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How much is left in the Sharks’ tank?

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The Sharks will have a rough time fending off tee time if Joe Thornton, their captain and leading scorer who was knocked out of Game 4 by a shoulder-to-shoulder hit, is not at his best. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

By Stu Hackel

The fourth win of a Stanley Cup playoff series is always the hardest to achieve, in no small measure because the team that’s facing elimination often plays as if its collective life depends on the outcome, which — in an athletic sense — it does. Once in a while, you’ll see a team lack the will to fight to the finish. It’s either exhausted or it lacks character (and there’s a huge difference between those two things) and it surrenders to the better club. But more often, it is determined not to go down and that’s happened a lot this spring, Excluding Game Sevens (when either club can be knocked out), trailing teams went 12-6 when facing elimination through the first two rounds. That’s damn impressive and one of the reasons we’re in the midst a great tournament.

The Sharks are in a dire situation tonight as the Canucks, who have had problems closing out both their two previous series, are hoping to advance to the third Stanley Cup Final in franchise history, and  first since 1994.
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  • Published On May 24, 2011
  • Playoff notes: Sharks face tough task, Bruins get their game on, Winnipeg goes wild

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    Sharks forward Ben Eager is taking some real heat in San Jose for his antics that helped cost his team Game 2 and created a more charged and distracting atmosphere for Game 3. (Harry How/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Sharks play their biggest game of the season — perhaps a franchise-defining game — tonight when they host Vancouver in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. San Jose’s demolition in Game 2 was so one-sided at 7-3 that it had the Versus postgame show derisively playing “Sweet Georgia Brown,” the Harlem Globetrotters theme song, under the highlights of the Canucks snazzy puck movement. That would make the Sharks the Washington Generals, the stooges.

    The lack of respect accorded the Sharks is, unfortunately, part of their image as a good regular season team that’s never quite good enough in the postseason. They’ve never gone beyond the third round and, while no shame should be attached to dropping four close games to the eventual Stanley Cup champs, as they did last season, they are indeed chronic underachievers.

    At some point, however, if you want to be champs yourself, you have to win a series against a strong opponents and unless the Sharks find the next gear to make it a 2-1 series and then do it again to tie things up, there will be another long summer of questioning at the Shark Tank.

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  • Published On May 20, 2011
  • Extra day’s rest may be Sharks’ best remedy

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    The revival of Henrik Sedin, here scoring the winning goal in Game 1, is just one of the things the Sharks will have to consider as they try to contain the Canucks. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The Sharks, who will try to even their series against the Canucks tonight, were happy for the two-day break after Sunday’s Game 1. Coming off their incredible series against the Red Wings — six one-goal games and one de facto one-goal game by virtue of an empty netter, the first time that has ever happened in Stanley Cup play — there was bound to be an emotional letdown if not some fatigue.

    “You always want to get back on the horse as quick as you can, but in this case I think the extra day will help us,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said on Monday. “Take advantage of it today physically, and tomorrow we’ll have a real good skate and if we don’t perform better mentally and physically in Game 2, we’ll end up with the same results.”

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  • Published On May 18, 2011
  • Canucks vs. Sharks: Who has the edge?

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    Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who is prone to occasional alarming lapses, will have to be consistently and especially sharp in the face of the Sharks’ attack. (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    In a series that matches two teams with star-crossed postseason histories and similar styles, the Western Conference Championship could shape up as a classic. The Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks are more rested, but the Sharks, the West’s No. 2 seed, have to feel pretty good about themselves after prevailing against an excellent and determined Red Wings team in what was the tightest seven-game series in Stanley Cup history: six games decided by one goal and one with an empty net goal. It’s hard to figure which of these teams has an advantage, so let’s mull it over and look at six important categories. (For the Eastern Conference Final analysis, click here.)

    We’ll determine which team has an edge in each, but you can draw your own conclusions on the outcome. We stand by our practice of making no predictions as you never can tell what will happen in the playoffs. If want a prediction, SI.com’s Darren Eliot offers one here.
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  • Published On May 13, 2011


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