After a horrible, putrid effort against the streaking Chicago Blackhawks, the Sharks were expected to take out their collective frustration on the hapless Edmonton Oilers, even more hapless since Ales Hemsky is out for the rest of the season. Their best player this year (Dustin Penner) is a guy that no one would have guessed would be even their third best player if asked only a couple of months ago.
The Sharks should not have won this game.
And I don’t mean that in a good way. They should not have won it, and they didn’t deserve to win it. Frankly, I think the team would be better off today if they were sitting around in Vancouver doing whatever it is smart people in Vancouver do (other than criticize Steve Bernier), and slagging themselves for dropping a second game in a row to a team that doesn’t have a lot of rays of sunshine poking through the clouds.
Instead, they may be breathing a small, understated, collective sigh of relief. A sigh they didn’t earn, because there were so many things that didn’t go well in that game, it’s impossible to name them all. But I will concentrate on the one shortcoming that this team supposedly rectified during this off-season, with the acquisitions of Scott Nichol and Manny Malhotra. Not faceoffs (although they managed to come out on the short side of that one too last night). Grit.
I try to follow the NHL closely, and I had no earthly idea who JF Jacques was until last night. Then, as I’m sure many Sharks fans did, I quickly developed a strong animosity towards him, once he checked Thornton in the back into the boards, went after Dany Heatley’s knee, then took another run at Jumbo a short time later. Apparently, other Sharks didn’t develop this animosity like I did.
Because nothing friggin happened. Against Philly, there were scuffles, fights, jawing, the whole bit. In Edmonton, watching a game that was so blurry I thought I was watching the 1978 Indianapolis Racers there for a second, the Sharks looked like the 2008 Sharks, and let it slide by. To me, that’s much worse than losing a game in November. That’s a big step back, one that flies in the face of the “we have to move on” platitudes spouted after Chicago embarrassed them worse than any team did at the Tank since 1995. They looked shaken.
I’m not going to generalize, saying this team is the same weak-kneed set that lost early in the playoffs the last few years, but I will feel a lot better if someone comes out tomorrow night and punches Steve Bernier in the face.