The Same Old Sharks
What is it that the Sharks have been accused of being for the past few seasons (besides chokers)? The answer: Soft.
All year long members of the Sharks organization have been claiming that this is a different club than those that were roughed up, folded and bowed out in the second round of the Playoffs in the past. One conclusion can be drawn from their Game 1 performance against Anaheim; these Sharks are not much different.
Please Don't Be Rough With Us!
Throughout the entire regular season the Sharks have not lived up to their claims of a new-found toughness. Sure they can become agitated to the point that even guys like Setoguchi and Michalek dropped the gloves this year, but most of the Sharks' scraps seem to come from frustration and annoyance rather than a desire to assert their dominance.
When it has been time for the Sharks to say "we will not
be pushed around" nobody on the team does anything. We saw it last season in the Calgary series when Captain Patrick Marleau was reduced to a bloody smear on the boards after he was crushed by defenseman Cory Sarich. No one came to Marleau's aid and the Sharks folded, squandering a 3 - 0 first period lead. Sadly for Sharks fans, the past pattern has repeated itself throughout this regular season. In a mid-season game against the Los Angeles Kings Marleau was again creamed, this time by Denis Gauthier with a head-shot from behind that sent him into the boards (Gauthier was suspended for the hit after the game). Again no one came to Marleau's aid. There were several other similar incidents to Sharks star players such as Joe Thornton.
In the Sharks' final regular season game against Anaheim, Marc-Edouard Vlasic fell while fighting for the puck with winger Corey Perry. With Vlasic on the ground, Perry hit him in the face with the blade of his stick 3 - 4 times while Sharks Assistant Captain Joe Thornton stood right next to him and of course, Big Joe did nothing but whine to the referee. Again, no message was sent except: "You can do whatever you want to us because we are not going to fight back."
Time to Send a Message
Based on Game One, it seems that Anaheim got the message loud and clear. The Sharks were pushed around all night in front of Anaheim's goal. If the Sharks are serious about winning a Stanley Cup this year they need to send a new message; not just to the Ducks, but to the entire league. That message needs to be sent to every player like Chris Pronger, who put Dan Boyle in a choke hold that lasted about five seconds without any fear of reprisal. The Sharks need to make it perfectly clear that they will not be pushed around any longer even if it costs them a few two-minute roughing calls, or five-minute fighting majors, or ten-minute misconducts, or even a game suspension or two and as long as there are few broken-noses and for their opponents a new level of respect to show for it. Opposing teams may respect the Sharks' skill, but not their heart or toughness. Not a single player on the Sharks roster is feared, even the supposed tough-guy Jody Shelly.
I am not advocating purposely injuring opposing players, but I am suggesting that it is time the Sharks do something drastic when provoked. Something drastic enough that it will strike fear in the hearts of any player that considers taking another cheap-shot at one of the men in teal. The time has come for the Sharks to stop talking like the most-skilled, hardest-working, toughest team in the National Hockey League, and start acting like it.