Here we go again. That’s what the San Jose Sharks this morning after a 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the opening game of the Western Conference playoffs.
This isn’t unusual for San Jose, just ask Anaheim last year. In the exact same scenario the top seeded Sharks were upended by the 8th seeded Ducks in 6 games. In fact the Sharks, who have been the dominant regular season team of the Western Conference ever since the end of the lockout, haven’t made it to the conference finals since the 2003-04 season when they fell to the Calgary Flames in 6 games. The Sharks have been ousted by a lower seed in their last 6 postseason series, including two 8 seeds (Edmonton in 2005, and Anaheim last year).
This loss to Colorado was even more puzzling considering that Colorado had a horrendous second half after the Olympic break and had clinched a playoff berth in the last two games of the regular season. The young Avs came out flying from the gate and outplayed the Sharks.
The winning goal may have been indicative of what kind of luck the Sharks have in the playoffs. Chris Stewart centered a pass that deflected off of defenseman Rob Blake’s skate and past Evgeni Nabakov. “Nabby was set, was in good position,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “It went off Blake’s skate. That happens. There’s nothing we can change there. There’s nothing we can do about that. It’s a break that went their way. Bad break.” No kidding. Now one year after catching nothing but bad breaks against a young and hungry Ducks team, the Sharks find themselves in the same position against Colorado.
“If you’re thinking about that kind of stuff you’re not in the right mental frame of mind,” defenseman Ryan Clowe said. “What are losses in the past years going to do for us? These guys have a lot of character. The visiting team always wants to steal a game on the road. We would too. We just have to bounce back, work it out in practice, and come back.” However, you have to wonder if these playoff disappointments really are getting to them.
After the Joe Thornton trade made them a contender in 2005 the Sharks have been a regular season powerhouse. Yet they have constantly been disappointing when it comes to the playoffs and have underachieved dramatically. You have to wonder what another first round exit as a number one seed will do to these guys going forward, and if changes will be made after the season.
Sure it’s only one game, but it’s a reoccurring theme for the Sharks. Once the playoffs come around, they hit the auto pilot button and cruise. It’s killed them before, and after last night’s loss it looks like it’s happening again.