Things were looking pretty good for the San Jose Sharks last night.
Having been shutout in game one of their NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Los Angeles Kings, the Sharks had found a way to put three pucks past All-World goalie Jonathan Quick and were up 3-2 over the Kings. All they had to do was hold on, and they would have stolen home ice advantage away, no mean feat considering how hard it is to go into the Shark Tank and win as the road team. San Jose was tied for the best home winning percentage this year in the NHL with Chicago and LA, at .813, and only lost 2 games in regulation on their home ice the entire regular season.
Game winding down, San Jose looking to head home tied 1-1 . . . plenty of upside for the Sharks.
Yet here we are, discussing a series that LA currently leads 2-0. Hmmm. How, exactly, did this happen? What made Sharks’ Coach Todd McLellan leave his team alone in the dressing room following the defeat?
The good news: San Jose did not suffer a late-game meltdown anywhere near as historic as the Toronto Maple Leafs in game 7 of their first-round match-up with Boston. Phew.
The bad news: with under two minutes left in the game, San Jose coughed up two goals within 22 seconds of one another, transforming their 3-2 lead into a 4-3 deficit which they failed to overcome. How? Two words: stupid penalties.
A tripping penalty with under three minutes to go. A delay of game penalty 22 seconds later. Giving the Stanley Cup-defending, home-team Los Angeles Kings a 5-on-3 advantage with just over two minutes to go in a one-goal game?
Yep; that’ll do ‘er.
For the second straight game, the San Jose Sharks have been the better 5-on-5 team, but they have nothing to show for it, which goes to show you how thin the line between a good team and a Stanley Cup Championship team can be. Mental fortitude, the belief that the game is never over until the horn sounds, possessing the discipline required to stay out of the penalty box when it most matters – no amount of talent in the world will help a team win a championship if it doesn’t possess the sort of intangible qualities that I just listed. Hello, last year’s Pittsburgh Penguins: I’m pointing the finger at you. So listen up, San Jose: when you say things such as this blurb from Brad Stuart –
“I think 5-on-5, we were the better team. We keep doing those kinds of things, we’ll get our wins. That’s what we have to do”
– well, you’re actually wrong, guys. Because, in addition to the good “kinds of things” you’re doing, you are also doing bad “kinds of things,” like, you know, COMMITTING PENALTIES LATE IN THE GAME.
Sorry to get forceful there, but it’s true. The better team doesn’t always win, San Jose, so you can tell yourself that things will start going your way if you just keep plugging away, but that won’t keep you warm at night when you’re sleeping in your beds two weeks from now. Talent enough won’t win you the Cup, San Jose, and the LA Kings are currently schooling you in that regard.