Sunday, May 23, 2010

How Sweep it Is; 'Hawks take series 4-0 at home.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, their loss in the Western Conference Finals was to a team that was just outright better. The Blackhawks showed different aspects of their game in each of their four wins of the series. They were able to hold a lead, dominate an entire game, respond after giving up a late lead, and show resiliency after being down early in a hockey game. These components are impressive for a team that will compete for the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1992 when they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Finding themselves down 2-0 to the Sharks today in Game 4, the Blackhawks were able to overcome the deficit and injuries in order to complete the sweep. The Sharks definitely controlled the pace for the first half of the game and I thought that the lazy tripping penalty taken by Devin Setoguchi would put the crowd and the Hawks right back in the game, except that the Sharks were able to extend their lead to two with a shorthanded goal by Patrick Marleau.  Things looked promising for the Sharks until a 4 on 4 goal scored by Brent Seabrook got the Hawks back into the game. If this goal was the catalyst for the Hawks, I'd say their 2nd goal scored by Dave Bolland was the turning point in this game.

With the puck sent deep into the San Jose zone, Logan Courture failed to engage Bolland behind the net and instead tried to make a play on the puck allowing Bolland to lift Courture's stick and escape with the puck. Physical contact on Bolland there would allow the Sharks' defense to body-up and position themselves to cover loose players and battle to get the puck out of the zone. 

From that point, the Sharks were playing on their heels lacking offensive pressure and taking bad penalties. It was one of those penalties that led to the go-ahead goal by big Dustin Byfuglien while Dany Heatley sat in the box for his second penalty of the game. How many times in this series have we seen Byfuglien score with assists from Kane and Toews? Giving this line too many opportunities to score throughout the series and no one should be surprised with the outcome.

Kris Versteeg added an empty net goal to lock up the win for the Blackhawks with a 4-2 final in front of their home crowd.

With the Philadelphia Flyers up 3 games to 1 in their series returning home to face the Canadiens, it looks like they will represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals.

Now turning to the offseason and with the upcoming draft, what will the Sharks do to shake things up? Patrick Marleau, who was by far the best Shark in this series, becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. It will be an interesting off-season indeed in the San Jose.

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