As game 2 ended, fans at HP Pavillion began to boo. Perhaps they were booing the Dallas Stars and Marty Turco, but more likely they were booing the lack of 3rd period effort put forth by San Jose. Usually I'm right there with them because this team is too talented to continually fail in pressure situations. However, I began to ask myself why, as Sharks' fans, do we boo? Booing would imply that we believe our guys are capable of more effort than they currently display. Why should we believe this? Fundamentally, this is the same Sharks team that failed in previous years. Same coach, same stars, pieces plugged in for pieces departed.
When it comes to the playoffs, Brian Campbell has been playing a lot like Scott Hannan used to for the Sharks. Soupy's been working hard, moving the puck, and leading youngsters like Vlasic and Ehrhoff. However, he lacks offsensive punch and hasn't been playing like Brian Campbell. We got him to be Brian Campbell, not Scott Hannan. Maybe it's a lack of playoff experience, having only been to the postseason twice with Buffalo (with 3G and 4A in 16 games in 2006). I believe that that it has something to do with a more rigorous post-lockout Western Conference. Campbell excelled after the trade against Western Conference teams, but the game truly changes in the playoffs. In the West, the game becomes much more physical. Every loose puck is a battle and every play is forced. A puck carrying defenseman like Campbell thrives on time and space, two things that come at a premium in the playoffs. When Campbell was with Buffalo, he could skate end to end with the puck on a string because he could outskate opponents AND slip past defenders. While he's still a good skater, he is being forced off the puck at the opponent's blueline. Campbell has adapted by chipping the puck in and letting the forwards win battles down low, which is the West's game. In the East, everything opens up in the playoffs (save for the Ranger's trap). Odd man rushes and cycles in the corners become the norm and goaltending (see Marty Biron and Carey Price) make or break series. With that being said, I still love the Campbell trade for the Sharks. Fans have seen flashes of what he can do, but unfortunately so has the league. Hockey is a game of adjustments, and for now, the league has caught up with Brian Campbell. But, Brian has the ability and the smarts to adjust right back and put himself back on top.
So what can the Sharks do tonight? I was sitting in a coffee shop between classes today and saw a shirt that said "Having the will to win means nothing if you haven't the will to prepare." That saying on the back of some random dude's shirt sums it up. This team has the will to win, but they need to prepare differently. Passion isn't something that you can just turn on at game time and expect to last 60 minutes. After reading Dave Pollak's blog at the Mercury News website just now, it is obvious that this team lacks out-of-game passions. What did Joe Thornton do last night? Watched two movies on HBO. I'm not saying it's a bad idea to step back from the game for a bit, but there comes a point where players need to be consumed in the game 24/7, focused on nothing but their opponents and what needs to be done. This is one of those times. This is the playoffs.
There was also a quote from Torrey Mitchell about his missed open net chance that Stu Barnes took away with an amazing backcheck. To sum it up, Torrey says "Next time, right through the puck," meaning that he will continue driving right through the puck with his stick and body to ensure it goes in.....next time. Well, there is no next time. Nothing is guaranteed here. Every chance has to be buried once and for all on every play because you will not get a second chance in the playoffs, especially against a veteran club like the Stars. Sorry Torrey.
This series has also shown that Ron Wilson's plug and play strategy isn't working. You can't take the hardest workers off each line and throw them together on one line when the game heads south. Players feed off each other. If a player makes a mistake on a line, he'll learn from it and realize that maybe his center won't be where he thought he was on a particular play. Or maybe, he's going to always be the one backchecking on his line because he is more defensively minded than his other linemates. During the Sharks' winning streak, the lines didn't change. Ron needs to stay the course and let the players learn how to play (and not to play) with their personal linemates. Clowe is back, Shelley and Goc play sporadically, the D changes constantly, and a different Milan Michaelek shows up every shift. There are too many variables to mix up the lines. Each line has a role, and Wilson needs to stick with his forward lines and let them carry out their roles. But, he won't, and that's why this team is too fundamentally flawed to have true playoff success, and why I won't be booing anymore. The second round is fine with me given this formula, because what has changed to prove that this team can go further?
As a final note, head to YouTube and type in "Ron Wilson Hanta Yo speech" Hopefully that's not what he's telling the boys tonight or they'll be yelling Hanta Yo all the way back to the clubhouse after 18 holes next week.
Go Sharks, I'll support them, but something's gotta change.
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