The Sharks played well but were ultimately swept by an unshakable Chicago Blackhawks team. In past seasons of disappointing playoff exits, the Sharks didn’t live up to their full potential, earning their reputation as playoff chokers. This year was different. They rallied in the 1st round to beat the Avalanche, steamrolled the Red Wings in the 2nd round, and played a great series against Chicago, who proved to be the better team in the end, sweeping the Sharks in 4 hard-fought games.
Despite the sweep, anybody who actually watched the games – ‘Hawks fans included – will tell you that the sweep wasn’t indicative of the play on the ice. The Sharks outshot the Hawks in 3 out of the 4 games and looked to control most of the games. But no matter what the Sharks threw at the Hawks – and freakin’ Niemi, they just couldn’t win the games.
Congrats to the Blackhawks–they played a great 4 games, coming from behind to win in a couple and never playing dirty.
Before Game 3, when the Sharks were only down 2 games in the series, Tim Kawakami of the Merc predicted the Blackhawks would win simply because they were the better team:
It would be simpler and snazzier to conclude that the Sharks are choking now as they choke always, but they are not.
Nope, the Sharks are not losing these games to Chicago because of bad luck or regrettably callow performances. In contrast to recent playoff torments when the Sharks had the most talent but the least gumption, this time they’re just flat-out losing.
Justin Bourne of Puck Daddy, wrote about the Sharks’ exit from the playoffs:
The San Jose Sharks played a fantastic series for a team that got swept. With the pedal to the floor from the drop of the puck (for the second straight night), nothing they could muster seemed good enough.
Given all of this, I don’t understand is how people can label this years Sharks as chokers. Is anything less than the Stanley Cup “choking” now? Even with the Sharks’ great play, the Blackhawks came out on top – but there’s no shame in losing in the Conference Finals to the #2 seed. How is that choking? Especially when there are far better examples of choking this year in the Eastern Conference: Pittsburg, Washington, and most awesomely, Boston.
As any die-hard fan of any sport knows, you bond with your team, celebrate when times are good, and lose sleep over hard losses. Even though I would have loved to have seen my Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, I’m proud of the Sharks this year and what they accomplished.
This is a far better end-of-the-season post than last year, when I angrily wrote a post on the President’s Trophy Sharks losing to the 8th-seeded Ducks (before this year’s Bruins, that, my friends was a fine example of real choking).
I’ve updated my pretty graphic from last year’s post:
- 1997-98: Lost to Dallas in the Quarterfinals
- 1998-99: Lost to Colorado in the Quarterfinals
- 1999-00: Lost to Dallas in the Semifinals
- 2001-02: Lost to Colorado in the Semifinals
- 2002-03: didn’t make the playoffs
- 2003-04: Lost to Calgary in the Conference Finals
- 2004-05: Stupid lockout
- 2005-06: Lost to Edmonton in Semifinals
- 2006-07: Lost to Detroit in Semifinals
- 2007-08: Lost to Dallas in the Semifinals
- 2008-09: Lost to Anaheim in the Quarterfinals
- 2009-10: Lost to Chicago in the Conference Finals
So what’s in store for the Sharks next year? There will be the usual roster shuffling and changes, but the core will probably stay the same. The only big questions are Marleau and Nabokov, who are up for grabs as free agents.
If this was Marleau’s last year as a Shark, he definitely saved the best for last, scoring a career high number of goals and showing up strong in this series against the Blackhawks. A lot of teams would be happy to pay Marleau piles of money to come play for them. I hope he stays though–Marleau has always been one of my favorite players because of his skill and his humility (I can’t stand athletes that are full of themselves). He may have been questionable as a captain, but he is still one of the foundations of this Sharks team, a “franchise player.” He has done so much for the Sharks organization that I think that his number will be the first that they retire.
Nabby has been a great goalie for the Sharks for years, but now that his contract is up, I think it is a good time to look to find another goaltender for a different direction. I don’t believe Greiss is up to the task, so we’ll have to wait and see what the Sharks organization does.
You can bet on the Sharks making another playoff appearance next year and after shedding their choker rep this year, I’m hoping they’ll go all the way. Thanks Sharks for a great season!