Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sharks Narrowly Lose Game One

Game One of the Western Conference Finals is over and the Chicago Blackhawks emerge victorious, with the final score of 1-2 Blackhawks. The game may have been well played from both sides, although it was Blackhawks’ goaltender Antti Niemi who kept the Blackhawks in the game, and eventually in the lead. He allowed only one goal in 45 shots, many of the shots well placed and almost in the net. Only the shot from Jason Demers during the San Jose Sharks’ second power play was the lone goal that had been able to escape Niemi’s grasp. Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov too made some fantastic saves for the Sharks, although allowed what some would say easier shots, into the net. There is no question the goaltending had been outstanding during the game, further evidenced by Niemi and Nabokov becoming first and second stars of the game, respectively.

The Sharks may have learned the hard way the speed and powerful offense of the Blackhawks during Game One, however it was also clear the Sharks, when they wanted it, had an all-around more solid team, from offense to defense, and not simply weighed upon either the forwards or the defensemen. Sharks forward Joe Pavelski had been able to make some great plays and turnarounds during the game as well as defenseman Dan Boyle and the Marleau-Thornton-Heatley line. For now, it will be the matter of finding a way to beat goaltender Antti Niemi. While the Blackhawks played a powerful fast-paced offensive game, the Sharks made it clear they had been able to better control the puck, and that must be used to their advantage for the rest of the series.

Despite the stellar goaltending played by both sides, both teams played phenomenally well, showing off each sides’ offensive speed and playmaking abilities. Due to the relative evenness of the teams, a mistake made by either side could result in goals, as seen by the fans when the Sharks allowed the two goals against this afternoon. The Blackhawks’ first goal, scored by forward Patrick Sharp, resulted from a 3 on 2 where Sharp’s jittery shot had been able to sneak by the two Sharks defenseman and through the five hole (under the legs) of Nabokov. For the Blackhawks’ second goal, forward Dustin Byfuglien had been left wide open, and after receiving a nice pass from young star Patrick Kane, was able to comfortably sling a shot into the net from the slot.

Sharks fans need not be worried, however. This game looked extremely similar to the Sharks’ first game versus the Colorado Avalanche, the only other Sharks loss at home this playoff series, where they too lost 1-2. Additionally, the Sharks’ play looked similar, due to some highlighted puck giveaways, missed passes, and clear shots missing the net (without being blocked or deflected). Although the Sharks had the edge with puck possession in today’s game, they must, between today and Tuesday’s contest in San Jose, need to adapt and overcome the Blackhawks offense and start finding a way to get the puck past the Blackhawks’ Niemi, much similarly to the way they did versus the Avalanche’s Craig Anderson during the first series of the playoffs.

Remember, this is the playoffs, and only the conclusion to the first game this series. Anything can happen, as most of us have seen so far. Let us continue to cheer on our Sharks and lead them to victory!


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