulled somewhere in there.

McLellan uses his timeout, puts Thornton, Pavelski, Couture, Clowe, Boyle and Burns on the ice.  They quickly lose the puck, everyone seems to.  I imagine there are a lot of people shouting from the bench there, both benches, as the puck drifts unseen into the neutral zone… where McDonald is, behind the Sharks.  He finds it, he tosses it with an almost casual backhand, down into the Sharks’ empty net.  3-1 Blues.

I can’t imagine how you play past that.  How do you not just lie down under the demoralizing weight of it?

Faceoff, clear, Boyle goes back to retrieve the puck.  It is over even though the clock is still running.  He shoots anyway, from the red line.

I wonder how the ‘Yotes are doing?  Oh hell, I do not care. At all.

I think the Blues had a closer target from the get-go.  What I didn’t want to dwell on about experience is that sometimes it makes you jaded, or tired, or too full of all the wrong expectations.  You grow buttons as you go along, there are more things that trigger memories, memories that make you wary or make you anticipate too much.  Experience can cloud your vision like cataracts until you can’t just see what’s in front of you, you’re too distracted by the replays and the what-ifs running in your head.

One could argue that the Blues were just better, but most of the time it isn’t about who is better but about who wants it more, who pounces on it like there’s no tomorrow, puts every last bit of energy into getting to this puck, winning this game, without saving anything for the trip back, or the next round.  It isn’t a matter of laziness, it’s just a matter of experience.  Sometimes less is more.

I’m not angry.  I’m tired, I’m sad.  I’m done, my heart is a little broken, but my hands are steady again.  I don’t want to watch the post-game show.  I don’t want to watch that, at all.  I don’t know when I’ll type this up.  I hope the Sharks have a good Summer.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: brent+burns, elimination, experience, fan, joe+thornton, justin+braun, playoffs, st.+louis+blues, tommy+wingels

Comments

Chet's avatar

as a wings fan, it seems the sharks were vaguely similar this year: sometimes great, often frustrating and certainly underachieving. still feeling your pain.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 04/22/12 at 06:54 AM ET

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About Petshark: Talking Stick

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net