And like that, the season’s over for the sharks.
Game 7 against the Kings, last year’s Cup Champion and a team that looks to have rounded into champion form again.
You can’t really fault much with the Sharks. The series was really that close. Was Quick a better goalie? Not really — and Quick is playing better than last year, when he won the Cup and the Conn-Smythe. Were the Kings a better team? Not really. Did Sutter out-coach McClellan? Not really. Did the Kings skaters out-play the Sharks skaters? Not really. Was it the loss of Raffi Torres? Not really; the Kings lost Stoll for the series and had to adjust for that as well. Everything pretty much balanced out.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a series this closely balanced, where as far as I can tell, the difference between the two teams was home-ice advantage. Not how the coaches used it, but the simple, minor things of last change and in the face-off circle. It ultimately came down to being just one goal better after seven games, and one truly astounding, key save by Quick on a shot Pavelski couldn’t raise two inches higher.
It was that close.
And it was glorious.
I’m sure the usual talking and typing pundits will find the usual blather to complain about, and don’t get me wrong, the Sharks are far from a perfect team. But in this series, unlike many playoffs in the past, the Sharks didn’t under-perform or shoot themselves in the foot. They played their hearts out, and played well. And went up against another team doing the same, playing as well, with the minor advantage of playing game 7 at home. That advantage was what decided the series.
Never let people tell you things like home ice advantage doesn’t matter.
Congrats to Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter and the Kings organization. Right now they look tough to beat.
Congrats to Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan and the Sharks organization. Honestly, they played better than I expected, but watching them play, it’s also clear I under-rated them.
Now, all LA has to do is beat either Chicago or Detroit, and then beat either Pittsburgh or Boston.
Should be simple, right?
What we do know is that this team — good as it was — wasn’t good enough. So we’ll have to make changes and try again next year. But given I thought this might be the year we were shown that the window had closed and it was time to retool? Well, maybe not this year… This team needs to be tinkered with, not rebuilt.
But that’s a discussion for a few weeks from now, when hockey is done for the summer. For now? I’m going to just sit back and watch some really killer hockey, no matter which teams are still playing.
Well done, Sharks. You may not have succeeded at the ultimate goal, but you met the challenge with honor and I, for one, will happily declare this season a success without regrets. It’s no shame to play your best and be beaten by a better team. that’s merely motivation to keep improving.