Dustin Byfuglien was the man of the hour yet again as his clutch goal put the San Jose Sharks away for the post-season. The Chicago Blackhawks completed the series sweep and Byfuglien scored his third game-winning goal of the series, defeating the Sharks by a final score of 4-2 on Sunday.
The Sharks started out well enough in the game, jumping out to a 2-0 lead before the Hawks came back to tie things in the second period. Once again, like in the Blackhawks’ series against the Vancouver Canucks, it was penalties that made all the difference and the Sharks weren’t able to stay out of the box. Perhaps more importantly, they weren’t able to stop the bleeding when they did get on the PK.
San Jose took three straight penalties in the third period, giving the Blackhawks every opportunity in the book to put the game and the series away. They did just that in classic fashion and Byfuglien notched the winner in typical fashion in front of the net.
Blackhawks goalie Antii Niemi was solid once again, stopping 16 of 18 shots for the victory, but he wasn’t anywhere near as busy as he’d been in previous series games. Despite the fact that the Sharks looked good facing elimination, they weren’t able to muster much offensive force in the game when it mattered.
Patrick Marleau was still the Sharks’ best player, however, and that has to give the team a slight glimmer of hope to hold on to. He was a significant “question mark” in other matchups this post-season, but he sure came to play against the Blackhawks.
The Sharks will struggle to find anything good to cling to from the series, though, and that’s going to be a problem for their fans and supporters. The “this is our year” conversation had been happening everywhere in San Jose since the team proved they could advance beyond the opening round of the post-season, but few expected them to get swept by the young Blackhawks.
Whether there will be rebuilding or retooling in San Jose remains to be seen, of course. A lot of players proved their stuff this post-season, while a lot of other players simply didn’t.
As for the Blackhawks, they’ll wait for the winner of the Flyers and Habs series. And they’ll be ready, too.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.