Print and Go Back NHL [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The inevitable is on the horizon for San Jose

AP Photo/LM Otero

The Sharks are on the verge of being ousted in the second round for the third straight season.

Five Things We Learned Tuesday Night

By Scott Burnside

1. Well, they'll be printing up the pink slips in San Jose. It's now just a matter of when and how many folks get their walking papers after the Sharks lost another backbreaking game to the Dallas Stars. A rare Mattias Norstrom goal -- the veteran defenseman has two goals in 47 career playoff games -- gave the Stars a 2-1 overtime win and 3-0 series lead.

It means the clamor for change in San Jose will start building to a crescendo. The Sharks are 2-4 in one-goal games this postseason and have lost the only two overtime games they've played, both against Dallas. The Sharks can complain about bad breaks and not getting the bounces (in Game 3, a goal was waved off even though the puck was still free), but good teams don't complain, they get the job done.

The Sharks' good players are consistently being beaten by the Stars' best players. Mike Ribeiro, for instance, set up the Norstrom winner, while Brad Richards had four third-period points in Game 3. No one on the high-powered Sharks had more than three shots Tuesday. And when the inevitable happens and the Sharks bid adieu to another disappointing postseason, the blame will fall on a wide circle of people from coach Ron Wilson to Joe Thornton to Jonathan Cheechoo to Brian Campbell and captain Patrick Marleau. Now it's only a matter of time before the blame game morphs into the "hit the road" game in San Jose.

2. Speaking of being cooked, you can stick the proverbial fork in the beat-up Colorado Avalanche, who simply are being beaten by the Detroit Red Wings and dropped another 4-3 decision versus Detroit on Tuesday. The Avs now have given up 13 goals in three games to the suddenly powerful Red Wings, who struggled against Nashville in the first round. Jose Theodore was back between the pipes for Colorado, but this one can hardly be labeled his fault, as he stopped 31 of 35 shots. Not only do the Avs not have an answer for Johan "Goal Machine" Franzen, who scored his league-leading eighth postseason goal Tuesday, but they also don't have a solution to their rash of injuries. Leading scorer Paul Stastny went down with a knee injury in Game 3, joining Ryan Smyth and Wojtek Wolski on the sidelines. Peter Forsberg did return to the lineup, but took a double-minor for high sticking that led to the eventual winner for Detroit. Ouch.

3. Funny how this happens, but when teams get on a roll, they're difficult to stop once they get beyond the first round. In that opening round, we saw great seesaw battles between Montreal and Boston, Detroit and Nashville, Washington and Philadelphia and Minnesota and Colorado. Yet, three of the four second-round series feature teams with 3-0 leads. Given that a team rallied from a 3-0 deficit only twice in NHL history, you can pretty much take it to the bank that Detroit, Dallas and Pittsburgh will be rolling into the conference finals in the next few days. Only the Philadelphia-Montreal matchup has provided anything resembling series drama, as the Habs trail the Flyers 2-1 heading into Wednesday's game.

4. Goaltending woes have been a strong subplot of this second round, and that was never more apparent than in New York, where Henrik Lundqvist, a Vezina Trophy finalist for the third straight season, allowed five goals on 17 shots. Yikes. For those keeping score at home, that's a .706 save percentage. His off night couldn't have come at a worse time, as the Rangers dominated scoring chances and physical play for much of the night but still ended up on the wrong end of a 5-3 count versus the Penguins. It doesn't matter that Lundqvist was terrific in losses in Pittsburgh, Tuesday's game was a killer. Montreal's Carey Price must know the feeling, as the Canadiens have outplayed the Flyers in the past two games but lost both in large part because Price couldn't close the door. He'll get a chance to redeem himself in Wednesday's Game 4.

5. It's hard to imagine a more stunning reversal of fortune than the one being enjoyed by the Dallas Stars. After acquiring Brad Richards at the trade deadline, the Stars won just twice in 11 games in March. They fell out of the Western Conference title chase and the race for the Pacific Division crown, and lost home-ice advantage to the Anaheim Ducks. Yet the Stars are now 7-2 in the postseason and have allowed just five goals in three games against the San Jose Sharks. They've also allowed just one power-play goal over 16 opportunities in the last four games.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for




Habs at Flyers, 7 ET
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau isn't saying who'll start in net for Game 4 as Carey Price's unstable play has helped the Flyers take a 2-1 lead in the East semifinals series.

Sharks at Stars, 9 ET
With the Stars up 3-0 in the series, the Sharks face their third straight second-round exit if they can't find an answer for Dallas tonight. Only two teams in NHL history have rallied from a 3-0 hole.


Look of a letdown
In a game that the Rangers outplayed the Pens, their experienced lineup still couldn't put the hammer down. It's a hard pill to swallow for a New York squad whose season looks all but over. Scott Burnside

Second chances
What's up with the second round? John Buccigross takes a gander inside each series, including the intriguing goaltending duels unfolding in the East semifinals. Bucci