Kukla's Korner

Petshark: Talking Stick

How to outrun a bear

There’s a story about two joggers being chased by a bear.  One stops to tie his shoes and the other asks “why are you doing that?  You can’t outrun a bear.”  The first replies “I don’t have to run outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”  The same goes for winning a game.  You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be better than the other guy.

I thought the Sharks game in Boston was their best of the season, but I use strange metrics.  They had some messy meltdowns, but as a whole their game was more resilient and aggressive.  Niemi looked miles better, until the third period. His own error behind the net resulted in the first goal that broke his shutout.  The second Bruins goal was a cruel one.  The Sharks, make that Boyle and Murray in particular, got tangled up and left their goalie all on his own while he was still trying to get over the first big failure.  Not fair, that is no way to support your goalie in his time of need.  Even after all that, Niemi still finished the game looking quicker than he did in New Jersey.

In New Jersey we saw the Sharks fall behind and come back to win, and in Boston we saw them take the lead and hold onto it.  I don’t know if letting the other team tie the game counts against that but to my mind, it showed they had the mental fortitude to keep trying even when the bear was breathing down their necks.

Lots of things went wrong in Boston for the Sharks.  Desi’s penalty was very careless.  The Bruins have a weak power play, but the Sharks have an equally weak penalty kill (lately anyway).  Figuring out which was worse was not a good thing to have to do so early in the game, especially while the Sharks still had a little positive energy from Pavelski’s goal.

One of the lucky ones. (From NHL.com)

It turns out that the Sharks’ penalty kill was worse than the Bruins’ power play, but when you add in the Bruins’ inability to hit the net, well, that’s why the Sharks killed that penalty.  I saw at least two open nets missed by the Bruins.  That was just the beginning of a very rough ride.

So why do I feel like the Sharks had a really good game?  Why do I think it was their best game yet?  Because they didn’t quit.  They didn’t dawdle or hang back being over-cautious.  They compensated for mistakes, many as they were. 

What of the recent arrivals?  Braun: his jets are in full form, needs to get the brakes tightened a little.  Ferriero: who is this guy?  I’m calling him Obi-Wan until I get clarification.  Havlat: I guess he’s a quick study, looked like he’d played more than one game with Couture and Clowe.  Burns: I think he’s settling in very nicely.

The Sharks gave up more and better chances than the Bruins did.  That tells me that the Sharks were better at taking advantage of less good chances.  Sure, they had defensive breakdowns, but when they saw a gap they went through it.  You can’t do that if you’re moping, licking your wounds, gloating over a lead or any of that other stuff.  Maybe you’re missing other things but it’s very hard to accuse the Sharks of failing to take a chance. Maybe I prefer reckless to timid.

By the end of the second, the Sharks had blocked significantly more shots than the Bruins had: 14-6.  The fact that the Bruins still led slightly on the shot clock tells me that things were worse even than they seemed.  It also tells me that the Sharks were still in it, still very serious about protecting their lead and their goalie even if they had to do it the hard way.

Cheer up, guys, this is all a team building exercise. (From NHL.com)

When the Sharks lost two d-men during a game in Edmonton last season, but still won, were they playing badly?  They let a lead slip away, barely won it in the end.  Of course they weren’t playing badly, they were undermanned and overextended.

When some players are figuratively absent if not physically absent, but the team wins, can I say the team played badly?  No.  When you can’t run, you crawl.  When you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.  That’s how teams work.  Hopefully, the same guys aren’t being carried game after game, but everyone falls down.  Unless you are playing golf, part of playing a good game is making up for someone else’s mistakes. 

That is why I think this was the Sharks’ best game yet.  They jumped in and fell and bounced back again and again.  Could the Bruins have taken better advantage?  Yes, I would not have wanted to be in their post-game meeting.  But that shouldn’t detract from the Sharks’ win.  They won because several players- Havlat, Clowe, Thornton, Obi-Wan, McGinn, Niemi, Handzus, Vlasic, Couture and Braun- did a lot of very good things, played well more than badly.  Pavelski, well, I’m trying to review the game to see where he messed up.  There, I think he missed a shot… no, it is really hard to say he had any significant mistakes to make up for.  He had the first point and the last.

Boyle had a bad game.  It’s hard to tell if he or Murray had a worse game.  Yet, during the third, when the game was falling apart (yes, partly due to a mistake by these two), Boyle had to cope with a 2 on 1 situation and he did it tidily.  Yes, Boyle should be able to do that, he does it all the time. He did handle it, even after falling down (literally) on the Bruins’ second goal.  If he follows his usual pattern, he should be ready to do some carrying next game.  Some people have to hit bottom before they can get up again.

The Sharks are one of the top teams in the NHL.  The most common criticism of the best teams is that they lack heart.  “They can’t finish, they choke at the critical moment.”  Not these Sharks.  They are not doing that, they might get hit with the stupid stick now and again but right now they’re showing plenty of heart.

In the end the Sharks took more than the Bruins gave them, that’s why they won.  The ups and downs made it more fun to watch, so I don’t know what anyone can complain about outside the dressing room.

Filed in: , San Jose Sharks, | Petshark: Talking Stick | Permalink
  Tags: antti+niemi, benn+ferriero, boston+bruins, dan+boyle, douglas+murray, making+lemonade, obi-wan+kenobi


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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