“Hits and Misses” for Sharks at Blackhawks 3/14/11
Joe Pavelski – With the Sharks on the Power Play, Pavelski gave the Sharks an early 1-0 with his 14th goal of the season at 2:20 of the first period. With the Sharks enjoying a 5-on-3 advantage as the result of good offensive pressure, the Sharks won a face-off in the Blackhawks zone and after some back and forth passing between Pavelski and Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, Pavelski ripped a shot from the short side that beat Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
Joe Thornton – The Sharks captain scored his 17th goal of the season at 18:36 of the first period that gave the Sharks a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. After a bad line change by the Blackhawks, both Troy Brouwer and Chris Compoli of the Blackhawks went to play Sharks forward Patrick Marleau along the boards as Marleau had the puck. However, in doing so, the Blackhawks left Thornton all alone and Marleau got the puck to Thornton in the slot and Thornton buried the puck past Crawford on the stick side for the goal.
Logan Couture – The Sharks rookie forward set a franchise rookie record with his 26th goal of the season at 17:24 of the second period to cut the Blackhawks lead to 5-3 and give the Sharks a small glimmer of hope. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic jumped in on the play and carried the puck into the Blackhawks zone, firing a shot on net that ricocheted off of Crawford’s right pad for a juicy rebound. Couture, who was driving towards the net with his stick on the ice, picked up the loose puck and banged the puck into the open net.
Sharks Team – What on God’s green earth happened to the Sharks tonight? Did the Sharks think that because the Blackhawks played the night before and were missing a couple of key players, Brian Campbell and Dave Bolland, that a minimal effort would get the job done? Where was the team that went toe-to-toe with the Vancouver Canucks last Thursday night in what was the greatest regular season game played at the “Shark Tank?” Where was the team that was only a couple periods away of breaking off 20 straight wins? Where was the team that had been disciplined and found ways to win? Where was the team that prided itself on defense and getting gritty when the time called for it? Where was the team that catapulted themselves into first place of the Pacific Division with that win streak and were at one point, only one point behind the Detroit Red Wings for second place overall in the Western Conference? Anyone? I have no idea either.
2nd Period – This is where it all fell apart for the Sharks as the Blackhawks scored five goals in the period, the most that has been scored on the Sharks in one period this season and four of which were scored unanswered until the Couture goal, to the Sharks one and chased Sharks goalie Antti Niemi out of net. The massacre began when Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa scored two Power Play goals in less than three minutes in the period’s opening 6:06 to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead. Just 1:21 later, Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews scored to make it 4-2 on a 2-on-1, which ended Niemi’s night in net for the Sharks. At 14:29, Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson scored to make it 5-2 and just 22-seconds after Couture scored for the Sharks to cut the deficit to 5-3, Patrick Kane scored for the Blackhawks to make it 6-3. Lastly, Patrick Sharp had four assists in the second period for the Blackhawks.
Antti Niemi – I don’t want to put a majority of the blame on Niemi tonight as there was enough blame to go around and he has been due for a break for sometime but I do have to criticize Niemi for one thing and that is Niemi never caught on to the fact that the Blackhawks, especially Hossa, were beating him 5-hole, between the legs, on their goals. Had Niemi adjusted or had someone from the Sharks bench inform him of how the Blackhawks were beating him, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Niemi couldn’t do much on the first goal the Blackhawks scored as Viktor Stalberg batted the puck out of mid-air and into the net after both Sharks forward Ben Eager and defenseman Niclas Wallin chose to swing at the puck in mid-air instead of gloving the puck down and sweeping it out of danger.
Versus Announcers – The ice wasn’t the only place where the Sharks were getting dominated tonight as the Versus announce team made it clear as crystal to this Sharks fan and countless others watching that they were rooting for the Blackhawks with their nauseating, one-sided commentary for the Blackhawks team, organization and city of Chicago. The best example was the hit by Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray that knocked down both Toews and Kane that went totally un-called by the Versus crew. That is the type of commentary I would expect from the Blackhawks regular announcers but not from an announce team that is suppose to be neutral and is commentating a nationally televised game. Having to listen to the Versus crew tonight made me thankful that the Sharks have true professionals in Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda that handle the commentary duties for their games and made me wish the Sharks could deny putting their games on Versus in the future.
Referees – I don’t want to sound like a homer but it was apparent to all Sharks fans watching that the officiating crew wasn’t held to a high standard all game. It amazed me that after the initial 5-on-3 the Sharks had in the opening two minutes of the first period, the Sharks were called for five consecutive penalties, resulting in two Blackhawks goals, and didn’t have another Power Play opportunity until 18:07 of the second period. In addition, how could the referees justify calling the game tight early on, as evident by the Boyle interference penalty at 4:23 of the first period, but then call a very soft hooking penalty on Marleau, which lead to the first Hossa goal, and blatantly ignore a “too many men on the ice” penalty against the Blackhawks and Wallin being interfered with and pushed into Crawford by Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook? It must be one of the perks of being one of the “original six” of the NHL.