I think by now anyone who is interested in reading about the NHL post-season has probably heard about Jeremy Roenick calling Patrick Marleau “gutless.” (If not, you can watch it here.) While I don’t agree that he has been gutless, he certainly has been less than stellar in the post-season.
Last night, with the Sharks trailing 3-2 late in the second period (and down one game to zero), Marleau decides to drop the gloves and fight one of Vancouver’s toughest defensemen, Kevin Bieksa. Call me crazy, but I would think in an important playoff game you might want your regular season leading scorer to be on the ice.
Instead, he motivated the Sharks to surrender the next 5 goals, and eventually fall by a 7-3 score to the Canucks. Ouch.
Sure, fights can often times spark your team to start playing with an edge, but they have to be done at the right times. Usually, good times to fight do not include when a period is almost over, or when you are on the road and going to get beat by someone much tougher than you, or in the playoffs when you haven’t been in a fight in four years, or when you are (supposed to be) a goal scorer and you are losing by a goal in the playoffs… the list goes on.
As I detailed in my last blog about Stanley Cup champions, I discussed how past trends suggested the need for Marleau to produce like he did during the season. I’m sure he wanted to make an impact on the team, and his offensive struggles have probably made him frustrated. He needs to find a way to channel that into offensive production, not pulling himself out of the game for five minutes.
Enough bagging on Marleau though, he isn’t the entire problem. Despite having one more point, another anticipated Sharks goal scorer, Dany Heatley, has been far more invisible in the post-season. The Sharks need him, along with Joe Pavelski, to be the offensive threats we all know they can be or else Vancouver is going to make short work of the Sharks.
Antti Niemi has done little to help San Jose win games in this series, and he struggled at times against the Red Wings as well. People familiar with the Blackhawks run to the Stanley Cup last year are familiar with the up and down play of the netminder. While Niemi really stole the show against the Sharks and sparkled in the Western Conference Finals last year, his play has not been great in the first two games of the WCF this season, and they need him to be better. Niemi, as much as any other Shark, can be blamed for their third period meltdowns so far in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
My analysis of the series so far: San Jose probably should have won Game 1. Yet another third period lead blown by San Jose. The Sharks looked average in the first period of Game 2, and then looked either tired or unmotivated for the rest of the game. Vancouver seems ready to blow by the Sharks.
However, you can’t count a team out in a playoff series until they lose a game at home. The Sharks could easily win both home games and bring the series back to a two-games-apiece tie. If Vancouver wins Game 3: Lookout. Two teams have already come back from 3-0 deficits this post-season, and I don’t expect that another one will do it.
Bob Mills is the Broadcasting and Media Relations Manager for the Condors, and part of the Broadcast team. He just completed his first season with the Condors. His blog will be posted every Thursday on bakersfieldcondors.com.
Follow Bob’s new Twitter: @Mills_Bob