It doesn’t get any uglier than this. The Sharks had three chances to dispatch the Los Angeles Kings after convincingly going up 3-0 to open the series, and they couldn’t have botched it much worse than they have. Now they’ll return to what is certain to be a tight SAP Center on Wednesday to try and avoid becoming just the fourth team in NHL history to let a team pull the reverse sweep on them.
And the Sharks look ripe for sweeping right now.
They looked uncomfortable in Game 4 — a far cry from the confident squad that obliterated Los Angeles in their first two meetings and seemed poised in the face of adversity in Game 3. They looked flat in Game 5, like they didn’t even belong in the party. Now the Sharks look tired, sloppy, out of sorts, uncoordinated, frustrated, injured and done.
There isn’t much to say right now. Dan Boyle’s unusually short comments in the locker room after Game 5 exemplified what a bizarre situation the Sharks are in. The tide has turned so disastrously against the Sharks over the last few days that this team seems mentally unfit to compete with a team that is perpendicularly trending towards invincibility. Even with crazy late-third happenstances like Logan Couture fighting and Jonathan Quick going after Joe Thornton, the mental edge is all on LA’s side. The Kings are the kid on the playground giving the Sharks a wet willie. San Jose has totally lost its cool.
The floodgates opened for Los Angeles after an extremely controversial non-“intent to blow” call that resulted in a Kings goal. Forgive me while I rant here, but that is by far the stupidest rule in all of professional sports, and it’s burned the Sharks for the 25th time this season. Alex Stalock had the puck frozen easily, and the linesman just skated towards the net, bringing the whistle to his mouth in slow motion while Kings swatted at Stalock’s pads. If a referee bringing a whistle to his mouth is ruled “intent to blow” every time the Sharks have a goal called off, why isn’t it ruled the same way when a goal gets scored on them?
Don’t get me wrong here: I’m not calling this a conspiracy, but there is a level of inconsistency that needs to sorted out by the NHL. Missed calls like that swing momentum, and nothing proves that more than the onslaught the Kings put on the Sharks after that controversial call. The Staples Center crowd exploded when the goal got scored, exploded again when the goal was confirmed following review, got louder when Todd McLellan argued and got nuclear when the puck finally dropped again.
But the wheels had already come off at that point.
Of course, the Sharks will likely lose this series, and it won’t be because of that call. It’s because the Sharks get complacent. They take shifts off, they get cute and play sloppy. They didn’t jump on Quick and finish him when he was on his way back to unstoppable in Game 4. Now they can’t get a shot past him unless it changes trajectory multiple times en route to the net like Justin Braun’s shot did tonight.
The teal-filled crowd on Wednesday night will probably react to the Sharks like they should. Confidence around San Jose is at an all-time low, and for good reason. The Kings had nothing to lose, because they had already lost. An 0-3 record is a death sentence, so why not appeal? No wonder the Staples crowd was so damn rabid — everyone, me included, were certain that this series was over.
Now it’s probably over again, and this time the Sharks are on death row. Maybe that’s how the Sharks should play it come Wednesday night. Play it like there’s nothing left to lose, even though everything is at stake.