It is damn hard to lose a game when you out-shot your opponent by 22 shots, but the San Jose Sharks did just that last night. The Sharks dominated in almost every category last night with the exception of goals and you could also say bounces and those count more. When leading the game by a goal with the final seconds waining, the Sharks were the victim of a missed call and tipped shot from the point that took away their trip to a game 6. It would ultimately take 2 OT's for the fat lady to finish her song, including a 4th period in which the Sharks provided a flurry of shots that just couldn't break Luongo.
Canucks win the West: A frustrated Shark's team goes home earlier than anticipated.
You could argue that the incorrectly called icing took this game away from the Sharks, and then even make a leap to say that the game winning goal could have been whistled dead at the result of a sudden disappearance. In the end, it was SJ's inability to get in front of Luongo and capitalize on their chances that sent them to an early summer break. Oh how they must be feeling this one in San Jose.
The games played in this series were deceiving ones. I could make the argument that the Sharks actually outplayed Vancouver in the last 3 games and that if based solely on play, the Sharks should have a 3-2 lead in the series at this point. In the last 3 games, the Sharks managed to out-hit their opponents, win the bulk of the face-offs in each game and dominate in the shots column 129 to 77. That is a difference of 52 shots in just 3 games incase your math sucks as bad as mine. You could probably look at Niemi for dropping the ball, or to Luongo for providing the key element. I tend to sway towards Luongo's stellar play as that special ingredient, though in the end I feel it was not goaltending that decided the outcome.
The fact of the matter is that a good team pounces on their chances and that they get production from different players on any given night. The Canucks played a game that kept the Sharks from exposing their goaltender to high quality chances and they made the best of every opportunity that came their way. Whether that is on 3 consecutive 5 on 3's or a crazy bounce off a side partition, the gods seem to be favoring the Nucks this year with some luck. Good teams create their own luck.
Luongo is a great goaltender. He absorbs shots as good as anyone, so when his team doesn't allow too much traffic in front and keeps the shots from the perimeter, he is able to create a stellar performance. His team played to his strengths and weaknesses. Niemi on the other hand was the victim of some very well placed shots and a less than great defense in front of him at times. I wouldn't blame him for the goals that he allowed and his stats paint a distorted view. Simple mistakes and miss-played pucks were more to blame in sending Niemi home for the first time. His perfect record in the playoffs has come to an end and a very talented team moves forward.
Again, I am taken back to the first round. The Hawks are still the team that came closest to ending the Nuck's bright season. You could probably argue that if their hunger was stronger and the team was healthier (specifically Bolland sooner), the Hawks might have had the winning edge. I have to say that Vancouver has shown to be dominant one day and then lack-luster the next. However, they find ways to win in either situations, standing in front of a talented goaltender and that counts big time in this league.
It is goaltending that is providing the special ingredient for Boston on the other side of the league. Not to discredit Roloson at all, but Thomas is having another special season and playoffs. Both Tampa and Boston are playing spectacular hockey and I fully intend this series to go 7 after a Tampa win tonight. It should be interesting and whoever rises in the end is going to give Vancouver their toughest series this year. My money is on Boston, but I would not mind seeing Tampa either.