The San Jose Sharks truly outdid themselves last night.
Choking in the playoffs is nothing new for the Sharks, who have made the playoffs for ten consecutive years (the second-longest streak in the league). They have made the Conference Finals three times during that stretch (the most over that span), yet have failed to make an appearance in the Cup Finals.
This time, however, San Jose set a new low by blowing a 3-0 series lead. It also meant losing Game 7 on their home ice to the Los Angeles Kings. With that collapse, they are the fifth team in sports history to win the first three games of a playoff series, then lose the next four.
Unlike the Red Sox-Yankees 2004 ALCS or the 2010 Flyers-Bruins East Semifinal, this failure was not a big shock, especially going into Game 7. The Sharks looked like they have the last ten years during the last four games of the series. Not only do they fail to show up when it matters most, but they lay an egg, roll over and die in the process. They’ve been Stanley Cup contenders every year, the favorite to win it all for many, but they fade off into oblivion in crunch time.
In 2011, Rangers coach John Tortorella responded to Joe Thornton calling his New York Rangers soft by saying Thornton could go down as one of the better players in the NHL not to win anything. With Thornton about to turn 35 in July, that statement doesn’t look too far-fetched. The core of his team is getting old and they’re definitely not showing the mental toughness necessary to win championships. The legends of the game of hockey would never let a team come back from down 3-0, especially with Game 7 in their own arena. Thornton didn’t register a point in those last four games and teammate Patrick Marleau didn’t make a mark on the stat sheet in the last three. The offense was feeble, but it’s what can be expected from those two when the backs are against the wall.
In conclusion, San Jose needs to make some real changes this offseason. Thornton and Marleau will obviously stay, but will need to come in with a better mindset. The Sharks need to pick up a player with some real postseason success who has won a Cup or two. Preferably a player with the clutch gene that can inspire and lead this team to glory; or out of the first round, at the very least. It’s going to be a long summer in northern California.