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Maki: Sharks find themselves in the deep end of the playoff pool

Allan Maki shares his opinion on the previous night's NHL action and looks at the early news of the day Monday through Friday during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

San Jose Sharks, say hello to the Toronto Maple Leafs. If misery loves company then you two organizations should get along splendidly. You certainly have stuff to talk about it.

The Leafs blew a three-goal lead in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins then lost in overtime. The Sharks swallowed the olive jar Thursday night in Los Angeles and while it wasn't an elimination game, it sure had that look about it.

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With one of the Kings' top face-off men sidelined by injury (Jarret Stoll), with L.A. goaltender Jonathan Quick suddenly giving up goals, with San Jose building its first lead of the series, the Sharks were in command with less than three minutes remaining in the third period. And then they weren't.

Not only did they take two penalties within 22 seconds, they surrendered two powerplay goals within 22 seconds and lost 4-3. Being down 2-0 in the series is bad enough for the Sharks. Being beaten after playing 57 minutes worth of winning hockey makes it worse.

For all the good they mustered – a goal by Patrick Marleau, some nice assists from Scott Gomez, two goals from defencemen – the Sharks simply couldn't make a play when they had to. L.A. attacked, got a break, banged in two goals and showed once again how hard it's going to be to knock off the defending Stanley Cup champions.

That's why the Sharks are in deep. They couldn't score in Game 1, couldn't hold a lead in Game 2. Technically, we're required to point out how good a team San Jose has and how this can still be a hotly-contested series. But we don't believe that.

The Kings are getting what they need from the top of their roster to the bottom. The Sharks, like the Leafs before them, are getting just enough to call it a loss.

Torres suspended, SUSPENDED!

An interesting spin on the Raffi Torres' suspension announced Thursday.

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After dropping the Kings' Stoll with a head shot in Game 1, Torres, the Sharks' marked man, was summoned to New York where the NHL made him write, "I will not hit opposing players in the head" a thousand times on a blackboard. The league also suspended him for the balance of the Kings-Sharks second-round series.

That means the suspension could be anywhere from three to six games, depending on the length of the series. If the NHL had slapped Torres with a definitive six-game suspension, it would have offered him a chance to appeal it via an independent arbitrator. But since the suspension has no clear number, it circumvents the appeal process.

If that's a trifle unfair, well, too bad. As Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's lord of discipline, pointed out, Torres delivered an illegal hit to the head, injured Stoll and has been suspended three times previously. He's also been fined for various incidents. The man's a skating disaster.

Boston Stronger

Here's some free advice for the New York Rangers: don't go to overtime with the Boston Bruins, not the way they own it these days. But if you do, make sure you have a man on Patrice Bergeron. Double-team him. Assign a police escort. Just don't let him skate into your zone with the puck, in OT, unchecked.

He did in the fourth period of Thursday's series opener and New York paid for it.

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Once again, the grittiest team in the playoffs relied on its hottest player. It was Bergeron flying into the Rangers' end of the rink and sliding a cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand for the tap-in winner in a 3-2 Boston final. For Marchand, it was his first goal of the postseason. For Bergeron, it was more of the same.

Bergeron, of course, scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in the Bruins' comeback of the ages, their Game 7 OT win over Toronto. Only three players in NHL history have ever scored the game-tying goal then added the winner in OT. Derek Plante of the Buffalo Sabres doubled down the Ottawa Senators in 1997 and Brad Park did it to Buffalo in 1983. He was playing for the Bruins back then.

Bergeron is a pressure-proven performer who has scored 46 points in 68 career playoff games. Of his 14 goals, two have been shorthanded, four have been game winners. And with his team thinned by injuries on defence (thin on experience, that is) and in need of some jump Thursday, Bergeron supplied it, along with a lesson for the Rangers.

"I thought it was pretty even going into the overtime," said New York coach John Tortorella, "but we got spanked in the overtime."

Easy solution to that: don't go into OT against these Bears. They're 3-0 this postseason and getting meaner.

Last Take

Super fan Shawn Chaulk's ultimate Wayne Gretzky collection is open for bidding Friday via Montreal's Classic Auctions, everything from sticks to pucks to game-worn jerseys. It's a prized assortment, but it's not Classic Auctions first go with 99 memorabilia.

In a previous auction, puck fans were able to bid on:

Wayne Gretzky linen. No, these weren't the bed sheets Wayne slept on during the 1987 Canada Cup or some such event. These were beds sheets and a bedspread with Mr. Waynederful's likeness on them. Yes, they were washed;

Wayne Gretzky's Rocket Hockey game by Mattel. It was a kind of mini, air hockey game. Sort of;

Wayne Gretzky cardboard stand-ups. Nineteen, in fact. All of them with a life-sized Wayne pitching something. Here's The Great One selling a soft drink, peddling a cereal, hawking for a car company, an airline, a brewery. As the auction info said, "Start your own army of Gretzkys with this fantastic collection."

Only the Gretzky bed sheets didn't get a bid.

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. More


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