There are a couple different factors you can look at when trying to suss out why the Sharks lost to the Flames on Monday night. Maybe Calgary just had San Jose’s number this season. Maybe the loss of Marc-Edouard Vlasic leaves too big of a void on San Jose’s defense. Heck, maybe someone should have lied to the Sharks and told them they were playing the Ducks instead — they certainly know how to put up a good fight against Anaheim.
What it really came down to was that the Calgary Flames were the better team, and it showed as the division rivals outplayed Team Teal to pull out a 4-1 victory in the series finale.
There was of course more to it than that, as Todd McLellan broke it down for the media afterwards. “They earned the points. They came into our building three times and won,” the coach admitted, explaining that it wasn’t just the loss of an injured defenseman.
“Sometimes it’s individual mistakes. Sometimes it’s group mistakes. Tonight, we had a couple individuals at key moments that errored, and that ended up costing us.”
San Jose was not defensively sound, and although no one wanted to admit that Vlasic’s absence left too big of a hole on defense, it was acknowledged that he was missed. “He definitely settles it down back there, but that’s not an excuse,” Joe Pavelski said. “Guys that are on the ice right now are more than capable of doing it.”
The Sharks picked up the pace after a sluggish first frame they were able to cut the score deficit in half 2-1 thanks to a wicked goal by Brent Burns. But the lack of special teams contributions sank the home team, particularly in the third period when they gave up a power play goal to Jiri Hudler after going 0-for-3 on the man advantage themselves.
“Last few years, it has been somewhat of a special teams league,” Pavelski explained. “If you win that battle, you’re getting points on most nights. It’s not where it needs to be.”
Brenden Dillon agreed: “In this day in age, with how important power play and penalty kill are, it can make or break your game. They won the special teams battle tonight, and I think they won it the last time too.”
It was in fact a problem that plagued the matchup all campaign. “The difference was, not only tonight but in this series, they took advantage on mistakes and we didn’t,” said McLellan.
The Flames got right to capitalizing on the Sharks mistakes on the opening frame. Neither Tomas Hertl nor Chris Tierney got in front of Mason Raymond’s shot from the left circle that beat Antti Niemi up high and put Calgary up 1-0. Lance Bouma added to Calgary’s lead in the second when he eluded Mirco Mueller, who was in front of the paint but facing the wrong direction and blocking Niemi’s view of the puck.
The Sharks had a few good looks as the second 20 minutes rolled on, but the puck wasn’t getting past Calgary netminder Jonas Hiller. Then, just before the second stanza expired, Burns slapped the puck through traffic and it past Hiller just before the buzzer sounded. “It’s always good to get one in the last minute there,” Burns said of the goal registered at the 19:59 marker. “You’ve got to feel good going into the third …”
San Jose indeed entered the third with the lead cut in half and looking more aggressive. But Burns went to the box for roughing and Hudler made them pay for it, notching a power play goal to put the Flames up 3-1. The Sharks pulled Niemi at the latter part of the period in an effort to generate more offense but to no avail, as David Jones notched an empty-netter with a little under two minutes left in regulation to deal the Sharks the 4-1 loss.
“We weren’t good enough. Bottom line, we didn’t play good enough,” Pavelski summed up. “When a team continuously beats you, it’s not fun.”