Edmonton Oilers' Zack Kassian, bottom center, celebrates after scoring against the San Jose Sharks during the third period in Game 3 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series Sunday, April 16, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Familiar foe comes back to haunt Sharks in 1-0 loss, fall behind in first round series.
By Mike DeWald| April 16th
For the first time in the Sharks/Oilers first round playoff series, the game had the feel of what you’d expect of an NHL playoff game – fast, tight checking, back and forth, a game of inches. The San Jose Sharks got an immediate boost from the return of veteran Joe Thornton to the line-up. Thornton took the ice to a thunderous roar from the SAP Center crowd and his impact was immediate. Thornton distributed the puck as well as got a healthy share of chances of his own in the early minutes of Sunday’s game. The Sharks countered the Oilers physical attack early with speed and a physicality of their own, but for the second game in a row some concerning trends are continuing to show up in the Sharks game.
The 2017 iteration of the San Jose Sharks playoff team is one of the most inexplicably poor in terms of execution in recent memory. Case in point, in Game 3 the Sharks showed the physicality and playoff toughness that was missing in Game 2, they had occasional chances and pressured the Oilers, but still could not get on the scoreboard. The issue comes down to execution, where last year team triumphed in the tight moments or in come from behind situations, this team falls flat on it’s face. This team doesn’t just buckle under pressure, it completely disappears. The most confusing performance was previously lock for the Norris Trophy, defenseman Brent Burns. The usually unstoppable Burns has been plagued with indecisiveness, misplaying pucks, delaying passes, waiting for options to open. Burns is at his best when he gets the puck and fires, opportunities which have come few and far between in this series.
The Oilers Zack Kassian continued to be a thorn in the Sharks side, scoring a 3rd period goal that would ultimately be the lone goal of the game. The goal came as a result of a complete breakdown of execution in the defensive zone, with Sharks defenseman David Schlemko sending a clearing pass right to Kassian, who slid a back-hander through the five hole of Martin Jones. Jones play has also been confounding – he’s generally played solid for the greater part of the series, but the goals he has surrendered have almost all been ones in which he would have like to have had back – his five hole become increasingly suspect.
The Sharks wasn’t effort without some bright spots – rookie Timo Meier continued to prove he belongs in the NHL, throwing his weight around at every opportunity and creating offensive pressure that lead him to be promoted late in the game. Still, the Sharks are going to need some conversions at some point if they want a chance in this series.
Where does the series go from here? If the Sharks can’t figure out their offensive impotence, it’s going to be an early trip to the golf course for a team that just a few short months back was fighting for the President’s Trophy. The puck drops at 7:30 Tuesday for Game 4.