Everybody knows that hockey is a game of mistakes.
In the Stanley Cup Final, which moves to Game 3 in San Jose on Saturday, the Sharks must learn how to play mistake-free hockey or the Big Fish from California will be extinct faster than you can say Gary Bettman.
The blunder, this second time around, was yet another lost San Jose face-off with minuscule Conor Sheary firing an overtime screened shot past the otherwise outstanding goalie Martin Jones. Thus, a speedy sudden death ends 2-1, Pitt.
Nothing that I’ve seen so far suggests that this series will go more than five games, which I predicted in the first place. The Penguins won’t allow it. A sweep would not surprise me.
Over the first two games, Pittsburgh has demonstrated the better offense and superior defense. The Penguins are faster on attack and more insightful on defense.
Solving Pittsburgh’s goalie Matt Murray is a challenge that the Sharks treat as if asked to write a treatise on relativity. Their one goal by defenseman Justin Braun late in the third was a screened shot.
The Sharks big shooters — Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, et. aL. — act as if they’ll be penalized for scoring.
Under those circumstances, it’s no surprise that Murray looks as if he could write a book report in his crease between saves.
Frankly, the primary hope nurtured by San Jose is the fact that the Sharks will be at home for the next two games. Plus, they’ve stayed close in both contests.
Unfortunately, San Jose does not have what the Penguins do. Namely, Phil Kessel who scored first in the second period and has been the prime Penguins gunner.
And, of course, Sheary who adroitly converted a Kris Letang pass after Sidney Crosby won the critical face-off.
What can the Sharks do to rescue the series?
1. They require more accurate shooting when an opportunity is presented. Chris Tierney appeared to have the tying goal on his stick in the third period but put his shot off the pipe and out of danger.
2. The Sharks must sharpen what has been an ineffective power play. Faster, crisper passes would help, too.
3. They need more shots on goal INSTEAD of shots wide to the right or wide to the left. That would at least afford them a better opportunity for more than a goal here and there.
4. Luck. That Lady has not been kind to the Sharks. Wrap-arounds hit posts rather than skim in for a score. In Game 2, Tomas Hertl had three of them denied by bad fortune.
5. Better officiating would have helped San Jose. Joel Ward was high sticked (bleeding) in the third, but no penalty was called. It was the second time in the game that a Penguins flagrant foul was not called.
6. It wouldn’t hurt if they won an occasional face-off. The game was lost by a clean face-off loss.
7. The Sharks have the bigger team. They must use their size to better advantage. Hit the Penguins harder. Soften them up.
The sages say “Genius will out.”
So far, the Penguins own the will and the genius.
Ergo: The Sharks could be out in four games instead of the five as I predicted.