Sharks come unglued with 4-2 loss to Blackhawks


San Jose Sharks 2, Chicago Blackhawks 4

lead series 2-0

How do you judge this series so far?

this the San Jose Sharks choking? This is two straight losses at home,
with a clear path to the Stanley Cup finals after reaching the
previously-hallowed ground of the conference finals.

Or is this
just a measure for just how good are the Chicago Blackhawks? The
Vancouver Canucks were stacked, and so are the Sharks, yet the
Blackhawks have handled both teams fairly well.

After two games,
and two big wins, the Chicago Blackhawks now have a commanding 2-0 lead
as they head back to Chicago.

The Sharks started off the game
with a bit of a rush, working hard to recover from a painful Game 1 loss
and yet again, they found themselves losing after mostly outplaying the
Hawks to that point. Unlike Game 1 however, in which the Sharks
continued to battle for most of the game, this time an early goal seemed
to take the life out of the team.

The Blackhawks jumped all over
the Sharks from that point, scoring twice more in the second period and
then once again in the third. The Sharks would try to make things
interesting, cutting the lead to two with over four minutes remaining,
yet never really attempted a truly all-out attack in the waning moments
to try and tie the game.

Joe Thornton, despite a nifty pass on the
Sharks’ first goal of the game, continues another disappearing act in
big games. The top line of Thornton, Marleau and Dany Heatley is now a
combined minus-18 for the playoffs, as all three made several poor
decisions with the puck tonight to negate prime scoring chances.

frustrating of all was the completely unnecessary slashing penalty
Thornton took just minutes after his team allowed a fourth goal.

the Canucks before them, the Sharks are finding their emotions getting
the best of them and all at the wrong time. The Sharks looked lifeless
and a bit bored after the Hawks scored the first goal, and only really
showed true emotion when confronting Dave Bolland out on the ice.

emotion and responding offensively after going down 1-0 early in the
game? Nope.

Showing emotion with inspired offensive attacks as
they worked to get Antti Niemi off his game? Nope.

Showing emotion
by not taking dumb penalties right as your team hopes to build a
comeback? Nope.

No, the Sharks decided to come alive and show some
actual emotion in the final seconds with — you guessed it — going
after Dave Bolland. Prime example of a frustrated team falling deeper
into the trap.

Unfortunatley, if the Sharks don’t pull this
together, we’re in for what is looking to be two quick conference

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado