Sharks facing reality: Blackhawks are a better team

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Yesterday I wrote an article stating that the San Jose Sharks were
missing a key ingredient that is needed as you find yourself deeper in
the playoffs: heart. Some agreed, while some questioned why the
Blackhawks weren’t getting the credit for just being a better team.

The
fact is, at this point, the Hawks are a better team. Yet for a team as
talented and as skilled as the Sharks are, what they’ll need to overcome
the play of the Hawks and a 2-0 series deficit is something they
haven’t exactly shown they possess.

Is it enough to just say “the
Hawks are a better team, therefore the Sharks losing to them is
acceptable”? I don’t think so, and this team and the fans cannot be
content with just sitting idly by while the Sharks succumb night after
night.

Tim Kawakami, beat writer for the San Jose Mercury News and
someone who has followed this team all season long, says
that this is the case
. The Blackhawks are just a better team, hands
down, and that’s something that everyone needs to deal with.

The Sharks aren’t totally out of this, of course. Turnarounds can
happen swiftly in the playoffs, no doubt.

But the reality is that the Sharks’ best players (Joe Thornton,
Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Boyle) aren’t as good at this moment as
Chicago’s best players (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith).

While the Sharks players are saying all the right things, for the
most part, it’s Dan Boyle who really seems to get it. By all accounts he
was the most fired up of any of the players on the team and had some
very realistic comments for the media:

“What do you want me to say? What do you think we’re going to do,
give up?” a fiery Dan Boyle said after the Sharks’ 4-2 loss at HP
Pavilion on Tuesday. “The effort’s there, but it’s not good enough.”

The Sharks will need to dig down and find something inside that is
able to propel them past a better team. We’ve seen it happen multiple
times already in the playoffs, so you can’t tell me it’s not possible.

In the past, the Sharks were always the better team that “choked”.
This is a different situation, but the team is still lacking that
fundamental internal drive needed for playoffs success.

Backes scores OT goal on his birthday, Blues even up series with Stars

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The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.

The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.

With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.

Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.

Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.

Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.

The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.

That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.

Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.

 

Jamie Benn’s late goal sends Game 2 to overtime

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This definitely wasn’t the way the St. Louis Blues drew it up.

The Blues entered the third period of Game 2 with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to shut the game down on the road.

St. Louis jumped ahead 3-1 after 20 minutes before Dallas decided to pull Kari Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi. The move didn’t provide any results in the middle frame, but something certainly sparked the Stars in the third period.

Mattias Janmark cut the deficit to 3-2 with this beauty (notice how he split Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo).

With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Stars captain Jamie Benn tied it up (top).

It’s safe to say this wasn’t a memorable third period for the Blues.

Video: Brian Elliott takes a blast off the mask, stays in the game

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A bit of a scary moment in the third period of Game 2 between the Stars and Blues.

Less than five minutes into the third period, Jason Spezza took a shot that caught Blues goalie Brian Elliott square in the mask. Play was halted as Elliott remained down. It appears as though the shot to the mask also made Elliott lose one of his contacts.

Thankfully, Elliott wasn’t seriously injured on the play. After being examined by the team doctor, he was allowed to stay into the game. He did need a new mask though (he got his original one back a few minutes later).

You can watch the play by clicking the video at the top of the page.

The Blues currently lead 3-2 late in the third period.

Here’s some Twitter reaction:

 

Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

Lehtonen
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Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.