THN’s TAKE: We’re not about to count our shark eggs before they hatch, but if, as is a really good bet, San Jose goes on to lose the Western final, it’ll be a stretch of two minutes in Game 4 that players, management and fans look back at through teary eyes.
Whatever you wish to point at as the ultimate cause – player stupidity, coaching passivity, officiating insanity – behind the Canucks finding themselves with three straight 5-on-3 opportunities, it’s an unfair karmic twist unfitting of an extremely well-run organization and a fan base yet to reap the fruit of many good teams. Remove the Sharks’ shorthanded stretch and, with the way they played in the previous tilt and the Canucks history in the ‘Shark Tank,’ odds were, at worst, a coin-flip this series headed north 2-2. The Hockey Gods can be a cruel lot.
Kudos, of course, must go to a Canucks outfit that, unlike in Game 3, capitalized on their two-men-up stretch and kept the Sharks power play, unstoppable early in the series and awarded five consecutive chances early in Game 4, at bay.
Besides the simple math of being down 3-1 in the series, the bad news for San Jose is three-fold heading into Game 5: the Sedins have awoken and look again like the confident duo they were throughout the regular season and will result in the first back-to-back brothers to win the Hart Trophy; also back, though from a much shorter slumber, is Ryan Kesler, who was a force unstoppable in the Nashville series; lastly, and perhaps most concerning, is the question about captain Joe Thornton’s health. His play has inspired in these playoffs as it has failed to do in the past. The Sharks need a leader. Can another player rise to the fore if Thornton’s absent?
1. Henrik Sedin – Four assists. Give him and his bro room – such as on, oh, say, a 5-on-3 – and they’re magic. If they and Kesler all heat up at the right time, five wins will come easy.
2. Daniel Sedin – See above. Change four assists to three.
3. Roberto Luongo – The much-maligned keeper was the main reason the game was still 0-0 when Kesler opened the scoring. Luongo was also solid in holding the lead in the third.
Torrey Mitchell – It was his hooking call that started the mess. Tough to rein in puck pursuit, but “better safe than sorry” is the rule on the power play, especially when it’s obvious the officiating crew is having a whistle-happy day.
The NHL Game Night Recap will get you caught up with all the playoff action. THN will name our Three Stars for each game and tabulate the results after each series. First Star = three points, Second Star = two points, Third Star = one point.