Wednesday, March 16, 2011

San Jose Sharks: 3 Questions That Need To Be Answered Before The Playoffs

With only 11 games left in the 2010-11 NHL season, the San Jose Sharks sit in third place in the Western Conference behind the Detroit Red Wings and Vancouver Canucks.

Despite that, the Sharks still do not sit in such a comfortable position. In fact, no team in that conference does, except maybe Vancouver. The Sharks are just eight points away from the 9th spot in the conference and not making the playoffs.

With three weeks to go, the Sharks sit pretty, but not too pretty.

Still, there are questions surrounding this team.

Not because the NHL world thinks they are not good enough; they have proven that, especially in February, and not too bad either in March.

The same questions arise every year about this time.

Is this the year for the Sharks? Will they choke again?

History says yes.

And until the Sharks hoist the Stanley Cup, the answers to these questions will continue to be the same every year.

3. Will Antti Niemi Stay Hot?

History would say 'yes,' and even Niemi's play in these last few months would say 'yes' as well.

After posting a 10-2-0 record with a 1.89 goals against average in February, including 25 straight starts, Niemi has vaulted the Sharks into third place in the Western Conference and turned around the mediocre season the team was having.

Add that to the fact that Niemi was the key reason for the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup last season, and the answer to that question could not be disagreed with.

Niemi rises to the occasion in the playoffs.

Until he put on a San Jose Sharks jersey.

Sharks playoff hockey has been mired in unsuccessful appearances, missed opportunites and poor goaltending. With emphasis on that last one.

This will be the Sharks first playoffs without Evgeni Nabokov in net in some time.

But still the question looms.

Can Sharks goaltending get it done when it matters?

2. Will The Defense Hold Up In The Playoffs?

Every since the retirement of defenseman Rob Blake, things on the defensive side just haven't seemed right.

The Sharks lost a leader and a legitimate blue line defenseman.

Some would argue that the Sharks have yet to replace Blake, although new acquisition Ian White has had his moments.

But the main question about this Sharks team centers around their defense.

Are they deep enough? Are they experienced enough? Are they talented enough?

Those questions have yet to be answered.

Can't say they haven't tried to answer them.

Ian White was a nice pick-up and getting Dan Boyle back from injury was much needed. But some would say that something is missing.

Until they find out what that is, questions about their defense will continue coming.

1. Will the Big 3 Play Well Into The Playoffs?

As with question number one, this question has to do with the history of the Sharks in the playoffs.

It seems like every year the Sharks are favorites going into the playoffs because of players like Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau.

Except it seems like every year those three fail to show up in the playoffs.

Why would this year be any different?

We have seen sparks from each of them over the course of this season, but nothing too special, as we may seen in past seasons.

Thornton and Heatley have shown inklings of breaking out in these last couple of weeks, and Marleau has been stellar for the last month or so.

Still the questions remains. Can they deliver when it matters?

We will have to see something out of these guys in these last 11 games.

The constant turnovers and sloppy play from these top tier offensive minds is enough to write them off as no-shows in the playoffs already.

Prove me wrong.

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