Thursday, April 12, 2007

Game 1 Goes to Sharks in Most Depressing Way Imaginable

After I watched the Sharks win 5-4 in double overtime at St. Mark's Ale House, I took a couple of subways and the bus home trying to figure out exactly how to put into words what I witnessed. I figured I could sum it up very quickly before going into deep analysis:

The Preds outhustled and outplayed the Sharks. They still lost.

This thought kept running into my head over and over. How could the Predators be so dominant in periods 2, 3, 1st OT, and 2nd OT, and still lose this game? And it wasn't like they had some insurmountable deficit from the 1st period that made their life hard for them in those periods. They trailed a paltry 1-0 after the 1st, on a goal that hardly any goalie could have stopped: an accidental misdirection off his own defenseman's skate that went between his legs.

In the second period, the Predators absolutely dominated. They seemingly got to every puck, seemingly kept the puck in the offensive zone for as long as they wanted, built a 2-1 lead, and by the end of this period that the Preds dominated, thoroughly, they had given up 3 more goals and were down 4-2. How did this happen? The second Sharks' goal was on a Preds' turnover in their own zone, a pass and a shot and it was tied. The third goal was on the basis of that 5-on-3 nonsense. Yeah, even though the sound was on mute, I'm sure the broadcasters were wondering what the hell Scott Hartnell did that deserved a 5-minute major when Jonathan Cheechoo doubled over in pain. Yeah, how can anyone at game speed see that Hartnell intended to injure or played recklessly enough to warrant that 5-minute penalty (and an ejection)?

And wait, there's more. The Preds were going to kill that 5-minute penalty. This was a certainty. They killed it in epic fashion, but then Zanon got that interference call and it was 5-on-3. 5-on-3 in the playoffs is just like giving a team a goal. Yeah, it was quickly 3-2 Sharks after that one. One terrible penalty that didn't make any sense led to a penalty that kind of made sense, but then again the refs don't seem to realize the intensity of the playoffs and don't let things slide (read further). I think the whole situation led to shell-shock and all of the sudden it was 4-2.

So we go to the third period, more thorough domination and the Preds pull within 4-3. Then there was that miracle goal scored by J.P. Dumont off a shot by Shea Weber that tied it late. The 1st OT didn't yield any goals and it seemed like the Preds were doing the right thing. In the second, a troubling situation occurred where the Preds had a power play coming, but Jordin Tootoo quite stupidly started punching a guy and got a coincidental and erased all that. The game-winning goal a little after the coincidentals were over came on a breakaway: it was at least the third goal you couldn't really blame Vokoun for, and I'd go as far as to say he allowed only 1 goal (the 4th one) that he should have stopped.

So what does Barry Trotz tell his team after a game like this? Hey guys, you outplayed this team better? I'm also going to blast the referees here. The idea that you should call a game in the playoffs the same way as the regular season is an interesting, and on first glance appears proper, theory. Yet, hockey is the only sport in which the refs don't seem to realize that the games are more intense. In basketball and football, penalties start declining in the playoffs because both teams are playing so hard, aggressive play cannot be considered as reckless as it may seem. I think the Preds, outworking the Sharks, made targets of themselves as the aggressors and so, when things looked bad, it must have been bad.

There's a Catch-22 to all of this. Had the Preds played a docile game and not played as hard as they did, the Sharks would have likely won this 5-1 or something. No team should have to play under the contradictory nature of a Catch-22, where they lose no matter what they do. This, I feel, is what angers me the most about this game. The Preds obviously can't play too soft or too hard, because they will lose either way.

Also, if there happen to be any Sharks fans reading, know this. Last year, the Sharks dominated the Preds, and it didn't matter if the calls were bad or not. The Sharks were going to win that series. And this is only one game, but what a devastating one it was. It felt like the whole series rode on this one game the way it was played. I never felt like the Preds were in it last year and when they won the first game, I felt like it was the rare occasion when the home team "steals" one. Tonight, the Preds did everything the Sharks did last year and they were penalized for it (figuratively...and then literally). Again, what do you tell the Preds to do for Game 2? Seriously, does anyone have an answer for that? How do you tell your team that, not in so many words, your best isn't good enough? Because this is the very best just about any team can play.

The Preds outhustled and outplayed the Sharks. They still lost.

It's 1-0 and I can only hope that the misery can be shaken off for Game 2. As much as we fans feel disgruntled and depressed, imagine what the players feel.


At 4/12/2007 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Such a depressing way to lose! You hit the nail on the head, here. How do you move on from such a hard-fought in which you dominated but still lost? It's almost easier to get owned all game and lose, because at least then you can say "well, we got owned."

And I didn't see the game, but I heard it. And the announcers seemed certain that Hartnell's hit was not dirty. Yet the San Jose folks are calling for the league to take action. Anyone who saw it have an opinion?

I will be watching on TV Friday. Hey...we won the first game the last two times we made the playoffs...and look where that got us. It is, after all, only one game.

At 4/13/2007 12:39:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

KW, I saw the game and they replayed the Hartnell/Cheechoo thing over and over. There was absolutely nothing dirty; in fact, the very idea that anyone would even have to point that out makes me incredibly angry. Sharks fans are pissed because Cheechoo is out: understandable. But can we invent a word that's more apt than "ridiculous" to describe not only the five-minute game misconduct, but the ejection?

It's incidental contact. One guy got really hurt. Sorry. It's nothing more than that and anyone who thinks otherwise has absolutely no credibility.


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