Series heads back to San Jose Sunday night for Easter showdown
By Mike DeWald| April 14th
No one said the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be easy, and the Sharks were given a reminder of that first hand on Friday night, as the Oilers bounced back from a lackluster Game 1 to even up their first round series with the San Jose Sharks at 1. The Oilers strategy was fairly evident from outset, take the physical play to the Sharks and force them to respond, a challenge for which the Sharks failed to have an answer.
The Oilers sent the Sharks to the Power Play a total of six times, yet they failed to generate sustained pressure of any kind and, to add insult to injury, gave up two short-handed goals – one off the stick of rookie sensation Connor McDavid. The unexpected hero of the night for Edmonton was Zach Kassian, who not only scored a goal but was the spark plug for the team throughout the night and took advantage of a Sharks team that played flatter than a can of Coke left in the sun on a hot summer afternoon. Kassian was all over the ice, getting chances, finishing checks, and generally being hard to play against. His borderline hit summed up everything that was wrong about the Sharks game: he propelled himself off the ice and targeted Couture’s head, while Couture didn’t poses the puck. While no penalty was called, the Sharks responded with nothing: no aggressive physical play, no offensive pressure, nothing at all that would make the Oilers think twice about hurling themselves through the air to finish a check.
The Sharks lifeless play was compounded by a Power Play that failed to generate any kind of pressure. Both lines struggled to enter the zone, keep possession, get shots to the net, and recover the rebounds from those shots. Both Power Play units failed to give Oilers Goalie Cam Talbot much to sweat about, and could only muster 16 shots as an offense the entire game. Edmonton quickly realized they could take as many liberties as they wanted on the ice knowing the Sharks could not and would not make them pay for their transgressions on the scoreboard. The offensive power outage leads to the inevitable question – where was the response? The Sharks failed to finish checks, rarely forced the issue after the whistle, and did nothing to rally a Sharks team that was seemingly in need of motivation.
The loss brings up a number of questions for Game 3, which returns to San Jose on Sunday night. Will we see the return of Joe Thornton, who couldn’t possibly have been happy with the product he saw on the ice. Will the Sharks ice bruiser Micheal Haley to combat the Oilers physical attack and provide the energy spark they are sorely lacking. Will see a juggling of the line-up by Head Coach Peter DeBeor? And, are questions starting to creep up on the play of Martin Jones, who has yet to find his stellar for from last year’s run to the Finals. Buckle up, it’s going to be a long series.