Sharks should worry about defense, not Nabokov

Blake.jpgLast night, Joe Yerdon wrote about Evgeni Nabokov’s struggles of
late,
that has corresponded with the Sharks’ frustrating play since the
Olympic break. His March numbers were certainly pedestrian and not up to
the standard we’re used to seeing him play at, but I contend that
Evgeni Nabokov is the least of the San Jose Sharks’ worries.

I’d
be more concerned about the defense than anything else.

The San
Jose Sharks recently overcame a six-game losing streak with four
straight wins, and looked as though they had corrected the woes that had
plagued them. They were once again hungry for the puck, took advantage
of their opportunities and Evgeni Nabokov played well overall.

Last
night against the Dallas Stars, their issues reappeared and now the
team is faced with the same the same questioned that plagued them just
nine days ago.

The defense was discombobulated, and were turned
around time and again by the Dallas Stars forwards. More alarmingly,
they were consistently beaten to the puck and to the net and allowed too
many plays to get behind them. Dan Boyle acknowledges that things just
weren’t clicking very well:

“We were giving up tons of
two-on-ones, three-on-twos,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “Defensively, we
were not on the same page — who’s got who, what’s going on, not knowing
what we were doing. At game 77, you’ve got to know what’s going on.”

And
Boyle is right. Forget about the lack of effort or hunger for the
Sharks; this is a team whose defense and goaltending is supposed its
strength and just when as the playoffs approach it’s starting to fall
apart.

So Sharks fans can certainly be concerned about Evgeni
Nabokov — there’s no doubt he’s not playing at the same level he was
just a few months ago. But to my eye, none of the five goals allowed
last night could be faulted to the goaltender and it’s the defense that
is most concerning at a time when teams are hoping to be playing their
best.

The Sharks aren’t just any team, either, that can say
they’ll turn it on for the playoffs and everyone will be fine with it.
The Sharks have taken the “play great in the regular season and fold in
the first round” meme and perfected it.

They’ve yet to show
anything late in the season to prove anything different.

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    Video: Predators even series with Sharks after franchise-record triple OT thriller

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    The marathon is over. The Nashville Predators are back in the series.

    The Predators have evened their best-of-seven second-round series with the San Jose Sharks at two-games apiece after Mike Fisher finally broke the deadlock with 8:48 remaining in the third overtime of an instant classic in these 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs.

    Fisher buried a rebound in front of the San Jose net to give the Predators a massive 4-3 win on home ice.

    The goal capped off a frenetic (and lengthy) overtime session that was nothing but utter chaos at times in the opening extra frame. By the end, Fisher was almost too exhausted to describe the winner. Can you blame him?

    Twice, the Sharks, who could’ve put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win, thought they had scored the winner. Joel Ward couldn’t quite bury a wrap-around attempt before just about every player on the ice, it seemed, converged in the Nashville crease — some working to put the puck in the net, others working to keep the puck out.

    The puck, somehow, never crossed the line, though some members of the Sharks raised their arms in celebration as if they had the decisive goal.

    Later in the first OT period, the Sharks again thought they had won the game, only to have a lengthy and controversial review determine Joe Pavelski “…made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease,” according to the league.

    Adding to it all, the Predators were unsuccessful on two OT power plays. That opened the door for the Sharks, who were awarded power plays on two Shea Weber penalties in overtime but also couldn’t capitalize.

    The Predators were less than five minutes away from losing this game in regulation, and going down 3-1 in the series, before James Neal tied it with 4:21 remaining.

    ‘We earned it,’ says Spezza after Stars regroup to even series with Blues

    St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (34) looks on as Dallas Stars forward Jason Spezza, second from right, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
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    The Dallas Stars faced the possibility of going home facing elimination. That was the scenario Thursday, as the Stars battled the St. Louis Blues in Game 4.

    The previous game didn’t go well at all for the Stars. They were thumped 6-1, as things turned nasty between the two teams, and, most importantly, they fell behind in the series. There were serious questions surrounding their goalie duo that includes Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. And Tyler Seguin was ruled out for Game 4.

    Yes, things weren’t working in favor of the Stars.

    But after a poor start in the opening period Thursday, the Stars fought back with Cody Eakin playing the unlikely overtime hero in a crucial Game 4 win. And Lehtonen was able to settle in after allowing that Vladimir Tarasenko goal in the opening period, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

    “You really do have to stay level,” Jason Spezza told the Dallas Morning News.

    “It’s the best two-of-three now, it’s momentum swings. We survived some breakaways, and the last two periods we played right and we earned it.”

    Video: Game 4 overtime between Sharks and Predators has been utter chaos

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    Overtime between the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks in Game 4 has been, simply put, crazy.

    Take, for instance, this goal-mouth scramble around the Predators crease in which Joel Ward couldn’t convert on the wrap-around and the sequence turned into a full-on scrum as players for both teams fought desperately to either score or somehow keep the puck out of the net. Somehow, the puck stays out.

    The Predators need a win to even the series. The Sharks can put the Predators on the brink of elimination with a win.

    Oh, and the controversial video review as the Sharks thought they had the winner, as Joe Pavelski swept the puck into the net after a collision with Pekka Rinne.

    Here’s an explanation from the NHL Situation Room:

    At 7:34 of overtime in the Sharks/Predators game, the Situation Room initiated a review under the terms of a Coach’s Challenge to review the “Interference on the Goalkeeper” decision that resulted in a “no goal” call.

    After reviewing all available replays and consulting with NHL Hockey Operations staff, the Referee confirmed that San Jose’s Joe Pavelski made incidental contact with Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne before the puck crossed the goal line, preventing Rinne from doing his job in the crease.

    Therefore the original call stands – no goal San Jose Sharks.

    Cody Eakin plays unlikely hero as Stars even series with Blues thanks to OT win

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    Needing a win to even the series with the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars didn’t get off to the greatest start Thursday.

    On a rather embarrassing play in the first period of a crucial Game 4, the Stars were caught on the television feed clearly with six skaters on the ice, but still surrendered a breakaway goal on a stretch pass to a wide open Vladimir Tarasenko — 1-0 Blues. Again, not a great start for the Stars.

    Sometimes in hockey, it’s apparently not always about how you start but how you finish. The Stars gained strength during the second period on goals from Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp just 1:09 apart. Early in overtime, Cody Eakin scored his first goal of these playoffs to give the Stars a 3-2 win.

    This series is now tied heading back to Dallas for Game 5. For the Blues, it’s a missed opportunity to put the high-flying Stars on the brink of elimination.

    Eakin snapped a 17-game scoring drought that stretched into late-March of the regular season by going top shelf, short side of Blues goalie Brian Elliott just 2:58 into the extra period.

    Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp each had two-point nights for Dallas, assisting on the game winning goal.