Sunday, April 20, 2008


Give me a choice between a team that doesn't work hard and a team that plays like the Keystone Kops and I'll take the Kops any least you can look back on your team's losses and feel confident they gave it their best. However, you would at least hope that you could have a choice between one or the other. In tonight's 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames, the San Jose Sharks were both Kops-ish and outworked.

The Sharks performed badly in every fundamental of the game tonight, with the exception of goaltending (Nabokov had a good, but not spectacular, game) and possibly penalty killing (at least it was an improvement over the previous games in this series). From making passes to clearing the defensive zone to holding the offensive zone to winning faceoffs, and yes, even to skating, Los Tiburones looked somewhere between mediocre and inept.

(The Sharks had a clean three-on-one break tonight that ended without a shot on goal. That pretty much captures the way the night went as far as hockey proficiency goes.)

Worse, however, is that the effort put forth by the Sharks was not remotely equal to that put forth by the Flames. The frustrations of mid-season are repeating themselves, just with a compressed time scale and vastly greater consequences. On February 17th, after a lackluster 3-1 loss to the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, I wrote...

You guys are simply too good to let a promising season slide into mediocrity because everyone else in the league wanted it more. I know you don't want that, and I know I don't want to watch that."

I feel like I could say the exact same thing right now, possibly replacing "everyone else in the league" with "Calgary Flames". I lack the vocabulary to adequately describe how baffling and frustrating it is that the Sharks came out with such a tepid effort tonight.

We'll see what happens in Game Seven back at San Jose Arena, but even if the Sharks do manage to come up with a win and get to the next round, they are not going to advance much further unless they learn that all twenty guys need to show up and work hard wire-to-wire every single night.

Mid-April is, of course, far too late in the season to be absorbing this particular lesson. If the Sharks are going to advance and make good on the potential of this promising season, it's going to have to be in spite of the fact that they're only cracking Chapter One of the textbook after the professor has distributed the final exam.

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