San Jose Sharks were waiting to exhale

1-thornton.jpgThe top-seeded San Jose Sharks are off to their second Western Conference Finals, their first since 2003-2004 and reading the reaction from bloggers and fans alike today is one that fascinates me. A lot of that is probably due to the fact that I’m not directly embroiled with the Sharks and don’t understand the perspective of what’s going on but the one thing that makes me tilt my head and go, “Huh…” is the sense of relief.

For instance, take this reaction from Mr. Plank at Fear The Fin.

The biggest series in franchise history was handled in a mere five games. It is a time of celebration and jubilation, of freedom from the demons that have plagued our souls for five years. It was a monumental event that shook the city of San Jose tonight, one that will go down in the history books as a moment where the shackles of shame were broken in one quick flick of Patrick Marleau’s wrist.

Tonight is exactly where we wanted to be.

Tomorrow is when it sets in that we’re only halfway home.

Buckle up.

Now I’d say the Sharks have had other road blocks in the last five years aside from Detroit (Ron Wilson, Anaheim and Dallas also come to mind) and I don’t really want to call it “over-dramatizing” referring to it as the “biggest series in franchise history” (the 2003-2004 Flames must feel very disrespected) but it does make me worry for this team.

While Plank is right that the team is only halfway home, my concern for the Sharks against either Chicago or Vancouver is complacency. The bulk of this Sharks team hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs before and you know that that fact hung over them like the Sword of Damocles. So where does this team go after getting over that molehill before climbing the mountain it takes to reach the Stanley Cup? If you asked Adrian Dater at Versus, he’d be sarcastically congratulating Joe Thornton.

No, you still haven’t won the big dawg prize yet, that big silver punchbowl with all those names on it. Two more winning series to go before you get that.

But no longer are you the guy everybody badmouths at this time of the year. You’re still playing, moving on to another opponent, the playoff beard getting a little fuller, a little redder with every passing day.

Thornton was huge against Detroit, as was Patrick Marleau, two guys with previously terrible playoff reputations. The key for San Jose is to keep those guys scoring and that’s where Sharks fans and interested observers like ourselves are left to wonder what happens next. I’d like to think that getting over this hump will get the Sharks to tear through the playoffs and bring northern California their first Stanley Cup. I just can’t shake that nagging thought in my head that they’ll get complacent and end up getting rolled in the Western Conference Finals. Show me what you’ve got Sharks, make me a believer.

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    Gaudreau, Granlund and Tarasenko: 2017 Lady Byng finalists

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    The NHL officially announced the nominees for the 2017 Lady Byng on Sunday, and they’re a star-studded bunch: Johnny Gaudreau, Mikael Granlund and Vladimir Tarasenko.

    The PHWA determines “the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

    (Did Tarasenko help eliminate Granlund’s team in a gentlemanly fashion?)

    For more on the three finalists, click here.

    MacArthur, Senators end Bruins’ season in OT after controversial calls

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    It’s a feel-good story, especially if you can look beyond questions of officiating.

    Clarke MacArthur could have very well never played another NHL game considering his lengthy battles with concussion symptoms. Instead, he drew a penalty on the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game 6 and then managed to score the series-clinching goal.

    Now, this isn’t to say that MacArthur didn’t rightfully draw a penalty; it most clearly was. And, in the bigger picture, it’s one of those stories that almost makes you wonder if real-life sports actually do follow Hollywood scripts.

    People just wonder about some other decisions during that overtime, in particular, making it frustrating for some Bruins fans to see the season end in such a way.

    Whether they like it or not, that is the case, though.

    The Senators took Game 6 by a score of 3-2 (OT), winning their series 4-2. They can breathe a sigh of relief in avoiding a Game 7, an especially valuable bonus since Erik Karlsson had been pushed hard lately, logging more than 40 minutes in a recent game.

    Ottawa avoids a do-or-die contest. Instead, they’ll face the New York Rangers in the next round while the Bruins enter the summer following an up-and-down campaign.

    Bergeron takes advantage of slow Sens change, sends Game 6 to OT (Video)

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    Every game in this Senators – Bruins series has been decided by one goal, so why not send Game 6 to overtime?

    Oh, and speaking of overtime, this contest going beyond regulation makes it 17 OT games, tying an NHL record for the most in a single round.

    Ottawa appeared to take a “lazy change” with a 2-1 lead, and Patrice Bergeron made the Senators pay, putting in a rebound to collect the goal that eventually sent this contest to overtime.

    VIDEO: Bruins take three delay of game penalties in first period

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    The delay of game-puck over the glass rule is the one call in the NHL that gets made pretty consistently. It might get missed on occasion, but it’s a pretty black and white rule.

    If you shoot the puck over the glass in your own defensive zone without it hitting another object, it is a penalty. Really nothing to argue about there.

    The Boston Bruins had some issues with it in the first period of Sunday’s playoff game against the Ottawa Senators when they took three — three! — delay of game penalties in the first 15 minutes of Game 6, giving the Senators plenty of opportunities to draw first on the scoreboard.

    It all started 17 seconds into the game when Sean Kuraly, the Bruins’ Game  5 overtime hero, was guilty of it. Twelve minutes later, Joe Morrow was guilty of it. Then three minutes after that, Colin Miller sent one over the glass. You can see them all in the video above.

    Fortunately for the Bruins they were able to kill off all three penalties and keep the game scoreless.

    Because hockey can sometimes be a random, unpredictable and maddening game, the Bruins got a power play of their own late in the period when Mark Stone was sent off for tripping. It took the Bruins less than a minute to capitalize when Drew Stafford scored his first goal of the playoffs to give his team a 1-0 lead.

    So through all of that — three penalties and a 12-6 shots disadvantage that included a clear breakaway on Tuukka Rask — the Bruins went into the first intermission with the lead.

    The lead did not last long into the second period, however, thanks to Ottawa goals from Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris.

    The Bruins’ issues keeping the puck in play in the period was very reminiscent of that Penguins-Capitals playoff game a year ago when the Penguins, when trying to protect a third period lead, took three consecutive delay of game penalties in the third period of Game 6, opening the door for a Capitals comeback that sent the game to overtime. The Penguins ended up winning the game anyway to clinch the series.