The last game of the regular season for the San Jose Sharks is in the record books and boy, was it ever worth the price of admission! Hang on to your seats, kids. This game had it all: Incredible goals, a holy TON of penalty minutes and most importantly, the intensity that the Sharks lacked in their previous game.
I'll admit...I was a little more than skeptical about the San Jose's playoff chances after watching an incredibly uninspired game against the Los Angeles Kings at the beginning of the week. I feared today's game against the Sharks' division rival Dallas Stars would be more of the same. I couldn't have been more wrong.
This game meant nothing to either team. Both had already secured their post season playoff spots, but with the level of intensity both teams displayed, you'd never have guessed. Kyle McLaren, not normally known for fighting, dropped the gloves very early on in the first period against a much more skilled Krys Barch. Although minor, this altercation set the physical tone for the rest of the game
Not long after McLaren's scrap, Joe Thornton took on Steve Ott for a hit against Milan Michalek in which Ott left his feet. Judging by the look on his face, Ott wanted no part of Thornton, but no matter. For his efforts, Thornton received nineteen penalty minutes and a free pass to the dressing room in the early minutes of the first period. Its worth noting that Thornton is also not particularly known for his fighting skills.
These two incidents were the beginnings of an all-time franchise record high 95 (yes, 95) penalty minutes for the Sharks. This included another franchise record forty one penalty minutes (again, yes, 41) accumulated by the ever-gritty and ready to go Jody Shelley. Dallas tallied a still impressive sixty five penalty minutes over the course of the game.
Somewhere in the midst of everyone's fists, Patrick Marleau picked up a power-play goal and Jonathan Cheechoo managed to score a beauty in his first game back since the Chris Kunitz elbowing incident. In the second period, the fighting continued and the Stars came back strong with three unanswered goals that would secure the "W" for them.
Although Thornton was allowed back on the ice several minutes into the second period, his absence was very evident during power plays. Watching the Sharks try to muster up a decent effort during their man advantage time, its clear that Thornton runs the show. Note to Team Teal: keep No. 19 outta the box at all costs.
Despite the Sharks' loss, I have to say, I LIKE the way they played today. Players that usually stay out of trouble were all up in the mix (Milan Michalek?! Joe Pavelski?! Hello!) and guys stood up for their teammates. They played tough and looked hungry. The Sharks team that showed up today was as inspired and enthusiastic as they've ever been in the recent months.
It'll be interesting to see if the Sharks can bring that same intensity once all the regular players are back in the lineup. Craig Rivet and Christian Ehrhoff have been known to drop 'em from time to time. And now that San Jose's first round opponent has been decided, they'll need every ounce of grit, heart and desire they can bring. The Calgary Flames are no slouches! What will happen? Start growing your playoff beards now and stay tuned...