Sports can break your heart worse than just about anything in life. Sports can ruin your day, your week, heck, they can crush your spirit completely. Last night the Sharks, and every person who cheers for the teal and black, suffered through the worst loss in the history of the team, and that is saying something for an organization that has suffered one playoff defeat after another – some being catastrophic in nature (for my take on last years epic playoff failure you can read When is Enough, Enough?). Here’s what happened lat night in Game 3 of the Sharks first round series with the Avalanche (the series was tied 1-1 going into the matchup).
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 21-3 in the second period.
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 21-4 in the third period.
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 42-7 in the second and third periods.
The Sharks outshot the Avalanche 1-0 in OT, yet still lost the game.
How is that possible? In actuality the shot clock will say that the teams matched each other with one shot apiece in the overtime period, but the truth is that Sharks’ defensemen Dan Boyle, :51 seconds in the extra frame, accidently backhanded the puck past Evgeni Nabokov when he attempted a hard wrap around behind the net (after further review, it appears that an angle from a camera in Colorado shows that the puck did glance slightly off Ryan O’Reily’s stick). With that one errant shot of the puck the Sharks, in a game that they totally dominated, ended up losing 1-0.
This is the worst loss I have ever seen. More than that, it’s the worst loss I can recall ever hearing about in my 37 years on Earth. To completely dominate a game only to lose when your own player, your best defensemen mind you, accidently shoots a puck in his own net – catastrophic isn’t a strong enough word. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy either. Dan Boyle always stands up and is accountable for his mistakes. He talks openly and honestly to the press, never shying away from the painful truth, so it was no surprise to see him talk to the media almost immediately after the conclusion of the worst game of his life. His willingness to take responsibility for everything makes the stinging pain of this loss even harder to deal with since he is such a good guy.
So what do the Sharks do?
* They have outshot the Av’s a mindboggling 103 to 39 the past two games.
* They have scored three “own goals” in three games (the other two weren’t on shots like last night, but two pucks have gone in off of Sharks’ d-men Rob Blake and Marc-Edouard
Vlasic, the one off Blake being the deciding goal in the Game 1 loss). “We didn’t beat their goalie, we found a way to beat ours,” HC Todd McClellan said. “We’ve been beaten by some bad bounces
* They are behind 2-1 games to a team they were expected to beat by nearly ever expert in Hockey (the Sharks had the best record in the Western Conference which obviously makes the Avalanche the #8 seed).
Can the Sharks rebound from this loss? I don’t think a team, an organization, a fan base, can get any lower than this. Year upon year of disappointment was summed up expertly last night on one errant backhand pass that unfortunately is a microcosm of the history of the franchise, one filled with almost unsurpassed highs as well as crushing lows. Will the Sharks slink off meekly into the abyss or will they rally from this devastating loss to avenge themselves in the eyes of the hockey world that roundly regards them as papier-mâché champions? For once and for all, the Sharks will have the chance to prove to the world that they deserve respect and admiration for their determination, expertise and ability to rebound from catastrophic failure. Either that or it’s time for every Sharks fan in the world to pack their bags for the last time and move on from a franchise that breaks their hearts anew every year.
I mention the proverb that we have all heard at one time or another as it is one that the Sharks would do well to heed — it’s always darkest before the dawn.
By Ray Flowers