By Ivan Makarov
SAN JOSE, CA — After many years of Stanley Cup playoffs disappointments, San Jose Sharks found a new way to end their season after making the playoffs once again.
After going up 3-0 in the series against the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks let the Kings climb back and take the series in Game 7, when LA won the game 5-1 at the SAP Center. LA Kings became just the fourth team in the NHL history to accomplish such a feat since the 7-game series format was introduced for the Stanley Cup playoffs back in the 1930s.
Devastated. Disappointed. Shocked. Upset. Low point.
These were some of the words heard again and again in post game interviews inside the Sharks dressing room. These are no doubt some of the emotions experienced by the Sharks fans as well that night.
And the Game 7 played out just like the previous four games won by the Kings. Stingy defense by LA, and a complete lack of offense and execution by San Jose, coupled with the outstanding game by Jonathan Quick.
Sharks scored the first goal in the game when Matt Irwin blasted a shot from the blue line early in the second period. But their lead did not last long as Kings tied the game four minutes later on a power play goal by Drew Doughty and played a solid defensive game for the remainder of the period. The big blow came towards the end of the period when Kings took 2-1 lead on a counter attack goal by Anze Kopitar.
When the Kings made it 3-1 on a goal by Tyler Toffolli early in the third period on an odd man rush, the home crowd loudly exhaled, knowing how hard the task became at hand. And the Sharks never came back, failing to score the rest of the game.
After scoring 17 goals in the first three games, Sharks scored only 5 in the remaining four. That’s the most telling stat of them all.
Special teams were once again terrible for the Sharks, giving up a power play goal, and going 0/6 on the man advantage.
So how did this all happen after going up 3-0 in the series and what happened to the offense?
“I think their defense just swallowed up our offense, to be honest with you,” said Sharks captain Joe Thornton. “They played real tight defensively, and their goaltender got really hot like he usually does this time of the year.”
Coach McLellan had similar thoughts.
“From the way I look at it, [the LA] fixed their problems,” he said after the game. “We didn’t. Our problems got progressively worse as we went along. We were awful off the rush. They scored I don’t know how many goals off the rush and we were awful around our net. Every day we came to the rink, we tried the stress that, but we were never able to fix that. It’s frustrating because during the year we’re pretty good in those areas.”
It’s hard to predict right now what changes the club is going to make in the offseason after another good regular season team ends their season early and without a championship. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson job could be in danger, as he’s built every aspect of this team and still haven’t taken the Sharks into the Stanley Cup final while his neighbors Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have all been there and have won the Cup. Todd McLellan’s future is also in question now, and he did admit after the game he’s in charge of this team and is to blame as well. Some of the players will no doubt change their home address to another NHL city.
These things happen to the teams that can’t win. But this win in particular will sting for a long time because of how close the Sharks were to advancing into the next round, and how far they let their game slip.