As much as the San Jose Sharks have provided their fans and their brass with signs of life by advancing into the second round, there are issues that stand out and remain.
Joe Thornton, who since the lockout has never fallen below 80 points during the regular season, continues to be the talk of the playoffs not only for the Sharks, but throughout the entire NHL.
Joe Pavelski, quickly adapting the nickname "Mr. Clutch", had five goals in the first round of the playoffs, along with three assists. Of his five goals, two of them are game winners (the other was the all-important game-tying goal in Game 2).
Does anyone else find it strange that "Joe" has stepped up, especially in the playoffs, but #8 and not #19? I, for one, am not.
Thornton has always had a great 82 games leading up to the playoffs; but when the spotlight is on, as it showed during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and now early in these playoffs, disappears.
With that being said, there is a bright spot for when one player decreases others step up. Joe Pavelski has helped propel the team into the second round with his clutch play. Pavelski showed in February, by his Team USA selection from Brian Burke and company, just how good a player the Sharks have. Now in these playoffs, it has become more of a fact.
Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle and Devin Setoguchi have all stepped up in these playoffs as well, but none more important than Pavelski.
With minor contributions from the top line of Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, the second-tier players are giving it their all and then some for these Sharks. A second round opponent has yet to be determined, but coach Todd McLellan needs to prepare his troops for battle; especially the big three on the top line.
“There was not going to be any quit on our part,” Pavelski said. “We wanted this one. We knew we were going to get our chances, a couple of chances. Let’s bury them when we get the opportunity and they went in.”
As Brad Kurtzberg of InsideHockey points out, Pavelski's game winning goal in overtime of Game 4 helped the Sharks even the series and recover from the psychological disaster of Dan Boyle's own goal two nights prior.
He goes on to mention the dominant performance of Pavelski's line. Skating alongside Setoguchi and Clowe, the "second" line combined for nine goals and 22 points and was a plus-16 in the series to lead the San Jose attack.
If the Sharks hope to advance even further in these playoffs, not only will 'Little Joe' have to step up and perform as he has, they will truly need their top line to perform on par with regular season statistics.
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